NCERT Textbook - Paths to Modernisation Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

NCERT Textbooks (Class 6 to Class 12)

Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Paths to Modernisation Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


  231
Paths to Modernisation
EAST ASIA at the beginning of the nineteenth century was
dominated by China. The Qing dynasty, heir to a long tradition,
seemed secure in its power, while Japan, a small island country,
seemed to be locked in isolation. Yet, within a few decades China
was thrown into turmoil unable to face the colonial challenge.
The imperial government lost political control, was unable to reform
effectively and the country was convulsed by civil war. Japan on
the other hand was successful in building a modern nation-state,
creating an industrial economy and even establishing a colonial
empire by incorporating Taiwan (1895) and Korea (1910). It
defeated China, the land that had been the source of its culture
and ideals, in 1894, and Russia, a European power, in 1905.
The Chinese reacted slowly and faced immense difficulties as
they sought to redefine their traditions to cope with the modern
world, and to rebuild their national strength and become free
from Western and Japanese control. They found that they could
achieve both objectives – of removing inequalities and of rebuilding
their country – through revolution. The Chinese Communist Party
emerged victorious from the civil war in 1949. However, by the
end of the 1970s Chinese leaders felt that the ideological system
was retarding economic growth and development. This led to
wide-ranging reforms of the economy that brought back capitalism
and the free market even as the Communist Party retained
political control.
Japan became an advanced industrial nation but its drive for
empire led to war and defeat at the hands of the Anglo-American
forces. The US Occupation marked the beginning of a more
democratic political system and Japan rebuilt its economy to
emerge by the 1970s as a major economic power.
The Japanese path to modernisation was built on capitalist
principles and took place within a world dominated by Western
colonialism. Japanese expansion was justified by the call to resist
Western domination and liberate Asia. The rapid development
underlined the strength of tradition in Japanese institutions and
society, their ability to learn and the strength of nationalism.
China and Japan have had a long tradition of historical writings,
as history was an important guide for the rulers. The past
provided the standards by which they would be judged and
THEME
11
2020-21
Page 2


  231
Paths to Modernisation
EAST ASIA at the beginning of the nineteenth century was
dominated by China. The Qing dynasty, heir to a long tradition,
seemed secure in its power, while Japan, a small island country,
seemed to be locked in isolation. Yet, within a few decades China
was thrown into turmoil unable to face the colonial challenge.
The imperial government lost political control, was unable to reform
effectively and the country was convulsed by civil war. Japan on
the other hand was successful in building a modern nation-state,
creating an industrial economy and even establishing a colonial
empire by incorporating Taiwan (1895) and Korea (1910). It
defeated China, the land that had been the source of its culture
and ideals, in 1894, and Russia, a European power, in 1905.
The Chinese reacted slowly and faced immense difficulties as
they sought to redefine their traditions to cope with the modern
world, and to rebuild their national strength and become free
from Western and Japanese control. They found that they could
achieve both objectives – of removing inequalities and of rebuilding
their country – through revolution. The Chinese Communist Party
emerged victorious from the civil war in 1949. However, by the
end of the 1970s Chinese leaders felt that the ideological system
was retarding economic growth and development. This led to
wide-ranging reforms of the economy that brought back capitalism
and the free market even as the Communist Party retained
political control.
Japan became an advanced industrial nation but its drive for
empire led to war and defeat at the hands of the Anglo-American
forces. The US Occupation marked the beginning of a more
democratic political system and Japan rebuilt its economy to
emerge by the 1970s as a major economic power.
The Japanese path to modernisation was built on capitalist
principles and took place within a world dominated by Western
colonialism. Japanese expansion was justified by the call to resist
Western domination and liberate Asia. The rapid development
underlined the strength of tradition in Japanese institutions and
society, their ability to learn and the strength of nationalism.
China and Japan have had a long tradition of historical writings,
as history was an important guide for the rulers. The past
provided the standards by which they would be judged and
THEME
11
2020-21
232  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
the rulers established official departments to maintain records
and write dynastic histories. Sima Qian (145-90 BCE) is
considered the greatest historian of early China. In Japan,
Chinese cultural influence led to history being given a similar
importance. One of the earliest acts of the Meiji government
was to establish, in 1869, a bureau to collect records and
write, as it were, a victor’s version of the Meiji Restoration.
