News

East Asia in the year 1 CE

East Asia in the year 1 CE


History of East Asia

Greco-Roman culture is the foundation of Western civilization all Western nations (despite their immense diversity) therefore have much in common, culturally speaking. Several other large regions of the world, namely South Asia, East Asia, and the Middle East, also feature a shared cultural foundation (see Global Civilizations). The unifying foundation of South Asia is Indian culture of East Asia, Chinese culture of the Middle East, Islamic culture.

Geography

East Asia consists of China, Mongolia, Japan, and Korea.

In historical discussion, "China" refers mainly to the eastern half of modern China. This region, pierced by the great Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, is the heartland of Chinese civilization. Only late in Chinese history was the western part of the nation firmly acquired.

Eastern China is a temperate, forested region (see Climates and Biomes). This makes it far more hospitable to civilization than the western part, most of which is covered by the Tibetan Plateau (the world's largest and highest plateau) and the mountains surrounding it (which include the Himalayan range, along the plateau's southern edge) moreover, the far north of western China is largely desert. Consequently, urbanization has always been much weaker in the western half of China.

The region of Tibet, which corresponds roughly with the Tibetan Plateau, was generally governed by native kingdoms until permanent Chinese conquest in the eighteenth century. Culturally speaking, Tibet was strongly influenced by both South Asia (to this day, Tibet is predominantly Buddhist) and East Asia.


India and South Asia 1000 BCE

In this dark age of ancient Indian history the Aryan people are laying the foundations of future Indian civilization.

Subscribe for more great content – and remove ads

Lost your way? See a list of all maps

Subscribe for more great content – and remove ads

Civilizations

Subscribe for more great content – and remove ads

What is happening in India and South Asia in 1000BCE

The Caste System

The past centuries the Indo-European peoples (Aryans) have spread across northern India and have begun to live in settled villages and tribal states. These are ruled over by the leaders of prominent Aryan clans, now emerging as kings. It is probably around this time in ancient India’s history that the four earliest castes appear in Aryan society: Brahmins (priests), Ksatriyas (warriors and rulers), Vaisya (the broad mass of tribesmen – farmers, craftsmen and merchants), and the descendants of conquered peoples relegated to a subservient role in society as Sudras (servants and laborers). This simple four-tiered caste system will become ever more elaborate as the history of India progresses.

The Vedic Age

At this time also, a rich religious oral tradition is being developed, revolving around the doings of the Aryan’s pantheon of gods and goddesses. This will later form the Vedas, the most ancient scriptures of the Hindu world and one of the most important foundations for Indian civilization. This period of history is therefore known as the Vedic Age of ancient India.


Contents

Radiocarbon dating of a cave at Laang Spean in Battambang Province, northwest Cambodia confirmed the presence of Hoabinhian stone tools from 6000–7000 BCE and pottery from 4200 BCE. [29] [30] Starting in 2009 archaeological research of the Franco-Cambodian Prehistoric Mission has documented a complete cultural sequence from 71.000 years BP to the Neolithic period in the cave. [31] Finds since 2012 lead to the common interpretation, that the cave contains the archaeological remains of a first occupation by hunter and gatherer groups, followed by Neolithic people with highly developed hunting strategies and stone tool making techniques, as well as highly artistic pottery making and design, and with elaborate social, cultural, symbolic and exequial practices. [32]

Skulls and human bones found at Samrong Sen in Kampong Chhnang Province date from 1500 BCE. Heng Sophady (2007) has drawn comparisons between Samrong Sen and the circular earthwork sites of eastern Cambodia. These people may have migrated from South-eastern China to the Indochinese Peninsula. Scholars trace the first cultivation of rice and the first bronze making in Southeast Asia to these people. [33]

2010 Examination of skeletal material from graves at Phum Snay in north-west Cambodia revealed an exceptionally high number of injuries, especially to the head, likely to have been caused by interpersonal violence. The graves also contain a quantity of swords and other offensive weapons used in conflict. [34]

The Iron Age period of Southeast Asia begins around 500 BCE and lasts until the end of the Funan era - around 500 A.D. as it provides the first concrete evidence for sustained maritime trade and socio-political interaction with India and South Asia. By the 1st century settlers have developed complex, organised societies and a varied religious cosmology, that required advanced spoken languages very much related to those of the present day. The most advanced groups lived along the coast and in the lower Mekong River valley and the delta regions in houses on stilts where they cultivated rice, fished and kept domesticated animals. [3] [35] [36] [37]

Chinese annals [38] contain detailed records of the first known organised polity, the Kingdom of Funan, on Cambodian and Vietnamese territory characterised by "high population and urban centers, the production of surplus food. socio-political stratification [and] legitimized by Indian religious ideologies". [39] [40] Centered around the lower Mekong and Bassac rivers from the first to sixth century CE with "walled and moated cities" [41] such as Angkor Borei in Takeo Province and Óc Eo in modern An Giang Province, Vietnam.

