Bruce Morrison » India and China Establish Empires, 400 B.C.– A.D. 550

India and China Establish Empires, 400 B.C.– A.D. 550

India and China establish powerful empires and develop strong, vibrant cultures.


Section 1: India’s First Empires

Section 2: Trade Spreads Indian Religions and Culture

Section 3: Han Emperors in China


Section 1: India’s First Empires

The Mauryas and the Guptas establish empires, but neither unifies India permanently.


The Mauryan Empire Is Established


Chandragupta Maurya Seizes Power

  • In 321 B.C., Chandragupta Maurya seizes power, starts Mauryan Empire. Chandragupta Maurya Unifies North India
  • Chandragupta defeats Seleucus I; north India united for first time
  • Chandragupta uses taxes to support his large army


Running the Empire

  • Chandragupta’s chief adviser is Kautilya, a priest
  • Chandragupta creates bureaucratic government
  • He divides the government to make it easier to rule


Life in the City and the Country

  • A Greek ambassador writes glowing praise of the empire
  • Chandragupta’s son rules from 301 to 269 B.C., 32 years
  • Asoka—Chandragupta’s grandson, brings the empire to its height


Asoka Promotes Buddhism

  • After a bloody war with Kalinga, Asoka promotes Buddhism and peace
  • Preachesreligious toleration—accepting people of different religions
  • Builds roads, with wells along them


A Period of Turmoil


The Breakup of the Mauryan Empire

  • Asoka dies in 232 B.C.; kingdoms in central India soon break away
  • The Andhra Dynasty dominates central India for centuries
  • Northern India receives immigrants from Greece, other parts of Asia
  • Tamils—a people living in southern India—remain separate and frequently war with rival peoples


The Gupta Empire Is Established


Chandra Gupta Builds an Empire

  • Chandra Gupta marries into kingship in north India in A.D. 320
  • StartsGupta Empire—India’s second empire; flowering of Indian civilization, especially Hindu culture
  • His son Samudra Gupta expands empire with conquest



Daily Life in India

  • Majority of Indians are farmers; entire family raises crops together
  • Families arepatriarchal—headed by the eldest male
  • Farmers have to contribute work to government and pay heavy taxes
  • Some Tamil families arematriarchal—led by mother rather than father


Height of the Gupta Empire

  • Chandra Gupta II rules from A.D. 375–415
  • He defeats the Shakas and adds western coast to empire
  • Gupta Empire sees flourishing of arts, religion, and science
  • After Chandra Gupta II dies, the empire declines


Section 2: Trade Spreads Indian Religions and Culture

Indian religions, culture, and science evolve and spread to other regions through trade.


Buddhism and Hinduism Change


Traditional Hindu and Buddhist Beliefs

  • Hinduism blends Aryan and other beliefs; belief in many gods
  • To Buddhists, desire causes suffering but suffering can be overcome


A More Popular Form of Buddhism

  • Belief inbodhisattvasdevelops—potential Buddhas who save humanity
  • Mahayana sect—Buddhists accepting new doctrines of worship, salvation
  • Theravada sect—Buddhists who follow original teachings of Buddha
  • Wealthy Buddhist merchants buildstupas—stone structures over relics


A Hindu Rebirth

  • Hinduism is remote from people by time of Mauryan Empire
  • Hinduism moves toward monotheism; gods part of one divine force
  • Chief gods:

-Brahma—creator of the world

-Vishnu—preserver of the world

-Shiva—destroyer of the world


Achievements of Indian Culture


Literature and the Performing Arts

  • Kalidasa—poet and dramatist, one of India’s greatest writers
  • His skillful and emotionally stirring plays still popular
  • Madurai writing academies create literature; 2,000 Tamil poems survive
  • Drama and dance troupes gain popularity and travel widely


