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
- 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.
- 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
- 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?
- 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?
- Consider the art of the Heian Period
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).