"the course of Western Civilization"

How good is the human Civilization


This is the first subsection of section 4,” Introduction to human Civilization ” of Chapter 1, “Religion and life,” the first part of “The History of Western Civilization”. I renamed it “How is the human Civilization”. The author believes that the essential condition of civilization is to ensure the sustainable, stable, and smooth development of society. Therefore, it should not be called civilization if a social system and culture can not ensure this most basic condition.

How good is the human Civilization

Civilization is a very broad concept, which can be extended to infinity. Everything seems to be related to civilization, such as material civilization, spiritual civilization, and so on. But if you ask carefully, how can civilization be related to the material? why can civilization be related to spirit? The other side must be tongue-tied, don’t know how to answer. So I won’t discuss these empty concepts of civilization here.

In “the conflict of civilizations”, Huntington believes that civilization is the sum of all social and natural behaviors that make humans clear away barbarism. It refers to a cultural entity. In his eyes, civilization is an enlarged culture. Civilization includes “values, rules, systems, and modes of thinking that generations in an established society have given the first and foremost importance.”Civilization is “a space, a ‘cultural field'” and “a collection of cultural characteristics and phenomena”.Civilization is also a special link between “world view, customs, structure and culture” (“material culture and high-level culture”.It forms some kind of sum of all histories and coexists with other variants of this phenomenon(if not always at the same time).It is “a moral environment containing a certain number of nationalities, and each national culture is only a special form of the whole”. Culture is the common theme of the definition of all civilizations.

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Huntington wrote, “when the Athenians reassured the Spartans that they would not betray the Spartans to the Persians, they put forward the cultural core factors defining civilization in classical form.”

“Because even if we prefer this, there are many strong considerations that prohibit us from doing so.Above all, the image and residence of the gods have been burned and razed to the ground. We must do our best to shed shame on this, rather than reach an agreement with those who have committed such crimes.Secondly, the Greek race has the same blood and language, the same temples and sacrifices;And our similar customs;Athenian: if you betray these things, you won’t get good results. “

“Descent, language, religion and way of life are common to the Greeks and what distinguishes them from Persians and non Greeks (note, however, as the Athenians stressed, the most important of all the objective factors defining civilization is usually religion.The major civilizations in human history have been largely equated with the great religions in the world. People who share a common race and language but differ in religion may kill each other, as happened in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia and the South Asian subcontinent. “

“The result of dividing people into different civilizations according to cultural characteristics coincides with that of dividing people into different races according to physical characteristics.However, civilization is not the same as race. People of the same race may be deeply divided by civilization;People of different races may tend to be unified due to civilization.The great religions with a sense of mission, Christianity and Islam, especially include societies from all races. The key difference between human groups is their values, beliefs, institutions and social structure, not their body shape, head shape and skin color.These are Huntington’s discussions on civilization, which are basically equivalent to culture and are mainly determined by religion. Generally, we can divide mankind into many civilizations according to this concept, such as Chinese civilization, Japanese civilization, Indian civilization, Islamic civilization, Western civilization, Latin American civilization, orthodox civilization, etc. “① But the civilization we want to discuss here is not Huntington’s civilization equivalent to culture. I think this civilization equivalent to culture is not what I think in my heart.

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Many books on the history of civilization contain many contents of science and technology, culture, architecture, and so on. Of course, these broadly belong to the category of civilization, but are these the real civilizations? Egypt’s pyramids are magnificent, and the technology of building them is even more amazing. Now people are still studying how such huge stones were transported and accurately stacked together, almost seamlessly. However, the technology of building pyramids was also lost with the collapse of the Dynasties of ancient Egypt. People in many places are still puzzled about how to build the pyramids. The periodic law of China’s Dynasty change and the dynasty change of great fighting and tearing had caused great damage to the productivity, and many previously mature and sophisticated technologies had also been lost in the troubled times. In his book “China’s super stable feudal society”, Mr. Jin Guantao pointed out that the most famous example is the guide car was created again and again and lost again and again. The guide car is the earliest automatic machine in the world. In Chinese history, it had attracted so many inventors and craftsmen to reinvent it. It was still remade in the Song Dynasty, a total of twelve times. In this repeated reinvention, many craftsmen exhausted countless energy. The bronze sword of the Qin Dynasty unearthed in recent years still shines for more than 2000 years. After analysis and identification, people find an anti-corrosion oxidation layer of chromium-containing compounds on its surface. The technology of chromate treatment of metal surface was only achieved by the Germans in 1937 and the Americans in 1950. This technology had been buried with the king’s sword of the Qin Dynasty for 2000 years.② In terms of architecture, Chang’an of Tang Dynasty is even more splendid, with towering palaces, wide and tidy streets, merchants gathering on both sides. From many poems of Li Bai, we can see those towering restaurants are all over the Chang’an City, singing and intoxicating every night. But where is Chang’an city now?It’s already gone gone with the wind. nowhere you should know.③ From the picture of the river on the Qingming Festival, we can also clearly see the charm and prosperity, the endless stream of people, living in boom and flourish, shops meandering into faraway streets in Bianjing of Northern Song Dynasty. However, after a short time, with the invasion of the Jin people, these magnificent scenes disappear [vanish] in a flash, just like a wisp of green smoke passing through the loess land of China, leaving still ruins,A chaotic scene of scorched earth.

