Evolution of The Han

Level 7 – Undetermined Number of Sentences – Opinionated topic sentence (i.e., argument), three different points with specific examples, secondary information, specific dates/key figures, primary source evidence, manipulating key primary source information so that it is weaved into your own words through ellipses and/or brackets, specific vocabulary, appositives, insight, natural transitions that link to previous sentence, thoughtful conclusion.

 

In the Han Dynasty, there were many radical shifts of religious, political, and economic ideas which changed over time due to the numerous positive and negative impacts associated with them. During the early Han Dynasty, the main religious idea that was embraced was Daoism. The emperor Liu Bang thought that doing nothing and remaining idle was the most suitable choice of how to rule the people. Overtime, however, the Han transitioned from the religious idea of Daoism to Confucianism. This transition of ideas is evidenced by the appearance of Confucian ministers in the Outer Court and the scholar officials who were given domain over the various provinces within the empire. The ideas of Daoism and Confucianism were embraced by the aristocracy in the empire, but it was the peasants who began the religious cults such as The Way of Great Peace and the Yellow Turbans. Their leader Zhang Jiao claimed to have received a sacred book from god himself. He was said to be a miracle worker and thus gained popularity through the same way Jesus Christ did. In 184 C.E., the Yellow Turbans wage a series of rebellions across the empire slaughtering government officials until they were eventually massacred by the army. Religion, philosophy, and government all reside together in Chinese culture. So when one of the three dramatically changes  so do the others thus, creating not only one, but numerous consequences within the empire. For example, one of the early emperors of the Han, Liu Bang, embraced the religious and political idea of Daoism which although proved to be somewhat effective in controlling the populace, it was catastrophic for the economy. The economy during that time was weak due to the Daoist beliefs of “standing idle” which in turn led to low productivity in the economic and military sectors. When Daoism gave way to Confucianism there was a immediate reaction to this. The economy boomed, the military could finally have enough funds to maintain a strong presence, and education among the aristocracy rose dramatically. This transition of political and religious ideas was positively accepted by the aristocracy but proved to be unpopular with the common people. Because of this change, taxes were raised which angered the commoners who virtually owned nothing in the first place. This consequence would eventually lead to the commoners rebelling against the aristocracy and the decline of Confucianism throughout the empire. The impacts of these dramatic political and religious changes had a profound effect on how the Han Dynasty fell. Without these major political and religious shifts, one could argue that the Han Dynasty could have lasted longer, but as it is only natural for ideas to evolve and change over time so do the ruling entities.

 

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Level 7

Level 7 – Undetermined Number of Sentences – Opinionated topic sentence (i.e., argument), three different points with specific examples, secondary information, specific dates/key figures, primary source evidence, manipulating key primary source information so that it is weaved into your own words through ellipses and/or brackets, specific vocabulary, appositives, insight, natural transitions that link to previous sentence, thoughtful conclusion.

 

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Level 7 The Rise of Christianity

