Dynasties of East Asia

By: Marie Lodics

Asia began to flourish in 500 AD, the Chinese began to form several different dynasties. China's culture advanced and allowed other East Asian, Korean and Japan cultures advanced by the influence of China's ideas. Buddhism spread vastly throughout China and Japan. Buddhism is the practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true nature of reality. Buddhists practices activities to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom.

This map shows land of East Asia, and the different dynasties and countries trade routes. Shows the land that different areas conquered. Maps out the Great Wall of China and Grand Canal was built and their routes.

Chinese Dynasties

The Han Dynasty ruled till 220 AD, then collapsed and caused military leaders to split into different small kingdoms. The Sui, Song,and Tang Dynasties were all group that separated off do the the collapse of the Han Dynasty. These events brought the Period of Disunion. In the time of the Period of Disunion, nomads, people who travel place to place to find new fresh livestock, invade north areas of China, then formed kingdoms. Others who didn’t live the nomads life led to the south towards the Yangzi River. Nomads learned to adopt the ways of life like the Chinese civilizations. In the south, Chinese art and philosophy vastly improved creating immigrants to blended parts of culture. The Period of Disunion lasted for more than 350 years.

Sui Dynasty

In 581 AD the Sui Dynasty was established by a man known as Wendi. Wendi became the emperor, and built a government built on the ideas of a bureaucracy. A bureaucracy is a government system where state officials make important decisions other than elected representatives. His capital was built off of the city Chang’an. New legal code was formed from Wendi. Wendi made decisions such as the poor would pay lower taxes. Wendi created systems that allowed all men to own land and have grain availability.

Yang Di, Wendi’s son was the next emperor to take control of the Sui Dynasty. Yang Di worked to rebuild the Great Wall and started the creation of the Grand Canal, which is a water source that is linked for about one thousand miles from the north to south China. This water way created easy access to trade with the south for material and resources such as rice and grain. During the work of the Grand Canal, Yang Di forced several people to do labor. Thousands of men were dying due to the working conditions, this caused several people to rebel. Military forces made situation harsher, and in 618 was assassinated, murder in a surprise attack for religious or politic issues, by an official. This caused the Sui Dynasty to fall, leading a former official named Li Yuan to reunite the empire as the Tang Dynasty and the Gauzo empire.

Tang Dynasty

The Tang Dynasty was under the influence of the Sui Dynasty and was reformed by Li Yuan. This Dynasty ruled for about 300 years, from 618 to 907. Two capitals were built for the Tang Dyansty, Chang’an and Luoyang. The Tang created a centralized government and was based on bureaucracy of official. Through the government law sets flexible law codes were created, which influenced the Korean and Japanese. The Tang and Sui both used a system called the civil service examination system. This was a traditional Chinese system used to select men as government officials in a completive exam based on their results. The Tang expanded the availability for the civil service examination system. The Tang continued to expand China’s land and its culture. Through this expansion they regained western lands in Central Asia, Korea, and neighboring states.

Taizong ruled the Tang Dynasty from 626 to 649. Taizong had schools built to prepare students for the civil service exams. Also he had many military missions, such as the expansion and increased contact with other peoples contributed to the growth of foreign trade, which allowed Taizong’s economy to prosper. After Taizong’s past another emperor came into line, but this emperor was very sick. In result, the married to the sickened emperor, Kao Tsung, became the empress. Her name was Wu Zhao, ruled claiming her sons were weak rulers, and she deserve this honor. During her rule se ordered her rivals to be executed, but otherwise she was seem as a gifted ruler. In 705 she was overthrown. Through 712 to 756 an emperor named Xuanzong ruled, allowing the empire to prosper.

Buddhism spread through the Tang Dynasty because Buddhism is believed that people could escape suffering and achieve peace. Buddhism temples and art spread through China. An emperor during the Tang found Buddhism as a threat and officials burned text and temples of the Buddhist religion. The religion survived though and also influenced other relgions such ass Confucianism and Daoism. The Tang had several other advancements such as print making paper money, gunpowder, and magnetic compass. Though all these advancements in 750s the government began to weaken. The military was losing battles, there were nomadic invasions, and peasants rebelled over the high taxes. The Tang dynasty came to an end in 907.

The Tang's Figurines

The Song

In 960 Song ruled, its established capital was Kaifeng. The Song had an enlarged bureaucracy and reformed the civil service examination system. Reforming the system ensured talented people would be in government control. The examination was based off of Neo-Confucianism, which is Confucian ethics and spiritual matters. Citizens who passed the exams became scholar-officials. Becoming a scholar-official also came with wealth and status.

Art, literature, science, and technology all prospered throughout the Song Dynasty. Poetry was important in the Song Dynasty. Du Fu, a famous poet, wrote poems expressing the ides on Confucian beliefs or horrors of war. Li BO, another famous poet, wrote of friendship, joys, nature, and solitude. Wu Daozi was a painter who created murals representing Buddhism and nature. Figurines were also created, where symbolic and made to go in tombs. Porcelain was also created making ceramics, often called China. Chinese pagoda where created, which looked like several storied buildings, with roofs that curved upwards at corners. The printing process also appeared during the Song, which developed woodblock printing. Also movable type was another printing process used for numbers and letters, making writing much faster.

