East Asia 589-1200's

China

Chinese Map

Sui Dynasty:

Wendi reunified China after the Period of Disunion. He created a centralized government and a bureaucracy. He also created new legal code to enforce laws and make society work. Wendi created some policies to make sure males get land automatically. He did this to ensure the availability of grain and other farmed goods. What is said to be one of the greatest accomplishments of the Sui Dynasty was the Grand Canal. It was approximately a one-thousand mile long water way that linked Northern and Southern China. It was used for transporting goods especially rice because it was harder to grow it in Northern China. It wasn't finished though during the Sui Dynasty.

The Grand Canal - Sui Dyansty

Tang Dynasty:

A sui general seized power and made the Tang Dynasty. He created a strong  central government. To do this he established one capital at Chang’an and a second capital at Luoyang. The government control remained centralized and based on a bureaucracy of officials. To obtain talented officials, the Tang expanded the civil service examination system. Under this system, people had to pass written exams to work for the government. In addition, Tang rulers created a flexible law code. In the Tang Dynasty they expanded China and its influences. Chinese contact with Japan increased, and Japanese scholars came to China to study its government and culture. Expansion had increased contact with other peoples contributed to the growth of foreign trade, and the economy prospered. There were also a number of achievements in the Tang Dynasty. During the Tang Dynasty there was a series of many rulers. Under  Taizong reign most of the expansion of China happened. Wu Zhao was the first woman to gain power in China. She gained power because her husband was very sick and died. She was also the only women in Chinese history to rule. She was an effective but also ruthless ruler. During Xuanzong reign the empire prospered and culture flourished.

Wu Zhao - The first Woman to rule China

Song Dynasty:

They created a capital at Kaifeng. They also restored centralized government control and enlarged the government bureaucracy. Lately, they reformed the civil service examination system. And the exams tested students’ grasp of Confucianism and related ideas. Neo-Confucianism emphasized not only Confucian ethics but also spiritual matters. The civil service exams were extremely difficult to pass. Those who did pass the exams became school officials. The exams became a pathway to gaining wealth and status. They created many roads and canals to promote trade. Foreign trade happened on the silk road. In the city, streets were filled with people and lined with shops, teahouses, and restaurants. City markets bustled with activity and provided numerous foreign goods. Entertainment districts provided amusement. China’s greatest poets Du Fu and Li Bo became very famous for their writtings  Chinese painting also reached new heights during this period. Tang artist Wu Daozi painted murals that celebrated Buddhism and nature. Artists also creates numerous clay objects. Gunpowder was also invented for fireworks, then later firearms and cannons. The magnetic compass was created to make sea travel easier. Paper and ink was invented earlier but they made a lot and also made the wood block printing. It was a device used to print writings. New irrigation techniques made agriculture flourish and made a great supply of food.

Song Dynasty Land

Mongolia

Mongolia Map

Mongol Empire:

They were nomads from the Steppe. They were united under the leadership of Temujin   (Genghis Khan). They mastered the art of Steppe Democracy which was their type of government. The Mongols conquered most of the known land at that time. Which was 13.8 million square miles with 100 million people. Because of that much land it created the largest empire ever (From Poland to China). What helped the Mongols conquer so much land was because of their fierce warriors. They were excellent on horseback and skillful with their bows. Their cutting edge weaponry was also a huge advantage. Their arms were quick moving and could strike a lot faster than any other at that time. But one of the biggest reasons why their army was successful was because they were masters at psychological warfare. They pretty much scared the other army away before they even fought because they feared the Mongol army. The Mongols didn't have many advancements in technology but one big thing they did was water proof houses. They used fat to water proof the house even though it smelled a little it was a big advantage to keep everything dry on the inside.

