Seven Blocks of Civilization: A case of Egyptian and Chinese Civilization

Civilization refers to the most advanced stage of human social development. It is, therefore, that process through which a society reaches their advanced stage of social development. It further involves refinement of intellectual and cultural aspects of the society. Among some of the civilizations are Egyptian and Chinese civilizations. These civilizations grew gradually over time developing to what they are today. The essay, therefore, discusses Chinese and Egyptian civilization and using the seven blocks of civilization and how they impacted the two societies.

Firstly, literacy or systems of writing is a fundamental building block of civilization in the world. All the world’s great civilizations developed their forms of writing[1]. They not only developed this but also preserved some form of their experience, accomplishments and some manifestations of the religious or philosophical world view that such societies had. For instance, Egyptian civilization involved a development of writing. Even though it argued that the idea originated from Mesopotamia, it was a script independent of Cuneiform. Egyptian writing can be traced from back in the times of pictographic which were later to be combined by sound signs to produce a script that was referred to by the Greeks as Hieroglyphics.

Similarly, the Chinese underwent the same transition to gain civilization. During the Shang era, the Chinese people produced oracle bones and turtle shells which were inscribed with some signs and symbols. To date, many of these symbols and characters are recognizable as Chinese writing forms or characters if you may. The long engravings that the Chinese did represent some form of civilization through mature writing forms.

Secondly is public architecture[2]. This includes monumental buildings that are society specific and is informed by their culture or way of life. All cultures engaged their large populations in constructing monumental structures. These structures included defensive fortification or essential shelters. In China, there exist the Bulk city walls of Babylon. Additionally, there is the Great Wall of China. Not only did this monumental buildings furnish the lives of the society but also provided for security. In Egypt, there was the construction of the Pyramids that were used as the burial tombs for pharaohs. The pyramids were of very technical engineering skills and a show of the royal power that existed in the early times.

Thirdly is the creature of comfort or permanent habitations[3]. These include the construction of suitable housing that would provide favorable habitat conditions.  A safe and furnished, secure habitat is a very fundamental consideration for civilization, especially in the urban centers. With the advancement of human social development, housing needs like plumbing, heating, and bathing facilities as well as latrine services become a significant part of the housing developments. Roads were improved to increase access and sewerage constructed to take away domestic waste. The pyramids of Egypt were remarkably great housing constructions. Accesses to them were improved through well-constructed roads, and they were termed as “great house”. In China, the look of the buildings was impressive with a visually attractive style of art. The colorful ceiling on their roofs informed their artistic traditions and greatness in designs.

The fourth is the public wealth[4]. This was determined by society’s ability to extract and store wealth for the purpose of its economic progress. These were majorly obtained through taxations and tributes. There were also rents and dues that were obtained by those who were in the elite class to sustain them. The ruling elites also imposed taxes and rates on the people to build their economic muscles. On some occasions the taxation levels, interest rates and tributes imposed on the population would impoverish them causing resentments that would spark rebellion within the society. The Chinese had a powerful military that was viewed to have godly powers and was used by the kingdoms to collect the tax. There were administrative centers headed by rulers who collected tax from the populace. In Egypt, the pharaohs were very powerful and under them were carefully graded hierarchy that ranged from governors of provinces to the mayors and down to tax collectors. The system was well supported by the artisans ho were taxed and slaves who provided labor. The artisans and peasants would be heavily taxed with their lives exceedingly regulated.

Additionally, elites and social hierarchy is critical as a building block of civilization[5]. All civilizations of the world sort of developed some form of stratification. At the top of the class existed the elites who had much control and influence. They would include warriors, priests, royal dynasties and noble aristocracies. The elites in the society drew upon the surplus of the peasants to sustain themselves.  As such they freed themselves from participating in day to day labor. They furnished the protection of the military, religious direction and social order not to forget legal authority. In Egyptian civilization, in the ruling caste, the priest, for instance, was a very important person. Pharaohs was worked for and obeyed and raised in exalted levels. In China, there were specific sites for elite burials, statutes that were related to the warship of elite figures that were viewed as important and revered.

Further, professions are a building block of civilization[6]. This implies that the population would separate into specialized groups that perform specialized functions in the society. This involved craftsmen, artisans, merchants, agricultural laborers, carpentry among others. This emerged in the wake of surplus production of food that, so people engage in various other activities. In China, for example, there were the artisans who engaged in the construction of buildings, sculptures who sculptured who made the beautiful ceramic statues and also those who made ceremonial elements. In Egyptian civilization, there were artisans and farmers. Similarly, there were those who became merchants.

Finally, the growth of urban centers and cities that had dense settlements contributed to civilization in both China and Egypt[7]. This was because their cultures enabled adoption of an existence that would enable food production to surplus levels thus capable of feeding the population.  Therefore, urban centers emerged with growth and expansion of agricultural settlements and associated trade. In Egypt, urban centers like Thebes and El Amarna were civilization outcomes and so are with Chinese Hongzhu and Liangzhu.

[1]               Strayer, Robert W. Ways of the World, a Brief Global History, Volume I: To 1500. Macmillan, 2012.

  1. Ibid, 36

[3]               Ibid, 37

[4]               Ibid, 38

[5]               Ibid, 39

[6]               Ibid, 41

[7]               Ibid, 47

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