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Dictionary of China, Japan and the Koreas
In Table Form
Both Hinduism and Buddhism originated in India. In the Hindu religion, all gods are united in a supreme force called Brahma. The ultimate goal of the believers is to be free of the soul and become united to this universal soul. Since this is believed to be accomplished in more than one lifetime, reincarnation tends to support the caste system. If a person was concerned about his status in future lives, he was more apt to keep the rules of the caste system, keep himself under control, and not expect to advance in this current life.
In 500 B.C. however, Siddhartha Gautama criticized the system and his reform became the basis of Buddhism. He believed salvation was in overcoming desire with Nirvana, a state of wanting nothing. Although Hinduism was influenced by Buddhism, persecution of Buddhism forced it to spread to China, South East Asia, and beyond.
After Alexander The Great invaded the Indus valley with his Macedonian troops in 326 B.C., two significant Indian Empires followed. These were the Maurya Empire (321 B.C.-183 B.C.) ruling a large territory, and the Gupta Empire (320A.D.-467 A.D.). Asoka the Buddhist Maurya ruler promoted a non-violent government, while during the Gupta rule, a very strong caste system prevailed with many sub-castes emerging. This era is known for great artists and writers and for such important advancements as the decimal system and the number zero. These empires laid the foundation for the nation of India.
Hinduism was well rooted in India by 500 A.D. due to successful social rather than political unification. In the 900s Islamic invaders ruled for 300 years with a strong Sultan government in Delhi the northwest capital. The Hindu polytheistic beliefs were hostile to the Allah of Muslim monotheism. Likewise, equality among Islamic men clashed with the Hindu caste system. Obedience to the Koran produced a non-tolerant view of other religions. Hinduism was suppressed under Sultan rule and Islam expanded.
The Mogul reign began in India after invaders arrived in the 1500s bringing about a 500 year reign. Akbar, a Muslim ruler, was successful due to his uncharacteristic tolerance of other religions. His successors however, did not hold the same views and this threatened rebellion. (The grandson of Akbar built the Taj Mahal as a tomb for his own wife.)
Following Vasco da Gama in 1498, the 1500s and 1600s brought the Portugese and then other Europeans to India. The Dutch, British and French established trading posts that took advantage of the silks, spices and wealth of the Mogul era. The "seven year war" resulted in the demise of the French and the superiority of the British East Asia Company. Company corruption led Parliament to pass the regulating act of 1773 and Hastings was set over India as its Governor-General (1773-85). The colonial peak of British government was under Lord Cornwallis (1786-93).
During the colonial era, the British built railroads, hospitals, and schools which served to unify India and give rise to a new nationalism.
WIth British permission, the Indian National Congress was formed in 1885, and in response, the Muslim League was formed. These activities increased the tension and increased the call for independence.
During the first world war (1914-1918), India supported England with troops for the promise of national independence. Events such as the massacre at Amritsar, made the transition to Indian sovereignty challenging. However, Mahatma Gandhi led non-violent protests which eventually led to British withdrawal and partition of the country to compromise with Islamic majorities in Bangladesh and Pakistan. (Gandhi's successful passive resistance and civil disobedience techniques were copied by black Americans under the leadership of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela in South Africa.).
When Britain rejected the demands of the Indian National Congress to leave India, Indians refused to fight against Japanese aggression in 1942. Congress was disbanded by the British and many of its leaders were arrested. Shortly after the war's end (1947), India gained her independence.
The nation of Pakistan was partitioned from India prompting millions of Muslims to flee NW and Hindus to flee to SE. Gandhi was assassinated five months later by a Hindu extremists for his tolerant views toward Muslims.
Jawaharlal Nehru was the prime minister of India from 1947 until his death in 1964. Despite the Cold War between the USA and the USSR, his policies helped India remain nonaligned and self-sufficient.
For most of the next two decades, India was ruled by Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi. In 1974 India became a nuclear power. The former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 which led the USA to support a resistance movement by way of Pakistan, India's arch rival. This caused so much tension between India and the USA that when Indira was assassinated in 1984, India's initial reaction to blame the CIA of the USA. However, It soon became apparent that she had been killed by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for the invasion of the Golden Temple at Amritsar four months earlier.
