The journals of Ricci Matteo (1583-1610) describe the structure of the Chinese Empire. According to the author, the Chinese Empire practices succession to power in a monarchical basis; this is where, royal families pass down their rule to their kin. However, there are other instances, where the ruler may choose to pass on the throne to another individual besides their kin, if they perceive that the rightful kin is not fit to rule the Empire. A vital aspect that seems to have contributed to the consolidation of power within the Chinese Empire is its unique structure. There are different levels of administration, which are responsible for individual responsibilities. For instance, the Empire has been structured in a way that enables each respective position to perform distinct duties; the higher magistrates, who are responsible for administrating the royal palace, as well as the doctors of philosophy, who perform non-administrative functions. Consequently, the Chinese Empire can be said to have declined because of the leader’s inability to expand its territory. The leaders of the Chinese Empire seemed to be satisfied with the much that they have done, and did not consider invading other states. Additionally, another key aspect would be the inequality in rank positions regarding the respect one obtains from the public. Whilst the Empire has been structured in a way that enables it to perform its functions in the most effective way, the ruling ranks seem to hold added advantage over the military ranks. Most people would opt to serve in a junior ruling rank than attain an elevated rank in the military. These discriminations tended to create disunity among the people, who responded differently to individual serving in the varied ranks.
According to the letters between Sultan Selim and Shah Ismail, the Ottoman Empire advanced following their invasion of the Christian society in the West, as well as that of other Islam states. These invasions enabled the Empire leaders to consolidate their power, and extend their Empires as well. With every invasion, the Ottoman Empire was able to acquire additional space and resources that enabled it to strengthen its forces. However, these continued invasions led to its decline. The Ottoman Empire declined subsequent to a rise of conflict between the Empire and the Safavids; an adversary for the Empire, which seemed to challenge the authenticity of the Ottoman Empire to take over their region. This conflict saw to the exchange of letters between the two regions. The decline of the Ottoman Empire can be attributed to the nature, in which the leaders expressed themselves in their letters. Instead of proving their legitimacy to take over the Safavid region, the Ottoman leadership appeared to be demanding and forceful. This played a vital role in favor of the Safavid Empire, as they could identify the weakness of the Ottoman Empire, an aspect that enabled them to effectively defend their territory (Anonimous, 1514).
The epic of Gilgamesh describes a traditional ruling set up, where individuals believed that the gods were responsible for appointing the leaders on behalf of the people. Gilgamesh was considered a half man, half god. The people of Uruk believed that he was heavenly sent to rule over them and defend them in times of needs. The empire of Uruk seemed to lack nothing, as the gods provided the people with whatever they needed through their ruler, Gilgamesh. In essence, the people’s belief in the gods appears to be the major factor contributing to the consolidation of power in the Uruk Empire. However, the rule of Gilgamesh did not seem to last for long. Gilgamesh was arrogant to the people of Uruk. He always took from them what belonged to them. His lust for women was despicable to the extent that he took every virgin before they were enthroned to their respective husbands. This behavior led to never ending cries to the gods to step in and save the people from their suffering. On hearing the people’s cry, the gods decided to create another, similar in strength, looks, and body structure to Gilgamesh. Enkidu was a gift from the gods to the people of Uruk. He came to provide balance and stop Gilgamesh from mistreating the people (Sandars, 1960).
1. Humans and the Environment
In relation to humans and the environment, humans tend to shape their environment to suit their needs. In the story about the Chinese culture (Waley, 1958), Confucius in his famous writings sought to alter the environment to suit the existence of humans. For instance, he is considered as the ‘gentleman’. A title that denoted his unwavering characteristic of considering the needs of other people and doing what was appropriate. He further acknowledges that every young person has a duty to ensure that they behave appropriately, by ensuring that they honor the promises they make and poses kind emotions to those around them. These writings are considered to be applicable, whatever situation one is in. For example, even when faced with a conflict or stressful situation, Confucius advocates for the individual to gain control of the situation and ensure that they change it and not allow the environment to change them (Waley, 1958). Humans have an ability to design their desirable society. According to Waley (1958), and the writings of Confucius, ”a true person does not preach what he practices till he has practiced what he preaches”. If one perceives a favorable society to be one that is peaceful, he or she should practice to be peaceful before asking others to.
The code of Hammurabi further acknowledges this fact by identifying some basic laws that humankind implements to help to govern their society. The author notes various aspects of the human nature: false accusations, robbery, as well as honoring the promises that people make to others. This code relates to the writings of Confucius, who advocates for the appropriate behavior and respect among the human society. His basic concept of ”do unto others what you want done to you” is in line with the code of Hammurabi’s concept of “an eye for an eye”. Arguably, humans are responsible for determining the way they interact with their environment. This can be achieved through the formulation of the laws that are applicable to all, as in the case of the code of Hammurabi, or via the basic human law of respect according to Confucius. In essence, these concepts provide an equal ground, which the members of the society have to operate in accordance with. There is no distinction between the well off and the less fortunate. This is because the laws established by the humans to govern their interaction equate everyone to the same principles (Code of Hammurabi, early 18th century).
Similarly, Cicero (ca. 52 B.C.E) concedes that laws tend to recommend humans to adapt appropriate behaviors and shy away from evil. He further notes that, “there must be a communion of right where there is a communion of law…those who have law and right, thus in common, must be considered members of the same commonwealth”. Essentially, this statement identifies the basic nature of considering all people as equal in relation to the laws of the land. By practicing equity, individuals will be able to influence others to do the same, and essentially, this will influence their respective environments and help to enhance humanity.
