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China and Mesoamerica. Ancient China. By 5000 B.C.E. rice became a staple in the diet in the Chang Jiang River Valley; Later people further north (Huang He River Valley) domesticated wheat, barley, and millet

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Ancient china
Ancient China

  • By 5000 B.C.E. rice became a staple in the diet in the Chang Jiang River Valley;

  • Later people further north (Huang He River Valley) domesticated wheat, barley, and millet

  • By 1700 B.C.E. they had cities and complex political, cultural, and social systems that were the foundation in China

Huang He, AKA, the Yellow River: Wheat, Barley and millet

Chang Jiang AKA the Yangzi River: Rice

Ancient china geography
Ancient China: Geography

  • Away from other areas; they did trade but distance and geographic features separated the area; China developed independently

    • Agriculture and metalworking were independently invented

  • Rivers of Huang He and Chang Jiang were great for farming (silt)

  • Other areas such as Gobi Desert, Himalayan Mts., and the Tarim Basin less inhabitable

  • Most people, even today, live in the East along the rivers and the coastline

In other words, most people live in the green area on the map.

Ancient china geography1
Ancient China: Geography

  • The rivers absorbed a yellowish-brown dust from central Asia called loess which is very fertile and could be worked with digging sticks

  • Like the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the East Asian rivers were prone to irregular flooding

    • People built dikes, channels, and basins to store water

Ancient china economics
Ancient China: Economics

  • Farmers and leaders had to control flooding

    • Irrigation systems

    • Dikes to manage flow of river

    • Invented the hoe and four pronged hoe which was a vast improvement over the digging stick; could feed large urban population

Ancient china economics1
Ancient China: Economics

  • China’s growth spurred by mastery of metallurgy esp. bronze weapons & tools

    • Ruling elites controlled copper and tin ores and employed the craftsmen

    • Produced weapons such as spears but also fittings for horse drawn chariots diffused to China from Mesopotamia

  • High level of craftsmanship found in vessels created for religious ritual & household use by elites

  • Pioneer in silk manufacturing; raising silk worms

Ancient china economic
Ancient China: Economic

  • Cities were centers of political control and religion; surrounded by great walls of earth

  • Public building: palaces, political centers, storehouses, royal tombs, shrines, etc

  • Ordinary people lived in villages outside city walls

  • Cities laid out on a grid plan aligned with north polar star, gate opened in cardinal direction, building faced South

    • Reflects the concern for order

    • Called Fengshui

Ancient china political
Ancient China: Political

  • According to legend, a dynasty, (family-based kingdom), called Xia but NO evidence of existence

  • 1st known dynasty was the Shang Dynasty emerged between 1750-1500 B.C.E.

    • Nomadic group skilled horsemen with army of subject peoples and other warrior leaders who swore allegiance

Ancient china political1
Ancient China: Political

  • King is a intermediary between Supreme Being, Shandi, had a lot of power

    • People were governed by vassals, lords that served the king and bound by personal ties

    • Warrior aristocrats collected tribute (farm produce) which supported the monarchy

Ancient china political2
Ancient China: Political

  • 12th century B.C.E. Shang is overthrown by the Zhou Dynasty

    • Kept written records, tax rolls, lists of imports & exports, & historical info

  • Dynasty falls into 2 phases: Western Zhou (11th-8th centuries B.C.E.) and Eastern Zhou (8th-5th centuries B.C.E.)

  • Extended territory: decentralized, local leaders had a good deal of autonomy

  • Growing bureaucrats (Shi) best educated men served as scribes, clerks, advisors and overseers

    • Kept records , ran public works, was, organized rituals

Ancient china social
Ancient China: Social

  • 3 Main Social Groups

  • The elite: royal family, landowning aristocracy, educated bureaucrats

    • Houses were lavish

    • Monopolized use of bronze weapons & tools

    • Consumed much of the meat

    • Emphasis on proper behavior, table manners, etc.

