Essay on Cultural Disparities in Ancient China

Essay on Cultural Disparities in Ancient China

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In the three and a half centuries between the end of the Han dynasty and the beginning of the Sui dynasty, China once again found itself in a period of disunity. This period of martial wu was characterized by chaos, division, and warfare between the north and the south. This era, like that of the Eastern Zhao, cherished unity because of its constant state of chaos. Disunity among the Chinese people fostered a diversity of voices and opinions. In 618, the Tang Dynasty came to power and the fusion of Han and Hu ensued.
For the purposes of this essay, 'Han' refers to the Chinese of the Han dynasty. 'Hu' is a term that refers to non-Chinese peoples; particularly those barbarian groups west and north of central China. Hu presence in China between the 4th and the 14th centuries improved Chinese civilization. “Without question, the art, music, ideas, and commerce that spread from the non-Han people of the steppe lands into China, greatly enriched Chinese civilization.”1 Although non-Han groups had a formative impact on the Han, the cultural gap between the groups is never fully breached. In, “The Civil and the Savage”, Mya Opeia states:
The vast cultural gap between the civil Chinese and the Savage barbarians was too great to ever truly breach. Simply put, these are two irreconcilably different cultures with few shared orientations. Never were these social, cultural and intellectual disparities more apparent than during the Tang, Song, and Yuan dynasties. Indeed, when the Chinese realized the breadth of this gap in the early Ming dynasty, they severed maritime expeditions and turned inward.2

This quote accurately describes the relationship between the Han and Hu from the 4th to 14th centuries as well as the effects of their fusion...


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...a Walton, In the Balance: Theses in Global History. Boston: McGraw-Hill , 1998, selections from chapter 11, “Commerce and Change in Asia, Europe, and Africa.”

Hansen, Valerie, The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600 (New York: WW Norton, 2000).

Morton, W. Scott, and Charlton M. Lewis. China : Its History and Culture. McGraw-Hill, 2005. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost(accessed April 4, 2012).

Schafer, Edward H.. The golden peaches of Samarkand: a study of Tʻang exotics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963.

Yuanzhang, Zhu. "An 
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Evil." Asia for Educators. afe.easia.columbia.edu/ps/china/restraining_officials.pdf (accessed April 24, 2012).

Yu, Han. "Memorial of the Bone of the Buddha." Asia for Educators. afe.easia.columbia.edu/ps/cup/hanyu_bone_of_buddha.pdf (accessed March 28, 2012).

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