Early Funan was composed of loose communities, each with its own ruler, linked by a common culture and a shared economy of rice farming people in the hinterland and traders in the coastal towns, who were economically interdependent, as surplus rice production found its way to the ports. [42]

By the second century CE Funan controlled the strategic coastline of Indochina and the maritime trade routes. Cultural and religious ideas reached Funan via the Indian Ocean trade route. Trade with India had commenced well before 500 BCE as Sanskrit hadn't yet replaced Pali. [4] Funan's language has been determined as to have been an early form of Khmer and its written form was Sanskrit. [43]

In the period 245–250 CE dignitaries of the Chinese Kingdom of Wu visited the Funan city Vyadharapura. [44] [45] Envoys Kang Tai and Zhu Ying defined Funan as to be a distinct Hindu culture. [46] Trade with China had begun after the southward expansion of the Han Dynasty, around the 2nd century BCE Effectively Funan "controlled strategic land routes in addition to coastal areas" [47] and occupied a prominent position as an "economic and administrative hub" [48] [49] between The Indian Ocean trade network and China, collectively known as the Maritime Silk Road. Trade routes, that eventually ended in distant Rome are corroborated by Roman and Persian coins and artefacts, unearthed at archaeological sites of 2nd and 3rd century settlements. [3] [50]

Funan is associated with myths, such as the Kattigara legend and the Khmer founding legend in which an Indian Brahman or prince named Preah Thaong in Khmer, Kaundinya in Sanskrit and Hun-t’ien in Chinese records marries the local ruler, a princess named Nagi Soma (Lieu-Ye in Chinese records), thus establishing the first Cambodian royal dynasty. [51]

Scholars debate as to how deep the narrative is rooted in actual events and on Kaundinya's origin and status. [52] [53] A Chinese document, that underwent 4 alterations [54] and a 3rd-century epigraphic inscription of Champa are the contemporary sources. [55] Some scholars consider the story to be simply an allegory for the diffusion of Indic Hindu and Buddhist beliefs into ancient local cosmology and culture [56] whereas some historians dismiss it chronologically. [57]

Chinese annals report that Funan reached its territorial climax in the early 3rd century under the rule of king Fan Shih-man, extending as far south as Malaysia and as far west as Burma. A system of mercantilism in commercial monopolies was established. Exports ranged from forest products to precious metals and commodities such as gold, elephants, ivory, rhinoceros horn, kingfisher feathers, wild spices like cardamom, lacquer, hides and aromatic wood. Under Fan Shih-man Funan maintained a formidable fleet and was administered by an advanced bureaucracy, based on a "tribute-based economy, that produced a surplus which was used to support foreign traders along its coasts and ostensibly to launch expansionist missions to the west and south". [3]

Historians maintain contradicting ideas about Funan's political status and integrity. [58] Miriam T. Stark calls it simply Funan: [The]"notion of Fu Nan as an early "state". has been built largely by historians using documentary and historical evidence" and Michael Vickery remarks: "Nevertheless, it is. unlikely that the several ports constituted a unified state, much less an 'empire'". [59] Other sources though, imply imperial status: "Vassal kingdoms spread to southern Vietnam in the east and to the Malay peninsula in the west" [60] and "Here we will look at two empires of this period. Funan and Srivijaya". [61]

The question of how Funan came to an end is in the face of almost universal scholarly conflict impossible to pin down. Chenla is the name of Funan's successor in Chinese annals, first appearing in 616/617 CE

. the fall of Funan was not the result of the shifting of maritime trade route from the Malay Peninsula route to the Strait of Malacca starting from the 5th century CE rather, it suggests that the conquest of Funan by Zhenla was the exact reason for the shifting of maritime trade route in the 7th century CE. [62]

"As Funan was indeed in decline caused by shifts in Southeast Asian maritime trade routes, rulers had to seek new sources of wealth inland." [63]

"By the end of the fifth century, international trade through southeast Asia was almost entirely directed through the Strait of Malacca. Funan, from the point of view of this trade, had outlived its usefulness." [64]

"Nothing in the epigraphical record authorizes such interpretations and the inscriptions which retrospectively bridge the so- called Funan-Chenla transition do not indicate a political break at all."

