I'd like to take a stab at the first margin question...
"How would you describe the social hierarchy of classical China?
Early on, an academy was established that trained scholars to become ruling officials. In Chinese society, this system was highly valued, as it gave mostly anyone, even the lower classes, a chance for social mobility. Upon passing these rigorous exams and becoming an official, the individual was highly valued by his family and society because of the hard work it took to get him to to that point. Senior officials in the bureaucracy received clothes and even had carriages that depicted their rank. Lower level officials were know by their speech and intelligence. The Chinese Society accepted this hierarchy without question because it was believed that these officials created a culture and allowed for a better functioning society.
I think this is a good answer that describes the elite government officials, but it lacks any mention of the the landlord, peasant, and merchant classes. The landlords were a class that owned large shares of land which signified great wealth. Landlords were often able to bypass taxes which increased taxes for peasants. These families benefited from the wealth of the land as well as privileges that went with membership in government. Peasants were the backbone of Chinese society, yet were oppressed. They had to pay expensive taxes, donate about a month's worth of labor a year, and young men were drafted into the army involuntarily. Many peasant uprisings, which devastated the economy and weakened the state, occurred, including the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Merchants were seen as inferior and greedy. Many state authorities set in place restraints for these merchants, yet they continued to make large sums of money.
Sorry, this kinda came off as rude. 'twas not my intention.
"What class conflicts disrupted Chinese society?"
All that I really found applicable to this question was information on the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Although Merchants weren't well-liked, they didn't really create an uprising, so I don't believe anything else aligns with this question. Anyway, due to poverty, landlessness, and epidemics peasants joined forces, creating the Yellow Turban Rebellion. The name refers to the yellow scarves the rebels wore on their heads. This movement developed its organization, leaders, and ideology around Daoism and sought equality, social harmony, and common ownership of property, which they referred to as the "Great Peace". The movement managed to help overthrow the Han dynasty, and weaken the economy and the state.
I agree that this is the only really mentionable conflict between classes. However, I am wondering if the active discrimination of merchants would be considered as one too? The merchants were stereotyped as lazy, unproductive, greedy, etc. no matter how good of a person they were or how credible their business was.
Something else that I found relevant to this question was the opposition of the landlords by the officials, and the conflict between the two classes, especially during the attempted reformation of Emperor Wang Mang.
"What is the difference between varna and jati as expressions of classical India's caste system?"
The varna emerged first and were divided into just 4 classes, while the jati had more classes to distinguish between the highest and lowest of one particular caste. The varna was a more general system devised to categorize people's main roles. It's highest class consisted of the Brahmins, who committed ritual sacrifices, it's second class consisted of the Ksatriyas, who protected the land, the third class consisted of the Vaisyas, who were known as farmers, and the lowest class contained the Sudras, who were servants. In the varna system, the classes could not be changed, but over time, they did shift to encompass different types of people. In the jati system, performing one's duties selflessly could allow them to be born into a higher class in their next life. The jati system was more of a subset of classes that served to better define the varna system. The jati system served to rank people more socially than did the varna system. Each jati had particular rules and obligations, which defined a member's ranking within their larger varna. Unlike that of the varna, a jati could redefine itself in a higher category over several generations by getting land, adopting behaviors of a higher caste group, or by finding an overlooked ancestor of a higher caste. The untouchables were a fifth class later established in the varna system that ranked lower than the Sudras. They did the unclean work. Sorry, I forgot to include that above.
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the untouchables were not part of the varna system based on the idea of Purusha. They are a separate class of people developed after the varna system was put into place. I also have a question about what happened if someone was thrown out of the jati. Strayer mentioned that they would have no social life or social support, so what does that mean for the person who was kicked out? How would they survive without anyone to support them or employ them? Is it like the equivalent of being homeless?
Yeah, I see what you're saying about the untouchables. The only option I see for a person of the jati who is ostracised is that it might be like exile. The only way to really live a life after that would be to leave, move to another region, and attempt to join a varna and a jati there.
I think the real message here is that the social structure in India is so powerful that very few individuals would rebel in the system. The consequences are just too dire. This is that unique social structure that transcends political and economic forces. Everyone has their role in creating a harmonious life for all in the society. It's both liberating and restrictive.
Before I answer one of th big picture question for you here, I just want to be sure you're paying attention and notice that the reading check in Mon/Tue this week.
Why was slavery so much more prominent in Greco-Roman civilization than in India or China?
This is a great question, and it leads us to the heart of one of the critical concepts in this chapter, the book, and the course in general. To ask this sort of question is to think like a world historian. I'll take this one for you, but each of you needs o strive to think like this as we move through this year. If you get engaged, it can be a year in which you make quantum leaps in your thinking. So anyway...
