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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

EASTERN CIVILIZATION

Confucianism and Daoism


            Confucianism is an Asian belief that has had a great influence on the behavior and beliefs of its numerous proponents. Although it is not considered by some as a religion but a mere set of ethical rules and moral philosophy, it remains to be a “creed by which millions of successive generations of East Asians… have lived for over 2,000 years (, 2005, ).” Furthermore, Confucianism is developed from the teachings of K’ung Fu Tzu, more popularly known as Confucius. On the other hand, Taoism, which is sometimes written and actually pronounced as Daoism, ranks as the second major religious or moral philosophy of traditional China (, 2005, ). Its founder is Lao Tzu, who is likewise the probable author of Tao Te Ching, translated as The Way and its Power.


            In connection to this, although Confucianism and Daoism are two of the highly acclaimed philosophies contributed by the Chinese society, there are still a number of differences with regard to their traits and promoted beliefs, one of which is with regard to people’s reactions with regard to various forces in the environment. For instance, although Confucianism promotes loyalty towards leaders or superiors, it also reiterates people’s right to fight rulers who have been corrupt and unfair. On the other hand, Daoism does not promote such aggression, for this philosophy advocates peace, tranquility, and even inaction (, 2005, ). Moreover, proponents of Daoism also believe that the recognizable and rational human world is not what truly matters. What is extremely important is the cosmic world of nature (, 2005, ). However, Confucianism gives much importance on occurrences and events that involve people in their observable and realistic worlds—it mirrors the optimistic and sensible Chinese perception of the world, which considers the most magnificent blessing as the fact that humans enjoy their long lives. Hence, there is much focus given on the simple pleasures of lie such as having children, eating good food, and growing old with one’s relatives and loved ones. With this, one could construe that Confucianism is human-oriented and accentuates the celebration of life.


            Moreover, Daoism’s focus on nature and what is beyond society is also a reason behind the differences between these two philosophies. For instance, Confucianism, in order to attain “the enjoyment of living,” gives emphasis on social responsibility—people have to do something and work hard so as to achieve such prosperity and enjoyment. On the other hand, Daoism promotes naturalness and spontaneity, and gives emphasis on what transcends people. Furthermore, according to  (1968), the great difference between Confucianism and Daoism is that Daoism provides no room for teleology, unless it is the ultimate realization of Tao (). And although Daoism is non-mechanistic, it is hard to imagine the Taoist universe as a moral one. “Heave and Earth are not humane [not man-like],” says the Tao Te Ching (, 1968, ). However, amidst, these differences, there are still similarities between these two philosophies. Their proponents both agree that people are responsible for their personal life, individual development, and self-improvement. In Confucianism, a person improves himself or herself and is accordingly rewarded throughout one’s existence in this world. Whereas in Daoism, a person achieves improvement through universal energies and contemplation, and his or her reward could be achieved in the next life. Furthermore, Confucianism and Daoism also promote the fulfillment of personal desires as an acceptable pursuit, which have guided the Chinese people, and their other followers, with regard to the satisfaction of their individual goals.


            In my opinion, the tenets of both philosophies complement each other; one could follow both philosophies to achieve individual development and growth. However, if I were to choose between the two, I prefer Confucianism because of the fact that it gives emphasis on what is happening in the present and in the current society, and not those that could possibly occur in the future, where one no longer exists in the world. Since I give more value on the present, I prefer to carry out my actions and behaviors in accordance to what I believe is their effects on my present life and existence. Although I do think about the afterlife, I would still prefer to experience the effects of whatever I do towards my personal happiness and development, not in the next world but right now, when I am still living. Furthermore, another thing that caught my attention with regard to Confucianism is the fact that it promotes revolt or fighting against leaders who no longer fulfill their responsibilities to the people. I believe that instead of doing nothing, people should be constantly aware of what is happening in the society. Accordingly, we should act against those who abuse their power and authority, instead of being apathetic and inactive. Because of this, there could be further improvement not only for oneself but also in the society that we live in.


 


Judaism in Asia


            There are various reasons why minority religions such as Judaism and Islam have been “absorbed” by Asian societies, such as in China or India. For instance, in A.D. 70, the Romans destroyed the Jews’ temple as part of their city’s destruction. As a result, the Diaspora occurred—Jews were scattered abroad and small Jewish colonies were formed on the west coast of southern India (, 2005, ). Eventually, there has been intermarriage between these dispersed Jews and the residents of India; consequently, Judaism was inevitably “absorbed” in the said country.