[65]

The archaeological approach to and interpretation of the entire early historic period is considered to be a decisive supplement for future research. [66] The "Lower Mekong Archaeological Project" focuses on the development of political complexity in this region during the early historic period. LOMAP survey results of 2003 to 2005, for example, have helped to determine that ". the region’s importance continued unabated throughout the pre-Angkorian period. and that at least three [surveyed areas] bear Angkorian-period dates and suggest the continued importance of the delta." [3]

The History of the Chinese Sui dynasty contains records that a state called Chenla sent an embassy to China in 616 or 617 CE It says, that Chenla was a vassal of Funan, but under its ruler Citrasena-Mahendravarman conquered Funan and gained independence. [67]

Most of the Chinese recordings on Chenla, including that of Chenla conquering Funan, have been contested since the 1970s as they are generally based on single remarks in the Chinese annals, as author Claude Jacques emphasised the very vague character of the Chinese terms 'Funan' and 'Chenla', while more domestic epigraphic sources become available. Claude Jacques summarises: "Very basic historical mistakes have been made" because "the history of pre-Angkorean Cambodia was reconstructed much more on the basis of Chinese records than on that of [Cambodian] inscriptions" and as new inscriptions were discovered, researchers "preferred to adjust the newly discovered facts to the initial outline rather than to call the Chinese reports into question". [68]

The notion of Chenla's centre being in modern Laos has also been contested. "All that is required is that it be inland from Funan." [69] The most important political record of pre-Angkor Cambodia, the inscription K53 from Ba Phnom, dated 667 CE does not indicate any political discontinuity, either in royal succession of kings Rudravarman, Bhavavarman I, Mahendravarman [Citrasena], Īśānavarman, and Jayavarman I or in the status of the family of officials who produced the inscription. Another inscription of a few years later, K44, 674 CE, commemorating a foundation in Kampot province under the patronage of Jayavarman I, refers to an earlier foundation in the time of King Raudravarma, presumably Rudravarman of Funan, and again there is no suggestion of political discontinuity.

The History of the T'ang asserts that shortly after 706 the country was split into Land Chenla and Water Chenla. The names signify a northern and a southern half, which may conveniently be referred to as Upper and Lower Chenla. [70]

By the late 8th century Water Chenla had become a vassal of the Sailendra dynasty of Java – the last of its kings were killed and the polity incorporated into the Javanese monarchy around 790 CE. Land Chenla acquired independence under Jayavarman II in 802 CE [71]

The Khmers, vassals of Funan, reached the Mekong river from the northern Menam River via the Mun River Valley. Chenla, their first independent state developed out of Funanese influence. [72]

Ancient Chinese records mention two kings, Shrutavarman and Shreshthavarman who ruled at the capital Shreshthapura located in modern-day southern Laos. The immense influence on the identity of Cambodia to come was wrought by the Khmer Kingdom of Bhavapura, in the modern day Cambodian city of Kampong Thom. Its legacy was its most important sovereign, Ishanavarman who completely conquered the kingdom of Funan during 612–628. He chose his new capital at the Sambor Prei Kuk, naming it Ishanapura. [73]

The six centuries of the Khmer Empire are characterised by unparalleled technical and artistic progress and achievements, political integrity and administrative stability. The empire represents the cultural and technical apogee of the Cambodian and Southeast Asian pre-industrial civilisation. [74]

The Khmer Empire was preceded by Chenla, a polity with shifting centres of power, which was split into Land Chenla and Water Chenla in the early 8th century. [75] By the late 8th century Water Chenla was absorbed by the Malays of the Srivijaya Empire and the Javanese of the Shailandra Empire and eventually incorporated into Java and Srivijaya. [71] Jayavarman II, ruler of Land Chenla, initiates a mythical Hindu consecration ceremony at Mount Kulen (Mount Mahendra) in 802 CE, intended to proclaim political autonomy and royal legitimacy. As he declared himself devaraja - god-king, divinely appointed and uncontested, he simultaneously declares independence from Shailandra and Srivijaya. He established Hariharalaya, the first capital of the Angkorean area near the modern town of Roluos. [76]

Indravarman I (877–889) and his son and successor Yasovarman I (889–900), who established the capital Yasodharapura ordered the construction of huge water reservoirs (barays) north of the capital. The water management network depended on elaborate configurations of channels, ponds, and embankments built from huge quantities of clayey sand, the available bulk material on the Angkor plain. Dikes of the East Baray still exist today, which are more than 7 km (4 mi) long and 1.8 km (1 mi) wide. The largest component is the West Baray, a reservoir about 8 km (5 mi) long and 2 km (1 mi) across, containing approximately 50 million m 3 of water. [77]

Royal administration was based on the religious idea of the Shivaite Hindu state and the central cult of the sovereign as warlord and protector – the "Varman". This centralised system of governance appointed royal functionaries to provinces. The Mahidharapura dynasty – its first king was Jayavarman VI (1080 to 1107), which originated west of the Dângrêk Mountains in the Mun river valley discontinued the old "ritual policy", genealogical traditions and crucially, Hinduism as exclusive state religion. Some historians relate the empires' decline to these religious discontinuities. [78] [79]

