Post-Classical Era Summary Term Paper
The author uses part three of the book to explain historical occurrences in postclassical society. This part is subdivided into four chapters where each piece talks about fundamental social and religious practices, which shaped communities in the world. Chapter 13 presents cultural and religious organizations in China, where Buddhism was the dominant religion. Chapter 14 explains the origin and spread of Islam in the Middle East while chapter 15 describes the trade and cultural exchanges in India and the Indian Ocean basin. To understand more about the two worlds or Christendom, chapter 16 illustrates the growth of the Byzantine Empire and the subsequent emergence of churches in Rome. Finally, chapter 17 describes cross-cultural interactions, economic developments, and the expeditions of the nomadic communities such as the famous Mongols until the time they built empires.
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Chapter 13 Summary: The Postclassical Era
This chapter introduces happenings during the postclassical era in the Eastern Hemisphere where nations such as China, India, and Japan underwent a period of intense restoration of order. The chapter commences with the elucidations of Xuanzang’s eyewitness events. The ruling empire in the seventh century in China had forbidden travel beyond the border. However, the young and ambitious Xuanzang used the cover of darkness to find his way to the center of Buddhism in India, where he learned more about the religion before bringing it back to China (Bentley et al. 265). Soon, China became the iconic center of Buddhist practices for the societies in East Asia.
To restore a centralized imperial rule in China after centuries, following the collapse of the Ham dynasty, the nation remained under a decentralized leadership characterized by kingdoms. However, Yang Jian established the Sui Empire and further rallied military campaigns that finally restored a centralized administration in China (Bentley et al. 266). The Sui Empire lasted for less than 30 years while leaving its traditions to influence China for the rest of its history. One notable accomplishment of the Sui dynasty was the construction of a Grand Canal under strict oppressive taxation regimes and increased use of forced labor (267). The ultimate rebellion from the subjects brought the empire to a halt, which encouraged the Tang dynasty to reign.
Tang Taizhong’s empire lasted for three hundred years due to select leaders’ strategic governance plans. Although Taizhong murdered his brothers and pushed his father away to reign unchallenged, the equal field system policy helped him to achieve much control over his people. He further improved communication and transportation networks besides relying on merited bureaucracy policies (Bentley et al. 368). Taizhong expanded his military composition and further strengthened international relationships. Soon, the empire declined when the kingdom’s armed forces seized and sabotaged the leaders who had neglected locals’ public affairs and needs. The collapse of the Tang dynasty ushered a more stable Song Dynasty (Bentley et al. 269). As the Song rulers had mistrust in the defence personnel, they emphasized work on industrialization, arts, civil administration, and education. With increased generous payouts to administrators and perceived oppression of locals through taxing, the empire collapsed after the Mongols’ inversion in 1279 C.E.
Economically, Song and Tang dynasties drastically empowered and facilitated developments in China due to reliance on agriculture, trade, and foreign relationships. The empires empowered agricultural sectors by introducing fast ripening rice, which multiplied the food production in the region. Secondly, they added new farming techniques, which broadly expanded the population to 115 million people by 1200 C.E. (Bentley et al. 272). Soon, urbanization started emerging as other people practiced traditional binding of the foot. The patriarchal society was also revamped as people observed family customs by venerating ancestors. At some time, a woman ruler named Wu Zhao became the first to claim an imperial title to rule the emperor in 690 C.E. (Bentley et al. 275). These dynasties also experienced industrial and technological revolutions in the areas of gunpowder, metallurgy, porcelains, naval technology, and printing. Later, a market economy was established where paper money was created (276). The nation further developed culturally, where Buddhism remained a religious form of worship with significant influence on China, Japan, and Korea (280). Although Christians, Muslims, and Zoroastrians had holy centers in China, only Buddhism dominated. Therefore, the postclassical era sustained itself with the help of economic dynamism and social organization.
Chapter 14 Summary: The Expansive Realm of Islam
When Islam emerged in the Arab world, religion closely reflected the social and cultural norms of the homeland. In this chapter, the author provides a profound description of the life of early Muhammad and his pioneering work of Islam. The author says that he was born in a family of merchants in Mecca (Bentley et al. 290). He faced many difficulties in his early life until his marriage to a wealthy widow who was his employer. With a basic understanding of both Christianity and Judaism, he reached a spiritual conviction that the world had only one deity, Allah, who considered worship of idols as wickedness, and whose partakers would receive severe judgment and punishment after death (291). Following his teachings about Allah and doctrines about the ways of life, his disciples wrote the Quran and the hadith as its guide.
As Muhammad continued to proclaim the will of Allah to the city of Mecca, he received a mounting opposition that ultimately caused his migration to Medina. He had preached against polytheism, idol worship, and greed, which attracted hostility from the wealthy merchants in Mecca. His movement to Medina marked the start of Umma, the Islam calendar (Bentley et al. 292). He established Islam among the exiles and led a team of conquerors to Mecca where he died after converting a large portion of the Arab world to practice Islam (294). During his time, he wrote and ratified the five pillars of Islam, the Jihad, and the Islam Law – Sharia.
