WORLD HISTORY DAY TENTHE MANDATE OF HEAVEN AND THE DYNASTIC CYCLETo understand the role and purpose that the Mandate of Heaven played in Ancient China, we must look at what was called the “Dynastic Cycle”.A Dynastic Cycle is when a dynasty (family or ruler in charge for many years; generation to generation) falls or is overruled by another group of people,usually through war. This emperor or ruler has been seen by heaven as being unfit to rule over China any longer and now loses something called the Mandate of Heaven, which was the idea that the nation’s leaders are serving with the approval or desire of a higher, heavenly power (1).

The Mandate depends upon the virtue of theemperor; if he does not fulfill his obligations, he would then lose the Mandate and the right to be emperor (2) and it would be passed on to someone else who wouldreceive it and help bring back order to China. The fact that a ruler was overthrown was a good indication they had lost the Mandate. The Mandate of Heaven has no limitations, as it depended not on how long a ruler was in power or if they were of noble birth, but rather on the just and able preformance of this said ruler and his heirs. Over time, unfortunately, a dynasty becomes older and the rulers start to care less about the people in China, focusinginstead on luxury and riches, causing the people to become fed up with the natural disasters (which were also a sign that the ruler was acting unrighteously), high taxes, and invasion, that the people would rebel. And when the people would rebel, it would cause the current ruler to fall and thus the cycle would start allover again. Some scholars interpret the Mandate as a burden of responsibility placed on the emperor to be a just and effective ruler, while others see it as a wayof explaining a ruling monarch’s successes and failures (3).

Whether the Mandate was a burden or not, we don’t know. We do know, however, that it was a well-acceptedand popular idea among the people of China, since it argued for the removal of incompetent or despotic rulers, and provide an incentive for rulers to rule well and justly (4). (1)