Mongol army was advanced and used horseback and could shoot arrows when riding their horse

Yuan Dynasty:

In 1260 Kublai Khan became the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. He was determined to complete the conquest of China. The Song fiercely resisted the Mongol invaders for many years. In 1279, though, the last Song ruler was defeated. Kublai Khan created the new Yuan dynasty and declared himself emperor. As emperor, Kublai Khan tried to gain the loyalty of his Chinese. Many of the Chinese saw the Mongols as rude and uncivilized. Kublai Khan did not force the Chinese to adopt Mongol ways of life. Instead, he adopted some Chinese practices, and even gave his dynasty a Chinese name. To strengthen his control, Kublai Khan moved his capital from Mongolia to a new city in China. The new capital was located near what is now the city of Beijing. Kublai Khan had built a walled city around the capital. The Mongols created different laws and taxes for the Chinese and did not let them own weapons or serve in the military. Although Kublai Khan left much of China’s government in place, he distrusted the Chinese and limited their power. Only non-Chinese could hold higher government posts. The Mongols burdened the Chinese with heavy taxes, a large part of which went to support public-works projects. They used Chinese laborers to build new roads and extended the Grand Canal to the capital city. These improvements made shipping rice and other goods from southern China to northern China easier and more reliable. To keep the peace, the Mongols posted soldiers throughout China. The Mongol rulers took this action in part because they feared rebellions. Under Kublai, foreign trade increased. The Pax Mongolia had made travel across land much safer for merchants, and Kublai Khan had enormous ships built to improve trade across the seas. By welcoming foreign merchants to China’s ports and offering some traders special privileges, Kublai Khan promoted foreign trade. As a result of such policies, many travelers, merchants, and missionaries came to China. Most were from Southwest Asia and India.

Yuan Dynasty

Japan & Korea

Japan Map

Yamato Clan:

According to tale Japan’s first emperor was the grandson of the sun goddess. The Yamato clan lived on the Yamato plain, a rich farming region on the island of Honshu. By the AD 500s the clan controlled much of Honshu. Although they did not control all of Japan, the Yamato chiefs began to call themselves the emperors of Japan. Even now Japan’s emperor still claims to be descended from the Yamato clan. Other clans eventually gained power over the Yamato. The leaders of these clans did not remove the Yamato emperor. Instead they decided to controlled him. As a result, the emperor often had no real authority. This political system of an imperial figurehead controlled by the head of a powerful family continued in Japan until the 1900s.

South East Asia

Yamato Court

Heian Period:

In 794 Japan’s emperor moved the capital to Heian. Also many of Japan’s nobles moved to Heian where they developed an elegant and stylish court society. The nobles lived in beautiful palaces and enjoyed lives of ease and privilege. They loved elegance and beauty and passed the time strolling through lovely gardens or admiring art and poetry. The rules of etiquette governed all aspects of court behavior and dress. Women often wore elaborate silk gowns made of twelve colored layers. The layers were cleverly cut and folded so that each one showed at the wrist. Nobles took great care with how they spoke and wrote. The proper way to write a note was an art form, and everyone was expected to write poetry. The women of the Heian court enjoyed writing and reading. Noblewomen were discouraged from learning Chinese, so many of them wrote and read in Japanese. The Japanese had developed a way to write their spoken language by combining Chinese characters with phonetic characters. Heian women produced some of the best works of early Japanese literature. The greatest writer was perhaps Lady Murasaki Shikibu. She wrote The Tale of Genji and it was considered the world’s first full-length novel. During most of the Heian period the Fujiwara family controlled Japan. Many of the Fujiwaras often married their daughters to the heirs to the throne. However, rich landowners with private armies eventually began to challenge the Fujiwaras and Japan’s central government.

Women's clothing in the Heian Period

Koryo Dynasty:

The Silla Kingdom eventually weakened. Around 935, rebels defeated it and founded the Koryo dynasty. Koryo’s rulers continued to adopt Chinese ideas but worked to maintain distinct Korean features. One Koryo ruler declared, “We have always had a deep adoration for Tang-style culture . . . But our country is a separate land, and our people’s character is different.” For examplee, the Koryo adopted a civil service examination system similar to China’s. Although in Korea, only nobles could take the test, and government positions were inherited. As a result, Korean society was divided between a powerful nobility and the rest of the people. During the Koryo period, Korean culture thrived. Korean artisans created pottery covered with a blue-green glaze that is called celadon. The Koreans used Chinese methods of printing and carved some 80,000 wooden blocks to print Buddhist texts. The Koreans later improved the process by creating metal movable type.

