There were four main ancient River Valley civilizations: the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia, the Nile River of Egypt, the Indus River of India, and the Yellow River of China. These civilizations showed specific similarities and contrasting differences. Many of these differences and similarities showed up in the three categories of the technological advances, the types of government, and the geography of the civilization. Two civilizations that are very interesting to delve deeper into and study the contrasting societies are China and Egypt.
Since China and Egypt were both isolated from the outside, they developed with a strong focus on technology and learning with strong governments to hold the nations together. One similarity between the two is writing. Both had a very sophisticated, strange way of communicating in writing. Egypt and China both used symbols for their writing. The symbols had no relation at all to the language of either civilization. Egypt called this writing hieroglyphics. This writing was used chiefly in recording spells and keeping records. Similarly, Chinese writing was used for keeping a record of trade and money transactions.
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Both civilizations also required an irrigation system to help regulate and utilize the nearby rivers’ sources. However, this is where the similarities of technology ends. Egyptians focused primarily on the afterlife. They built grand pyramids as burial sites and afterlife protection for Pharaohs and important nobles. The Chinese spent their efforts building roads for easier trade and canals for efficient, improved farming. The Chinese also created the blast furnace. This resulted in cast iron and better weapons and agricultural tools. The Egyptians, however, created the calendar.
This was very important in their society because it helped to keep track of when the floods would arrive and when the farmers should begin planting. Without the calendar, the Egyptians may have never survived and thrived as long. The Egyptians had surgeons able to set broken bones, and the Chinese has coined money to improve trade. It seems that the Egyptian culture focused more on intellectual contributions, while China focused more on farming and weapon contributions. China and Egypt required strong leadership to keep their lands and people in order. Without both of these strong, successful governments, both the ations could not have survived or thrived and would have quickly fell into ruins. However, China and Egypt both had contrasting governments. China’s government was feudalistic. Since China was a very vast nation, nobles watched over pieces of the land, and the emperor watched over the nobles. Egypt had a Pharaoh who watched over Upper and Lower Egypt. This is one difference: China had separate rulers reporting to one ruler, while Egypt had one ruler over everyone. The Chinese created an easy, efficient way of keeping track of everything happening in the kingdom.
Egypt, however, was not nearly as huge as China, so a Pharaoh helped to unify Upper and Lower Egypt. The pharaoh is considered to be a god in human form. On the other hand, in China, the emperor is simply a normal person with a special right called the Mandate of Heaven, which is sent from heaven. This is the Chinese explanation for wars and rebellion against the emperor. If a ruler is wicked or foolish, he loses the Mandate to Heaven and, therefore, the right to rule. Although very different, both governments base their entire rule on divine forces; the emperor is chosen by heaven and the pharaoh is a god himself.
The geography of the two nations helps to form the civilizations. Both have surrounding protection. Egypt was located in primarily desert land, so invaders rarely risked crossing the great Sahara Desert to fight the Egyptians. China was located near a desert as well, the Gobi Desert. This combined with the huge Himalayan Mountains partially daunted outside invaders from attacking China. However, it affected China more drastically than Egypt. The isolation from the rest of the world led the Chinese to believe that they were superior to the rest of the civilizations in the world.
They rarely traded with any outsiders and kept to themselves. With these surrounding deserts, both civilizations required some sort of lifeline in the form of a river. The Nile was the lifesaver of the Egyptian civilization. It flooded annually and left silt on the riverbanks. This fertile silt enabled Egyptians to grow crops for food, and the river itself provided water transportation between Upper and Lower Egypt. The Egyptians, so thankful for this blessing, believed that there was a separate god for the Nile River.
The Huang He, or Yellow, River also provided China with a food source. Running through the heartland, the center of the nation provided the only land able to be farmed. In result, the center of China is also the center of China’s civilization. On the other hand, these rivers floods could be disastrous to the nations. If the Egyptian people did not clock the flooding of the Nile correctly, all of their crops could be ruined and result in a huge famine over the land. The Yellow River’s floods were not conveniently annual like the Nile flood.
These sporadic, random floods could be disastrous to the land and destroy all the crops and food for the Chinese population. However, both of these civilizations managed to reap the benefits of their geography. China and Egypt, both different and alike, are very important to the way our world is today. Their unique contributions proved to be the basis of today’s technology. The governments also continued on to be the basis of government in many countries today. The geography ties together the similarities of the civilizations and helps people today understand why the civilizations developed similarly and differently