Eastern and western empires in comparison




Cultural comparison

Silk Road




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China and Rome

What “cultural genes” did the ancient empires bequeath?


Sunny Y. Auyang

Presented at Texas Tech University, November 19, 2014


Abstract  The world situation two millennia ago was uncannily similar to that of today, when the United States as a “New Rome” faces the rise of New China. From conditions as far apart as that between the West and the East in the nineteenth century, the ancient western and eastern realms converged in four centuries to two superpowers: the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty of China. The early republican or feudal experiences respectively left indelible marks on the two ancient empires, otherwise strikingly similar in scale, sophistication, and staying power. This talk analyzes and compares the Roman and Chinese styles in exercising power and maintaining order. It reveals the Roman penchant for militarism, wealthy elites, and respect for the law, and the Chinese proclivity for bureaucracy, ideological elites, and moral indoctrination. By tracing historical roots, it uncovers the origins of the “cultural genes” underlying western “hard power” and eastern “soft power” and explains why they are so resilient to the passage of time to be relevant now.


Full text and slides.