There was great respect for the written word and literary ability
was highly valued. This has meant that a wide range of written
materials – official histories, scholarly writings, popular
literature, religious tracts – are available. Printing and
publishing were important industries in the pre-modern period
and it is possible, for instance, to trace the distribution of a
book in eighteenth-century China or Japan. Modern scholars
have used these materials in new and different ways.
Modern scholarship has built on the work of Chinese
intellectuals such as Liang Qichao or Kume Kunitake (1839-
1931), one of the pioneers of modern history in Japan, as well
as earlier writings by European travellers, such as the Italian
Marco Polo (1254-1324, in China from 1274 to 1290), the Jesuit
priests Mateo Ricci (1552-1610) in China and Luis Frois (1532-
97), in Japan, all of whom left rich accounts of these countries.
It has also benefited from the writings of Christian missionaries
in the nineteenth century whose work provides valuable material
for our understanding of these countries.
Scholarship in English from Joseph Needham’s monumental
work on the history of science in Chinese civilisation or George
Sansom’s on Japanese history and culture has grown and there
is an immense body of sophisticated scholarship available to us
today. In recent years, writings by Chinese and Japanese
scholars have been translated into English, some of whom teach
abroad and write in English, and in the case of Chinese scholars,
since the 1980s, many have been working in Japan as well and
write in Japanese. This has meant that we have scholarly writings
from many parts of the globe that give us a richer and deeper
picture of these countries.
Naito Konan* (1866-1934)
A leading Japanese scholar of China, Naito Konan’s writings
influenced scholars worldwide. Using the new tools of Western
historiography Naito built on a long tradition of studying China
as well as bringing his experience as a journalist there. He helped
establish the Department of Oriental Studies in Kyoto University
in 1907. In Shinaron [On China (1914)], he argued that
republican government offered the Chinese a way to end
aristocratic control and centralised power that had existed since
the Sung dynasty (960-1279) – a way to revitalise local society
where reform must begin. He saw in Chinese history strengths
that would make it modern and democratic. Japan, he thought
had an important role to play in China but he underestimated
the power of Chinese nationalism.
*In Japan, the
surname is written
first.
2020-21
Page 3


  231
Paths to Modernisation
EAST ASIA at the beginning of the nineteenth century was
dominated by China. The Qing dynasty, heir to a long tradition,
seemed secure in its power, while Japan, a small island country,
seemed to be locked in isolation. Yet, within a few decades China
was thrown into turmoil unable to face the colonial challenge.
The imperial government lost political control, was unable to reform
effectively and the country was convulsed by civil war. Japan on
the other hand was successful in building a modern nation-state,
creating an industrial economy and even establishing a colonial
empire by incorporating Taiwan (1895) and Korea (1910). It
defeated China, the land that had been the source of its culture
and ideals, in 1894, and Russia, a European power, in 1905.
The Chinese reacted slowly and faced immense difficulties as
they sought to redefine their traditions to cope with the modern
world, and to rebuild their national strength and become free
from Western and Japanese control. They found that they could
achieve both objectives – of removing inequalities and of rebuilding
their country – through revolution. The Chinese Communist Party
emerged victorious from the civil war in 1949. However, by the
end of the 1970s Chinese leaders felt that the ideological system
was retarding economic growth and development. This led to
wide-ranging reforms of the economy that brought back capitalism
and the free market even as the Communist Party retained
political control.
Japan became an advanced industrial nation but its drive for
empire led to war and defeat at the hands of the Anglo-American
forces. The US Occupation marked the beginning of a more
democratic political system and Japan rebuilt its economy to
emerge by the 1970s as a major economic power.
The Japanese path to modernisation was built on capitalist
principles and took place within a world dominated by Western
colonialism. Japanese expansion was justified by the call to resist
Western domination and liberate Asia. The rapid development
underlined the strength of tradition in Japanese institutions and
society, their ability to learn and the strength of nationalism.
China and Japan have had a long tradition of historical writings,
as history was an important guide for the rulers. The past
provided the standards by which they would be judged and
THEME
11
2020-21
232  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
the rulers established official departments to maintain records
and write dynastic histories. Sima Qian (145-90 BCE) is
considered the greatest historian of early China. In Japan,
Chinese cultural influence led to history being given a similar
importance. One of the earliest acts of the Meiji government
was to establish, in 1869, a bureau to collect records and
write, as it were, a victor’s version of the Meiji Restoration.
