World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

History of East Asia

Article Id: WHEBN0000037699
Reproduction Date:

Title: History of East Asia  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: List of Classical Age states, List of states during Late Antiquity, List of Bronze Age states, List of Iron Age states, Ancient history
Collection: History of East Asia
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

History of East Asia

The history of East Asia covers the people inhabiting of the eastern subregion of the Asian continent known as East Asia from prehistoric times to the present. The best known ancient civilization of prehistoric East Asia was China, which flourished in the central plain region and continued until present day.


  • Prehistory 1
  • Ancient civilizations in East Asia 2
    • Ancient Chinese dynasties 2.1
    • Confucianism 2.2
    • Buddhism 2.3
    • Taoism 2.4
  • Qin and Han Dynasties 3
  • Divisions and re-unification of China 4
    • Three Kingdoms Period 4.1
    • Southern and Northern Dynasties 4.2
    • Buddhism 4.3
    • Sui Dynasty 4.4
    • Civil service 4.5
    • Printing press 4.6
    • Invasions from Central Asia 4.7
    • Gunpowder 4.8
  • Three Kingdoms of Korea 5
  • 16th century to 1945 6
  • Japan 7
    • Early Japan 7.1
    • Archaeology 7.2
    • Edo Period 7.3
      • Economy 7.3.1
      • Edo/Tokyo 7.3.2
      • Three cultures 7.3.3
    • The Meiji Era 7.4
      • Economy and empire; war and defeat: 1912-1950 7.4.1
    • Pacific War 7.5
      • U.S. occupation 7.5.1
      • Postwar 7.5.2
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further Reading 10
    • Scholarly journals 10.1


Homo erectus ("upright man") is believed to have lived in East and Southeast Asia from 1.8 million to 40,000 years ago.[1] Their regional distinction is classified as Homo erectus sensu stricto.[2]

Fossils representing 40 Homo erectus individuals, known as Peking Man, were found near Beijing at Zhoukoudian that date to about 400,000 years ago. The species was believed to have lived for at least several hundred thousand years in China,[1] and possibly until 200,000 years ago in Indonesia. They may have been the first to use fire and cook food.[3]

Homo sapiens migrated into inland Asia, likely by following herds of bison and mammoth and arrived in southern Siberia by about 43,000 years ago and some people move south or east from there.[4][5]

The earliest sites of neolithic culture include Nanzhuangtou culture around 9500 BC to 9000 BC,[6] Pengtoushan culture around 7500 BC to 6100 BC, Peiligang culture around 7000 BC to 5000 BC.

The Jeulmun pottery period is sometimes labeled the "Korean Neolithic", but since intensive agriculture and evidence of European-style 'Neolithic' lifestyle is sparse at best, such terminology is misleading.[7] The Jeulmun was a period of hunting, gathering, and small-scale cultivation of plants.[8] Archaeologists sometimes refer to this life-style pattern as 'broad-spectrum hunting-and-gathering'.

The Jōmon period occurred in Japan from circa 14,000 BC to 300BC, with some characteristics of both Neolithic and Mesolithic culture.

Ancient civilizations in East Asia

Ancient Chinese dynasties

The Xia dynasty of China (from c. 2100 to c. 1600 BC) is the first dynasty to be described in ancient historical records such as Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian and Bamboo Annals.[9][10]

Following this was the Shang dynasty, which ruled in the Yellow River valley. The classic account of the Shang comes from texts such as the Classic of History, Bamboo Annals and Records of the Grand Historian. According to the traditional chronology, the Shang ruled from 1766 BC to 1122 BC, but according to the chronology based upon the "current text" of Bamboo Annals, they ruled from 1556 BC to 1046 BC.

The Zhou dynasty of (c. 1046–256 BC lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history. However, the actual political and military control of China by the dynasty, surnamed Ji (Chinese: ), lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as the Western Zhou. This period of Chinese history produced what many consider the zenith of Chinese bronze-ware making. The dynasty also spans the period in which the written script evolved into its modern form with the use of an archaic clerical script that emerged during the late Warring States period.


Confucianism is an ethical and philosophical system developed during the Spring and Autumn Period. It later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han Dynasty.[11] Following the official abandonment of Legalism in China after the Qin Dynasty, Confucianism became the official state ideology of the Han. Nonetheless, from the Han period onwards, most Chinese emperors have used a mix of Legalism and Confucianism as their ruling doctrine. The disintegration of the Han in the second century CE opened the way for the soteriological doctrines of Buddhism and Taoism to dominate intellectual life at that time.

