Lecture Outline 6: Political Thought & Religion in Early China & Japan In this section you will find: 1) Chapter Overview 2) Major Concepts 3) Terms You Should Know the Significance 4) Map Activity (Concept of Place) 5) Concept of Time (Relationships in Time) Print the material and use it as a guide when you study the main text.
1. Chapter Overview
CHINA’S FIRST EMPIRE (221bc-220ce)
One of the key turning points in Chinese history was the third century bc, when the old, quasi -feudal Chou multi-state system gave way to a centralized bureaucratic government that built an empire from the steppe in the north to Vietnam in the south. This first empire was divided into three parts: Chin dynasty (256-206bc), Former Han dynasty (206bc-8ce), and the Later Han dynasty (24-220ce)
The Ch’in dynasty established its control on the geopolitical advantages offered by the Wei River in northwest China. This state was brutal and tough, yet stable. Despite its harsh laws, it attracted farmers who welcomed the security and order of its society. It relied on Legalist Administrators who developed policies for enriching the country and strengthening the military. Under the control of the emperor, the Ch’ in dynasty expanded its territorial holdings, instituted bureaucratic reforms, and stressed uniformity of thought in establishing a centralized state. The Great Wall of China was extended some fourteen hundred miles from the Pacific Ocean to central Asia and is testament to the efficiency and control of this dynasty. However, too many changes in rapid succession caused the entire system to collapse under the harsh rule of the dynasty. Rebellion spread as the Ch’in government lost its popular support.
The first emperor of the Han dynasty, Kao Tzu of plebeian origin, established the capital in the Wei basin close to the former capitals of the Chou and Ch’ in dynasties. Although it took many years to consolidate power, this action permitted a degree of continuity to exist in the political development of China. The second phase of the dynastic cycle began with the rule of the martial emperor, Wu Ti, in 141bc. Old policies like government monopolies on salt, iron, liquor, etc. were established to maintain control of China. Wu Ti expanded the boundaries of China by sweeping south into North Vietnam and north to central Manchuria and North Korea. This aggressive leadership created a strong army and led to the policy of using the barbarians to control the barbarians, thus making allies of border nomads against those more distant. This policy worked for the most part and brought about the establishment of the Silk Road that connected with the Roman Empire.
During the course of the Han dynasty, the Legalist structure of government became partially confucianized. The Confucian classics gradually were accepted as the standard for education and served as an ethical justification for dynastic rule. After a period of instability and civil war in which contending factions tried to establish hegemony, the Han dynasty was restored and ruled from 25-220ce. This Later Han period saw a return to strong central government and a laissez -faire economy. Their armies crossed the Gobi desert and defeated the northern Hsuing Nu who migrated to the west where they were known during the fifth century ce as the Huns of Attila. Until 88ce, the emperors of the Later Han were vigorous, but afterward they were ineffective and short-lived. Political instability caused by plotting empresses, eunuch conspiracies, and religious rebellion plagued the dynasty until it was overthrown by the military in 220ce. For more than three and a half centuries after the fall of the Han, China was disunited and dominated by aristocratic landowning families. During this period, north and south China developed in different ways. In the south, a succession of
six short-lived dynasties centered themselves around the capital of Nanking and prospered economically, although political chaos was widespread. In the north, state formation resulted from the interaction of nomadic tribes with the Chinese population. The short-lived states that were organized are usually referred to as the Sixteen Kingdoms. Amid endemic wars and differences in languages, Buddhism was a common denominator and served as a bridge between barbarians and Chinese.
The Han period was creative in many ways, but excelled in philosophy and history. Many Confucian texts were recovered during this time and scholars began writing commentaries on the classics. The Chinese were the greatest historians of the pre-modern world and emphasized primary source evaluation. As the Han waned in influence, some scholars abandoned Confucianism altogether in favor of Neo-Taoism or mysterious learning; this was a reaction against the rigidity of Confucian doctrine and defined the natural as pleasurable. They sought immortality in dietary restrictions, meditation, and sexual abstinence or orgies and emphasized an amalgam of beliefs including an afterlife of innumerable heavens and hell where good and evil would be recompensed. The text goes on to discuss Buddhist doctrine and its spread into China. As the socio-political order collapsed in the third century ce, Buddhism spread rapidly and was especially influential by the fifth century.
