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Joshua Turner
Joshua Turner

A History Of East Asia: From The Origins Of Civ...



KEITH N. KNAPP is Professor and Head of the History Department at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. He teaches courses on World Civilization, East Asian History, Religion, and Leadership. He is the author of Selfless Offspring: Filial Children and Social Order in Medieval China (Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 2005) and numerous articles and book chapters on the social and cultural history of early medieval Chinese Confucianism. He is the president of the Early Medieval China Group and Chair of the Southeast Early China Roundtable.




A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civ...


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East Asia generally encompasses the histories of China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and Taiwan from prehistoric times to the present. Each of its countries has a different national history, but East Asian Studies scholars maintain that the region is also characterized by a distinct pattern of historical development.[1] This is evident in the interrelationship among traditional East Asian civilizations, which not only involve the sum total of historical patterns but also a specific set of patterns that has affected all or most of traditional East Asia in successive layers.


The study of East Asian history as an area study is a part of the rise of East Asian studies as an academic field in the Western World. The teaching and studying of East Asian history began in the West during the late 19th century.[2] In the United States, Asian Americans around the time of the Vietnam War believed that most history courses were Eurocentric and advocated for an Asian-based curriculum. At the present time, East Asian History remains a major field within Asian Studies. Nationalist historians in the region tend to stress the uniqueness of their respective country's tradition, culture, and history because it helps them legitimize their claim over territories and minimize internal disputes.[3] There is also the case of individual authors influenced by different concepts of society and development, which lead to conflicting accounts.[3] These, among other factors, led some scholars to stress the need for broader regional and historical frameworks.[1] There have been issues with defining exact parameters for what East Asian history which as an academic study has focused on East Asia's interactions with other regions of the world.[4] It has been argued that East Asia and Southeast Asia form a single ethno-cultural area, sharing common roots and history with each other, while being distinct from other world regions.[5]


These regions, or the civilizations of China, Japan, and Korea, were under the rule of many dynasties or government systems and their boundaries changed due to inter dynasty wars on a same region or wars between regions. In prehistory, Homo Erectus lived in East and Southeast Asia from 1.8 million to 40,000 years ago.[6]


From the 17th century onward, East Asian nations such as China, Japan, and Korea chose a policy of isolationism in response to European contact. The 17th and 18th centuries saw great economic and cultural growth. Qing China dominated the region but Edo Japan remained completely independent. At this time limited interactions with European merchants and intellectuals led to the rise of Great Britain's East India Company and the beginning of Japan's Dutch Studies. The 1800s however saw the rise of direct European Imperialism upon the region. Qing China was unable to defend itself from various colonial expeditions from Great Britain, France and Russia during the Opium Wars. Japan meanwhile choose the path of westernization under the Meiji Period and attempted to modernize by following the political and economic models of Europe and the Western World. The rising Japanese Empire forcibly annexed Korea in 1910. After years of civil war and decline, China's last emperor Puyi abdicated in 1912 ending China's imperial history which had persisted for over two millennium from the Qin to Qing.


In China specifically, fossils representing 40 Homo erectus individuals, known as Peking Man, were found near Beijing at Zhoukoudian that date to about 400,000 years ago. The species was believed to have lived for at least several hundred thousand years in China,[6] and possibly until 200,000 years ago in Indonesia[citation needed]. They may have been the first to use fire and cook food.[8] Homo sapiens migrated into inland Asia, likely by following herds of bison and mammoth and arrived in southern Siberia by about 43,000 years ago and some people moved south or east from there.[9][10]The earliest sites of neolithic culture include Nanzhuangtou culture around 9500 BC to 9000 BC,[11] Pengtoushan culture around 7500 BC to 6100 BC, Peiligang culture around 7000 BC to 5000 BC. China's first villages appeared on the landscape at this time.


The territories of modern-day Mongolia and Inner Mongolia in ancient times was inhabited by nomadic tribes. The cultures and languages in these areas were fluid and changed frequently. The use of horses to herd and move started during the Iron Age. A large area of Mongolia was under the influence of Turkic peoples, while the southwestern part of Mongolia was mostly under the influence of Indo-European peoples such as the Tocharians and Scythian tribes. In antiquity, the eastern portions of both Inner and Outer Mongolia were inhabited by Mongolic peoples descended from the Donghu people and numerous other tribes These were Tengriist horse-riding pastoralist kingdoms that had close contact with the agrarian Chinese. As a nomadic confederation composed of various clans the Donghu were prosperous in the 4th century BC, forcing surrounding tribes to pay tribute and constantly harassing the Chinese State of Zhao (325 BC, during the early years of the reign of Wuling). To appease the nomads local Chinese rulers often gave important hostages and arranged marriages. In 208 BC Xiongnu emperor Modu Chanyu, in his first major military campaign, defeated the Donghu, who split into the new tribes Xianbei and Wuhuan. The Xiongnu were the largest nomadic enemies of the Han Dynasty fighting wars for over three centuries with the Han Dynasty before dissolving. Afterwards the Xianbei returned to rule the Steppe north of the Great Wall. The titles of Khangan and Khan originated from the Xianbei.