A Confucian revival began during the Tang dynasty. In the late Tang, Confucianism developed aspects on the model of Buddhism and Taoism and was reformulated as Neo-Confucianism. This reinvigorated form was adopted as the basis of the imperial exams and the core philosophy of the scholar official class in the Song dynasty. The abolition of the examination system in 1905 marked the end of official Confucianism. The New Culture intellectuals of the early twentieth century blamed Confucianism for China's weaknesses. They searched for new doctrines to replace Confucian teachings, some of these new ideologies include the "Three Principles of the People" with the establishment of the Republic of China, and then Maoism under the People's Republic of China.

Historically, cultures and countries strongly influenced by Confucianism include mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, as well as various territories settled predominantly by Chinese people, such as Singapore. In the 20th century, Confucianism’s influence has been greatly reduced. More recently, there have been talks of a "Confucian Revival" in the academia and the scholarly community.[12][13]


Buddhism has also been a major influence on east Asian culture. It was introduced to China during the Han dynasty.


The first organized form of Taoism, the Tianshi (Celestial Masters') school (later known as Zhengyi school), developed from the Five Pecks of Rice movement at the end of the 2nd century CE; the latter had been founded by Zhang Daoling, who claimed that Laozi appeared to him in the year 142.[14] The Tianshi school was officially recognized by ruler Cao Cao in 215, legitimizing Cao Cao's rise to power in return.[15] Laozi received imperial recognition as a divinity in the mid-2nd century BCE.[16]

Taoism, in form of the Shangqing school, gained official status in China again during the Tang Dynasty (618–907), whose emperors claimed Laozi as their relative.[17] The Shangqing movement, however, had developed much earlier, in the 4th century, on the basis of a series of revelations by gods and spirits to a certain Yang Xi in the years between 364 to 370.[18]

Qin and Han Dynasties

Extent of Qin Dynasty

In 221 BC, the state of Qin succeeded in conquering the other six states, creating the first imperial dynasty of China for the first time. Following the death of the emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the Qin dynasty collapsed and control was taken over by the Han dynasty in 206 BC. In AD 220, the Han empire collapsed into the Three Kingdoms. The series of trade routes known as Silk Road began during the Han dynasty.

Divisions and re-unification of China

Three Kingdoms Period

Three Kingdoms on the eve of conquest of Shu by Wei

The Three Kingdoms Period consisted of the kingdom of Wei, Shu, and Wu. It began when the ruler of Wei, Cao Cao, was defeated by Liu Bei and Sun Quan at the Battle of Red Cliffs. After Cao Cao's death in AD 220, his son Cao Pi became emperor of Wei. Liu Bei and Sun Quan declared themselves emperor of Shu and Wu respectively. Many famous personages in Chinese history were born during this period, including Hua Tuo and the great military strategist Zhuge Liang. Buddhism, which was introduced during the Han Dynasty, also became popular in this period. Two years after Wei conquered Shu in AD 263, Sima Yan, Wei's Imperial Chancellor, overthrew Wei and started the Western Jin Dynasty. The conquest of Wu by the Western Jin Dynasty ended the Three Kingdoms period, and China was unified again. However, the Western Jin did not last long. Following the death of Sima Yan, the War of the Eight Princes began. This war weakened the Jin Dynasty, and it soon fell to the kingdom of Han Zhao. This ushered in the Sixteen Kingdoms.

Southern and Northern Dynasties

Northern and Southern Dynasties

The Northern Wei was established by the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei people in AD 386, when they united the northern part of China. During the Northern Wei, Buddhism flourished, and became an important tool for the emperors of the Northern Wei, since they were believed to be living incarnations of Buddha. Soon, the Northern Wei was divided into the Eastern Wei and Western Wei. These were followed by the Northern Zhou and Northern Qi. In the south, the dynasties were much less stable than the Northern Dynasties. The four dynasties were weakened by conflicts between the ruling families.


Buddhism, also one of the major religions in East Asia, was introduced into China during the Han dynasty from Nepal in the 1st century BC. Buddhism was originally introduced to Korea from China in 372, and eventually arrived in Japan around the turn of the 6th century.

