Comparison of the Han Dynasty and the Aztecs
Out of the many civilizations were have studied through the year, I see many similarities between The Han Dynasty of China, and the Aztecs. They have the same general characteristics of an ancient civilization, and even more so, since both were golden ages. Both the Han and the Aztecs had organized social structure. The Aztecs’ social structure placed the aristocratic class of nobles at the top, followed by priests with artisans and merchants enjoying prestige as well. Peasants and slaves were the lowest in terms of social hierarchy.
The Han dynasty completely redefined the Chinese social structure. A guidebook called “Classic of Filial Piety” was written anonymously and produced. It was written to teach family values to children at a young age. The Chinese social hierarchy system went from scholar-bureaucrats at the top, down to slaves at the bottom, similar to the Aztecs. The Aztecs and the Han were both advanced agriculturally. The Aztecs farmed on floating man-made islands called chinampas that utilized soil from the lake bed to produce multiple harvests per year.
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The Han were great silk cultivators. They picked and processed some of the finest silk in the Eurasian continent. It was traded along trade routes that led all the way to the Mediterranean, which were called the “Silk Roads”. Both the Han and the Aztecs had central belief systems. The Aztecs believed that the gods had set the world in motion through acts of individual self sacrifice and that it would take acts of ritual bloodletting and human sacrifice to ensure that the world would continue.
Their religious leader was also their king, who performed the ritual sacrifice of captives. They believed that the sun god needed sacrifices and offerings of blood to keep shining. The Han didn’t have a true set religion, but different systems of beliefs that arose during the Warring States Period to try to create order. For example, Confucianism had a set code to live by, but no form of god/s. Confucius taught many things that we often hear today, like the phrase “do unto others as you would have done to you”.
He taught about filial piety and the five reciprocal relationships: ruler to subject, father to son, husband to wife, older brother to younger brother, and friend to friend (males). The Aztecs and the Han also had many differences. The Han were much more advanced than the Aztecs. They had a more developed writing system than the Aztecs, probably due to the higher amount of cultural diffusion because of the Han’s greater number of trading partners. They were also very different in size.
China had a population of about 60 million, while the Aztecs had less than half of that. That is why it was necessary for China to create different sets of beliefs such as Confucianism, Legalism, and Daoism, to keep the people in order. Another difference between the Aztecs and the Han was the role of “religion” in the empires. Even though I just compared the two belief systems, doesn’t mean they are completely the same. They Aztecs used their main religious practice of bloodletting as an attempt to keep the gods happy.
The reason that the Han used their belief systems, or “religions”, was not to please gods, but to keep order in their large empire. Without Confucianism, Legalism, or Daoism, they would’ve still been in the Warring States Period. The two empires also collapsed in different ways. The Han fell due to the Yellow Turban Revolts during the second and third centuries A. D. , which were led by rebellious peasants wearing yellow headgear. Multiple internal conflicts also led to the demise of the Han. The Aztecs collapsed after being conquered by the Spanish, during the Spanish colonization of America.