There was great respect for the written word and literary ability
was highly valued. This has meant that a wide range of written
materials – official histories, scholarly writings, popular
literature, religious tracts – are available. Printing and
publishing were important industries in the pre-modern period
and it is possible, for instance, to trace the distribution of a
book in eighteenth-century China or Japan. Modern scholars
have used these materials in new and different ways.
Modern scholarship has built on the work of Chinese
intellectuals such as Liang Qichao or Kume Kunitake (1839-
1931), one of the pioneers of modern history in Japan, as well
as earlier writings by European travellers, such as the Italian
Marco Polo (1254-1324, in China from 1274 to 1290), the Jesuit
priests Mateo Ricci (1552-1610) in China and Luis Frois (1532-
97), in Japan, all of whom left rich accounts of these countries.
It has also benefited from the writings of Christian missionaries
in the nineteenth century whose work provides valuable material
for our understanding of these countries.
Scholarship in English from Joseph Needham’s monumental
work on the history of science in Chinese civilisation or George
Sansom’s on Japanese history and culture has grown and there
is an immense body of sophisticated scholarship available to us
today. In recent years, writings by Chinese and Japanese
scholars have been translated into English, some of whom teach
abroad and write in English, and in the case of Chinese scholars,
since the 1980s, many have been working in Japan as well and
write in Japanese. This has meant that we have scholarly writings
from many parts of the globe that give us a richer and deeper
picture of these countries.
Naito Konan* (1866-1934)
A leading Japanese scholar of China, Naito Konan’s writings
influenced scholars worldwide. Using the new tools of Western
historiography Naito built on a long tradition of studying China
as well as bringing his experience as a journalist there. He helped
establish the Department of Oriental Studies in Kyoto University
in 1907. In Shinaron [On China (1914)], he argued that
republican government offered the Chinese a way to end
aristocratic control and centralised power that had existed since
the Sung dynasty (960-1279) – a way to revitalise local society
where reform must begin. He saw in Chinese history strengths
that would make it modern and democratic. Japan, he thought
had an important role to play in China but he underestimated
the power of Chinese nationalism.
*In Japan, the
surname is written
first.
2020-21
  233
Introduction
China and Japan present a marked physical contrast. China is a vast
continental country that spans many climatic zones; the core is
dominated by three major river systems: the Yellow River (Huang He),
the Yangtse River (Chang Jiang – the third longest river in the world)
and the Pearl River. A large part of the country is mountainous.
PATHS TO MODERNISATION
The dominant ethnic group are the Han and the major language is
Chinese (Putonghua) but there are many other nationalities, such as
the Uighur, Hui, Manchu and Tibetan, and aside from dialects, such as
Cantonese (Yue) and Shanghainese (Wu), there are other minority
languages spoken as well.
Chinese food reflects this regional diversity with at least four distinct
types. The best known is southern or Cantonese cuisine – as most
overseas Chinese come from the Canton area – which includes dim
sum (literally touch your heart), an assortment of pastries and
dumplings. In the north, wheat is the staple food, while in Szechuan
spices brought by Buddhist monks in the ancient period, along the
silk route, and chillies by Portuguese traders in the fifteenth century,
have created a fiery cuisine. In eastern China, both rice and wheat
are eaten.
MAP 1: East Asia
2020-21
Page 4


  231
Paths to Modernisation
EAST ASIA at the beginning of the nineteenth century was
dominated by China. The Qing dynasty, heir to a long tradition,
seemed secure in its power, while Japan, a small island country,
seemed to be locked in isolation. Yet, within a few decades China
was thrown into turmoil unable to face the colonial challenge.
The imperial government lost political control, was unable to reform
effectively and the country was convulsed by civil war. Japan on
the other hand was successful in building a modern nation-state,
creating an industrial economy and even establishing a colonial
empire by incorporating Taiwan (1895) and Korea (1910). It
defeated China, the land that had been the source of its culture
and ideals, in 1894, and Russia, a European power, in 1905.
The Chinese reacted slowly and faced immense difficulties as
they sought to redefine their traditions to cope with the modern
world, and to rebuild their national strength and become free
from Western and Japanese control. They found that they could
achieve both objectives – of removing inequalities and of rebuilding
their country – through revolution. The Chinese Communist Party
emerged victorious from the civil war in 1949. However, by the
end of the 1970s Chinese leaders felt that the ideological system
was retarding economic growth and development. This led to
wide-ranging reforms of the economy that brought back capitalism
and the free market even as the Communist Party retained
political control.
