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Politically, Classical China was racked by the Period of the Warring States. This period of instability led to the rise of the doctrines of Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism. It also saw the rise of the Han Dynasty which established a strong central government based on legalist principles. In India, Ashoka Maurya conquered the Indian sub-continent and instituted rule according to Buddhist principles. His empire collapsed shortly after his death; and was succeeded by the Gupta dynasty that did not establish strong central rule, but rather relied on local administrators or even military allies to govern. Neither dynasty lasted long; whereas the Han dynasty was relatively long-lived.
Socially, India was dominated by the caste system. The four primary castes had developed into a large number of sub-castes known as jati. Those who did not fit into any classification were "out-castes" and treated as untouchable. Members of the same caste socialized with each other and often ate together. They also tended to marry within their own caste. In China, class distinction developed largely as a result of land ownership. The wealthy owned large amounts of land, and often gained more when the poor were forced to sell land to them in order to survive. Rich wore expensive clothing and dined on fine meals such as pork and fish; the poor wore clothing woven from hemp and ate mostly porridges made from grain.
Economically, agriculture was the backbone of the Indian system; however Indian merchants grew wealthy by trading pepper, cotton, and precious jewels throughout the Indian Ocean basin by reliance on the monsoon winds which reverse course in Spring and Fall. They managed to trade as far as the Roman Empire where Indian pepper was highly prized. In China, Agriculture was important to the Chinese economy also; however merchants became wealthy trading silks throughout Eurasia on the Silk Roads. Silk was as highly prized as Indian pepper and served to make many merchants quite rich.
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