Peter De Falco
World Hist Paper Why the Chinese Do It Better
Mediaeval China had many great achievements such as gunpowder, but fireworks aren't the only reason China was successful. Mediaeval China was known to be the most sophisticated and overall powerful region and country of its time. Even more so than the already established Europe. And though these two civilizations did interact, there are numerous factors as to why China was more successful. No matter the conflict, needs, or geographical deficits; China always seemed to come out on top, whether that be in their culture or their increasing technology.
The first reason why Europe can be seen as on a lower level than Medieval China is its culture. Looking at how Medieval European culture functioned and was ruled can make this point clear. In the early Medieval ages, Europe had been invaded by Germany many times and this actually led to a decrease in the interest of learning and studies. This is also attributed to a sort of refuge to rural life and farming (Perry, 1984). With this change was a decrease in political, economic, and judicial interest. This led to a more religion based view which caused controversy with already established Greek Philosophy. However, philosophy and religion in China didn’t conflict nor did they divide the people.
One of Medieval China’s greatest advantages was its people. During this era, the people of China became a lot more connected and worked together as a whole to better the empire. This is largely attributed to the religions of the period. The growth of religion during the Medieval Era allowed states to consolidate their power and grow stronger. This led to the
creation of many important cultural and religious institutions (Chronicle, 2010). Once China was reunified under the Sui Dynasty in 589 AD, this was the foundation upon which China was able to build the world's most advanced civilization (Chronicle, 2010). Another factor that made the people of China so well connected was their philosophy. Their main philosophy was one of respect, if one did not respect another it would lead to conflict and strife. But this rarely happened as one could be killed for certain disrespects. Yet respect isn’t the only reason why Medieval China was the most powerful and successful of its time.
The Second reason Europe was less successful than China in this period was their technology. Yet some of these advances are still used today or have led to the invention of better technology. One such advancement was the plow; the plow is considered to be one of the most important technologies develop in this period. This is mainly due to the use of teams of oxen and using multiple blades (Baker, 2015). But in order to make the plow as effective as possible, the Europeans found news ways of making it. By 900, there were significant changes in the production of iron. The above ground reduction furnace had been developed; this furnace allowed for the easier creation of iron. This iron could then be forged by local smiths into parts for plows, spades, pitchforks, and shoes for horses (Baker, 2015). And though this new technology has helped shape our farming today, it didn’t help advance Europe as a whole. As mentioned before, Medieval Europe began to fall more and more into farming and less to its governmental or educational fields. These advances just couldn’t stack up to how advanced China had become.
Medieval China did indeed win the technology battle as they focused more on what needed to be done and less on what already works. The first major achievement In China was the blast furnace that could produce liquid iron which could then be turned into steel. Their steel was more malleable and was stronger than the iron of the time (Watkins, 2015). This made it easier to create and invent better technology. But one of the most important advances made by Medieval China was the invention of gunpowder. Gun powder was developed out of the experiments of Chinese shamans in throwing mineral powders into fires to produce interesting effects in terms of colors and enhancements of the flames. Later the gunpowder was used for making fireworks and then they used gunpowder as an explosive (Watkins, 2015). And though more popularly used by the West, it is still as great accomplishment that is still in use today. Another thing that is still in use today is paper. The first paper which was made from fiber obtained by pounding linen cloth (Watkins, 2015). Paper made writing and recording records much easier and also made money more efficient to make. This new paper money also made trade a whole lot simpler which made it easier to get goods that they usually couldn’t get otherwise.
This leads to the final point, Geography. Another area where China comes out victorious is, well, their area. China is located in a secluded area of its time and not many countries had easy access to it. This is mainly due to its mountainous ranges that surrounds China and that there was really only one way in, the Silk Road (Knapp, 2009). Because of this they weren’t at as high of a risk of invasion and they didn’t have to worry about outside
powers corrupting their culture. And because they have easy access to the silk road, they didn’t have to worry about not having certain resources that china couldn’t make itself.
Europe on the other hand didn’t have it so great. Medieval Europe was smack dab in the middle of the then known world and was a huge target. As mentioned before, they were invaded often and didn’t always come out on top. Yes, they had the resources they needed but their soil wasn’t the richest and their land would often be scorched by invaders or destroyed by the weather. Though there is an upside as they were surrounded by the sea. This made them a large trading and fishing civilization. But this also meant that there weren’t any places the escape if they were overrun.
Looking back, it is quite obvious why Medieval China was so successful. But this is not to say that Medieval Europe didn’t strive, it just can be shown through lack of political and educational interests, falling behind in technology, and not having the best geographical help, that Europe just couldn’t match the advancements of China. China was more disciplined and had a better structured government along with better work and technological force. They led the era with their wisdom, technological advances, and a little help from mother nature. In conclusion, Medieval China was an empire before its time.
Baker, P. (2015, Febuary 10). Medieval European History. Retrieved from SJSU History: http://www.sjsu.edu/people/patricia.backer/history/middle.htm
Centricity. (2016). China During The Middle Ages. Retrieved from Dentonisd: http://www.dentonisd.org/cms/lib/TX21000245/Centricity/Domain/999/AP%20World-%20China%20in%20Middle%20Ages.pdf
Chronicle. (2010). Medieval China. Retrieved from Earth Chronicles: http://www.earthchronicle.com/EC/Timelines/MedievalChina.aspx
Knapp, R. (2009). Chinese geography. Retrieved from Asia for Educators: http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/china/geog/maps.htm
Perry, M. (1984). A History Of The World. Houghton Mifflin.
Watkins, T. (2015). Medieval Chinese History. Retrieved from SJSU History: http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/ancientchina.htm