Japan became an advanced industrial nation but its drive for
empire led to war and defeat at the hands of the Anglo-American
forces. The US Occupation marked the beginning of a more
democratic political system and Japan rebuilt its economy to
emerge by the 1970s as a major economic power.
The Japanese path to modernisation was built on capitalist
principles and took place within a world dominated by Western
colonialism. Japanese expansion was justified by the call to resist
Western domination and liberate Asia. The rapid development
underlined the strength of tradition in Japanese institutions and
society, their ability to learn and the strength of nationalism.
China and Japan have had a long tradition of historical writings,
as history was an important guide for the rulers. The past
provided the standards by which they would be judged and
THEME
11
2020-21
232  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
the rulers established official departments to maintain records
and write dynastic histories. Sima Qian (145-90 BCE) is
considered the greatest historian of early China. In Japan,
Chinese cultural influence led to history being given a similar
importance. One of the earliest acts of the Meiji government
was to establish, in 1869, a bureau to collect records and
write, as it were, a victor’s version of the Meiji Restoration.
There was great respect for the written word and literary ability
was highly valued. This has meant that a wide range of written
materials – official histories, scholarly writings, popular
literature, religious tracts – are available. Printing and
publishing were important industries in the pre-modern period
and it is possible, for instance, to trace the distribution of a
book in eighteenth-century China or Japan. Modern scholars
have used these materials in new and different ways.
Modern scholarship has built on the work of Chinese
intellectuals such as Liang Qichao or Kume Kunitake (1839-
1931), one of the pioneers of modern history in Japan, as well
as earlier writings by European travellers, such as the Italian
Marco Polo (1254-1324, in China from 1274 to 1290), the Jesuit
priests Mateo Ricci (1552-1610) in China and Luis Frois (1532-
97), in Japan, all of whom left rich accounts of these countries.
It has also benefited from the writings of Christian missionaries
in the nineteenth century whose work provides valuable material
for our understanding of these countries.
Scholarship in English from Joseph Needham’s monumental
work on the history of science in Chinese civilisation or George
Sansom’s on Japanese history and culture has grown and there
is an immense body of sophisticated scholarship available to us
today. In recent years, writings by Chinese and Japanese
scholars have been translated into English, some of whom teach
abroad and write in English, and in the case of Chinese scholars,
since the 1980s, many have been working in Japan as well and
write in Japanese. This has meant that we have scholarly writings
from many parts of the globe that give us a richer and deeper
picture of these countries.
Naito Konan* (1866-1934)
A leading Japanese scholar of China, Naito Konan’s writings
influenced scholars worldwide. Using the new tools of Western
historiography Naito built on a long tradition of studying China
as well as bringing his experience as a journalist there. He helped
establish the Department of Oriental Studies in Kyoto University
in 1907. In Shinaron [On China (1914)], he argued that
republican government offered the Chinese a way to end
aristocratic control and centralised power that had existed since
the Sung dynasty (960-1279) – a way to revitalise local society
where reform must begin. He saw in Chinese history strengths
that would make it modern and democratic. Japan, he thought
had an important role to play in China but he underestimated
the power of Chinese nationalism.
*In Japan, the
surname is written
first.
2020-21
  233
Introduction
China and Japan present a marked physical contrast. China is a vast
continental country that spans many climatic zones; the core is
dominated by three major river systems: the Yellow River (Huang He),
the Yangtse River (Chang Jiang – the third longest river in the world)
and the Pearl River. A large part of the country is mountainous.
PATHS TO MODERNISATION
The dominant ethnic group are the Han and the major language is
Chinese (Putonghua) but there are many other nationalities, such as
the Uighur, Hui, Manchu and Tibetan, and aside from dialects, such as
Cantonese (Yue) and Shanghainese (Wu), there are other minority
languages spoken as well.
Chinese food reflects this regional diversity with at least four distinct
types. The best known is southern or Cantonese cuisine – as most
overseas Chinese come from the Canton area – which includes dim
sum (literally touch your heart), an assortment of pastries and
dumplings. In the north, wheat is the staple food, while in Szechuan
spices brought by Buddhist monks in the ancient period, along the
silk route, and chillies by Portuguese traders in the fifteenth century,
have created a fiery cuisine. In eastern China, both rice and wheat
are eaten.
