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HIST241: Pre-Modern Northeast Asia

Unit 8: Splendid Isolation: Ming China and Japan   Squeezed between two “foreign” dynasties—the Yuan and the Qing—the Ming dynasty attempted to place Chinese governance back in Chinese hands.  Oppressed by the rule of the Mongols, the Ming rose to power when Zhu Yuanzhang, a military commander of peasant origins, led a revolt against the Mongols.  He declared himself emperor Hongwu in 1368 and sought to expel all Mongols and their influences.  After establishing himself at the capital in Nanjing, Hongwu worked to remedy what he saw as the defects of the Mongol system.  He styled himself as an absolutist ruler and consolidated his authority over the nobility.  He also reintroduced the civil service examination system and assumed control of much of the administration of his empire.  However, although commercial exchange between Ming China and European states increased exponentially during this time, Hongwu and his successors believed that isolationism, rather than exploration and expansion, would best preserve China.

And in Japan, feudalism persisted between the 1300s and 1700s.  During this period, powerful regional families called daimyo and Japanese warlords known as shogun dominated the state.  While conflict between the daimyos ushered in the era known as the “Warring States Period” in the latter fifteenth century, Japan became united politically and militarily by1600 under the leadership of Tokugawa.  Like China, Japan adopted a policy of isolationism despite persistent European ploys for commercial goods and Christian conversion.

In this unit, you will study how both Ming China and feudal Japan remained largely isolated from the European world, concentrating instead in internal development and domestic conflicts.

Unit 8 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: This unit should take you 10.75 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 8.1: 4.75 hours ☐    Introduction: 0.25 hour

☐    Subunit 8.1.3: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 8.1.4: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.2: 6 hours ☐    Introduction: 1.25 hours

☐    Subunit 8.2.1: 2.25 hours

☐    Subunit 8.2.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.2.3: 1 hour

Unit8 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
- Explain why the Ming Dynasty rulers sought to distance themselves from the Mongol Yuan Dynasty and restore the civil service bureaucracy of previous Chinese dynasties. - Describe how Tokugawa restricted foreign trade while keeping the country at peace in the wake of the Age of Reunification. - Analyze and contextualize the consumer and sexual culture of Edo Japan. - Explain why the rulers of Japan and China retreated from cultural and economic exchange with Europeans.

8.1 The Rise of the Ming Dynasty   - Reading: The Ohio State University: Professor Mark Bender’s Module 2: Histories of East Asia: “Chinese History: Shift towards “Modern times”: “Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644)” Link: The Ohio State University: Professor Mark Bender’s Module 2: Histories of East Asia: “Chinese History: Shift towards “Modern times”: “Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644)”] (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and then on the left-hand side of the page click on the link titled “Chinese History.”  Then, click on the links titled “Shift towards “Modern times”, and “Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644),” and read the entire section in order to understand how Zhu Yuanhang (later Hongwu) overthrew the Mongol rulers and established the Ming Dynasty in 1368 C.E.  Note that this reading will cover the material you need to know for Subunits 8.1.1 through 8.1.5.  This reading should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.

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8.1.1 Zhu Yuanzhang and the Defeat of the Yuan   Note: This topic is covered by Mark Bender’s reading assigned below subunit 8.1. Please focus on the first paragraph.

8.1.2 Scholar-Gentry Revival   Note: This topic is covered by Mark Bender’s reading assigned below subunit 8.1.  Please focus on the second paragraph.