Astronomy, Mathematics, and Medicine

  • Ocean trade leads to advances in astronomy
  • Indian astronomers in Gupta Empire prove that world is round
  • Mathematicians develop idea of zero and decimal system
  • Doctors write medical guides and make advances in surgery



The Spread of Indian Trade


India’s Valuable Resources

  • India has spices, diamonds, precious stones, and good quality wood


Overland Trade, East and West

  • Trade routes called Silk Roads connect Asia and Europe
  • Indians build trading posts to take advantage of the Silk Roads


Sea Trade, East and West

  • Indian merchants carry goods to Rome by sea
  • Merchants trade by sea with Africa, Arabia, China, Southeast Asia


Effects of Indian Trade

  • Increased trade leads to rise of banking
  • Bankers lend money to merchants, careful of degree of risk
  • Increased trade spreads Indian culture to other places
  • Trade brings Hinduism, Buddhism to other lands


Section 3: Han Emperors in China

The Han Dynasty expands China’s borders and develops a system of government that lasts for centuries.


The Han Restore Unity to China


Troubled Empire

  • In Qin Dynasty peasants resent high taxes and harsh labor, rebel Liu Bang Founds the Han Dynasty
  • Liu Bang defeats Xiang Yu, a rival for power, and founds Han Dynasty
  • Han Dynasty—begins in 202 B.C., lasts 400 years
  • Han Dynasty has great influence on Chinese people, culture
  • Liu Bang establishescentralized government—a central authority rules
  • Liu Bang lowers taxes and reduces punishments to keep people happy


The Empress Lü

  • Liu Bang dies in 195 B.C.; wife Lü seizes control of empire
  • Empress Lü rules for her young son, outlives him
  • Palace plots and power plays occur throughout Han Dynasty


The Martial Emperor

  • Liu Bang’s great-grandson Wudi rules from 141 to 87 B.C.
  • “Martial Emperor” Wudi defeats Xiongnu (nomads) and mountain tribes
  • Colonizes Manchuria, Korea, and as far south as what is now Vietnam


A Highly Structured Society


Emperor’s Role

  • Chinese believe their emperor has authority to rule from god
  • Believe prosperity reward of good rule; troubles reveal poor rule



Structures of Han Government

  • Complex bureaucracy runs Han government
  • People pay taxes and supply labor, military service
  • Government uses peasant labor to carry out public projects


Confucianism, the Road to Success

  • Wudi’s government employs 130,000; bureaucracy of 18 ranks of jobs
  • Civil service jobs—government jobs obtained through examinations
  • Job applicants begin to be tested on knowledge of Confucianism
  • Wudi favors Confucian scholars, builds school to train them
  • Only sons of wealthy can afford expensive schooling
  • Civil service system works well, continues until 1912


Han Technology, Commerce, and Culture


Technology Revolutionizes Chinese Life

  • Invention of paper in A.D. 105 helps spread education
  • Collar harness, plow, wheelbarrow improve farming


Agriculture Versus Commerce

  • As population grows, farming regarded as important activity
  • Government allowsmonopolies—control by one group over key industries
  • Techniques for producing silk become state secret as profits increase


The Han Unifies Chinese Culture


Bringing Different Peoples Under Chinese Rule

  • To unify empire, Chinese government encourages assimilation
  • Assimilation—integrating conquered peoples into Chinese culture
  • Writers encourage unity by recording Chinese history


Women’s Roles—Wives, Nuns, and Scholars

  • Most women work in the home and on the farm
  • Some upper-class women are educated, run shops, practice medicine


The Fall of the Han and Their Return


The Rich Take Advantage of the Poor

  • Large landowners gain control of more and more land
  • Gap between rich and poor increases


Wang Mang Overthrows the Han

  • Economic problems and weak emperors cause political instability
  • In A.D. 9, Wang Mang seizes power and stabilizes empire
  • Wang Mang is assassinated in A.D. 23; Han soon regain control


The Later Han Years

  • Peace restored, Later Han Dynasty lasts until A.D. 220