According to the Silver document, trade between the Spanish and Andean Indians provided a medium for the swap of ideas. Whereas the Indians learnt the basics of mining, the Spaniards became aware of the use of the cocoa leaf in relation to the human metabolic functions. Up to 1750, the trade relations between these two groups could be perceived to have had a negative impact on the human health. This is because the Indians working in mines were forced to chew the cocoa leaf, which seemingly stimulated their bodies to be resistant to the hard work and even hunger. The mineworkers were expected to chew on the cocoa leaves, as they worked; an aspect that led them to ignore their health issues and deterioration of the worker’s lungs. The coca leaf is considered to contain cocaine, a drug that can cause addiction and lead to major health concerns for an individual. The Spaniards seemed to take advantage of this by forcing the Indian workers to chew on the leaves, so that they could manipulate their working hours. In this case, the Spanish Traders appeared to be benefiting from the additional work input by the Indians, as they worked without stopping and sometimes even without eating. This concept of working without taking breaks ensured that the work in the mines was nonstop; thus, more production of the silver was done (Padden, 1975).
Juan Gonzalez paints a great image of the great Empire of China. Traditionally, the people of the Chinese Empire constituted varied skin tones depending on the province of origin. This Empire seemingly was endowed with a number of valuables, like silk, linen, serge, cotton, as well as wool. Trade provides an opportunity for an Empire to swap ideas with others. However, this Empire did not seem to have benefited from its trade relations. This is evidenced by the reports of Gonzalez, when he acknowledges that despite the abundance in the garment materials, the Chinese Empire had no clothes for its people. The growth of businesses in the empire also seemed to have been affected by the traditional laws. This is where parents were willingly passing down their businesses to their children, and did not provide them with an opportunity to explore other opportunities. In a way, this tradition seems to have a key factor in limiting the Empire to benefit from its trade relations with others.
3. Role That Religion Has Played In State-Building
Religious practices play a vital role in society. According to the Code of Hammurabi, religious practices, such as honesty, fidelity, as well as marriage, contribute to the influence religion has on the state laws. The Code of Hammurabi dictates that, “…if a woman…has entered the house of another; they shall prove it against that woman and throw her into the water”. In relation to the Bible, as well as to the Koran, fidelity in marriage is major issue. If a woman has been proved unfaithful, she stands to be punished by the respective religious laws. This provision in relation to religious practices helps to enhance the power of the state by enabling it to observe the laws of humanity and the universe. At times, this practice can be a threat to the society in that there are times people claim infidelity of their partners only to seek separation and division of acquisitions.
In the great history of the Chinese Empire, Gonzalez de Mendoza presents us with a religious practice that seems to have the adverse effects on the structure of the Empire. Leg binding appears to be a long practiced tradition between the Chinese. This is where men literary bound the legs of the women to indicate that they are married to them. This exercise posed difficulties for the women by limiting their movement and activities. In a way, this tradition reassured the men of their wife’s fidelity and restricted movements. The state, mostly administered by the men, exercised its power and authority, as well as social hierarchy, by influencing the continued practice of this tradition. Mothers were required to carry on this practice with their children, in case of failure to which, they would be banished from the Kingdom. This gives a clear image of who is in control, as well as defines the distinctive roles of individuals in the society (Gonzalez, 1585).
With relevance to the Epic of Gilgamesh, religion appears to have been a vital aspect in the rule of the nation. The gods of Uruk seem to have played a vital role in providing the people with leadership. The gods created Gilgamesh to provide guidance, and Enkidu to help to redeem the people from the evil rule of Gilgamesh. In this case, religion provided the empire of Uruk with a basis for balance. Consequently, in the story about the floods, religion can be considered to have played a threatening role to the existence of the state. In this story, the gods used floods to destroy the humankind. Enlil, the god of war, sent floods similar to the story of Moses in the Bible, in order to destroy the people because of their unpleasing ways to the gods. This case presents a situation, where religion poses a threat to the existence of the state (Sandars, 1960).
Similarly, the Koran, a religious Islam book, plays a vital role in building the Islam community. Similar to the Christian Bible, the Koran contains a number of guidelines, which provide believer with a clear guide to what is expected of them by their religious beliefs. According to the Koran, the Islam community is strengthened by their belief in one God. This belief denotes a common basis, which people identify themselves with. It also provides them with a sense of togetherness. Additionally, with the use of the Koran as a global basis of reference for the Islam, different believers in various parts of the globe are able to follow the same guidelines. This uniformity in the use of the Koran has contributed towards the expansion of the Islam religion. Moreover, it provides a clear definition of the religious hierarchy by defining the roles and responsibilities of the religious leaders, as well as the believers. For instance, the wealthy are expected to give alms to the less fortunate, and believers are restricted from engaging in gambling activities and taking too much wine. Despite these key contributions, the religious activities identified in the Koran can also be considered to be posing a threat to the believers; for example, “… but the most wretched unbeliever…who shall be cast to be broiled in the greater fire of hell, wherein he shall not die, neither shall he live” (The Koran, p. 124). According to this line, the believers are scared into observing the religious requirements, in case of failure to which, they stand to be punished.