Political and Social Legacies of the Persian Empire Compared to Han China
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Political and Social Legacies of the Persian Empire Compared to Han China
The Han Dynasty based off its empire ruling policieswith a mixture of the philosophies Confucianism andLegalism
Through the leadership of kings and emperors, huge public work projects, economic foundations ofagriculture and trade, complex government structures, and religions, the similarities between the Han Dynastyand the Achaemenid Empire are more salient than the discrepancies. All these contributing factors have beenseen through these and many other civilizations throughout the world as they strive to survive and maintaintheir authority. To this day we still see similarities between societies, but due to relatively close time periodand similar idealogy of men, there are more correlations between these two great empires.
An Imperial law was enforced on the Achaemenid Empire;,a local civil code that must be followed by the people ofall the vast cultural backgrounds of the enormous empire.
Imperial Spies were also in use, who helped keep theempire in unification, and to make sure no one ofdifferent cultural backgrounds rebel.
The Han Dynasty established a code of law based on principles of theLegalist philosophy, which states that regardless of political and orsocio-economic status, all people must abide under the authority of thelaw.
&quot;...Han Wudi work strenuously to increase the authority and the prestigeof the central government. He built an enormous bureaucracy toadminister his empire, and relied on Legalist principles of government&quot;(Traditions and Encounter 159).
To maintain the vast empire, &quot;more than seventy distinct ethnic groups, including peopleswho lived in widely scattered regions, spoke many different languages...&quot;(134 Traditions andEncounters) Darius governed the empire through dividing the land into 23stratapies.Moreover, a political seat of power was put in the capital of Persepolis, wherethe area was a flourishing cultural center almost like cosmopolitan.
Each Stratapy had contingent of military officers andtax collectors who served as checks on the satrap&#x27;spower and independence.
Towards the end of the Han of the former Han Dynasty, Emperor Wang Mang passed aland distribution reform that would allow people with low economic status to own land.However, this was done poorly, which once again pronounced the everlasting issue of thegap between rich and poor, and then chaos among the groups. This badly executeddecision on behalf of the government led to the end of the former Han Dynsasty
&quot;Despite his [Wang Mang] good intentions, this socialist emperor attempted toimpose his policy without adequate preparation and communication. The result wasconfusion: landlords resisted a policy that threatened their holdings, and even thepeasants found its application inconsistent and unsatisfactory&quot; (Traditions andEnounters 165).
Responsibilities of Civilians
Civilians must follow the imperial law and pay their tax to their satarpy&#x27;s tax collector. As forpersonal belief, they were free to have their own religion until the reign of Xerxes. When Cyrus wasin power, he accepted gifts as taxes, but as Darius came to rule, he unified coinage as well as law. &quot;Though often lavish, the gifts did not provide a consisitent and reliable source of income for rulerswho needed to finance a large bureacracy and army&quot; (T&amp;A page 134) He improved the empiregreatly.
Persians took action as officials, and the lowerclass citizens were led to take administrative duty.
Being a civilian in China, there was a strong sense of unity and responsibility within theculture. People had responsibilities to do their profession/job to keep the economy going,but also, Chinese citizens had the responsibility to report any suspected or seen activity thatgoes against the law. Submitting under a Legalistic principles based society requiredpeople to report criminal acts for nobody escaped punishment for their wrong doings.
The Legalist government of Han China &quot;...established the principle ofcollective responsibility before the law. They expected all member of thea family or community to observe other closely, forestall any illegalactivity, and report any infractions&quot; (Traditions and Encounters 155).
Social Organization and Norms
The social hierarchy of the Han Dynasty goes as: Emperor,Wealthy Land Owners, Merchants/Artisans/Craftsmen,Peasants and Slaves, and then finally the women of the lowerclass.
The first tier of the Social Structure was the Emperor. Farmers and peasants come next in the second tier of the Handynasty’s social hierarchy. Their social status can be considered above the laborers but well below those of thewealthier landowners. In the next tier were merchants, artisans, and craftsmen who were responsible making usefulitems such as swords and knives as well as creating luxury goods for the wealthier class. Women of the higher classwere expected to marry a man, take care of the house and watch after and raise the children. Women of the lowerclass might marry and take over the family business or become a servant in the house that of a higher class women.
Persians, like other Iranian groups, formed a tribalconfederacy, with each of the tribes being a distinct,defined part of Persia.