There were far more slaves in the Greco-Roman world; slaves played a critical role in the economy of the Greco-Roman civilization; slaves participated in a more diverse array of occupations in the Roman Empire than they did in other classical civilizations—from among the highest and most prestigious positions to the lowest and most degraded ones.
See, not all that hairy, but super significant. Okay, I'll take this next hairy beast for you...
What philosophical, religious, or cultural ideas served to legitimate the class and gender inequalities of classical civilizations?
Every classical system drew on ideas to legitimate class and gender inequalities.
In China, Confucian philosophy was used to justify both the class system and patriarchy, although peasants successfully used Daoism when rebelling against established authorities.
Religious beliefs were the foundation of the caste system in India—the varnas were described as being formed from the body of the god Purusha; one’s current place in the caste system was explained through the concepts of karma and rebirth; and one’s future lives were determined in part by dharma or the fulfillment of one’s caste duties.
Greek rationalism was the foundation of key ideas about class and gender in the Mediterranean. Aristotle developed the notion that some people were “slaves by nature” and should be enslaved for their own good and for that of the larger society. Nice guy, huh? This idea helped to justify large-scale slave ownership in classical Athens, where maybe one-third of the population were slaves, and continued to justify slave ownership in ancient Rome. Greek philosophers, including Aristotle, also provided a set of ideas that justified the exclusion of women from public life and their general subordination to men. According to Aristotle, women were infertile men who were inadequate because they could not generate sperm (which contained the “form” or “soul” of a new human being). From this understanding of women came further ideas, such as that women, like children or domesticated animals, were influenced unduly by instinct. These were such smart guys, so it's disappointing for me to see them use their intellect to support unfair and cruel ideas that by this time had been ingrained in human societies. I'd like to think that someone who could calculate the circumference of the earth or come up with the concept of atoms making up mater, could see the enslavement of people or the mistreatment of women as not rational. But of course, as you will see, it's all too common in the historical record.
On Pg. 173, when Strayer mentions that "Daoist texts...urged the feminine virtues of yielding and passive acceptance rather than the male-oriented striving of Confucianism." This sentence really confuses me because it seems that if patriarchy was changing in China, then the Daoists would not encourage women to still yield to men. Could someone please clarify what Strayer means?
On page 158 Strayer talks about how peasants sold their land to more prosperous neighbors. It keeps going and mentions that landlords with large estates often avoided paying taxes which caused increasing tax burden for the remaining peasants. The last sentence of the paragraph says " In some cases, they could also mount their own military forces to challenge the authority of the emperor. " Could you explain what Strayer means by this?
Just that some of these landowners could have their own private army under limited circumstances, probably for a specific reason, like fighting of barbarians or putting down a peasant revolt.
You need to understand that there was a give and take in Chinese society between these models for proper behavior. Certainly Daoism has internal conflicts within its own structure, much like any belief system, including Christianity. It more that confucianism focused on male qualities, but didn't address female behavior in detail. Daoism did, seeing a submissive female role as a virtue.
I'm having a hard time with one of the margin questions: How did the inequalities of slavery differ from those of caste? All I have found so far has been that slaves lacked any rights or independent personal identity, while caste actually provided those citizens with an identity. Am I missing something here?
I think identity is a pretty big deal, don't you? Remember all our conversations about that last year? Rwanda, etc.? Also, this identity meant rights within that society.
But beyond that, I think you missed:
1. Slaves possessed the status of outsiders, whereas each jati possessed a recognized position in the social hierarchy.
2. Slaves were owned and sold, unlike members of the caste system.
3. Slaves worked without pay, unlike members of the caste system.
4. In some traditions, slaves could transform their status by being freed by their master or by purchasing their freedom. Also in some traditions, children of slaves were considered
free at birth. This means, in some cases, slave had more opportunities social mobility than did people in the caste system.
Pretty amazing, right?
Can someone explain what exactly social mobility is because i don't quite understand how he uses it.
The way I understand it, social mobility means the movement of groups or individuals within a class or caste system. Usually the movement is upwards, such as a jati over time buying enough land to transition into a higher varna. Or the pig farmer who became the emperors advisor through the Confucian school.
Negative social mobility in the classical era often meant slavery, because when one becomes a slave they are "moving" to a lower place in the hierarchy.
Sorry if this doesn't explain it, since I don't know what you don't understand about it.
Before I try my hand at anything towards the middle of this chapter, I want one question answered:
The chapter claims how Roman slavery was distinctly different from "New World" slavery by saying how slavery in this region was not identified with a particular racial or ethnic group.