8.1.3 Ming Culture   - Lecture: iTunes U: Oxford University: Craig Clunas’ “Painting as Visual and Material Culture in Ming China” Link: iTunes U: Oxford University: Craig Clunas’ “Painting as Visual and Material Culture in Ming China” (iTunes U)
 
Instructions: Scroll down to the title “Painting as Visual and Material…,” and select the “View in iTunes” link to launch the lecture.  Please listen to the entire 52-minute lecture from Oxford University Professor of the History of Art Craig Clunas in order to examine some of the cultural aspects of 16th century Ming China, namely the visual arts.  Professor Clunas situates painting in the social and economic context of the Ming Dynasty.  Think about how the skills required for painting and writing in calligraphy related to a person’s social status during the period and how this connects to the Song Dynasty notion of the “Three Perfections.”  Listening to this lecture and taking-notes should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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  • Reading: University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese CivilizationHistory: Professor Patricia Buckley Ebrey’s “Gardens” Link: University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese CivilizationHistory: Professor Patricia Buckley Ebrey’s “Gardens” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and explore the series of pages, complete with text and images that examine Chinese garden design, a significant cultural aspect of Ming Dynasty China.  Read the text on the initial webpage, and then click on the links for “Origin” through “Tour,” reviewing the information on each webpage.  This resource will explore the origin, design, and social uses of outdoor landscapes.  Be sure to answer the study questions that are woven into the text as they will help to focus your understanding of why garden design was such an integral aspect of Ming culture.  You should dedicate approximately 2 hours to studying the information on this website.
     
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8.1.4 Zhenghe Expeditions and Commercial Prosperity   - Reading: PBS NOVA: Evan Hadingham’s “Ancient Chinese Explorers” Link: PBS NOVA: Evan Hadingham’s “Ancient Chinese Explorers” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire article in order to examine the era of cross-cultural trade and Chinese sea power in the Indian Ocean basin during the Ming Dynasty.  Of particular note are the exploits of the eunuch admiral Zhenghe (or Zheng He), who sailed on numerous trading missions to distant ports in Africa and India aboard ships that dwarfed the European watercraft of the time.  This reading should take you approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
Note that this topic is also covered by the reading assigned below subunit 8.1.  Please focus on the third and fourth paragraphs of the subunit 8.1 reading as these detail the explorations of Zheng He and the agricultural advances of the Ming Dynasty.
 
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  • Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators: Dr. Sue Gronewald’s “The Ming Voyages” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators: Dr. Sue Gronewald’s “The Ming Voyages” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this entire essay on the voyages of exploration that took place during the Ming Dynasty.  Please read over and try to answer the discussion questions at the end to gain a sense of your understanding of the material presented in this subunit.  Reading, note-taking, and answering questions should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
     
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8.1.5 European Contact and Isolationist Policy   Note: This topic is covered by the reading assigned below subunit 8.1.  Please focus on the third, fourth, and fifth paragraphs to understand how the Ming Dynasty both benefited and eventually turned away from European influences.

8.2 Political Unity in Japan   - Reading: The Ohio State University: Professor Mark Bender’s Module 2: Histories of East Asia: “Japanese History”  Link: The Ohio State University: Professor Mark Bender’s Module 2: Histories of East Asia: “Japanese History” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the Ohio State University’s webpage.  Then, on the left side of the webpage, click on the link entitled “Japanese History,” and next click on the link to “Tokugawa (Edo) Period AD 1600-1867.”  Read this entire section.  This reading should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.
 
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  • Reading: Penn State University: Professor Gregory James Smits’ Topics in Pre-Modern Japanese History: “Chapter 6: Early-Modern Japan, The Political Narrative” Link: Penn State University: Professor Gregory James Smits’ Topics in Pre-Modern Japanese History: “Chapter 6: Early-Modern Japan, The Political Narrative” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the links titled “Japan Reunified” and “First Fifty Years of the Tokugawa Peridod [sic]” on the left-hand side of the screen.  Read these sections in order to explore unification of Japan under Oda Nabunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and ultimately Tokugawa Ieyasu.  Note that this reading will cover the material you need to know for Subunits 8.2.1 and 8.2.2.  Some of the embedded hyperlinks in the text are broken, but most links provide images and additional resources for exploring.  This reading and note-taking should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.

