East Asia

Grace Cho: Brief Overview, Trade, Religion
Alex Lee: Government, Social Hierarchy, Conclusion

Countries Located In East Asia:

- China
- South Korea
- North Korea
- Japan
- Mongolia
- Taiwan (Disputed)


Although Western historians disregard East Asia as an undeveloped civilization during 1700's East Asia various achievements sets it apart from the other regions as the greatest of all regions.

Brief Overview:

For centuries the world looked upon East Asia an uncivilized region. However, recently unearthed facts about East Asia proves that it had a complex society and may even prove to be greater the European civilizations. Some works that proved this were improvements of government, social hierarchy, military power, economic,
Parchment Map of East Asia
trade, religion, technology, and military power. This analysis of East Asia will mainly focus upon China, as it is the influential country at that time and slightly on Japan, since is culture is quite different from the rest of East Asia.. The Chinese have been renowned for their long government parties defined as "dynasties." The dynasties ruled over the population and when the when the emperor passed away, usually the next generation took over their father's role. Due to these reasons China was renowned to have quite a stable government most rulers smoothly transitioning from one generation to the next. Secondly, there is the social hierarchy of China. Though it was never formerly imposed, nontheless a border exist s between the three unofficial classes of China; Ruler, Tradesmen, and finally the Peasant. There were no restrictions whether a person had to be fixed in one class, however such promotion to the upper class was rare. Though, China did trade widely with neighboring countries, it closed its ports later in the 18th century. The reasoning behind this decision was to protect its citizens from harmful ideas that were creeping into the countries one is example is opium, which was a drug that became quite popular in China. Also there are three religions that were followed in China: Daoism, Buddhism, Shintoism. These religions are still present in the cultures of East Asia and is widely supported throughout Asia. These topics will be further discussed in the analysis.


In the 1700's like much of the world, the monarchy ruled over its people and East Asia was no exception. However, there are several terms the Asians use to define monarchy. In China, the called their leaders as the emperors of their nations. These emperors had complete power over its citizens so it can easily be said that the
Emperor Kangxi
government in China was a totalitarian government. Similarly, other minor countries had
Flag of Qing Dynasty
totalitarian government in which each country was ruled by an absolute ruler. The Qing Dynasty dominated China during the 18th Century. Several features of this dynasty was that it brought an overall peace to the empire and is famous for its counterpart foreign polices. The foreign policy in China during the earlier 18th century was to make their country as famous as possible. This plan was carried out by sending the "Emperor's Fleet" around Asia and even far as Eastern Africa. This enormous fleet contained hundreds of vessels and even the famous Treasure Ship, which contained great quantities of wealth.This was successful when as countries began to send emissaries accepting China as the most powerful country in the world and bowing in submission. However, soon after the great expeditions made by the fleet that yielded success, the emperor suddenly decided that too much wealth were being drained from the Chinese treasury. This persudaded the emperor to adopt a new counter part foreign policy that refused to deal with foreign countries. Instead of making any expeditions the Qing Emperor closed down the borders of China and opened ports to tradesmen from only neighboring countries.

Social Hierarchy:
Chinese Farmers

Though there was no imposed social hierarchy, the population of East Asia could be divided mainly into three groups. The lowest of the hierarchy would be the simple commoners who occupied job titles of infantry, farmers, and tradesmen. These commoners would provide the basic labor force in order to keep their country from dying out. The second order of the population would be the scholars. The jobs of the scholars would be to record tax payments and other bureaucratic matters and were used as advisers to make important decisions. In the case of Japan, their view of social hierarchy was slightly different with four classes and a separated class defined as "outcasts". In the Japanese hierarchy, the Samurai warriors were absolute leaders over their people. After that came the peasants who were used as a labor force. Then came the artisans whose role was to write poetry and craft pieces of art. Finally, the lowest class was formed by tradesmen who kept the economy of Japan alive. There is also an unofficial fifth class in Japanese hierarchy and this class was called the "outcasts." These people were believed to have impure jobs and should not be interacted with. Overall, while the governments of East Asia never imposed a social hierarchy upon its citizens, it still played a vital role in daily of the people in the 18th century.


Before China closed its doors to foreign trade to "protect" its citizens from the harmful ideas from spreading such as use of opium, it was held as one of the greatest trading nations in the world. The Chinese used vast fleets of the traditional Chinese "junk ships" to trade with neighboring countries. Some of the commodities that brought great wealth for Chinese Empire was silk and spices. This was due to the fact that spices could be used to keep food fresh without spoiling while silk was one of the most smoothest cloths at that time. However, the Qing Emperor drastically changed the foreign policy banning foreign trade in all ports. This was due to the fact Opium which was brought by the Western countries were gaining popularity, this caused a negative effect on the people and to prevent this foreign trade was banned. Even though, foreign trade was still banned, smuggler continued to import goods from western countries.



  • Daoism
- formed by a man named Zhang Ling who said a god appeared to him and told him to start a new religion.
- Definition of god from Zhang Ling's point of view= The gods do not eat or drink
- God always share everything with humans such as hunger
- is a way of people's lives where people work together
ex) build roads, rebuild bridges, etc.

  • Buddhism
- formed by Siddhartha Gautama who was ab Indian prince about 500 years before Emperor Ming.

- because his father was so overprotective, he couldn't go outside of palace. One day, he decides to sneak out and see outside of palace. Then he found out that if people die
When they are tied to wanting things, they won't be able to leave the world and reborn again and again.
- is practiced in China and spread throughout East Asia
- remains an important world religion

  • Shintoism(Japanese)
- Shinto= the way of the gods

= ancient faith that is native to Japan
=involves ancestor worship
- is for the living world (present)

  • Buddhism(Japanese)
- formed by India and reached Japan in the 6th century A.D. from Korea
- a faith that focuses on engightenment and mediation
- is for after death( future)
  • difference between most Japanese people and Christians and Jews are most Japanese do not believe in only one God.
  • Religion is not as important to Japanese than Americans.

East Asia Continues to Develop

Overall, one can clearly see the great amount of accomplishments that has been made in East Asia. Not only is the does it have a stable government fit for leading region, but also it is vibrant with popular religions that still being followed today. Today, East Asia is considered as the economical hub of Asia and greatly impacts the world economy. Trade still holds great importance to East Asia as Asian countries continue to import and export great amounts of commerce. East Asia continues to develop greatly even today as China held the Summer Olympics 2008 just a few days ago. So overall, due to its sophisticated religions, social hierarchy, stable government, and trade East Asia should be deemed as the most developed nation both in the18th century and now.


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