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Asia - History

Asia - History

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A U.S.- registered merchant vessel was seized by the Cambodians and towed to Cambodia. The U.S. responded by sending a one thousand-man force to free the Mayguez and its crew. forces arrived to find the crew gone. The Cambodians subsequently agreed to release the U.S. personnel, but there had been a loss of thirty-eight crewmen dead in the episode.

The traditional Chinese world order utilised the tribute system to place China at the centre of the civilised world. In exchange for recognising China's superiority, other states were granted permission to trade with China. It was this China centric world order that European ships sailed into in 1517.

Manchuria between the years 1895 and 1914 was under greater foreign control than any other major part of China. Russia and Japan competed fiercely to achieve this control, creating spheres of influence at China's and at each other's expense.


The study of East Asian history as an area study is a part of the rise of East Asian studies as an academic field in the Western World. The teaching and studying of East Asian history began in the West during the late 19th century. [3] In the United States, Asian Americans around the time of the Vietnam War believed that most history courses were Eurocentric and advocated for an Asian-based curriculum. At the present time, East Asian History remains a major field within Asian Studies. Nationalist historians in the region tend to stress the uniqueness of their respective country's tradition, culture, and history because it helps them legitimize their claim over territories and minimize internal disputes. [4] There is also the case of individual authors influenced by different concepts of society and development, which lead to conflicting accounts. [4] These, among other factors, led some scholars to stress the need for broader regional and historical frameworks. [1] There have been issues with defining exact parameters for what East Asian history which as an academic study has focused on East Asia's interactions with other regions of the world. [5]

These regions, or the civilizations of China, Japan, and Korea, were under the rule of many dynasties or government systems and their boundaries changed due to inter dynasty wars on a same region or wars between regions. In prehistory, Homo Erectus lived in East and Southeast Asia from 1.8 million to 40,000 years ago. [6]

Many belief systems or religions which have evolved and spread in East Asia include Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. China was under the rule of Xia (historicity disputed), Shang and Zhou dynasties followed by the Qin and Han dynasties. During the prehistorical period, these three regions had their own style of inter-regional politics, culture and trades, which were relatively less affected by outside world.

Recorded civilization dates to approximately 2000 BC in China's Shang Dynasty along the Yellow River Valley. Civilization expanded to other areas in East Asia gradually. In Korea Gojoseon became the first organized state approximately around 195 BC. Japan emerged as a unitary state with the creation of its first constitution in 604 AD. The introduction of Buddhism and the Silk Road were instrumental in building East Asia's culture and economy.

Chinese dynasties such as the Sui, Tang and Song interacted with and influenced the character of early Japan and Korea. At the turn of the first millennium AD, China was the most advanced civilization in East Asia at the time and was responsible for the Four Great Inventions. China's GDP was likely the largest in the world as well. Japan and Korea had fully coalesced as centralized states in the regimes of Goryeo and Heian,

The rise of the nomadic Mongol Empire disrupted East Asia, and under the leadership of leaders such as Genghis Khan, Subutai, and Kublai Khan brought the majority of East Asia under rule of a single state. The Yuan dynasty came to rule most of modern China and all of the Korean Peninsula. The Yuan dynasty also attempted and failed to conquer Japan in maritime invasions. The Mongol era in East Asia was short-lived due to natural disasters and poor administrative management. In the aftermath of the Yuan dynasty's collapse, new regimes such as the Ming dynasty and Joseon dynasty embraced Neo-Confucianism as the official state ideology. Japan at this time fell into feudal civil war known as the Sengoku Jidai which persisted for over a century and a half. At the turn of the 16th century European merchants and missionaries traveled to East Asia by sea for the first time. The Portuguese established a colony in Macau, China and attempted to Christianize Japan. In the last years of the Sengoku period, Japan attempted to create a larger empire by invading Korea only being defeated by the combined forces of Korea and China in the late 16th century.

From the 17th century onward, East Asian nations such as China, Japan, and Korea chose a policy of isolationism in response to European contact. The 17th and 18th centuries saw great economic and cultural growth. Qing China dominated the region but Edo Japan remained completely independent. At this time limited interactions with European merchants and intellectuals led to the rise of Great Britain's East India Company and the beginning of Japan's Dutch Studies. The 1800s however saw the rise of direct European Imperialism upon the region. Qing China was unable to defend itself from various colonial expeditions from Great Britain, France and Russia during the Opium Wars. Japan meanwhile choose the path of westernization under the Meiji Period and attempted to modernize by following the political and economic models of Europe and the Western World. The rising Japanese Empire forcibly annexed Korea in 1910. After years of civil war and decline, China's last emperor Puyi abdicated in 1912 ending China's imperial history which had persisted for over two millennium from the Qin to Qing.

In the midst of the Republic of China's attempts to build a modern state, Japanese expansionism pressed onward in the first half of the twentieth century, culminating in the brutal Second Sino-Japanese War where over twenty million people died during Japan's invasion of China. Japan's wars in Asia became a part of WWII after Japan's attack of the United States' Pearl Harbor. Japan's defeat in Asia by the hand of the allies contributed to the creation of a new world order under American and Soviet influence across the world. Afterwards, East Asia was caught in the cross hairs of the Cold War. The People's Republic of China initially fell under the sphere of the Soviet Camp but Japan under American occupation was solidly tied to Western nations. Japan's recovery became known as the Post-war economic miracle. Soviet and Western competition led to the Korean War, which created two separate states that exist in present times.

The end of the Cold War and the rise of globalization have brought South Korea, and the People's Republic of China into the world economy. Since 1980, the economies and living standards of South Korea and China have increased exponentially. In contemporary times, East Asia is a pivotal world region with a major influence on world events. In 2010, East Asia's population made up approximately 24% of the world's population. [7]

Homo erectus ("upright man") is believed to have lived in East and Southeast Asia from 1.8 million to 40,000 years ago

In China specifically, 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, [6] and possibly until 200,000 years ago in Indonesia. They may have been the first to use fire and cook food. [8] 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 moved south or east from there. [9] [10] The earliest sites of neolithic culture include Nanzhuangtou culture around 9500 BC to 9000 BC, [11] Pengtoushan culture around 7500 BC to 6100 BC, Peiligang culture around 7000 BC to 5000 BC. China's first villages appeared on the landscape at this time.

In Korea 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. [12] The Jeulmun was a period of hunting, gathering, and small-scale cultivation of plants. [13] 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 Chinese dynasties Edit

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. [14] [15]

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 Book of Documents, 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: 姬 ), 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.

Nomads on the Mongolian Steppe Edit

The territories of modern-day Mongolia and Inner Mongolia in ancient times was inhabited by nomadic tribes. The cultures and languages in these areas were fluid and changed frequently. The use of horses to herd and move started during the Iron Age. North-western Mongolia was Turkic while south-western Mongolia had come under Indo-European (Tocharian and Scythian) influence. In antiquity, the eastern portions of both Inner and Outer Mongolia were inhabited by Mongolic peoples descended from the Donghu people and numerous other tribes These were Tengriist horse-riding pastoralist kingdoms that had close contact with the agrarian Chinese. As a nomadic confederation composed of various clans the Donghu were prosperous in the 4th century BC, forcing surrounding tribes to pay tribute and constantly harassing the Chinese State of Zhao (325 BC, during the early years of the reign of Wuling). To appease the nomads local Chinese rulers often gave important hostages and arranged marriages. In 208 BC Xiongnu emperor Modu Chanyu, in his first major military campaign, defeated the Donghu, who split into the new tribes Xianbei and Wuhuan. The Xiongnu were the largest nomadic enemies of the Han Dynasty fighting wars for over three centuries with the Han Dynasty before dissolving. Afterwards the Xianbei returned to rule the Steppe north of the Great Wall. The titles of Khangan and Khan originated from the Xianbei.

Ancient Korea Edit

According to the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, Gojoseon was established in 2333 BC by Dangun, who was said to be the offspring of a heavenly prince and a bear-woman. Gojoseon fostered an independent culture in Liaoning and along the Taedong River. In 108 BC, the Chinese Han dynasty under Emperor Wu invaded and conquered Gojoseon. The Han established four commanderies to administer the former Gojoseon territory. After the fragmentation of the Han Empire during the 3rd century and the subsequent chaotic 4th century, the area was lost from Chinese control and conquered by Goguryeo in 313 AD.

In 58 BC, 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 War, where the Kingdom of Goguryeo managed to repel the invading forces of the Sui dynasty.

As the Kingdom of Silla conquered nearby city-states, they gained access to the Yellow Sea, making direct contact with the Tang dynasty possible. The Tang dynasty teamed up with Silla and formed a strategy to invade Goguryeo. Since Goguryeo had been able to repel earlier Chinese invasions from the North, perhaps Gorguryeo would fall if it were attacked by Silla from the south at the same time. However, in order to do this, the Tang-Silla alliance had to eliminate Goguryeo's nominal ally Baekje and secure a base of operations in southern Korea for a second front. In 660, the coalition troops of Silla and Tang of China attacked Baekje, resulting in the annexation of Baekje by Silla. Together, Silla and Tang effectively eliminated Baekje when they captured the capital of Sabi, as well as Baekje's last king, Uija, and most of the royal family. However, 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.

