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Barbarism and Civilization

Mongols And Manchu Emperors

Non-Han peoples as "outsiders" were "dynamically and inextricably intertwined" with Chinese civilization (Smith, p. 11). Confucians felt that barbarians could adopt Chinese culture and become Chinese (see Ebrey, p. 179). Therefore, the history of China is the history of barbarian withdrawal and return. The pressure of the Ruzhen (Jurchen descendants of the Xiongnu) invasion in the Jin dynasty and the Mongol attacks of the thirteenth century forced the southern courts to establish strict civil service examinations. As the Mongols Genghis Khan (c. 1162–1227) and his grandson Kublai Khan (r. 1260–1294) adapted to Chinese culture, Confucian-style civil service examinations were reestablished. In 1313 the commentaries of the neo-Confucian Zhu Xi were included in these examinations, where they lasted until 1904 (see Smith, p. 37). The overthrow of the Mongols by Chinese patriots in the Ming dynasty saw the reinstatement of a Qin-Han structure of civil, military, and despotic reign. In turn, the Ming were ousted by the Manchu (Tungusic descendants of the Ruzhen), who marked the beginning of the Qing dynasty. The Manchu were organized under banners or civil-military units distinguished by colored flags. Before 1644, their administrative units for conscription and taxation recruited Chinese and Mongols. By 1648, the "multi-ethnic army" of bannermen included less than 16 percent Manchu (see Naquin and Rawski, pp. 4–5). Like the Mongols, the Manchu adopted Chinese culture, allowing for a renaissance of ancient philosophy and literature (see Goulding). While the first emperor of China burned most of the books in the known world, the Manchu established the largest known library that included literature and philosophy of China's classical age (see Smith, p. 3; cf. Wilkinson, pp. 273–277, 485). Although censorship saw the destruction of many Ming books, the Complete Library of the Four Treasuries (1772–1782) resulted in seven sets of thirty-six thousand volumes (see Naquin and Rawski, p. 66). Whereas the Western world annihilated barbarians in a quest for civilization, the Eastern world accommodated them as co-constitutive elements of its yin-yang cosmology.


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Jay Goulding

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ballistic galvanometer to Big–bang theoryBarbarism and Civilization - Friedrich Engels: Barbarism And Civilization, Herodotus And The Barbarians, Toynbee's Rhythm Of History