There are many instances in history in which two civilizations arise and can be comparable. China and Europe are two examples of these types of civilizations. It can be easy to just assume that there are only differences between the two civilizations, since they developed in completely different areas with completely different people and customs. However, in comparing life in the 13th century of both Europe and China, people would be surprised to find that there are also some similarities between the two civilizations. When comparing women, marriage, religion, class systems, and leisurely activities, it was interesting to see multiple differences; but also to see many similarities too.
The role of women is very similar in both China and Europe. In Europe, a woman’s duty was to take care of the home and do most of the shopping. Women were responsible for cleaning the house, making all the beds, and the cooking. While shopping for food,“the housewife is always on the lookout for poor quality or doubtful quantity” (Gies, 49). This means the housewife has to make sure she is not buying stale or watered down goods. In China, the role of women was similar with only slight differences. Women still had some reign over running the household duties. However, women were also seen as a beautiful sight for the men to view. The women of China did not have a hard life. In fact, “they hardly ever appeared in public, and usually stayed confined to their apartments” (Gernet, 165). Weddings in Europe and China have many differences. In Europe, marriage was arranged and was performed by a priest in a church. During the wedding, there were many religious rituals that took place. On the day of the wedding, both the bride and groom dressed in their best clothes and were accompanied by friends and family to the church. After the wedding, the bride and groom and also friends and family all gather for a feast and wine to celebrate the marriage. In China, “marriage was primarily conceived as a means of alliance between families” (158). There were many gifts offered to the bride in the days before her wedding day. After the wedding, the couple shared many cups of rice wine, and celebrated with the families. Once married, the wife now had a new alliance to her new family, and often never spoke to her original family again. Along with wedding customs differing in Europe and China, religious customs also differed. In Europe, religion was monotheistic, meaning the people only believed in one god. To worship this god, the people went to churches to pray and hear the sermon brought forth by the priest. The European religion contained many saints, which were considered to have the highest degree of holiness. Saints were looked up to in the church and even had a special place of burial. The European church often feared heretics, mainly due to the radically different ideology associated with their religious beliefs (Gies, 133). The church didn’t support the idea of people straying from its strict belief system. China’s religious system differs in many ways. In China, Heaven and Earth are connected and must be in a sense of cosmic order. If anything was out of place, for instance the emperor being ill, the cosmic order was disrupted. China was also a polytheistic society, in which they believed in multiple gods. The people of China would call on certain gods for specific purposes; these purposes included building houses, temples, and even digging graves (Gernet, 198). Aside from differing in the aspect of religion, Europe and China had similarities in their class system. Europe had a hierarchy based class system which consisted of three distinct classes. The mayor was seen as head of this class system, followed by the town councilors, treasurers, clerks, and magistrates (Gies, 200). These government officials were seen as upper class because they had power, politically and socially over the lower classes; they