|CC Essay: Sample Response
Between 1000 BCE and 600 CE, both the Qin and Han dynasties of Classical China as well as the Mauryan dynasty of Classical India established systems of centralized government. However, Classical China eventually developed an exam-based system for the selection of bureaucrats, while India did not. In terms of social structure, both civilizations emphasized patriarchal systems. On the other hand, Confucianists of the Han dynasty held merchants in low regard while the caste system of India held merchants in much higher esteem.
Both the Qin and Han dynasties of Classical China in addition to the Mauryan empire of Classical India formed systems of strong, centralized government. Under Qin Shi Huangdi, China was united under a powerful emperor for the first time. His Qin dynasty, though short-lived, managed to unite, by means of military force, the previously warring states of China. The Qin applied concepts of legalism that encouraged extreme devotion to the emperor by means of brutal punishment for law-breakers. Qin set a standard of centralized rule by forcing peasant conscript laborers to begin construction on a massive internal road network that facilitated the movement of merchants, troops, and government officials throughout his Middle Kingdom. Qin Shi Huangdi also set the precedent of creating a centralized bureaucracy that would enact his orders and a single legal code throughout united China. The Han dynasty continued these centralizing tools. Like the Qin and the Han, the Maurya also centralized power over India. Under Chandragupta Maurya, he made use of brute military force to overcome the regionalistic patterns of traditional India. After uniting much of India, he set to work centralizing his power by creating a single road system, postal service, and bureaucracy. One thing that set India and China apart from one another politically, however, was the fact that Classical India never developed a system for selecting bureaucrats by civil service exam like China did. Under the Han emperor Wudi, a Confucian civil service exam was implemented for the selection of quality bureaucrats. Though difficult to pass, this made social mobility for some Chinese males a possibility. In India, a strong bureaucratic tradition did not last for the remainder of the era after the collapse of the Maurya and a civil service exam for bureaucrats was never created there.
Regarding social structure, Classical China and India embraced patriarchal systems for society. These patriarchal tendencies were revealed in China by the fact that Confucianism, a very patriarchal philosophy itself, reinforced the Han social hierarchy. Boys were the preferred gender for children in Chinese families. Girls were viewed as a financial burden for families, especially when it came to providing a dowry at the time of marriage. Arranged marriages were commonplace and were finally decided upon by the father, though with input from the wife. Confucianism taught the concept of filial piety, emphasizing the need for respect and obedience to the father most of all. In India, patriarchy was also seen in the expectation that women were to honor their husbands as though they were gods. By the end of the Gupta dynasty, the practice of sati began to appear amongst some Brahmin families. On the topic of merchants in each of these societies, Confucianist Han China held merchants in considerably low esteem while India gave much greater degrees of respect to their merchant class. A reason for this difference is that, in Han China, merchants’ activities were considered to be in conflict with Confucian principles that encouraged behaviors that would benefit the rest of society. Because merchants were viewed as being devoted to profit-seeking, they were therefore self-absorbed in their own material success and not that of others. However, in India, the merchants were much more respected because the Hindu caste system taught that each caste had its own dharma, or duty, to fulfill. The merchants’ dharma was to make a profit, therefore they were not acting outside of their social expectations. These differences in degrees of merchant respect can be seen by the fact that, in the Confucian social hierarchy, merchants belong to the class of “mean people” – those ranked lowest in Chinese society. However, in India, the merchants were ranked much higher – in the third caste – just below the nobles & warriors caste.
Between 1000 BCE and 600 CE, both Classical China and Classical India developed patriarchies that dominated their social structures. However, merchants in Han China were viewed with much less respect than merchants in India throughout the period. Centralized governments were established by both China during the Qin and Han dynasties as well as by the Mauryan dynasty of India. Though Han China developed a bureaucratic system shaped by a civil service exam, India failed to develop such a feature for their bureaucracy.