The area that comprises the various capitals was spread out over around 1,000 km 2 (386 sq mi), it is nowadays commonly called Angkor. The combination of sophisticated wet-rice agriculture, based on an engineered irrigation system and the Tonlé Sap's spectacular abundance in fish and aquatic fauna, as protein source guaranteed a regular food surplus. Recent Geo-surveys have confirmed that Angkor maintained the largest pre-industrial settlement complex worldwide during the 12th and 13th centuries – some three quarters of a million people lived there. Sizeable contingents of the public workforce were to be redirected to monument building and infrastructure maintenance. A growing number of researchers relates the progressive over-exploitation of the delicate local eco-system and its resources alongside large scale deforestation and resulting erosion to the empires' eventual decline. [80]

Under king Suryavarman II (1113–1150) the empire reached its greatest geographic extent as it directly or indirectly controlled Indochina, the Gulf of Thailand and large areas of northern maritime Southeast Asia. Suryavarman II commissioned the temple of Angkor Wat, built in a period of 37 years, its five towers representing Mount Meru is considered to be the most accomplished expression of classical Khmer architecture. However, territorial expansion ended when Suryavarman II was killed in battle attempting to invade Đại Việt. It was followed by a period of dynastic upheaval and a Cham invasion that culminated in the sack of Angkor in 1177.

King Jayavarman VII (reigned 1181–1219) is generally considered to be Cambodia's greatest King. A Mahayana Buddhist, he initiates his reign by striking back against Champa in a successful campaign. During his nearly forty years in power he becomes the most prolific monument builder, who establishes the city of Angkor Thom with its central temple the Bayon. Further outstanding works are attributed to him – Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, Neak Pean and Sra Srang. The construction of an impressive number of utilitarian and secular projects and edifices, such as maintenance of the extensive road network of Suryavarman I, in particular the royal road to Phimai and the many rest houses, bridges and hospitals make Jayavarman VII unique among all imperial rulers. [81]

In August 1296, the Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan arrived at Angkor and remained at the court of king Srindravarman until July 1297. He wrote a detailed report, The Customs of Cambodia, on life in Angkor. His portrayal is one of the most important sources of understanding historical Angkor as the text offers valuable information on the everyday life and the habits of the inhabitants of Angkor. [82]

The last Sanskrit inscription is dated 1327, and records the succession of Indrajayavarman by Jayavarman IX Parameshwara (1327–1336).

The empire was an agrarian state that consisted essentially of three social classes, the elite, workers and slaves. The elite included advisers, military leaders, courtiers, priests, religious ascetics and officials. Workers included agricultural labourers and also a variety of craftsman for construction projects. Slaves were often captives from military campaigns or distant villages. Coinage did not exist and the barter economy was based on agricultural produce, principally rice, with regional trade as an insignificant part of the economy. [83] [84]

The term "Post-Angkor Period of Cambodia", also the "Middle Period" [85] refers to the historical era from the early 15th century to 1863, the beginning of the French Protectorate of Cambodia. Reliable sources – particularly for the 15th and 16th century – are very rare. A conclusive explanation that relates to concrete events manifesting the decline of the Khmer Empire has not yet been produced. [86] [87] However, most modern historians consent that several distinct and gradual changes of religious, dynastic, administrative and military nature, environmental problems and ecological imbalance [88] coincided with shifts of power in Indochina and must all be taken into account to make an interpretation. [89] [90] [91] In recent years, focus has notably shifted towards studies on climate changes, human–environment interactions and the ecological consequences. [92] [93] [94] [95]

Epigraphy in temples, ends in the third decade of the fourteenth, and does not resume until the mid-16th century. Recording of the Royal Chronology discontinues with King Jayavarman IX Parameshwara (or Jayavarma-Paramesvara) – there exists not a single contemporary record of even a king's name for over 200 years. Construction of monumental temple architecture had come to a standstill after Jayavarman VII's reign. According to author Michael Vickery there only exist external sources for Cambodia's 15th century, the Chinese Ming Shilu annals and the earliest Royal Chronicle of Ayutthaya. [96] [97] Wang Shi-zhen (王世貞), a Chinese scholar of the 16th century, remarked: "The official historians are unrestrained and are skilful at concealing the truth but the memorials and statutes they record and the documents they copy cannot be discarded." [98] [99]

The central reference point for the entire 15th century is a Siamese intervention of some undisclosed nature at the capital Yasodharapura (Angkor Thom) around the year 1431. Historians relate the event to the shift of Cambodia's political centre southward to the region of Phnom Penh, Longvek and later Oudong. [12] [100]

