China is ranked among the four greatest civilizations in the world along with Egypt, Babylon, and India. European civilization began way after the Chinese have made strides in science and technology.
The Civilization of China
China is ranked among the four greatest civilizations of the ancient world alongside Babylon, India, and Egypt. According to written records, Chinese civilization dates back to 4,000 years ago and today it is the only ancient civilization that has prevailed to modern times (China.org.cn, 2001).
Chinese civilization is regarded as one of the birthplace of human race. Fossils have been discovered in the territory of China which includes Yuanmou Man and Lantian Man, which flourished 1.5 million and 750,000 years ago, respectively. Likewise, the fossil of the Shu Ape, considered as the “first anthropoid,” is believed to be 45 million years old (China.org.cn, 2001)
Legends has it that the primitive tribes who lived in the middle and upper regions of the Yellow River joined forces to become two mighty tribes led by the Yellow Emperor and the Fiery Emperor and advanced their forces southward 5,000 years back. After years of battle, they vanquished the Sanmiao and Jiuli tribes headed by Chi You (China.org.cn, 2001)
Some members of the conquered tribe was merged with the tribes under the Yellow and Fiery Emperors to become an integral part of the Han people, which signaled the start of China as a nation. Hence, Chinese have referred to themselves as “descendants of the Yellow and Fiery Emperors.” (China.org.cn, 2001)
Around 5,000 years ago, China practiced a patriarchal society. At this time, villages started to appear as well as the initial forms of cities. The population of China’s early people had likewise grown to huge proportions and agriculture had made progress. During this age, inventions started to appear. Shen Nong experimented with crop selection for the purpose of food and herbal medicines for curing ailments (China.org.cn, 2001)
The compass, which the Yellow Emperor invented, was used to vanquish the forces of Chi You. Lei Su, his wife, discovered silk making raising silkworms. With her invention of the first garments, the ancient Chinese people no longer wore animal skin and leaves of trees. The southern tribes, headed by Chi You, had knowledge in making copper weapons, set the conditions for producing bronze vessels, metallurgy, and alchemy (China.org.cn, 2001)
The Shang Dynasty (16th – 11th century BC)/ This period marked the beginning of the slavery in China. The Bronze culture reached its peak as excellent smelting and casting methods paved the way for the creation of beautifully-crafted bronze wares. Pottery gradually developed with the proliferation of ancient pottery wares. The art of sericulture and silk weaving reached the level of maturity during this dynasty (China.org.cn, 2001)
Chou Dynasty (475 B.C. – End of the 19th Century)/ In ancient Chinese civilization, this period started the Age of Feudalism. Prior to the 15th century, China emerged as a dominant country in the world being a leader in the field of productivity and technology (China.org.cn, 2001)
China already had advanced knowledge in agriculture and irrigation. They were likewise advancing in traditional medicine and botany. The compass, gunpowder, movable printing, and papermaking—regarded as China’s four greatest inventions – made a huge impact in world history. Ceramics and silk textiles likewise changed the course of technology. The Europeans struggled to manufacture cast iron during the 14th century but China had already succeeded in producing cast iron for use in industries since the 10th century (China.org.cn, 2001)
Confucius had made a great impact not only in China but also throughout East and Southeast Asia. Sun Zi developed warfare strategies that remain a subject of study to this day. Taoism became a separate religion being practiced in China (China.org.cn, 2001)
During the time of Confucius, feudal lords ruled small states. When the remaining feudal kingdoms collapsed in 221 B.C., it was only this time that China became a single empire (China.org.cn, 2001)
The Great Wall of China was built by Shih Huang Ti, the first emperor of ancient China. The aim of this engineering wonder was to protect the people inside the wall from barbaric nomads living outside the Great Wall (American Historical Association, n.d)
The Rise and Fall of Dynasties
Throughout the 2,000 years of Imperial China, there was a similar pattern that characterized the rise and fall of the dynasties. They would emerge after a war and famine when there was sufficient food and territory to move around. Likewise, dynasties come to power when there was civilization, wealthy families, culture, and emerging art and philosophy. As the population begins to grow, the farms would be divided and landlords would no longer pay taxes. Eventually, this would weaken the government and rebellions would begin (American Historical Association, n.d)
As war lords come into power, they would have scholars who had an understanding of good administration and record keeping. As they establish a system of government, they formed estates for themselves and their relatives. As the power of the landlords increased, the situation of the peasants would decrease and the process is repeated over and over again (American Historical Association, n.d)
Chinese dynasties were established by nomad warriors outside the Great Wall of China. The last of them was the Manchu Dynasty which ruled China from 1644 to 1911. It is believed that China took in her conquerors. Prior to the Japanese invasion, barbarians have invaded China (American Historical Association, n.d)
The Impact of Chinese Civilization
Western civilization lagged behind China in almost all fields of science and technology during ancient times and towards the Middle Ages. China had already been making progress before the Europeans could get on their feet during the time of Columbus (American Historical Association, n.d).
