Chapter 3 describes the challenges ancient Indian and Chinese rulers faced as they sought to build large empires. It also discusses the emergence of major religions and philosophies.
Section 1 Early Civilization in India
As early as 3000 B.C., an advanced civilization known as the Indus, or Harappan, civilization, emerged in northern India. It was based around two highly organized cities that provided inhabitants with a sewage system and other public works. The Harappan kings claimed to rule with divine assistance. Harappan civilization was toppled when the Aryans, Indo-European nomads, invaded around 1500 B.C. Two enduring features of Indian civilization, Hinduism and the caste system, originated with the Aryans. The Sanskrit written language was also developed by the Aryans. In the sixth century B.C., a doctrine called Buddhism developed as a rival to Hinduism. The founder, Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, rejected the Hindu belief in multiple deities as well as the rigid caste system. Instead, he preached his Four Noble Truths, emphasizing the need to search for wisdom as a way to end suffering and achieve nirvana.
Section 2 New Empires in India
Despite their cultural influence on India, the Aryans never united the region politically. The Mauryan dynasty was the first to rule a centralized Indian empire. The Mauryas came to power in 324 B.C., a few years after a failed invasion by Alexander the Great. However, periods of prosperity in India often ended in invasion. The Kushan Kingdom in what is now Afghanistan replaced the Mauryan dynasty as the major regional power. The Kushans prospered due to trade along the 4,000-mile Silk Road that passed through their territory. After Persian invaders toppled the Kushans, the Guptas established a new Indian dynasty in A.D. 320. Nomadic Huns eventually put an end to the good fortunes of the Guptas, and the empire dissolved. Despite periods of disunity, early Indian civilization made lasting contributions. Architecture flourished, and the development of Sanskrit made it possible for Indians to record their great historical epics. Indians also advanced the study of astronomy and mathematics. Their advances were later adopted in the Arab world and in Europe.
Section 3 Early Chinese Civilizations
Historians traditionally consider the founding of the Xia dynasty over 4000 years ago as the beginning of Chinese civilization. It was replaced by the Shang dynasty, in which aristocratic warlords helped govern the vast kingdom, while peasants farmed the land. The successors to the Shang, the Zhou, claimed to rule by a Mandate of Heaven. Under the Zhou, irrigation and improved farming methods led to increased food production. The population grew, and manufacturing and trade increased. The Zhou dynasty collapsed after powerful states emerged within the kingdom, equipped with cavalry and advanced weapons. Toward the end of the Zhou dynasty, three major Chinese philosophies developed. Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism focused on the immediate world and offered alternative paths to an orderly society.
Section 4 Rise and Fall of Chinese Empires
From about 400 to 200 B.C., powerful Chinese states engaged in bloody civil war. The state of Qin eventually defeated its rivals, and its young leader, Qin Shihuangdi, declared a new dynasty. Qin adopted Legalism as his guiding principle, and political power became more centralized and bureaucratic. The emperor created a monetary system and built a vast network of roads. He also expanded the empire and started the building of the Great Wall of China. However, civil war broke out again after Qin's death. Under the Han dynasty China became more stable. The Hans adopted Confucianism, rather than Legalism, as their guiding principle. Yet they built on many of Qin's bureaucratic innovations. New technologies and inventions such as paper and steel brought prosperity. Advances in shipbuilding led to overseas trade. However, many free peasants did not share in the prosperity and were forced to sell their land and become tenant farmers. Peasant uprisings, along with political intrigue, helped bring about the end of the dynasty.