The chaotic times of China’s Dynasty change also led to the wreck of a large number of books and the ruin of culture. Similarly, we can only imagine the flourish of culture and the prosperity of civilization in those years from the pile of old papers. Due to the limitation of space, I only cite two examples here, but enough to make people heartbroken. First, burning books and burying Confucianism and the chaos at the end of Qin Dynasty “The pre-Qin scholars, a hundred schools of thought contend, they wrote a lot. In the early days of the founding of the Qin Dynasty, people were thirsty for books. The government built stone chambers and golden chambers to collect books. The first emperor Qin Shi Huang became headstrong late; he listened to Li Siyan and coerced a collecting book order. In the ninth year after Qin’s unification of the country (213 BC), in order to oppose the interference of Confucianism in politics and reflect power politics, Prime Minister Li Si proposed to Qin Shihuang: “if books are not the Qin Dynasty, they will be burned. Whoever is not the post of a doctor’s official dare to have hundreds of poems and books will be informed to guard and burn them.”All official and civilian books were destroyed, leaving only Qin history books, medicine, and agriculture books, and more than 460 Confucian scholars buried.This is the shocking burning books and pitching Confucianism in history.Prior to this, Shang Yang had “burned poetry and books and decreed the law”, but the scale of Qin Shihuang’s book-burning was unprecedented. This disaster made the active academic forum in the pre-Qin Dynasty suddenly silent. The scene of a hundred schools of thought contending no longer appeared, and china society remained silent for a thousand years. Compared with other evils, the book burning was fatal to China’s ideological and cultural circles. People are in danger, and it is hard to hear the ideological roar of Lao and Zhuang.Nevertheless, many books of Dynasty Qin had been preserved.What is more regrettable is that after Xiang Yu of the Western Chu eliminated the Dynasty Qin, the Xianyang palaces were burned, and the fire lasted for three months. Many official classics were committed to the torches, from books disaster point, even worse than the Qin. The second is, ” during the Dong Zhuo rebellion at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, not only cloth and silk were widely used in books, but also Cai Lun’s papermaking caused a revolution in the history of books. Books became light and thin, the cost of book collectors decreased, and more people were keen on it. The number of books collected gradually increased, surpassing that in the Western Han Dynasty.However, at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, Dong Zhuo monopolized power, and the princes worldwide attacked it. Dong Zhuo held the emperor and ordered the princes in his name,he moved Emperor Xian from Luoyang West to Chang’an to avoid sharp edges and set fire to burn Luoyang City into ruins .”Soldiers take books and silk as draperies. They collected more than 70 wagons, headed west. They met the chaos in Xijing and rioted for a while. countless books have been burned. “④ Finally, I will conclude this discussion with Zhang yanghao’s “Sheep on the Slope”. I think this poem well expresses the unique pathetic helplessness of Chinese civilization

Tune: Sheep on the Slope

reminiscing the history at Tong Pass

Peaks Knit their brows,

waves boil with anger,

the road to Tong Pass is in mountains and rivers.

watching on Western Capital,

I feel all the feels,

moaning the way of the Dynasty Qin changing into Dynasty Han.

The palaces after palaces are burned to dust,

The Dynasty rise

people woe;

The Dynasty fall

the people woe, too.


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No matter how advanced science and technology are? If they are always lost, what is the use of civilization? No matter how brilliant the architectures are, If they always turn into scorched earth at the end, it can only arouse people’s sadness. No matter how prosperous the culture is? If it will only leave behind a stretch of ruins, besides the heart-wrenching pain, what else can they do? If we are always immersed in the glory of our ancestors’ old papers, how is it different from a child of a broken family showing off their ancestors’ wealth in the street? Some people think that these existing buildings, technology, and culture are also civilizations, but I think these have nothing to do with civilization. Are these things that can not be passed down civilization?

In sharp contrast to China, the British Library has a collection of more than 10 million books and 150000 manuscripts, many of which are ancient and rare books since the middle ages. It can be said that over the past 1000 years, British books and cultural materials have been preserved almost intact. All British culture and civilization are in possession of the British Library, almost no one lost. What a proud thing it is. For more than a thousand years, except for the invasion of Vikings in the 9th and 10th centuries, the three British islands had basically not been invaded by foreign nations. There were few civil wars in themselves. Though wars broke out accidentally, all were between professional soldiers. It rarely destroys religious and cultural facilities such as churches, monasteries, and schools. It was universally condemned that Cromwell’s Puritan army stationed in the church. It can prove that no other greater damage happened .⑤ Westminster Hall, the seat of the British Parliament, was built in the 12th century and renovated in the 18th century, but the main structure has been preserved for nearly 900 years. Any British parliamentarian who speaks in Westminster Hall should have a heavy sense of mission and pride. On the same podium, countless sages address generously, from Henry II to Henry V of sweeping France, the holy Queen Elizabeth, the king of Parliament Pym, Cromwell, William Pitt, Churchill, etc. Britain’s history is continuous; it has been passed on to these parliamentarians today. The white tower, the main building of the Tower of London, was built in the 11th century and remains intact. Although it covers only about 1000 square meters, it is far from being compared with the Forbidden City and the Old Summer Palace, let alone the legendary Epang Palace in Dynasty Qin of China. However, as a building in the heart of London, as a power center like Westminster Hall, it is completely preserved, representing the inheritance of culture and the continuation of civilization. I think the civilization that can be inherited is real civilization. But how can civilization be inherited?⑥


① It is quoted from the conflict of civilizations and the reconstruction of world order, published by Xinhua Publishing House, written by Samuel Huntington, translated by Zhou Qi, Liu Fei, Zhang Liping and Wang Yuan, pages 19-27

② Quoted from China’s super stable feudal society, published by Law Press, Jin Guantao, 182-193 pages

③ Quoted from the complete works of Li Taibai, written by Li Bai, people’s Literature Publishing House

④ Reference from network

⑤ Quoted from Cromwell, the Lord Protector, New York Grove Press, Antonia Fraser

⑥ Quoted from Wikipedia

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