China and India were two of the greatest classical civilizations in human history. They both possessed elaborate societal levels and castes that defined the way that their citizens lived, with India having an official caste system, while China had a pecking order of Lords, famer-peasants, and “mean” people. However, India was made up of diverse and unstable empires, while China was usually unified under a single ruler in a line of kings, making it a far more powerful and politically successful nation than India. We can analyze these two civilizations using their governments, religions, and cultures.
Both China and India have dynastic-like periods of government during their classical eras. China possessed four main dynasties, the Shang, the Zhou, the Qin, and the Han, while India was run by empires such as the Mauryans, the Guptas, and the Kushans, which is most likely because both of their lines of kings was often changing due to decline in tax revenue, social divisions, internal rebellion, and invasions. However, China was intensely focused on bureaucracy while India did not develop very solid political institutions.
China possessed bureaucrats and local warrior-landlords during the Zhou and Han dynasties, and India brought forth autocratic emperors as well as aristocratic assemblies, and did not stress great importance on political values or service. This is mainly due to the importance of local units of government and the social relationships inside the Indian caste system, with the religious leaders at the head of government. Furthermore, regionalism was at a high in India, while China was usually unified under one powerful emperor.
At one time, Ashoka was a powerful leader in India, but China is famous for having leaders such as Qin Shi Huangdi and Wu Ti. Again, this is mainly due to the Indian emphasis on big local government. The belief system of classical China was centered around philosophy, while India’s was centered more around religion and the afterlife. Confucianism, China’s main set of ethics, emphasized philosophies of being a selfless and humble ruler, practicing family virtues, and, while Hinduism, India’s major religion, focused more on polytheistic beliefs, reincarnation, and a divine force that formed the entire universe and a part of each person’s soul.
This is because India’s caste system held high regard to priests and religious leaders, while China’s government was guided more by the day-to-day philosophies of Confucianism. However, both beliefs possessed written doctrine. Confucian belief was written down in a book called the Analects, while Hindu hymns to their gods were carefully recorded in the Rig-Veda, which is the first epic ever to be written in India. These two pieces of literature were created due to the fact that in any religion, written codes are always a necessity.
Also, India and China both possessed some controversial minor belief systems. Daoism, which is a more religious philosophy, arose at around 500 B. C. E. , and focused on the philosophy of being in harmony with one’s surroundings and having a humble and frugal life. Buddhism, which would strongly influence Daoism at the decline of the Han dynasty, was centered around the philosophies of the Buddha, and was built around the hope of achieving enlightenment and the reward of a world in the afterlife beyond existence itself: nirvana.
These two religions came about due to the citizen’s hunger for a more pious lifestyle and tensions inside their main branches of religion. The cultures of India and China had elaborate societal levels and castes that shaped the lifestyles of their people. India had an official caste system, which proceeded downward with priests and warriors at the top, the traders and farmers at the next level, the common laborers at the next level down, and the finally a group called the Untouchables at the very bottom.
China had a pecking order with the Landlords at the highest level, the farmer-peasants at the level, and the “mean”, or unskilled, people at the bottom. These systems were both put in place to ensure order and hierarchy among the peoples of these nations. However, the artistic styles in China were mostly on paper, while Indian art was in the form of sculptures. Chinese calligraphy and painting were at a peak and Indians constructed lavish and intricate sculptures and shrines honoring the Buddha. Religious influence obviously played a big role in setting apart Indian art from Chinese art forms.
Furthermore, the science of China was heavily based around astronomy, while Indian science was better focused in medicine. Chinese astronomers created an accurate calendar of 365. 5 days and calculated the movements of Saturn and Jupiter and Indian medical research produced advances in surgery, the sterilizations of wounds, and the inoculation of diseases such as smallpox. The purpose of Chinese astronomy was to be able to predict the phenomenons of celestial bodies and to create harmony between heaven and earth, while Indian medical research was obviously to ensure the well-being of the Indian people.
The civilizations of China and India were truly intricate and fascinating, and still remain so today. From their elaborate art forms of calligraphy and sculpting to China’s philosophies of Confucianism and India’s religion of Hinduism, these two civilizations can be analyzed and interpreted in many various aspects of religion, government, and cultural diversity. Though worlds apart, China and India share recognition of being two of the most successful and important empires of all time.