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The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History, Second Edition
Richard W. Bulliet, Pamela Kyle Crossley, Daniel R. Headrick, Steven W. Hirsch, Lyman L. Johnson, David Northrup
History WIRED

Chapter 11: Central and Eastern Asia, 400-1200


Tang Dynasty

Northern Song Dynasty

Southern Song Dynasty

Liao Empire and Northern Song Dynasty

Jin Empire and Southern Song Dynasty

China's Imports and Foreign Trade Routes, Tang Dynasty (Click on Maps in the left-hand Navbar)

Expansion of Islam

Chang'an During Sui and Tang Dynasties

Chang'an: Tang Imperial Capital


Founder of the Tang Dynasty

Tang Dynasty Horse

Tang Dynasty Camel

Tang Dynasty Bodhisattva

Collection of Ceramics: Tang Dynasty

Tang Lady

Tang Lady on Horse

Empress Wu

Tang Buddha

Imperial Tomb Calendric Figures from Tang Dynasty

This site includes several images of artwork from the Tang Empire and other Central Asian kingdoms.

Boston Museum of Fine Arts: Tales from the Land of the Dragons
This site contains several paintings with descriptions from the Tang and Song Empires, as well as other empires in the region.

Chinese Junk

Chinese Technology: The earliest printed book - 868 CE

Chinese Technology: Early Chinese Star Mapping

Chinese Technology: Early Paper Money

Chinese Foot Binding

Bound Feet

Chinese Women with Bound Feet

Forest of Steles in Xian
A unique site that offers many images of steles in Xian (or Chang'an).  Steles were used to record important events or publicize important deeds.

Landscape of Turkmenistan
Among the images at this site are several examples of the terrain of Central Asia.

Japanese Architecture in Kyoto
This site includes photographs of several temples built before 1200.

Images of the Buddha
Observe representations of the Buddha originating from throughout Eastern and Southeast Asia.  Many of these artifacts date from between 400 and 1200.

Activity One:

While Islam was expanding and Christian Europe was emerging in the western part of the Eastern Hemisphere between 400 and 1200, Central and Eastern Asia were experiencing their own cultural revival and dynamism.  The restoration of the central authority under the Tang Empire was crucial to this development.  Read the essay and study the images at The Exoticism in Tang, 618-907 and be sure to click on the map that accompanies this site.  Also see the map of the Tang Dynasty to observe its territorial scale and scope.  As this essay explains, the influence of the Tang Empire went far beyond its borders.  With the reemergence of a strong Chinese empire, the Eurasian trade routes which you explored in Chapter 8, "Networks of Communication and Exchange 300 B.C.E.-1100 C.E." revived after a period of decline.  For an overview of this development, see Old World Contacts: Second Period, 400-1100 C.E.   Chang'an, the capital of the Tang Empire, became the largest city in the world at this time.  Analyze the map of Chang'an: Tang Imperial Capital, noting the extensive market places and the variety of religious shrines.  Find out more about Chang'an during the Tang Empire at Xian.  After reviewing these sites, analyze how the revival of the Eurasian trade routes influenced China during the Tang Empire.  Be sure to consider economic developments, religious growth, and cultural trends.

Activity Two:

As Activity One demonstrates, in this era of increased contact, China underwent profound changes.  Did this exposure to new ideas, technologies, and peoples ferment the emergence of a completely new cultural synthesis in China, or did strong links to the past remain?  To evaluate this question, explore The Later Empire: The Song.  Compare and contrast the Tang and the Song Empires.  Look for key differences and similarities.  For example, what were the roles of the emperors and the aristocracies?  How did the governments organize themselves?  How did they define their roles?  What major problems preoccupied them?  How did the revival of Confucian ideas address contemporary concerns in the Song Empire?  What was new about this Confucian revival?  What was old about it?  Does the Song Empire represent a complete break with the past, a revival of traditional Chinese practices, or a combination of both?

Activity Three:

One concern of government officials during the Song Empire was the threat of foreign invasion and capture from Central Asian nomads.  Go to Map 6 and Map 7.  What were the Liao and Jin Empires?  What do these maps reveal about the successes and failures of the Song in defending their borders? This inability to expand, or even defend its borders, had a profound impact on Chinese economic history.  China had less land to cultivate yet still feed a growing population, which led to an agricultural revolution of sorts.  For more information, see The Song Dynasty: Economics.  How did changes in agriculture and relations with nomadic kingdoms alter commercial developments in China?    How did this development affect the history of East Asia?   Greater commercialism encouraged technological and innovations.  Go to Technology in the Song to explore technological developments.  How did these innovations reflect the Song Empire's shrinking land base and the need for more revenue?  How do they reflect the interchange of ideas between Eastern and Central Asia from 400 to 1200?  You might also want to review "Song Industries" and "Economy and Society" on pages 287-292 in The Earth and Its Peoples (Second Edition).  After completing these exercises, explain how the emergence of sustained and extensive contact between China and surrounding areas and the unique political and military situation in the Song Empire resulted in the explosion of technological innovations.

Activity Four:

The cultural exchange between China and Eastern and Central Asia during this era (400-1200) was multidimensional.  Trade fostered the spread of ideas, the exchange of technology, and the growth of travel.  As a result, some analysts claim that an "East Asia Civilization" emerged during this time period.  Your task is to evaluate this statement.  In particular, examine the following sites and analyze whether or not you see a "large tradition" shared by the Chinese, Koreans,  Japanese, Vietnamese, Tibetans, and Central Asian nomads.  Certain traits you should look for are a common religious outlook, shared political principles, and similar forms of social organization.  You have already examined China in Activity One.  For Korea, see History of Korean Buddhism and read up to "Choson - 1392-1910."  For Japan, see Taika Reform Edicts and History of Shinto and Buddhism.    For Vietnam, see Vietnamese Buddhism.  For Tibet, see Brief History of Tibet and read up to "The Great Ganden Monastery."  For Central Asian nomads, see Brief History of the Uyghers and read up to "Manchu Invasion."  While looking at these sites, keep in mind that "small traditions" can exist along with "large traditions."  Do you see a common "large tradition" among these cultures?  Perhaps you might see it among some, but not others.