MAP 1: East Asia
2020-21
234  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
Japan, by contrast, is a string of islands, the four largest being
Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku and Hokkaido. The Okinawan chain is the
southernmost, about the same latitude as the Bahamas. More than 50
per cent of the land area of the main islands is mountainous and Japan
is situated in a very active earthquake zone. These geographical
conditions have influenced architecture. The population is largely
Japanese but there are a small Ainu minority and Koreans who were
forcibly brought as labour when Korea was a Japanese colony.
Japan lacks a tradition of animal rearing. Rice is the staple crop and
fish the major source of protein. Raw fish (sashimi or sushi) has
now become a widely popular dish around the world as it is considered
very healthy.
JAPAN
The Political System
An emperor had ruled Japan from Kyoto but by the twelfth century the
imperial court lost power to shoguns, who in theory ruled in the name of
the emperor. From 1603 to 1867, members of the Tokugawa family held
the position of shogun. The country was divided into over 250 domains
under the rule of lords called daimyo. The shogun exercised power over the
domainal lords, ordering them to stay at the capital Edo (modern Tokyo)
for long periods so that they would not pose a threat. He also controlled the
major cities and mines. The samurai (the warrior class) were the ruling elite
and served the shoguns and daimyo.
In the late sixteenth century, three changes laid the pattern for future
development. One, the peasantry was disarmed and only the samurai could
carry swords. This ensured peace and order, ending the frequent wars of
the previous century. Two, the daimyo were ordered to live in the capitals of
their domains, each with a large degree of autonomy. Third, land surveys
identified owners and taxpayers and graded land productivity to ensure a
stable revenue base.
The daimyo’s capitals became bigger, so that by the mid-seventeenth
century, Japan not only had the most populated city in the world – Edo
– but also two other large cities – Osaka and Kyoto, and at least half a
dozen castle-towns with populations of over 50,000. (By contrast, most
European countries of the time had only one large city.) This led to the
growth of a commercial economy, and created financial and credit
systems. A person’s merit began to be more valued than his status. A
vibrant culture blossomed in the towns, where the fast-growing class of
merchants patronised theatre and the arts. As people enjoyed reading,
it became possible for gifted writers to earn a living solely by writing. In
Edo, people could ‘rent’ a book for the price of a bowl of noodles. This
shows how popular reading had become and gives a glimpse into the
scale of printing*.
* Printing was done
with wood blocks.
The Japanese did
not like the
regularity of
European printing.
2020-21
Page 5


  231
Paths to Modernisation
EAST ASIA at the beginning of the nineteenth century was
dominated by China. The Qing dynasty, heir to a long tradition,
seemed secure in its power, while Japan, a small island country,
seemed to be locked in isolation. Yet, within a few decades China
was thrown into turmoil unable to face the colonial challenge.
The imperial government lost political control, was unable to reform
effectively and the country was convulsed by civil war. Japan on
the other hand was successful in building a modern nation-state,
creating an industrial economy and even establishing a colonial
empire by incorporating Taiwan (1895) and Korea (1910). It
defeated China, the land that had been the source of its culture
and ideals, in 1894, and Russia, a European power, in 1905.
The Chinese reacted slowly and faced immense difficulties as
they sought to redefine their traditions to cope with the modern
world, and to rebuild their national strength and become free
from Western and Japanese control. They found that they could
achieve both objectives – of removing inequalities and of rebuilding
their country – through revolution. The Chinese Communist Party
emerged victorious from the civil war in 1949. However, by the
end of the 1970s Chinese leaders felt that the ideological system
was retarding economic growth and development. This led to
wide-ranging reforms of the economy that brought back capitalism
and the free market even as the Communist Party retained
political control.
Japan became an advanced industrial nation but its drive for
empire led to war and defeat at the hands of the Anglo-American
forces. The US Occupation marked the beginning of a more
democratic political system and Japan rebuilt its economy to
emerge by the 1970s as a major economic power.
The Japanese path to modernisation was built on capitalist
principles and took place within a world dominated by Western
colonialism. Japanese expansion was justified by the call to resist
Western domination and liberate Asia. The rapid development
underlined the strength of tradition in Japanese institutions and
society, their ability to learn and the strength of nationalism.