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8.2.1 The Floating World and Tokugawa Culture   - Reading: Penn State University: Professor Gregory James Smits’ Topics in Japanese Cultural History: “Chapter 7: The World of Sex in Tokugawa and Meiji Japan” Link: Penn State University: Professor Gregory James Smits’ Topics in Japanese Cultural History: “Chapter 7: The World of Sex in Tokugawa and Meiji Japan
 (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the links entitled “Woodblock Prints as Popular, Consumable Culture” and “The Language of Sex in Tokugawa Japan” on the left-hand side of the screen.  Read these sections to get a sense of the consumer culture, namely in the form of woodblock prints during the Tokugawa period. These readings also examine the culture and language of sexuality in Edo society. Think about the idea of ukiyo-e or “The Floating World.”  How does it compare/contrast with the political landscape of the Edo period?  What can we learn from studying aspects of Japanese commercial culture?  Some of the embedded hyperlinks in the text are broken, but most links provide images and additional resources for exploring.  This reading should take you approximately 1 and 30 minutes hour to complete.

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  • Reading: George Mason University: Roy Rosenzweig Center for History’s Women in World History: Early Modern Period Primary Sources: Kaibara Ekiken or Kaibara Token’s “Onna daigaku / Greater Learning for Women” Link: George Mason University: Roy Rosenzweig Center for History’s Women in World History: Early Modern Period Primary Sources: Kaibara Ekiken or Kaibara Token’s “Onna daigaku / Greater Learning for Women” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this brief primary source excerpt from the 18th century. Written during the Edo period, this excerpt discusses the gender roles of women in Japanese society.  While later generations would criticize its premise, Kaibara, a Confucian scholar outlines the societal expectations of a woman from youth to adulthood.  How does this passive and submissive view compare to the other depictions of women’s roles presented in this course, such as Ban Zhao’s Lessons for Women from Han Dynasty China?  This reading and question should take you approximately 45 minutes to complete.
     
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8.2.2 European and Christian Influences   - Reading: Smithsonian Institution: Freer & Sackler Galleries’ Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries Online Exhibit, “Arrival of the Southern Barbarians” Link: Smithsonian Institution: Freer & Sackler Galleries’ Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries Online Exhibit, “Arrival of the Southern Barbarians” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the links on the left-hand side of the screen entitled, “Introduction,” “Christianity,” “Martyrdom,” “Trade,” and “Warfare.”  Read each section in its entirety to explore the complicated relationship that develops between the Japanese and European missionaries and traders.  Be sure to click on the images in each section to examine some of the visual depictions of Europeans and objects of material culture that would have been traded in this region.  You should spend approximately 30 minutes reading and viewing these images.
 
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  • Reading: Fordham University’s Modern History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of St. Francis Xavier’s Letter from Japan, to the Society of Jesus at Goa, 1551 Link: Fordham University’s Modern History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of St. Francis Xavier’s Letter from Japan, to the Society of Jesus at Goa, 1551 (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this letter in its entirety written by the Catholic missionary St. Francis Xavier in 1551 to his fellow brothers in the Society of Jesus in Goa (now present-day India).  In the letter, he describes the difficulties he encountered during his mission to evangelize the Christian gospel to the people of Japan in the 16th century.  This reading and note-taking should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
     
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8.2.3 Isolationism   - Reading: Wake Forest University: Professor Sarah Lyons Watts’ version of Tokugawa Iemitsu’s “Closed Country Edict of 1635” and “Exclusion of the Portuguese, 1639” (HTML) Link: Wake Forest University: Professor Sarah Lyons Watts’ version of Tokugawa Iemitsu’s “Closed Country Edict of 1635” and “Exclusion of the Portuguese, 1639” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read these two primary sources from the Tokugawa period to examine the reasoning behind the Japanese decision to isolate themselves from almost all western influences in the 17th century.  Try to answer the “Questions for Analysis” in order to test your understanding of Japanese isolationist policy.  This topic is also covered by the reading from the Ohio State University assigned below subunit 8.2, specifically the sub-section “Tokugawa (Edo) Period AD 1600-1867.”  Focus on the third paragraph to understand why the Japanese chose to become an isolationist society in the 17th century.  Reading and studying the questions should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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