Indira's son, Rajiv, became Prime Minister until suspected corruption forced his resignation. Two years later he was assassinated in 1991.
The Punjab area between India and Pakistan continues to be volatile. Both nations engage in nuclear saber rattling from time to time. A resurgence of Nationalist Hinduism in opposition to Islam has also led to the persecution of Christians. However, the untouchable Dalat caste is largely disillusioned with Hinduism and has turned to Christianity in increasing numbers.
After the Tower of Babel, rapid migration across south central Asia brought civilization into the Indus River valley of India and the Yellow River valley of China. China's early civilization is only similar to India's in its geographical isolation. Surrounded by mountain ranges and the Pacific Ocean, its isolation contributed to the Chinese belief that China was the center of the universe. It forgot its true origins and accepted the creation myth of Pan Gu. The first civilization farmed in the rich soil called "loess" in the Yellow River Valley, often called "River of Sorrows" due to frequent flooding disasters. The Shang Dynasty was the first family group to rule. Under this leadership, strong beliefs were formed in which gods controlled the forces of nature. Ancestors were believed to have great influence and ceremonies were preformed to make petitions to them. Under the Shang Dynasty, pictograms and ideograms were the beginning of a complicated written language. Also, bronze art, silk weaving and an accurate calendar were important achievements during Shang rule.
Claiming the "Mandate of Heaven", the Chou dynasty overthrew the Shang Dynasty. This "Mandate of Heaven" could be lost by a ruler if famine, floods or invasions took place in their land indicating heaven no longer supported them as rulers. Under the Chou Dynasty land was divided and ruled by nobles who thus owed their loyalty and tribute to the king. These appointed officials established states and, even before they invented paper, the Chinese were able to organize a bureaucratic government. Expanding their boarders, the nobles contributed to economic growth during the Chou Dynasty.
The traditions in Confucianism, Taoism, and Legalism developed in reaction to each other. Confucius, a philosopher in 551 B.C. placed a strong emphasis on a person's place in society along with his duties and responsibilities. Respecting elders, demonstrating loyalty, and working diligently were all strongly encouraged by this philosopher. The Taoists were concerned mainly with being in harmony with nature. Legalism sought after a stable society by heavy government control. These philosophies played a significant role in the shaping of Chinese thought.
As China became unified, the legalists dominated government. In 221 B.C. Shih Huag Ti was key in this unification. Under the Ch'in Empire, his central government developed a transportation system to ensure his control. He is most known for the construction of the Great Wall which was erected for the protection from northern enemies. Tremendous accomplishments in Chinese history followed with the Han Empire (210 B.C.-220 A.D.). Under this organized and efficient government, men of talent greatly influenced the country in the arts, sciences and advanced learning. New ideas were prevalent including Buddhism which completed the unification of the country.
In the middle Ages, the Chinese civilization experienced two periods of peace. These were the T'ang dynasty (618-917) and the Sung dynasty (960-1279). Korea, Japan and India were greatly influenced by the spread of these dynasties. China flourished, as remarkable art and new technology emerged. Inventions included paper, printing, gunpowder, a seismograph and the magnetic compass. A flourishing economy resulted from new ideas and products but even with new ideas the country firmly remained Confucius based, with a strong duty to ones place in society.
By the 1200s emperor Kublai Khan came to power after the Mongols defeated the Sung dynasty. It was during his reign when the Italian traveler, Marco Polo, published a book on the great Chinese civilization which the Europeans seriously doubted.
By the 1300s the Ming dynasty brought down the Mongols and until 1433 supported exploration with voyages to South East Asia, India, and Eastern Africa. By the late 1400s Chinese technology lost its preeminence as Europe led into the age of discovery and colonialism. Because China lagged behind the West in technology, it severely lost the Opium Wars to Britain in the 1800’s, and was forced to accept a humiliating peace treaty called the Treaty of Nanking. This treaty gave Britain numerous advantages in its trade relationship with China, and eventually brought about Western spheres of influence when other countries forced similar treaties on China.
