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Contact with the West Brings Changes in Asia (the East)

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In July 1858 a small fleet of American warships steamed into Tokyo Bay in Japan. The commander, Commodore Matthew C. Perry, had served during the War of 1812 and the war between the United States and Mexico (1846-1848). Perry’s voyage into Japanese waters did not mean that Japan and the United States were at war. Instead, Perry was bound on a peaceful mission, although it was expected that a show of force would help him to accomplish his purpose. For years American and European ship captains had tried to enter Japanese ports to trade and obtain supplies, but without success, for the Japanese mistrusted Western peoples and Western ways, but the Japanese were impressed by Perry’s steamships (the first they had seen) and by the big guns these vessels carried. The Americans were allowed to land and present their request that Japan begin to trade with the United States. Then Perry sailed away, giving the Japanese time to make up their minds. When he returned some months later in 1854, the Japanese rulers agreed to a treaty whereby American vessels could trade and obtain supplies in two Japanese ports. Within a few years, more generous terms were granted both to Americans and to Europeans. Perry’s voyage showed how keen was the interest of Western nations in trade with Asian countries even in the mid 1800’s. Later, as Western nations became more and more industrialized, the same scramble for trade took place in Asia and the Pacific as in Africa. Countries sought greater trading privileges, or areas which they could control, or outright colonies. There was, however, one major difference between imperialism in Africa and imperialism in much of Asia. In many parts of Africa the colonizing powers could ignore the Africans. Statesmen could sit around the table with explorers’ maps …

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The Growth of Civilization in Early China

In the same way that important ancient civilizations grew out of small beginnings in the valleys of the Nile, the Tigris-Euphrates and the Indus, so another great civilization of Early times — that of China — was cradled in the valley of the Yellow River. To be sure, China’s civilization did not commence as early as did Egypt’s, Mesopotamia’s, or India’s. The ancient Egyptian and the Mesopotamian kingdoms lost their power many centuries ago and early India never became completely united under one empire. China therefore has had a longer national life than any other ancient or modern state. It is the oldest of today’s nations. 1. How Did Early China Develop Under Various Ruling Families? China is dominated by three great rivers. China’s life, today as in olden times, centres in three river valleys. The great Hwang-Ho, Chinese for Yellow River, rises in the lofty mountains of Tibet. Winding its way slowly across the wide plain of North China, it flows into the Yellow Sea, so called because of the yellow soil the great river empties into it. Unlike Egypt or India, the North China plain has a climate like that of southern Canada, with warm summers and severe winters. The wind storms, disastrous dry spells and terrifying floods often bring destruction and misery to its inhabitants. Farther to the south is the valley of the Yangtze River. The Yangtze is one of the longest rivers in the world. In all, it flows nearly 4000 miles on its way to the sea. Still farther south is the Si, or West River. The climate of South China is warm and there is a heavier rainfall there than in North China. Many of China’s good ports are located along the southern coast. A Bronze Age civilization appeared first on the North …

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War in Korea 1945-1953

korea

Although the cold war was the most important fact in the politics of the post-war world, few persons could have foreseen that it would lead to fighting in the small, remote country of Korea. Yet, as small and remote as it was, Korea had a strategic location. It was near three large powers — Russia, China and Japan — and the Japanese said it “points like a dagger at the heart of our country.” The Japanese won control of Korea in the Russo-Japanese War and by 1905 they ruled it as part of their empire. During World War II, the Allies promised that “in due course Korea shall become free and independent.” When Japan surrendered, they agreed that Russian troops would occupy Korea north of the thirty-eighth parallel and American troops would occupy Korea south of the thirty-eighth parallel. A provisional government would then be set up and after a period of no longer than five years, Korea would govern itself as an independent nation. The occupation of Korea was carried out as it had been planned, but the United States and the Soviet Union could not agree on a provisional government. Each set up a provisional government friendly to itself and in 1947 the United States brought the dispute before the United Nations General Assembly. The Assembly decided to hold elections in Korea, but the Soviet Union refused to allow United Nations representatives to enter its occupation zone. Elections were held outside the Russian zone and in 1948 the Korean Republic was established in South Korea. The city of Seoul was made the capital and Syngman Rhee was elected president. Thirty-two nations, including the United States, recognized the new government; the Russians and “their supporters did not. Instead, the Soviet Union helped to set up a new and separate …

