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CHARACTERISTICS. Encompassed most of modern-day PakistanProduced barley and wheatUsed copper, and then bronze, toolsTraded with places as far away as EgyptDeveloped a writing system. MOHENJODARO. Streets laid out on grid patternIndicated planningElaborate underground sewer systemUsed both for carrying off storm water and wasteClay brick architectureSome buildings four stories tall.

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Harappan civilization l.jpg


  • Civilization first appeared in the Indus River Valley

  • Centered on twin cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro

  • Known as Harappan Civilization

  • 2500-1500 BC

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  • Encompassed most of modern-day Pakistan

  • Produced barley and wheat

  • Used copper, and then bronze, tools

  • Traded with places as far away as Egypt

  • Developed a writing system

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  • Streets laid out on grid pattern

    • Indicated planning

  • Elaborate underground sewer system

    • Used both for carrying off storm water and waste

  • Clay brick architecture

    • Some buildings four stories tall

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  • Invaders from southern Russia

  • Entered region around 1500 BC

  • Destroyed Harappa and Mohenjodaro and massacred their inhabitants

  • Plunged region into “Dark Age”

    • Cities abandoned, writing forgotten, and people reverted to Neolithic lifestyle

    • Lasted 500 years (1500-1000 BC)

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  • Urban life revived in villages in the Ganges River Valley around 1000 BC

    • Inhabited by hybrid people (part Harappan/part Aryan)

    • Evolved into city-states

    • Caste system also evolved at the same time

      • Became unique Indian social phenomenon

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  • Society was at first divided into four castes

    • Warriors

    • Priests

    • Merchants/landowners

    • Small farmers/laborers

    • System was not especially rigid and there was a great deal of mobility in both directions

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  • System grew more complicated and rigid with time

    • Ultimately there would be hundreds of castes

      • Each was forbidden from having any social contact with the others

    • At the very bottom were the “untouchables”

      • The mere accidental touch of one was considered to be polluting

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  • 16 small city-states existed in the Ganges River Valley by 600 BC

    • Each ruled by an individual with the title of raja

  • One city-state grew in power at the expense of the others

    • Magada

      • Conquered entire Ganges Valley and beyond

      • Created Mauryan Empire

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Chandragupta Maurya


Mauryan Empire founded by Chandragupta Maurya

Most famous ruler was his grandson, Ashoka

Began reign as a military conqueror but, following a battle in southern India, he decided to rule in a different, more gentle, way

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  • Promised to be mild with his subjects, always place their welfare before his own ambitions, and to refrain from offensive military operations

  • Kept his word

    • Engaged in numerous public works construction projects

    • Dug thousands of wells

    • Constructed thousands of hospitals

    • Built rest areas along roads

    • Encouraged economic activity

  • Reign was a true “golden age” for India

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  • Within 50 years of Ashoka’s death, the Mauryan Empire collapsed

    • Due to a series of invasions from barbarians to the north

    • Shattered unity and plunged region into anarchy

      • Characterized by a constantly-shifting mosaiac of warring city-states

    • Lasted 500 years

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  • Around 300 BC, the ruler of Magada (again) gradually conquered the entire Ganges River Valley

    • Chandra Gupta I

  • Process would be continued by his son and grandson

    • Result in the creation of the Gupta Empire

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  • First century of Gupta Empire was a time of expanding power, growing prosperity, and cultural achievement

  • But after the death of Chandra Gupta III, the empire was invaded by the White Huns

    • From Central Asia

    • India disintegrated into numerous petty kingdoms again

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  • Invented several writing systems

  • Developed an elaborate literature

    • Mostly religious in content

  • Developed our modern number system

    • Called “Arabic numerals”

  • Invented the decimal system

  • Created the foundation for algebra

  • Discovered that the earth was a rotating sphere

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  • In Aryan times, Indians were polytheistic

    • But, over time, three of their more important gods merged together into a three-part monotheistic deity called Brahman

      • Brahma (creator)

      • Vishnu (preserver)

      • Shiva (destroyer)

  • Brahman permeated everything in the universe

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  • Doctrine of reincarnation came from belief that all living things were related and had souls

    • Belief that each soul is reborn in the body of another creature over and over again

  • The form that one is reborn into is determined by one’s actions during their lifetime

    • Known as karma

    • Good Karma=reborn into higher caste

    • Bad Karma=reborn into lower caste or even lower life form

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  • Also believed that human existence was basically an endless round of suffering

    • We are all trapped on the “Wheel of Suffering” with no permanent way off

    • The only escape is through meditation

      • Merging oneself with Braham

      • But this was only a temporary escape

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  • As Hinduism became the dominant religion in India, it also became more worldly and materialistic

    • Prompted appearance of “gurus” around 600 BC

      • Wanted to put Hinduism back on track by making it more spiritual

      • Most notable guru was Gautama the Buddha (Enlightened One)

        • Would create a new religion in his quest for a more spiritual life

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  • Buddha was especially concerned to find permanent escape from the Wheel of Suffering

  • Taught that the basic cause of human suffering was desire

    • The fruitless quest to acquire more and more material things

      • Argued that this never made a person happy because they always wanted more

  • Did think meditation was the complete answer either

    • Since it only provided temporary escape

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  • Only way off the Wheel of Suffering was to go through an eight-step process that involved changing your entire life

    • Included rejection of selfish worldly desires. the cultivation of honesty and compassion, rejection of violence, and cleansing your mind of all evil thoughts

    • Successful result was the attainment of “nirvana”