Although the early Christians were a minority group who were constantly persecuted, they would ultimately triumph over the Roman Empire due to the economical, political, and religious circumstances of the time. In the year 312 A.D., the roman empire was in complete disarray with four emperors fighting in a bitter struggle to gain absolute power over the empire. Rising from amidst the chaos was a man named Constantine. Constantine, was one of the four emperors fighting to gain control of the empire. His main rival, the emperor Maxentius held Rome at that time and this was a major obstacle for Constantine. A day before the battle at Milvian Bridge, Constantine prayed for help from divine forces. He then saw a vision of the cross and immediately ordered his artisans to paint his soldiers’ shields with this symbol. Even though Maxetentius’s army outnumbered his own considerably, he ultimately prevailed with the help of God. A year later, Constantine declared the official end of the persecution of Christians in the empire with the Edict of Milan. Although Christians were no longer persecuted in the Roman Empire, the religion truly gained popular support due to the economic and religious circumstances at the time and before then. The disciples of Jesus (such as Paul and Peter) spread the message of Jesus’s “Good News” which appealed to the average Roman citizen of the time due to Jesus’s main teachings centered around the idea that the weak and the poor were blessed. A prime example of this can be found in the gospel of Luke in which a passage states, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20) This passage clearly illustrates how the teachings of Jesus appealed to the common Roman citizen in that and subsequent eras. During this period however, Christianity did not gain masses of followers as in the later periods because of the Pax Ramona and economic boom created by the emperor Caesar Augustus which in turn, created a sense of patriotism towards the state religion. However, after Caesar’s death the Roman Empire was in a state of gradual decline due to incompetent succeeding emperors, barbarian invasions, and the sheer size of the empire. This had an enormous impact on the economy of the Roman Empire because the later emperors not only spent large amounts of money on the military, but also inflated the economy by decreasing the use of silver in the coinage system. The Romans saw what was happening to their empire and soon doubted their government and religion because of the poverty created by the economic downturn. This was one of the most pivotal moments for the early Christians because although they were still being persecuted, they gained popularity with the populace of Rome and the empire as a whole. As a direct consequence to this Roman religion and patriotism began to decline at a rapid rate until they were both virtually dead. Christianity ultimately triumphed over the Roman Empire because of its steady decline in influence and power. While one empire fell another one rose. The new empire that rose was Christianity which is still arguably one of the most powerful even to this day. Christianity also triumphed in the fact that it would play a integral role in shaping western European society, thought, and history of which can still be seen to this day.

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Similarities Between The Matrix and Plato’s Cave

Plato’s Cave and The Matrix are both very similar to each other in a variety of respects. The Matrix‘s central theme of the “world” we know being a dream while in reality it is not, borrows heavily from the ideas of Plato’s Cave. For example, in Plato’s Cave the cave is the “world” as the people know it is not real and the outside world is the real world. Both show and express ideas about the “world” being just a dream when in reality it is not. The Matrix however, seems to have borrowed this concept from Plato’s Cave heavily as they are nearly identical in concepts but the only difference is The Matrix is set in modern times. Although both The Matrix and Plato’s Cave are just supposed logical questions about life as we know it,  they have seemed to have influenced our (humans) perspective in distinguishing between fantasy and reality.

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Mesopotamian vs. Ancient Greek vs. Jewish Religion

When it comes down to which religion offers the most freedom to women one could argue that the best one would be the Mesopotamian religion. This is because in Mesopotamian religion there seems to be no gender bias in their moral codes, behavioral structure, etc. Furthermore, women are honored because in Mesopotamian religion (and culture for that matter) they are portrayed as the bearers of new life and motherhood. If one was to compare the Mesopotamian religion to the Jewish or Greek religion one could clearly see that women in these religions contain little to no freedom. For example, in Jewish religion it seems as if they portray women as more of a “supporting character” rather than a “main character” (aka males). However, the same is not true for the Greeks. The Greeks do have goddesses in their religion and respect women as the bearers of life (like the Mesopotamians) but, they too seem to be sexist (refer to the ancient Olympic games as evidence). The tables make a dramatic turn for this next topic. In my opinion Judaism is the best religion for expressing God’s feeling towards the people who practice it. For example, the Jewish God is a loving God who cares for and watches over his people (so long as they worship ONLY him). Their God also shows that He is interested in forging a long lasting and personal relationship with His followers. When comparing Judaism’s God to the gods and goddesses of Mesopotamia and Greece, one can find that these other gods and goddesses don’t care about forming lasting relationships with mortals and tend to squabble amongst themselves. Lastly, when it comes to the moral goodness of nature, the body, and love, the Greek’s religion without a doubt illustrates all three of these things in a beautiful and meaningful way. For example, in the Iliad Homer describes the love scene between Zeus and Hera in a abstract, peaceful manner. The Greeks also stress the importance of love and nature (as evidenced by gods and goddesses such as Aphrodite and Bacchus). These ideas can be reflected by the Greeks literature and art because the Greeks showcase the beauty of all things in life. In conclusion, although all three religions are different, they all share ideas about how to live out our daily everyday lives and shed some form of explanation of what cannot be explained through science or logical understanding.

