The existence of many non-citizens in China has seen China go through several upheavals that leave historical marks in Chinese developments. There has been immense diversity in the Chinese culture beginning from their religion to political aspects. Being a conservative nation, the Chinese preserved various aspects of their traditional culture. Indeed, they considered themselves self-sufficient and well-endowed with resources. One thing that characterized the Chinese life is that the people from the central part considered themselves more superior to those from the outskirts. To clearly create a distinction between them, they used two terms for identification; Zhong and Wai to refer to the people from the center and those from the outside respectively. In other words, there existed two kingdoms in China: the Central Kingdom and the Outer Kingdom. The culture of the people from outside central China was considered to be inferior compared to that of the central Chinese. These differences and discrimination between the Zhong and the Wai created tension between the people of China. This paper seeks discuss the various aspects of the Chinese culture and political challenges in the ancient societies of China.
Confucianism was a philosophy on which the government and society of China was based. It is based on the belief that there is a definite order in which the universe should operate. It describes the hierarchy of social relations in the family that is good for mutual human existence. Its principles of life are guided by the good conduct, natural wisdom and ensuring proper social relationships. This system of religion has had a significant influence on the lives of the Chinese people. It greatly influenced their perception of life. Moreover, it established various standards of living that were ideal in ensuring good social relationships in the society.
In view of man, Confucius perceived human goodness to be innate. It is based on the belief that human goodness can become compromised through interactions with evil environment. It, therefore, strives to reclaim the innate goodness of man that he possesses at birth before being exposed to the evils of the world. Confucius believes that man is natural a social being, and this should be mirrored in his daily interactions and relationship. There should, therefore, good systems that link man to nature and heaven. This thought stressed on the concept of perfectibility of man. The belief reasoned on the basic similarity of all people, and that there is an aspect of perfectibility and educability that every individual possesses. It further holds the belief that it is possible to create a sense of perfection through self-cultivation and practice of the rituals. It believes that, through education, the utmost goodness and perfectibility in man can be augmented.
In this philosophy, man is perceived to be naturally born as good and that it is only interaction with the evil world that compromises the innate goodness of an individual. The existence of different forces of nature act to influence the choices of man; which may be good choices or wrong choices. As a matter of fact, this makes man to end up in in a state where the innate goodness is highly affected. Nevertheless, there is a belief that if the same man is allowed to interact with a healthy and morally approved environment; it is possible to restore the desired goodness. Education therefore, according to Confucius philosophy comes in a solution to reshaping the thoughts of man. This is the reason why Confucius believed in education that was compulsory to help inculcate good morals and positive values that are a prerequisite to having an evil-free world.
The concept of yin-yan describes the natural world and how it is controlled by opposite interdependent and interconnected forces. It explains the existence of natural duality such as light and darkness, hotness and coldness among other contrasting forces of nature. In this concept, the two contrasting forces are believed to interact and lead to the formation of a more complicated aspect that defines the world. In other words, the two forces are seen as complimentary rather than being opposing forces. It is believed that the formed structure hold more importance than the individual haves that are part thereof. Yin-yan concept explains the existence of natural duality and dichotomies. It appreciates the fact that in every human interaction, there are always to different forces that will influence the outcome. Man therefore at all times should ensure that these two opposite forces are at a balance. The forces act to complement each other. It is further believes in the existence of both bad and good practices in the world. The society is therefore identified using either yan or yin depending on the manifestations that are prevalent.
In the yin and yan, you cannot mention one without the thought of the other. It is symbolically represented using two spots; black and white describing the sunlight playing around the mountain and a valley. The yin is associated with characters of being soft, slow, passive, watery and night hour occurrences and femininity whereas the yan is characterized by contrasting features such as hard, solid, dry and daytime occurrences with masculinity. At all times, the two need to be at a balance. It represents the nature of human life where deficiency of one thing leads to the manifestation of imbalance in the human body.
Jen is an aspect that is highly regarded by Confucius and his followers. It also means humanity. It is what makes a human being different from other creatures. A person with jen can fit in every situation whether difficult or easy. Such a person can adjust to every situation regardless of how difficult it is. A person who exhibits the virtue of jen therefore is considered to be of superiority in the society.
