HIST 1111 – Early East Asian Civilizations

This is World History. My name is Dr. Long. This video addresses early East Asian civilizations. East Asia is an area of the world comprised
of China; Taiwan; Korea; Japan; and Mongolia. East Asian nations are part of a civilization
with distinctive and unique cultural characteristics, similar to the Western world that emerged
out of ancient Greece and Rome. The earliest peoples reached East Asia from
Africa around 25000 BCE. All of East Asia was populated during the
Stone Age. However, it would an anachronistic to think
of Stone Age peoples in East Asia as Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. Now by far, the most influential nation in
early East Asian history was China. As a distinct civilization, China began around
3000 BCE in what is now Northern China, in an area along the lower Yellow River, known
as the Central Plain. People living in the Central Plain learned
to grow a grain called millet, and later wheat. They had bronze and build large, walled villages. Around 2205 BCE, according to traditional
Chinese accounts, a legendary figure known as Yu the Great unified the Central Plain. As Emperor Yu was known for his wisdom and
for bringing flood control, his rule marked the beginning of the first dynasty in China
– the Xia Dynasty, which would rule from 2205 to 1766 BCE. A dynasty is a family of rulers that would
rule as emperors over a centralized state. There have been a number of dynasties throughout
Chinese history, and the Chinese have marked long periods of time by dynasties. Dynasties often would come to an end when
the ruling family was weak, incompetent, or corrupt, or unable to deal with revolts or
foreign invasions. This, in turn, would lead to them being overthrown
and replaced with yet a new dynasty – so Chinese history has a cycle of dynasties. Most Chinese rulers were men, emperors; however,
in a few cases women did wield great powers as emperor dowagers. In Chinese culture, especially in Confucian
teaching, government should be virtuous. Governments that ruled well were thought to
have the approval of heaven, a concept in China as the mandate of heaven. However, legitimate rule was seen as linked
to good government. When a dynasty ruled poorly it could lose
the mandate of heaven and face its downfall. The idea of the mandate of heaven became important
in early Chinese history. Because there is so little evidence about
the first dynasty, the Xia Dynasty, some scholars – such as Sarah Allen – have argued that
the Xia Dynasty did not exist and that stories told about it much later were fabricated for
political reasons. Still, more recent archeological evidence
tends to favor the traditional view of Chinese history. Traditionally, Chinese history stresses what
are called the three dynasties, the first three dynasties in Chinese history – the
Xia Dynasty, from 2205 to 1766 BCE; the Xiang Dynasty, from 1766 to 1045 BCE; and then the
Zhou Dynasty, from 1045 to 256 BCE. The last two-hundred years or so of the Zhou
Dynasty was known as the Period of the Warring States, from 400 to 200 BCE, because of so
much infighting in China in that time. Now under the Xiang Dynasty, which ruled from
1766 to 1055 BCE, China expanded its territory from the Central Plains, and its culture began
to take shape. For instance, with the development of the
Chinese character-based writing system – however, the Zhou Dynasty, from 1045 to 256 BCE, is
widely regarded as the formative era in Chinese civilization. Emperors during the Zhou Dynasty engaged in
an extensive diking of the Yellow River. Now this massive engineering project under
the Zhou resulted in better drainage of water in the Yellow River valley, bringing more
crop land under cultivation. Under the Zhou, all works of classical Chinese
literature and schools of thought also took shape. This especially included Confucianism, which
is incredibly influential on Chinese civilization. For his part, Master Kong, or Confucius as
he was commonly known, lived in the 6th century BCE. By this time, conditions in China had become
a little chaotic. Confucius therefore, looked back to the rules
of the early Zhou Dynasty as better examples. Confucius was a teacher who’s passionately
interested in good government; proper social relations; and respect for all human beings. Confucius’s sayings and teachings were written
down by his disciples, and form the basis on an important work in the Confucian canon
of text known as the Analects. While as a system of thought, Confucianism
has many different texts, the Analects, which records much of Confucius’s thought, best
summarizes Confucius’s sayings and teachings. Confucianism teaches that the heavenly realm,
or the cosmos, operates on its own – automatically – and has done so since the beginning of
time. As such, Confucianism isn’t really interested
in, and doesn’t really deal with questions about God or the afterlife or the spiritual
world; rather, Confucianism focuses on this world, this life. Confucianism stresses self-cultivation, that
every human being should undergo self-refinement and seek self-improvement. This included empathy, and a version of the
Golden Rule, as Confucius put it – What you do not want for yourself, do not do to
others. Confucianism also highly values learning and
education. And finally, Confucianism places a great deal
of emphasis on ritual – seeing ritual as being part of a civilized human being’s
behavior. Confucianism stressed five social relations
