Han vs Mauryan

10 October 2016

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The Chinese Han Dynasty vs. The Indian Mauryan/Gupta Empire The Han Dynasty of China and the Mauryan/Gupta Empire of India in 206 B. C. E to 550 C. E had many social and cultural differences which made them unique societies, but their political structure and form of government seemed to borrow ideas from each other. The social aspects of both empires had a lot in common because gender-roles, family and relationships were looked at in the same way. During the Mauryan/Gupta as well as the Han Dynasty, women were subservient to men and families relied on patriarchs.

In both empires there were close knit villages, landowners had power and merchants took second role in the social system. However, the two had their differences. The Mauryan/Gupta Empire put emphasis on caste while the Han Dynasty was based on a social structure. The Mauryan/Gupta Empire’s caste system was an important social bond and a crucial part of the political structure. At the top of the system were the priests, then the warriors and rulers, followed by the merchants, skilled traders and minor officials, after that were the unskilled workers and finally the “untouchables”, who were outcastes and barely considered as people.

The strict caste system provided a network of rules by which people could regulate their lives and activities and also promoted public order which helped politically. The caste system was so strictly enforced that no one could intermarry or be moved up a class so it determined where you would be for all your life. The caste system also played a role in religion which encouraged the use of a caste system rather than people look down upon it. On the other hand, the Han Dynasty relied on a highly structured system of classes.

The most powerful was the emperor, the nobles and the military officers, who made up the first class. Next came the farmers and peasants who made up the second tier. Lastly, the third class was made up of merchants, commoners and servants. This system differed greatly from the Mauryan/Gupta Empire because it was far less definite; the assigned social class for each person dictated their social status but not their wealth or power. This Chinese structure also stressed on level of education rather than where you were socially unlike the Indian system.

Even though many of their values were mostly the same, the development and transformation of social structures made them completely different. The Han Dynasty and Mauryan/Gupta Empire were developing similarly in science and technology during this time period. Advances in astronomy and medicine in both civilizations included the calculation of the motion of planets, bone setting, plastic surgery and personal hygiene. Studies in mathematics also came about in the Han and Mauryan/Gupta Empire. In spite of the fact that they were sharing technological advances, the belief systems, philosophies and religions differed greatly between the two.

The Mauryan/Gupta Empire had lively art, which included many epic poems, and primary religions that suggested unpractical, otherworldly beliefs. The practice of Buddhism and Hinduism flourished during this time because the great ruler, Ashoka, spread Buddhist values and accepted and honored Hindu principles. These religions had practices that could be considered out of this world because of the belief that there are divine forces and beings. On the contrary, the Han Dynasty had restrained art, and separate, more practical belief systems.

These belief systems did not have a belief in any supernatural or godly forces but served as lifestyle guides. Confucianism, a philosophical system from the teachings of Confucius, spread because it focused on righteousness and morals rather than gods. Belief systems in the Han Dynasty were formed based on the needs and views of the people. Whereas, the belief systems formed in the Mauryan/Gupta Empire were made to unite humans with the divine. The political structure and forms of government of the Han Dynasty and Mauryan/Gupta Empire shared many of the same ideas.

Both had bureaucracies with groups of specialized officials and a centralized government. They were also the same because they had a form of autocratic rule so there was government by a single person that had authority over all others. The two were also the same when it came to expansion; they both expanded their borders during this period. Though there was one big difference, the Mauryan/Gupta had large, strong armies and utilized them while the Han Dynasty had a small army and didn’t feel it was necessary to even have armed forces.

Although their ruling styles were very similar, the militaristic values set them apart. The Chinese Han Dynasty and Indian Mauryan/Gupta Empire borrowed government direction and approach from each other but did not influence each other socially or change their cultural identities. During the time period of 206 B. C. E to 550 C. E, the Persian Empire was also taking form. Similarly, this empire had bureaucracy, supported and formed religions and expanded territory. Today, China and India both have heavy influence on the world due to their cultural and technological exchanges connecting them to all parts of the world.

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