A perfect virtue is the virtue of humanity. A man should by all means endeavor to uphold their humanity even if it means sacrificing his own life. Whatever man desires or dislikes and is not done on the basis of humanity is rendered null and void. A superior man, therefore does not at any instance does something contrary to the virtue of humanity. Everything that is good must not despise the virtue of humanity that should be the fundamental framework of all human operations.
For a long time, China was faced with sporadic attacks from the people of Central and Interior parts of Asia. For example, the invasions by Khitan and the Jurchen in 12th century, attacks by Mongols in the 13th century and the incursions by the Manchu in the 17th century. All these attacks left wounds in the Chinese civilization and, as a result became barbaric towards their endeavors to develop. In addition, the periodic attacks intensified the Chinese sensitivity on the pressures that posed to them by their bordering nations especially from the northerners.
Aware of the threats that their territory was exposed to, the Chinese took an initiative that would see them boost their defense and security against their opponents. To begin with, their states established massive protective bulwarks which among others included the “Great Wall.” Much of these walls were set-up during the reigns of Qin, Han, Sui, Jin and Ming from 589 A.D to 1643. These walls were noncontiguous as opposed a single the continuous walls. It extended from the Coast of Hebei Province to north-western Gansu, approximately covering a length of 6000 kilometers.
Chinese view of their nation as a superior nation above other nations remained unchanged for very long periods of time. Despite fact that they at some point embraced a period of openness under the Dynasty of Tang, Song, Yuan and Mongol, who advocated for a system that would allow free interaction with the distant foreign lands, they (the Chinese) still maintained that they had a superior culture than those from the beyond their borders. It went on until 19th century when the tables got turned following the clash they had with the European nations for the first time.
After enjoying a period of relative peace upon the founding Qing Dynasty between 1644 and1911, when the Manchu conquered their territory, everything changed when the number of Europeans coming to China started increasing tremendously without control. Against their expectations, the Europeans were not ready and willing to adhere to the traditional Chinese cultural practices that had for a long time been agreed between their emperor and the agents of Central Asia in their trade agreements.
A great political shock hit the conservative Chinese who were not ready to change. In fact, to their surprise, the Western Powers came to China fully armed to the teeth. This took place at a very critical time in China’s history. It was a time of great internal rebellion and rapid economic and social revolution.
As far as foreign problems are concerned, China was faced with a great challenge of colonization. China was perceived as a place that was well endowed with resources and the West had dire interest to concur and exploit the available resources. The European powers were more armed than the Chinese who by then still had not advanced in weaponry and machinery. Also, its defeat by Japan in1894 that was sparked due to their fight over Korea frustrated both the masses and the government. In reaction to this, the Chinese scholars came up with new movement for countrywide reforms leading to manifold problems that hit the economy. More other reforms and rebellion broke out leading to the closure of foreign embassies in the capital Beijing.
Between 1839 and 1864, during the Opium war, China’s trade with European nations was greatly affected. In fact, China was like an isolated country from the rest of the world. This made the country’s leadership stranded as they were left with no option. Nevertheless, there were two directions to look up to, to resolve the stalemate, that is; either to embrace Confucius virtue or embrace the Western technology. This is the time Wei Yuan advanced his ideology that sensitized the people on the gulf of power that existed between China and the West. This was meant to bring restoration of the lost glory among the Chinese people.
Following their victory to end the imperial rule was a myriad of socio-economic development and socio-political disharmony. In fact, the Chinese government was paralyzed, and things could not move. Nearly everything was on a standstill. Of the course, they had to initially embrace the western style of government before reorganizing themselves to operate as a sovereign nation. The key challenge was the lack of a resilient central leadership that created loopholes for regional disintegration and civil unrest. It was like there were neo-colonialists who were hesitant to embrace a parliamentary democracy as advocated for by Sun Yatsen and other activists who had managed to overthrow the imperial government. Every effort made by Yatsen and his counterparts were thwarted by warlords who instead focused on political assassinations, mutiny, civil war, and conspiracy with foreign powers particularly Japan in their thirst to take control of the government.