Celadon
Asia Map

Pagan Kingdom:

The Burmans established the kingdom of Pagan in what is now Myanmar. The kingdom was located in the fertile Irrawaddy River valley. Which was ideal for rice farming. Pagan’s first great king was Anawrahta. King Anawrahta had united much of what is now Myanmar under his rule. His conquests provided Pagan with access to trading ports. Because of this the kingdom prospered. Anawrahta and his successors supported Theravada Buddhism. They built thousands of magnificent Buddhist temples. Pagan eventually became a center of Buddhist learning. In the late 1200s the Mongols under the rule of Kublai Khan demanded tribute from Pagan. The king of Pagan refused and attacked the Mongols, who crushed the Pagan army. The Pagan king fled southward, after which one of his sons killed him and then agreed to pay the tribute to the Mongols. Pagan survived but lost most of its power.

The Pagan Kingdom

Khmer Empire:

The powerful Khmer Empire appeared in what is now Cambodia. The Khmer had begun  right away to conquer the kingdoms around them to build a great empire. This empire controlled much of the Southeast Asian mainland. The Khmer Empire reflected a strong Indian influence. The empire’s rulers adopted both Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and ruled as gods. In Angkor (the capital), the Khmer rulers had spectacular temple complexes built. The most famous is Angkor Wat, the ruins of which still stand. Built in the 1100s, this vast complex consists of walls surrounding a central temple with towers. Graceful carvings of Hindu myths and beliefs cover many of the walls. The temple’s central tower rises some 200 feet and may have been used as an astronomical observatory. The Khmer rulers could fund such impressive building projects because their empire had grown prosperous from rice farming. The Khmer devised an irrigation system that covered millions of acres to help with agricultural problems. With this system, the Khmer could grow several crops of rice a year. Though Khmer had many big elegant projects it eventually led to its decline of power.

Angkor Wat

Trading Kingdoms:

The Trading kingdoms developed on the islands of Southeast Asia. The people of Sailendra relied on agriculture and trade for their livelihood. The kingdom adopted Mahayana Buddhism and is known for its impressive Buddhist art and architecture. The Buddhist monument at Borobudur is the most famous Sailendra achievement. This monument has nine terraced levels that symbolize the stages of the Buddhist spiritual journey. The empire extended to the Malay Peninsula and Borneo. The Srivijaya Empire gained its wealth from its control of overseas traders through the Malacca and Sunda straits. The people of Srivijaya adopted Hinduism and Buddhism, which they blended with local beliefs. The Srivijaya capital which was located at Palembang on Sumatra, became a center of Buddhist learning. It was such an important center of learning that one Chinese monk declared that Buddhist students should spend a year in study there before going on to study in India. Nearby kingdoms grew in power after several attacks, reducing Srivijaya’s control of trade. In time, a Muslim kingdom on the Malay Peninsula came to dominate trade in the region. As Islam spread throughout the islands of Southeast Asia, Muslim traders developed a stable trade network that linked to other Muslim ports in Asia and Africa.

Srivijaya Empire

Vietnam:

Vietnam was strongly influenced by China. The Han dynasty conquered the kingdom of Nam Viet in what is now northern Vietnam. The Chinese ruled the region off and on for the next 1,000 years. Under Chinese rule, Vietnam absorbed many aspects of Chinese civilization. Chinese rulers forced the Vietnamese to adopt the Chinese language and Chinese clothing and hairstyles. Confucianism and Daoism influenced Vietnamese society. The Vietnamese adopted many features of Chinese government as well, including a bureaucracy and a Confucian-based civil service system. Vietnam embraced Mahayana Buddhism, and Buddhist art and architecture influenced Vietnamese culture. Even though all of that happened the Vietnamese still maintained many of their traditional customs. For example, they continued to worship nature spirits. The Vietnamese people remained determined to preserve their own culture and identity. In AD 39 a famous rebellion took place. That year, two sisters named Trung Trac and Trung Nhi raised an army and briefly drove the Chinese from Vietnam. But the Chinese soon regained control of Vietnam, and the sisters drowned themselves. The fall of China’s Tang dynasty provided the Vietnamese with another chance at independence. This time they succeeded. Finally they established the independent kingdom of Dai Viet in what is now northern Vietnam.

Chinese emperor of Nam Viet

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