Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Han Versus Roman Technology

While the Han and Romans both enjoyed increasing their technology, the Han was only good at it on large-scale projects to benefit the lives of the working class, and the Romans did not attempt small-scale projects. The Han Dynasty viewed technology mostly as a practical application to ease the workload of the people, while the Roman Empire viewed certain technology as needed, despite who created it; Thus the Han disabled the common innovators, while the Romans enabled all creators. The Han government was obsessed with improving efficiency, yet sometimes in their attempts to do so by their own merit, they did the opposite. The Romans also loved efficient technology, and went about it in similar yet drastically different ways than the Han Empire. Both Han and Roman societies had clear appreciation for technological advancements despite the differences in areas where the attention was focused.

The Han government specialized in layers of bureaucracy as demonstrated by a Han government official (doc 1), inspections, an official, an officer and workers were needed for one flood prevention operation. On a large scale, great inventions such as the improvement of the pestle and mortar (doc 3) and the water-powered blowing-engine (doc 4), were vital to the Han. The government was good at regulating the creation of these larger inventions, but when it came to daily tools, though their attitude remained the same, the results were not.

The Han were able to improve efficiency in many technologies despite their incessant need for bureaucracy (doc 1), but, in the case of salt and iron (doc 2), efficiency was lost not gained. Working and manufacturing small everyday necessities such as salt-boiling and tool making went from the people, who made them for their own use, to the government, who wanted them for the use of the nation. Since as, Huan Guam (doc 2) says, the state used convict labor, the quality of Han tools went drastically down. The convicts did not have near the same incentive to create, as did the common people. This need the Han had to control all innovation had a decidedly bad effect on the Han economy and especially the poorer common people (doc 2).

The Romans had a different, yet similar, attitude toward technology and innovation. They too, thought that government engineering was the best way to go, and easily implemented this. They came up with the ideas and hired laborers to accomplish them (doc 5). Specifically hiring workers, not thinking innovators (doc 5). The Romans had a serious fascination with building roads and were thus able to develop useful technology for the glorious roads that led to Rome (doc 6). One big difference between Roman and Han thinking is demonstrated in how the Roman government did not attempt to take over the creation of small daily tools; the common people designed and built them. The Roman government did not see the same importance in these tools as it saw in other innovations (doc 7). Overall technologically, the Romans were more interested in usefulness than beauty (doc 8).

To complete this analyzation of the differing Han and Roman attitudes, some additional documents would be helpful. From the documents given, one is able to glean the different opinions and attitude of officials, philosophers, governments, political leaders, generals, commissioners, and governors. All of these sources have high-ranking identities and well represent the opinions of the upper class, but the lower class, the laborers and commoners, have no voice in this discussion. Thus some documents from them would be beneficial. Additionally some documents from those who carried out the innovations, such as the officials and deputies mentioned by an overseeing official (doc 1), would be useful.

In conclusion, the Han and Roman governments both sought efficiency through innovation, but they had different methods and drastically different reasons for those methods. Despite their different technological and innovative philosophies, the Han and Romans both had the same outcome in mind: efficient technology. They both accomplished this efficiency to varying degrees in some areas, while failing at it in others. While the Han sought to control all innovation, thus stifling it, the Romans simply took the big innovations into their own hands. Both Han and Roman societies had clear appreciation for technological advancements despite the differences in areas where the attention was focused.

This question is from a released AP exam and can be found free to the public at

Thanks for reading! And as always please comment with your thoughts and opinions!