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Ancient Chinese Culture Essay

1053 words - 4 pages

While the fertile banks of the Tigris, Euphrates, and Indus rivers were giving rise to thriving civilizations in the Middle East and India, the same was happening along the banks of the Yellow River in China. A civilization arose untouched by the outside world in parallel to those of Mesopotamia, Harappa, and Mohenjo-Daro. The Yellow River civilization not only mirrored the advances made in the other two civilizations but also contributed unique ones of their own.

Due to China’s geographical location - high mountains of the Tibetan Plateau to the west and vast deserts of the Gobi to the north - communication with the West and South Asia was difficult. Nomadic horsemen to the north referred to as “barbarians” began raiding China for products like silk and lacquer-ware as early as Shang times. In the 3rd century B.C, The Qin dynasty built the first stretch of the rammed-earth fortification to protect themselves from the northern nomads. Hundreds of thousands of laborer were drafted to build this wall along the northern border between the Qin lands and the areas controlled by the nomadic Xiongnu. The Xiongnu or more commonly known as the Huns formed the first confederation of nomadic tribes. Other dynasties after the Qin added to the wall, however most of the work can be contributed to the Ming dynasty. The wall today is 1,500 miles long and runs mostly along the southern edge of the Mongolian plain. Guard stations and watchtowers are placed at regular intervals. In reality, the wall did not do much to protect from outside invasion but exists today as one of the most well known Chinese attractions. It is listed in the Wonders of the World among the likes of Machu Picchu and Taj Mahal.

The Chinese writing system is another illustration of their isolationism. Beginning in Shang times, texts inscribed on bones from tombs show us that writing was already a major element in Chinese culture. The Chinese language is unlike the languages of Eurasia, which were created by cross-fertilization from trade and military conquests. China continues to use a logographic system today– bearing a very strong resemblance to the writing of three thousand years ago - as opposed to alphabets. Being one of the oldest continually used writing systems has its benefits. Chinese scholars are able to comprehend their own ancient texts with more ease than other civilizations. The Chinese writing system was standardized during the Qin dynasty and eventually adopted by their neighbors- Japan and Korea. Writing facilitated the development of a bureaucratic state and literacy was restricted to the class of elite. The early Chinese books were made of cumbersome strips of bamboo. Silk was substituted as writing material in 2nd century B.C.E. A breakthrough in Chinese literature came with the invention of paper in 2nd century A.D. The creation of paper gave rise to the production of books. Chinese history is resplendent with great literary works such as the Book of Songs – the...

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