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Chinese and european history

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    Posted: 18 Sep 2010 at 07:50

China and Europe may bee seen as being comparable in size and ressources during much of history.
On the other hand there is the difference that China merged more succesfully than Europe, at least political. China repeatedly re-united during the last over 2000 years, while europeans hardly did so, at least after the disappearance of Western Roman Empire and to a lesser degree the Carolingian.
That partitioned Western Europe, not "unified" China took the "global lead" for some centuries may rise the question what empires may be "good for".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2010 at 14:11
"Unified" China is a modern fiction. Certainly, it suits the latest regime residing in Beijing as they proffer the latest version of the "Mandate from Heaven"; however, this notion of "merger" is a tad illusory. "Partitioned" Western Europe? Guess it's time to issue an Interdict...

Edited by drgonzaga - 19 Sep 2010 at 19:36
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2010 at 17:18
One should not overlook geographical factors. Those arriving in Europe from the east had a largely arable continent to expand into. The various Chinese states may have been capable of expanding their zone of control westward, but their heartland remained anchored to China's arable terrain, and to that of their neighbors to the northeast, south, and southeast.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Sep 2010 at 05:04
Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:


China and Europe may bee seen as being comparable in size and ressources during much of history.
On the other hand there is the difference that China merged more succesfully than Europe, at least political. China repeatedly re-united during the last over 2000 years, while europeans hardly did so, at least after the disappearance of Western Roman Empire and to a lesser degree the Carolingian.
That partitioned Western Europe, not "unified" China took the "global lead" for some centuries may rise the question what empires may be "good for".
 
I'm afraid this comparison isn't very good at all...
 
First of all what do you mean by China here?
 
Chinese, more or less, view themselves as one people, not so for Europeans who until very recently were first of all French, English, Italian and only then "European."
 
Europe in itself has different identities and and throughout its history knew different "empires." 
 
Perhaps, you can compare, Europe with East Asia or something, or Europe with the countries of "Confucian realm" at worst, but the general China vs Europe comparison doesn't work, sorry.
 
 
 
 


Edited by Sarmat - 20 Sep 2010 at 17:23
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Sep 2010 at 12:23
Through the subtleties of language and its imagery, Sarmat, one can grasp that Europe knew of only one imperium...and recreated (or attempted to do so) it repeatedly. Besides, for this discussion to possess validity it must be posited on cultural and not political terms, since with respect to the latter China was just as "feudal" as Europe if one is honest, and if one scrutinizes closely the legalism of the Qin-Han and its subsequent impact such is little different from that of Rome on all that came later.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Sep 2010 at 15:01
The Roman Empire wasn't exactly a "European" empire, but more of a "Meditteranean" empire. Many important European countries today, such as Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, Poland were located outside the borders of the Roman Empire, and many highly Romanized provinces, such as present day Lybia, Tunisia, Algeria, Anatolia, are not in Europe.

Speaking objectively, I can't see that creating a centralized state under a unique cultural and national identity means any "superiority" or "success" to being a politically and culturally fragmented mosaic of nations. One of the chief reasons behind Europe's rapid progress after 1500 lay in the fact of its fragmented nature: each country was constantly competing with its neighbours that everyone had to find ways to improve itself all the time.

Even today, despite 2 decades of integration of the European Union and the common Euro currency, the "European" identity only exists from an economic prospect. When Frenchmen, Germans, Britons, Spaniards, and Belgians travel abroad, they are still Frenchmen, Germans, Britons, and Spaniards, not "EU citizens".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Sep 2010 at 17:09
Well, calvo, your observation has a tad of the ethnocentric bathed by the illusory classification of the geographer! One can follow Braudel and his focus on the Mediterranean World as the actual cradle of Modern Europe. And if you permit me to amplify your objective point, are you not simply uttering the malaise [sorry for the word but I've been over-exposed to Jimmy Carter and his current merchandising effort on behalf of book sales--his own, where he believes his presidency was a bundle of successes] know as progress through competition (shades of deregulation!)?
 
Now on to the Kulturkampf!


Edited by drgonzaga - 20 Sep 2010 at 17:10
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Sep 2010 at 19:03
The relevance of comparisons may depend upon what questions we pose.So we may or may not compare China with Europe or any to other regions with each other depending on what we see as our question or problem. Europe according to a widely used definition reach the Ural Mountains, making its territory just a bit bigger than contemporary Peoples Republic of China. The 
population may be somewhat smaller and both are one the whole compact and continuous. Of course we may consider the "east asian region" as a better "entity" for comparison, but China may make up most of its territory and population anyway.
Comparisons between regions or even historical eras dominated by large empires in contrast with smaller states may be relevant not only for Europe and China, but in principle anywhere anytime, but perhaps such a discussion has to start at some particular point? We could even discuss both Europe and China in periods of more or less "unification" or "partition" and the possible historical consequences of both. But a discussion of Europe and China may have the advantage of a long history.


