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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
Web Exercises
Chapter 12: East Asia, ca 800-1400

As you read in Chapter 12 of McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition), between 800 and 1400 East Asian societies developed in separate, though not entirely exclusive, directions.  Under the Song Dynasty, the Neo-Confucian scholar-elite emerged as a distinct class that sought advancement through the civil service.  Long under the cultural sway of China, both Korea and Japan differentiated themselves along distinct lines.  The Korean aristocracy solidified its position as the social, political, and intellectual elite.  In Japan the Heian monarchy, with its refined social customs, gave way to the warrior society of the Kamakura Shogunate and its successors.  The links below will help you reinforce what you have already read and learn more about the East Asian cultures of this period.

Helpful Hints:
  • 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.
Activity One:
  • From 960 to 1279, the Song Dynasty reigned in East Asia. Like the Tang Dynasty described in Chapter 7, "Asian Empires and the Spread of Buddhism, ca 200 B.C.E–800 C.E.," it built on traditional Chinese culture and practices. For example, read Chinese Philosophy: Neo–Confucianism. How did Neo–Confucianism reflect traditional Chinese philosophy? Neo–Confucianism also responded to contemporary developments in China during the Song Dynasty. Go to The Later Empire: The Song. Read "The Autocratic Emperor" and "The Confucian Revival." How did the revival of Confucian ideas address contemporary concerns in the Song Dynasty? What was new about this Confucian revival?
  • One concern of government officials during the Song Dynasty was the threat of foreign invasion and capture by the Central Asian nomads. Go to map 1 and map 2. What were the Liao and Jin Empires? (Consult pages 319 and 338 in McKay, A History of World Societies [Sixth Edition] to help you with this task.) What do these maps reveal about the successes and failures of the Song Dynasty in defending its borders from nomadic invaders?
  • Although the Song Dynasty never managed to recover territory lost to northern nomads, it did preside over important technological and artistic advances. To refresh your memory of the former, review pages 342-347 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition) and read Technology in the Song. How did these innovations reflect the Song Dynasty's shrinking land base and the need for more revenue? To learn more about the artistic achievements of the period, read about monumental landscape painting and wooden architecture.  For a useful overview, take a virtual tour of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts' exhibit on the Southern Song Dynasty. How did art reflect economic, political, and technological developments during the Song Dynasty?
Activity Two:
  • Refresh your memory of Korean political history up to and including the Koryo dynasty using this Korea Map.  What conditions enabled the rise of the Koryo state? Who did the Koryo subdue as it rose to power?
  • Although the commercial economy of Korea declined during the Koryo dynasty (see p. 350 of McKay, A History of World Societies [Sixth Edition]), the period saw a number of technological and scientific innovations.  Read this overview of Traditional Materials Technology in Korea.  What were the notable innovations, and how did Korean artisans employ them? Now read about Korean Ceramics (make sure to click on the "view ceramics link and give particular attention to examples of  Koryo period ceramics).  What is distinctive about the ceramics of this period? Finally, read about Korean Astronomy.  What did Korean astronomers observe and how did they understand what they saw? What were the particular achievements of Koryo astronomers and what influenced their thought?
  • Consider this overview of the art, culture, and politics of  Korea, 1000–1400 A.D..  What were the key events of this period? What were the achievements of Koryo-period art? What role did Buddhism play in those achievements?
Activity Three:
  • Consider the art of the Heian Period and Kamakura and Nanbokucho Periods in its political and cultural context.  Click on the images to enlarge them and learn more about their characteristics and importance.  What were the key events of these periods? How did Heian art resemble and differ from Kamakura art? What factors explain the differences?
  • The literary arts were as important as the visual arts during this period.  One of the greatest literary achievements of the Heian period was, as you know, Lady Murasaki's Tale of Genji, considered by many to be the first novel.  The well-established genre of poetry continued to develop, and many of the most accomplished poets were women.  Go to Early Japanese Women Poets and sample the work of a few Heian and Kamakura poets.  How do the Heian and Kamakura poems resemble and differ from each other? Can you detect in any of the Kamakura poems the influence of the samurai ethos that defined the Kamakura period?  Keep in mind that the influence may not be direct.
  • As you know, the Heian monarchy was overthrown by landed aristocrats and their samurai followers.  The new society of the Kamakura Shogunate was a warrior society defined a strict martial code of ethics.  Learn more about the code of Bushido.  What were the religious influences on this code, and what did the code draw from each of those influences? Now examine this example of Kamakura armor, and note the distinctive features of this Kamakura dagger.  Finally, read about The Japanese Sword Arts that evolved from the samurai ethos(begin with "History" and then proceed to discussions of the arts).