Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eastern Asia, South Asia, and Africa, 1200-1500

I. Centralization and Militarism in East Asia, 1200-1500

A. Korea from the Mongols to the Yi, 1231-1500

1. Mongol conquest--Korea was the answer to the Mongol search for coastal areas from which to launch naval expeditions and choke off the sea trade of their adversaries. After twenty years of defensive war, Korea was left with a ravaged countryside and a depleted treasury, as well as other losses. The Korean military commander (analagous to the Japanese shogun) was killed by his underlings in 1258, and soon afterward the Koryo king surrendered to the Mongols.

2. Breakdown of Isolation--Mongol control broke down centuries of comparative isolation. Cotton was introduced in southern Korea, gunpowder came into use, and the art of calendar-making stimulated astronomical obersvation and mathematics. Avenuues of advancement opened for Korean scholars willing to learn Mongolian, landowners willing to open their lands to falconry and grazing, and merchants servicing the new royal exchanges with Beijing.

3. Yi Dynasty--when the Yuan Dynasty in China fell in 1368, the Koryo ruling family remained loyal to the Mongols, and had to be forced to recognize the new Ming Empire. In 1392 the Yi established a new kingdom in Seoul and sought to re-establish a distinctive Korean identity. Like Russia and Ming China, the Yi regime publicly rejected the period of Mongol domination, yet still employed Mongol-style land surveys, taxation in kind, and military garrison techniques.

4. Korean Printing--Like the Ming emperors, the Yi kings revived the study of the Confucian classics, and this may have spurred a technological breakthrough in printing. Working directly with the king, Yi printers developed a reliable device to anchor the pieces of type securely to the printing plate. This enhanced the legibililty and accuracy of the printing, and made the production of a high volume of printed material possible. This allowed Korean printers to not only produce Confucian texts, but also manuals for producing and using fertilizer, transplanting rice seedlings, and engineering resevoirs.

5. Cotton and gunpowder--farmers in Korea expanded the cultivation of cash crops, just the opposite of what was occuring in Ming China. Cotton was the primary cash crop, and was so valuable that the government accepted it for tax payments. The Korean army was outfitted in cotton, and it was the preferred wear among Korean elites, as well. Although the Chinese attempted to prevent anyone else from learning the formula for gunpowder, the Yi government gained that knowledge, and by the late 1300s had mounted cannon on ships that patrolled against pirates. This firepower, along with the armoring of ships, made the small Korean navy a formidable force.

B. Political Transformation in Japan, 1274-1500

1. Mongol attacks--After securing Korea, the Mongols looked toward Japan--an easy reach from the Korean peninsula. In 1274 the Mongols launched their first 30,000 man attack that included cavalry forces, archers, and sailors, and decimated the Japanese defenders. A great storm on the Hakata Bay on the north side of Kyushu Island prevented the establishment of a beachhead, however, and led to the withdrawal of the Mongols to Korea.

2. Kamakura Shogunate--the Japanese shogun was the real power in the country, the "protector" of the emperor. The Kamakura Shogun had been established in 1185, and the Kamakura family remained in power by keeping the other elite families as nearly equal as possible, so that none could challenge their supremacy. The shogun distributed land and privileges to his followers, and they in turn supplied him with soldiers. These families were largely isolated from each other, until the threat from the Mongol invaders. After the initial invasion, power was much more centralized.

3. The Divine Wind--the Mongols did not attack again until 1281. In the intervening years, the Japanese had prepared for this second invasion, studying and training how to fight against the advanced weaponry of the Mongols. With these new techniques and fortifications, the Japanese were able to fight the Mongols to a standoff, until a typhoon struck the Mongol fleet and sunk perhaps half of the ships, and forced another Mongol retreat. The Japanese stood ready for a third attempt, which never came; they expense of maintaining the defenses eventually led to financial difficulties for the Kamakura.

4. The Ashikaga Shogunate--with the weakening of the Kamakura, the emperor Go-Daigo broke with centuries of tradition, and attempted to reclaim power from the shoguns. This led to a civil war that destroyed the Kamakura system. In 1338, with the Mongol threat waning, the Ashikaga Shogunate took control at the imperial center of Kyoto.

5. Zen Buddhism--Growing wealth and relative peace stimulated artistic creativity, mostly reflecting the Zen Buddhist beliefs of the warrior elite, which found expression in the simple elegance of architecture and gardens, the contemplative landscape painting of artists, and the eerie, stylized performances of Noh theater.