China and Japan have had a long tradition of historical writings,
as history was an important guide for the rulers. The past
provided the standards by which they would be judged and
THEME
11
2020-21
232  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
the rulers established official departments to maintain records
and write dynastic histories. Sima Qian (145-90 BCE) is
considered the greatest historian of early China. In Japan,
Chinese cultural influence led to history being given a similar
importance. One of the earliest acts of the Meiji government
was to establish, in 1869, a bureau to collect records and
write, as it were, a victor’s version of the Meiji Restoration.
There was great respect for the written word and literary ability
was highly valued. This has meant that a wide range of written
materials – official histories, scholarly writings, popular
literature, religious tracts – are available. Printing and
publishing were important industries in the pre-modern period
and it is possible, for instance, to trace the distribution of a
book in eighteenth-century China or Japan. Modern scholars
have used these materials in new and different ways.
Modern scholarship has built on the work of Chinese
intellectuals such as Liang Qichao or Kume Kunitake (1839-
1931), one of the pioneers of modern history in Japan, as well
as earlier writings by European travellers, such as the Italian
Marco Polo (1254-1324, in China from 1274 to 1290), the Jesuit
priests Mateo Ricci (1552-1610) in China and Luis Frois (1532-
97), in Japan, all of whom left rich accounts of these countries.
It has also benefited from the writings of Christian missionaries
in the nineteenth century whose work provides valuable material
for our understanding of these countries.
Scholarship in English from Joseph Needham’s monumental
work on the history of science in Chinese civilisation or George
Sansom’s on Japanese history and culture has grown and there
is an immense body of sophisticated scholarship available to us
today. In recent years, writings by Chinese and Japanese
scholars have been translated into English, some of whom teach
abroad and write in English, and in the case of Chinese scholars,
since the 1980s, many have been working in Japan as well and
write in Japanese. This has meant that we have scholarly writings
from many parts of the globe that give us a richer and deeper
picture of these countries.
Naito Konan* (1866-1934)
A leading Japanese scholar of China, Naito Konan’s writings
influenced scholars worldwide. Using the new tools of Western
historiography Naito built on a long tradition of studying China
as well as bringing his experience as a journalist there. He helped
establish the Department of Oriental Studies in Kyoto University
in 1907. In Shinaron [On China (1914)], he argued that
republican government offered the Chinese a way to end
aristocratic control and centralised power that had existed since
the Sung dynasty (960-1279) – a way to revitalise local society
where reform must begin. He saw in Chinese history strengths
that would make it modern and democratic. Japan, he thought
had an important role to play in China but he underestimated
the power of Chinese nationalism.
*In Japan, the
surname is written
first.
2020-21
  233
Introduction
China and Japan present a marked physical contrast. China is a vast
continental country that spans many climatic zones; the core is
dominated by three major river systems: the Yellow River (Huang He),
the Yangtse River (Chang Jiang – the third longest river in the world)
and the Pearl River. A large part of the country is mountainous.
PATHS TO MODERNISATION
The dominant ethnic group are the Han and the major language is
Chinese (Putonghua) but there are many other nationalities, such as
the Uighur, Hui, Manchu and Tibetan, and aside from dialects, such as
Cantonese (Yue) and Shanghainese (Wu), there are other minority
languages spoken as well.
Chinese food reflects this regional diversity with at least four distinct
types. The best known is southern or Cantonese cuisine – as most
overseas Chinese come from the Canton area – which includes dim
sum (literally touch your heart), an assortment of pastries and
dumplings. In the north, wheat is the staple food, while in Szechuan
spices brought by Buddhist monks in the ancient period, along the
silk route, and chillies by Portuguese traders in the fifteenth century,
have created a fiery cuisine. In eastern China, both rice and wheat
are eaten.
MAP 1: East Asia
2020-21
234  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
Japan, by contrast, is a string of islands, the four largest being
Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku and Hokkaido. The Okinawan chain is the
southernmost, about the same latitude as the Bahamas. More than 50
per cent of the land area of the main islands is mountainous and Japan
is situated in a very active earthquake zone. These geographical
conditions have influenced architecture. The population is largely
Japanese but there are a small Ainu minority and Koreans who were
forcibly brought as labour when Korea was a Japanese colony.
Japan lacks a tradition of animal rearing. Rice is the staple crop and
fish the major source of protein. Raw fish (sashimi or sushi) has
now become a widely popular dish around the world as it is considered
very healthy.