Edited by fantasus - 20 Sep 2010 at 19:04
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Sep 2010 at 19:44
Regardless, of what question you pose these entities aren't comparable.
 
How can you put Russia, Albania and Portugal into one box and compare it too China?
 
That doesn't make sense...
 
China occupies the most of East Asia?  Then take Russia and compare it to China because it occupies the largest chunk of Europe...
 
European Union is a new entity that never, really, existed before in a similar shape, you, simply, can't compare it with China...
 
Europe is just a name of a geographical region like Asia, America or Australia are.  You can compare Europe to Asia (in general) but you can't compare Europe to "China."
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Sep 2010 at 20:17
Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

Regardless, of what question you pose these entities aren't comparable.
 
How can you put Russia, Albania and Portugal into one box and compare it too China?
 
That doesn't make sense...
 
China occupies the most of East Asia?  Then take Russia and compare it to China because it occupies the largest chunk of Europe...
 
European Union is a new entity that never, really, existed before in a similar shape, you, simply, can't compare it with China...
 
Europe is just a name of a geographical region like Asia, America or Australia are.  You can compare Europe to Asia (in general) but you can't compare Europe to "China."
It is not a question what I or any other can compare, since I can compare what I want!
 However You may have a point if You mean "China" is by definition either a political unit, or defined by its people and Europe on the other hand purely a geographical term. Then instead of "China" and Europe we may compare the history of the "East Asian territory" - defining "East Asia" approximately as the territory now in possesion by China with the history of "Western Eurasian  region" - defining the later as occupying about the same territory of what others label "Europe"!
And don´nt write again we "can´t" since of course we can! And since those two territories are about the same size it may be fully as relevant for comparison as "Europe" on the one hand and "Asia" on the other hand if we by "Asia" mean the territoriees east of Bosporus and Uralian mountains.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RollingWave Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Oct 2010 at 04:09
There are two seperate issue the OP is asking that must be addressed seperatly, though they are linked to some extend.
 
 
1. Why was China a unified state much more often than Europe was despite comparable size / population?
 
 
The General answer lies in Geographics, and to a lesser extend government,  China was linked together have 4 large river, 3 of them are highly navigatable, and later on a made made cannal that eventually connected all 4 of them.  it had less major geographic barriers within the so called China proper area, thus it's people were more connected, and when they were seperate states the individual states had much less margin of error in defense.
 
Government played a role, espeically towards the later stages (Tang dynasty onward). the construction of the great canal further strengthend the geographic connection between the different region, while the ever more centralized government and a system of governence that at least to some extend gave chances to the common people from all over the country to particapate in central politics help to promote a sense of unity.
 
 
In comparason, Europe's geographic barrier is more obvious , it's higher mountains often completely cut off entire regions , part of the continent is seperated by the north sea etc.... these effect produced a stronger semblence of regional identity.
 
Government played a role too, fedualism generally accelerates regionalism and obviously also sabotage the odds of prolonged unity over a larger area etc...
 
2. The relative advancement of China vs Europe.
 
As being pointed out by previous posters, competition is a major factor, the Chinese in the Ming / Qing era espeically reached a high state of stability where there were very few significant wars or conflicts over something close to 500 years, not exactly a recepie for sustained improvement. most of the conflicts during this span were limited border wars or really conflict with minor group of raiders. China had essentially ran up to impenetrable geographic barriers on all sides. and further expansion was unlikely,  while their chief rivals were nomads that offered no arable land to conquer.
 
Their geographic isolation from the rest of the major world civilzation also didn't help matters.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Oct 2010 at 09:27
Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

Regardless, of what question you pose these entities aren't comparable.
 
How can you put Russia, Albania and Portugal into one box and compare it too China?
 
That doesn't make sense...
 
I think there is a basic commonality beneath all our supeficial identity markers. If you compare those three countries to each other they seem different, but if you compare them to China they seem similar. Geography is perhaps the most decisive factor in how civilizations develop, and Europe as a geographic entity has been separated from Africa and East Asia by natural barriers, creating a fundamentally shared mentality and material culture.
 
To avoid having my point extrapolated; I'm perfectly aware that as you get closer to the fringes of the European entity the differences - of course - are greater from the opposite fringe and influences from the outside spheres are more pervasive, but these are extremes. Transitional spheres with blurred cultural lines are natural along the borders of all civilizations, but to say this means the entire civilization lacks cohesion is putting undue stress on a single divergent element that isn't indicative of the whole, ie emphasizing the exceptions rather than the rule.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Oct 2010 at 10:18
Originally posted by RollingWave RollingWave wrote:

There are two seperate issue the OP is asking that must be addressed seperatly, though they are linked to some extend.
 
