ch19 - Chapter 19 The Spread of Chinese Civilization:...

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Chapter 19 The Spread of Chinese Civilization: Japan, Korea, and Vietnam CHAPTER SUMMARY. The peoples on China's borders naturally emulated their great neighbor. Japan borrowed heavily from China during the 5th and 6th centuries when it began forming its own civilization. To the north and west of China nomadic peoples and Tibet also received influence. Vietnam and Korea were part of the Chinese sphere by the last centuries B.C.E. The agrarian societies of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam blended Chinese influences blended with their indigenous cultures to produce distinctive patterns of civilized development. In all three regions Buddhism was a key force in transmitting Chinese civilization. JAPAN: THE IMPERIAL AGE. During the Taika, Nara, and Heian periods, from the 7th to the 9th centuries, Japanese borrowing from China peaked, although Shinto views on the natural and supernatural world remained central. The Taika reforms of 646 aimed at revamping the administration along Chinese lines. Intellectuals and aristocrats absorbed Chinese influences. The common people looked to Buddhist monks for spiritual and secular assistance, and meshed Buddhist beliefs with traditional religion. The Taika reforms failed. The aristocracy returned to Japanese traditions; the peasantry reworked Buddhism into a Japanese creed. The emperor lost power to aristocrats and provincial lords. Crisis at Nara and the Shift to Heian (Kyoto). The Taika effort to remake the Japanese ruler into a Chinese-style absolutist monarch was frustrated by resistance from aristocratic families and Buddhist monks. During the next century the Buddhists grew so powerful at court that one monk attempted to marry Empress Koken and claim the throne. The emperor fled and established a new capital at Heian (Kyoto). He abandoned the Taika reforms and restored the power of aristocratic families. Despite following Chinese patterns, the Japanese determined aristocratic rank by birth, thus blocking social mobility. The aristocrats dominated the central government and restored their position as landholders. The emperor gave up plans for creating a peasant conscript army and ordered local leaders to form rural militias. Ultracivilized: Court Life in the Heian Era. Although the imperial court had lost power, court culture flourished at Heian. Aristocratic males and females lived according to strict behavioral codes. They lived in a complex of palaces and gardens; the basis of life was the pursuit of aesthetic enjoyment and the avoidance of common, distasteful elements of life. Poetry was a valued art form, and the Japanese simplified the script taken from the Chinese to facilitate expression. An outpouring of distinctively Japanese poetic and literary works followed. At the court women were expected to be as cultured as men; they were involved in palace intrigues and power struggles. Lady Murasaki's The Tale of Genji , the first novel in any language, vividly depicts courtly life. The Decline of Imperial Power.
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ch19 - Chapter 19 The Spread of Chinese Civilization:...

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