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 War. Silla thus unified most of the Korean Peninsula in 668. 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. 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.

Early Japan Edit

Japan was inhabited more than 30,000 years ago, when land bridges connected Japan to Korea and China to the south and Siberia to the north. With rising sea levels, 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. The mythology of ancient Japan is contained within the Kojiki ('Records of Ancient Matters') which describes the creation myth of Japan and its lineage of Emperors to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu.

Ancient pottery has been uncovered in Japan, particularly in Kyushu, that points to two major periods: the Jōmon (c. 7,500–250 BC, 縄文時代 Jōmon Jidai ) and the Yayoi (c. 250 BC – 250 AD, 弥生時代 Yayoi Jidai). Jōmon 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.

Birth of Confucianism and Taoism Edit

Confucianism and Taoism originated in the Spring and Autumn period, arising from the historic figures of Confucius and Laozi. They have functioned has both competing and complementary belief systems. Confucianism emphasizes social order and filial piety while Taoism emphasizes the universal force of the Tao and spiritual well being.

Confucianism is an ethical and philosophical system that developed during the Spring and Autumn period. It later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han dynasty. [16] 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 that gradually evolved into what is now known 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. Confucianism would reign supreme as an ideology influencing all of East Asia until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.

Taoism as a movement originates from the semi mystical figure of Laozi, who allegedly lived during the 6th–5th century BC. His teachings revolved around personal serenity, balance in the universe and the life source of the Tao. 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. [17] The Tianshi school was officially recognized by ruler Cao Cao in 215, legitimizing Cao Cao's rise to power in return. [18] Laozi received imperial recognition as a divinity in the mid-2nd century BCE. [19]

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. [20] 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 and 370. [21]

Qin and Han dynasties Edit

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 Huang, the Qin dynasty collapsed and control was taken over by the Han dynasty in 206 BC. In 220 AD, the Han empire collapsed into the Three Kingdoms. The series of trade routes known as Silk Road began during the Han dynasty.

Qin Shi Huang ruled the unified China directly with absolute power. In contrast to the decentralized and feudal rule of earlier dynasties the Qin set up a number of 'commanderries' around the country which answered directly to the emperor. Nationwide the political philosophy of Legalism was used as a means of the statecraft and writings promoting rival ideas such as Confucianism were prohibited or controlled. In his reign China created the first continuous Great Wall with the use of forced labor and Invasions were launched southward to annex Vietnam. Eventually, rebels rose against the Qin's brutal reign and fought civil wars for control of China. Ultimately the Han dynasty arose and ruled China for over four centuries in what accounted for a long period in prosperity, with a brief interruption by the Xin dynasty. The Han dynasty fought constant wars with nomadic Xiongnu for centuries before finally dissolving the tribe.

The Han dynasty played a great role in developing the Silk Road which would transfer wealth and ideas across Eurasia for millennia, and also invented paper. Though the Han enjoyed great military and economic success it was strained by the rise of aristocrats who disobeyed the central government. Public frustration provoked the Yellow Turban Rebellion – though a failure it nonetheless accelerated the empire's downfall. After 208 AD the Han dynasty broke up into rival kingdoms. China would remain divided until 581 under the Sui dynasty, during the era of division Buddhism would be introduced to China for the first time.

Era of disunion in China Edit

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.

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 Southern dynasties were weakened by conflicts between the ruling families.

Spread of Buddhism Edit

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. 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 using the theological theory "Ryōbushintō", which says Shinto deities are avatars of various Buddhist entities, including Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (Shinbutsu-shūgō). 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 Qing dynasty (16th–19th centuries) from Tibet in the last 2000 years. It was mixed in with Tengeriism and Shamanism.

Sui dynasty Edit

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.

Spread of Civil Service Edit

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 1911–1912, scholar officials often functioned often as between the grassroots level and the government. This model of government had an influence on Japan and Korea.

Goryeo Edit

Silla slowly began to decline and the power vacuum this created led to several rebellious states rising up and taking on the old historical names of Korea's ancient kingdoms. Gyeon Hwon, a peasant leader and Silla army officer, taking over the old territory of Baekje and declared himself the king of Hubaekje ("later Baekje"). Meanwhile, an aristocratic Buddhist monk leader, Gung Ye, declared a new Goguryeo state in the north, known as Later Goguryeo (Hugoguryo). There then followed a protracted power struggle for control of the peninsula.

Gung Ye began to refer to himself as the Buddha, began to persecute people who expressed their opposition against his religious arguments. He executed many monks, then later even his own wife and two sons, and the public began to turn away from him. His costly rituals and harsh rule caused even more opposition. He also moved the capital in 905, changed the name of his kingdom to Majin in 904 then Taebong in 911. In 918, Gung Ye was deposed by his own generals, and Wang Geon, the previous chief minister was raised to the throne. Gung Ye is said to have escaped the palace, but was killed shortly thereafter either by a soldier or by peasants who mistook him for a thief. [22] Wang Geon, who would posthumously be known by his temple name of Taejo of Goryeo.

Soon thereafter, the Goryeo dynasty was proclaimed, and Taejo went on to defeat the rivaling Silla and Hubaekje to reunite the three kingdoms in 936. [23] Following the destruction of Balhae by the Khitan Liao dynasty in 927, the last crown prince of Balhae and much of the ruling class sought refuge in Goryeo, where they were warmly welcomed and given land by Taejo. In addition, Taejo included the Balhae crown prince in the Goryeo royal family, unifying the two successor states of Goguryeo and, according to Korean historians, achieving a "true national unification" of Korea. [24] [25]

Mongol Empire and Yuan dynasty Edit

In the early 13th century Genghis Khan united warring Mongol tribes into the united Mongol Empire in 1206. The Mongols would proceed to conquer the majority of modern East Asia. Meanwhile, China were divided into five competing states. From 1211, Mongol forces invaded North China. In 1227 the Mongol Empire conquered Western Xia. In 1234, Ogedei Khan extinguished the Jin dynasty.

The northern part of China was annexed by Mongol Empire. In 1231, the Mongols began to invade Korea, and quickly captured all the territory of the Goryeo outside the southernmost tip. The Goryeo royal family retreated to the sea outside the city of Seoul to Ganghwa Island. Goryeo was divided between collaborators and resisters to the invaders. However, at the time, the Goryeo Sannotei on the peninsula resisted until 1275.

In the 1250s, the Mongols invaded the last remaining state in southern China – the Southern Song. The invasion carried on for over thirty years, and likely resulted in millions of casualties. In 1271, Kublai Khan proclaimed the Yuan dynasty of China in the traditional Chinese style. [26] The last remnants of the Song were defeated at sea in 1279. China was unified under the Yuan dynasty. Kublai Khan and his administration shifted to the Central Plains area and embraced Confucianism.

By 1275, Goryeo had surrendered to the Yuan dynasty as a vassal. Members of the Goryeo royal family were raised to understand Mongol culture, and intermarried with the Yuan imperial family.

Japan was seriously threatened by the Yuan forces from the East Asian mainland. In 1274, Kublai Khan appointed Yudu. In order to recruit Marshal Dongdu to command the Yuan forces, Han Bing and the Goryeo army began the first expedition to Japan. The Yuan dynasty invaded Japan in two separate invasions, both of which were disrupted by natural typhoons. These two invasions both occupied the town of Kitakyushu before being swept into the sea. At the time the Yuan dynasty fleet was the largest fleet in the history of the world.

In order to cope with the nationwide mobilization of the powerful Yuan army, Japan's economy and military were placed under severe pressure. The Japanese Kamakura Shogunate had difficulty compensating its soldiers who had defended the country, which intensified the contradiction between the domestic warrior groups. The ruling system collapsed in the first half of the 14th century.

Science and Technology Edit

Gunpowder Edit

Most sources credit the discovery of gunpowder to Chinese alchemists in the 9th century searching for an elixir of immortality. [27] The discovery of gunpowder was probably the product of centuries of alchemical experimentation. [28] Saltpetre was known to the Chinese by the mid-1st century AD and there is strong evidence of the use of saltpetre and sulfur in various largely medicine combinations. [29] A Chinese alchemical text from 492 noted that saltpeter gave off a purple flame when ignited, providing for the first time a practical and reliable means of distinguishing it from other inorganic salts, making it possible to evaluate and compare purification techniques. [28] By most accounts, the earliest Arabic and Latin descriptions of the purification of saltpeter do not appear until the 13th century. [28] [30]

The first reference to gunpowder is probably a passage in the Zhenyuan miaodao yaolüe, a Taoism text tentatively dated to the mid-9th century: [28]

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. [31]

The earliest surviving recipes for gunpowder can be found in the Chinese military treatise Wujing zongyao [28] 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. [32] The formulas in the Wujing zongyao range from 27 to 50 percent nitrate. [33] 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. [28] By the end of the 12th century, there were cast iron grenades filled with gunpowder formulations capable of bursting through their metal containers. [34] 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. [33]

In China, the 13th century saw the beginnings of rocketry [35] [36] and the manufacture of the oldest gun still in existence, [28] [37] 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. [38]

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 [30] and the Islamic world. [39] The Arabs acquired knowledge of saltpetre – which they called "Chinese snow" (Arabic: ثلج الصين ‎ thalj al-ṣīn) – around 1240 and, soon afterward, of gunpowder they also learned of fireworks ("Chinese flowers") and rockets ("Chinese arrows"). [39] [40] Persians called saltpeter "Chinese salt" [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] or "salt from Chinese salt marshes" (namak shūra chīnī Persian: نمک شوره چيني ‎). [46] [47] Historian Ahmad Y. al-Hassan argues – contra the general notion – that the Chinese technology passed through Arabic alchemy and chemistry before the 13th century. [48] 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. [49]

Printing press Edit

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). [50] 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.