"As Siam became Cambodia’s primary nemesis after the demise of Angkor, it put an end to the pattern of ambivalent sovereignty that Cambodia’s imperial experiment on its western frontier had so effectively prolonged." [101]

Sources for the 16th century are more numerous. The kingdom is centred at the Mekong, prospering as an integral part of the Asian maritime trade network, [102] [103] via which the first contact with European explorers and adventurers does occur. [104] Wars with the Siamese result in loss of territory and eventually the conquest of the capital Longvek in 1594. The Vietnamese on their "Southward March" reach Prei Nokor/Saigon at the Mekong Delta in the 17th century. This event initiates the slow process of Cambodia losing access to the seas and independent marine trade. [105]

Siamese and Vietnamese dominance intensified during the 17th and 18th century, resulting in frequent displacements of the seat of power as the Khmer royal authority decreased to the state of a vassal. [106] [107] In the early 19th century with dynasties in Vietnam and Siam firmly established, Cambodia was placed under joint suzerainty, having lost its national sovereignty. British agent John Crawfurd states: ". the King of that ancient Kingdom is ready to throw himself under the protection of any European nation. " To save Cambodia from being incorporated into Vietnam and Siam, King Ang Duong agreed to colonial France's offers of protection, which took effect with King Norodom Prohmbarirak signing and officially recognising the French protectorate on 11 August 1863. [108] [109]

In August 1863 King Norodom signed an agreement with the French placing the kingdom under the protection of France. [37] The original treaty left Cambodian sovereignty intact, but French control gradually increased, with important landmarks in 1877, 1884, and 1897, until by the end of the century the king's authority no longer existed outside the palace. [110] Norodom died in 1904, and his two successors, Sisowath and Monivong, were content to allow the French to control the country, but in 1940 France was defeated in a brief border war with Thailand and forced to surrender the provinces of Battambang and Angkor (the ancient site of Angkor itself was retained). King Monivong died in April 1941, [37] and the French placed the obscure Prince Sihanouk on the throne as king, believing that the inexperienced 18-year old would be more pliable than Monivong's middle-aged son, Prince Monireth.

Cambodia's situation at the end of the war was chaotic. [37] The Free French, under General Charles de Gaulle, were determined to recover Indochina, though they offered Cambodia and the other Indochinese protectorates a carefully circumscribed measure of self-government. [37] Convinced that they had a "civilizing mission", they envisioned Indochina's participation in a French Union of former colonies that shared the common experience of French culture. [111] [37]

On 9 March 1945, during the Japanese occupation of Cambodia, young king Norodom Sihanouk proclaimed an independent Kingdom of Kampuchea, following a formal request by the Japanese. Shortly thereafter the Japanese government nominally ratified the independence of Cambodia and established a consulate in Phnom Penh. [112] The new government did away with the romanisation of the Khmer language that the French colonial administration was beginning to enforce and officially reinstated the Khmer script. This measure taken by the short-lived governmental authority would be popular and long-lasting, for since then no government in Cambodia has tried to romanise the Khmer language again. [113] After Allied military units entered Cambodia, the Japanese military forces present in the country were disarmed and repatriated. The French were able to reimpose the colonial administration in Phnom Penh in October the same year. [114]

Sihanouk's "royal crusade for independence" resulted in grudging French acquiescence to his demands for a transfer of sovereignty. A partial agreement was struck in October 1953. Sihanouk then declared that independence had been achieved and returned in triumph to Phnom Penh. As a result of the Geneva Conference on Indochina, Cambodia was able to bring about the withdrawal of the Viet Minh troops from its territory and to withstand any residual impingement upon its sovereignty by external powers.

