Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - African Civilization

Learning Outcomes

  1. Fully comprehend the historical and cultural context of African Civilization
  2. Explain the impact of foreign conquest on African Civilization
  3. Interpret African Civilization from the sociological and anthropological perspective
  4. Hypothesize the unity and essence of African Civilization
  5. Identify African Civilization as a gestaltive value of Africa

African Civilization In Historical and Cultural Context

The African landscape can be singled out as the origin of man, the origin of the Nile and the origin of the three monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). The civilizations that originated in the Rift and the Nile Valley were heavily influenced by two things:

  • the ancient Egyptian civilization
  • the three monotheistic faiths mentioned above

The entire region is also undeniably influenced by Africa for the following reasons:

  • First, Egyptian Civilization springing from the Nile Valley spread to the adjacent regions in Africa and the Middle East.
  • Second, the foundations of Judaism and Christianity were first laid down in Egypt, Africa.
  • Third, when the Prophet Muhammad started preaching the faith of Islam in Arabia, he was faced with persecution by the Meccans. As he battled his advesaries, he sent some of his most faithful followers to seek shelter in Abyssinia.

In the three historical records mentioned above, we see historical Africa serving as a source of the Nile Valley Civilizations and as a shelter and protector for the three monotheistic religions.

From the geographical perspective, the Egyptian Civilization is as African as that of Nubia, Ethiopia/Kush or Zimbabwe. The seeds of all civilizations are to be found in their cultural manifestations. Cultures are the macrocosm, offshoots or ripple effects of religion, family values, beliefs and rules of community management. John A. Wilson reflecting on the contrast between ancient African and Egyptian cultures as compared to ancient Asian cultures made the following observation:

The broad fields of the Delta opened out to Libya, to the Mediterranean and to Asia, whereas the long trough of Upper Egypt was hemmed in by blighted deserts. The agricultural richness of middle Egypt contrasted sharply with the poverty of southernmost Egypt. The two factors of insulation from strong outside influence and of wide internal variety helped explain the tolerant flexibility and genial sophistication. Certainly, the self-assurance, and the active sense of gaiety stood in contrast to an austerity which marked the Asiatic culture.

African Civilization and Outside Conquest

The interior of Africa was shrouded behind thick forests and jungles, making it not so easy for outside contact with Europe. For this reason Africa was often referred as The Dark Continent, indicating the ignorance of Europeans regarding Africa.

North and West Africa trade relations were long lasting and legendary in their orderly and technical management. Gold, salt, ivory, incense, grain, animal skin and precious minerals were exchanged with finished goods such as silk, jewelry and household implements. The Kingdoms of Maghreb, Fezzan and Libya were important powers, commanding trade and military presence extending to southwest and central Africa.

Islam and Africa

In 641 CE, Islam reached North Africa when Alexandria fell under Islamic control. North Africa began to experience new religious activity with irresistible secular and sacred commitments to spread the faith of Islam. Great Islamic centers of learning, such as Timbuktu thried in uniting the central and western parts of Africa. The traditional contact with interior Africa continued to flourish in trade, this time with Islam as the driving force for intensified trade in African goods.

The economic interaction continued with much vigor around 800 CE as the Arabs continued to utilize the ancient trade path paved by ancient traders using the same market cities.

The fervency of Islamic faith in Africa was not as ecstatic as to capture the imagination of African Muslims. The zeal and earnestness that inflamed the soldiers of the successive Rashidun was lacking in energy for the depths of theological orthodoxy.

The phase of the Islamization of Africa began after North Africa was Islamized, beginning with the conquest of Egypt by Arab forces around 639-641 CE. As early as 800 CE Islam became the dominant faith in West Africa as well with the acceptance of it by Ghanaian, Mali and Songhai Empires.