JAPAN
The Political System
An emperor had ruled Japan from Kyoto but by the twelfth century the
imperial court lost power to shoguns, who in theory ruled in the name of
the emperor. From 1603 to 1867, members of the Tokugawa family held
the position of shogun. The country was divided into over 250 domains
under the rule of lords called daimyo. The shogun exercised power over the
domainal lords, ordering them to stay at the capital Edo (modern Tokyo)
for long periods so that they would not pose a threat. He also controlled the
major cities and mines. The samurai (the warrior class) were the ruling elite
and served the shoguns and daimyo.
In the late sixteenth century, three changes laid the pattern for future
development. One, the peasantry was disarmed and only the samurai could
carry swords. This ensured peace and order, ending the frequent wars of
the previous century. Two, the daimyo were ordered to live in the capitals of
their domains, each with a large degree of autonomy. Third, land surveys
identified owners and taxpayers and graded land productivity to ensure a
stable revenue base.
The daimyo’s capitals became bigger, so that by the mid-seventeenth
century, Japan not only had the most populated city in the world – Edo
– but also two other large cities – Osaka and Kyoto, and at least half a
dozen castle-towns with populations of over 50,000. (By contrast, most
European countries of the time had only one large city.) This led to the
growth of a commercial economy, and created financial and credit
systems. A person’s merit began to be more valued than his status. A
vibrant culture blossomed in the towns, where the fast-growing class of
merchants patronised theatre and the arts. As people enjoyed reading,
it became possible for gifted writers to earn a living solely by writing. In
Edo, people could ‘rent’ a book for the price of a bowl of noodles. This
shows how popular reading had become and gives a glimpse into the
scale of printing*.
* Printing was done
with wood blocks.
The Japanese did
not like the
regularity of
European printing.
2020-21
  235
Japan was considered rich, because it imported luxury goods
like silk from China and textiles from India. Paying for these
imports with gold and silver strained the economy and led the
Tokugawa to put restrictions on the export of precious metals.
They also took steps to develop the silk industry in Nishijin in
Kyoto so as to reduce imports. The silk from Nishijin came to be
known as the best in the world. Other developments such as the
increased use of money and the creation of a stock market in rice
show that the economy was developing in new ways.
Social and intellectual changes – such as the study of ancient
Japanese literature – led people to question the degree of Chinese
influence and to argue that the essence of being Japanese could be
found long before the contact with China, in such early classics as
the Tale of the Genji and in the myths of origin that said that the
islands were created by the gods and that the emperor was a
descendant of the Sun Goddess.
Tale of the Genji
A fictionalised diary of the Heian court written by Murasaki Shikibu,
the Tale of the Genji became the central work of fiction in Japanese
literature. That period saw the emergence of many women writers,
like Murasaki, who wrote in the Japanese script, while men wrote
in the Chinese script, used for education and government. The
novel depicts the romantic life of Prince Genji and is a striking
picture of the aristocratic atmosphere of the Heian court. It shows
the independence that women had in choosing their husbands
and living their lives.
The Meiji Restoration
Internal discontent coincided with demands for trade and diplomatic
relations. In 1853, the USA sent Commodore Matthew Perry (1794-
1858) to Japan to demand that the government sign a treaty that would
permit trade and open diplomatic relations, which it did the following
year. Japan lay on the route to China which the USA saw as a major
market; also, their whaling ships in the Pacific needed a place to refuel.
At that time, there was only one Western country that traded with
Japan, Holland.
Perry’s arrival had an important effect on Japanese politics. The emperor ,
who till then had had little political power, now re-emerged as an important
figure. In 1868, a movement forcibly removed the shogun from power, and
brought the Emperor to Edo. This was made the capital and renamed
Tokyo, which means ‘eastern capital’.
Nishijin is a quarter
in Kyoto. In the
sixteenth century, it
had a weavers’ guild
of 31 households
and by the end of
the seventeenth
century the
community
numbered over
70,000 people.
Sericulture spread
and was encouraged
by an order in 1713
that only domestic
yarn was to be used.
Nishijin specialised
only in the most
expensive products.
Silk production
helped the growth of
a class of regional
entrepreneurs who
challenged the
Tokugawa order, and
when foreign trade
started in 1859
Japan’s silk exports
became a major
source of profit for
the economy
struggling to
compete with
Western goods.
PATHS TO MODERNISATION
2020-21
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