            In such circumstances, the engagement of Judaism in India has caused positive effects to the country. For one, there has been unity within the country, because instead of refusing Judaism and causing conflict between the two religions, the Hindus willingly embraced the new beliefs of the Jews. Aside from unity, there has also been development and harmony with regard to religion, because the Hindus realized that they are similar to Jews, in the sense that both of them give fundamental devotion on religion and sacred texts; hence, they became accepting towards other beliefs and religion. Another positive effect brought about by the “absorption” of Judaism in India is that residents of India who belong in the lower levels of the caste system perceived Judaism as a means to escape at least some of the caste discrimination. Hence, they considered Judaism as an instrument towards upward mobility (, 2005, ), and a form of freedom from the bounds of the caste system.


            On the other hand, when minority religions get absorbed by other nations, there could also be adverse results. This has occurred when the Jews established their colonies in China’s Tang Dynasty. When this happened, instead of a having a smooth and free-flowing existence of two religions, the Jews have forgotten their own religion and beliefs. In fact, intermarriage between the Jews and the Chinese have caused the desertion of Jewish dietary rules (, 2005, ). Furthermore, practices involved in Judaism have been forgotten by the Jews in China, for the culture and religion of the country was too dominant for them to retain their religious practices. Hence, the Jew’s connection to their own religion has been worn down by centuries of separation from fellow Jews as well as the appeal and dominance of a new Chinese culture.


 


Hierarchical Social Systems in Asia


            The Caste System of India is one well-known indication of hierarchical social systems in Asia. This method is socio-cultural in nature, is dictated by birth, and has affected almost all South Asians. The Caste System has been advantageous in India, in the sense that it is a form of social organization—because of this system, the residents of India are given the opportunity to belong in a specific group, amidst the large and greater community in the country. Accordingly, since members of different castes acknowledge other individuals who belong in their caste, there is mutual assistance within specific groups—in terms of material difficulties and setting disagreements—as well as cooperation within the shared interest group, on behalf of the wellbeing of all its members (, 2005, ).  This cooperation involves efforts and means to promote the caste’s status, assistance in arranging marriage partners, and the like.


            On the other hand, such hierarchical social system also brings about disadvantages to the country and its inhabitants. For one, India’s Caste System inevitably promotes inequality among Indians. For instance, people who belong in the lower levels of the caste system are perceived and treated as inferior by those who are members of the higher levels of the system. For example, during a wedding or a death feast, it is possible that members from different castes to attend such gathering, and inequality among ranks could be easily observed. During the feast, diners are arranged in lines—those who belong in a single caste sit next to each other, while those who belong in other castes sit in parallel or perpendicular rows, at some distance (“,” 2006). People who belong in the Dalit class, specifically Sweepers and Leatherworks, may even be placed far from the other visitors—even out in the street. And for them to be able to eat, these individuals in the Dalit caste group have to wait and accept discarded leavings thrown to them by diners who belong in the upper caste system (“,” 2006). Furthermore, higher members of the caste consider it dirty to eat food infected by contact with the saliva of people who do not belong in their caste.


 


Families


            Since the family is a hierarchical structure, the father serves as an individual who holds the power in the family as well as the responsibility for its members. Moreover, since a family may consist of members of a wide range of ages, younger individuals are expected to follow those who are of older ages—“younger sons were subject to their older brothers, wives and sisters to their husbands and brothers, and all to the eldest male (, 2005, ).”  Furthermore, since three generations normally reside under one roof, it is inevitable that older members—such as grandparents—of the family still live with the younger family members. Hence, one major role that families in East Asian society play is that it is every member’s responsibility to take care of the older members in the family, while being ruled by them at the same time.


            Families also have to fulfill the role with regard to the continuity of their generations. For instance it is the responsibility of the oldest existing son in the family in countries such as China, Korea, and Japan, to accomplish the funeral services for his parents. It is also his role to have regular and yearly rituals thereafter; this would then guarantee the safety of the souls of the deceased family members, and their continuous support for the living members of the family (, 2005, ). However, there are a number of dissimilarities with between Western and Eastern families. In general, Eastern families believe that it is still the responsibility of younger members of the family to tend for the old family members; for instance, there are children who still live with their grandparents and who diligently look after their welfare. With this, it could be assumed that there is closer relations between family members in the Eastern society. On the other hand, Western families believe that it would better if their aged family  members are sent to establishments such as nursing homes. In such places, there are hired caregivers who are tasked to care for old people they are not actually related with. Hence, it could be construed that  Western families do not give much emphasis on tight family bonds and caring for the elderly.


 


The Indus and Aryan Civilization


            As the end of the third millennium B.C. neared, the civilization of the Indus Valley began to perish; there may be various reasons behind such decline. First, evidence show that there may have been hostility in some areas where the Indus people used to exist—there were ashes of headless and unburied bodies that were probably victims of bandit raids, since the Indus Valley was greatly defenseless against plunder (, 2005, ). The Indus also encountered difficulties with regard to their environment—for instance, the continued irrigation of their semi-arid or desert area has led to the gradual build up of alkaline and salt that are left behind by the evaporating water and not sufficiently carried away by rainfall (, 2005, . ).


