Cultures of East Asia

By: Ally Witte

Chinese Dynasties

Sui, Song, and Tang Dynasties

Sui Dynasty

     The Sui Dynasty began when the Period of Disunion ended. Wendi, also known as Yang Jian became the first emperor. Wendi worked to create a centralized government. He restored order and reunified China.

The Grand Canal is the longest canal in the world. Starting in Beijing, it passes through Tianjin and ends in the city of Hangzhou. The oldest parts of the canal date back to the  5th century BC, although the Sui Dynasty combined the various sections.

Tang Dynasty

The Tang Dynasty began after the Sui general seized power and founded the new dynasty. Under the Tang Dynasty, China experienced a period of prosperity and cultural achievement. With the capital being in Chang'an, China, the government remained centralized. The ruler, Taizong, made many changes with education, including building school to prepare young adults for the civil service exams.

Under the rule of Taizong, the Tang Dynasty thrived in the trade expansion. Using the Silk Road, people from the Tang traveled all over to expand the area the Tang hold. They also began to travel by means of water. The growth of trade helped create a strong, prosperous economy.

Buddhism first came to China during the Han times, yet the people of the Tang Dynasty decided to readopt the ways and traditions of the Buddhism religion. Most of the leaders of the Tang Dynasty were Buddhists, many people decided to convert to this religion and this time period of thriving Buddhists in China became known as the Age of Buddhism.

Song Dynasty

The Song dynasty established their capital in Kaifeng, China, where they restored order. After restoring the strong, centralized government, more change came. The government officials made changes with the territory ruling and how the people were governed.

During the Song Dynasty, people reformed the education system. They reformed the civil service examination, which helps the government. This helps ensure that the government has talented, smart people running it. When the test is passed, the person who passed gains wealth and a sense of power, and that inspires some to work hard.

While the Song Dynasty was in reign, the agriculture started to boom. New irrigation systems were just the start to increasing the food supply. New techniques of farming then brought forth new ideas of farming expansion and ultimately saved farmers money. Increased food production also contributed to population growth. In addition, the production of tea and cotton increased, making the production of both more important crops.

The Mongols

Throughout history, civilizations throughout China had been attacked by nomadic tribes and people. During the Song dynasty, these attacks became more and more frequent and brutal. During this time period, the nomadic people were known as the Mongols.


Genghis Khan was the ruthless ruler in this time period. He trained his warriors to be mean, yet they were amazing on horseback and great archers. He lead groups of his army through Southeast Asia  and is most known for expanding and establishing the largest empire in history.

As the Mongols traveled to conquer Southeast Asia, they began to trade. Going from Venice to Beijing and beyond, trading of goods lead to cultural diffusion and gaining new traded goods.  Within trade, Mongols got ideas from the Chinese about compasses, gunpowder and printing.

Yuan Dynasty

Kublai Khan was the leader of the Yuan Dynasty. The capital being in Beijing, China, they were located in the central of the Yuan Dynasty. He did not make the Chinese people change their beliefs and ways like the Mongols did. Kublai Khan then established peace throughout his empire by posting soldiers in cities to keep peace.

During the reign of Kublai Khan, foreign trade increased. The Pax Mongolia made travel much safer. Large ships were used for foreign trade to improve trade across the sea. Also with trade increasing, Chinese laborers were put to work on expanding the Grand Canal and built new roads for the trade to expand and increase.

Japan and Korea

Yamato Clan

The Yamato Clan is based out of Japan. They stood our among the rest of the civilizations in the area for political power. They are most known for unifying North Kyushu, Shikoku and Southern Honshu under the power of Amenohiboko.

Heian Period

The Heian Period is most known for rich culture. Clothing took a shift from bland colors, to bright reds, and pinks. Japanese literature comes up in this time period. Most full length novels and poetry was written during this time period. All of this happened under the rule of the Fuijiwara family.

Koryo Dynasty

The Koryo Dynasty had one main achievement that expanded their culture. People in this dynasty thrived in pottery and celadon. Also, the koryo people also used Chinese methods of printing and carved over 80,000 wooden blocks to print the Buddhist text.

Pagan Kingdom

The Pagan Kingdom was established in an area know as today by Myanmar. It was ruled by Anawraha, who began to conquer surround lands. This expansion allowed access to trading ports.

One of the biggest things that the people of the Pagan Kingdom did was build thousands of Buddhist temples, and after all was built, Pagan became a center of Buddhist learning.

Khmer Empire

The Khmer Empire rose from what is now Cambodia. This empire conquered many surrounded kingdoms to make it has big and strong as it is. The Khmer Empire reflected a strong influence from India. The rulers adopted ideas from Buddhism and Hinduism, The capital, Angkor, symbolized the shape of the Hindu universe.

The Khmer rulers funded many building projects because the empire was prospering in agriculture. To improve the agriculture productions throughout, they devised an irrigation system that covered a lot of land. With this new irrigation system, the people were able to grow several crops all year, including rice. Even though the building projects were beautiful, the cost of the project and the invasion of surrounding empires lead to their downdfall.

Trading Kingdoms

Just to the south of the mainland, many of the trading kingdoms developed on the Islands of Southeast Asia. Centered around culture and religion, these kingdoms and empires thrived living in close proximity to each other.

Most of the kingdoms around this area are known for their agriculture, trade and Buddhism. These kingdoms gained wealth and power by their control of overseas trade. Many of the people in the Trading Kingdoms adopted Hinduism and Buddhism, which blended with local beliefs. The capital of Srivijaya became the center of Buddhist learning.


While most of Southeast Asia was influenced by Indian culture, Vietnam was influenced by China. Under the Chinese rule, Vietnam gained many aspects of the Chinese civilization. The Vietnam people were forced to to adopt the Chinese language, clothing and hairstyles.

The people of Vietnam had to adapt to the Chinese ways after being conquered. They were influenced by Daosim and Confucianism. They also adapted to the bureaucracy and Confucian-based civil service system. They also embraced the Buddhist religion and still demanded to preserve their old culture, identity and way of life.

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