Between 200 B.C.E. and 800
C.E., East Asia saw a period of intense political and cultural development.
China passed through its first great imperial age, becoming the hub of a geographical,
political, and cultural wheel, the spokes of which reached as far as Central
Asia to the west, Viet Nam to the south, and Japan to the east. Through forces
ranging from Chinese militarism to the work of Buddhist missionaries, the
lands surrounding China absorbed Chinese written language, administrative
techniques, religious ideas, and artistic forms. With these tools state builders
in Korea, Viet Nam, and Japan turned loose tribal or clan-based societies
into centralized states, which continued fruitful cultural exchange with China.
These exercises will help you to reinforce and build upon what you read in
Chapter 7 of McKay, A History of World Societies
Through them you will learn more about the East Asian societies of this period,
their interactions with each other, and their contacts with the larger world.
- You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore
different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and
questions detailed in each activity.
- On many web sites you can increase the size of the images
by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine
fine details in photographs.
Let's begin by reviewing the
physical and political geography of China through 800 C.E.
- Take a look at the physical
features of China.
What are the major features that shaped the development of Chinese civilization?
What features encouraged development in some areas and not in others? Feel
free to review Chapter 4 of McKay, A History of World Societies
- Now examine the following maps of Neolithic
Dynasty China, Western
Zhou (or Chou) China, Eastern
Zhou China, Qin Dynasty
(or Ch'in) China, Han Dynasty
China, China during the Age of
Division (a.k.a. The Six Dynasties), Sui Dynasty
China, and Tang Dynasty
China. How did China grow from its cradle in the great river valleys of
the region? How did each of the dynasties expand and/or contract the political
boundaries of China? Review chapters 4 and 7 of McKay, A History of World
Societies (Sixth Edition) and list the factors that caused these expansions
Now consider some of the interactions
between China and peoples beyond its borders.
- As you know, the Han Empire was the first Chinese civilization
to develop extensive international contacts. These contacts ranged as far
as the Roman Empire and were facilitated by the trade route known as the
Silk Road. Take a look at this map of the Silk
Road. What other civilizations did the Silk Road link? By what other
trade routes did China extend its cultural reach? Review pp. 184-190 of
McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition) and list the
goods that passed along the Silk Road. Finally, learn more about Bactrian
Camels, the most important means of transportation along the Silk Road.
How did these animals facilitate travel along this overland trade route?
- The nomadic peoples to the north of China posed a continuing
threat to Chinese economic and political stability. One of most formidable
of these peoples were the Xiongu, known in the West as the Huns. Take a
look at this map
depicting the Xiongu homeland in relation to the Han and Roman empires,
and read more about the Huns.
Who were these people? Who was Mao-tun, and what did he accomplish?
- The Chinese state tried to deal with the northern threat
in several ways, ranging from military expeditions into the nomads' territory
to the construction of fortifications. The most notable of these fortifications
was the so-called Great Wall. Learn more about The
Great Wall, giving special attention to the images of the wall (you
can click to enlarge them). When, and under what circumstances, was the
wall begun? When did significant expansion and renovations take place? How
effective do think the wall was as a defense against the nomadic tribes?
During this period contact
with China profoundly influenced the political and cultural development of
Korea and Japan. From China both Korea and Japan gained a common written
language, the international religion of Buddhism and techniques for administering
a centralized state. China also deeply influenced the arts of these neighboring
lands. Visit the sites below to learn more about the interactions between
the three cultures.
- Read the following overviews of Korean history from 1–500 A.D.
(C.E.) and 500–1000
A.D. (C.E.). What were the key events in Korean history during these
centuries? What role did China play in some or all of these events? How
did the arts develop in Korea during this period? Now read about Korean Buddhist
Sculpture. How did Buddhism influence the development of Korean sculpture?
What was unique about this tradition?
- Now read this overview of Japanese history from 500–1000 A.D.
What were the key events during these centuries, and what influence did
China and Korea have on the development of Japanese sculpture? Take a look
this short discussion of the Asuka and Nara Periods.
What is notable about this period? Click on the images of artworks from
this period: what is distinctive about Asuka and Nara period art?
The period about which you read in Chapter 7 of McKay, A History of World
is full of colorful personalities.
- For example, read this short biography of Du
Fu, a Tang Dynasty poet. Take a look at some translations of a few
of his poems. Compare them to
these poems by his contemporary and friend Li
Po, about whom you read in Chapter 7. What is notable about Du Fu's
life? How would you characterize the mood and concerns of his poems? How
do his poem resemble and differ from Li Po's.
- No turn to Korea and read about Queen
Sondok of Silla. Who was Sondok, and what role did she play in the
politics of her time? What she unusual among Korean women of her day?