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The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter Historical Context

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Historical Context

Chinese history presents a rich and complex tapestry. Archaeologists believe that the first organized society, the Shang dynasty, existed from approximately 1500 to 1100 B.C. Excavations reveal an agrarian yet artistic culture. From these beginnings, Chinese civilization developed a sophisticated governmental system, as well as a rich philosophical and artistic tradition. Although similar developments were occurring in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, there was only sporadic contact between the two cultures, a communication based on trade. While the Silk Road carried caravans between China and the Roman Empire, almost all interactions were limited to commercial exchanges, controlled by the traders who dominated the route.

Because of the economic importance of this trade, the Han dynasty, which ruled China from approximately 200 B.C. to 200 A.D., expanded the boundaries of China, in a successful effort to gain control of the Silk Road. However, they were not interested in cultural...

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This section contains 965 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter Study Guide
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The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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