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The Relationship Between Belief Systems and Political or Social Hierarchy in South Asia and East Asiasouth and East Asia

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South and East Asia are part of the same landmass and have contributed to each other's cultures, languages, and religious beliefs. Their populous societies were mostly maintained by agriculture, which provided a foundation for trade, as well as a means for a large-scale social organization. However, the social hierarchies in these regions greatly differed, from the numerous and distinct varnas and jatas of the Caste System in India to the rather simpler social organization in China. Though these class systems had many differences, they're consisted of a couple common parts; both had dynasties (a line of rulers from the same family) and emperors that had complete dominion over their realms. The belief systems varied as well; South Asia emphasized their customs and practices on deities and worshiping Gods, whereas East Asia focused on human existence and ways to keep daily life as organized as possible, with everyone fulfilling their own responsibilities in society (children must be obedient, etc.). However, these neighboring regions also had similar beliefs, such as the principle of karma and the belief that many Gods existed.

When the Harappan civilization collapsed around 1500 BC, a new group of nomadic people known as the Aryans settled throughout the Indus Valley. They soon developed the Caste System, a social hierarchy which determined each individual's social status in society. Unlike Eastern Asia, which only had the Gentry level passed on from generation to generation, all levels of the Caste system were inherited. The system was broken down into 5 different castes, better known as varnas (the word "varna" means color, which suggests that people were assigned their position in the system according to differences in complexion). They were: priests (Brahmins); aristocrats and warriors (Kshatriyas); cultivators, artisans, and merchants (Vaishyas); and landless peasants and serfs (Shudras). A couple centuries later, the 5th varna, known as the Untouchables, was added to the Caste System. Unlike the class system in Eastern Asian countries such as China, Japan, and Korea, South Asia's complicated social hierarchy was further divided into Sub-castes known as jati. Occupation greatly determined which jati an individual belonged to and members of the same jati lived very closely with one another, remedied those who were ill, ate together, and intermarried. An essential part of all members of every jati in the Caste System was religion. Hinduism was the major religion in India and it focused solely on seeking union with the soul of brahma. Contrary to East Asian beliefs, riches and health were not the imperative parts to human existence in Southern Asia; viewing the main purpose of religion and contemplating the meaning of God was. Hinduism emphasized Gods; human life was not as important. However, it was believed that human afterlife existed and that one's soul would reincarnate into a higher-caste



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