IMPERIAL CHINA (589-1368)
It is characterized by a lot of cultural and philosophical contributions. This time, which corresponds to the European middle ages, the most notable feature of Chinese history was the reunification of China and the re- creation of a centralized bureaucratic empire consciously modeled on the earlier Han dynasty (206bc -220ce). China was able to develop a unified state at a time when political fragmentation in Europe brought about small, independent kingdoms.
The Sui dynasty (589-618) sprang from Chinese-Turkish origins, reestablished a centralized bureaucracy and rebuilt the Great Wall and other public works. After a period of political disintegration and civil war among contending aristocratic factions, the Tang dynasty was established. Chinese historians have often compared the short-lived Sui dynasty with that of the Ch’in in that it provided a foundation for the subsequent progress of China
The Tang dynasty (618-907) established an efficient bureaucracy through frugality, and expanded Chinese borders to their greatest extent. The chapter explains the intricacies of T ang administration especially during the years of good rule from 624-755. Although the government was centered on the figure of the emperor, aristocrats were given generous tax concessions and served as officials at court. Women continued to play a role in government; a concubine, Wu Chao, (625-706) ruled for seven years as regent before she deposed her son and ascended to sole power herself.
The reign of the emperor Hsuan-Tsung (713-756) is particularly noted for its cultural brilliance, and the capital grew to approximately two million people. The Tang dynasty applied a four tier foreign policy of military aggression, use of nomads against other nomadic tribes, establishment of strong border defenses (Great Wall), and diplomatic action. However, during the mid-eighth century, China s frontiers began to contract and external enemies in Manchuria and Tibet contributed to growing internal dissension. By 907, the Tang dynasty had been carved into independent kingdoms. Still, the fall of the Tang did not lead to the kind of division that had followed the Han.
The creativity of the Tang cultural period arose from the juxtaposition and interaction of cosmopolitan, medieval Buddhist, and secular elements. Tang culture was cosmopolitan not just because of its broad contacts with other cultures and peoples, but because of its openness to them. The reestablishment of a centralized bureaucracy stimulated the tradition of learning and contributed to the reappearance of secular scholarship. For the first time, scholars wrote comprehensive institutional histories, compiled dictionaries, and wrote commentaries on the Confucian classics. The most famous poets of the period were Li Po (701-
762) and Tu Fu (712 -770), who were often quite secular in their literary approach.
The Sung dynasty (960-1279) continued the normal pattern of dynastic cycles set in Chinese history. The breakdown of the empire into northern and southern sections after 1127 was followed by the Mongol conquest of the Southern Sung in 1279. Instead of a detailed enumeration of emperors and court officials, the chapter emphasizes the various changes during the Tang and Sung dynasties that affected China s agriculture, society, economy, state, and culture. Taken together, the developments in these areas explain why China did not lapse into disunity after the political collapse of the Tang dynasty.
The greatest achievements of the Sung dynasty were in philosophy, poetry, and painting. The Neo-Confucian ideas of Chu Hsi (1130-1200) brought a degree of stability to Chinese society. The outstanding poet of the period was Su Tung Po (1037-1101), who believed in a limited role for government and social control through morality. A leading painting style, in which human figures were not the dominant focus of the art form, was created by Shih Ko.
The Sung dynasty collapsed by 1279 under the military dominance of the Mongols. Genghis Khan united the various Mongol tribes and, bent on world domination, established an empire that extended from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific Ocean. The Mongol rule in China is but a chapter of a larger story. In 1279, under Genghis grandson, Kublai, the Yuan dynasty was established, but it did not change Chinese high culture to any degree. The language barrier assisted in preserving the Chinese way of life. The Southern Sung area was the last to be conquered and the least altered by Mongol control. The Yuan dynasty collapsed in 1368.
CHAPTER 9: JAPAN EARLY HISTORY TO 1467
It is very important the role of Tang dynasty of China in spreading civilization to Japan, Vietnam, and Korea. Japanese historic development began with the Jomon culture and was replaced about 300bc by immigrants from the Korean peninsula who established the Yayoi culture. They contributed their expertise in using bronze and iron. According to Chinese historians, a queen named Pimiko achieved a temporary hegemony over some regional states in the third century ce. Emerging directly from the Yayoi culture was a period from 300-600ce characterized by tomb mounds. The Yamato period is known to us through Chinese records and the earliest Japanese accounts of its own history: Records of Ancient Matters and Records of Japan. They recall political power struggles at court between aristocratic families and constant wars in outlying regions. The Yamato period continued to be influenced by Koreans who introduced Buddhism to Japan in 532. The indigenous religion of Japan, however, was an animistic worship of the forces of nature called Shinto, or the way of the gods.