These divisions that existed in China soon after the formation of a post-colonial government made it difficult for the country to develop. Moreover, the differences intensified to the point that the warlords and Watson went in opposite directions seeking assistance and support to have control over China. This led to the emergence of a political movement known as May Fourth Movement of 1919. This movement aimed at combining science and democracy in such a way that a new patriotic focus was created targeting the anti-Japanese and antigovernment group. After feeling ignored by the western powers, Sun Yatsen resorted to be allied to the new Soviet Union for support. Indeed, the Soviets gratified Yatsen and his political party called the Nationalist Party, Guomindang and even assisted him to begin political and martial training activities. The most active members in these activities include Sun’s lieutenants as Jiang Jieshi and Chiang Kai-shek. On the other hand, Moscow gave support to Chinese Communist Party, CPP that had been founded by Mao Zedong in 1921. Soviets wanted to have the two political parties in China, CPP and Guomindang, combine forces although they were ready to have either side emerge triumphant.
Interestingly, it was not long when a supremacy battle began between CPP and Guomindang because they all fought for the unification China. Following the untimely demise of the revolutionist Sun Yatsen in 1925, it was difficult to have Guomindang remain as powerful as it was before. Jiang was, therefore, compelled by the prevailing circumstances to train more militants who would work towards unification of China. He ended up breaking away from the Soviet advisers and the entire communist. Nevertheless, he managed to unite China in 1927 to everyone’s surprise by defeating the northern warlords that had remained a stumbling block for long. This turn of events made the period between 1928 and 1937 to remain a very important decade in the political history of China. It was a period that saw Jiang emerge a powerful president in China with the capital situated at Nanjing before the Second World War. After successfully bringing the northern expeditions to an end upon the seizure of Beijing which was later renamed as Beiping, the Northern Peace, Nanjing government got international acknowledgement and respect as the only legitimate government of China.
However, the disagreement that occurred between the two political parties in China in 1927 sparked off another upset in Jiang’s government. Rebels from CPP started to take part in armed struggle against Jiang’s administration. For instance, in 1927, The Red Army was founded that later open way for more internal revolts against Jiang. In fact, in 1931, CPP declared the establishment of Chinese-Soviet Republic led by Mao. This was based in Jiangxi Province in south-central China. Mao and his team launched a serious attack to weaken Jiang’s government.
In July, 1937, there was a raw-deal that hit China. There was a rattle between Chinese and Japanese troops outside Beiping leading to the outbreak of full-scale war between China and Japan. In the event of all these, Shanghai was pounced on and swiftly toppled. This was a clear signal of the fierceness of Tokyo’s willpower to thrash the Jiang government. In fact, the key massacre by the Japanese army in and around Nanjing in the late 1937 to the beginning of 1938 is a clear reflection is no doubt to take it for granted that the war was intense. Indeed, several lives were lost, and property destroyed during the massacre.
The end to war was after the Chinese military forces sought for assistance to overcome their common enemy Japan. When war sparked off between CPP and Guomindang, Guomindang forces surrendered to the CPP forces giving Mao and the other CCP leaders the chance to rebuild the capital in Beiping, which they renamed Beijing. China, therefore, is a country that has been faced with myriad of political challenges. Indeed, the unity of China was something that took long to build.
It is worth noting that China has gone through myriad of political, social and economic challenges. Different political ideologies and personal differences made it difficult to unite this country. Nevertheless, the belief in Confucius philosophy made the people of China understand the virtue of humanity that became the principle of their basic operations. Everything was regarded as supreme only if it worked to uphold humanity (Grey). Many theorists and leaders worked to shape the destiny of their country. For instance, political figures like Wei Yuan, Zheng Guofan, Feng Guifen, Xue Fucheng, Wang Tao, Kang Youwei, Chu Chengbo, Ye Dehui, Woren, Zhang Zhidong, and Tan Sitong made remarkable contribution in the affairs of Chinese society.
Grey, Aubrey de. Premodern East Asian History. London, 1963.