Ancient china social1
Ancient China: Social

  • Next level are the peasants, free artisans and craftsmen

    • Peasants didn’t own land but worked land that belonged to nobility

    • Lived in earth houses

    • Used iron tools in the late Zhou

    • Had to also build roads, buildings and irrigation projects

    • Artisans and craftsmen worked exclusively for the elite

    • Lived in the cities in better houses than peasants

Ancient china social2
Ancient China: Social

  • At the very bottom are the unskilled workers and slaves

    • Performed hard labor like building walls for cities, foundations, and clearing new fields

    • China did not use slaves for production

  • Merchants & traders did exist but little is written about them

    • Long distance trade appeared during the Shang: jade, tin, silk

  • Confucian emphasis on learning and political service led to low status for merchants and traders who devoted lives to make money

Ancient china social3
Ancient China: Social

  • Like other ancient civilizations, women lost status

  • Military success is highly valued & men dominated politics

  • Rituals honoring ancestors venerated men as important guides to the family

  • The matrilineal characteristics disappeared during the Shang era

  • During Zhou, women lost more status due to the fact that there were no temples erected to honor queens

Marker event the mandate of heaven
Marker Event: The Mandate of Heaven

  • Idea occurred when the Zhou overthrew the Shang in 12th C BCE to justify a forceful removal

    • Zhou rulers claimed they were given the “right” to rule from heaven

    • As long as the rulers were just & fair they would have confidence of heaven, but if they were not, the mandate would be lost

    • Prosperity was a “sign from heaven” that the rulers still had the mandate, but misfortunes meant that the ruler were not living up to expectations

    • If a ruler lost the mandate, subjects had the responsibility to replace him.

Ancient china cultural developments
Ancient China: Cultural Developments

  • Organized religion did not play as important a role as in other ancient civilizations

  • There was a heaven, but no personal deities who controlled humans and no large priestly class; a few to help with royal rituals

  • Ancestor worship was an important element of “heaven”

  • Rulers and family patriarchs consulted ancestors using oracle bones (turtle shells are inscribed with a question asking ancestors for help)

  • Shamans would have the ability to read & interpret the information from ancestors

Ancient china cultural developments1
Ancient China: Cultural Developments

  • As in Egypt & Mesopotamia, Chinese writing was pictographs and combined to communicate abstract ideas (today’s writing reflects Shang times)

  • Complexity of the writing meant that only specialized people could read and write in China like Egypt & Mesopotamia, BUT writing was only associated with the King’s court NOT merchants and trade

Ancient china cultural developments2
Ancient China: Cultural Developments

  • Due to the early use of writing in China, philosophy and religion developed

    • Confucianism is the most famous

  • Confucian values are reflected in the Analects which are instructions for proper behavior

Ancient china comparisons
Ancient China Comparisons



Chinese emphasized families more than most due to the veneration of ancestors (ancestors guide the living)

Main connection with the spiritual world is through ancestors and the emperor’s status as the “Son of Heaven” through the mandate of heaven

Did not have an array of agricultural gods or a priestly caste

Emphasis on learning & literacy; oracle bones was the primary way to communicate with ancestors, thus literacy is highly valued

  • Like other societies, China was a patriarchy based on agriculture

  • Characterized by large cities, specialized labor and massive public buildings

  • Advanced political coordination and complex writing system for record keeping

China and mesoamerica
Comparing Divination in Mesopotamia and Ancient China: Divination is the method for communicating with the gods to determine the future


Ancient China

Divination was controlled by shamans using oracle bones to read messages from the spiritual world

The questions were answered by ancestors that passed on

Questions varied from everything about ritual performance, the weather, or the outcome of war

  • Priests inspected the organs of sacrificed animals to interpret the wishes of the gods

  • Read the trails of smoke from incense; or patterns formed by mixing oil and water

  • Saw destiny in the stars and planets; movements in the heavens were communicated gods will: explains their success in astronomy

Early civilizations in the americas
Early Civilizations in the Americas

  • Americas were completely cut off from the Eastern Hemisphere until 1492

    • Agricultural revolution was independently invented and cultural diffusion was within the region

  • Prehistoric people reached the Western Hemisphere from Asia

    • Crossed a land bridge

Early civilizations in the americas geography
Early Civilizations in the Americas: Geography

  • The tremendous distance north to south is important in the Americas

    • Environments vary greatly with frozen regions in the north and tropical rain forests in the south.

    • Also, vast plains, heavy forests, and high mountain ranges

  • These features made farming impossible in some areas

  • Contact was difficult

  • Two places where farming was the basis for development of civilizations were Mesoamerica (now Mexico) and the Andean Mountains along the coast in NW South America

Early civilizations in the americas the olmec 1200 400 b c e
Early Civilizations in the Americas The Olmec (1200-400 B.C.E.)

