The location of ancient Chinese civilization China is a vast country with a huge range of terrains and climates within it. Above all, the great river systems of China, the Yellow River to the north and the Yangtze to the south, which have given Chinese civilization its distinctive character. A large part of this area is covered by loess soil. This very fine earth has blown in from the highlands of central Asia over thousands of years, and makes one of the most fertile soils in the world. In ancient times, the main crop in northern China was millet, a highly nutritious food still grown in many parts of the world as a major crop.
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In this book of primary sources, Ebrey has selected passages that reflect the ongoing development of Chinese culture a daunting task for one volume. There are some obvious selections with lasting relevance, such as this passage from the Laozi: Do not honor the worthy, And the people will not compete. Do not value rare treasures, And the people will not steal. Do not display what others want, And the people will not have their hearts confused.
A sage governs this way: He empties peoples minds and fills In this book of primary sources, Ebrey has selected passages that reflect the ongoing development of Chinese culture — a daunting task for one volume. He weakens their wills and strengthens their bones. Keep the people always without knowledge and without desires, For then the clever will not dare act.
Engage in no action and order will prevail. These represent financial competition with the people which undermines their native honesty and promotes selfishness. As a result, few among the people take up the fundamental pursuits [agriculture] while many flock to the secondary [trade and industry].
When artificiality thrives, simplicity declines; when the secondary flourishes, the basic decays. Stress on the secondary makes the people decadent; emphasis on the basic keeps them unsophisticated. When the people are unsophisticated, wealth abounds; when they are extravagant, cold and hunger ensue. All in all, this is an interesting read.
Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2nd Ed
Patricia Buckley Ebrey