After the demise of Prophet Muhammad, his followers engaged in a ruthless venture of conquering and spreading Islam to different parts of the world. They took Islam to South West Asia, Mediterranean Islands, India, Central Asia, North African, and Iberia (Bentley et al. 295). With the increased expansion of Islam, communication and the trade networks widened, and also encouraged travelers to pass through new lands as they introduce fresh crops. The explorers further encountered old cultural practices and religious institutions such as Hinduism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Greek philosophy, Persian literature, and science. As the Muslim thinkers came across these modern practices, they readily adopted them into their culture (303). Therefore, the people they interacted with in the visited societies accepted Islam, which further widened the communication networks to favor trade among communities and nations (309). Eventually, the postclassical era received dar al-Islam as a prominent and prosperous cosmopolitan society.
Chapter 15 Summary: India and the Indian Ocean Basin
The author uses this chapter to explain the appearance of India and its kingdoms during the post-classical era. He says that the land of India remained decentralized with political divisions from the time of Gupta dynasty’s collapse to the end of the sixteenth century under the Turkish rule (Bentley et al. 314). King Harsha wanted to maintain an imperial government with centralized control after the end of the Gupta empire. Using his military forces composed of 20 thousand cavalry, infantry, and war elephants, he proclaimed his rule by subduing everyone who opposed him (314). His empire stretched out to the Himalayas and western parts of India under the administration of embassies. He was a Buddhist who still welcomed the other religions and gave considerable patronage to scholars (315). However, the centralized control ended when Harsha died in the hands of an assassin while he was on a mission to strengthen his other empires.
Later, Muslims realized the presence of increased political combats in Northern India. They seized this opportunity to introduce Islam to the people of India. Therefore, various methods promoted the penetration of Islam into India’s interiors. Firstly, the Muslim militants conquered Sind to find their ways into the Indian territories (Bentley et al. 315). Secondly, Muslim merchants established themselves along the coastal areas of India where they married local women and instilled the Islamic doctrines into the surrounding people (316). Thirdly, they migrated and invaded local rulers who were mainly Turkish speakers (316). Soon, Abbasid caliphate accepted most of the Turkish men as mercenary soldiers who helped to spread Islam over India. A fourth way was through the struggles of the Mahmud of Ghazni (316). As an Afghanistan leader of the Turks, Mahmud spent most of his time on the battle field. When he turned to the fertile land in South India, he launched military campaigns, destroyed Buddhist temples and seized their wealth. His successor, the Sultanate of Delhi, promoted similar battles before establishing an Islamic State in Delhi (317). Therefore, wars continued to wreck havoc on the northern people until most of the sultans died in the hands of assassins.
In Southern India, Hindi kingdoms existed even though they did not receive much disturbance from the people in the North. The Chola Kingdom persisted with increased dominance of the Deep South (Bentley et al. 318). The southern leaders were more interested in profits than centralized control. Under the support of the Sultan State, the Kingdom of Vijayanagar also persisted in the South (318). However, it allowed trade on the coastal line of the Indian basin but with reduced central control of the subcontinent.
Like other nations, India benefited from the new techniques of agricultural development. Due to increasing agricultural production, the population in both the north and the south increased as well. Moreover, there was a burgeoning level of urbanization in this postclassical era where trade promoted economic growth and specialization in industries. For the first time, people along the coastal regions of the Indian Ocean basin experienced positive changes in social and financial reorganization. Moreover, India enjoyed increased prosperity as it became a clearinghouse for trade products such as pepper, iron, sugar, cotton, and steel.
Postclassical India also experienced significant religious and cultural interference from the outside forces. For the most part, Hinduism traditions had a paramount influence on the economies of other nations such as China. With time, both Hinduism and Islam remained the landmark and popular religions of the Indian continent (Bentley et al. 326). In return, merchants participated in trade, especially along the Indian Ocean where they spread Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism to the lands in the southeast. The process of converting to Islam was rather easy as a person only required to proclaim the encouraging doctrines and allow the people to apply them while keeping their traditional practices (331). This concept of freedom is what promoted the spread of Islam in India.
Chapter 16 Summary: The Two Worlds of Christendom
The Roman reign faced opposition from both the Islam and Germanic authority. The people of Germany had tried to impose their rule on the Western Roman Empire, but their series of trials did not succeed. The Franks instituted Germanic states and soon failed when Germanics felt that they were victims of internal power struggles.