Japan was seriously threatened by the Yuan forces from the East Asian mainland. In 1274, Kublai Khan appointed Yudu. In order to recruit Marshal Dongdu to command the Yuan forces, Han Bing and the Goryeo army began the first expedition to Japan. The Yuan dynasty invaded Japan in two separate invasions, both of which were disrupted by natural typhoons. These two invasions both occupied the town of Kitakyushu before being swept into the sea. At the time the Yuan dynasty fleet was the largest fleet in the history of the world.


East Asia, especially Chinese civilization, is regarded as one of the earliest cradles of civilization. Other ancient civilizations in East Asia that still exist as independent countries in the present day include the Japanese, Korean and Mongolian civilizations. Various other civilizations existed as independent polities in East Asia in the past but have since been absorbed into neighbouring civilizations in the present day, such as Tibet, Baiyue, Khitan, Manchuria, Ryukyu (Okinawa) and Ainu among many others. Taiwan has a relatively young history in the region after the prehistoric era; originally, it was a major site of Austronesian civilization prior to colonisation by European colonial powers and China from the 17th century onward. For thousands of years, China was the leading civilization in the region, exerting influence on its neighbours.[11][12][13] Historically, societies in East Asia have fallen within the Chinese sphere of influence, and East Asian vocabulary and scripts are often derived from Classical Chinese and Chinese script. The Chinese calendar serves as the root from which many other East Asian calendars are derived. Major religions in East Asia include Buddhism (mostly Mahayana[14]), Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism, Taoism, Ancestral worship, and Chinese folk religion in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, Shinto in Japan, and Christianity, and Musok in Korea.[15][16][17] Tengerism and Tibetan Buddhism are prevalent among Mongols and Tibetans while other religions such as Shamanism are widespread among the indigenous populations of northeastern China such as the Manchus.[18] Major languages in East Asia include Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Major ethnic groups of East Asia include the Han (mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan), Yamato (Japan) and Koreans (North Korea, South Korea). Mongols, although not as populous as the previous three ethnic groups, constitute the majority of Mongolia's population. There are 76 officially-recognised minority or indigenous ethnic groups in East Asia; 55 native to mainland China (including Hui, Manchus, Chinese Mongols, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Zhuang in the frontier regions), 16 native to the island of Taiwan (collectively known as Taiwanese indigenous peoples), one native to the major Japanese island of Hokkaido (the Ainu) and four native to Mongolia (Turkic peoples). Ryukyuan people are an unrecognised ethnic group indigenous to the Ryukyu Islands in southern Japan, which stretch from Kyushu Island (Japan) to Taiwan. There are also several unrecognised indigenous ethnic groups in mainland China and Taiwan.


Under Emperor Wu of Han, the Han dynasty made China the regional power in East Asia, projecting much of its imperial power on its neighbours.[42][48] Han China hosted the largest unified population in East Asia, the most literate and urbanised as well as being the most economically developed, as well as the most technologically and culturally advanced civilization in the region at the time.[49][50] Cultural and religious interaction between the Chinese and other regional East Asian dynasties and kingdoms occurred. China's impact and influence on Korea began with the Han dynasty's northeastern expansion in 108 BC when the Han Chinese conquered the northern part of the Korean peninsula and established a province called Lelang. Chinese influence would soon take root in Korea through the inclusion of the Chinese writing system, monetary system, rice culture, and Confucian political institutions.[51] Jomon society in ancient Japan incorporated wet-rice cultivation and metallurgy through its contact with Korea. Starting from the fourth century AD, Japan incorporated the Chinese writing system which evolved into Kanji by the fifth century AD and has become a significant part of the Japanese writing system.[52] Utilizing the Chinese writing system allowed the Japanese to conduct their daily activities, maintain historical records and give form to various ideas, thoughts, and philosophies.[53] During the Tang dynasty, China exerted its greatest influence on East Asia as various aspects of Chinese culture spread to Japan and Korea.[54][55] As full-fledged medieval East Asian states were established, Korea by the fourth century AD and Japan by the seventh century AD, Japan and Korea actively began to incorporate Chinese influences such as Confucianism, the use of written Han characters, Chinese style architecture, state institutions, political philosophies, religion, urban planning, and various scientific and technological methods into their culture and society through direct contacts with Tang China and succeeding Chinese dynasties.[54][55][56] Drawing inspiration from the Tang political system, Prince Naka no oe launched the Taika Reform in 645 AD where he radically transformed Japan's political bureaucracy into a more centralised bureaucratic empire.[57] The Japanese also adopted Mahayana Buddhism, Chinese style architecture, and the imperial court's rituals and ceremonies, including the orchestral music and state dances had Tang influences. Written Chinese gained prestige and aspects of Tang culture such as poetry, calligraphy, and landscape painting became widespread.[57] During the Nara period, Japan began to aggressively import Chinese culture and styles of government which included Confucian protocol that served as a foundation for Japanese culture as well as political and social philosophy.[58][59] The Japanese also created laws adopted from the Chinese legal system that was used to govern in addition to the kimono, which was inspired from the Chinese robe (hanfu) during the eighth century AD.[60] For many centuries, most notably from the 7th to the 14th centuries, China stood as East Asia's most advanced civilization and foremost military and economic power exerting its influence as the transmission of advanced Chinese cultural practices and ways of thinking greatly shaped the region up until the nineteenth century.[61][62][63][64] 041b061a72


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