For a long time Buddhism remained a foreign religion with a few believers in China, mainly taught by immigrant Indian teachers. During the Tang dynasty, a fair amount of translations from Sanskrit into Chinese were done by Chinese priests, and Buddhism became one of the major religions of the Chinese along with the other two indigenous religions.

In Korea, Buddhism was not seen to conflict with the rites of nature worship; it was allowed to blend in with Shamanism. Thus, the mountains that were believed to be the residence of spirits in pre-Buddhist times became the sites of Buddhist temples. Though Buddhism initially enjoyed wide acceptance, even being supported as the state ideology during the Goguryeo, Silla, Baekje, Balhae, and Goryeo periods, Buddhism in Korea suffered extreme repression during the Joseon Dynasty.

In Japan, Buddhism and Shinto were combined by a theological theory "Ryōbushintō", which says Shinto deities are avatars of various Buddhist entities, including Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This became the mainstream notion of Japanese religion. In fact until the Meiji government declared their separation in the mid-19th century, many Japanese people believed that Buddhism and Shinto were one religion.

In Mongolia, Buddhism flourished two times; first in the Mongol Empire (13th-14th centuries), and finally in the Manchu Qing Dynasty (16th-19th centuries) from Tibet in the last 2000 years. It was mixed in with Tengeriism and Shamanism.

Sui Dynasty

In AD 581, Yang Jian overthrew the Northern Zhou, and established the Sui Dynasty. Later, Yang Jian, who became Sui Wendi, conquered the Chen Dynasty, and united China. However, this dynasty was short-lived. Sui Wendi's successor, Sui Yangdi, expanded the Grand Canal, and launched four disastrous wars against the Goguryeo. These projects depleted the resources and the workforce of the Sui. In AD 618, Sui Yangdi was murdered. Li Yuan, the former governor of Taiyuan, declared himself the emperor, and founded the Tang Dynasty.

Civil service

A government system supported by a large class of Confucian literati selected through civil service examinations was perfected under Tang rule. This competitive procedure was designed to draw the best talents into government. But perhaps an even greater consideration for the Tang rulers, aware that imperial dependence on powerful aristocratic families and warlords would have destabilizing consequences, was to create a body of career officials having no autonomous territorial or functional power base. As it turned out, these scholar-officials acquired status in their local communities, family ties, and shared values that connected them to the imperial court. From Tang times until the closing days of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, scholar officials functioned often as intermediaries between the grassroots level and the government. This model of government had an influence on Korea and Japan.

Printing press

Jiaozi (currency), 11th century paper-printed money from the Song Dynasty.

The first known movable type system was invented in China around 1040 AD by Pi Sheng (990-1051) (spelled Bi Sheng in the Pinyin system).[19] Pi Sheng's type was made of baked clay, as described by the Chinese scholar Shen Kuo (1031–1095).

The world's first metal-based movable type printing press was invented in Korea in 1234, 210 years before Johannes Gutenberg invented a similar press in Germany.

Jikji is the world's oldest extant movable metal print book. It was published in Heungdeok Temple in 1377, 78 years prior to Gutenberg's "42-Line Bible" printed during the years 1452-1455.

Invasions from Central Asia

The expansion of the Mongol Empire.


A Mongol bomb thrown against a charging Japanese samurai during the Mongol invasions of Japan, 1281.

Most sources credit the discovery of gunpowder to Chinese

Scholarly journals

  • Schottenhammer, Angela, ed. (2008). The East Asian Mediterranean: Maritime Crossroads of Culture, Commerce and Human Migration. Volume 6 of East Asian economic and socio-cultural studies: East Asian maritime history (Issue 6 of East Asian maritime history) (illustrated ed.). Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.  
  • Ebrey, Patricia Buckley, and Anne Walthall. East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History (2 vol. 2008-2013)
  • Holcombe, Charles. A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-First Century (2010)
  • Lipman, Jonathan N. and Barbara A. Molony. Modern East Asia: An Integrated History (2011)
  • Prescott, Anne. East Asia in the World: An Introduction (2015)
  • Reid, Anthony. A History of Southeast Asia: Critical Crossroads (Blackwell History of the World, 2015)

