Chinese History - Opium wars, Taiping rebellion, boxer rebellion and the long march.

Essay by b0w September 2005

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Assignment - China

a. Discuss the Chinese ideas of the dynastic cycle and the mandate of heaven.

The Mandate of Heaven was a Chinese concept used to support the rule of the kings of the Zhou Dynasty and later the Emperors of China. The concept of the Mandate of Heaven was based on the blessing of Heaven and that if a king ruled unwisely; Heaven would be displeased and would give the Mandate to someone else. It is first found discussed in writings recording the words of the Duke of Zhou, younger brother of King Wu of Zhou and regent for King Wu's infant son King Cheng of Zhou, and he is usually considered to be its first proponent.

The Shang dynasty had ruled because of family connections to divine power--their founders had been deities, and their ancestors went to join them in Heaven. Heaven was very active and interfering, in mysterious ways, in earthly rule, as is shown by the divination texts preserved from the later part of the Shang dynasty, the oracle bones.

The Mandate of Heaven theory may be thought of as changing this familial connection to a feudal one--the world was now a fief, held at Heaven's pleasure, which could and would be reassigned if the holder misbehaved.

The concept was first used by the Zhou dynasty to justify their overthrow of the Shang dynasty and was used by many succeeding dynasties to justify their rule. One consequence of the idea of the Mandate of Heaven was that it was not necessary for a person to be of noble birth to lead a revolt and become a legitimate emperor, and in fact a number of dynasties such as the Han dynasty and Ming dynasty were founded by persons of modest birth.

With the idea of the...