A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition|
Continuity and Change in East Asia, ca 1400-1800
The four centuries covered in this
chapter mark a transitory phase in the history of East Asia. During this time,
the threat of conquest from Mongol tribes dissipated. On the other hand, western
European merchants and governments encroached upon the kingdoms of Japan,
Korea, and China. More and more, East Asia was connected to the broader global
trading patterns that western Europeans established during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. Unlike in native civilizations and kingdoms in the
Americas, European encroachment in East Asia did not result in the collapse
of local political and cultural traditions. Indeed, cultural and political
traditions continued to evolve along historical patterns. In 1800, East Asian
societies were still remarkably cohesive despite the dramatic changes in global
economic and political patterns occurring all around them.
- 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.
- Broadly speaking, both Japan and China experienced similar
political developments between 1400 and 1800. After periods of disruption,
each civilization returned to traditional patterns of government and political
philosophy. As each political structure faced new challenges, it utilized
strategies that had been forged in its past.
- To better understand these trends, complete the following
exercises. Go to Ming
China. According to this site, what disruption in Chinese history was
the Ming Dynasty hoping to overcome? What does Tien Ming, or the Mandate
of Heaven, mean? For more information, see Tien
Ming: The Mandate of Heaven. How did the Ming Dynasty represent "a
return to traditional patterns of government and political philosophy"?
- The Ming Dynasty collapsed in 1644 and was replaced by
the Qing Dynasty, which was not Chinese but rather a Manchu dynasty. To
understand the difference between the Manchus and the Chinese, go to Ch'in
China: The Manchus. The Manchus were a different ethnic group which
for centuries had lived a pastoral existence north of China. To locate the
Manchu homeland, see Map
1. How did the Ming Dynasty influence Manchu society? What major transition
did these people undergo during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries? The
Qing Dynasty that the Manchus created marked the second time that a foreign
dynasty had ruled China; the first was the Yuan, a Mongol dynasty that ruled
China between 1280 and 1368 (see Yuan
Dynasty). Unlike the Mongols, the Manchus governed China using native
traditions and institutions. Go to Imperial Era: III.
Scroll down and read the section entitled "Rise of the Manchus."
According to this site, how did the Manchus attempt to rule China? What
political philosophies and traditions did they use?
- Go to Warring
States Japan, 1467-1573. Who were the daimyo? How did they weaken
the authority of the Shoguns during this time period? Why is this period
known as the warring states period? Finally, read Tokugawa shogunate:
how did the Tokugawas rise to power, and how did they bring lasting order
- The Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty, and Tokugawa Shogunate
all tried to restore unity, order, and stability to their kingdoms using
traditional political philosophies and strategies. How successful were they
in accomplishing this goal?
- To analyze the successes and failures of the Ming
Dynasty, study the images and read the essays at Construction
of the Forbidden City Begins, The
Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, and Ming
China: The Commercial Revolution. Make a list of major accomplishments
during the Ming Dynasty, considering construction projects, agricultural
innovations, commercial developments, exploration, and other possibilities.
- These accomplishments were relatively short-lived
(see Chinese history
timeline). The essay Decline
of the Ming explores some reasons for this rapid descent. What three
major sources does this author identify as reasons for the collapse of Ming
authority? One key component was corruption within the Ming court. In particular,
the author mentions conflict between scholars and eunuchs. To learn more
about eunuchs and their role in Chinese history, read the essay at Chinese
Cultural Studies: Mary M. Anderson: Hidden Power: The Palace Eunuchs of
Imperial China. Who were the eunuchs, and what role did they play in
the Chinese court? How did they accumulate so much power despite their officially
low status? Why were so many men willing to submit to mutilation in order
to serve in the palace? Considering what you learned in the essay Decline
of the Ming, how do you think the eunuch system contributed to the collapse
of the Ming Dynasty? Now write a short summary (1-3 paragraphs) that analyzes
the successes and failures of the Ming.
- To analyze the successes and failures of the Qing
Dynasty up to 1800, read the essay at Ch'ing
China: Ch'ing State, paying close attention to the reigns of Emperors
K'ang-hsi and Ch'ien-lung (or Kanxi and Qianlong, as McKay, A History
of World Societies (Fifth Edition) spells them). Also compare a map
of the Ming
Dynasty to a map of the Qing
Dynasty. (Be sure to scroll down for the right map.) Why did the Qing
Dynasty expand the empire's territory? What impact did this have on the
dynasty? Now analyze how successful the Qing were at promoting unity, order,
and stability. Do you believe the Qing Dynasty was more successful in pursuing
these goals by 1800 than the Ming had been? Why or why not?