Although the doors to China were forced open by economic greed, there were Christian missionaries such as Hudson Taylor, Eric Liddell, Jonathan Goforth, and Lottie Moon that entered to bring true hope to the Chinese. Despite the efforts of sincere missionaries, however, a twisted version of Christianity ended up bringing about a horrific civil war because of a movement called the Taiping Rebellion. Initiated by Hung Hsiu-ch'üan, the Taiping Rebellion was a movement that claimed to be bringing the “Heavenly Kingdom.” And of course Hung Hsiu-ch'üan was supposedly the “Heavenly King.”
After the Qing government suppressed the Taiping Rebellion with the help of foreign powers, it only 36 years passed before the Boxer Rebellion broke out. The Boxer Rebellion was directed against Westerners and Chinese Christians, whom the Boxers intended to drive from the country. This rebellion was swiftly put down by the Western powers, and China had to accept even more humiliating conditions under the Boxer Protocol. In 1911, the Qing dynasty collapsed, and China soon struggled under Nationalist and Communist forces which led to Mao Zedong's manipulation and near destruction of China. China was lost to Communism, but under Communist rule the country did begin to industrialize. Even the changing roles for Chinese women were made to benefit the industrialization of China rather than to strengthen the family.
Among recent events in China, the Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy protesters in 1989 stands out as an example of the suppression that continues in China to this day. However, China's recent attempts with limited capitalism have allowed a measure of municipal economic prosperity. Yet Western ideologies are still tightly controlled, and Christianity remains sanctioned by the state to such an extent that it can hardly be recognized as scriptural. But there is the growing underground house church movement!
There is a more extensive timeline at http://www.oxfordjapan.org/timeline.html
The Japanese archipelago, a chain of islands in the Pacific, provided cultural and economic isolation for its inhabitants. Japan took what it desired from China in the form of writing and religion. Buddhism, Taoism and Confucius philosophy mixed with Japan's traditional Shinto beliefs to shape beliefs in ancestor worship and a strong emphasis on the force of nature. Two millennium later, Japan took Manchuria from Russia and expanded into China to gain the materials needed for industrial production.
Japan's history starts with the Jomon period, whose pottery may date as far back as 4,000 BC. After 300 BC came the Yayoi period during which rice cultivation, copper and iron wear were introduced by the Chinese and Koreans. The religion of Shinto was formed in this period as well.
The Kofun or Yamato period of 300 AD to 645 AD saw the rise of a centralized government and the beginnings of Buddhism and Confucianism through out Japan. Samurai "warrior knights" overpowered the Yamato dynasty bringing on Feudalism and specific societal rank. The Shogun rather than the emperor was the true ruler. The daimyo were the Samurai lords beneath the Shogun.
In the Asuka period, 645 AD to 710 AD, the aristocrat families Fujiwara and Kamatari were created and become extremely powerful politically. During the Nara period, 710 AD to 794 AD the Imperial court built a new capital, which they modeled after Chang-an in China, Nara. Through the Heian period, 794 AD to 1185 AD, the Imperial court moved along with the capitol to Heiankyo (which is now Kyoto). Official contact with China stopped in this period.
Murasaki Shikibu wrote and published Tale of Genji, the world's first novel, during the Heian period as well. The next period was the Kamakura period, 1185 AD to 1333 AD. Minamoto Yoritomo establishes the Kamakura shogunate. Invasions by Kublai Khan's Mongol army were repelled with help of kamikaze ("divine winds," or storms).
In the Muromachi period, 1333 AD to 1568 AD, the Muromachi district of Kyoto became a base for the Shogun Ashikaga Takauji's new military government. Zen and the chanoyu (tea ceremony) spread. The 10 year long Onin no Ran (Onin War) and Sengoku Jidai (Era of the Country at War) brought degeneration of central government.
In 1549, Christianity was introduced to Japan by Francis Xavier. Firearms were also introduced in Japan by shipwrecked Portuguese sailors. Oda Nobunaga started the process of reunifying Japan after the century of civil wars in the Azuchimomoyama period, 1568 AD to1600 AD. The Foundation of modern Japan was laid at this time and arts continued to flourish.
By the 1600s Tokugawa shoguns centralized Feudalism and limited the daimyo power. Trade and commerce improved but foreign trade and travel became limited and for 200 years Japan experienced a time of isolation and kept out Christian missionaries. During the isolation of the Feudalism era, strong traditions developed including Bushido, the Samurai code of Honor, stressing simplicity, courage and honor. Zen Buddhism was also well embedded with the strong value of physical and mental discipline. The importance of the unity of nature blended well with the similar Shinto views on the forces of nature.