Later, however, in the next paragraph in fact, it says how slave owners came to think of certain peoples (some are of the aforementioned in the previous paragraph) as slaves by nature.
Even though it is a bit broader, don't people agree this is still slavery associated with a FEW peoples instead of one? Another type of racial association and their assertions and assumptions?
Call me ignorant, but I just want to know how this trait is SO so different from New World slavery.
Aristotle "s slaves by nature thing referred to temperament and intellect, not race or ethnicity. Associating positive or negative traits to a particular race or ethnicity doesn't really show up until the 19th century, the misunderstanding of Darrin. Interesting, huh?
Hey guys! So with the first big picture question, asking the difference between class and caste, I really didn't think there was much of a difference. In fact, Strayer uses the terms interchangeably when talking about the "four great classes" of varna and then in the snapshot calls them castes. Anyway, despite this fundamental unclarity, I have attempted to answer:
Caste means "pure of blood" and "race" while Class is less associated with race in classical civilizations
People have less mobility within the caste system than classes
Caste is eternal, as it is intertwined with the Hindu god Purusha, while Classes, at least in China though I assume the same elsewhere, were created to support the authority of the central state (though had ideology support e.g. Greek Rationalism and Confucianism)
Caste is based on birth and the Hindu notions of karma, dharma, and rebirth, while Class is more based on personal morality, merit, and wealth(It says that wealth was specifically not a goal in mind but I believe that it contributes to the basis of class)
Caste (along with Hinduism) was more localized and substituted for state, while Class was used to support the entire state
Highest caste people were priests and highest class people were elites/aristocrats (people with political power)
Caste had more emphasis on ritual purity and pollution
Basically, though this may be a stretch, the cultural and social divisions of caste lead to economic inequalities, while for caste it was the opposite
I might just be spilling out some ideas to separate the gray area for a question that I personally doubt is test-worthy, but tell me what you think anyway.
This question kind of confused me, but I thought I'd take a guess... Please let me know if I am totally off track:
"What set of ideas underlies India's caste-based society?"
India's caste system was based on the body of the god Purusha, and was therefore considered unchangeable for eternity. The system was based on cultural aspects instead of race and the four varnas went from Brahmins, the top of the spiritual ladder, to Sudras, non-Aryans. Every perso was born into their varna and remained there until death.
I got pretty much what you got, but I also added that:
-Notion of ritual purity and pollution, such as between Brahmins and untouchables, supported inequality between classes.
-Hindu notions of karma, dharma, and rebirth supported inequality and permanent difference, in which that a person's current class represented their prior actions in life, aka karma. Performing one's duties in life selflessly (dharma) was believed to be path to being reborn into a high class.
Got these answers halfway through pg. 163, in case you're wondering.
I'll attempt the last margin question: "Cultural and social patterns of civilizations seem to endure longer than political framework of states and empires." Based on Chapters 4, 5, and 6, would you agree with this statement?
First of all, in chapter 4, it is said that even as empires rise and fall, their cultural and social traditions endure. This is clearly evident from the Hellenistic Era: the Greek idea of direct democracy was not brought back within the Classical Era, but the Greek culture and ideas (such as slavery) were later brought back in Roman times a little more than 300 years after the collapse of the empire. As India was constantly being conquered, many different forms of government came into existence and fell, but the strong ideas of their caste system remained and still persist into the 21st century. Finally, patriarchy has existed as long as there has been "civilization". No matter what form of government exists, every advanced society has some version of social hierarchy and, according to chapter 6, it endured because of the rational assertions made by Aristotle and the concept of yin and yang in reference to the sexes to provide a few examples. Even as Chinese empires rose and fell, cultural assimilation from nomadic people still occurred. The same cultural adoption and assimilation has also occurred in classical India, proving that rapid changes in government clearly do not affect the cultural patterns of a society.
I'm having a bit of trouble thoroughly answering the margin review question on class conflicts in China. "What class conflicts disrupted Chinese society?" Strayer goes on to mention the yellow turban rebellion registering "the sharp class antagonisms of Chinese society..." Other than that rebellion he doesn't mention any other manifestations of class conflicts. Would the answer to the margin question just be the oppression and exploitation of the peasant class, as well as the stereotyping and negative attitudes towards the merchants?
I think you were on the right track with the Yellow Turban Rebellion, for this did lead to the eventual overthrow of the dynasty, while weakening both the state and economy. I don't think the other answers you are questioning disrupted the Chinese society, but rather, they were enduring characteristics of China and the social classes of merchants and peasants. I believe that the Wang Mang reforms could be a very possible answer to this margin questions, since this is very possibly a contingency to the Yellow Turban Rebellion and lead to the overthrow (by assassination) of Wang Mang. Wang Mang also caused a conflict between landlords and rulers just by imposing these reforms.