Ming dynasty: 1368–1644 Edit

The Ming period is the only era of later imperial history during which all of China proper was ruled by ethnic Han.

All the counties in China had a county government, a Confucian school, and the standard Chinese family system. Typically the dominant local elite consisted of high status families composed of the gentry owners and managers of land and of other forms of wealth, as well as smaller groups that were subject to elite domination and protection. Much attention was paid to genealogy to prove that high status was inherited from generations back. Substantial land holdings were directly managed by the owning families in the early Ming period, but toward the end of the era marketing and ownership were depersonalized by the increased circulation of silver as money, and estate management gravitated into the hands of hired bailiffs. Together with the departure of the most talented youth into the imperial service, the result was direct contacts between the elite and subject groups were disrupted, and romantic images of country life disappeared from the literature. In villages across China elite families participated in the life of the empire by sending their sons into the very high status imperial civil service. Most of the successful sons had a common education in the county and prefectural schools, had been recruited by competitive examination, and were posted to offices that might be anywhere in the empire, including the imperial capital. At first the recommendation of an elite local sponsor was important increasing the imperial government relied more on merit exams, and thus entry into the national ruling class became more difficult. Downward social mobility into the peasantry was possible for less successful sons upward mobility from the peasant class was unheard of. [51]

Qing dynasty: 1644–1912 Edit

The Manchus (a tribe from Manchuria) conquered the Ming dynasty around 1643–1683 in wars that killed perhaps 25 million people. The Manchus ruled it as the Qing dynasty until the early 20th century. Notably, Han men were forced to wear the long queue (or pigtail) as a mark of their inferior status. That said, some Han did achieve high rank in the civil service via the Imperial Examination system. Until the 19th century, Han immigration into Manchuria was forbidden. Chinese had an advanced artistic culture and well-developed science and technology. However, its science and technology stood still after 1700 and in the 21st century very little survives outside museums and remote villages, except in for the ever-popular forms of traditional medicine like acupuncture. In the late Qing era (1900 to 1911), the country was beset by large-scale civil wars, major famines, military defeats by Britain and Japan, regional control by powerful warlords and foreign intervention such as the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. Final collapse came in 1911. [52]

Military success in 18th century Edit

The Ten Great Campaigns of the Qianlong Emperor from the 1750s to the 1790s extended Qing control into Inner Asia. During the peak of the Qing dynasty, the empire ruled over the entirety of today's Mainland China, Hainan, Taiwan, Mongolia, Outer Manchuria and Outer Northwest China. [53]

Military defeats in 19th century Edit

Despite its origin in military conquest, and the long warlike tradition of the Manchu people who formed its ruling class, by the 19th century the Qing state was militarily extremely weak, poorly trained, lacking modern weapons and plagued by corruption and incompetence. [54]

They repeatedly lost against the Western powers. Two Opium Wars (鸦片战争 yāpiàn zhànzhēng), pitted China against Western powers, notably Britain and France. China quickly lost both wars. After each defeat, the victors forced the Chinese government to make major concessions. After the first war 1839–1842, the treaty ceded Hong Kong island to Britain, and opened five "treaty ports" including Shanghai and Guangzhou (Canton), and others of less importance Xiamen, Fuzhou, and Ningbo) to Western trade. After the second, Britain acquired Kowloon (the peninsula opposite Hong Kong island), and inland cities such as Nanjing and Hangkou (now part of Wuhan) were opened to trade. [55]

Defeat in the Second Opium War, 1856–1860, was utterly humiliating for China. The British and French sent ambassadors, escorted by a small army, to Beijing to see the treaty signed. The Emperor, however, did not receive ambassadors in anything like the Western sense the closest Chinese expression translates as "tribute-bearer". To the Chinese court, Western envoys were just a group of new outsiders who should show appropriate respect for the emperor like any other visitors of course the kowtow (knocking one's head on the floor) was a required part of the protocol. For that matter, the kowtow was required in dealing with any Chinese official. From the viewpoint of Western powers, treating China's decadent medieval regime with any respect at all was being generous. The envoy of Queen Victoria or another power might give some courtesies, even pretend for form's sake that the Emperor was the equal of their own ruler. However, they considered the notion that they should kowtow utterly ludicrous. In fact, it was official policy that no Briton of any rank should kowtow in any circumstances.

China engaged in various stalling tactics to avoid actually signing the humiliating treaty to which their envoys had already agreed, and the scandalous possibility of an envoy coming before the Emperor and failing to kowtow. The ambassadors' progress to Beijing was impeded at every step. Several battles were fought, in each of which Chinese forces were soundly thrashed by numerically inferior Western forces. Eventually, Beijing was occupied, the treaty signed and embassies established. The British took the luxurious house of a Manchu general prominent in opposing their advance as their embassy.

In retaliation for Chinese torture and murder of captives, including envoys taken while under a flag of truce, British and French forces also utterly destroyed the Yuan Ming Yuan (Old Summer Palace), an enormous complex of gardens and buildings outside Beijing. It took 3500 troops to loot it, wreck it and set it alight, and it burned for three days sending up a column of smoke clearly visible in Beijing. Once the Summer Palace was reduced to ruins a sign was raised with an inscription in Chinese stating "This is the reward for perfidy and cruelty". The choice to destroy the Palace was quite deliberate they wanted something quite visible that struck at the upper classes who had ordered the crimes. Like the Forbidden City, no ordinary Chinese citizen had ever been allowed into the Summer Palace, as it was used exclusively by the Imperial family. [56]

In 1884–1885, China and France fought a war that resulted in China's accepting French control over their former tributary states in what is now Vietnam. The Qing armies acquitted themselves well in campaigns in Guangxi and Taiwan. However, the French sank much of China's modernized Fuzhou-based naval fleet in an afternoon.

They also lost repeatedly against Japan, partly because Britain had helped modernise Japanese forces as a counter to Russian influence in the region. In 1879, Japan annexed the Ryukyu Kingdom, then a Chinese tributary state, and incorporated it as Okinawa prefecture. Despite pleas from a Ryukyuan envoy, China was powerless to send an army. The Chinese sought help from the British, who refused to intervene. In 1895, China lost the Sino-Japanese war and ceded Taiwan, the Penghu islands and the Liaodong peninsula to Japan. In addition, it had to relinquish control of Korea, which had been a tributary state of China for a long time.

Rebellions Edit

The Qing also had internal troubles, notably several Muslim rebellions in the West and the Taiping Rebellion in the South, with millions dead and tens of millions more impoverished.

The Taiping Rebellion, 1851–1864, was led by a charismatic figure claiming to be Christ's younger brother. It was largely a peasant revolt. The Taiping program included land reform and eliminating slavery, concubinage, arranged marriage, opium, footbinding, judicial torture and idolatry. The Qing government, with some Western help, eventually defeated the Taiping rebels, but not before they had ruled much of southern China for over ten years. This was one of the bloodiest wars ever fought only World War II killed more people. [57]

The Chinese resented much during this period — notably Christian missionaries, opium, annexation of Chinese land and the extraterritoriality that made foreigners immune to Chinese law. To the West, trade and missionaries were obviously good things, and extraterritoriality was necessary to protect their citizens from the corrupt Chinese system. To many Chinese, however, these were yet more examples of the West exploiting China. [58]

Boxer Rebellion 1898–1900 Edit

Around 1898, these feelings exploded. The Boxers, also known as the "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" (义和团 yì hé tuán) led a peasant religious/political movement whose main goal was to drive out evil foreign influences. Some believed their kung fu and prayer could stop bullets. While initially anti-Qing, once the revolt began they received some support from the Qing court and regional officials. The Boxers killed a few missionaries and many Chinese Christians, and eventually besieged the embassies in Beijing. An eight-nation alliance — Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Great Britain, the United States, Austria-Hungary and Japan — sent a force up from Tianjin to rescue the legations. The Qing had to accept foreign troops permanently posted in Beijing and pay a large indemnity as a result. In addition, Shanghai was divided among China and the eight nations. [59] [60] [61]

Last minute reforms 1898–1908 Edit

The Hundred Days' Reform was a failed 103-day national, cultural, political, and educational reform movement in 1898. It was undertaken by the young Guangxu Emperor and his reform-minded supporters. Following the issuing of the reformative edicts, a coup d'état ("The Coup of 1898", Wuxu Coup) was perpetrated by powerful conservative opponents led by Empress Dowager Cixi, who became a virtual dictator.