Further Reading

  1. ^ a b Peking Man. The History of Human Evolution. American Museum of Natural History. April 23, 2014.
  2. ^ Evolutionary Tree Information. Human Origins. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  3. ^ .Homo erectus London: Natural History Museum. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  4. ^ By Land and Sea. American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  5. ^ Steppes into Asia. American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Lee 2001
  8. ^ Lee 2001, 2006
  9. ^ "Public Summary Request Of The People's Republic Of China To The Government Of The United States Of America Under Article 9 Of The 1970 Unesco Convention". Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. State Department. Archived from the original on 15 December 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2008. 
  10. ^ "The Ancient Dynasties". University of Maryland. Retrieved 12 January 2008. 
  11. ^ Craig 1998, p. 550.
  12. ^ Benjamin Elman, John Duncan and Herman Ooms ed. Rethinking Confucianism: Past and Present in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam (Los Angeles: UCLA Asian Pacific Monograph Series, 2002).
  13. ^ Yu Yingshi, Xiandai Ruxue Lun (River Edge: Global Publishing Co. Inc. 1996).
  14. ^ Robinet 1997, p. 54
  15. ^ Robinet 1997, p. 1
  16. ^ Robinet (1997), p. 50.
  17. ^ Robinet (1997), p. 184.
  18. ^ Robinet 1997, p. 115
  19. ^ Needham, Volume 5, Part 1, 201.
  20. ^ Bhattacharya (in Buchanan 2006, p. 42) acknowledges that "most sources credit the Chinese with the discovery of gunpowder" though he himself disagrees.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Chase 2003:31–32
  22. ^ Buchanan. "Editor's Introduction: Setting the Context", in Buchanan 2006.
  23. ^ a b Kelly 2004:23–25
  24. ^ Kelly 2004:4
  25. ^ Kelly 2004:10
  26. ^ a b Needham 1986:345–346
  27. ^ Needham 1986:347
  28. ^ Crosby 2002:100–103
  29. ^ Needham 1986:12
  30. ^ Needham 1986:293–294
  31. ^ Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 264.
  32. ^ a b Urbanski 1967, Chapter III: Blackpowder
  33. ^ Needham 1986:108
  34. ^ Peter Watson (2006). Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud. HarperCollins. p. 304.  
  35. ^ Cathal J. Nolan (2006). The age of wars of religion, 1000–1650: an encyclopedia of global warfare and civilization. Volume 1 of Greenwood encyclopedias of modern world wars. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 365.  
  36. ^ Oliver Frederick Gillilan Hogg (1970). Artillery: its origin, heyday, and decline. Archon Books. p. 123. The Chinese were certainly acquainted with saltpetre, the essential ingredient of gunpowder. They called it Chinese Snow and employed it early in the Christian era in the manufacture of fireworks and rockets. 
  37. ^ Oliver Frederick Gillilan Hogg (1963). English artillery, 1326–1716: being the history of artillery in this country prior to the formation of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Royal Artillery Institution. p. 42. The Chinese were certainly acquainted with saltpetre, the essential ingredient of gunpowder. They called it Chinese Snow and employed it early in the Christian era in the manufacture of fireworks and rockets. 
  38. ^ Oliver Frederick Gillilan Hogg (1993). Clubs to cannon: warfare and weapons before the introduction of gunpowder (reprint ed.). Barnes & Noble Books. p. 216.  
  39. ^ Partington, J. R. (1960). A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder (illustrated, reprint ed.). JHU Press. p. 335.  
  40. ^ Needham, Joseph; Yu, Ping-Yu (1980). Needham, Joseph, ed. Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 4, Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Apparatus, Theories and Gifts. Volume 5 (Issue 4 of Science and Civilisation in China). Contributors Joseph Needham, Lu Gwei-Djen, Nathan Sivin (illustrated, reprint ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 194.  
  41. ^  
  42. ^ Chase 2003:130
  43. ^ Totman (2000) 225-30
  44. ^ One chō, or chobu, equals 2.45 acres.
  45. ^ Totman (2000) ch 11
  46. ^ McClain (2002) pp 128-29


Histories for East Asia are listed by area in alphabetical order:

See also

The economy experienced a major slowdown starting in the 1990s following three decades of unprecedented growth, but Japan still remains a major economic power, both in Asia and globally.

The Japanese growth in the postwar period was often called a "miracle". It was led by manufacturing, Starting with textiles and clothing and moving to high-technology, especially automobiles, electronics and computers.


