Questions and Answers for part I of Chapter 7, The Afro-Eurasian Network (800 BCE--200CE)
1) How did the caste system develop in India, and what features did it have that convinced most people to accept the socio-economic immobility (include consideration of varnas, atman, and karma)? 2) What and who challenged the existing caste system? 3) Why was Siddharth Gautama nicknamed, "the Enlightened One"? 4) What are bodhisattvas and to what extent are they comparable to saints in Christianity? 5) What was the course of Indian history after the birth of Buddhism -- Alexander the Great to Asoka the Great? 6) Why was the crossbow so important in early Chinese history? 7)To what extent was Confucianism comparable to Hinduism? 8) What qualified people for beauraucratic positions in Han China? 9) To what extent is Taoism comparable to Buddhism? 10) What was the significance of silk in Eurasia and to human history?
1) The caste sytem developed out of the invasions around 1500 BCE from the north (through the Kyber Pass) by the Aryas, a lighter-skinned who came off of the steppe (Iran) on horseback. They established a caste system (four main sections, or varnas) consisting of thousands of subcastes and castes. People accepted the premises of the system in part because it rewarded people for following the rules of their caste by allowing them to rise-up to the next caste according to their actions, or karma. Each person's atman, or soul, migrated at death either up or down a caste level according to their actions, or karma. 2) Practitioners of Yoga, or physical and mental discipline began to offer alternatives to the caste system; but it was not until Siddhartha Gautama (563-483BCE) that an organized alternative to Hinduism developed in the form of Buddhism. 3) He may have gotten the nickname, "Enlightened One" because he sought to reduce and elliminate suffering by living modestly and minimizing desire through self-discipline and meditation. His goal was to achieve Nirvana, or "snuffing out the flame" of reincarnation. 4) Bodhisattvas are comparable to saints in Christiantity to the extent that they are individuals who help others achieve enlightenment rather than going off alone to enjoy their wisdom. 5) India was invaded by Alexander the Great and then united under Asoka the Great, who became a Buddhist to atone for the acts of war he committed in uniting the country. In order to practice non-violence, he outlawed animal sacrifice and gave up hunting. The wheel of law symbol remains on Indias flag today. 6) The crossbow was the weapon of choice to defend themselves from invastions from horsement off of the Mongolian steppe. 7) Both philosophies stressed the importantce of following in the path of your place in society, however, Confucianism stressed your social relationships (e.g., brother to brother, young to old, husband to wife, parent to child, and king to subject), rather than one's social place in a particular social caste, based on occupation. 8) One's knowledge of Confucian philosophy qualified or disqualified applicants for positions in the government. 9) Lao Tsu, 50 years Confucius's senior did not appreciate beuraucratic hierarchy as something for which to strive. Rather, one should follow one's own path (the Tao) to right conduct. Taoism's emphasis on individual striving for Right Conduct is similar to Buddhism, however, most Buddhists (Mahayana) stress the Middle Path, a life not withdrawn from worldly concerns, but not caught up in them nonetheless. 10) The significance of silk in world history was great because bolts of silk served as a kind of currency on the Eurasian Steppe between the Han Chinese and Roman Empires. In the process of exchange on the silk road, things like horses and other specialties from Asia and Europe were exchanged. For example, peaches and apricots went from China to the Mediteranean; and grapes and alphalfa traveled from Europe to Asia. Inventions like the crossbow and paper also went from Asia to Europe. And perhaps most significantly, diseases were exchanged between the major urban centers accross Eurasia.