The Boxer Rebellion was a humiliating fiasco for China: the Qing rulers proved visibly incompetent and lost prestige irreparably, while the foreign powers gained greater influence in Chinese affairs. The humiliation stimulated a second reform movement—this time sanctioned by the empress dowager Cixi herself. From 1901 to 1908, the dynasty announced a series of educational, military, and administrative reforms, many reminiscent of the "one hundreds days" of 1898. In 1905 the examination system itself was abolished and the entire Confucian tradition of merit entry into the elite collapsed. The abolition of the traditional civil service examination was itself a revolution of immense significance. After many centuries, the scholar's mind began to be liberated from the shackles of classical studies, and social mobility no longer depended chiefly on the writing of stereotyped and flowery prose. New ministries were created in Beijing and revised law codes were drafted. Work began on a national budget—the national government had no idea how much taxes were collected in its name and spent by regional officials. New armies were raised and trained in European (and Japanese) fashion and plans for a national army were laid. The creation of the "new army" reflected rising esteem for the military profession and the emergence of a new national elite that dominated China for much of the 20th century. . More officers and men were now literate, while patriotism and better pay served as an inducement for service. [62]

Reform and revolution Edit

The movement for constitutionalism gathered momentum following the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, for Japan's victory signalled the triumph of constitutionalism over absolutism. Under pressure from gentry and student groups, the Qing court in 1908 issued plans for the inauguration of consultative provincial assemblies in 1909, a consultative national assembly in 1910, and both a constitution and a parliament in 1917. The consultative assemblies were to play a pivotal role in the unfolding events, politicizing the provincial gentry and providing them with new leverage with which to protect their interests. [63]

Ironically, the measures designed to preserve the Qing dynasty hastened its death, for the nationalistic and modernizing impulses generated or nurtured by the reforms brought a greater awareness of the Qing government's extreme backwardness. Modernizing forces emerged as business, students, women, soldiers, and overseas Chinese became mobilized and demanded change. Government-sponsored education in Japan, available to both civilian and military students, exposed Chinese youths to revolutionary ideas produced by political exiles and inspired by the West. Anti-Manchu revolutionary groups were formed in the Yangtze cities by 1903, and those in Tokyo banded together to form the "Revolutionary Alliance" in 1905, led by Sun Yat-sen. [64]

Joseon Korea: 1392–1897 Edit

In July 1392, General Yi Seong-gye overthrew the Goryeo dynasty and founded a new dynasty, Joseon. As King Taejo of Joseon, he chose Hanyang (Seoul) as the capital of the new dynasty. During its 500-year reign, Joseon encouraged the entrenchment of Confucian ideals and doctrines in Korean society. Neo-Confucianism was installed as the new dynasty's state ideology. Joseon consolidated its effective rule over the territory of current Korea and saw the height of classical Korean culture, trade, literature, and science and technology. Joseon dynasty was a highly centralized monarchy and neo-Confucian bureaucracy as codified by Gyeongguk daejeon, a sort of Joseon constitution. The king had absolute authority, the officials were also expected to persuade the king to the right path if the latter was thought to be mistaken. He was bound by tradition, precedents set by earlier kings, Gyeongguk daejeon, and Confucian teachings. In theory, there were three social classes, but in practice, there were four. The top class were the yangban, or "scholar-gentry", [65] the commoners were called sangmin or yangmin, and the lowest class was that of the cheonmin. [66] Between the yangban and the commoners was a fourth class, the chungin, "middle people". [67] Joseon Korea installed a centralised administrative system controlled by civil bureaucrats and military officers who were collectively called Yangban. Yangban strove to do well at the royal examinations to obtain high positions in the government. They had to excel in calligraphy, poetry, classical Chinese texts, and Confucian rites. In order to become an official, one had to pass a series of gwageo examinations. There were three kinds of gwageo exams - literary, military, and miscellaneous.

Edo Japan Edit

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. Early modern 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 shōgun, daimyō and layers of feudal lords whose rank was indicated by their closeness to the Tokugawa. They had power. The "daimyō" were 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.

Three cultures Edit

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, daimyō 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. 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.

Growth of Edo/Tokyo Edit

Edo (Tokyo) had been a small settlement for 400 years but began to grow rapidly after 1603 when Shōgun Ieyasu built a fortified city as the administrative center of the new Tokugawa Shogunate. Edo resembled the capital cities of Europe with military, political, and economic functions. The Tokugawa political system rested on both feudal and bureaucratic controls, so that Edo lacked a unitary administration. The typical urban social order was composed of samurai, unskilled workers and servants, artisans, and businessmen. The artisans and businessmen were organized in officially sanctioned guilds their numbers grew rapidly as Tokyo grew and became a national trading center. Businessmen were excluded from government office, and in response they created their own subculture of entertainment, making Edo a cultural as well as a political and economic center. With the Meiji Restoration, Tokyo's political, economic, and cultural functions simply continued as the new capital of imperial Japan.

The Meiji Era Edit

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 Restoration of 1868 ended the Tokugawa period, and put Japan on a course of centralized modern government in the name of the Emperor. During late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Japan became a regional power that was able to defeat the militaries of both China and Russia. It occupied Korea, Formosa (Taiwan), and southern Sakhalin Island.

Pacific War Edit

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 invaded French Indochina in 1940–41. In response, 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.

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.

U.S. occupation of Japan Edit

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 liberal 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.

Postwar Edit

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

The Chinese Civil War resumed after World War II concluded. In 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China, which had governed mainland China until this point, retreated to Taiwan. Since then, the jurisdiction of the Republic of China has been limited to the Taiwan Area. [68] [69]

After the surrender of Japan, at the end of World War II, on 15 August (officially 2 September) 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into two zones of occupation. The Soviets administered the northern-half and the Americans administered the southern-half. In 1948, as a result of Cold War tensions, the occupation zones became two sovereign states. This led to the establishment of the Republic of Korea in South Korea on 15 August 1948, promptly followed by the establishment of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in North Korea on 9 September 1948. In 1950, after years of mutual hostilities, North Korea invaded South Korea in an attempt to re-unify the peninsula under its communist rule. The subsequent Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, ended with a stalemate and has left the two Koreas separated by the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) up to the present day.

Decline of Religion Edit

Historically, cultures and regions strongly influenced by Confucianism include Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, North Korea, and South Korea, as well as territories settled predominantly by Overseas Chinese, such as Singapore. 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 Confucianism, 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.

In Japan, the presence of a liberal order and consumerism led to a voluntarily decline of religious belief.

Around the turn of the 21st centuries there were talks of a "Confucian Revival" in the academia and the scholarly community. [70] [71] Across the region cultural institutions of religions have remained, even while actual belief has declined.

Asian History

Asian history at UNC–Chapel Hill has flourished and grown considerably in recent years. Its diverse faculty offers a wide range of courses that, despite their varying temporal and spatial focuses, are all designed to equip students with a critical spirit of enquiry and understanding with regard to a region of the world where over half of humanity now resides. The research and teaching interests of the Asian history faculty include the region’s pre-modern histories its transformation in more recent times business and economic developments social and cultural formations gender relations experience with colonialism and nationalism and relations with the United States and other parts of the world. Students can choose courses that range from introductions to specific sub-units within the region (South Asia, China, and Japan) to more advanced courses with thematic focuses (colonialism, gender, historical memory, the Pacific War). The more advanced courses often expose students to a comparative and transnational approach which is one of the distinctive features and strengths of the Asian history program.

Faculty and students in Asian history work closely with many other departments and centers of the University. They include the Department of Asian Studies, which offers language training in Asian languages as well as courses in Asian literature and cultures. The program also contributes to and cooperates with the work of the recently established Carolina Asia Center, which promotes and coordinates interdisciplinary teaching and research on Asia.

Graduate Program

Students may pursue graduate study in Asian history in two different ways. Because the History faculty voted in the spring 2007 to approve a doctoral field in Asian history, students may now select Asian history as a primary field at the master’s degree level and the Ph.D. level. Students in the master’s degree and doctoral degree programs may also focus on Asian history from a transnational perspective through the Global History Program. Students who are interested in the Global History Program should consult the description of that program.

Students in the doctoral program in Asian history must select four fields for comprehensive examinations: a primary field focusing on Asia, a second field that ordinarily will focus on Asia but will be distinct from the primary field, a thematic field that will include substantial readings pertaining to Asia, and a field outside of Asia. For information on the Asian field graduate comprehensive exams, consult the Graduate Student Handbook.

For a current list of graduate students working in the Field of Asian History, please go to the Graduate Students page and click “Asian History” in the Interests/Concentrations tab.