New irrigation system were created which allowed land people to farm. Chinese farmers grow two or three crops, instead of just one. Crop production increased. Tea became a highly popular product throughout China. Food growth brought population growth, feeding about 100 million people. Roads and canals allowed food to be sold in markets and cities. China began to trade with Japan, Korea, Southeast, Asia, and other areas through the Silk Road. Sea trade also appeared in the Song, allowing the Song have access to cities ports. Merchants were highly looked upon and economy strengthened. Trade in the Song Dynasty allows money and banking to develop. Cities flourished with business, entertainment, and trade. Society where given a new look called gentry. Gentry where scholar-officials and wealthy landowners. Women statuses declined encouraging women to stay in their homes. Foot binding was also develop in result of women. Foot binding is applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth of women’s feet.

The Mongols

In 1200, nomadic people from Central Asia began to appear called the Mongols. Nomads live relying on herds of animals for their food, warmth, shelter, and movement. They traded, though nomads also stole materials from settled people. The Mongols herded sheep and goats, providing meat, milk, wool, and shelter. Mongols were skilled riders on horses and learned at a young age. They where tough and fierce warriors. Clans leaders were known as klan, meaning chief. Khan gained power through military skill and leadership skills.

Temujin began to conquer enemies and in 1206 was titled “Genghis Khan” meaning “Universal Ruler”, uniting Mogol clans. Genghis trained Mongols into extremely hard working military men. Genghis Khan’s armies had high mobility, with army tactics, like an animal watching over its prey. Gers were built which were felt tents and set on wheeled platforms and pulled by ox for shelter. Mongols were also skilled in bow and arrow. They could fire arrows with extreme accuracy. Mongols burned away cities and towns, some people began to surrender without a fight.

For 20 years Genghis led these men to conquer China and the Turks, and finding the advancements of gunpowder. 1227, Genghis died with control of northern China and Central Asia. His sons and grandsons followed in his footsteps. Mongols were divided into four regions, ruled all by heirs of Genghis. Kublai Khan’s people continued the mission to conquer Korea and China. Hulegu ruled Ilkhan, his forces conquered Persia. Batu conquering Russia in 1236. Russians referred to the Mongols as the Tartars, who took Moscow and Kiev, then Poland and Hungary. India and Western Europe escaped the Mongol horror.

Mogols conquered several areas, taking in several people. The Mongols tolerated religious beliefs and allowed rules to have power as long as they paid tribute. This time was referred to as the Pax Mongolia meaning “Mongols Peace”. They guarded the Silk Road and ensured safe travel across Asia. This allowed innovations to travel westward. In 1300s the Black Death spread wiping out most of the population.

Kublai Khan, in 1260, held power over Khanate. He became the Great Khan, and his mission was to conquer the rest of China. In 1235, he began his conquest, and in 1279 he defeated the Song creating the Yuan Dynasty. Kublai Khan was emperor of the Yuan dynasty. Kublai Khan tried to gain loyal followers, so he did not force Chinese to adopt to Mongolian ways. His capital was located near present Beijing. Kublai Khan built walled city in the Chinese style as well as a lavish palace. He adapted to Chinese ceremonies, trying to rule as a Chinese emperor. Mongols did not mix with Chinese people, friendship and marriage between the two was discouraged. Chinese had different laws, and where unable to own weapons or serve in the military. Kublai Khan limited the Chinese’s power. Mongols burdened Chinese with heavy taxes, and forced Chinese to build road and extend the Grand Canal, making trade much easier. To keep the Chinese from rebelling, Mongols soliders where placed throughout China. Huge ships where built for merchants to trade across the seas. Foreign Trade brought several merchants and missionaries from Southwest Asia and India, but most famously Marco Polo.

Yuan Dynasty Began to weaken at the end of Kublai Khan’s ruling. One reason was he suffered several military defeats. All invasions failed, and armies went through nasty losses. Also, Kublai Khan tried to conquer Japan. First attempt ended in a success, but shorty later a destroyed their ships and killed over 10,000 men. Second time the Japanese held the navy fleet but 50 days later a huge storm flow over again defeating the fleet. Japanese referred to the storms as kamikaze, or divine wind. Military completely weakened, along with their economy. In 1294 Kublai Khan died, and all leaders lacked his leadership skill. There were heavy taxes and in 1368 a rebel defeated the Mongols.


The Korean peninsula is south from the Asian mainland. Do to Korea’s location, between China and Japan, a bridge was created for passing of people and culture. China and Japan had dominated Korea over time. There are several rugged mountains, which effects the number of land for farming. The first Koreans were nomads, and formed clans to develop culture Koreans adopted Confucianism and were influenced by Chinese writing, political stands, and farming methods.

