One thing the Spartans are known for is their militaristically flavored way of life. Militaristic Decisions about their further life started as soon as childbirth, when it was decided whether to keep the child in the community or to cast it away. Education was highly oriented on fighting lessons, the children had to endure every day tests for their stamina like sleeping naked outside or drinking repulsive broths. It is said, the way of speaking was different from other Greeks, as exemplified but the anecdote of the Lycanian warrior who verbally humiliated another Greek militaristic leader who made a fierce speech by one word: "if".

Is there, in Chinese history, a similar popular trait of war-prone people known for their peculiar way of living, behaving, mentality etc. ?

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    People in the History section are close-happy. I think this is an interesting question, and I'm looking forward to seeing if anyone has any illuminating answers.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 19:54
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    They definitely have the drinking repulsive broths part covered. Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 20:25
  • i ve seen it in a documentary where greek enthusiasts of history emulated their lifestyle.
    – meireikei
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 20:28
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    @Nerrolken there are some vague and bad questions out there. You are right though, this is not one of them. @ oldcat: good point, i also thought along those lines. They did however have this traditions of societies, from war monks and the lotus society to the boxers and triads later on.
    – Matthaeus
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 0:07
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    @LateralFractal Qin did not systematically raise their citizens to be soldiers from birth in the manner the OP prescribed. I don't think it is a valid comparison in general, either. For example, the burning of books was a purely means of controlling the population by depriving them education/knowledge. Those books were archived in the Imperial library and continued to be available to court officials. The "scholars" were killed because they (or some of them) took the First Emperor's immortality-pill budget and failed to produce/vanished.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 2:36

1 Answer 1


Here's some food for thought: Sparta was just one of the many city states which were fighting in ancient Greece, before the inception of the Roman empire (think the Peloponneseian Wars). Their relatively equal strength prevented them from winning any extremely significant wars and yielding any great conquest, again, until the inception of the Roman empire. You may (do) know of these wars between Sparta and Athens which were won by Sparta, as shown in the relatively undiscovered film, 300 (joking).

The early Zhou Dynasty in China ended when, as a result of nomadic incursions, the state was weakened, and the regional lords took power. This period was known as the Spring and Autumn period, and it was characterized by the fighting of many individual states (sound familiar?). These states fought, and eventually (in 406 BCE) the states had coalesced into 7 states. These 7 states made up the Warring states period. In 221 BCE, the Qin took power, and ushered in the Qin Dynasty.

I guess you could call the warring states or spring and autumn periods a chinese equivalent to the world in which the Spartans lived, but the Qin ideology strongly embraced Legalism and a Legalist ideology and basically had to be somewhat militaristic to at least get to where they were in the first place. Males in the Qin dynasty had to register for conscription at 16.

  • Yes I rather believe that the characteristics of the State of Qin overlap those of the Spartans, in so far as very different cultures can. The Qin genuinely considered their society superior to the other neighbouring states on the basis of militant meritocracy; much as Spartans felt in Greece. Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 1:49
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    If this is the standard, we could probably call most countries in the world "equivalent to the Spartans" too. Every other state in China at the time also had conscription and were very militaristic. A good number of them had also adopted legalism - Qin was in fact a late comer to that ideology. It was far from unique in these areas at all.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 4:49
  • What are you talking about? The Qin dynasty was the first empire (overall, not a smaller state) to implement a Legalist ideology (after its development by Master Xun in the East Zhou Dynasty), and I would argue to say that they take it farther than any subsequent dynasty ever will. Additionally, my main argument was that the overall interactions of regional chinese states mirror the interactions of smaller Greek city-states. Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 5:21
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    Qin first adopted legalism as a regular state, after many of its competitors. You are drawing an arbitrary divide between "empire" and "smaller state" to suit your argument. Master Xun was a Confucian; you are confusing him with his disciples Han Fei and Li Si, who originated Legalism. I am only commenting on your choice of Qin as a Sparta equivalent; your "main argument" isn't actually on topic.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 6:35
  • even if all greek states were de facto just like spartans in their characteristics like in the mentioned militaristic meritocraty, only sparta became a metaphor for those characteristics. If those states in the spring and autumn period and during the 7 warring states were also de facto very similar, maybe nevertheless one particular state, whether historical acurate or no, has become a metaphor for those traits within chinese hisotriography, culture or literature!
    – meireikei
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 13:03

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