            Furthermore, the said irrigation could also raise the water table, and this could have drowned the Indus people’s root crops (, 2005, ); as a result, their source of food and sustenance was damaged. Aside from the aforementioned, another reason why their source of food and living was ruined is because of the destruction or choking of the irrigation channels that fed the fields due to silt brought about by course changes and recurrent flooding. Hence, these agricultural and environmental factors rendered the Indus population deprived of food and sustenance, and defenseless against raiders, such as the Aryans.


            The Aryans and the Indus differ in a variety of ways—their significant contributions to culture is one concrete example. The Indus civilization is believed to be the root of a number of modern and traditional practices and beliefs in the Indian culture, specifically with regard to religion. A number of evidences show that the Indus civilization has created religious figures that may be early representations of Shiva, the Indian god of harvest, Creator and Destroyer, and the god of life, death, and rebirth (, 2005, ). On the other hand, the Aryans are believed to be the advocates of the Vedic civilization, or the period of the composition of sacred texts called Vedas, as well as other sacred documents in Vedic Sanskrit (“,” 2006).


 


Accomplishments of Classical India and Political Turmoil


            Classical India has left the world with a number of essential achievements, in the fields of education and ATBP. According  (2005), “ancient and classical India as a whole had a deep respect for learning and education, beginning with literacy and mathematics and continuing to philosophy and the study of the Vedas (p. 85).” Furthermore, classical India also gave much emphasis on distinguished levels of material comfort, orderliness in the community, as well as remarkable accomplishments in the fields of philosophy, technology, and the arts—knowledge and capabilities that contemporary Indians are reasonably proud of.


            Aside from the field of education, classical India is also renowned for its accomplishments in the field of science and mathematics. For example, during the Gupta times, mathematics was further developed in the form of basic algebra and a numeration system that made use of nine digits and a zero—the exact system that we presently make use of, which is evidently more helpful than the Roman numerals. Another example is that ancient Indians were actually the first to discover that the sun is the center of the solar system, and that the planets are the ones which revolve around it. Likewise, Indian scientists were also the first proponents of an atomic theory of elements which is now a basic principle in the field of physics. Still in the field of science, the traditional Indian medicine had quite an extensive pharmacopoeia which made use of diverse herbal medicines and remedies that were later discovered and used in the West. These are only some of the vital accomplishments that classical India has contributed to the world’s rich culture, knowledge, and capabilities (, 2005,  ).


            Still according to (2005), internal struggles and various invasions that brought about political turmoil during classical India did not have an extensive effect on the lives of the people during that time (). This is because such political disorders have been inadequate to destroy the richness and vastness of the classic Indian culture, which continue to exist up to the present times. Indeed,  (2005) captures this idea through his words, as he refers to the accomplishments of classical India, “a sophisticated civilization, a remarkably humane set of values, and enough glimpses of the life of the common people to make ancient and classical India indeed a great tradition, one of the major achievements of the human experience ().”


 


The Qin Dynasty


            The Qin Dynasty of China was heralded by the Zhou Dynast and was followed by the Han Dynasty. It is said that through the leadership of First Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di, the unification of China emerged and hence marked the start of imperial China—an era that existed until the fall of Qing Dynasty in 1912 (“,” 2006). In general, the Qin Dynasty was eternalized by the fact that it established a legacy of a bureaucratic and centralized state, which was continued to China’s succeeding dynasties. In order to unify China, Qin Shi Huang Di “applied to his new empire as a whole the systems that had built Qin power (, 2005, ).” More concretely, after 221 B.C., further conquests led by the emperor resulted to China’s extensive absorption of the south. This started when kingdom Yue was obtained in the Guagzhou Delta and the road to it southward from the Yangzi, along with the Yue territory that is located in what is presently northern Vietnam (, 2005, ). Consequently, such events led to the unification of China—first, a new and standardized law code was created and equally applied to all those under the Qin Dynasty, which resulted to the end of century-old aristocratic privilege. Likewise, unity in China was also portrayed through the unification of measures, forms of writing, currency, and weights, which were all previously diverse in the country’s states and cultures. Moreover, land-tenure and feudal arrangements were also eradicated—land became privately owned and was liberally purchased and sold. Most importantly, a majestic system of canals and roads was also established during the Qin Dynasty, which resulted to the foundation of an impressive capital, Xianyang, developed near modern Xi’an in the Wei Valley.


 


The Han Dynasty


            Although the Qin Dynasty was renowned for its legacy of unifying China, the severity of Qin government led to the exhaustion of its people, isolation of the educated upper classes, depletion of the country’s treasury, all of which basically left China in turmoil; these situations could possibly have led to rebellion and the collapse of the Qin Dynasty. Amidst all these, the death of Qin Shi Huang Di even paved way for the emergence of Liu Bang, a rebel leader that created the Han Dynasty (, 2005, p. 100).