Europeanism, Colonialism and African Civilization

The term europeanism is used here to explain the analytical framework of Europeans in their study, description and conclusions of Africa, its people and its cultural values. The mental image embedded in European adventurers, explorers and colonialists was formed by the purpose and objective of slavery, colonialism and post-colonial monopoly capitalism. Africa was stripped of its precious resources and the indignity of being dominated does not enable its victims to confidently extol or glory in their civilizations.

The accepted global opinion by and large is that Western Civilization is temperamentally dynamic, adaptable, transformational and capable of creating political instruments for plebian and pluralist deliberations. But empirical observations do not support the universal adaptability of Western Civilization:

  • First, the concept of liberalism is regarded as an ultimate value of civilized societies. However exclusion, disfranchisement and grievous violations of human rights remain prevalent in liberal systems in measures like those regarded as illiberal and uncivilized
  • Second, if the Western societies make congratulory claims for their civilizations, the ruin and devastation they left in their wake, and the civilizational values of pathological defects must be elements of Western Civilization also.
  • Third, Western liberalism takes pride in its civilization because its democratic systems rooted in Western Civilization have resulted in scientific modernization and participatory democratization. While these are worthy claims, the advocates of Western civilization have failed in demonstrating the universal applicability of scientific modernization or democratic pluralism outside the West, Japan and South Korea being the exception.
  • Fourth, the spirit of Western democratization was adapted from practical applications of the Greek and Roman civilizations.
  • Fifth, in the immediate years after the Second World War, the decolonization campaigns, in tandem with the Leninist-Stalinist and Maoist revolutionary rhetoric, reverberated in the liberal capitalist countries such as Great Britain and United States.
  • Sixth, additional attitudinal orientations of the liberal sector of the Western ideology championed moderaton, toleration, human rights and plebiscital participation as testimonials for Western civilization. These are coming from the Greek and Roman roots but advcates of European Civilization can take pride in this heritage, they tend to demonstrate ambivalence when considering African and Third World civilizations have been arrested by invasions and retrograde attitudes of colonialism.
  • Finally, conservative intellectuals coalesced their energies into rightwing reactionary thought, reviving the classical variety of liberalism. They trace their ideological birth to ancient Greece. They regard any other thoughts and ideologies as radical anti-West.

Note: As a student I really didn’t see what’s the connection with this criticism of western civilization in regard with the title. Seriously, wth?

African Civilization in Sociological and Anthropological Context

The anthropological and sociological contexts reflect societies’ indigenous identities. This research attempts to identify the fusion between anthropological, sociological and cultural features from which civilizational behaviors and civilizations rise.

African Civilization reflects the African people’s cultural heritage and the components of their soil and environmental habitat. The people of Africa represent a mural or a multifaceted tapestry covering the entire continent by shades of skin color ranging from dark, brown and light brown.

Strong civilizations such as that of ancient Egypt can affect geographical overlap where the components of the civilization such as architectural, linguistic, and religious features are embraced by those with whom they came in contact. The extent to which linguistic characteristics of ancient Egypt are cognate to Greek, Latin, Nubian, Yoruba or Ethiopic languages tell us the anthropological relationship of the ancient Egyptians and their neighbors.

The Unity and Essence of African Civilization

The Unity and Essence of African Civilization is the macrocosm of those civilizations that emerged in the continent of Africa. African civilization linked to the anthropological and sociological foundations is inseparable from the identifying characteristics of the Egyptian Civilization.

Unfortunately, Egyptologists adapted a myth stating that the Sahara Desert was an insurmountable gap separating the southern from the northern region of Africa.

Articulating African Civilization

From the macrocosm of the broad features of African civilization, it becomes possible to give a generalized unity and pointed articulation of African Civilization. THe historical, cultural, sociological and anthropological factors described above, give benchmarks that describe the totality and unity of African Civilization.

Basil Davidson states that ancient Africa’s kingdoms are: “among the oldest institutions anywhere; they look out of the mist of antiquity like the unknown ghosts of ancestral nations that have no certain place or name and yet are not to be denied”.

