Asian Studies

The Threat of Nomadic People in the Imperial Period

The nomadic people were usual inhabitants of the veld of the Central Asia. Despite the fact that nomads differed in their ethnicity, they were united by their steppe way of life. After the decay of the Hun union in the north, the southern groups of Huns continued living in the northern areas of Shanxi and Central Mongolia. The representatives of the five Hun tribes elected the supreme governor Chanyu that soon obtained an inheritable power. In particular, Chanyus had family relations with the emperor of China. The Chinese emperors from the Western Zhou dynasty were trying to establish friendly relations with the nomadic people.

According to Yinke Deng, at the beginning of II century B. C., the situation was significantly changed (53). The nomads invaded the territory of the Northern China. It became the tragedy for the Chinese nation. The Hun tribes occupied the north of the country and the territories of the Huang He river. With time, the military power of Western Han became capable enough to resist the influence of Huns. However, since that time China had been experiencing the period of nomadic invasions.

The main factor that allowed Liao, Jin, and the Mongol Yuan to conquer and rule a part of China was the inability of the Chinese military power to resist the strong cavalry of nomads. The Chinese emperors considered that military campaigns were too costly and did not develop the army. To defend themselves from the nomad threat, the Qin dynasty constructed the Great Wall.

However, during the Southern Song Dynasty, the Mongolian tribes found new ways how to overcome the walls of past centuries and found the ways around them. Moreover, the Yuan Dynasty did not take attempts to maintain the fortifications as they considered that the nomadic threat did not longer exist. Thus, China became an easily achieved target for the invaders.

Examinations During the Han, Tang, Song, and Yuan Dynasties

According to Benjamin A. Elman, the state exams in the imperial period were an inevitable part of the Confucian education that provided the local elites with the access to the governmental institutions (30). The existence of these examinations became the basis for the strong centralized empire and was the basic element in the cultural history of China.

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In the period of the Han dynasty, only wealthy and famous members of the society could become the officials at different governmental institutions. However, it caused the existence of bureaucracy and corruption. It was difficult for ordinary people to have a high-rank office. The examinations became a fair system of recruitment all over the country suggesting the equal conditions both for wealthy and ordinary people.

During the ruling of the Tang dynasty, the huge and highly populated empire required a strong governmental mechanism. In the comparison with the Han period, the number of officials had significantly increased. The degree of the political service standardization had also grown. Applying the Confucian ideas, the Tang government was trying to develop a perfect system of the state organization that would be able to solve the existing problems. However, this goal had not been achieved; thus, in the period of the Tang dynasty, the political apparatus required constant reformation.

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In the period of the Song dynasty, the system of governmental examinations had been completely formed. The obtainment of a high-rank position was possible only after the completion of these exams. It became an efficient motivation for the acquiring of Confucian education that was based on learning the traditional texts and directed towards the service for the welfare of the society and the country. During the ruling of the Song dynasty, China may be referred to as a country of the Confucian officials.

The period of the Yuan dynasty may be characterized by the Mongolian conquering. At that time, the system of imperial government was preserved, however, the conquerors decided to shorten the number of the officials. As there did not exist the demand for new officials, the system of the examinations was almost abolished and was restored only by the Ming dynasty.

The Position of Women in the Imperial China

In the period from the Han to Song dynasties, women were not considered to be equal to men. They had fewer rights and were not treated with respect. To show the submission of women, a newborn girl was put under the bed that signified her secondary role in the society. Women at the Han period were not eligible to receive education and to occupy any governmental offices. Their primary function was the household and childbearing. Women did not participate in any family activities except the process of child raising.

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According to the article "Ancient Chinese Women", the Confucian philosophy limited the rights of women during the entire imperial period (Ancient Chinese Women). Sometimes girls did not have even any names. They were called as the first daughter, the second daughter, etc. during the ruling of the Han dynasty, the Chinese widows had no right to get married again. However, later the situation was changed, but a widowed woman still did not have a right to choose her husband. They also did not have a right to get divorced while men could leave their women or enslave them because of various reasons. If a woman could not give birth to a son, she became a servant for the new wife. However, this rule was not spread to the members of the emperor family. If an empress of a dynasty gave birth to a son and he succeeded to inherit the throne at an early age, his mother could act like an emperor.

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