      • Permanent escape from the Wheel of Suffering and the attainment of permanent peace and tranquility

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  • Buddha practiced what he preached

    • Only possession were the robe on his back, a walking stick, and wooden bowl

    • Always travelled on foot and slept outdoors

    • Presented his creed in simple language

    • Accepted persons from all castes and treated them equally

  • Attracted millions of converts across Asia

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  • Hinayana Tradition (“Little Vehicle”)

    • Buddha was just a man

  • Mahayana Tradition (“Big Vehicle”)

    • Buddha was a god, the human incarnation of Brahman

    • Led to construction of temples and creation of statues devoted to his worship

    • By far the most popular of the two traditions today

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  • Civilization emerged from Neolithic settlements along the Huang-ho River around 1500 BC

  • Shang rulers were primarily military leaders

    • Also acted as chief priests in times of peace

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  • Shang Chinese were polytheistic

    • Chief god was Shang-ti

  • Chinese believed that Shang-ti was too powerful to be approached directly by human beings through prayer

    • Began praying instead to dead relatives who had entered the spirit world where Shang-ti lived to intercede with the god

      • This practice of praying to dead relatives for aid and support continued even after belief in Shang-ti had faded away

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  • According to legend, the last king of the Shang Dynasty committed unspeakable crimes against the gods and his people

    • Prompted two aristocrats from the region of Zhou to lead a rebellion against him

    • Replaced his dynasty with one of their own

      • Zhou Dynasty

      • 1000-221 BC

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  • Chinese believed that Shang rulers had been picked by the gods to rule

    • Therefore it might look as though the Zhous had defied the wishes of the gods by overthrowing the Shangs

  • Zhous therefore developed concept of the Mandate of Heaven

    • Dynasties had the right to rule because they had special permission from the gods

    • But this permission could be revoked if they abused their power and given to another dynasty


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  • By the last 200 years of the Zhou Dynasty, the kingdom had disintegrated into a collection of small, independent states, continually at war with each other

    • A new power emerged out of this mess around 300BC

      • The state of Qin began conquering its neighbors and, by 221 BC, it had taken over all of northern China

      • Ruler of Qin, Shihuangdi, takes title of “First Emperor” and founds Qin Dynasty

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  • Shihuangdi’s armies then conquered most of the rest of China

    • Set up centralized administrative system

      • Divided realm in 36 districts, each administered by an appointed governor

    • Established a standard system of weights and measures, uniform coinage system, and a standard alphabet

    • Built numerous roads and canals

    • Began work on the “Great Wall”

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  • Shihuangdi drove his people mercilessly

    • Imposed heavy taxes

    • Imposed forced labor

    • Brutally crushed all dissent

      • Even burnt books

  • Became obsessed with finding magic potion that would give him immortality

    • Died in 210 BC while searching for potion

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  • Death of Shihuangdi was followed by civil war

    • All Qin family members were killed

    • Ultimate victor was Lui Bang

      • Former bandit leader

      • Founded the Han Dynasty

        • 202 BC-220 AD

        • So beloved by Chinese that they call themselves the “People of Han” today

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  • Lui Bang continued centralizing policies of Shihuangdi

    • But had the common sense to go easier on his people

  • Greatest Han ruler was Han Wudi

    • Extended Han power into Tibet, Korea, and Mongolia

    • Established relations with Japan

    • Created the “Silk Road”

      • Trade route that stretched from China, through India, and into Europe

  • Han Dynasty collapsed in 250 AD due to civil war, rebellions, and invasions

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  • Writing first appeared during Shang Dynasty

    • Oracle Bones

  • First books appeared during Zhou Dynasty

    • Made from sheets of bamboo

  • Alphabet was standardized under Shihuangdi

    • Has changed little since

  • Paper invented during Han dynasty

    • Used to produce a rich and varied literature

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  • Best known Chinese “sage” was Confucius

    • Lived during anarchy of the late Zhou Dynasty

    • Teachings were written down after his death by his students in a book called the Analects

    • Primarily concerned with the issue of how human beings could live together harmoniously in society

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  • Advocated a society where everyone had a specific place and performed all the obligations associated with that place

    • Called this “Hierarchy”

    • A rigid system but it did help to preserve harmony and order in an increasingly overcrowded country for a long time

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  • Originally, the term “gentleman” meant a person of high status by virtue of their birth

  • Confucius gave the term a moral meaning

    • Gentleman was a person who behaved in a virtuous manner

      • Since anyone could do this, anyone (regardless of their social status) could be considered a gentleman

  • Confucius argued that one’s place in society should be determined by their behavior and personal qualities, not by their wealth or birth

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  • Allegedly founded by Laozi

    • Author of Daodejing (“The Way”)

    • May or may not have been a real person

    • Allegedly lived during the last years of the Zhou Dynasty

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  • The Dao is the unseen root of all things

    • It provides balance and harmony to the universe

    • Everything, including human beings, is a part of it

  • Because human beings have free will and desires, they are capable of acting “unnaturally” and thereby upsetting the natural balance within the Dao

    • Purpose of Daoism is to teach people to return to their natural state of behavior, to behave in such a way as to restore the balance of the Dao

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  • Human beings should engage in wuwei

    • Means “acting spontaneously” and “flowing with the moment”

  • If human beings want to be in harmony with the universe, with the Dao, they should simply do what feels good and right to them at the moment

    • Should act in a simple, unselfish, and humble manner

      • Without artifice

      • No role-playing, game-playing, or dishonesty

        • Just be yourself