The Mandate of Heaven

Dear 7Y,

Imagine that you could invoke a powerful spiritual being to justify your position, your actions and your power. Every time someone questioned your actions or doubted your motives, you could fall back on your entitlements as the chosen one of this powerful being, who had theoretically ordained you and anointed you as the person in charge. If your underlings believed in the existence of this being, your position would be impregnable.

Or would it?

There’s usually a downside to this kind of religious propaganda, even though it has been employed by many monarchs and emperors in history to underpin their supposedly unassailable authority. If things started to go wrong, if the crops failed or there was a flood or natural disaster, the very argument that you once used to justify your domination might also be used to dispute its validity. Perhaps that divine being is questioning your so-called birthright. Perhaps you don’t deserve that birthright any more.

For centuries, the “Mandate of Heaven” was the basis of the Chinese emperors’ overwhelming power, yet this belief in a divine blessing could be hijacked by opponents as proof of their unworthiness too. For this reason, the dynasties of China could last for centuries and seem invulnerable, only to be challenged, to fall and to be replaced. The concept of the “Mandate of Heaven” could be conveniently used to explain both their lasting power and their fall from grace.

Yet another of those odd little internal contradictions in human history…

Kind regards from Ms Green (no relationship to John and Hank)

♦ John Green’s take on the Mandate of Heaven and on Chinese history in general:

♦ Other links about the Mandate of Heaven:

ThoughtcoMr Donn’s simpler version

♦ Simple interactive quiz on this topic 

♦ Encounter a Chinese dynasty at Thoughtco

  • After reading your text on the ancient dynasties of China, select one that interests you in particular and create a dossier on its origins, rise to power, cultural and technological achievements and legacy.
  • Then construct a little quiz for your fellow students at this link. Use a variety of question types, including multiple choice, chronological order and matching. You will need to create an account in order to do this, using your school email account. If you would prefer, you can make a set of Tiny Cards on your chosen dynasty.
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17 Replies to “The Mandate of Heaven”

  1. Dear Ms Green,
    Thank you for this semester. First two terms of high school was very hard for me, but having you as my teacher makes me go to every History class with a smile on my face. I really enjoyed this time together and I will miss you next term.

    Thank you!
    – Leyna Nguyen

  2. Thank you for giving us the most wonderful teaching on history. You are truly my favorite teacher and just.. thankyou for everything. you gave so valuable learnings Ms green 😉
    “cute” is overrated

  3. History was so much fun and interesting, especially learning about Rome.
    Thanks for being the best history teacher ever!

  4. Dear Mrs Green,
    You are one of the best teacher I have had this semester. You have made my first semester in high school amazing. I am really grateful to have you as my history teacher this semester .I hope I have you again next year.

    Chloe 7Y

  5. Hey Ms Green,
    Thank you for being an amazing history teacher. You have made me gain interest in history. Good luck in the future years. You will always be there in our heart as our most spectacular history teacher. we have learnt so much from you. We are so glad we had you Ms Green as our history teacher for S1Y.

    Thank you for everything,
    Aaron D and Dylan B

  6. Miss Green
    You are a great history teacher, and probably a great german teacher!
    All the best,


  7. Thank you so much for teaching History this semester. Geography will never be as interesting or as fun as History. I will miss having you as my teacher, and visiting you in the ‘red couch room’. Thanks again for teaching me History, I look forward to learning more history next year. See you around school.

  8. Dear Ms Green,
    You have been one of my favourite teachers this year and I will miss you next semester. You made history really enjoyable for me with your fun games and unique way of teaching. I grew to love history and hope that you continue to inspire many students in years to come. Thank you for always making history fun and being such a kind person at all times.
    Love Melanie

  9. Dear Mrs Green,
    Thank you very much for the semester teaching us about the many depths of history. My gratitude for what you have done me and my fellow pupils can not be put in words! Thank you very much!

  10. Dear Mrs Green,
    It has been a great pleasure and privilege to have you as my very first history teacher. You have never failed to fill me with optimism whenever I enter your amazing class. Hopefully I’ll get you again.
    Kind Regards
    Daniel Lye

  11. Dear Ms Green,
    Thank you for being my teacher this semester. You are awesome.
    From Sandra

  12. Hello Mrs Green,
    This is to thank you for the fun and learning we had every history class. Thank you again. I will always remember you as my first and best history teacher.

  13. Dear Mrs Green,
    Thank you for teaching us the material that you did. It was very interesting and we enjoyed very much.
    Once again, thank you.
    Ritvij and Michael.W

  14. Dear Ms Green
    Thanks for being a fantastic teacher, you clearly love what you do.Thanks for being so supportive of everyone.

  15. Ms Green
    You made history become one of my favourite subjects,that is something that before this year I never thought would happen. Thanks for being supportive and helpful.

  16. Dear Ms.Green,
    Thank you for teaching us History for the past two terms! You are an amazing teacher and I have thoroughly enjoyed being in your class.

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