. “They organized themselves by clans rather than by states or formal political institutions” (132, Traditions and Encounters). Their social formationdoes not seem to be much different from their Indo-European ancestors, being a basic patriarchal system, “When the Medes and Persians migratedto Iran their social structure was similar to that of the Aryans in India” (139, Traditions and Encounters).There seems to have been a firm oligarchicsystem in place in which the heads of tribes would make all large decisions regarding the general conduct of the society,“Called for a new class ofeducated bureaucrats who to a large extent undermined the positions of the old warrior elite” (140, Traditions and Encounters). These Eldersbelonged to an upper level of the society, the “ruling class”, whose members held the chief positions by the right of birth. “The bulk of Persian societyconsisted of individuals who were free but did not enjoy the privileges of clan leaders and important bureaucrats” (140, Traditions and Encounters).“Members of the free classes participated in religious observances conducted at local temples, and they had the right to share” (140, Traditions andEncounters).
For more information on the Achaemenidempire&#x27;s rise and downfall and the social classes,watch:
China (Han Dynasty
Started imperial university to prepare young men toserve for the government. It relied on Confucianismyet he ran the state through legalism.
&quot;Yet Han Wudi recognized that the success of his efforts at bureaucraticcentralization would depend on a corps of educated officeholders. THeimperial university took Confucianism&quot; Traditions and Encounters page 160
Divided empire into districts governed by officials. Furthermore, herestored order in China and established himself as hed of a new dynasty.He also was the ruler who left a principal political legacy of a tradition ofcentralized rule, handed down from the Qin dynasty.
&quot;They recliamed lands from family members, absorbed those lands intothe imperial domain, and entrusted political responsibilities to anadministrative bureaucracy.... the Han dynasty left as its principal politicallegacy a tradition of centralized imperial rule&quot; Traditions and Encounterspage 159
Former Han (Decline)
A &quot;socialist&quot; emperor who gained the throne as civilians thought he can rule better than theHan leaders. In 9ce he claimed the mandate of heaven and so power was passed to him. Helimitied the amount of land one family can own, and ordered officials to break up land andredistribute to peasants. This was done poorly, resulting in a break out of chaos andconfusion. Poor harvest and famine was brought upon China.
Persia-The Achaemenid Empire
Within 20 years, he ruled an entire empire stretchingfrom India to the borders of Egypt through hisexceptional conquering of lands.
&quot;Yet Cyrus proved to be a tough, wily leader, and an outstanding militarystrategist. His conquests laid the foundation of the first Persian empire,also known as the Achaemenid empire because its rulers claimed descentfrom Cyrus&#x27;s Achaemenid clan.&quot;Traditions And Encounters Chapter 7Page 133
Darius extended the empire both east and west into Northwestern India and as faras the Indus river. He then divided the empire into 23 satrapies, each with it&#x27;scotingent of military officers and tex collectors. Additionally, he unified coinageand laws. He ruled through cultural tolerance to keep peace within the vastempire.
&quot;Darius also sought to prove administrative efficiencyby regularizing tax levies and standarizing laws&quot; -Traditionsand Encounters Chapter 7 Page 134
Stopped the policy of cultural toleration which causedrebellion to arise amoung the people ofMesopotamia and Egypt, leading to the Persian Wars.
&quot;Darius&#x27;s successor, Xerxes(reigned 486-465 BCE) had more difficult relationswith subject peoples. THe burden of Persian rule became particularly heavy inMesopotamia and Egypt-regions with sophisticated cultural traditions andlong histories of independence...&quot; -Traditions and Encounters Chapter 7 Page136
Ancient Chinese society&#x27;s economy was primarily based on their agricultural surplus. Thiswas specifically true in the time of the Han Dynasty when &quot;Shang Yang encouraged peasantcultivators to migrate to the sparsely populated state. By granting them private plots andallowing them to enjoy generous profits, his policy dramatically boosted agriculturalproduction.&quot;
Having concentrated on agriculture, China was able to focus on other things such as professions. One of these being the merchant profession. Merchants enabled the Chinese to further multiply the their economy bytrading with other people near and far such as the Xiongnu, although, &quot;...they could not satisfy their needs anddesire through peaceful trade..&quot; nonetheless they traded with them. Silk was particularly treasured by othernations of the world. &quot;...the industry specifically thrived after the establishments of long-distance trade relationswith western lands in the second century B.C.E.&quot;
Due to the geologic barriers surrounding the nation of China, contactbetween trade societies was not simple. But the establishment of thesilk road enabled the access to better communications with thesesocieties
Ancient Persia like its counterpart also had agriculture, forthey had under ground canals to take their water to theircrops. &quot;Agriculture was the foundation of classical Persiansociety&quot;
Ancient Persia was very active in trade. The King of Persia, Darius, established roads insideempire boundaries to facilitate trade within the nation (for example the Royal Road). KingDarius also established roads outside empire to make trade with other societies, such asEgypt, easier. Also, &quot;...these roads... helped the empire to intergrate the empire&#x27;s variousregipns into a larger economy.&quot;
In order for the Persian economy to further increase, King&quot;Darius followed the example of the Lydian king Croesusand issued standardized coinsa move that forsteredtrade...&quot;
Public Works/ Infrastructure
A large amount of trade was done along the Silk Road. Massivecaravans were involved which travelled between the capital of theempire and the western countries. &quot;The Silk Roads also encouragedcultural diffusion.&quot;
Liu Bang received the foundations from the Qin forbuilding public works including roads, canals, and theGreat Wall.