Fields of Study

554A Pauli Murray Hall*
102 Emerson Dr., CB #3195
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3195

*Though the History Department uses the name Pauli Murray Hall for our building, on official maps you will find it as Hamilton Hall. Joseph Grégoire de Roulhac Hamilton’s intellectually dishonest historical and archival work promoted white supremacy. In contrast, Pauli Murray marshaled unassailable evidence and analysis in the service of racial and gender equality. In July 2020, all of the departments housed in the building agreed to adopt the name Pauli Murray Hall in place of Hamilton Hall. An official request with the Chancellor is pending. For more information, please see here.

Feb. 19, 1862: President Lincoln makes California’s ‘coolie trade’ ban national

The federal &ldquoAct to prohibit the ‘Coolie Trade’ by American Citizens in American Vessels” put the exclusion of Chinese immigrants at the center of debates about race, slavery, immigration and freedom at the close of the Civil War. The so-called “coolie trade” began in the 19th century and became a global system by the 1830s to circulate indentured Asian workers to plantations that enslaved Black Africans had previously labored upon. Coolies were thought of as suitable replacements to enslaved labor as the Atlantic slave trade was being dismantled. While the indenture system claimed the legitimacy of consent through a labor contract, these formalities concealed the brutal and deadly nature of trafficking workers to dangerous sites like the guano islands of Peru or exploitation in Cuba&rsquos sugar cane plantations. The same reckless and cruel disregard for human life that characterized the Atlantic slave trade was also common in the Pacific coolie trade.

Because of this practice, racist perceptions of Asian immigration were fused with the notion of cheap, foreign, disposable labor. President Lincoln&rsquos passage of the anti-coolie legislation codified this racist idea about Asians, even as it condemned any form of unfree labor, as would be declared in the Emancipation Proclamation in the following year.

&mdashJason Chang, Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut and author of Asian America: A Primary Source Reader.

Asia Timeline

Neolithic potters in Japan during the Jomon period produce containers that are among the world's earliest ceramic wares and are characterized by surfaces decorated with cord-markings (the meaning of the term jomon) and dramatic shapes. Read more.

5000 BC–4000 BC

Pottery containers made in the Chinese Neolithic village of Banpo are painted with geometric designs and linear patterns for funerary and domestic use. Read more.

C. 3300 BC–c. 2200 BC

The Neolithic Liangzhu civilization of coastal China makes finely crafted and polished jade personal ornaments and religious implements for graves, possibly to convey and herald the status of the deceased. Read more.

C. 3000 BC

Black-burnished pottery vessels with remarkably thin walls are distinctive to China's Neolithic coastal cultures. In particular, the Dawenkou culture is credited with developing the fast potter's wheel at about the same time as the ancient Egyptians, although there is no indication of mutual influence. Read more.

C. 2500 BC–c. 1500 BC

Small stone seals with short inscriptions and figural images, frequently of a horned bull, are used by the inhabitants of the Indus Valley or Harappan culture, South Asia's earliest civilization. These seals may have served an administrative function facilitating trade. Read more.

1300 BC–1100 BC

Large anthropomorphic bronze statues are buried in pits along with elephant tusks, trees made of bronze and weapons made of bronze and jade in present-day Sanxingdui in Sichuan county, China. The technical sophistication of these objects and their use of imagery that is strikingly different from that found in central China indicate that early dynastic China consists of not one but several distinctive cultural centres. Read more.

C. 1200 BC

Royal consort Fu Hao is buried in the Shang-dynasty capital in a tomb filled with numerous, large and skilfully crafted bronze vessels, jade implements and ceremonial weapons and lacquer coffins. The only Shang royal tomb found intact, the contents indicate the wealth and sophistication of ancient China and the inscribed oracle bones provide much useful information. Read more.

C. 600 BC

Nomadic peoples of Central Asia, some of whom are known as Scythians, fashion gold horse trappings and portable ornaments, often in the shape of powerful animals. Read more.

C. 550 BC–c. 330 BC

The Oxus Treasure, found on the banks of the Oxus River in Bactria (present-day Uzbekistan), consists of nearly 200 precious objects that may have originally been used for temple rituals. Active trade exchange is indicated by the variety of regional styles visible in the objects in the hoard. Read more.

C. 433 BC

The tomb of the Marquis Yi of Zeng contains several lacquer-painted carvings of animals, some of which immitate real animals such as ducks, while others represent fanciful beasts with horns and protruding tongues. Read more.

C. 300 BC–200 BC

Large kettledrums are made of bronze and decorated with geometric patterns and miniature frogs, animals, warriors and human figures in Dong Son in northern Vietnam. Read more.

300 BC–100 BC

Influenced by nomadic peoples to the north and northwest, Chinese metalworkers produce portable accoutrements such as belt plaques and clasps decorated in animal forms derived from Central Asian motifs for both the domestic market and for trade with northern peoples. Read more.

259 BC–210 BC

China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi joined existing defensive barrier fragments to establish one of the world’s most notable architectural structures, the Great Wall, effectively demarcating his territory as a unified and fortified nation. Read more.

C. 250 BC

As part of King Ashoka's energetic support of Buddhism and its spread throughout the Indian subcontinent, he commissions many building projects, including the erection of a series of columns with symbolic references to the Buddha and his teachings. Read more.

221 BC–210 BC

A massive, life-size army of terracotta warriors is created by China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi to protect him in the afterlife in his magnificent tomb in Xi'an. Read more.

C. 200 BC

Remnants of the world's earliest paper found in tombs in Xi'an date to the early Han dynasty. Paper is initially made of hemp fibres, producing a course tissue paper-like substance. Read more.

200 BC–100 BC

Mystical Daoism's rise in popularity inspires the production of bronze incense burners (boshan lu) in the shape of magical mountains. These censers are among the first representations of mountains in Chinese art, which become one of its most important subjects. Read more.

C. 150 BC

Sanchi temple in central India is expanded and renovated with an upper level for circumambulation added to Stupa 1, which is said to contain some of the remains of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. A century later four gates or torana are added that are richly sculpted with instructional narratives of the life of the Buddha. Read more.

C. 150 BC

Relief sculptures that originally decorate the railings and gates of the Bharhut Stupa incorporate among the representations of the Buddha's life foreign imagery and such pre-Buddhist indigenous deities as male and female earth spirits (yaksas and yaksis respectively) and serpent kings (nagarajas). Read more.

C. 140 BC

The Marchioness of Dai is buried in a tomb at Mawangdui in Hunan province in a series of wooden coffins topped by a painted silk banner that provides China's earliest complete painting and reveals the religious beliefs and artistic practices of the day. Because the tomb was never looted, the varied and sumptuous furnishings and even the body of the noblewoman remain in exceptionally good condition. Read more.

100 BC–1 BC

Voluptuous females who look filled with life and fecundity are represented on terracotta plaques made in northern India in the Mauryan and Shunga periods. The visual appeal of these images is heightened by abundant surface decoration and production speed is aided by the use of moulds. Read more.

C. 65 BC

Parthian coins are struck with figures shown in an innovative frontal pose, a distinctive element of Parthian art that appears in temple sculptures as well as portraits on coins. Read more.

C. AD 1–c. AD 200

The Great Stupa at Amaravati in southern India is refurbished with numerous religious and decorative images rendered in relief on the stupa railings and surrounding gates. Read more.

AD 1–AD 200

Dotaku, cast bronze bells, are among the most impressive and distinctive examples of early Japanese metallurgy. Based on Korean horse bells, Japanese dotaku, which could be quite large, have some of Japan's earliest pictorial scenes cast in relief on their sides. Read more.

AD 100–AD 200

Chinese bronze-casters laud the speed and grace of horses imported from Central Asia and are inspired by them to cast one in full gallop with only a single hoof alighting on a flying swallow. Read more.

AD 100–AD 500

A large Buddhist monastery is cut into the rock walls at Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Flanking the monks' cells are two colossal stone Buddhas (destr. 2001) that attract pilgrims from miles away and epitomize the concept of the Universal Buddha. Read more.

AD 344–AD 407

Court painter Gu Kaizhi sets a style, as seen in his Admonitions of the Court Instructress, for figure paintings that incorporates firm and fluid brushwork and subtle expression, which is revered for millennia. Read more.

AD 353

The famous Orchid Pavilion preface, known in Chinese as Lanting xu, is written by China’s most revered calligrapher Wang Xizhi. It forms an important step inf the evolution of writing and brushwork from a tool for scribes to a highly expressive and dynamic art form. Read more.

C. 400–c. 430

The richly decorated stupa at Svayambhunatha is built and becomes the most important Buddhist site in the Kathmandu Valley. Read more.

C. AD 400–c. AD 450

Emperor Nintoku's keyhole-shaped tomb in central Japan is the largest burial site of its type. It is thought to have been covered with more than 10,000 clay haniwa offering cylinders, including the earliest known one in the shape of a human. Read more.

C. AD 460–c. AD 475

Rulers of the Northern Wei dynasty commission the construction of a series of elaborately carved and painted caves at Yungang in northern China. The centrepiece of this religious site is a massive sculpture of Shakyamuni Buddha, carved from the limestone cliffs. Read more.