– five very important social relations. First, father to son; second, ruler to subject;
third, husband to wife; fourth, older brother to younger brother; and fifth, friend to friend
– now these are conceived of as hierarchical relationships, with a superior and an inferior
role in each relationship. The family is also very important to Confucianism;
this especially includes obedience to parents and respect for those who are elders. Sons, especially older sons, are supposed
to take care of their parents in their old age. This is known as filial piety. In fact, in Confucianism, care of parents
does not end with their death but rather with the death of the son, as Confucianism also
includes ritual ancestor worship. Respect for those above you in power, for
the elderly, for your parents – are still extremely important values in East Asian nations,
such as China; North and South Korea; and Japan – and this is still true today. This is due to the legacy of Confucianism. During the Zhou Dynasty, and after Confucius’s
death, two Confucian teachers were particularly influential as well as indicative of a variety
in differences that emerge within the Confucius school of thought. The first was Mencius, who lived in the 5th
century BCE; the next was Xunzi, who lived in the 3rd century BCE – both of these teachers
agreed with the basics of Confucianism; however, Mencius believed that human nature was naturally
good, while Xunzi saw it as naturally evil. In addition to Confucianism, Daoism also took
place during the Zhou Dynasty. Daoism is a word that means ‘the way, or
the path’; its founder was Lao-Tzu, a term which means ‘old master’. According to tradition, Lao-Tzu was a contemporary
of Confucius. Daoism teaches that the Dao is an impersonal
force and the origin of all reality, but is beyond human comprehension. By the way, in the Star Wars series, the concept
of The Force is loosely based on the Dao. Daoism stresses living in harmony with nature,
and with the universe. Daoists came to have deep respect for nature
and living in balance with nature. This idea of balance is best expressed in
the concept of the ying and the yang. The ying is seen as dark, negative, passive,
and feminine; while the yang is light, positive, energetic, and masculine. These opposites are said to live in balance. Daoism also believed that change is a constant
part of life. As with Confucianism, over time Daoism came
to have many texts further explaining its beliefs. Another system of thought that emerged under
the Zhou Dynasty was legalism. This viewpoint argued that only a strong,
repressive, authoritarian state could bring chaos and enforce law and order, and indeed
– the last part of the Zhou Dynasty, the warring period, was known for this sort of
chaos – making legalism popular among some people. . Daoism is a word that means ‘the way, or
the path’; its founder was Lao-Tze, a term which means ‘old master’. According to tradition, Finally, during the Zhou Dynasty, which again
towards its end saw a lot of chaos and warfare, a teacher known as Sun Tzu also wrote a text
known as The Art of War. Now The Art of War is the first systematic
military treatise in all of human history. Sun Tzu was a pragmatic thinker, and sought
military victory above all else – yet he downplayed brute force in war – instead,
he argued in favor of intelligence and saw surprise and trickery as key to winning wars. For Sun Tzu wars are best won with brains,
not brawn, and the best victories are those that involve as little fighting and destruction
as possible. Confucianism; Daoism; legalism; and Sun Tzu’s
The Art of War were all key elements of early Chinese civilization, and in part emerged
as response to the chaos in China towards the end of the Zhou Dynasty, the period of
the warring states. Now so far in this video I’ve focused almost
exclusively on China, this is because Chinese civilization – from its character-based
writing system to Confucianism; Daoism; Sun Tzu; legalism – all exert a very profound
influence on Korea and Japan. Prehistoric humans came to Korea around 10000
BCE. By around 1000 BCE, Korea came to have bronze
metalwork and rice cultivation. Rice cultivation likely came from South China,
as North China, where Chinese civilization first took place grew millet and grain, and
not rice. Chinese culture likewise strongly influenced
Korea. Korea had some early kingdoms, but it was
not fully unified until the 7th century CE. Now prehistoric people first came to Japan
around 11000 BCE, and some of the earliest pottery in the world has actually been found
in Japan. Prehistoric peoples in Japan experienced traumatic
change around 300 BCE. This was due to huge Korean influence. Large numbers of Koreans immigrated to Japan
bringing bronze and rice cultivation with them. Korean immigrants also mixed with the peoples
living in Japan. Koreans and Japanese people not only have
common ancestral and DNA ties, but language. Korean and Japanese are distantly related. Early civilizations in Korea and Japan were
thus closely intertwined and neither country yet had any coherent national identity. But above all, and in conclusion, the influence
of Chinese culture loomed large on early Korea and Japan. We will see how this continued later in China’s
Tang Dynasty, when Buddhism will come to Korea and Japan from China as well. With this note, I’ll bring this video to
a close. Thank you for watching.


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