A major turning point in Japanese history was its adoption of the higher civilization of China beginning in the early seventh century. Official embassies began to China in 607ce that included traders, students, Buddhist monks, and representatives of the great Yamato kings. The emperor Temmu (673-686) established a kingship along Chinese lines, styling himself as the heavenly emperor. The emperors at the Nara (710-794) and Heian (794-1156) courts in Japan were both Confucian rulers with the majesty accorded by Chinese law, and Shinto rulers descended from the Sun Goddess. Protected by an aura of the sacred, their lineage was never usurped; all Japanese history constitutes a single dynasty. The chapter then details the Japanese governmental structure, noting the similarities and differences with that of China.
The land system of Nara and Heian Japan was the equal field system of the early Tang. However, this gave way to the quota and estate system that contributed to the rise of Samurai society. The court gave each governor a tax quota and he in turn gave one to each district magistrate; any amount collected over the quota, he kept. In this way, a new local ruling class was created. The nobility became exempt from taxation on their estates.
The conscript armies of the Nara had proved ineffective, so the courts abolished conscription and began a new system based on local mounted warriors called samurai (those who serve). Their primary weapon was the bow and arrow, used from the saddle. The samurai generally came from well to do local families who could afford to supply the costly weapons. Their initial function was to preserve local order and help with tax collection. But they also contributed to disorder as regional military coalitions formed from the tenth century. The chapter goes on to detail governmental institutions and administrative relationships during the late Heian period. Power was often shared between emperors and noble clans such as the Fujiwara. In 1156, the House of Tiara assumed control of Japan through support of a military coalition.
The culture in Heian Japan was quickly assimilated from the Tang culture of China and was the exclusive preserve of the aristocracy. This explains why aristocrats found commoners to be odd and hardly human. The Chinese tradition remained strong and most writing of the period, including legal codes, was done in Chinese. The Japanese often evaluated their actions in the mirror of Chinese history. Japanese writing developed in the ninth century with the introduction of the Kana, a syllabic script or alphabet. The greatest works of the period were the Pillow Book and the first novel, Tale of Genji, both written by women around 1010. These literary tracts reflect wit, sensitivity, and psychological delineation of character.
In Japan, Buddhism grew gradually during the seventh and eighth centuries. The Japanese came to Buddhism not from the philosophical perspectives of Confucianism or Taoism, but from the magic and mystery of Shinto. The appeal of Buddhism to the early Japanese was in its colorful and elaborate rituals. Two new Buddhist sects, the Tendai and Shingon, were established respectively by Saicho and Kukai in the late eighth and early ninth centuries. Shinto religion was generally absorbed into the faith and only disentangled from Buddhism in the mid nineteenth century.
The year 1185 was a major turning point in Japanese history. It began a shift from centuries of rule by a civil aristocracy to centuries of military control. It saw the formation of the bakufu (tent government), a completely non-chinese type of government under the initial leadership of Minamoto Yoritomo. Centering his rule in Kamakura, this bakufu lasted from 1185 to 1333. This period also saw the emergence of the sh艒gun as the de facto ruler of Japan, though in theory he was but a military official of the emperor. It marked the beginning of new cultural forms and changes in family and social organization. The chapter details the rule of Yoritomo, Kamakura feudalism, and the role of women in a warrior society.
Between 1331 and 1336, Japan entered upon a period of turmoil from which emerged a regional multistate system centering on Kyoto, called the Ashikaga Bakufu (1336 dash;1467). Each region was based on a warrior band, and civil and military posts were fused, which provided a greater degree of control over the population. The chapter concludes with an assessment of Buddhism and medieval culture. Zen, in particular, influenced the arts of medieval Japan. Aristocratic creativity was often seen as grounded in the experience of meditation. There were new art forms as well such as N艒 play, a kind of mystery drama with no parallels in East Asia.