C. AD 460–c. AD 480

The Buddhist monastery and pilgrimage site at Ajanta realizes its most vigorous period of growth. Excavated from the cliffs, the rooms are decorated with some of the oldest surviving Buddhist paintings in India. Read more.

C. AD 500–c. AD 535

Xie He writes the Six Laws of Chinese painting, the earliest known and one of the most influential texts on painting theory. Read more.

C. AD 500–c. AD 600

Chinese potters are the first in the world to invent porcelain. Read more.

C. AD 500–c. AD 700

Large, free-standing images of the Buddha are sculpted in Sri Lanka. All present him as a monk, standing frontally and with little sense of movement, which conveys a sense of monumentality. Read more.

AD 500–AD 800

One of the earliest sources of silk outside China is Sasanian Iran, which produces and trades silk with China. Weavers in other regions, including China, adopt and adapt Sasanian decorative motifs. Read more.

C. AD 550

Benefitting from imperial patronage and highly skilled craftsmen, the Shaiva cave temple at Elephanta contains technically and icongraphically sophisticated sculptures of Shiva. Read more.

C. AD 550–c. AD 600

Horyuji temple in Nara is established by Prince Shotoku. The wooden buildings and sculptures are among the earliest surviving examples of 7th-century Buddhist art in Japan. Read more.

AD 600–AD 700

Statues representing the bodhisattva Maitreya in a graceful seated pose are made. With fluid drapery, serene facial expressions and delicate modelling, they exhibit all the features of early Korean Buddhist sculpture. Read more.

C. AD 618–c. AD 907

The Mandala of Five Divinities of Avalokitesvara is painted on silk and stored in one of the 500 cave-temples at Dunhuang on the Silk Route. Elegant in execution and opulent in detail, the colourful visualization of a saviour deity in a celestial realm epitomizes the complexity of Buddhist thought and the splendour of Tang-dynasty art. Read more.

AD 672–AD 675

Carved by imperial commission, the 13-metre tall seated stone image of Vairochana, the Universal Buddha, at Fengxian Temple at Longmen, China embodies prevalent esoteric Buddhist concepts of deities with great power. The energetic sense of movement of the surrounding attendant figures shows artistic developments of the period. Read more.

AD 700–AD 800

Sogdian weavers in Central Asia make silk garments that combine fine workmanship with motifs drawn from various regions, inspired by the goods traded by Sogdian merchants. Read more.

C. AD 743

Emperor Shomu constructs the Buddhist temple Todaiji in the capital city of Nara. Todaiji's storehouse, called the Shosoin, is one of the richest repositories of Buddhist and secular treasures, containing items obtained throughout East Asia and the regions around the Silk Route. Read more.

AD 751–AD 774

The carved granite Seated Buddha at Sokkuram cave temple, Korea is among the most important and imposing examples of Buddhist art in East Asia and is stylistically closely related to the Tang sculpture of China. Read more.

C. 775–c. 800

Kailasa Temple, dedicated to Shiva, is the most important rock-cut temple at Ellora. Filled with imposing relief sculptures, the temple is viewed as the abode and sacred mountain of Shiva. Read more.

C. 800

Borobudur, the largest religious structure in Indonesia, is built as a monumental stone manifestation of a Buddhist mandala and as a celebration of the power of the new Shailendra dynasty. Over 1300 carved panels are used to decorate with walls and balustrades with narrative reliefs. Read more.

AD 868

The oldest surviving printed book in the world is preserved in the repository at the Buddhist site of Dunhuang. This illustrated text is a Chinese-language version of the Diamond Sutra and is now in the British Library. Read more.

C. 920–c. 930

The Samanid rulers build a mausoleum at Bukhara of fired brick that is decorated with vegetal and geometric patterns. Read more.

C. 1000–c. 1050

Fan Kuan paints one of the most famous Chinese paintings, Travellers among Mountains and Streams, which epitomizes the towering peaks, diminuitive figures and varied brushstrokes of the monumental landscape tradition. Read more.

C. 1020–c. 1029

King Vidyadhara commissions the Kandariya Mahadeva temple, a complex and richly decorated structure that exemplifies mature sacred architecture in central India. Read more.

C. 1020–1057

Japanese sculptor Jocho develops the joined-woodblock technique whereby a statue is made of several, hollowed-out sections joined together. This system makes it possible to make larger sculptures with a wider variety of postures that give them a greater sense of movement and dynamism. This method also ushers in the workshop system. Read more.


Su Shi, a renowned government official and poet, develops the idea of literati painting that emphasizes the expression of artistic spirit over capturing the physical appearance of the subject. This concept assumes paramount importance in later Chinese painting connoisseurship. Read more.

Court painter Guo Xi's Early Spring captures a mountainous landscape suffused with the mists of the season, capturing a specific time and atmosphere in nature. Read more.


Artist, connoisseur and patron, Emperor Huizong assembles the finest painters in the country at the Hanlin Painting Academy. Chosen by means of an examination, these artists produce images for the court that set a standard that continues to influence artistic tastes throughout East Asia. Read more.


One of the world's most sublime and short-lived ceramic wares is made for Emperor Huizong's court. Ru ware has a thick and creamy greenish-blue glaze with a buttery texture coating thinly potted vessels with forms derived from nature. Read more.

C. 1100

The Cholas in southern India favour portable Hindu images cast in bronze. One of the most graceful and symbolically rich images is that of Shiva Nataraja, depicting the god performing the dance of destruction and creation. Read more.

C. 1100–c. 1150

The Buddhist monastery of Alchi in northern India is built, perhaps by the Tibetan teacher and 'great translator' Rinchen Sangpo. Situated in an isolated area, the treasure house remains intact and its murals of deities and mandalas are among the most complete. Read more.

C. 1105

King Kyanzittha builds Ananda temple in his capital of Pagan, Burma. Consisting of four shrines situated back-to-back, this large structure contains four colossal wood sculptures of the Buddha and a storehouse of rare sacred treasures. Read more.

C. 1120–1140

The earliest known illustration of the Tale of Genji is painted for the enjoyment of members of the imperial court. This series of paintings of scenes from the world's first novel is part of the beginning of the Japanese fondness for illustrated narratives. Read more.

C. 1150

Monumental images of Buddha are sculpted from the living rock at the monastery complex at Polonnaruva in Sri Lanka. Read more.

C. 1150

King Suryavarman II builds the magnificent temple-mountain of Angkor Vat, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and expressive of his own position as god-king. Read more.

C. 1150– 1300s

Sanggam or inlaid celadon ware marks the technological peak of Korean ceramic production and epitomizes the elegance and sophistication of the Korean Koryo court. The Chinese court terms this ware 'first under Heaven'. Read more.

C. 1190–c. 1225

Court artist Ma Yuan paints delicate images of nature with soft colours and highly skilful brushwork that capture the philosophic and aesthetic interests of the Song dynasty. Read more.

The Quwwat al-Islam Mosque is the first congregational mosque built in Delhi and incorporates such native characteristics as the use of sandstone and the decorative scrolling lotus motif. Read more.


Sculptors in Sukhothai, Thailand develop a distinctive type of free-standing walking Buddha. Rendered in bronze, the arms of these figures typically show one hand making a religious gesture (mudra) and the other moving in counterbalance. Read more.

C. 1260–c. 1280

Following his construction of several stupas for Kublai Khan in Tibet, Nepalese artist Arniko becomes director of the imperial workshops in Beijing and designs the famous White Pagoda, a stupa illustrating the fusion of Indian and Nepalese architectural styles. Read more.

C. 1300

Artist, scholar and government official Zhao Mengfu paints Autumn Colours on the Qiao and Hua Mountains, one of his landscape compositions in which he uses archaic imagery to develop a new kind of expressive painting style. Read more.

The so-called 'David vases', once owned by Sir Percival David, are a pair of exceptionally large and dated vases made for a temple in China. They are a prime example of blue-and-white porcelain produced during the Yuan dynasty. Read more.

C. 1400–1404

The great conqueror Timur (also known as Tamerlane) is buried in Samarkand in the Gur-i Amir, which displays several features typical of architecture of that period, such as monumental size and colourful tiles. Read more.


The robust and bold designs of punch'ong wares develop from Korean potters' desire to capture the uniqueness and dynamism of nature. This stoneware, decorated with a pale green transparent glaze and white slip, has a profound effect on the evolution of ceramic production techniques and aesthetic tastes in Japan. Read more.

Under the orders of Emperor Yongle, construction begins on the Forbidden City in Beijing. This extensive series of formal audience halls, workshops and residences remains the home of China's emperors until 1912. Read more.

Iskandar Sultan is the first Timurid leader to patronize the arts of the book and commissions the great calligrapher Mahmud al-Hafiz al-Husayni to compile an illuminated anthology of poetry. Read more.

A bottle dated to 1450 and painted with underglaze cobalt blue decoration in the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul provides a time frame for the production in Vietnam of blue-and-white ceramics for domestic consumption and foreign trade, while also revealing the technical and stylistic influences of Chinese prototypes. Read more.

