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Mandate of Heaven

Chinese History Lecture Resource for Social Studies Teachers


Note: This is from the actual notes used by a World History teacher while teaching Chinese History. This fits into an overall lecture that on Chinese History suitable for middle or high school students. The Chinese History lecture outline can be used as a basis for a one or two class lesson during a typical World History course. Of all the concepts, that of the Mandate of Heaven is very important for students to understand.

This is the most important concept to master in order to understand the dynasties of China. The Chou Dynasty augmented this concept to help justify their ousting of the Shang Dynasty.

The Mandate of Heaven is based on four principles:

  1. The right to rule is granted by Heaven.
  2. There is only one Heaven therefore there can be only one ruler.
  3. The right to rule is based on the virtue of the ruler.
  4. The right to rule is not limited to one dynasty.

What are the positive and negatives sides to the Mandate of Heaven for a dynasty?

  1. It gives the ruler prestige and religious importance.
  2. It gives the ruler supreme power.
  3. It allows a new ruler to gain power quickly because everyone believes he has the 'Mandate of Heaven'.
  4. The rulers power must be kept in check by virtue.
  5. It justifies rebellion as long as the rebellion is successful.

For more information, visit the following website: Mandate of Heaven

Return to the Lecture Outline: China Part I

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