Comparing Classical Empires China and India

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Around 350 B.C.E., the classical empires of China and India emerged. Classical civilizations were hierarchical and patriarchal, but varied in the organization of their societies. Both China and India, like most classical empires, were patriarchal societies which allowed women little to no independence. Women were inferior to men and were restricted to domestic lives as wives and mothers. Chinese women were forced to spend their days at home because of Confucian values which emphasized the importance of a wife’s obedience to her husband. Foot-binding emerged during China’s classical era and further confined women to the home. Yin and yang, the concept of contrasting forces in the world, also limited Chinese women’s opportunities because it described women as the weak counterpart to men. In India, women at first had some property rights and some families were even matrilineal. However, Hindu laws set more restrictions on women, especially on those in upper classes. For example, a wealthy woman would have to conduct the ritual of sati and cremate herself at her husband’s funeral. Indian women, similar to Chinese women, were confined to their homes, and they were forced to cover themselves from head to toe when they came out. The only exceptions to restrictions on women of the classical era were a Chinese woman being able to exercise authority as a mother-in-law and an Indian women gaining independence by becoming a Buddhist nun. While both empires had similar gender hierarchies, the differences in their social hierarchies are what set them apart. Classical India had a very complex system of hierarchy known as the caste system. The caste system developed during the Vedic and Epic ages and became steadily more complex as a way of dividing people into social classes. The caste system was racially based, so a person was born into a caste, or jati, with no way of changing his or her status individually. Whole jatis could raise their social standing, but violating rules...
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