Merrick Posnansky argues that African civilization is expressed in its regional settings as an adaptation of Hamitic and Nilotic origins.

George Murdock makes cogent observation of how ecologcal fallacy can beguile scholars into making conclusions fraught with inaccuracies.

The above analyses are an attempt to capture the uniting features of African civilization:

  • The river valleys where small communities thrived, inspired by their geographical environment to plant the seeds of stellar civilizations
  • The Egyptian civilization emerged around 3100 BCE interacting with its geographical orientations
  • Nubia, Libya and Kush exchanged leadership and custodial authorities over each of these civilizations.
  • Libya, during the Twelfth Dynasty, was the dominant ruler of Egypt, its authority reached as far as Palestine on the northeast and the entire Maghreb expanse of and West Africa.
  • At the time when the twenty-fifth Nubian Dynasty was at the seat of the Egyptian Throne, its trade, diplomatic and military outreaches covered East Africa, the Middle East through the Red Sea and conquered Palestine/Israel.
  • Other African civilizations such as Ghanaian, the Mali and the Songhai empires exhibit linguistic, cultural, life-style, family structures, community hierarchies like the Egyptian civilization.
  • The rise of Islam provided another uniting foundation of belief, but it was interrupted before it could take on the firm foundations of Islamic civilization with an African Character.
  • West Africa, from ancient times to today, possesses massive natural resources in the form of gold, diamonds, ivory, animal skins, grains, incense, palm oil, dates and hard wood.

The interior cities in West Africa (Kumbi Saleeh,Awdaghost, Timbuktu, Tidjikja, and Ghadames) served as hub markets. The terminal ports were Carthage, Alexandria, Marrakesh, Tripoli, Leptis Magna.

Chapter 2 - The Chinese and Japanese Civilizations

Learning Outcomes

  1. Recount the origin of the Chinese and Japanese civilizations within the broad context of historical events.
  2. Demonstrate how Buddhism impacted the Chinese and Japanese civilizations and how Shinto influenced the Japanese civilization
  3. Interpret the dynamics of the Chinese versus Japanese societies in the pursuit of the balanced life
  4. Apply knowledge of Chinese and Japanese culture to comprehend their impact on other civilizations
  5. Summarize how the infrastructure of the Chinese and Japanese civilizations contribute to the development of their own world and world civilizations
  6. Recognize the major events of the Chinese and Japanese civilizations.

The Origin of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations

Chinese Civilization

Chinese civilization is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. It existed for 5000 years which makes it existing for the 83 percent of recorded history. The beginning of the Chinese culture is believed to start in Neolithic Times with the Yangshao Culture, which established itself around the Yellow River valley and lasted until 3000 BCE. The beginning of this culture in a valley doesn’t surprise us, because many of the primitive cultures flourished in those areas which favored easy food production and water finding.

Later this culture was superseded by Longshan culture and it flourished for a thousand years. This culture’s most prominent city was Jinan, which exists even today and hosts 7 million people. In its time this city was famous for its intricate wheel-made pottery.

After the Longshan came the Xia dynasty which ruled between 2100 and 1600 BCE. Some ancient documents describe this dynasty as the first one.

[Then the book fast forwards to the contemporary times for a weird reason]

The problem the chinese civilization encounters today can be summarized as thus: This globalized civilization is overpopulated and due to this it is on a crossroads. Wil they provide a way to sustain human civilization in the 21st century or experience a downfall with the depletion of resources?

Even though they face a hard question such as stated above, this civilization is enjoying its second turn as the world leader. Their first turn was in the first half of the second millenium when China was roughly at the same level with Europe in scientific knowledge. But after the decision made by Emperor Hongi to destroy the naval fleet, naval experience and logs, they lost their sea presence and with the construction of the Great Wall (which started to be built in 1358) it became an isolated nation. This isolation brought them passivity and with this passivity they became subordinate to foreign rulers and invaders.

