Political Change In Ancient China Essay

968 words - 4 pages

Despite the vast geographical differences throughout the area that makes up China, once the various tribes and clans were unified under a consolidated ruler, China’s empires were able to grow in size and sophistication that rivaled any civilization in the west. However, while the western civilizations saw empires rise and fall due to conquering armies from different regions, creeds, and ethnic groups, China’s political change came from within. Whereas the disenfranchised social classes in the west were made up of conquered people from differing nations, the uprisings in China came from different clans that were successful in ousting the previous ruling dynasty. While the empires that surrounded the Mediterranean Sea were restricted by language and cultural differences that had to be assimilated, the Chinese were able to build each subsequent empire on the bones of the previous one, which made the transition of leadership less cumbersome.
One of the most unifying elements of Chinese culture was the adherence to a logographic written language. Unlike western empires whose written and oral language changed with each subsequent ruling class, the Chinese retained a common writing style that does not lend itself to changes in spelling or interpretation. The phonetic alphabets of the west are more malleable, and can be altered to suit the population of a specific region. Whereas in China, the dialects could shift in speech and pronunciation, but a letter or manuscript could be understood by a literate Chinese citizen from the borders of the Himalayas to the coast of the East China Sea. The success of Chinese writing at helping to maintain order within the bureaucracy increased efficiency in record keeping and helped to bolster trade. China’s written language left its mark on China’s neighbors; as Japan, Korea and Vietnam all incorporated Chinese script in their own written languages. However, despite a unified language, unrest was never more than a day’s ride on horseback away.
China’s neighbors to the north were rather persistent in disrupting the affairs of the ruling class. The Xiongnu, as they were known in Emperor Qin’s court, were deemed a menace and for centuries various Chinese emperors attempted to minimize their impact, or tried to eradicate them altogether. What was hard for the Chinese to learn was that it is almost impossible to eliminate a population that can get up and move whenever they want. So despite the hundreds of thousands of soldiers that went to fight with the northern invaders and the countless impoverished laborers sent to construct the Great Wall, there was very little gain for the immense effort that was exerted through imperial decrees. Eventually, the first emperor of the Song Dynasty, named Taizu, adopted a “…if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude, and initiated a peace treaty that created large tribute payments be made to the tribal leaders of the north. However, it wasn’t long...

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