Rise of Classical Civilizations Review for AP World History

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Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Review questions for this study guide can be found at:

Rise of Classical Civilizations Review Questions for AP World History

Classical China

The Zhou

Claiming that they possessed the mandate of heaven, or the approval of the gods, the Zhou began to dominate China after the fall of the Shang dynasty. The mandate of heaven would be claimed by future Chinese dynasties as a rationalization for their authority to rule. In power from 1029 to 258 B.C.E., the Zhou:

  • Took steps to further centralize the Chinese government.
  • Expanded Chinese territory to include the Yangtze River valley. This southern river valley added a fertile rice-growing area to the already rich wheat-producing regions of northern China.
  • Produced emperors, calling themselves "Sons of Heaven," who lived lives of luxury.
  • Standardized the spoken language.

The Qin

After a period of civil disorder known as the Era of the Warring States, the Zhou were replaced by the Qin dynasty. Under the Qin (221–202 B.C.E.):

  • The name of the dynasty, Qin, was applied to the country of China.
  • Chinese territory expanded southward as far as northern Vietnam.
  • A defensive wall that became the nucleus of the Great Wall was constructed.
  • Weights, measures, and coinage were standardized.
  • A common written language was standardized.
  • The manufacture of silk cloth was encouraged.
  • New roads were constructed.

The Han

In 200 B.C.E., the Qin were replaced by the Han, who ruled until 220 C.E. During the rule of the Han dynasty:

  • The governmental bureaucracy (ranks of employees) grew stronger.
  • Chinese territory expanded into Central Asia, Korea, and Indochina.
  • The Chinese civil service exam began.
  • Trade along the Silk Roads increased.
  • A time of peace settled across China.
  • Chinese traditions were reinforced through the strengthening of patriarchal society in which the father and other male members of the family were in positions of authority.
  • The government oversaw iron production.
  • The government sponsored and maintained canals and irrigation systems.
  • Society was further stratified, consisting of an elite class (including the educated governmental bureaucracy), peasants and artisans, and unskilled laborers (including a small number of slaves).
  • Agriculture was improved by the invention of ox-drawn plows and a collar that prevented choking in draft animals.
  • Paper was manufactured for the first time.
  • Water-powered mills were invented.

Under the Han, the people of China enjoyed a level of culture significantly more advanced than that of other civilizations and societies at that time, a distinction it would maintain until the fifteenth century. So vital were the accomplishments of the Han to Chinese culture that even today the Chinese call themselves the "People of Han."

Backgrounds of Classical India

The roots of classical India began during the invasions of the Aryans about 1500 B.C.E. From their original home in Central Asia, the Aryans brought a tradition of hunting and cattle-herding; after their arrival in South Asia, however, they adapted the agricultural methods of native peoples. Aryan iron tools facilitated their success in agriculture.

Although the people of the Harappan civilization of the Indus valley possessed a written language, the Aryans did not. Much of our knowledge of the Aryans comes from their oral epics, called the Vedas. The Vedas were later written down in the Sanskrit language, which remains a prominent language in India today. The influence of the Vedas is evident in the term applied to the early classical period of Indian culture, the Vedic Age (1500–1000 B.C.E.). The first Aryan epic, the Rig-Veda, is a collection of hymns in honor of the Aryan gods. Other epic literature which shaped Indian culture during the Epic Age (1000–600 B.C.E.) includes the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (considered the greatest epic poem of India), and the Upanishads, a collection of religious epic poems.

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