Who Built It
The peasants in Han China did the majority of public works. “Besides taxes, the peasants owedthe government a month worth of labor or military service every year” Han&#x27;s emperorsenforced labor to construct roads and dig canals as well as irrigation ditches. &quot;Slaves wateredthe plants by using hidden pumps that drew water from the Euphrates RIver&quot;. The emperorsalso made sure to expand the Great Wall. Furthermore, China’s vast armies were filled withpeasants.
“Government sent Chinese farmers to settle newly colonized areas”. Thiswas a process known as assimilation that brought conquered people intoa part of Chinese culture. The Chinese government used this method asa way to unify the empire.
Cultural diffusion often times occurs along with trade, which grew rapidly over thedevelopment of the Persian Empire. People travelled over land on the Royal Road,and by water through the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Arabian Sea. New Roads werebuilt that connected Persia to northern India, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, andSyria.
&quot;The road was 1,677 miles in length&quot;. 111 PostalStations were created approximately every 20 milesalong the Royal Road.
Who Built It
The slaves in ancient Persia were behind the building of public works. People could be slaves if either they were civilians who rebelled against the government, or, more commonly, prisoners of war who were captured. Many were domestic slaves, working for common people and performing in households. The slaves owned by the government, however, did large-scalelabor such as the building of roads, palaces, irrigation systems, and city walls.
The Han Dynasty of Ancient China and the Achaemenid Empire of Ancient Persia have noticeableresemblences yet also have diverse differences. The similarities are most prominent within the use of slaveson public works, vigorous trade and agriculture in both empires, and leaders of the state unifying theempire. However the two empires differ remarkably, for example, the difference in cultural unification,where China imposed the same philosophy on the whole nation, whereas early rulers of the Achaemenidruled through religious and cultural tolerance.
Together these three principles were the foundation ofeducations in the Han Dynasty . They were used to teach peoplethat wanted to join government office so that they would beeducated.
Confucianism was estavlished by the sage confucius. Morethan a religion, it was a philosophy to contemplate life in awiseful point of view. Confcucianism toaught manners andrespect.
&quot;Confucius emphasized several qualities in particular.One of them he called ren, by which he meant anattitude of kindness and benevolence or a sense ofhumanity.&quot;
&quot;Another quality of central importance was li, a senseof propriety, which called for individuals to behave inconventionally appropriate fashion...&quot;
&quot;...another quality was xiao, filial piety, whichreflected the high significance of family in Chinesesociety.&quot;
Legalism was founded by one of the disciples of Confucius. Once again, it isseen that this branch is not a religions, but rather it is a philosophy forlegalism is based off of the Confucian principle Li. Legalism philosophyincluded that everyone, regardless of socio-economic status or political statusis equal
Daoism was founded by one of Confucius&#x27; many disciples as well. Daosim is once again notconsidered a religion but rather a philosophy of China for it is based of the Confucianprinciple of Ren. Daosim is a philosophy with a &quot;hippy&quot; feeling to it since daoism shuns allgovernment structure/ organizations and focuses more on harmony with nature andpeople
The Achaemenid empire before the Persian War started off as avast multicultural empire because of the way of ruling of Cyrusand Darius, who knew cultural tolerance would subside rebellion.
This way, all people will have freedom ofreligion, and can keep their own, truebeliefs
&quot;The earliest Persian religion centered on cluts that celebrated outstanding naturalelements and geographic features such as the sun, the moon, water, andespecially fire&quot; (Page 142 Traditions and Encounters) religious thinkers sought tofit their ideas into the complex, cosmopolitian society, and as a result, createdZoroastrianism.
Scriptures are left in the holy book of the Avesta,which are preserved religious texts under theSasanids.
Zarathustra on the contrary to chinese beliefs such as inconfucianism, believed the material world was a blessing, andallowed people to enjoy wealth, sexual pleasure and social prestige.
His teachings can be sumed up in the simpleformula of &quot;good words, good thoughts, gooddeeds.&quot;