Han and Roman Attitudes Toward Technology
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Throughout the history Han Dynasty of China and the Roman Empire were the two enormous political unities, both developing their technology well. Han was generally positive and supportive toward the technology using though Roman thought that each job has its own social dignity, therefore leading to the inferior attribute to the craftsmen and technology involver.
Han was praiseful towards its achievements and progression of the technology, while few Roman high officials depicted that the utilizing technology is favorable. In the group of Doc#3, 4, 6, all writers hold positive opinions toward the technology in their countries and regarded the achievements were praise-worthy. Doc #3 hold a positive proposal toward Fuxi, the wise emperor because the author thought that Fuxi’s invention helped the water power to apply, and increase the water using efficiency. In Doc#4, the author claimed that the Tu Shih, the peaceful governor of the province, invented the very useful machine, water-powered blowing-engine, decreasing the labors’ efforts and benefit farmers. Through these two documents we can see that Han’s general idea toward technology is to help people as much as possible, Confucian benevolence and Han perceived technology as a gift. In Doc#6, Plutarch thought that Roman road is a pragmatic application of the technology, using a big amount of words to describe the aesthetic values of the road and the utility. The evidence glorifies the technology usage during that period.
Although Han insisted the praiseful perspective, there were still some imperfect aspects of the technology while Roman regarded the tool manufacturing is a vulgar profession of the career, both are the negative point toward the technology. In the Doc #2, Huan Guan compared the tools of previous times and those of current time, stating that the worse the tools are, the less government officials took care of the, which caused the social problem such as the price of iron was considerately high and people even couldn’t afford it. He wrote the problem relating to the tools producing, in order to reflect the problem of the society to impart the emperor that the governors did not carry on their responsibility because he thought that the duty of the government was to benefit people. Doc#5 states that the craftsmen who work with their hands are vulgar commoners and gentlemen do not work with hands. Similarly, Seneca of Doc#7 illustrate the same idea, the smart people do not work with their hands and technology is less important for him. Obviously, Doc#5 and #7 both emphasize the difference of the crafting work and mind work, stating the social dignity of the occupation that gentlemen use their minds and commoners use hands.
The high officials involve in most the documents, reflecting that whether the technology using is good or not. Doc #1, 2, 6, and 8 are all upper-class written. However, they stated in different ways. Doc #1 and 2, from Han’s officials, stated the importance of need of great technology, showing that technology is essential to the Han Empire. Doc #6 and 8 are written by Roman officials, stating that the great accomplishments -roads and aqueducts- made by the Rome, emphasizing the pragmatic and aesthetic values of the Roman technology.
Although these resources give us a generally comprehensive idea of the attitudes of the Roman and Han toward technology, an additional document from a woman is needed because all the documents are from high officials, governors or philosophers, who were all men, which made the evidence limited. We need to hear more from the other type of human beings, women, who have a comparatively low status than men, but may have a different opinion toward the technology using. Thus a document from woman will be beneficial to the thorough view.
These documents in general not only say that the differing viewpoints of the technology, but also the bias of social classification, the differing attitudes toward certain types of jobs. In Han’s society, it is not really matter whether you are a peasant but in Roman, people will have a cold eye toward you if you are a inferior artisan.