What similarities can be seen between the powers of the emperors of China and the sultans of Ottoman caliphates?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are definitely points of comparison you can make between the Ottoman sultans and the Chinese emperors. Both were heads of state and wielded tremendous political authority, but at the same time, their power extended beyond strictly political confines to embrace religious authority as well.

Your question itself expresses this...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

There are definitely points of comparison you can make between the Ottoman sultans and the Chinese emperors. Both were heads of state and wielded tremendous political authority, but at the same time, their power extended beyond strictly political confines to embrace religious authority as well.

Your question itself expresses this religious component with its use of the term "caliphate," a title which dates back to the aftermath of the death of Muhammad in order to determine the prophet's natural successor. In this sense, to claim the position of caliph is to make a claim to religious and spiritual authority in addition to secular authority—a claim the Ottoman sultans made. Meanwhile, the Chinese emperors likewise possessed a great deal of religious authority (that contained a ritualized component as well), which can be seen reflected in traditional Chinese beliefs concerning the Mandate of Heaven.

At the same time, you might also discuss the extensive bureaucratization that can be seen in both the Ottoman and Chinese examples. Both the Ottoman sultans and the Chinese emperors were assisted by a vast administrative apparatus (which is almost always an advantage when it comes to state-building and the exercise of political control).

That being said, however, you should also keep in mind that this question embraces a very extensive timeframe: Chinese imperial history can be dated from the Qin Dynasty, founded in 221 BCE, into the Qing Dynasty, which ended at the start of the twentieth century, while the Ottoman Empire lasted until the twentieth century as well. Even when comparing any two of the various Chinese dynasties, their own individual histories and political contexts can reveal the degree to which imperial power and authority ebbed and flowed over the course of time. Thus, it should be remembered that these political realities are not permanent fixtures within history, but are themselves subject to change and evolution.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on