Three kingdoms took control of Korea. In 668 Silla allied with China—then ruled by and conquered the other two kingdoms. The Silla then turned on the Chinese and driving them away from Korea. In 670, Silla ruled all of Korea. Silla’s rulers assured they would pay taxes for China to ensure goodwill. Silla’s rulers promoted Buddhism and created a central government and bureaucracy. In 935 the Korean dynasty, Koryo, was founded by Wang Kon. The Koryo was highly influenced by the Chinese. Nobles could take the exams, and resulting in government positions. Artists created pottery covered with a blue-green glaze called celadon, and used methods of carving and printing. 1200s the Mongols invaded Korea, forcing Koryo’s rulers to pay tributes and force Koreans into labor. They took artisans to China, and forced men to serve in the Yuan military.


Japanese called their land Nippon, “Land of the Rising Sun”. Japan is made up of several islands, like Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. The island make an archipelago, with hundreds of volcanoes and receives tsunamis. Japan is completely surrounded by water, which creates source for food and transportation, also provides prevention from invasion. Gathers and Hunters from mainlands in Asia traveled to Japan, like the Ainu. People who lived on the islands south of the Ainu were Japanese. Clans were created and believed in nature spirits called kami. These beliefs developed a religion called Shinto, which teaches all things in nature such as the sun or trees have kami. Torri were red gateways to enter shrines were they worshipped kami.

Amaterasu was the sun goddess. The first emperor was an heir of Amaterasu and ruled the Yamato Clan. This clan lived in a rich farming region on the island Honshu. 500s, Yamato controlled most of Honshu, allowing the emperor to claim himself emperor of Japan. Other clans began to control Yamato, making the emperor more a figure head.

In mid-500s Japan had contact with Korea and China. The Japanese borrowed several ideas from the Chinese and Koreans. Chinese writing was influenced through Korean scribes, and Japanese adapted the Chinese writing. Buddhism was also shared, and widely spread out by the 800s. This created art spread such as temples. Prince Shotoku from 593 to 622 served as a regent to the empress, he admired China and sent scholars to learn about the culture. Tang style of food, tea fashion, art, music, and dance all vastly spread through Japan. The government system of a bureaucracy, nobles continued to hold high offices.https://tackk.com/

The capital was moved to Heian in 794, which developed a elegant and stylish court. The Heian period lasted from 794 to 1185. Nobles lived in palaces with ease and privilege, like admiring art and gardens, or poetry. Nobles called themselves “dwellers among the clouds.” Writing and speaking properly was extremely important, along with being expected to write poetry. Noblewomen were discouraged to learn in China, so many did literature in Japanese, because the Japanese created a combined language from Chinese. Lady Muraski Shikibu, wrote The Tale of Genji, considered the world’s first full-length book.


This is Lady Murasaki Shikibu, most likely writting.

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia was divided into two parts the mainland and island. Southeast Asia’s mainland, many rivers flow south. The valleys and deltas of these rivers supported agriculture and became home to early civilizations in the area. The islands are surrounded by seas creating main sources for food and travel. Southeast Asia had extremely important trade routes from China to India. Control over the Malacca and Sumatra brought wealth and power. Monsoons were created helping trade in the winter, creating ports for ships. Ports became very important to the economy. AD 100s the merchants from India began a strong continuous sea trade with Southeast Asia. Goods where traded for spices and aromatic wood. Indian missionaries spread Hinduism and Buddhism through Southeast Asia, and many kingdoms adopted these religions. Temples were built in honor of these religions such the Buddhist monument at Borobudur, on Java. Sanskrit was used and Muslims brought Islam to Southeast Asia.

In 840 AD, people that were Burmans established a kingdom known as Pagan. Pagan was located at Irrawaddy River valley, a fertile area, where there were several rice farms. Anawrahta ruled from 1044 to 1077, he conquered lots of land and unified the Pagans. Anawrahta believed in Theravada Buddhism, in result built thousands of temples and a learning center for the Buddhist religion. In 1200s the Mongols attacked Pagan, and his army was crushed. Pagan fled southward, then later killed by one of his son, who then agreed to pay the tribute to the Mongols. The powerful Khmer Empire arose, now is Cambodia. The empire was at a high peek during 850 to 1120. The Khmer Empire adopted both Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and ruled as gods. Angkor was the capital and was based on a Hindu universe. In Angkor beautiful temples were built. Angkor Wat is the most famous Hindu temple complex built in the 1100s, and still stands today. With the advanced architecture, the empire was able to flourish in irrigation with rice farms. In time, however, costly building projects and invaders contributed to the empire’s decline.

To the South of the mainland several kingdoms began to develop on the islands of Southeast Asia. On Java, the kingdom of Sailendra ruled from 750 to 850. Sailendra adopted Mahayana Buddhism, and was known for its trade and architecture. Borobudur is a moment that was built, which has nine terraced levels that symbolize the stages of the Buddhist spiritual journey. On Sumatra, the Srivijayan Empire prospered from the 600s to the 1200s. Srivijaya had control of overseas traders through the Malacca and Sunda straits creating wealth for the empire. These people adapted to Hindu and Buddhists religions. Palembang, the capital of Sumatra, became a center of Buddhist learning. Buddhist learnings were so important that a Chinese monk declared the Buddhist students spend one year studying there before going on to study in India. 1025 an Indian kingdom attacked Srivijaya, empire survived but severely weakened. Kindgoms around gained more power weakening the Srivijaya’s center of trade.

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