 
1. Why was China a unified state much more often than Europe was despite comparable size / population?
 
 
The General answer lies in Geographics, and to a lesser extend government,  China was linked together have 4 large river, 3 of them are highly navigatable, and later on a made made cannal that eventually connected all 4 of them.  it had less major geographic barriers within the so called China proper area, thus it's people were more connected, and when they were seperate states the individual states had much less margin of error in defense.
 
Government played a role, espeically towards the later stages (Tang dynasty onward). the construction of the great canal further strengthend the geographic connection between the different region, while the ever more centralized government and a system of governence that at least to some extend gave chances to the common people from all over the country to particapate in central politics help to promote a sense of unity.
 
 
In comparason, Europe's geographic barrier is more obvious , it's higher mountains often completely cut off entire regions , part of the continent is seperated by the north sea etc.... these effect produced a stronger semblence of regional identity.
 
Government played a role too, fedualism generally accelerates regionalism and obviously also sabotage the odds of prolonged unity over a larger area etc...
 
2. The relative advancement of China vs Europe.
 
As being pointed out by previous posters, competition is a major factor, the Chinese in the Ming / Qing era espeically reached a high state of stability where there were very few significant wars or conflicts over something close to 500 years, not exactly a recepie for sustained improvement. most of the conflicts during this span were limited border wars or really conflict with minor group of raiders. China had essentially ran up to impenetrable geographic barriers on all sides. and further expansion was unlikely,  while their chief rivals were nomads that offered no arable land to conquer.
 
Their geographic isolation from the rest of the major world civilzation also didn't help matters.
 
 
You definately make some good points! I admit I to a far extend prefer a "geographical" point of view, when it comes to differences between culures and even nations.
But I think we should be cautious about exaggerating the internal european geographical barriers.
Not least when it comes to exchange of culural ideas, products even to some degree people, there may allways  (since prehistoric times) have been much interaction in the european areas, though the physical barriers may have made invasions and migrations harder. While the "natural ways of communication" in China may have been over the plains and perhaps especially the great rivers in Europe coastal and marine communication may have been much more dominant. I suspect if we should look for any "deep" explanation why it was european maritime powers that spread over the globe and not people from other parts of the world, we should look on the maps and realise how favourable the conditions allways were for contacts over the seas. Onlly the eastern rim of the (Eur)Asian land-mass is more rich in isles and peninsulas and coastal areas, though perhaps the Carribean may be not so far behind (I ignore here the high arctic isles, like those far out in the oceans since the former were scarcely inhabited and the later relatively small and scattered).
Then again Chiona may have been relatively more isolated from the outside by natural barriers - the Meditteranean and Black Sea were after all as much waters for communication and exchange as barriers.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RollingWave Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2010 at 02:47
one could look at it this way, even in the most seriously seperated periods China rarely had more than 10 states within the China proper area simutaniously, and those situation rarely lasted for significant periods (i.e over 10-20 years). in most cases even prolonged seperation period only allowed the existence of 3-4 states simutaniously at most. (After the end of the Warring states period anyway)
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2010 at 09:10
Originally posted by RollingWave RollingWave wrote:

one could look at it this way, even in the most seriously seperated periods China rarely had more than 10 states within the China proper area simutaniously, and those situation rarely lasted for significant periods (i.e over 10-20 years). in most cases even prolonged seperation period only allowed the existence of 3-4 states simutaniously at most. (After the end of the Warring states period anyway)
 
 
 

As I see it, the chinese historical general record of one or a few rulers may  rather raise questions than answering them. Empires by the way has been known for a couple of Millenia among europeans, and european history have at least some examples of powers aiming at hegemonial power. A non- european State may have been among the most succesful at least for a short period: the U.S. of A.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RollingWave Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Oct 2010 at 06:58
A general sense of lingustic (at least in the written form) and cultural similarity plays into this, the Roman never fully "Romanized" their conquered subjects, while the later wave of barbarian invasions mostly ruined what Romanization that was achieved.
 
Meanwhile, the Chinese expansion happened more gradually, and much like the later Colonial expansion in the US, it was often first the expansion of farmers into new lands followed by government expanding their reach to follow their citizens, instead of the other way around. Thus the relative cultural unity remained in tact, and the more gradual process tend to minimize the backlash of original inhabitants. this process happened fairly early though, which also helped , since by at the latest 1000 b.c colonies that could be considered to be connected to the main dynasty was already spread throughout most of what would end up to be China proper (though at this point most of them were still limited colonies.)
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