The early Byzantine Empire emerged due to its strategic location in the fishing town with a modest market. With their full control of the Bosporus water, which was a straight seaway stretching from the black sea to the Marmara Sea to the fertile regions of Anatolia. At one time, the Roman Empire named Constantine realized the strategic location of the Byzantine, to construct a capital city where they collected more revenue, and still established central control over Germanics to the south and the Sasanid Empire in Persia. In 330, the city moved to Constantinople in the 330 CE with magnificent marble places, museums, libraries, and artistic treasures. The city later fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1253 C.E. who renamed it, Istanbul. Constantine and his successors had introduced Caesaropapism, which required the empire to rule as a secular lord and an active participant in ecclesiastical matters (338). The rulers lived an exalted life with prominent robes, and demanded unmeasurable respect from the rulers.
Some of the most famous rulers of the Byzantine Empire were Justinian and Theodora. As part of their hard work, they constructed a marvel church named Hagia Sophia and codified the Roman laws (Bentley et al. 339). In his efforts, Justinian conquered most cities of North African, Italy, and other surrounding regions, but the project stalled after his death. Soon, the Byzantine rulers remained a dominant force in the Mediterranean region of the east. The western part of Europe experienced turmoil from Viking attacks and other invaders (333). However, it deployed resources that finally allowed it to regain stability in this region.
The Christendom developed socially and economically, and in parallel with their Islamic counterparts. Along the borders of the Byzantine Empire was a region of cultural zones, which housed Islamists, Buddhists, and Theravada adherents (Bentley et al. 348). However, the Byzantine Empire relied heavily on Christianity as a foundation for its cultural practices.
Both Western Europe and the Byzantine Christian societies evolved when churches sent missionaries to the north in Russia and Slovakia. In the home territories, the divisions spread to the Roman Church in Western Europe and the Orthodox Church (Bentley et al. 351). The Roman church in the west had strong hierarchical structures under the leadership of popes and patriarchs (351). The empire also experienced the emergence of Asceticism who were people that devoted most of their lives on living holy lives. Some monastics such as St. Basil and St. Benedict participated in the reformists’ movements by living practical Christian lives as they exercised authority and leadership (352). Soon, the Byzantines utilized the Kiev as their sole conduit for missionary activities in Russia under the support of Vladimir.
Overall, the Byzantine Empire managed to withstand ruthless rulers in neighboring nations. They established churches to spread Christian doctrines in the lands. Along the way, internal differences arose within the churches and ultimately led to the development of new churches. The schism between the eastern and western churches persists till the present day.
Summary of Chapter 17: Revived Networks, and increased Cross-Cultural Interaction
The period between 1000 and 1500 C.E. proclaims a substantial cultural change among the European people after the inversion of the Nomadic Turks and the Mongols. In this mission, they promoted trade and communication networks, which opened avenues for trade. Soon, economic integration widened where merchants along the Indian Ocean coastal lines started trading in bulky goods such as timber (Bentley et al. 360). As agricultural production increased due to the demographic widening, the trade among cities was also revamped.
In the West, Oceania and Native American people also experienced centralization and agricultural growth. In North America, agrarian practices persisted as the central dwellers worked in organized, centralized empires. However, the Pacific Islanders had limited fishing and farming lands, which allowed them to operate decentralized kingdoms.
In central Asia, the Turkish people existed in clans with distinct economic and social structures. Most of the nomadic people in central Asia kept herds and flocks of animals. Life in the desert was a struggle, as the people would congregate near water sources to practice small-scale farming as they produced leather, tools, and iron. With their intense experience of routes in central Asia, they linked caravans among the settled communities. The Turkish nomads had elites who organized treaties and political leadership. They worshiped Shamans before converting to Islam under the forces of Abbasid caliphate (366). With time, they conquered settled communities in India and Eastern Asia to establish their kingdoms.
The early periods also saw the rise of the Mongols, who were initially Eastern Asian nomads. Since the Mongols were divided, Temiijin become the universal ruler who ultimately unified these people under his reign as Chinggis Khan (Bentley et al. 368). The Mongols soon formed a powerful army, which championed its conquests among settled communities in Northern China and Eastern Europe. Over time, the Mongolians launched vicious attacks in the lands of Persia and Southern China where they established their rule over the people (376). The Mongols experienced challenging management issues, which finally led to their collapse.
Later, the Osman Empire sprang into action with its strong tactical army. They exercised leadership over most parts of Persia before moving out to capture the Byzantine Empire. Continued power struggles led to a series of military campaigns where Ottoman amassed massive support (Bentley et al. 379). In 1350, they expanded their territory to the Balkans in their thorough preparation to conquer Constantinople, which happened in 1453 under the leadership of Sultan Mehmed II (380). He gained control of the region and later renamed it Istanbul.
Overall, the settled societies experienced great agricultural prosperity and economic development while nomads moved from one place to another in search of resources. Turkish tribes, and the Mongols were some of the nomads who used their travel skills to target specific communities for conquest. They had great equestrian skills and adept with bows and arrows needed for warfare. These individuals subsequently seized communities to impose their rule on the subjects. The strategy worked quite well in the entire region of the Eastern and Southern China, Persia, and Eurasia.
Bentley, Jerry H., et al. Traditions & Encounters. McGraw-Hill, 2015.