C. 1450

The dry-landscape garden of Ryoanji temple in Kyoto comprises 15 large rocks set amidst a bed of raked white gravel. Set outside the abbot's residence, this garden is constructed as an aid to Zen meditation. Read more.

C. 1463–1868

Supported by the country's most powerful military leaders, Kano Masanobu establishes Japan's most enduring and influential school of painting. The Kano school derives its style from a mastery of Chinese painting techniques adapted to form a uniquely Japanese style.. Read more.

Warlord Oda Nobunaga gives Kano Eitoku his most important commission, the decoration of the interior of Azuchi Castle. Eitoku develops a painting style that employs large formats, bold and rough brushwork and big forms that result in colourful and powerful images that impress his samurai patrons. Read more.

Ca. 1580–1591

Master of the tea ceremony Sen no Rikyu develops the concept of wabicha, which values austerity, rusticity and naturalness. This aesthetic exerts a profound influence not just on the tea ceremony and arts associated with Zen Buddhism, but on Japanese culture as a whole. Read more.

C. 1605

The accomplished artist Manohar paints Emperor Jahangir Receiving his Two Sons, combining precise miniaturist painting techniques, astute observation and rich colours to create scenes that dazzle the eye and enhance the prestige of the Mughal court. Read more.

Painter, calligrapher and theorist Dong Qichang develops a new painting style as seen in such works as Qingbian Mountains. Dong draws on brushstroke techniques and compositional formulas of past masters, but alters their emphasis to focus on geometric forms and the graphic effects of brushwork. Read more.

C. 1618

Painter to the Mughal court Balchand sketches a simple and sparse portrait of the dying official `Inayat Khan. This image of the weak and emaciated man is deeply moving and disturbing. Read more.

C. 1620

Accomplished calligrapher, landscape designer and potter, Hon'ami Koetsu produces one of his most famous teabowls, decorated with half-black, half-white glaze representing Mt Fuji. Koetsu's raku-ware bowls are esteemed for their vigor and naturalism. Read more.


Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan mourns the death of his beloved wife Arjumand Banu Begum by building the Taj Mahal in Agra to serve as her tomb. Read more.

While the practice of decorating textiles with a resist-dyeing technique called batik is known in many countries, the method is most closely associated with the island of Java in Indonesia. Although produced for centuries, the first historical use of this word occurs in records from a European ship. Read more.

The Potala Palace in Lhasa is rebuilt in order to serve as the Dalai Lama's winter palace and the seat of religious and political functions. Read more.

The eccentric painter, calligrapher and poet Zhu Da, also known as Bada Shanren, paints Moon and Melon. Frequently couched in Buddhist, political or poetical references and elusive meanings, Zhu Da's simplistic yet highly expressionistic compositions contain messages that are difficult to comprehend. Read more.

C. 1701

Ogata Korin, the versatile artist who worked in paint, ceramics and textiles, decorates several folding screens with vibrant images of irises against a glittering background of gold leaf. His compositions are very decorative and patterned, although their theme ultimately derives from classical Japanese literature. Read more.


Giuseppe Castiglione (also known as Lang Shining), an Italian painter, architect and Jesuit lay brother, travels to China as a missionary, and subsequently becomes court painter for three emperors during the Qing dynasty. Castiglione is the only Western artist to be included in the Chinese imperial collections. Read more.

Panoramic View of the Diamond Mountains by Chong Son uses refined Chinese painting techniques to represent one of the peninsula's most beloved natural settings and thereby brings the Korean landscape painting tradition to maturity. Read more.

1745–c. 1814

Kim Hong-do, one of the most talented painters in the Korean Choson court's Bureau of Painting, depicts scenes from daily life with great humour, careful observation and skilful brushwork as part of a movement of increasing interest in native imagery during the late 18th century and early 19th. Read more.

C. 1760

Painters in the principality of Guler, in northern India, develop a distinctive version of the Pahari painting style, visible in such works as Lady with Hawk, that merge the bright Pahari palette with Mughal naturalism. Read more.

C. 1812

Persian painter Mihr 'Ali creates the best of his series of full-length oil paintings of Qajar ruler Fath 'Ali Shah, showing the monarch in a gold brocade costume and large crown. Read more.

C. 1829–1833

Katsushika Hokusai produces the series of woodblock-print landscape images known as the Fugaku sanjurokkei ('Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji'). Taking the sacred mountain as a focal point, Hokusai creates a series of imaginary scenes filled with colour, dynamism and emphasis on graphic patterns. Read more.

Ren Xiong paints a self-portrait of himself standing with his head shaven, his chest bared and his gaze stern and unwavering. This unconventional picture is ambiguous in meaning and intent and consolidates many trends and struggles experienced in China during this period of great change. Read more.

Lampung weavers of Sumatra make small cloth squares (tampan) with complex designs to trade ritually during important ceremonies. Read more.

C. 1851

Soon after returning to Java, Raden Saleh paints The Storm, in which he employs the techniques and styles adopted during his many years travelling and studying in Europe to depict local imagery. His work represents the close connection between Europe and Indonesia in the 19th century. Read more.

South Korean artist Nam June Paik's The More, The Better is representative of his work as one of the first artists to have comprehensively realized the potential of television and video as an artistic medium. Read more.

Monumental rock-cut sculptures of Buddhas at Bamiyan in northern Afghanistan, dating from the 2nd century AD to the 5th, are destroyed by the Taliban. Read more.

Throughout the continent, different languages are spoken in all the countries. Each language has its roots in the history of the respective countries. Some common Asian languages include Urdu, Chinese, Hindi, Sanskrit, Sinhala, Tamil, Arabic and Bahasa.

Many of the traditions and customs in Asia are a result of the different religions practiced in the country. The most popular religions of the continent include Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Christianity. Different aspects of life, including marriage, festivals and ceremonies, eating habits, worship practices and general lifestyles are affected by religious teachings.

Asia is, therefore, a continent worth visiting. Tourists can enjoy the sight of beautiful mosques and temples while the colorful celebrations of different festivals can also be experienced. Indulge in the exotic and spicy food of different Asian cultures and observe interesting religious practices. The diversity of Asia’s culture is, indeed, its most fascinating feature.

Why is Asian American history barely taught in Mass. schools?

Katie Yue-Sum Li, the ethnic studies coordinator at Boston Public Schools, said the onus is often on individual teachers to ensure Asian American history is covered. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

The Great Divide is an investigative team that explores educational inequality in Boston and statewide. Sign up to receive our newsletter, and send ideas and tips to [email protected].

Tiffany Luo’s teachers have covered Asian American history exactly twice since her freshman year. Buried in a few PowerPoint slides were brief mentions of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the forced internment of Japanese Americans 60 years later.

“It’s practically nonexistent,” said Luo, 17, a rising senior of Chinese descent at Boston Latin School, about her exposure to Asian American history in her coursework. “All we learn about is other people — not ourselves.”

Asian Americans and their contributions to US history and culture are largely missing from social studies curricula and textbooks, in Massachusetts and across the country. If and when they do appear in classroom history lessons, experts say, Asian Americans often are portrayed as outsiders, enemy aliens, or victims of xenophobic racism. Rarely are they shown as heroes in the sweeping arc of the American story, or as change-makers who battled systemic injustice and advanced the cause for civil rights. And for Asian American students, inculcated with a Eurocentric history from which they’ve been erased, the psychological ramifications are profound.

“The message is that either you are a foreigner or a dangerous threat or you’re a passive victim,” said Sohyun An, a professor of social studies education at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, who studies how Asian American history is taught in schools. “It tells you that you don’t belong here. Your people don’t belong here.”

Teachers and scholars say the absence of Asian American history in schools helps explain why anti-Asian racism and violence have persisted, especially amid the pandemic. But a new movement is gaining ground to introduce a more thorough telling of the Asian American experience to students. Illinois is poised to become the first state to mandate the teaching of Asian American history in public schools with the recent passage of the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History Act. Lawmakers have floated similar bills in New York, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

In Massachusetts, a group of parents from Needham are petitioning the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to add Asian American history to the core curriculum. The Legislature also is considering a bill to establish a commission that would work with the Education Department to ensure that “ethnic studies, racial justice, decolonizing history, and unlearning racism” are taught to Massachusetts students.

“We need to change the curriculum . . . so that students learn the humanity of other people,” An said, “not just white people of this country.”

According to An’s preliminary research on state-level US history curriculum guidelines, inclusion and representation of Asian Americans vary considerably across the country. The incarceration of Japanese Americans at internment camps during World War II is the most commonly taught subject of Asian American history — appearing in K-12 curriculum standards for 25 states — followed by anti-Chinese or anti-Asian immigration laws, which are included in 14 states’ standards. References to other events or figures in Asian American history are included only sporadically in curriculum guidelines. And Asian Americans almost never appear in the context of civil rights activism, she found.

New York, according to An’s research, has the most robust curriculum guidelines featuring Asian American history, with 14 mentions of Asian American events or historical figures, followed by Minnesota with nine, and Hawaii and Oregon with eight. Her analysis of curriculum standards in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Tennessee found seven references to Asian American history. In the guidelines for 18 states, including Rhode Island and Maine, Asian American history did not merit a single mention.