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The 1905 Revolution

revolution

SOME DAY there would be no tsars, but there was little sign of that during the last years of the nineteenth century. Alexander III still held Russia in a firm grip. When he died in 1894, his son Nicholas II came to the throne. Nicholas was twenty-six years old. He was a handsome young man and a few months after his father’s death he was married to a German princess. They were in love and it looked as though Nicholas would be a popular ruler. His reign began badly. In 1896, a great crowd gathered on a field in Moscow to celebrate his coronation as tsar. It was the custom to hand out little presents, such as handkerchiefs and cups, at these celebrations. Afraid that there might not be enough for everyone, the crowd surged forward. When mounted police tried to hold back the crowd, men, women and children were pushed into ditches and two thousand persons were killed. To make it even worse, that same night the tsar and the tsarina, his wife, danced at a ball held at the French embassy. People grumbled that the tsarina was a foreigner who had no feeling for Russians and the tsar was not much better. Nor did the people like the tsar’s reply to a message of congratulation from the officials of a town near Moscow. The officials said that they hoped “the rights of individuals and public institutions will be firmly safeguarded.” Nicholas answered that he would support the principle of absolute rule just as firmly “as it was preserved by my unforgettable great father.” It was plain that under Nicholas the Russians could expect no greater freedom than they had had under Alexander III. There would be no civil liberties, no better treatment of the peasants and of minority …

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Japan Meets the West 1853-1905

tokyo

The date was July 8, 1853; the place, Yedo, a sprawling collection of wooden houses overlooking an arm of the Pacific Ocean. Yedo, later known as Tokyo, was the chief city of the Japanese islands, off the east coast of Asia. It was larger than London or Paris, but since Japan had been out of touch with the rest of the world for centuries, few foreigners knew it. Yedo was also the residence of an official called the shogun, who theoretically governed the country in the name of the emperor. As they stared out at the bay that day, the people of Yedo could hardly believe what was happening before their eyes. In spite of a strong wind blowing seaward, four black ships were moving steadily toward them, trailing streamers of black smoke. Panic seized the onlookers and they rushed to defend themselves. The strange craft turned out to be warships from a distant land called the United States. They were commanded by an officer named Matthew Perry. Perry had not come to attack Yedo; instead, he bore a friendly letter from the American president to the Japanese emperor. He asked the shogun’s representatives to deliver it and sailed away, promising to come back. The following February, Perry returned, this time with seven black ships. The officials who greeted him enjoy the whiskey and other liquors he gave them and marveled at working models of a telegraph system and a steam locomotive. After a round of parties, talks began between the visitors and their hosts and on March 31, 1954, a treaty was signed between Japan and the United States. Although this treaty opened only two small Japanese ports to American traders, it was of great importance, for it cleared the way for many other treaties between Japan and the …

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The Powers Carve Up China 1841 – 1914

opium

China, that immense portion of East Asia bounded by the chilly Amur River and the hot jungles of Indo-China, by the Pacific Ocean and the Himalaya Mountains, was the most populous country on earth. For thousands of years, China had had a highly developed civilization. Its people thought of their land as the world itself; to them, it was the Middle Kingdom between the upper region, heaven and the lower region, hell, which was made up of all other lands. They considered foreigners nothing but barbarians. Only a few Europeans had entered China since the Middle Ages and the Chinese had scornfully refused to trade with them. The Europeans remembered China, from accounts like those of the Venetian traveler Marco Polo, as a land of fabulous wealth. They longed to lay hands on this wealth and during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the imperialist powers managed to get some of it. Despite its size, China was very weak. In the family of nations it was like a fat old grandfather whose head was so full of old-fashioned actions that he could not understand the boisterous young people around him. The old man was sick, too — with “internal disorders.” For the Chinese were more and more discontented with their Manchu emperors. The Manchus were the latest imperial dynasty in a line stretching back over two thousand years. Their ancestors from Manchuria had conquered China in the seventeenth century and many of their subjects still thought of them as foreign barbarians. From time to time, the Chinese rebelled against them and tried to drive them out. China had troubles of its own even before the foreign imperialist came. The greatest uprising against the Manchus was the Tai-Ping Rebellion of 1850. Twenty million people died — as many as lived in …

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Borrowing From China A. D. 587 – 838

kyoto

PRINCE SHOTOKU was pleased to see his fellow aristocrats take to his chosen faith so enthusiastically. He wanted them to adopt other ways of living from China, too. Having seen how the Sui emperors had reunified China after three and a half centuries of disorder, he was particularly eager for Japan to copy their strong central government. In 603 and 604, Shotoku adopted the Chinese calendar, issued a constitution and set up a new civil service system. In the constitution, he left no room for doubt as to the emperor’s supreme position. “A country does not have two lords,” he wrote, “and the people do not have two masters.” His civil service plan, or “court rank system,” was revolutionary. It did away with the government posts held by noblemen who had inherited them from their fathers. In their place it set up twelve ranks of officials to be appointed by the emperor from among the most worthy noblemen he could find. Each rank was named after one of the virtues which Confucius had praised: harmony, sincerity, diligence, and so on. To make his countrymen thoroughly familiar with Chinese ways, the prince sent missions to the Sui court in 607, 608 and 614. The first group carried a message from “the Son of Heaven in the the land where the sun rises” to “the Son of Heaven in the land where the sun sets.” The next group bore greetings from “the Emperor of the East” to “the Emperor of the West.” Such language struck the Sui emperors as highly impudent, coming from a race of “dwarfs.” Their successors, the T’ang emperors, felt the same way, but the Japanese kept sending missions. Although Prince Shotoku died in 622, thirteen more missions went to China between 630 and 838. Most of the missions …