2. Major Concepts
The Dynastic Cycle: Historians of China have seen a pattern in every dynasty of long duration. This dynastic cycle begins with internal wars that eventually lead to the military unification of China. The successful unifier then justifies his rule by emphasizing that he has a mandate from heaven. The emperor consolidates his power, restores peace and order to China, and launches several energetic reforms and public works projects. During the peak of this phase, China expands militarily and appears invincible. But then the cycle turns downward because of the increased costs of empire and opulence at court, which require additional taxes on a burdened populace. The vigor of the monarch wanes, intrigues develop, and central controls loosen as provincial governors and military commanders gain autonomy. Finally, public works fall into disrepair,
rebellions break out, and the dynasty collapses. In the view of Confucian historians, the last emperors were not only politically weak, but morally culpable as well.
Contenders for Imperial Power: The court during the Han dynasty exhibited features that would appear in later dynasties as well. The emperor was the Son of Heaven, omniscient and omnipotent in his authority. Yet when he was weak or a child, others ruled in his name and they emerged from four distinct categories: 1) officials who staffed the apparatus of government, 2) the empress dowager whose child had been named heir to the throne, 3) court eunuchs who served in the emperor’s harem and often cultivated influence as confidants, and 4) military commanders who became semi-independent rulers and occasionally even usurped the position of the emperor in the later phases of dynastic rule. Yet they were less powerful than commanders in the Roman Empire because their authority was limited to a single campaign and commanders were appointed in pairs so each would check the other.
Education in Early Dynastic China: Confucian classics formed the primary base of education in early dynastic China. The Ch’in dynasty, however, attempted to eliminate all traces of Confucian doctrine and replace it with Legalist concepts; this trend was reversed by the Han dynasty. During this time period, the study of philosophy and history were recognized as most important for the promotion of sound government.
The Spread of Buddhism: In the first century, central Asian missionaries brought Buddhism to China, where it was first recognized as a new Taoist sect. As the Han socio-political order collapsed in the third century ce, Buddhism spread rapidly until it was firmly entrenched by the fifth century. Though an alien religion in China, Buddhism had some advantages over Taoism: a) it was a doctrine of personal salvation b) it contained high standards of personal ethics and c) it continued to receive inspiration from the sophisticated meditative practices of the Indian tradition. The core of Buddhist teaching is the realization of simple truths: Life is suffering, the cause of suffering is desire, death does not end the endless cycle of birth and rebirth and only the attainment of nirvana releases one from the wheel of Karma. Thus, all of the cosmic drama of salvation is centered in the figure of Buddha
Comparing China’s First Empire and Roman Empire: The great empires in China, India, and the Mediterranean all came after revolutions in thought in which the conception of universal political authority derived from earlier philosophies. All three empires joined their Iron Age technologies with new organizational techniques to create superb military forces. Yet there were differences as well: 1) China was a much more homogeneous culture than was the polyglot empire of Rome; 2) government in Han China was more orderly, complex, and competent; government officials controlled the military almost until the end, whereas Rome suffered from chaotic leadership in the third century ce and was in no sense a dynasty; and 3) Roman power and unity was built gradually over centuries, whereas China remained a multistate system right up to 232bc and then was unified by one state in eleven years.
Varieties of Buddhism: During the early Tang dynasty, the principal Buddhist sect was the Tientai. But after its mid-9th century suppression, other sects came to the fore. They included Maitreya (Mi Lo), a Buddha of the future who will appear and create a paradise on earth; Amitabha (A Mi To), the Lord of the Western Paradise, who helped humans obtain salvation and whose sect was the largest in China; and finally, Ch’an, or Zen in Japanese. Zen was anti -intellectual in its emphasis on direct intuition into one’s own Buddha-nature. It taught that the historical Buddha was only a man and exhorted each person to attain enlightenment by his or her own efforts. The discipline of meditation, combined with a Zen view of nature profoundly influenced the arts in China, Korea and Japan.