After its defeat in World War II, Japan was occupied by the U.S. until 1951, and recovered from the effects of the war to become an economic power, staunch American ally and a democracy. While Emperor Hirohito was allowed to retain his throne as a symbol of national unity, actual power rests in networks of powerful politicians, bureaucrats, and business executives.

U.S. occupation

Although it was to be a long and bloody war, Japan began to lose the initiative in 1942. At the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Japanese offensive was turned back, for the first time, at sea. The June Battle of Midway cost Japan four of its six large aircraft carriers and destroyed its capability for future major offensives. In the Guadalcanal Campaign, the U.S. took back ground from Japan and established a base for future invasions.

In 1931 Japan occupied Manchuria ("Dongbei") after the Manchurian Incident, and in 1937 it launched a full-scale invasion of China. The U.S. undertook large scale military and economic aid to China and demanded Japanese withdrawal. Instead of withdrawing Japan took over French Indochina in 1940-41; the U.S., Britain and the Netherlands cut off oil imports in 1941, which accounted for over 90% of Japan's oil supply. Negotiations with the US led nowhere. Japan attacked U.S. forces at the Battle of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, triggering America's entry into World War II. Japan rapidly expanded at sea and land, capturing Singapore and the Philippines in early 1942, and threatening India and Australia.

Pacific War

Hirohito was the Showa Emperor 1926-89 after serving as regent since 1921.

Economy and empire; war and defeat: 1912-1950

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Japan became a regional power that was able to defeat the forces of both China and Russia. It occupied Korea, Formosa (Taiwan), and southern Sakhalin Island.

The Meiji Restoration of 1868 ended the Tokugawa period, and put Japan on a course of centralized government in the name of the Emperor.

Following the Treaty of Kanagawa with the United States of America in 1854, Japan opened its ports and began to intensively modernise and industrialise.

The Meiji Era

The third cultural level was the popular art of the low-status artisans, merchants and entertainers, especially in Edo and other cities. It revolved around "ukiyo", the floating world of the city pleasure quarters and theaters that was officially off-limits to samurai. Its actors and courtesans were favorite subjects of the woodblock color prints that reached high levels of technical and artistic achievement in the 18th century. They also appeared in the novels and short stories of popular prose writers of the age like Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693). The theater itself, both in the puppet drama and the newer kabuki, as written by the greatest dramatist, Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724), relied on the clash between duty and inclination in the context of revenge and love.

Three distinct cultural traditions operated during the Tokugawa era, having little to do with each other. In the villages the peasants had their own rituals and localistic traditions. In the high society of the imperial court, daimyos and samurai, Chinese cultural influence was paramount, especially in the areas of ethics and political ideals. Neo-Confucianism became the approved philosophy, and was taught in official schools; Confucian norms regarding personal duty and family honor became deeply implanted in elite thought. Equally pervasive was the Chinese influence in painting, decorative arts and history, economics, and natural science. One exception came in religion, where there was a revival of Shinto, which had originated in Japan. Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801) freed Shinto from centuries of Buddhist accretions and gave a new emphasis to the myth of imperial divine descent, which later became a political tool for imperialist conquest until it was destroyed in 1945.

Three cultures Edo (Tokyo) had been a small settlement for 400 years but began to grow rapidly after 1603 when Shogun


A few domains, notably Chōsū and Satsuma, used innovative methods to restore their finances, but most sunk further into debt. The financial crisis provoked a reactionary solution near the end of the "Tempo era" (1830-1843) promulgated by the chief counselor Mizuno Tadakuni. He raised taxes, denounced luxuries and tried to impede the growth of business; he failed and it appeared to many that the continued existence of the entire Tokugawa system was in jeopardy.[46]

By 1800 the commercialization of the economy grew rapidly, bringing more and more remote villages into the national economy. Rich farmers appeared who switched from rice to high-profit commercial crops and engaged in local money-lending, trade, and small-scale manufacturing. Some wealthy merchants sought higher social status by using money to marry into the samurai class.

