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The First Civilizations

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Chapter 1: The First Civilizations

Around 1050 B.C.E. in China the Mandate of Heaven was created. When the Zhou Dynasty overthrew the Shang they believed they needed a proper reason for doing so, thus the Mandate of Heaven was born, justifying their actions. The Mandate of Heaven is a political-social philosophy that the new ruler of China was given “Heaven’s blessing” to rule over the country with a faithful and prosperous attitude. The Mandate was usually earned by someone who showed themselves to be an authoritative figure towards the public, like a father to their son. They were to rule the country with the mindset of always looking out for its people, never to reign with selfish or alternate intentions. Just as they could earn the Mandate, they could also lose it. The source The Human Record states that “Whenever a dynasty fell, the reason invariably offered by China’s sages was that it had lost the mandate, or authorized right to rule, which was given by Heaven alone” (31). It was lost when the country’s leader acted unfaithfully and unrighteously against the land and its people. The Mandate was officially lost when the emperor was overthrown and the new succeeded the thrown. The consequences of losing the mandate included loss of power, wealth, and in several cases of a country’s leader being overthrown, death.

The Mandate of Heaven became a foundation of religion in ancient China. Rulers looked to it to guide their way through their reign. Even before the Shang dynasty fell and the mandate came to be, there were parallel ideas to the mandate. One person that stood by that idea is Yi Yin, a well known minister of the Shang Dynasty. Yi Yin always believed in the idea that a leader of a country should look to his ancestor’s decisions on how to run an empire and follow the positive ways that he ruled. Yi Yin also stood by the concept that as a person ages they gain more knowledge and become wiser. He stated, “Oh! Of old the former kings of Xia cultivated earnestly their virtue, and then there were no calamities from Heaven” (31). Modern politicians attempt to have a more youthful approach at the politics to appeal to their supporters. Following the ideas of modern politicians would disturb the Mandate of Heaven. If a ruler were to act younger it would be seen as trying to lessen their intelligence, something morally wrong of that time period.

Yi Yin would also have indifferences towards polls due to the disruption they cause to a monarchy. The Chinese believed that Heaven, not the people, gave the ruler his right to power. Elections and polls would allow the people to put a “wrong” or an “unrighteous” person on the throne. Yi Yin would prefer to keeps polls for only enhancing economic



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