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Enuma Elish and Genesis

The Babylonian creation myth (Enuma Elish) when compared to the story of Adam and Eve contains many differences that stand out among them. The first main difference between them is that the Enuma Elish contains many deities (gods and goddesses) while in the story of Adam and Eve there is only one main deity (God). The second main difference is that the Enuma Elish is a conflict between Marduk and Tiamat. In contrast the story of Adam and Eve is not a conflict, but rather shows how God created the world. These two creation myths show how religion in the region over time transformed from a polytheistic and violent religion to a more monotheistic and subtle version of this. These differences are evident because of the differences stated above. One other factor that might have influenced the story of Adam and Eve is the Jewish captivity in Babylon. The absence of goddesses could have been due to the Jews viewing the Babylonians as sinful people in their point of view. This could have been due to the Babylonians burning down the temple in Jerusalem which was viewed as a very sacred place of worship for the Jews. The Jews might of been really pissed off because of this and so responded by rejecting the Babylonian’s religious views. Even though the Enuma Elish and the story of Adam and Eve are both very different one thing is for sure: they both show religious views on how the world we know today came to be.    

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Adam and Eve vs. Shamhat and Enkidu

Was it because of women mankind has been eternally cursed? In the story of Adam and Eve it sure sounds like it. Yeah that’s right all of mankind was damned because of one woman and her curiosity (I guess you can say curiosity really does kill the cat; or in this case Adam.) After all no one can deny the fact that it was a woman who stole from the Tree of Knowledge. In comparison Shamhat of the epic of Gilgamesh did the same thing to Enkidu, who for the first time in his life had his eyes opened and learned the ways of men. Sex in Adam and Eve is viewed as a necessity rather than as recreational. However in Gilgamesh, sex is viewed as some sort of recreational hobby to pass the time with as evidenced when Shamhat and Enkidu sleep with each other for 6 days. Woman are viewed in both stories as not being equal to men. In Adam and Eve Eve is always mentioned as the “human’s woman” showing evidence that woman are viewed as property rather than as actual human beings. The same thing is true about Shamhat in Gilgamesh where she is simply used to please men as a prostitute. The value of life in the story of Adam and Eve is so precious, that in fact God set up a wall of fire to deter Adam and Eve to reach the Tree of Life which would theoretically grant them immortality. In contrast the value of life in Gilgamesh is never directly stated but is hinted as being meaningless. Whatever the case both stories show overwhelming proof that “she did it” or aka “it’s her fault”. In other words regardless on these two stories views on sex, value of life, etc. both state that woman are sub-human and both state that women are here on this earth to serve men.

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Discussion

The in-class discussion we had today about the epic of Gilgamesh had us discussing and connecting Enkidu and his creator as Adam and God. They both shared the same thing in common: both had animal companions until they’re introduced to women. We also discussed how women were and still are viewed today as sub-human an idea that’s still debated even today.

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The Epic of Gilgamesh and Women as Unequals?

I was shocked by how much sexism there was in world religions. Before reading passages from Sins of Scripture I always had the assumption that religion teaches us to treat one another with respect. However, in this particular reading that’s hardly the case. If in Christianity God is depicted as a passionate, merciful God, then why did God encourage Adam (men in general) to view Eve (women) as simply just a helper and not as an equal to man. John Shelby Spong wrote a fantastic argument in his writing where he talked about nomads having gods while settled societies had goddesses. I especially liked the analogy he used to compare the primitive weapons used by the nomads (such as spears and arrows) and associating them with male sex organs. While associating the fertility of the land to fertility and females. John Shelby Spong elaborated on the topic of  sexual intercourse and illustrated this as one of the main ideas of his writing. This idea was expanded into the epic of Gilgamesh where it showed men as the dominate sex as well. However as said by John Shelby Spong, women’s only power to influence men was through seducing them through using their bodies. This fact puzzles me because the general public of today sees this as a sin, while in Gilgamesh it is seen as a sort of sacred ritual. Why did the ancient Sumerians think that the art of seduction was sacred? Has the general view of what’s moral and what’s not get radically changed because of western ideology and religion? 

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