The merchants benefited enormously, especially those with official patronage. The samurai, forbidden to engage in farming or business but allowed to borrow money, borrowed too much. The bakufu and daimyos raised taxes on farmers, but did not tax business, so they too fell into debt. By 1750 rising taxes incited peasant unrest and even revolt. The nation had to deal somehow with samurai impoverishment and treasury deficits. The financial troubles of the samurai undermined their loyalties to the system, and the empty treasury threaten the whole system of government. One solution was reactionary--with prohibitions on spending for luxuries. Other solutions were modernizing, with the goal of increasing agrarian productivity. The eighth Tokugawa shogun, Yoshimune (in office 1716-1745) had considerable success, though much of his work had to be done again between 1787 and 1793 by the shogun's chief councilor Matsudaira Sadanobu (1759-1829). Others shoguns debased the coinage to pay debts, which caused inflation.

The Tokugawa era brought peace, and that brought prosperity to a nation of 31 million, 80% of them rice farmers. Rice production increased steadily, but population remained stable. Rice paddies grew from 1.6 million chō in 1600 to 3 million by 1720.[44] Improved technology helped farmers control the all-important flow of water to their paddies. The daimyo's operated several hundred castle towns, which became loci of domestic trade. Large-scale rice markets developed, centered on Edo and Osaka. Merchants invented credit instruments to transfer money, and currency came into common use. In the cities and towns, guilds of merchants and artisans met the growing demand for goods and services.[45]


Near the bottom of the prestige scale--but much higher up in terms of income and life style--were the merchants and artisans of the towns and cities. They had no political power, and even rich merchants found it difficult to rise in the world in a society in which place and standing were fixed at birth. Finally came the entertainers, prostitutes, day laborers and servants, and the thieves, beggars and hereditary outcasts.[43]

Lower orders divided into two main segments--the peasants--80% of the population--whose high prestige as producers was undercut by their burden as the chief source of taxes. They were illiterate and lived in villages controlled by appointed officials who kept the peace and collected taxes.

Then came the 400,000 warriors, called "samurai", in numerous grades and degrees. A few upper samurai were eligible for high office; most were foot soldiers (ashigaru) with minor duties. The samurai were affiliated with senior lords in a well-established chain of command. The shogun had 17,000 samurai retainers; the daimyo each had hundreds. Most lived in modest homes near their lord's headquarters, and lived off of hereditary rights and stipends. Together these high status groups constituted Japan's ruling class making up about 6% of the total population.

Japanese society had an elaborate social structure, in which everyone knew their place and level of prestige. At the top were the emperor and the court nobility, invincible in prestige but weak in power. Next came the "bushi" of shogun, daimyo and layers of feudal lords whose rank was indicated by their closeness to the Tokugawa. They had power. The "daimyo" comprised about 250 local lords of local "han" with annual outputs of 50,000 or more bushels of rice. The upper strata was much given to elaborate and expensive rituals, including elegant architecture, landscaped gardens, nō drama, patronage of the arts, and the tea ceremony.

In 1603, the Tokugawa shogunate (military dictatorship) ushered in a long period of isolation from foreign influence in order to secure its power. For 250 years this policy enabled Japan to enjoy stability and a flowering of its indigenous culture.

Edo Period

Ancient pottery has been uncovered in Japan, particularly in Kyushu, that points to two major periods: the Jomon (c.7,500 BC - 250 BC, 縄文時代 Joomon Jidai ) and the Yayoi (c.250 BC - 250 AD, 弥生時代 Yayoi Jidai). Joomon can be translated as 'cord marks' and refers to the pattern on the pottery of the time; this style was more ornate than the later Yayoi type, which has been found at more widespread sites (e.g. around Tokyo) and seems to have been developed for more practical purposes.


In the myth of Japan's creation the two gods Isanagi and Isanami swirled the primordial soup below the bridge of heaven with a rod and when retrieving the rod the drops of liquid that formed and dropped created the first islands of Japan.

The mythology of ancient Japan is contained within the Kojiki ('Records of Ancient Matters') which record the creation myth of Japan and its lineage of Emperors to the Sun Goddess Amaratsu. Large portions of this book are Chinese mythology and the distinction of what is truly Japanese and what is Chinese is continually questioned.

Japan was inhabited since more than 30,000 years ago, when land bridges connected Japan to Korea and China to the south and Siberia to the north. With rise in sea level, the 4 major islands took form around 20,000 years ago, and the lands connecting today's Japan to the continental Asia completely disappeared 15,000 ~ 10,000 years ago. Thereafter, some migrations continued by way of the Korean peninsula, which would serve as Japan's main avenue for cultural exchange with the continental Asia until the medieval period.

