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East Asian societies in the
postclassical world
What was the importance of Confucianism in East Asia,
and why was it so readily adopted in East Asia but not so
well in Inner Asia?
• The need for consistency in the social order was
fueled by population growth and the need for
• Farmers were held together by kinship groups
and the Confucian emphasis on hierarchy,
obedience, and self-sacrifice were important to
the maintenance of the elite.
• Chinese Confucianism emphasized the Mandate
of Heaven for supporting the government.
• The pastoral nature of the Inner Asian economy
did not lend itself to ready adoption of
What were some of the most important aspects of the Song
technological explosion? How was the technological explosion shared
with people?
• The magnitude of the technological explosion during Song times could
have initiated a pre-modern industrial revolution.
• Some of the more obvious examples in agriculture were the iron plow,
cotton and quick-ripening rice cultivation, soil preparation, and the use
of new printing techniques to more widely disseminate that information.
• Song mathematicians and astronomers added much to existing
• Song improvements in seafaring technology and navigation include
stern post rudders and compass (magnetic needle used on land and
not on sea), while the loadstone compass was described in use by
• Timekeeping, as represented by Su Song’s giant celestial clock, was
perhaps the ultimate achievement.
• Moveable type and the resulting availability of books made the spread
of these ideas effective.
Describe how the Tang Empire blended Chinese and
Turkish elements to create a more “cosmopolitan world.”
• Tang dynasty incorporated some of the Turkish elements
brought by the Tang.
• The diversity of the Tang Empire made it cosmopolitan,
in particular, the many different peoples, languages,
writing systems, styles, and goods.
• Politically, Tang leaders used the Inner Asian tradition of
Buddhism and commercially used the trade networks of
Inner Asia to connect China to the markets and materials
goods of Inner Asia.
• Other influences that were blended were in sports,
music, and painting.
• The Tang adopted the military skills of Inner Asia as well,
especially horses and armor as well as the style of
wearing pants.
How did the empires of the Liao, Jin, and Tanggut in Northern and
Central Asia differ from Song China?
• The principal difference among the competing states in the
north was that the Liao, Jin, and Tangguts were nomadic
• Their languages, cultures, and political structures had to
coexist alongside those of the agriculturalists in their midst.
• The rulers acknowledged the various economies and social
structures of these peoples and did not impose a single
elite culture. Instead, Chinese were encouraged to study
their own language and view the emperor through
Confucian philosophy, and in contrast, the northern states
saw the emperor as a champion of Buddhism or nomadic
• The result was that Buddhism was more powerful than
Confucianism in the northern states. Northern rulers
depended on their roles as Buddhist kings to legitimate
their power.
What role did women have in Song China? Did women play a different
role in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam?
• Song China marked the beginning of a long period of cultural
subordination, legal disenfranchisement, and social restriction for women.
• This was primarily a consequence of the Confucian hierarchical structure
and the rise of new elite classes, particularly merchants. For instance,
although a woman might have to assume a role in her husband’s business,
she was prohibited from having property or a business of her own.
• The subjugation obvious in footbinding, which was practiced by the elite.
• Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, however, did not practice footbinding.
• Although they played a subordinate role, women did have different
experiences in these states.
• For example, Japanese women of the elite classes were literate and made
cultural contributions by writing diaries, poems, and novels, such as the
Tale of Genji. In Korea, women played a role in negotiating and disposing
of property.
Market roads, long-distance roads, the Grand Canal, and caravan and sea
routes all had important functions under the Sui and Tang. How was the city
of Chang’an a key component of this network of transportation?
• Besides the economic importance of trade to these
empires, there were political considerations.
• The transportation network connected the central cities
with the suburbs and outlying areas.
• The Grand Canal allowed the integration of the Yangzi
Valley with northern China and contributed to the economic
and cultural development of eastern China. Many routes
converged on Chang’an including the Grand Canal.
• Chang’an became the center of the tributary system.
• This city also had over one million residents with
restaurants, inns, temples, mosques, and street stalls.
• The different neighborhoods were walled and locked at
night to prevent crime reminiscent of today’s “gated
Discuss the absorption as well as repression of Buddhism in China.
What is the impact of these two trends in Asian history?
• The Tang adopted many Buddhist ideas and many of the Tang regions
had Buddhist populations.
• Buddhism played an important political function, according kings and
emperors with the spiritual function of welding humankind into a
harmonious Buddhist society.
• Buddhist monks counseled and prayed for leaders as well as
contributing money to them.
• As the Tang political and military decline became reality, there was a
strong backlash against Buddhism in China.
• Tang elites blamed Buddhism for undermining Confucian ideas of the
family as the model for the state.
• Han Yu’s “Memorial on the Bone of Buddha” in 819 was a strong
statement criticizing Buddhism.
• In 840 the government moved to crush the monasteries and 4,600
temples were destroyed and 26,500 monks and nuns were converted to
workers. This was a huge loss of China’s cultural heritage.
What was the importance of
Buddhism to East Asian societies?
• Buddhism supplied a religious function for kings
and emperors and created a shared political
ideology for most of the states of medieval
eastern Asia.
• Buddhism also facilitated the exchange of
language, culture, and technology throughout
eastern and central Asia and India.
• There are several different sects of Buddhism
including Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana
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