  • Agricultural villages appeared in 3000 B.C.E. and spread over the region

    • Beans, peppers, avocados, squash, and maize

    • All completely different from the Eastern Hemisphere

  • Only domesticated a few animals (dogs and turkeys); No beasts of burden

  • Human labor provided all the labor

    • No wheeled vehicles or animals to pull them

  • The Olmec established the first civilization 1200 B.C.E.

Early civilizations in the americas the olmec
Early Civilizations in the Americas: The Olmec

  • Olmec, also known as the “rubber people”

  • Based on agriculture, but no need for irrigation due to abundant rainfall

  • Not on a river!!!

  • Built drainage systems to control water; raised fields to grow in wetland area

  • Cities grew as religious, and trade centers

    • Traded salt, cacao, clay and limestone

    • No competitive city states like Mesopotamia

Early civilizations in the americas olmecs
Early Civilizations in the Americas: Olmecs

  • Olmec society was authoritarian and hierarchical

    • Elite group of priests dominated society. conducted rituals, gave advice about rainfall, and directed city planning so they aligned with the stars

  • Astronomical events were believed to influence human affairs

Olmec calendar

Early civilizations in the americas olmec
Early Civilizations in the Americas Olmec

  • Ruler and family were another elite group

    • Directed labor for city building projects from the population

  • Most people lived in areas outside the cities

  • Skilled artisans created carvings and sculptures for buildings and jade figurines, jewelry, and ceremonial objects

  • A class of merchant traveled long distances trading in jade, obsidian rocks and pottery

Early civilizations in the americas the olmec1
Early Civilizations in the Americas: The Olmec

  • Little is known, but some sort of kingship combined with religious and secular responsibilities were in major cities

  • Elite lived in elaborate houses; commoners simple houses of sticks and mud

  • Giant heads were sculpted from basalt symbolize the power of the ruling families

Early civilizations in the americas the olmec2
Early Civilizations in the Americas: The Olmec

  • Great carvers of jade and conquered to get it

  • Developed a number system based on 30 and a 365 day calendar

  • Ancestors of the great Mayan civilization that will follow

  • Decline is a puzzle; (between 900-600 B.C.E.)

  • Scholars believe it was an internal conflict

Early civilizations in the americas the chavin 900 250 b c e
Early Civilizations in the Americas: The Chavin (900-250 B.C.E.)

  • At the same time as the Olmec, Chavin dominated a heavily populated region in the Peruvian coastal plain and the foothills of the Andes

  • Did not develop in a river valley; relied on fish and sea life on the coast

  • Combined a dry coast with high mountain valley with thick jungles

Early civilizations in the americas the chavin
Early Civilizations in the Americas: The Chavin B.C.E.)

  • The capital, Chavin de Huantar was in the mountains; the intersection of trade routes

    • Helped them control trade and gain economic power

  • Agriculture was based on Maize which grown on the coast and potatoes and fruit grown in the mountains; Cotton was grown in the tropics

  • Labor was organized by communities that shared the responsibility

  • They had the llama to help with chores

    • Domesticated in the mountains to carry bundles of goods in caravans

Early civilizations in the americas1
Early Civilizations in the Americas B.C.E.)

  • Independently invented metallurgical techniques

  • Crafts people worked n silver and gold for ceremonial items; served the elite

  • Advance production used for pottery and textiles

  • Kings wore superior quality textiles and gold crowns

Early civilizations in the americas2
Early Civilizations in the Americas B.C.E.)

  • Had to control the 3 ecological zones that abruptly began and ended

  • Political organization needed for irrigation and protection of the land; politically well organized

  • Influenced the religion of the region

    • Jaguar god is depicted throughout the empire

    • Other animals with human faces are also depicted

Other early civilizations in the middle east 1700 1100 b c e
Other Early Civilizations in the Middle East, 1700-1100 B.C.E.

  • By 2nd Millennium B.C.E., agricultural communities developed in the Middle East (S.W. Asia), the Americas, and East Asia

    • All developed trade routes; put them in contact with others..BUT the Middle East contact was more intense

  • This period (1700-1100 B.C.E.) is called the Late Bronze Age

    • It’s Cosmopolitan which means people shared cultures and lifestyles because of increased contact

    • Cultural diffusion is more than just goods; it’s also ideas, values, standards of living

  • Key players were: Egypt, Mesopotamia, Hittites, Nubians, and Mycenaeans