Early Japan

The history of Japan, is mainly divided into three stages: the periods of interaction with China and East Asia, isolation, and opening to the world.


16th century to 1945

Silla'a unification of Korea was short lived. The northern region of the defunct Goguryeo state later reemerged as Balhae, due to the leadership of former Goguryeo General Dae Joyeong.

But the kingdom's reliance on China's Tang Dynasty had its price. Silla had to forcibly resist the imposition of Chinese rule over the entire peninsula. Silla then fought for nearly a decade to expel Chinese forces to finally establish a unified kingdom as far north as modern Pyongyang.

The Silla-Tang forces turned their attention to Goguryeo. Although Goguryeo had repelled the Sui Dynasty a century earlier, attacks by the Tang Dynasty from the west proved too formidable. The Silla-Tang alliance emerged victorious in the Goguryeo-Tang Wars. Silla thus unified most of the Korean peninsula in 668.

As the Kingdom of Silla conquered nearby city-states, they gained access to the Yamato Japan and Baekje had been long-standing and very close allies. In 663, Baekje revival forces and a Japanese naval fleet convened in southern Baekje to confront the Silla forces in the Battle of Baekgang. The Tang dynasty also sent 7,000 soldiers and 170 ships. After five naval confrontations that took place in August 663 at Baekgang, considered the lower reaches of Tongjin river, the Silla-Tang forces emerged victorious.

B.C 58, the Korean peninsula was divided into three kingdoms, Baekje, Silla and Goguryeo. Although they shared a similar language and culture, these three kingdoms constantly fought with each other for control of the peninsula. Furthermore, Goguryeo had been engaged in constant wars with the Chinese. This included the Goguryeo-Sui Wars, where the Kingdom of Goguryeo managed to repel the invading forces of the Sui Dynasty.

Map of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, at the end of the 5th century.

Three Kingdoms of Korea

In the 13th century contemporary documentation shows gunpowder beginning to spread from China by the Mongols to the rest of the world, starting with Europe[23] and the Islamic world.[32] The Arabs acquired knowledge of saltpetre—which they called "Chinese snow" (Arabic: ثلج الصينthalj al-ṣīn) —around 1240 and, soon afterward, of gunpowder; they also learned of fireworks ("Chinese flowers") and rockets ("Chinese arrows").[32][33] Persians called saltpeter "Chinese salt" [34][35][36][37][38] or "salt from Chinese salt marshes" (namak shūra chīnī Persian: نمک شوره چيني‎‎).[39][40] Historian Ahmad Y. al-Hassan argues—contra the general notion—that the Chinese technology passed through Arabic alchemy and chemistry before the 13th century.[41] Gunpowder arrived in India by the mid-14th century, but could have been introduced by the Mongols perhaps as early as the mid-13th century.[42]

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) matchlock firearms

In China, the 13th century saw the beginnings of rocketry[28][29] and the manufacture of the oldest gun still in existence,[21][30] a descendant of the earlier fire-lance, a gunpowder-fueled flamethrower that could shoot shrapnel along with fire. The Huolongjing text of the 14th century also describes hollow, gunpowder-packed exploding cannonballs.[31]

The earliest surviving recipes for gunpowder can be found in the Chinese military treatise Wujing zongyao[21] of 1044 AD, which contains three: two for use in incendiary bombs to be thrown by siege engines and one intended as fuel for poison smoke bombs.[25] The formulas in the Wujing zongyao range from 27 to 50 percent nitrate.[26] Experimenting with different levels of saltpetre content eventually produced bombs, grenades, and land mines, in addition to giving fire arrows a new lease on life.[21] By the end of the 12th century, there were cast iron grenades filled with gunpowder formulations capable of bursting through their metal containers.[27] The 14th century Huolongjing contains gunpowder recipes with nitrate levels ranging from 12 to 91 percent, six of which approach the theoretical composition for maximal explosive force.[26]

Some have heated together sulfur, realgar and saltpeter with honey; smoke and flames result, so that their hands and faces have been burnt, and even the whole house where they were working burned down.[24]

The first reference to gunpowder is probably a passage in the Zhenyuan miaodao yaolüe, a Taoism text tentatively dated to the mid-9th century:[21]

[23][21] descriptions of the purification of saltpeter do not appear until the 13th century.Latin and Arabic By most accounts, the earliest [21]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.