Level 1 Hunter-Gatherers (most primitive)
Level 2 Simple Farming Societies
Level 3 Complex Farming Societies/Chiefdoms
Level 4 State Societies (the mark of complex civilisation)
Level 5 Empires
Nomadic groups are shown in a different colour.
With this altas the vast amounts of differences in levels of development between various parts of the ancient world become very obvious. And the difference is great indeed. (This altas really makes you understand the meaning of the word "inequality"!) Tribes developed simple farming societies and abandoned the hunter-gatherer lifestyle extremely early in China, India and West Asia. By 8500BC simple farming societies appeared in Mesopotamia and by 6500BC in Eastern China, whereas Africa still largely consisted of hunter-gatherers as late as 500 AD and the native Australians were still hunter-gatherers in the 19th century AD!
The point I want to make is an interesting comparison between East and West Asia in terms of development. I must say the Chinese still lagged behind West Asia by a millennium in terms of the major developments. For instance, the first state societies appeared in Sumeria by 3500 BC, and in China state society only came into existence after 2000 BC, 1500 years behind the West Asians. By 1000 BC large areas of West Asia, the Mediterranean and North Africa had bronze technology, whereas in East Asia bronze technology is limited to a small region in what is now central China. But actually the most interesting thing is this: if you look at the map of the world in 1000BC in this altas, you would see a striking difference between East and West Asia: In the Western end of Asia there were numerous states (In Egypt, Mesopotamia and Iran, the Crete and Indus Valley states had collapsed by 1000BC), surrounded by a large region of various chiefdoms. So the amount of difference in terms of development in West Asia wasn't very great. The entire region consisted of state societies (Level 4) and chiefdoms (Level 3), and Bronze technology was available throughout the region. Yet if one looks at East Asia of exactly the same period the picture is completely different, true, there was the great Zhou Dynasty of China (one of my favorites), which is a complex state society that is fully the match of any states in West Asia. But in East Asia in 1000BC, Zhou China was the only state society. Not only this, the tribes around China (Tibetans, South-East Asians, Koreans, Japanese etc) haven't even developed into chiefdoms yet, it would take another thousand years for them to advance that far. So the amount of difference in development between Zhou China and the tribes around them was great indeed. Zhou China was a state society (Level 4), while the tribes around it were simple farming societies (Level 2) without Bronze or any metal technology. No wonder the ancient Chinese regarded these tribes as "barbarians", not worthy of consideration. (I'm not suggesting this attitude is correct) China was ahead of its neighours in terms of development by 2000 - 3000 years. Shortly after 2000 BC China already had a state society, and it wasn't until the first few centuries AD for Korea and Japan to follow suit. One would have to wait until the Tang Dynasty, after several great Chinese empires had risen and fallen, for the Tibetans to develop their first state (the Tubo), and until the 12th and 13th centuries AD for state development to take place in North Asia. (Jurchens and Mongols) So my question is, why is there such a difference between West and East Asia in terms of development? (China really seems to be the odd-one-out in East Asia in 1000BC, without China, the map of East Asia in 1000BC would only be one level better than that of Africa or Australia) Why is China the odd-one-out? Why have the Chinese developed civilisation 2000 years before their neighbours?
One theory is that the ancient Chinese were originally West Asian nomads that migrated to East Asia during the third millennium BC. See for example this link.This would take into account and explain the similarities between Chinese and West Asian religious practices during China's Shang and Zhou Dynasties. (E.g. offering sacrifices to a Supereme Heaven-God, in the Chinese case Shangdi) I must say, in 1000BC in terms of civilisational development Zhou China certainly had more affinity with the West Asians than with her neighbours. I am not saying this theory is conclusively correct, for there are also key differences in Chinese and West Asian religious practices, for example divination in China is done through heating oracle bones by fire, whereas in West Asia it is done through examining animal entrails.
What do you think?
Edited by somechineseperson, 19 October 2005 - 07:40 PM.