Neutrality was the central element of Cambodian foreign policy during the 1950s and 1960s. By the mid-1960s, parts of Cambodia's eastern provinces were serving as bases for North Vietnamese Army and National Liberation Front (NVA/NLF) forces operating against South Vietnam, and the port of Sihanoukville was being used to supply them. As NVA/VC activity grew, the United States and South Vietnam became concerned, and in 1969, the United States began a 14-month-long series of bombing raids targeted at NVA/VC elements, contributing to destabilisation. The bombing campaign took place no further than ten, and later twenty miles (32 km) inside the Cambodian border, areas where the Cambodian population had been evicted by the NVA. [115] Prince Sihanouk, fearing that the conflict between communist North Vietnam and South Vietnam might spill over to Cambodia, publicly opposed the idea of a bombing campaign by the United States along the Vietnam–Cambodia border and inside Cambodian territory. However Peter Rodman claimed, "Prince Sihanouk complained bitterly to us about these North Vietnamese bases in his country and invited us to attack them". In December 1967 Washington Post journalist Stanley Karnow was told by Sihanouk that if the US wanted to bomb the Vietnamese communist sanctuaries, he would not object, unless Cambodians were killed. [116] The same message was conveyed to US President Johnson's emissary Chester Bowles in January 1968. [117] So the US had no real motivation to overthrow Sihanouk. However Prince Sihanouk wanted Cambodia to stay out of the North Vietnam–South Vietnam conflict and was very critical of the United States government and its allies (the South Vietnamese government). Prince Sihanouk, facing internal struggles of his own, due to the rise of the Khmer Rouge, did not want Cambodia to be involved in the conflict. Sihanouk wanted the United States and its allies (South Vietnam) to keep the war away from the Cambodian border. Sihanouk did not allow the United States to use Cambodian air space and airports for military purposes. This upset the United States greatly and contributed to their view that of Prince Sihanouk as a North Vietnamese sympathiser and a thorn on the United States. [118] However, declassified documents indicate that, as late as March 1970, the Nixon administration was hoping to garner "friendly relations" with Sihanouk.

Throughout the 1960s, domestic Cambodian politics became polarised. Opposition to the government grew within the middle class and leftists including Paris-educated leaders like Son Sen, Ieng Sary, and Saloth Sar (later known as Pol Pot), who led an insurgency under the clandestine Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK). Sihanouk called these insurgents the Khmer Rouge, literally the "Red Khmer". But the 1966 national assembly elections showed a significant swing to the right, and General Lon Nol formed a new government, which lasted until 1967. During 1968 and 1969, the insurgency worsened. However members of the government and army, who resented Sihanouk's ruling style as well as his tilt away from the United States, did have a motivation to overthrow him.

While visiting Beijing in 1970 Sihanouk was ousted by a military coup led by Prime Minister General Lon Nol and Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak in the early hours of 18 March 1970. [119] [120] However, as early as 12 March 1970, the CIA Station Chief told Washington that based on communications from Sirik Matak, Lon Nol's cousin, that "the (Cambodian) army was ready for a coup". [121] Lon Nol assumed power after the military coup and immediately allied Cambodia with the United States. Son Ngoc Thanh, an opponent of Pol Pot, announced his support for the new government. On 9 October, the Cambodian monarchy was abolished, and the country was renamed the Khmer Republic. The new regime immediately demanded that the Vietnamese communists leave Cambodia.

Hanoi rejected the new republic's request for the withdrawal of NVA troops. In response, the United States moved to provide material assistance to the new government's armed forces, which were engaged against both CPK insurgents and NVA forces. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces, desperate to retain their sanctuaries and supply lines from North Vietnam, immediately launched armed attacks on the new government. The North Vietnamese quickly overran large parts of eastern Cambodia, reaching to within 15 miles (24 km) of Phnom Penh. The North Vietnamese turned the newly won territories over to the Khmer Rouge. The king urged his followers to help in overthrowing this government, hastening the onset of civil war. [122]

In April 1970, US President Richard Nixon announced to the American public that US and South Vietnamese ground forces had entered Cambodia in a campaign aimed at destroying NVA base areas in Cambodia (see Cambodian Incursion). [123] The US had already been bombing Vietnamese positions in Cambodia for well over a year by that point. Although a considerable quantity of equipment was seized or destroyed by US and South Vietnamese forces, containment of North Vietnamese forces proved elusive.

The Khmer Republic's leadership was plagued by disunity among its three principal figures: Lon Nol, Sihanouk's cousin Sirik Matak, and National Assembly leader In Tam. Lon Nol remained in power in part because none of the others were prepared to take his place. In 1972, a constitution was adopted, a parliament elected, and Lon Nol became president. But disunity, the problems of transforming a 30,000-man army into a national combat force of more than 200,000 men, and spreading corruption weakened the civilian administration and army.

The Khmer Rouge insurgency inside Cambodia continued to grow, aided by supplies and military support from North Vietnam. Pol Pot and Ieng Sary asserted their dominance over the Vietnamese-trained communists, many of whom were purged. At the same time, the Khmer Rouge (CPK) forces became stronger and more independent of their Vietnamese patrons. By 1973, the CPK were fighting battles against government forces with little or no North Vietnamese troop support, and they controlled nearly 60% of Cambodia's territory and 25% of its population.

The government made three unsuccessful attempts to enter into negotiations with the insurgents, but by 1974, the CPK was operating openly as divisions, and some of the NVA combat forces had moved into South Vietnam. Lon Nol's control was reduced to small enclaves around the cities and main transportation routes. More than two million refugees from the war lived in Phnom Penh and other cities.

