History’s Meaning of the Mandate of Heaven – Part 1/5

China was the last of the great civilizations to develop independently in the old world — a thousand years after the first civilization in Iraq.

However, the Chinese concept of civilization differed completely from that of the West. For the Chinese, the goal was a moral order on earth sustained by virtue, ritual and reverence of ancestors.

These ancient ideas permeated all aspects of Chinese life even to this day. 

Even the Communist revolution to the crushing of the so-called democracy movement in 1989, played out against these deeper forces, which have shaped China for thousands of years.

The discovery of the origins of Chinese history took place in 1899, when a Chinese scholar found a few (dragon) bones with engravings on them. 

His search for the source of the bones took him to the site of the ancient capital of the Shang Dynasty (1766 – 1122 B.C.).


Chinese civilization first arose on the banks of the unpredictable Yellow River, which has destroyed cities and killed millions.

Along the banks of this river, unlike Western civilizations, the source of political power did not lie in control of nature but in control of the past.

In the strange markings on the dragon bones, the Chinese scholar found the beginning of the I-Ching, the great Chinese book of wisdom.

Then there was Confucius.

The teachings of Confucius (551 – 470 B.C.) were the ideal of Chinese government for two thousand years, and Confucius was not concerned with God or the afterlife or heaven as those in the West were and still are today.

Instead, Confucius wanted to build a just and stable society. He believed that goodness was most important, and if people were taught goodness, they would regulate themselves.

For the rulers, to ignore this meant risking losing the Mandate of Heaven, which even the Communist Party that rules China today has discovered.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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2 Responses to History’s Meaning of the Mandate of Heaven – Part 1/5

  1. […] In ‘The Indiscreet Charm of Tyranny’, Buruma writes, “Confucius, and especially Mencius, believed in the people’s right to rebel against corrupt rulers,” and the Chinese people are aware, explaining The Mandate of Heaven. […]

  2. […] addition, the Mandate of Heaven plays an important role that often cancels out the negative aspects of […]

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