            Nevertheless, amidst the negative features of the Qin Dynasty, Liu Bang chose to make use of some of the previous empire’s techniques of control, specifically the Qin Legalist system. However, instead of employing a harsh method with regard to the legalist approach, the Han Dynasty made use of a less strict system, “softened by both common sense and the more human morality of Confucianism (, 2005, ).” More specifically, Liu Bang, who was later on called Han Gao Zi, adopted the Confucian philosophy that the government’s purpose is to serve its people, and that unjust leaders should give up the support of the rules and the mandate of Heaven. Furthermore, Han Gao Zi also eradicated the despised rules that limit thought, travel, and education; promoted and advanced learning; and reduced taxes. Other aspects of the Qin rule that the Han Empire maintained are mobilization for the country’s army, as well as forced work for public labors, specifically with regard to canal and road construction. Another is the unification of China’s measures, currency, orthodox thought, weights, and scripts—these efforts then led to China’s enthusiasm and acceptance of the early Han’s methods and administrative system.


           


India’s Mughal Dynasty and China’s Ming Dynasty


            The Mughal Dynasty was a Muslim empire that ruled most of the Indian subcontinent as well as parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Mughal Dynasty was established by Babur, and was eventually succeeded by his son named Humayun. Humayun’s son, Akbar, was considered as the greatest Mughal emperor. With regard to religion, the ruling class of Mughal was mostly Muslims, while its subjects were mostly Hindu. Its political economy is characterized by the employment of the mansabdar system, used to generate land revenue (“,” 2006).


            On the other hand, the Ming Dynasty of China was the country’s ruling empire from 1368 to 1644. In general, Ming’s political system and bureaucracy was characterized by a number of partisan disagreements. Moreover, wars and conflicts participated by the dynasty left China exhausted, in terms of its people as well as its imperial reserves. Furthermore, periodic peasant rebellions also brought about upheavals and insurgencies in North China (“,” 2006). These events, and others more, then led to decline and eventual fall of the Ming Dynasty.


            What was previously the Mughal Dynasty is now the Republic of India. Evidently, the religion, government, and general culture of India had its roots from the Mughal empire. For instance, the present government of India is ruled by a president akin to the rule of the Mughal empire; however, India’s president does not have absolute control over the country, unlike during the Mughal era. However, India’s taxation system is similar to that of the Mughal’s; in fact, there are certain states in the country that makes use of the same taxation system as that used by the Mughal empire.


 


Korea and Japan have Chinese Roots                       


            First, it could be traced that Japan has Chinese roots, mainly because of the spread of Buddhism during the middle of the sixth century. However, at first, Buddhism was not widely accepted, for most Japanese considered this as an alien religion. Nevertheless, eventually, Buddhism became a very effective and successful instrument that brought about Chinese influence to Japan. Religion also had an influence on the laws and the government of Japan. For example, “Shotoku’s ‘constitution’ also decreed reverence for Buddhism by all Japanese, but at the same time praised Confucian virtues (, 2005, ).” Such a combination of Buddhism and Confucianism lasted in Japan, even throughout the modern times. Furthermore, another reason why Japan could trace its roots to China is because ancient Japanese themselves wanted to acquire the characteristics of Chinese culture. According to  (2005), the Japanese were resolute in utilizing the rich Chinese civilization, and were determined to incorporate in Japan everything that they could transfer or discover (). Lastly, a wide range of political, economic, and social policies and changes in Japan have also been patterned from Chinese culture, which have been created and used through the Taika Reforms (, 2005, ).


            In connection to this, it is also a fact that the development of the civilization of early Japan could also be traced from the culture of Korea; as a result, these two nations are closely related. Hence, it could be construed that Korea is another country that has Chinese roots. One support for this claim is that it implemented the Chinese writing system, called hanja, during the second century BCE. Furthermore, as is similar with Japan, Korea also embraced Buddhism in the fourth century CE, an occurrence that has had profound effects in Korean society (“,” 2006).


            Although Korea and Japan both have Chinese roots, Japan could be considered as the country that is more aligned with China today. For one, with regard to the economic aspect, China and Japan are closely related to each other since Japan is considered as the second largest Asian economy—based from nominal GDP—after China, using purchasing power parity (“,” 2006). In connection to this, Japan is also the world’s third major spender in the field of research and development, after China and the United States (US). As for agriculture and fishing, Japan holds the second rank, still after China, for tonnage of fish caught, as the country is responsible for almost 15% of the world’s catch. Lastly, with regard to international trade, China remains to be one of Japan’s largest trading partner, along with US and even Korea; in fact, China is one of the main import partners of Japan (“,” 2006).


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