On New Year's Day 1975, Communist troops launched an offensive which, in 117 days of the hardest fighting of the war, caused the collapse of the Khmer Republic. Simultaneous attacks around the perimeter of Phnom Penh pinned down Republican forces, while other CPK units overran fire bases controlling the vital lower Mekong resupply route. A US-funded airlift of ammunition and rice ended when Congress refused additional aid for Cambodia. The Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh surrendered on 17 April 1975, just five days after the US mission evacuated Cambodia. [124]

Foreign involvement in the rise of the Khmer Rouge Edit

The relationship between the massive carpet bombing of Cambodia by the United States and the growth of the Khmer Rouge, in terms of recruitment and popular support, has been a matter of interest to historians. Some historians, including Michael Ignatieff, Adam Jones [125] and Greg Grandin, [126] have cited the United States intervention and bombing campaign (spanning 1965–1973) as a significant factor which lead to increased support for the Khmer Rouge among the Cambodian peasantry. [127] According to Ben Kiernan, the Khmer Rouge "would not have won power without U.S. economic and military destabilization of Cambodia. . It used the bombing's devastation and massacre of civilians as recruitment propaganda and as an excuse for its brutal, radical policies and its purge of moderate communists and Sihanoukists." [128] Pol Pot biographer David P. Chandler writes that the bombing "had the effect the Americans wanted – it broke the Communist encirclement of Phnom Penh", but it also accelerated the collapse of rural society and increased social polarization. [129] [130] [131] Peter Rodman and Michael Lind claimed that the United States intervention saved the Lon Nol regime from collapse in 1970 and 1973. [132] [133] Craig Etcheson acknowledged that U.S. intervention increased recruitment for the Khmer Rouge but disputed that it was a primary cause of the Khmer Rouge victory. [134] William Shawcross wrote that the United States bombing and ground incursion plunged Cambodia into the chaos that Sihanouk had worked for years to avoid. [135]

By 1973, Vietnamese support of the Khmer Rouge had largely disappeared. [136] China "armed and trained" the Khmer Rouge both during the civil war and the years afterward. [137]

Owing to Chinese, U.S., and Western support, the Khmer Rouge-dominated Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) held Cambodia's UN seat until 1993, long after the Cold War had ended. [138] China has defended its ties with the Khmer Rouge. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that "the government of Democratic Kampuchea had a legal seat at the United Nations, and had established broad foreign relations with more than 70 countries". [139]

Immediately after its victory, the CPK ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns, sending the entire urban population into the countryside to work as farmers, as the CPK was trying to reshape society into a model that Pol Pot had conceived.

The new government sought to completely restructure Cambodian society. Remnants of the old society were abolished and religion was suppressed. Agriculture was collectivised, and the surviving part of the industrial base was abandoned or placed under state control. Cambodia had neither a currency nor a banking system.

Democratic Kampuchea's relations with Vietnam and Thailand worsened rapidly as a result of border clashes and ideological differences. While communist, the CPK was fiercely nationalistic, and most of its members who had lived in Vietnam were purged. Democratic Kampuchea established close ties with the People's Republic of China, and the Cambodian-Vietnamese conflict became part of the Sino-Soviet rivalry, with Moscow backing Vietnam. Border clashes worsened when the Democratic Kampuchea military attacked villages in Vietnam. The regime broke off relations with Hanoi in December 1977, protesting Vietnam's alleged attempt to create an Indochina Federation. In mid-1978, Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia, advancing about 30 miles (48 km) before the arrival of the rainy season.

The reasons for Chinese support of the CPK was to prevent a pan-Indochina movement, and maintain Chinese military superiority in the region. The Soviet Union supported a strong Vietnam to maintain a second front against China in case of hostilities and to prevent further Chinese expansion. Since Stalin's death, relations between Mao-controlled China and the Soviet Union had been lukewarm at best. In February to March 1979, China and Vietnam would fight the brief Sino-Vietnamese War over the issue.

In December 1978, Vietnam announced the formation of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation (KUFNS) [37] under Heng Samrin, a former DK division commander. It was composed of Khmer Communists who had remained in Vietnam after 1975 and officials from the eastern sector—like Heng Samrin and Hun Sen—who had fled to Vietnam from Cambodia in 1978. In late December 1978, Vietnamese forces launched a full invasion of Cambodia, capturing Phnom Penh on 7 January 1979 and driving the remnants of Democratic Kampuchea's army westward toward Thailand.

Within the CPK, the Paris-educated leadership—Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, and Son Sen—were in control. A new constitution in January 1976 established Democratic Kampuchea as a Communist People's Republic, and a 250-member Assembly of the Representatives of the People of Kampuchea (PRA) was selected in March to choose the collective leadership of a State Presidium, the chairman of which became the head of state.

