Financial History 143 Fall 2022 - Page 28

some of those practices and behaviors to the Indus traders they dealt with . ( Indeed , Indus Valley jewelry and seals have been found along the coast of the Persian Gulf and in Mesopotamia .)
Though no one knows for sure , it ’ s safe to suspect that Indus Valley long-distance traders were as entrepreneurial as the craftspeople who supplied them .
Governmental need spurred entrepreneurship in Mesopotamia ; governmental neglect spurred it in ancient Egypt . In the Indus Valley civilization , it was their cultural appreciation for diversity among their craftspeople , particularly those who made jewelry and pottery , that inspired entrepreneurs to innovate .
At the Bottom of the Celestial Order
Unlike some of the other ancient entrepreneurs , we know the name Zidong not by accident but because he was a disciple of Confucius and the first entrepreneur to be mentioned in Chinese literature . Confucius conferred on Duanmu Ci the name Zidong and refers to him this way throughout The Analects , the compendium of Confucian sayings compiled after the philosopher died in 479 bc .
Zidong was a wealthy merchant when he came to study with Confucius and his other disciples . To Confucius , Zidong was emblematic of what Chinese culture considered a good entrepreneur : loyal , intelligent and strategic ; a person to whom profit-making was of lower priority than creating harmony for his family , and who revered his leaders , elders and ancestors .
Zidong understood his place in ancient Chinese society and his responsibilities to others . Entrepreneurship was also implicit in a core Chinese belief that everyone has an appropriate place in a harmonious society . Of greatest importance to order , and therefore at the top of the natural hierarchy , were strong and learned leaders ; followed by farmers , who produced what was needed for life ; then artisans , who created products that made living easier and more enjoyable ; and , finally , merchants , who sought to profit off the work of others .
But entrepreneurs existed in China long before Confucius ’ s time . The Chinese character for profit is “ li ,” a combination of the characters for “ rice field ” and “ the sharp point of a plow .” The character has an ancient provenance , showing up before
Drawing of Chinese philosopher Confucius , who was the teacher of Zidong , the first entrepreneur to be mentioned in Chinese literature .
1000 bc . Clearly , people noticed that Chinese farmers who invested in sharp plows had greater yields and were wealthier . The character also meant “ auspicious ,” as in good fortune . “ Profit ” and “ good fortune ” were synonyms in ancient China .
Determining the earliest roots of Chinese entrepreneurship can only be speculative , given the currently available historical record . By the beginning of the Shang dynasty in 1460 bc , there were two large bronze-making workshops outside the walls of Zhengzhou Shang City , which may indicate that some bronze ritual vases and utilitarian objects , like belt buckles , were produced by independent artisans and not controlled by the ruling elite . Prior to this date , all workshops — bronze or otherwise — were located in close proximity to the palaces of local rulers . Merchants may have acted independently to facilitate the trade of some local exotic
26 FINANCIAL HISTORY | Fall 2022 | www . MoAF . org