Recent travels to China have opened my eyes to both the flaws and the valuable parts of Chinese society and government. Much can be learned from the mistakes and successes of the Chinese society and government. The confucian ideals which started in China teach us the importance of respecting specific relationships, such as the priceless relationship between a subject and his ruler. From the Confucian time we also understand the importance of educational standards and morals, while the legalist ideals from ancient China show us the value in balance of punishment and reward.
Furthermore, from Chinese government we can learn the significance of motivation to lead in a just, sensible, and ethical manner. By having strong educational standards and societal morals, a society can flourish. The way of achieving perfect societal standards is through mutual respect and understanding of one another as well as communication between the subjects and rulers. During the decline of the Zhou dynasty in China, Confucius seeked harmony in what was a crumbling society and government. Through teaching a troubled ruler how to lead, Confucius saved a whole civilization overnight.
One of the most important morals that we learn from Confucianism is communication and a healthy relationship between subject and ruler. We learn how crucial this specific relationship is from the warring states period. Due to the lack of interaction and communication between the ruler and subjects, the ruler lost power to the nobles, who were in control of the lower classes and peasants which resulted in feudalism. The king could no longer control the nobles or any of the lower classes and this resulted in dissolution of the government as well as the previously established Confucian morals.
During the Han dynasty, Emperor Wudi reinstated these same Confucianist ideas and morals of education and respect to form a strong bureaucratic government. In addition to strengthening and repairing the relationship between him and his subjects, Wudi created a school which taught confucianist ideals and starting educating his people. People who were to work in the government were either loyal followers of Wudi, and known to be well educated or they had to pass examinations.
Bureaucracy based on an educational standard advanced China and made them a stronger and wiser civilization, due to the absence of miscommunication and due to the presence of respect and wisdom within the society and government. The value of education, communication and respect are all crucial to a surviving and unified nation. To have an effective ruling style one must enforce the law, but find a balance between reward and punishment while doing so. King Zhou from the Shang dynasty is an example of a leader who was apathetic about leading, which unfortunately reflected negatively on his people.
King Zhou’s apathy resulted in him living lavishly, and disregarding his people and his responsibilities resulting in a society which was inefficient and chaotic. This careless and senseless type of behavior lost King Zhou the mandate of heaven. Completely opposite of King Zhou would be emperor Shi Huangdi from the Qin dynasty era. Shi Huangdi represented Legalist ideals in China during his time. He completely misused his power in ways such as forcing nobles to relocate where they live due to his suspicions of them. Shi Huangdi was so focused on maintaining his power that he terminated any criticism of himself and his government.
This type of self-focus led to the murdering of many Confucian scholars as well burning many of their books. Although Shi Huangdi’s rule was brutal, harsh, and suppresive, his legalist views resulted in an efficient and hard working society which resulted in the unification of China. During the Qin dynasty many advanced achievements were achieved such as the building of the great wall of China, the expansion of China, and increased agricultural production. Moreover, all of these advancements in Chinese culture were at the expense of human life and freedom.
Shi Huangdi sacrificed his people’s own rights and freedoms. This teaches us how human life is a freedom which cannot be taken away, so to protect this precious cause, a balance between punishment and reward is crucial to have a strong and prosperous society. Rulers need motivation to do the right thing so they do not stray from treating their subjects rightfully. The mandate of heaven could grant or take away a ruler’s power and ability to rule. The mandate of heaven was a way in which the leaders were controlled since they had a threat of losing their power.
In order to keep their power they had to make just and right decisions. During the Zhou dynasty, the mandate of heaven was used as a way to justify themselves when they overthrew the previous Shang leader. Although the mandate of heaven started out as a form of justification for an action, it became an essential part of the dynastic cycle in China throughout all of Chinese history. Even though the Zhou dynasty rulers made up the mandate of heaven, it ended up helping and improving the Chinese civilization. The mandate of heaven allowed the dynastic cycle to be changing constantly.
While most of the Chinese leaders such as Shi Huangdi and King Zhou ignored the threat of the mandate of heaven and continued to mistreat their people, the mandate of heaven eventually took place and they were overthrown. Daoism best explains the mandate of heaven, as it is a natural occurrence of events. In Daoism they focus on the natural world, the natural force, and how things are meant to happen. Following these ideals, the mandate of heaven represents the natural change that is supposed to happen when a leader is no longer suitable for leading his people.
It is not supposed to be questioned, but should be trusted. Furthermore, the motivation the mandate of heaven provides is important because it keeps the leaders in check. When they are meant to step down due to lack of leadership, they will do so, bettering their society because a newer and stronger leader will take their place. The history of China teaches us about what we can do to better our society, our morals, and our government. Through focusing on balance of power, having proper motivation, and through education and respect we can achieve an ideal community, society, and government.