An cautioned, however, against drawing comparisons among state standards. In most of the states with zero Asian American content, she noted, their standards were theme- or skills-based rather than content-specific.

Massachusetts’ History and Social Science Curriculum Framework cites a smattering of topics in Asian American history, including Asian migration to the West and Northeast, the internment of Japanese Americans, and the role of Asian immigrants in the country’s industrialization. Jacqueline Reis, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said in an e-mail the agency “does not have plans to revise the Framework again in the near future.” Which instruction materials and curricula are used in classrooms, she noted, are determined at the local level.

Katie Yue-Sum Li, the ethnic studies coordinator and coach at Boston Public Schools, said the onus is often on individual teachers to ensure Asian American history is covered, but that’s challenging in this era of high-stakes testing and accountability, in which teachers have little time or flexibility to introduce subject matter that isn’t required for passing state assessment exams.

“We’re taught to teach to the test,” said Li, who previously taught immigrant students at Charlestown High School. “There’s almost no time to do the other stuff.”

Li worries about the omission of Asian American history in schools and its impact on Asian American students’ psyches. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Assessment of Boston middle schoolers, prior to the pandemic, 14 percent of Asian students reported that they had attempted suicide, compared with 4 percent of white students, 10 percent of Black students, and 12 percent of Latino students. What’s more, 82 percent of the city’s Asian middle schoolers said they rarely, if ever, get the help they need when they are struggling with their mental health. Boston Public Schools’ student population is about 9 percent Asian.

“That’s the kind of effect it has on children — you literally erase yourself physically and mentally,” Li said. “You don’t see yourself in the classroom. You don’t see yourself in the curriculum. You don’t see yourself in the society. . . . You’re told that you’re not important, that when you speak up, that you just need to shut up and deal with it.”

The consequences of Asian American erasure in schools are far-reaching: While Asians are the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the United States, a comprehensive survey released last month of 2,766 American adults found 42 percent could not name any well-known Asian Americans.

Luo, the Boston Latin student, knows firsthand how Asian American invisibility harms self-esteem. She grew up with her grandmother in Chinatown, where she attended Josiah Quincy Elementary School. The majority of her classmates were Asian American, she said, and her teachers and administrators celebrated Asian American culture and holidays, like Lunar New Year.

Luo’s transition to Boston Latin School, where nearly half of the student body is white and less than a third is Asian, was difficult. She and other Asian students were teased about the food they brought for lunch. Boys made comments to her about liking “submissive” Asian girls. At first, Luo said, she worried about being “too Asian” and resisted joining Asian American extracurricular clubs or events.

“I feel like a lot of us lose kind of our identity in the process,” she said. “With Asian American history being erased . . . no one really understands the racism we experience and they kind of brush us off.”

More Asia Facts

12. Clima: The Asian continent has a very diverse climate ranging from arctic climate in Siberia (Russia) to tropical climates in South-East Asia. Siberia is also one of the coldest places on earth.

In the tropical regions of South-East Asia, also the most tropical storms occur. Cyclones occur mainly in the Philippines and south of Japan. Some countries in Asia are at high risk for negative impacts of climate change. In 2004, a tsunami hit the coast in India, Thailand, Indonesia and other countries and killed more than 250,000 people in more than 14 countries.

Street in Vietnam

13. People of Asia: There are many ethnic groups in Asia. This is a huge continent, where vastly different cultures are practiced. In India and China, the most populous countries in Asia, there are many different ethnic groups all with their own distinct language and culture. Imagine that in India more than 850 different native languages are spoken and used in daily conversations!

India is not only the second most populous country in Asia, it has also the largest number of poor people and child labourers. One in four Indians cannot read or write. Then there are the Arabs, the Russians, Koreans, Japanese, Indians, Indonesians and so many more different cultural groups. There are also vast differences in living standards and poverty. In South-East Asia, most people live in rural areas outside the big cities which are underdeveloped. In fact, four out of ten poor people who live with only $1.9 per day, live in Asia!

However, there is also the tiny country of Singapore which is one of the richest, most modern and influential cities in the world. Singapore is a city state and leading country in modern technology and innovation and a major financial centre. Read more about Singapore here.

zǎo ān

14. Languages in Asia: In Asia more than 2,300 languages are recognised. The most spoken languages are Chinese (all dialects) has more than 1.39 billion speakers while Hindi-Urdu languages (used in India and Pakistan) are spoken by more than 588 million people and there are many different languages in the Hindi-Urdu language group, more than 1,600 languages exist alone in India. In Indonesia, 600 languages are spoken and in the Philippines over 100 languages.

15. Asia Facts: Religion: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism are the main religions in Asia. Many religions originate in Asia, such as the Islam which is also the most widely followed religion in Asia. Judaism and Christian faith is practised by smaller population groups in the region.

16. Tourist attractions in Asia: The most popular attractions are:

Grand Palace in Bangkok/Thailand
  • Kyoto and the cherry bloom in Japan
  • St Basil's Cathedral and Kremlin in Russia
  • Hagia Sophia in Turkey
  • Gardens by the Bay in Singapore
  • Taj Mahal in India
  • Petra in Jordan
  • Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia
  • Jeju island in South Korea
  • Bali island in Indonesia

Water temple in Bali

17. Biggest Cities: China has the most cities that house more than 1 million inhabitants, there are 160 of such big cities in China! In comparison in the USA there are only 10 cities with more than 1 million inhabitants.

Other countries with big cities in Asia are:

Shanghai in China is one of the world's most populous cities!
  • Pakistan: Karachi (24 million people)
  • India: Delhi (22 million inhabitants)
  • Bangladesh: Dhaka (19 million people)
  • Turkey: Istanbul (14 million people) - this city is located on two continents and thus has an Asian part and an European part

18. Animals: In Asia, there are monkeys, tigers, Asian elephants and many other animals. Due to the different climates were are snow leopards and polar bear in the north and tropical species such as the Komodo dragons in the South. On some Indonesian islands, there are the largest living lizards, the Komodo dragons, which can eat very large animals such as a whole buffalo! Did you know that the Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants? Tip: You can easily recognise them as such as they have much smaller ears see the Asian elephant below.

Asian elephant

Asia is also home to many endangered animals such as the orang-utan in Borneo, the Chinese river dolphin or the dugong.

19. Main natural resources in Asia are minerals such as aluminium, tin, coal, gold and iron ore. Arab countries also are rich in fossil fuels as they have the world's largest deposits of natural gas and oil. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil producer. Interesting fact: The country of Bhutan in the Himalayas produces most of the renewable energy through hydropower!

20. Seven of the Asian countries belong to the Commonwealth States.  Queen Elizabeth II of England is the head of the Commonwealth. The Asian nations belonging to the Commonwealth are: Bangladesh, Brunei, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

Singapore Gardens by the Bay - By Hatchapong Palurtchaivong

Did you know? The only country in Asia that is located entirely in the Southern Hemisphere is Indonesia!

Asian American history lessons

After a series of violent attacks against Asian Americans across the country, some state lawmakers are focused on making sure schools teach students about the contributions of Asian Americans to the economy, the government and the culture of the United States.

It’s a movement that in some ways runs counter to efforts by Republicans across the country to block curriculums that emphasize systemic racism. As our colleagues Trip Gabriel and Dana Goldstein reported this week, these efforts are part of a broad strategy by Republican politicians to run on culture-war issues in the 2022 midterm elections.

The movement to teach about Asian American history took its largest step forward this week in Illinois, where a bill known as the Teaching Equitable Asian-American History Act was sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk. The legislation would require that the state’s public elementary schools and high schools teach units about Asian American history.

A spokesman for Pritzker, a Democrat, did not respond to an inquiry about whether the governor planned to sign the bill. But if enacted, the bill would be “a watershed moment in Asian American history education,” said Sohyun An, a professor of social studies education at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, who has studied the extent to which Asian American history is taught in U.S. schools.

She said that, to the extent that state standards require history curriculums to include the experiences of Asian Americans at all, they generally only require teaching about two things: the experience of early Chinese immigrants to the United States and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Little attention is paid to the role of Asian Americans in the civil rights movement or labor movements, she said.

Legislators in New York have introduced a bill similar to the one in Illinois. And in Wisconsin, a bipartisan group of legislators is pushing a bill that would require school districts to teach students about Hmong Americans and Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans (a term that includes people of East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander descent), in addition to teaching them about Native Americans, Black Americans and Hispanic Americans, as required under current law.

The traditional Chinese world order utilised the tribute system to place China at the centre of the civilised world. In exchange for recognising China's superiority, other states were granted permission to trade with China. It was this China centric world order that European ships sailed into in 1517.

Manchuria between the years 1895 and 1914 was under greater foreign control than any other major part of China. Russia and Japan competed fiercely to achieve this control, creating spheres of influence at China's and at each other's expense.

Watch the video: Neolithic China and Ancient Culture (August 2022).