Yu the Great

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  • Yu the Great or Yu the Engineer was the legendary founder of China’s first dynasty, the Xia dynasty. According to the legend, Yu sacrificed his self and stopped the flood for 13 years. After stopping the deluge, it is said that he established and led the Xia dynasty.
  • Yu’s father Gun is the first known member of the Xia clan and during his life it is understood that the family slowly began to gain ascendancy, a path that would eventually lead to it becoming China’s first dynasty.
  • The origins of the Xia clan originate from Gun’s migration of people to the middle peak of Mount Song in Henan Province, thus leading us to believe that Yu grew up on the slopes of the mountain just south of the Yellow River. (source: https://www.thechairmansbao.com/chinese-emperors-and-empresses-yu-the-great-founder-of-the-xia-dynasty/)
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Xia Dynasty

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  • The Xia Dynasty established around 2200 B.C. was the first Chinese dynasty to be recorded in Chinese annals but it lacks archaeological evidences to be deemed true.
  • The Xia Dynasty was founded by Yu the Great or Yu the Engineer who, according to legends, tamed the floodplain along the Yellow river.

Yellow River (Huang He) and Yangtze River

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Yellow River (Huang He/Ho River) 

  • The civilization of ancient China first developed in the Yellow River so called for the yellow loess deposited along its banks by winds from the Gobi. Loess provided fertile soil for the cultivation of millet, a highly nutritious cereal crop.
  • By 5000 B.C., people were living in villages along the middle Yellow River and farming on its terraces.

Yangtze River

  • The Yangtze River basin is one of the longest-inhabited regions in China. Although much of China’s political history has centred around North China and the Huang He basin, the Yangtze region always was of great economic importance to successive dynasties for its agricultural potential. (source: https://www.britannica.com/place/Yangtze-River#ref48051)
  • In the wetlands along the Yangtze to the south, villagers began cultivating rice for their main agricultural crop. Politically, the Yangtze Valley lagged behind the Yellow River region, where people from the first settlements banded together under strong leadership to dig ditches and drainage canals for irrigation and flood control.

Buddhism

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  • Buddhism was inspired by the life and teachings of Siddharta Gautama, born into a ruling family in the foothills of the Himalaya around 560 B.C. and known to his followers as Buddha, or the Enlightened One. After seeking salvation through extreme acts of self denial like Mahavira, he chose a path called the Middle Way, involving good conduct and moderation in all things. Ultimately, Buddha achieved a state of enlightenment called nirvana- the release from earthly desires and longings.
  • Buddhism believed in the Noble Eightfold Path which are Right View, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Mindfulness, and Right Samadhi (meditation). Following these path can lead to spiritual liberation or Nirvana.

Jainism

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  • Jainism emerged in 6th-century BCE India, the same time Buddhism was developing. The faith is named for the jinas, spiritual conquerors who have achieved liberation and perfection. Included among these are the 24 spiritual leaders called “ford-makers” or tirthankaras. The last of the tirthankaras was Mahavira (599-527 BCE), a contemporary of the Buddha who is generally considered the founder of Jainism. (source: http://www.religionfacts.com/jainism
  • Jainism was inspired by the teachings of a holy man named Mahavira, born in India around 540 B.C. Mahavira was known to his followers as Jina, or the Conqueror because he freed his soul by practicing self-denial and conquering the cravings of the body. He believed that all living things had souls and those who harmed other souls would not achieve salvation. His followers practiced nonviolence, refused to eat meat, and would not even harvest crops.
  • Mahavira, like the Buddha, was the son of a chieftain of the Kshatriya(warrior) class. At age 30 he renounced his princely status to take up the ascetic life. Although he was accompanied for a time by the eventual founder of the Ajivika sect, Goshala Maskariputra. (Source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Jainism)

Hinduism

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  • Hinduism combined sacred teachings of the Aryans (who took control of the Indus Valley around 1500 B.C) with the beliefs of the local people the Aryans interacted with.
  • From the beginning, Hindus worshiped many gods, some of them Aryan in origin and others native to India. Their principal gods were Brahma, the creator who embodied the universal spirit called Brahman; Vishnu, who watched over the world from the heaven and preserved life; and Shiva, the destroyer of evil.
  • Hindus believed that some people were closer to salvation than others. Those who were lowly and unholy could rise to a higher level by performing good deeds that improved their karma (the consequences of their actions).
  • Even animals had souls, and the soul of an animal might be reborn in human form and ultimately reach salvation. Some animals in particular were regarded by Hindus as precious or sacred. Cows, for example were no longer sacrificed to the gods as in Aryan times, but were protected from harm.
  • Respect for all creatures- beast or human- was the golden rule of Hinduism, which remain India’s dominant faith.

Upanishads

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  • By the 6th century B.C., India was in the midst of a great religious ferment that produced 3 faiths: Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. That ferment began when Indian teachers questioned Aryan beliefs and reinterpreted them in sacred texts called the Upanishads.
  • Beginning around 700 B.C, Indian teachers known as gurus composed scriptures called as the Upanishads meaning to “sit down near” as students did before their teachers. Unlike Aryan priests who serve as intermediaries between the people and some gods, gurus taught that everyone had a soul that could commune with the universal spirit called Brahman.
  • The Upanishads offered an individual of any rank the hope of attaining holiness and salvation by freeing his soul and allowing him to become one with Brahman.
  • Hinduism grew out of the Upanishads and combined the worship of various gods with the quest for salvation.

Caste System

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  • The Caste system divides the Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups based on their karma (work) and dharma (role).  It originates from the Vedas which tells about Purusha, the spirit of the universe. When Purusha was divided, he was split into four parts. Hindus then believed that his mouth became the Brahmins, arms became the Kshatriyas, thighs became the Vaishyas, feet became the Shudras and the Dalits/ Panchamas/ Harijans are the fifth class.
  • The Brahmins are the highest class which consists of priests and teachers, Kshatriyas were composed of warriors and other protectors, the Vaishyas were the money makers which were composed of farmers and traders and the Shudras were the laborers. The Dalits were composed of people who were exposed to impurities who were the “untouchables”.

Vedas

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  • The Vedas are a collection of hymns and other religious texts composed in India between about 1500 and 1000 BCE. It includes elements such as liturgical material as well as mythological accounts, poems, prayers, and formulas considered to be sacred by the Vedic religion.
  • The origin of the Vedas can be traced back as far as 1500 BCE, when a large group of nomads called the Aryans, coming from central Asia, crossed the Hindu Kush Mountains, migrating into the Indian subcontinent. This was a large migration and used to be seen as an invasion.
  • Around the 7th century BCE, India saw the growth of a culture of world-renunciation, which was a reaction against the Vedic tradition. This culture is the common origin of many Indian religions considered to be “heretical” by the Indian traditional priestly class. Charvaka, Jainism, and Buddhism, among other movements, originated around this time, encouraged by the gradual decay of the priestly orthodoxy. This would result in the end of the Vedic hegemony, shifting the focus of religious life from external rites and sacrifices to internal spiritual quests in the search for answers. (source: https://www.ancient.eu/The_Vedas/)

For more info read: http://veda.wikidot.com/hinduism#toc21