Since the Long March, which happened in the 1930s, China is shedding this passivity away. They have begun to think about themselves as the original settlers of China and have tried to throw off their submission to foreigners. In addition to that they have started to close the technological gap between themselves and Europe. We can say that today China is one of the key players in politics, economics, science and technology. The main reason for this newly found dominance is they have became the World Factory, with the increasing effect of outsourcing, and because of that they have also became the primary debt collector of the Western Civilization.

We should also note the many cultural revolutions Chinese have undergone, such as:

  • The Long March btw 1934-36
  • Cultural Surge btw 1966-76
  • Eight Elders btw 1978-92

These have occured about 246 years after the English Revolution in 1688 and 145 years after the French Revolution in 1789. Now they are outperforming the European Industrial Revolution. And, as we have said, became the World Factory.

Japanese Civilization

The early culture of Japan is primarily influenced by Mongols. From 250 BCE to 300 CE, Yayoi culture prevailed and introduced rice farming, iron and bronze technology and weaving. This society was matriarchal but later in Japanese history this aspect turned into a patriarchy.

After this period, Korean influences affected this culture with better iron weaponry and horseback fighting. This led to Yamato period of the Japanese Culture. At the start of this period (300 CE) Japanese was divided into many combatant clans but progressively Yamato unified them under one banner and one Goddess, Amaterasu. This period is especially important when we consider that the japanese imperial family still traces their lineage back to them. By the way, the emperor’s duties were mostly concerning Shinto, which reflects the “Way of the Gods” and emphasized the role of the forces of nature. This religion mostly focuses on ritual purification and this aspect explains why the Japanese insistence on baths and cleanliness.

In the 5th century CE, the growing power and sophistication of the Japanese state were making its society more open to Chinese culture coming in from Korea. The most important influence of this cultural flow was the introduction of Buddhism and Confucianism. Also with Buddhism the Chinese writing was introduced to Japan as well. In addition to writing, Confucianism brought two important elements: A strict hierarchy of relationships and advancement by merit. The latter was met with resistance from the hereditary Japanese nobility.

This cultural exposure resulted in some Japanese governmental reforms in the 600s. The Chinese concepts of a supreme ruler, supported by a centralized bureaucracy and advancement through merit were adopted in Japan. This replaced the hereditary Uji ranks as the principal basis of status. A hundred years later, central government introduced law codes and a taxation system modeled after that of T’ang China. But Japanese never adopted the Chinese Mandate of Heaven doctrine.

In 1867, Tokugawa Shogunate malformed and gave way to Meiji Restoration. The capital is moved to Tokyo from Kyoto and Japanese focused on industrialization and modernization. After WWI Japanese economy began to falter and hit its lowest point in 1926, which was the date of the Great Depression. The recession, combined with domestic political turmoil resulted in an augmented militarist movement in Japan.

This imperialist and expansionist policy soon aimed to dominate China to obtain its resources. Some small scale skirmishes occured in 1930s, this resulted in a full blown war in 1937. Then the United States joined to that war on December 8, 1941 - after the attack on Pearl Harbor which culminated in throwing two nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagazaki.

The Religion of the Chinese Civilization

Buddhism in China

Even though Buddhism was imported from India, it became a widely accepted religion in China. This religion offered the prospect of salvation and promises a chance of entering the Nirvana. Needless to say, Buddhist monasteries can be found in almost all provinces of China and play as a central role in Chinese spirituality.

One of the quirks of Chinese outlook on religion is its syncretic (multi-faith) system. A Chinese might be a Confucian at work, a Daoist at home and maybe visit a Buddhist temple to burn incense and pray.

We can say that Chinese religions have evolved from philosophy to religion, even now these systems carry their philosophical teachings. Also these religions tend to be stratified. Perhaps most members of the upper class tend to practice Confucianism; some educated men, philosophers and others may keep a strong tie with Daoism. The rest just follow a mishmash of all religions.