- To understand the domestic policies of the Tokugawa
Shogunate, read the article Kawasaki:
A Military Checkpoint, which is part of a large and complex web site
that offers a virtual tour of Edo, the capital of the Tokugawa Shogunate
and now the modern city of Tokyo. Be sure to click on the hypertext links
in the essay and view the images that appear on the left side of the page.
After perusing this page define daimyo and samurai. What were
the traditional roles of these classes in Japanese history? How did the
Shoguns alter these roles? What restrictions did they place on the daimyo
and samurai? How did these policies promote unity, order, and stability?
- The following activity demonstrates that the Ming Dynasty,
the Qing Dynasty, and the Tokugawa Shogunate were all successful in promoting
unity, order, and stability. During each period, the economy grew, commerce
expanded, the central government established strong authority, and for the
most part each kingdom avoided civil or foreign wars. In this era of peace
and prosperity, both China and Japan experienced a cultural flowering. To
explore some examples of this development, complete the following exercises.
- Read the essay Ming
Literature. How did the ability of the Ming Dynasty to promote unity,
order, and stability also promote the development of new literature? What
new literary forms appeared in this time period? How did they reflect Chinese
- Now read the essay and examine the images at China-on-site:
Paintings, Ming Dynasty. How did the Ming Dynasty promote the visual
arts? What characteristics would best describe this artwork? In other words,
is it simple or bombastic? Is the style realistic or abstract? What moods
and emotions does the artwork invoke? How does the artwork reflect Chinese
- Learn about Kabuki at KABUKI:
Traditional Theatrical Arts. How did the domestic policies of the Tokugawa
Shogunate encourage the development of this form of drama? Who patronized
this form of art?
- Another art form that developed in the urban areas of
Tokugawa Japan was the Tea Ceremony. To learn about the complexity and history
of this ceremony, go to Cha
No Yu. Click on the gate and follow the instructions inside. Be sure
to read all the brief essays by clicking on the titles at the left-hand
side of this page. How does the Tea Ceremony reflect traditional Japanese
customs and beliefs? Why do you think this form of entertainment was so
popular in urban areas of Tokugawa Japan?
- One challenge that the Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty,
and Tokugawa Shogunate all faced during this era was increased contact with
Europeans. You probably should complete Activity Six in the web activities
for Chapter 16, to understand the nature of this contact. This activity
reveals that the Chinese and Japanese were largely dealing with European
Joint Stock Companies and Jesuit missionaries during this era. European
governments did not have the power to pose a military threat before 1800.
Nevertheless, Joint Stock Companies and missionaries posed serious hazards
to each regime. To explore this dilemma and examine how each regime responded,
complete the following exercises.
- When Europeans arrived, how do you think they
were treated by the Japanese and Chinese? For Chinese treatment, go to Ch'ing
China: The Ocean Devils. Under what conditions did the Qing Dynasty
allow European merchants to trade with their Chinese counterparts? Why did
the Chinese call Europeans "Ocean Devils"? For a visual image
of this stereotype, see Chinese
View of an 18th Century English Sailor. Why do you think this artist
made his character so hairy? What do you think the smoke coming out of his
mouth symbolizes? Now go to SEIC
- The Swedish East India Company (1731-1813). Why, according to this
site, were European merchants willing to trade under the conditions imposed
by the Chinese? What goods did Europeans desire?
- The Tokugawa Shogunate reached a similar accommodation
with European merchants in the seventeenth century by limiting their presence
to the city of Nagasaki. For further information, see Japan
Seclusion and Social Control. In addition go to Places:
Nagasaki and read about how the city was built and organized. What
threat did the European presence in Japan pose to the Tokugawa regime? How
were its policies toward Europeans similar to the policies of the Ming and
Qing Dynasties? Write a brief summary (1-3 paragraphs) that explains the
structure through which Europeans and the Japanese and Chinese had contact
with each other during this period.
- Although the Chinese and Japanese carefully regulated
European missionaries and merchants, contact between East Asia and Europe
was vibrant. Both the Chinese and Japanese absorbed many aspects of European
culture. For example, go to Missionaries
and mandarins: The Jesuits in China. Be sure to study the images as
well as read the text. According to this site, what aspects of European
culture did the Chinese embrace? What characteristics of the Jesuits did
the Chinese admire?
- Upon completing Activities One through Four, ask yourself
the following question: Why were the Japanese and Chinese able to meet the
challenge of European intrusion during this time period? Consider political
and economic developments, as well as the importance of tradition and history.
Collect your thoughts and write a brief essay that summarizes your conclusions.