6. Onin War--Despite the technological advancement, artistic productivity, and rapid urbanization of this era, however, civil war nearly destroyed this warlord system. Regional rivalries among familes led to the great Onin War in 1477 that left Kyoto devastated and the Ashikuna Shogunate a central government in name only.

C. The Emergence of Vietnam, 1200-1500

1. Annam and Champa--Before the first Mongol attack in 1257, Annam and Champa had clashed frequently. While Annam looked to China for political ideas, social philosophies, trade, dress, religion, and language, Champa was more heavily influenced by the trading networks of the Indian Ocean.

2. Annam's victory--The Mongols exacted tribute from both Annam and Champa until the fall of the Yuan Empire in 1368. Mongol poltical and military ambitions were focused largely elsewhere, however, and Annam attempted to take advantage of this lack of attention and moved a majority of its troops to its southern border with Champa. Ming troops instead overran Annam, occupied its capital, Hanoi, and installed a puppet government. Almost thirty years elapsed befor Annam regained independence and resumed a tributary status. By then, the Ming had turned north to meet yet another Mongol threat, and Annam, in a series of ruthless campaigns, terminated Champa's independence and began the establishment of the modern state of Vietnam.

II. Tropical Lands and Peoples

A. The Tropical Environment--Because of the angle of the Earth's axis, the sun's rays warm the tropics year-round. The equator marks the center of the tropical zone, with the Tropic of Cance and the Tropic of Capricorn marking the northern and southern outer limits of the tropics.

1. Monsoon system--in the lands around the Indian Ocean, the rainy and dry season reflect the influence of alternating winds known as monsoons. A gigantic high-pressure zone over the Himalaya's that peaks from December to March produces southern Asia's dry season through a strong southward air movement (the northeast monsoon) in the western Indian Ocean. Between April and August, a low-pressure zone over India creates a northward movement of air from across the Indian Ocean (the southwest monsoon) that brings southern Asia the heavy rains of the wet season.

B. Human Ecosystems--Thinkers in temperate climates once imagined that surviving in the tropics was merely a matter of picking wild fruit off trees. A careful observer touring the tropics in 1200 would have noticed, however, many differences in societies deriving from their particular ecosystem--that is, from how human groups used the plants, animals, and other resources of their physical environments.

1. Hunter and fishers--domesticated plants and animals had become commonplace long before 1200, but people in some environments continued to rely primarily on hunting, fishing, and gathering.

2. Herders--herding provided sustenance in areas too arid for agriculture. Pastoralists consumed milk from their herds and traded hides and meat to farmers in return for grains and vegetables. The world's largest concentration of pastoralists inhabited the arid and semi-arid lands of northeastern Africa and Arabia.

3. Farmers--The density of agricultural populations reflected the adequacy of rainfall and soils. South and Southeast Asia were generally wetter than tropical Africa, making intensive agriculture possible. High yields supported denser populations; by 1200, over 100 million people lived in South and Southeast Asia.

C. Water Systems and Irrigation

1. Irrigation systems--Though the inland delta of the Niger River received naturally fertilizing annual floods, many tropical farmers had to move the water to their crops. Conserving some of the monsoon rainfall for use during the dry season helped in Vietnam, Java, Malay, and Burma, which had terraced hillsides with special water control systems for growing rice. Northern and southern India also had water-storage dams and irrigation canals. Government collapse, such as happened in 12th century Ceylon and 18th century Cambodia, could have devastating effects on the maintenance of such structures, which led to their failure.

D. Mineral Resources--the most productive metal trade in the tropics was ironworking, which provided the hoes, axes, and knives farmers used to clear their fields. Between 1200 and 1500, the rain forests of coastal West Africa and Southeast Asia opened up for farming.

1. Copper--and its alloys had special importance in southwestern Africa. Copper was used in coins, while bronze (copper plus zinc) was used extensively in artwork.

2. Gold--African gold moved across the Sahara in great quantities, and then into the Red Sea trade and the Indian Ocean trading system, as well. Some of this gold came from the streambeds of the Niger River in modern Ghana, where it was panned by prospectors; much else, however, was mined for, especially in the hill south of the Zambezi River in current-day Zimbabwe.

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