Transitional Elements in Late Imperial China: Long term changes in the society, economy and state explain why China experienced only brief periods of disunity after the collapse of the
Tang and Sung dynasties. The aristocracy weakened over the course of the Tang dynasty, and its fall allowed serfs to gain greater control of their land and the independence to move as they pleased. Trade increased
during the Tang dynasty and commerce became more sophisticated with exchange no longer based on silk but rather on coins of copper and silver. The commutation of land tax to a money tax gave farmers more control over their own time. The transition during this period from conscript to professional armies also resulted in the stabilization of society. In government, imperial China became more autocratic, with the Sung emperors assuming direct personal control over state offices and appointments. The aristocracy thus declined as a separate political competitor and was elevated to positions of influence through the examination system. The central government during the Sung was also better funded because of a growing population, tax base, and the establishment of government monopolies on salt, wine, and tea. Thus the gradual establishment of an efficient, well-funded, and autocratic state reduced the potential for long term dislocation of Chinese civilization.
Mongol Control of China: The Mongols’ major objective was to conquer China. This movement brought them into contact with other superior civilizations. However, the major concentration on China diverted their small resource base to lessen the impact on the Chinese population. Therefore, the high culture of China was not lost to the barbarians, and after the fall of the Yuan dynasty in 1368, Chinese civilization continued in the pattern of the great empires. The Mongol efficiency in controlling the empire proved to be a greater obstacle than the more populated areas could overcome. The four groups, with the Mongols at the top and the Chinese at the bottom, brought about division within the Yuan Empire. The continued language barrier between the Mongols, speaking Altaic, and the Chinese brought constant friction to the area. This activity did not permit the Chinese civilization to continue in a manner much the same as before the arrival of the Mongols.
Imperial China’s Experience: Rough parallels between China and Europe persisted until the sixth century ce. But then, a fundamental divergence occurred. Europe tailed off into centuries of feudal disunity while China reunited and attained a new level of wealth, power, and culture. Why? One reason was that the victory of Buddhism was less complete than that of Christianity in Europe. Confucianism survived within aristocratic families and the concept of a united empire was integral to it. In contrast, the Roman conception of political order was not maintained as an independent doctrine, and empire was not a vital concept in western Christian thought. In addition, China possessed a greater cultural homogeneity and higher population density; this explains why China could absorb barbarian conquerors more quickly than could Europe. Although comparisons across continents are difficult, it seems likely that Tang and Sung China had longer stretches of good government than any other part of their contemporary world. Not until the nineteenth century would comparable bureaucracies of talent and virtue begin to appear in the West.
Chinese Influence on Japan: Chinese civilization was a key element in influencing the culture and government of Japan. Official embassies to China began in 607ce, and the Japanese who studied there played key roles in their government when they returned. Chinese writings were used in official documents, histories, and legal codes. Japanese writing only developed with the Kana in the ninth century. The N艒 play of the Ashikaga period was a unique move away from Chinese influence.
Sh艒gun and Samurai: By 1200, Japanese military forces had emerged as an organized and potent force for change or stability. The samurai warriors hailed primarily from local aristocracy and gave relative influence to provincial strongmen as a feudal society similar to the European experience developed. The Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281 brought more power to the hands of the military as the country required protection. Peasants were reduced to serf status and the society was regulated. There is some dispute as to whether Japanese feudalism actually involved fiefs in exchange for military service, but there is no ambiguity as to the vassal relationship and the warrior ethic. At first the sh艒 gun served as the primary military commander for the emperor, but by 1200, emperors generally remained in a figurehead position.
Early Japanese History and Western Europe: The spread of civilization in East Asia from its heartland in China was more rapid than in the West because the Tang Empire of China had been reestablished on a more vital plane. Vietnam, Korea, and Japan all took advantage of the Chinese model. Yet, because of Japan s large
population and distance from China, it proved eventually to be a strong variant to the Chinese pattern in East Asian civilization. Both Japan and western Europe had centuries of feudalism and both areas began as backward societies onto which heartland cultures were grafted during the first millennium ce.
3. Terms You Should Know the Significance
Chin dynasty Former Han dynasty Later Han dynasty Kao Tzu Great Wall of China Wu Ti, Silk Road Nanking Sixteen Kingdoms. The Dynastic Cycle: Sui Tang Sung Yuan Wu Chao Hsuan-Tsung Li Po Tu Fu Chu Hi Su Tung Po Shih Ko Genghis Khan Jomon culture Yayoi culture. Yamato Shinto Nara and Heian Samurai Kana. bakufu and Minamoto Yoritomo. Ashikaga Bakufu
4. Map Activity (Concept of Place)
Print out the Political Thought & Religion in Early China & Japan map which is located under Course Documents> Lesson 6: Political Thought & Religion in Early China & Japan>Map Activity. Be careful: there are two links, one has maps about China, and the other has maps about Japan. You have to download only two maps. Write the name of each item listed below in the appropriate place. The page number in parentheses refers to the map in chapter 8 and 9 of your textbook as sources of information.