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Japan, the “Source of the Sun” 3000 B.C.-A.D. 400

japan

THE Japanese islands — four large ones and many smaller ones — rise out of the Pacific Ocean to the east of China and Korea. They form a bow that bends from southwest to north for eleven hundred miles. The northern tip is at the same latitude as Montreal and the southern tip at that of Florida. Long ago, the people of the islands noticed that the sun always seemed to rise out of the ocean. They named their land Nihon or Nippon, “the source of the sun.” To the Chinese, on the mainland of Asia, the sun often appeared to rise from the direction of the islands. So they, too, called the islands “the source of the sun.” In their language, this was jih-pen. While the islanders continued to call their country Nippon, people in other parts of the world borrowed the Chinese name and called it Japan. Altogether, Japan is no bigger in area than Montana. It is so mountainous that only about a fifth of it can be farmed. Where the land is not too steep or rocky for farming, the soil is poor. Japan is fortunate in its climate. The southwestern part of the country has such a long growing season that farmers can raise two crops a year. Their main crop is rice, which yields more food per acre than almost any other food crop. The waters around Japan are full of fish. This is why Japan has been able to support a large number of people, even though it has so few natural advantages. The Japanese belong to the same Mongoloid race as the Koreans, Manchurians, Mongolians and Chinese. They are shorter and often darker-skinned than their neighbors and their men grow beards more easily. Because of their smaller bodies, some scientists believe that …

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The Ming Dynasty Restores the Old Order A.D. 1368-1644

ming

THE MEN who took over from the Mongols came to be known as Hung-wu, or “Vast Military Power.” Hung-wu named his dynasty ming, or “brilliant.” As things turned out, however, the Ming dynasty was not particularly brilliant. It was, in fact, humdrum compared to the Han, the T’ang, or even the Sung. Nevertheless, it gave China nearly three centuries of order, from 1368 to 1644. Hung-wu was born in a hut near Nanking in 1328. His parents soon died and the boy entered a Buddhist monastery, where he learned to read and write. His studies completed, he went out into the streets and begged for a living. Then, at twenty-five, he joined a band of rebels. Through character, intelligence and energy, he became its leader. In 1356, he captured Nanking from the Mongols and then, little by little, occupied the entire Yangtze Valley. In 1368 at the age of forty, he seized Peking and proclaimed himself emperor. THE TRIBUTE SYSTEM Hung-wu chose Nanking as his capital. At first he ruled through government departrnents, but as time went on he treated his ministers more and more contemptuously. In 1 375, he had one of them publicly beaten to death with bamboo sticks. Five years later, suspecting his prime minister of plotting against him, he abolished the office and took all state business into his own hands. The older he grew, the more distrustful he became. Fat and pig-like, with tufts of hair growing out of his ears and nostrils, Hung-wu was a sad and lonely man all his life. His personality was so commanding and his achievements so vast that after he died in 1398 nobody could forget him. His successors tried to copy his one-man government. Like him, they had officials who displeased them beaten, tortured and killed. Next to …

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The Coming of the Mongols A.D.1135-1368

mongol

IN 1135, Hangchow became the capital of the Southern Sung. Thereafter, the Sung kept an uneasy peace with their unwelcome northern neighbours, the Chin. Then, out of Mongolia came the mighty Genghis Khan, whose warriors and their descendants were to spread terror across Asia into Christian Europe and the lands of Islam. Before he died in 1227, Genghis had crushed the Hsi Hsia and all but crushed the Chin. His son, Ogodai, made a treaty with the Sung emperor, and the Sung and Mongol armies together put an end to the Chin. This alliance with a barbarian power turned out just as disastrously for the Chinese as Hui Tsung’s alliance with the Chin. The Mongols moved south against the Sung. When Ogodai died in 1241, his son Mangu took command. When Mangu died in 1259, a year after his cousin Hulagu destroyed the Abbasid caliphate in faraway Baghdad, his brother Kublai carried on. The Sung army resisted bravely. Both sides used cannon and catapults — huge engines which hurled rocks and bombs in the same way a crossbow hurled arrows. Some catapults were so big it took a hundred men to operate them. If the Mongols had not had such weapons, they might have been stopped. Much of South China consisted of flooded rice fields and canals and cavalry warfare would have been difficult if not impossible. In 1276, Kublai took Hangchow. Next he took Canton. In 1279 his men destroyed the last ships of the Sung fleet. Soon after this, the despairing Sung emperor flung himself from a high Cliff into the sea. Long before his victory was complete, Kublai had picked a name for his dynasty. Earlier barbarian conquerors had taken the name of a region or of a famous Chinese dynasty of the past. Kublai did not …

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