Civilization: China and East Asia Essay

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The Civilization of East Asia
Final Essay II

Shusheng Li
Philip Brown


In this course, we have studied China, Korea, and Japan as the civilization of East Asia. After a whole semester of studying, personally I believe that pre-modern China, Korea, and Japan do share sufficiently in political, social, intellectual, and cultural traditions. Therefore, we could classify these countries together as parts of a same civilization. To be more specific, the similarity reflected in many fields, such as writing system, bureaucratic reforms, the belief of Buddhism, and some other cultural tradition. Although these countries all have their own particular culture, they also borrowed and assimilated heavily from others, especially those initiated in China. Moreover, I would like to define the East Asia as imperial and Buddhist because they are typical feature of East Asia culture.
As a very important part of culture, writing systems of East Asia could be traced to ancient Chinese letters or graphs; both Japan and Korea borrowed Chinese characters to create their owns. According to the lecture, two traditions of written Japanese were originally came from Chinese style “kanbun”, then Japanese simplified those Chinese letters and developed their own syllabaries known as Hiragana and Katakana based on “kanbun”. Likewise, Korea also imported Chinese letters in their written language called Hangul; as described in “Invention of the Korean Alpabet”, Peter H. Lee explained “In general, the languages of different countries have their own enunciations but lack their own letters, so they borrowed the Chinese graphs to communicate their needs (517).” As a carrier of culture, the similar writing systems provide these countries with the great chance to share in many other fields.
Besides writing systems, these three countries had a common on political systems as well. The idea of government of East Asia was originated in ancient China and was dominated until twentieth century. Between the seventh and ninth centuries, Japan assimilated and borrowed political systems largely from China; at that time, Japanese had several administrative reforms which had great influence in its economy and politics. The Taika reforms happened from year 645 to 650 is one of the most profound reforms because of its Jori land system, conscription, and uniform tax, which were borrowed and developed from Tang Dynasty of China. However, although Japanese learned a lot from Chinese political systems, there were many things Japan did not adapt from China, such as the right of rebellion, mandate of heaven, and the civil service exam. Compared to Japan, Korea adapted much more from Chinese political systems due to it used to be the territory of Han Dynasty. In Choson Dynasty, Kongyang coup was a typical assimilation of Chinese politics; in addition to its land reform as well as Taika reform in Japan, it also had literati support for emerging literature class and new economic order of which Japan did not have. During the Silla and the Koryo, Korea established an increasingly complex political structure on the peninsula that assimilated and rejected aspects of the