The European Civilization
While Chinese civilization was reaching greater heights, Europe remained in the dark. Greece was the first to make waves as she gained prominence in the field of knowledge, literature, weapons, and law. Rome was the next to rise to prominence (Morris, 2008).
The barbaric tribes of the Huns, Goths, and Scythians, destroyed a huge part of Europe and eventually they resided in the land and ushered in a new civilization. Other barbaric tribes – such as the Visigoths in Spain, the Franks in Gaul, the Saxons in Scandinavia and Germany, the Lombards in Italy, and the Anglo-Saxons in Britain—completed the beginning of the European civilization (Morris, 2008).
The Development of the European Civilization
The birth of the European civilization was marked by wars in different parts of the continent. In 800 A.D., Charlemagne conquered Continental Europe from the Pyrenees extending to the Carpathian mountains, merging this vast area into one kingdom. Upon his death, his empire were scattered and established several kingdoms in France, Lombardy, Burgundy, Lorraine, Germany, among others (Morris, 2008).
Two hundred years later, the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Russia enlarged the European civilization. Before the end of the 11th century, the Moors were driven out to Spain. In 1453, the accession by the Turks of Constantinople completely established the civilization of Europe (Morris, 2008).
In addition, 18th century Europe was highlighted by the Spanish Succession, the Seven Years War between Frederick II and the Austrian Emperor. England was dragged into the War being an ally of Prussia while Germany, France, Russia, and Sweden went to the aid of Austria (Morris, 2008).
Although it ended in massacres and resulted to the French Revolution, the Seven Years War ceded new territories to Prussia and established the ascendancy of Prussian Kings which eventually became the Royal Family of a unified Germany after the Franco-German War in 1870 (Morris, 2008).
The Greek Civilization
The first major civilization that emerged in Europe was Crete during the 2nd millennium BC. The Greeks, which established the Minoan Culture after King Minos, conquered the Aegeans in 1600 BC. It is believed that the first wave of Indo-European colonizers, the Myceneans, captured the Minoan realms (Smith et al, 2008).
After 1200 BC, the Mycenean Culture was almost entirely wiped out as a result of widespread conflict among the Mycenean Greeks. During the Dark Ages in Greece, the people learned to carve iron tools which ushered in the Greek Iron Age (Smith et al, 2008).
The Roman Civilization
The ascendancy of Rome as an empire was marked by a period of civil wars and strife. Under Emperor Augustus, the prosperity particularly in the Mediterranean Region was at a high that it was unrivaled for 1,500 years. The Roman Civilization resulted from the assimilation of different groups of people. In 212 AD, almost every free man within its boundaries has become Roman citizens. Universal citizenship was a unique concept in ancient society. Outside the Roman Empire, elements of Greco-Roman society had a role in the development of Celtic and German tribes (Smith et al, 2008).
The Chinese and European Civilization During World War II
European civilization suffered heavily during World War II. The mighty German army was completely crushed and the reign of the Nazis came to an end. Its leaders were charged with crimes against humanity at Nuremberg, where the Nazis experienced great triumphs. Adolf Hitler escaped trial and execution by killing himself in his Berlin bunker after the war. Germany was in ruins due to heavy bombing (Suffolk County Community College, n.d).
England was destroyed at the end of World War II after being consistently bombed in 1940 by the Germans. Its economic recovery depended on financial assistance from the United States. England gradually removed its remaining strongholds in the years after the War. Although it did not sustain huge human casualties, France would need to take the road to recovery as an aftermath of Nazi occupation. It would also have to relinquish its colonies after the war (Suffolk County Community College, n.d).
Meanwhile, China was experiencing the strength of the Japanese Imperial Army. Comparable to the Nazi regime in Europe, Japan committed terrible atrocities against the Chinese people. One concrete example of Japan’s cruelty in China was the Rape of Nanking (present day Nanjing), where 200 to 300,000 Chinese were killed by Japanese soldiers. At the same time, 20,000 to 80,000 women were brutally raped. They were kept in prostitution houses to be used by Japanese soldiers at the time of their choosing. Japan was likewise involved in theft and arson (China Guide.org, n.d). While Japan acknowledged the crimes, they challenged the gravity of the atrocities and denied that they were involved in the death of the estimated number of victims (China Guide.org, n.d).
- China and the 2nd World War. China Guide.org. Retrieved October 16 2008 from http://www.chinaguide.org/guide/china-and-the-2nd-world-war/
- Effects of World War II. Suffolk County Community College. Retrieved October 16 2008 from http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/westn/effectww2.html
- Formation of the Chinese Civilization. China.org.cn. Retrieved October 16 2008 from http://www.china.org.cn/e-gudai/index-1.htm
- Morris, C (2008 October 14). Growth of European Civilization. Chest of Books. Retrieved October 16 2008 from http://chestofbooks.com/history/reference/Home-Cyclopedia-Of-History/Growth-of-European-Civilization.html
- Oldest Living Civilization. American Historical Association. Retrieved October 16 2008 from http://www.historians.org/projects/giroundtable/Chinese/Chinese3.htm
- Smith, D, et al (2008). Europe. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 16 2008 from http://www.encarta.msn.com