Next was the Edo or Tokugawa period of 1600 AD to 1868 AD. During this period the capitol of Japan was moved to Edo the present day Tokyo. Tokugawa Ieyasu unified Japan starting a 200 period of peace. Along with closing Japan's borders to outside commerce, Tokugawa put into effect the Christian Expulsion Act. Buddhism also decreased during this time. In 1853 Commodore Matthew C. Perry arrived in Japan representing the United States and demanded Japan to reopen their ports, which Japan did. As deeply degrading as the western show of force was, many recognized that until Japan caught up with the west's technology, the unfair treaties would remain. Although culture and the arts prospered throughout the isolation period, scientific and industrial revolutions had increased dramatically outside of Japan. (Japanese children learn Tokugawa Shogunate with a saying close to: "Ieyasu ate the pie that Nobunaga made and Hideyoshi baked.")
At this point in time Japan turned its focus to building a strong military power, and to strengthening its industries. Along with the improvements in military and industry, many universities were also founded. Their new government aimed at making Japan an independent state with equality among all its people. The Meiji period, 1868 AD to 1912 AD, marked the rise of Japanese and European Imperialism. The emperor Meiji and Imperial court moved from Kyoto to Edo, which they renamed Tokyo, and made it the new capitol. Meiji made Shinto into the state religion, in so doing established himself and his heirs as living gods. Western styles were favored and quickly assimilated while traditional ones often fell by the wayside. Old treaties with the United States were renegotiating and a new constitution was adopted in 1889. Japan's modernization was well in progress. Victory in the Sino-Japanese War (1895), and Russo-Japanese War (1905), along with the annexation of Korea (1910), turned Japan into the major force in the East as the 20th century continued through the Taisho period, 1912 to 1926, and into the Showa period, 1926 to 1989.
The Japanese were able to take Western technology and modify it to their own needs. With this swell in development and the changing life in Japan, a desire to dominate the rest of Asia increased. The Imperial Court also directly backed the prosperous businesses and industries, especially the Zaibatsu, large powerful family businesses.
Japan was changed most dramatically at the end of WWII. Her cities were bombed and she was forced to accept a democratic government structure in exchange for the emperors confession that he wasn't god after all. Although August 1945 marked the end of Japan as a military power, Douglas MacArthur started Japan on a course of recovery that by the mid-1950's, Japan's industrial production returned to it's post war level. In the following decade, Japan's economic output rapidly increased by 10 percent each year. Several things are responsible for this quick recovery. In the years after the war, Japan imported the newest technology the West had at low costs. Japan then experienced an enormous economic expansion as Americans consumed the electronics market that Japan produced. Japan invested in agriculture and new farming equipment. Japan's loyal workforce was also a great help by putting the needs of the company and nation ahead of their own. There standard of living was increased as the country became richer, people started to want better products, such as automobiles, refrigerators, and color television sets. International trade flourished in the years following the war, enabling Japan to import important raw materials and to export the final product.
The Liberal-Democratic Party, controlled Japan's national government from 1955 onward. In 1960 the greatest postwar political crisis occurred with the USA. After signing the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with the United States to replace the 1951 agreement, many Japanese citizens rioted against the presence of U.S. military forces still in Japan. Later, in 1970, the treaty was renewed without much protest. Other than tense discussion on trade imbalances, the USA and Japan continue to be on friendly terms.
Even with limited natural resources, Japan has become one of the world's economic giants. Their manufactured products have a wide range, including automobiles, computers, steel, plastics, radios, and television sets. Japan's factories employ some of the most advanced equipment in the world. Centuries of traditional honor for the emperor and ancestors produced a sacrificial workforce that is based more on cooperation than competition. The focus on material wealth as a measure of success has left Japan largely devoid of spiritual wealth. Although increasing, less than two percent of Japanese are Christians. Cultural Shintoism and Buddhism do little to satisfy the emptiness of individuals pressured by the work ethic. Much like the island itself, they are isolated in a tumultuous sea.