Here's my crack at the margin question on page 160:
The interaction of diverse cultures and the development of social and economic differences led to the growth of the caste system and idea that the higher up in the system you were, the more pure you were.
I will try to answer the 4th Big Picture Question.
"Social inequality was both accepted and resisted in classical civilizations." What evidence might support this statement?
China accepted social inequality because it was rationalized by Confucianism and Daoism. In Confucianism, a superior with good morals was required to serve as an example for how the inferiors should behave, which later led to officials for provinces, and the creation of class distinctions. Daoism's main principle was the yin and the yang, portraying men as strong and rational, and women as weak and emotional. After the Han's demise, nomadic people ruled small states in China. With them came less restrictions for women. As these cultures collided, Chinese women were eventually able to handle business on their own and ride horses. Here, social inequality was resisted as nomadic women served as a new model for Chinese women to follow. In India, social inequality was accepted due to the existence of the varna and jati caste systems. Social inequality was also resisted here in the case of slaves. Slaves were offered some protection, had to be taken care of, could acquire property, and buy their freedom. India did not require slavery for the economy, as lower caste people did the work of slaves. In Rome, social inequality was the most prevalent through slavery. People believed some were meant to be slaves, while others were not. Social inequality was resisted in the Spartacus rebellion, but the goal here was only for the slaves to free themselves, not stop slavery altogether. In Athens, social inequality was strongly accepted through patriarchy. Women were compared to tamed animals that needed to be governed for the well being of the society. They had no voice and could not get land. Social inequality was not resisted in Athens, although it was in Sparta. Patriarchy played a smaller role in this society, as women were educated, played sports, had authority, and were not separated. Social inequality was still prevalent, as a woman's main job was to reproduce. Sparta also enslaved the people they conquered to ensure the enslaved did not take over their city.
I tried to include the important things, seeing that the question could be answered with much detail.
I have two questions for anyone who's up for helping me:
First, Wang Mang tried to improve peasant life in China under his rule, yet Strayer says he was a strong Confucian believer. If Confucianism is all about unequal relationships, why would Wang Mang care so much for the peasants?
And second, The unifying ideology for the Yellow Turban Rebellion was Daoism, but why? Bingham posed this question in class and I couldn't quite come to a conclusion myself.
The Confusion ideal is a two way street. Just as a son owes loyalty to his father, the father must protect and teach the son.. Likewise, an emperor must be benevolent to his subjects.
The Dao is a rejection of man made things, like political structures. To live one with nature is to reject the forces opposed to natural forces. Hence, a rebellion can justify itself based on Daoist ideals.
Hope that helps.
That clarifies things, thanks!
I don't know how important this is, but I was just wondering where the soldier class fell into Chinese social hierarchies. Is is similar to India, where they were at least somewhat high up?
I am having trouble answering the fifth big picture question: 'What changes in the patterns of social life of the classical era can you identify? What accounts for these changes?" I think that I may be over-thinking it so I can't seem to come up with a reasonable conclusion.
I think the answer is that in the classical era patterns of inequality (like slavery) and social hierarchies (like the caste system) formed...ok now I feel like my answer is too short. I hope this helps a little!
Regarding the question, "What class conflicts disrupted Chinese society?" I attempted answering it however I couldn't get how to weave in the relation of the Yellow Turban Rebellion. There's my answer;
1- Emperor vs Wealthy landowners
- The emperor worked to limit the accumulation of estates by large landowners, who could potentially threaten his power.
2- Landowners vs Peasants
- sought taxes and labour obligations from peasants which resulted into peasants abandoned land, forming bandit gangs or rising up against social superiors.
3- Merchants vs All
Despite active discrimination against merchants, they became quite wealthy, and some purchasing landed estates and educating their sons in order to be able to become official elites.
I am confused on the idea of the "scholar-gentry" class. Could someone please explain that? I see them as a higher subset of the landlord class, but lower than elite officials.
I really like how you answered this question. Its really helping me understand the notion of Emperors vs. Wealthy Landowners. Sam Linda elaborates on this one in the beginning of the forum if you want to check it out. Your # 3 is one i didn't really think about until now and it makes allot of sense. I see how this can be a problem for China's Society. #2 is basically where the yellow turban rebellion falls on.
Peasants rebelling against Confucius ideologies =
Yellow Turban Rebellion.
Bingham: This forum is for us to engage with each other publicly about where we are struggling with the coursework and to offer each other solutions for what works for us.
Why Geography Matters More Than Ever