Map 8-1 (Page 223 of your textbook) The Tang Empire reached its peak in the eighth century. Identify the following:
1. Ch ang-an
7. Nomadic Turkic People
8. Tarim Basin
10. Kunlun Mountains
Map 9-1 (Page 252 of your textbook) Identify the following features on the map of Korea and Yamato Japan:
7. Sea of Japan
8. East China Sea
9. Pacific Ocean
10. Yellow Sea
5. Concept of Time (Relationships in Time)
Unification of China: China first became a unified state under the Ch in dynasty (256-206bc). The Ch’in conquered north China and the Yangtze River basin, the southeast, and parts of Vietnam. To the north, the first Ch’in emperor built the Great Wall to contain the northern nomadic peoples. The Ch’in ruled through a strong bureaucracy, but their centralized administration collapsed after the death of the first emperor.
Han Dynasty: Under the Han (256bc-220ce), China s centralized administration was revived. The Han made such a profound impression on Chinese history that the Chinese still speak of themselves as the Han people. The bureaucracy grew, population expanded, and culture flourished. The Confucian classics became the standard for education. Buddhism arrived in China in the first century ce. Under the Han it spread across China and adapted itself to Chinese culture. The Han eventually collapsed through a welter of court intrigue, rebellion, and military seizure of power.
Sui and Tang Dynasties: The Sui and Tang dynasties (589-907) reunited China’s Empire. Under the Tang,
China expanded into Central Asia, taking control of much of the lucrative Silk Road along which trade moved to the West. Chang’an, the Tang capital, became the largest city in the world. Tang culture was rich and cosmopolitan, much influenced by its contacts with other cultures. The Tang dynasty was also the golden age of Buddhism in China, and a variety of Buddhist sects flourished.
Sung Dynasty: Under the Sung dynasty (960-1279), China experienced an agricultural revolution in which large aristocratic estates worked by serfs gave way to small land holdings owned by free farmers. Advances in technology led to the invention of printing and the development of a coal and iron smelting industry. The growth of a money economy encouraged the expansion of trade, both within China and with foreign countries. Sung culture was particularly rich in philosophy, poetry, and painting.
The Mongols: After their unification by Genghis Khan (1167-1227), the Mongols created the greatest empire in history. The highly mobile Mongol cavalry overwhelmed Chinese armies. By 1279 the Mongols ruled all of China. But Mongol rule in China was short lived and enjoyed only shallow Chinese support. Mongol rule in China ended in 1368.
Yamato Japan: Early Japanese history has two main turning points. The first occurred in the third century bc, when an Old Stone Age Japan became an agricultural, metal working society. The new technologies came to Japan from Korea. By the fifth century ce, the Yamato court ruled most of Japan. It was heavily influenced by Korea until the seventh century when, in the second main turning point of their history, the Japanese began to adopt and adapt many features of Chinese culture, including Buddhism and Chinese writing, literature, and political institutions.
Nara and Heian Japan: In this period, Japan was ruled by a civil aristocracy under the emperor. An enormous gulf existed between aristocrats and commoners. Japanese government was heavily influenced by the Chinese imperial system. Japanese culture, however, was increasingly self-confident and was aristocratic in its tastes and forms of expression. Noblewomen wrote many of the great works of Japanese literature during this age. Buddhism, heavily influenced by Shintoism, became increasingly assimilated in Japan.
The Early Feudal Age: In the eighth century mounted warriors called samurai began to dominate local government. By the late 1100s, power passed from the civil bureaucracy to military aristocrats. A series of shoguns, military officials, ruled in the emperor s name. The sh艒guns power was based on their ability to command the loyalty of military vassals. Minamoto Yoritomo s seizure of power in 1185 marked the beginning of Japan s feudal age. He established bakufu, or tent government. It would endure in Japan until the mid-nineteenth century. In 1274 and 1281, the Japanese, with the help of storms that destroyed the Mongol fleet, managed to defeat Mongol invaders sent by Kublai Khan.