Prince Sihanouk resigned as head of state on 2 April. [37] On 14 April, after its first session, the PRA announced that Khieu Samphan would chair the State Presidium for a 5-year term. It also picked a 15-member cabinet headed by Pol Pot as prime minister. Prince Sihanouk was put under virtual house arrest.

Destruction and deaths caused by the regime Edit

20,000 people died of exhaustion or disease during the evacuation of Phnom Penh and its aftermath. Many of those forced to evacuate the cities were resettled in newly created villages, which lacked food, agricultural implements, and medical care. Many who lived in cities had lost the skills necessary for survival in an agrarian environment. Thousands starved before the first harvest. Hunger and malnutrition—bordering on starvation—were constant during those years. Most military and civilian leaders of the former regime who failed to disguise their pasts were executed.

Some of the ethnicities in Cambodia, such as the Cham and Vietnamese, suffered specific and targeted and violent persecutions, to the point of some international sources referring to it as the "Cham genocide". Entire families and towns were targeted and attacked with the goal of significantly diminishing their numbers and eventually eliminated them. Life in 'Democratic Kampuchea' was strict and brutal. In many areas of the country people were rounded up and executed for speaking a foreign language, wearing glasses, scavenging for food, absent for government assigned work, and even crying for dead loved ones. Former businessmen and bureaucrats were hunted down and killed along with their entire families the Khmer Rouge feared that they held beliefs that could lead them to oppose their regime. A few Khmer Rouge loyalists were even killed for failing to find enough 'counter-revolutionaries' to execute.

When Cambodian socialists began to rebel in the eastern zone of Cambodia, Pol Pot ordered his armies to exterminate 1.5 million eastern Cambodians which he branded as "Cambodians with Vietnamese minds" in the area. [140] The purge was done speedily and efficiently as Pol Pot's soldiers quickly killed at least more than 100,000 to 250,000 eastern Cambodians right after deporting them to execution site locations in Central, North and North-Western Zones within a month's time, [141] making it the most bloodiest episode of mass murder under Pol Pot's regime

Religious institutions were not spared by the Khmer Rouge as well, in fact religion was so viciously persecuted to such a terrifying extent that the vast majority of Cambodia's historic architecture, 95% of Cambodia's Buddhist temples, was completely destroyed. [142]

Ben Kiernan estimates that 1.671 million to 1.871 million Cambodians died as a result of Khmer Rouge policy, or between 21% and 24% of Cambodia's 1975 population. [143] A study by French demographer Marek Sliwinski calculated slightly fewer than 2 million unnatural deaths under the Khmer Rouge out of a 1975 Cambodian population of 7.8 million 33.5% of Cambodian men died under the Khmer Rouge compared to 15.7% of Cambodian women. [144] According to a 2001 academic source, the most widely accepted estimates of excess deaths under the Khmer Rouge range from 1.5 million to 2 million, although figures as low as 1 million and as high as 3 million have been cited conventionally accepted estimates of deaths due to Khmer Rouge executions range from 500,000 to 1 million, "a third to one half of excess mortality during the period." [145] However, a 2013 academic source (citing research from 2009) indicates that execution may have accounted for as much as 60% of the total, with 23,745 mass graves containing approximately 1.3 million suspected victims of execution. [146] While considerably higher than earlier and more widely accepted estimates of Khmer Rouge executions, the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam)'s Craig Etcheson defended such estimates of over one million executions as "plausible, given the nature of the mass grave and DC-Cam's methods, which are more likely to produce an under-count of bodies rather than an over-estimate." [138] Demographer Patrick Heuveline estimated that between 1.17 million and 3.42 million Cambodians died unnatural deaths between 1970 and 1979, with between 150,000 and 300,000 of those deaths occurring during the civil war. Heuveline's central estimate is 2.52 million excess deaths, of which 1.4 million were the direct result of violence. [145] [138] Despite being based on a house-to-house survey of Cambodians, the estimate of 3.3 million deaths promulgated by the Khmer Rouge's successor regime, the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), is generally considered to be an exaggeration among other methodological errors, the PRK authorities added the estimated number of victims that had been found in the partially-exhumed mass graves to the raw survey results, meaning that some victims would have been double-counted. [138]

An estimated 300,000 Cambodians starved to death between 1979 and 1980, largely as a result of the after-effects of Khmer Rouge policies. [147]

On 10 January 1979, after the Vietnamese army and the KUFNS (Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation) invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Khmer Rouge, the new People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) was established with Heng Samrin as head of state. Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge forces retreated rapidly to the jungles near the Thai border. The Khmer Rouge and the PRK began a costly struggle that played into the hands of the larger powers China, the United States and the Soviet Union. The Khmer People's Revolutionary Party's rule gave rise to a guerrilla movement of three major resistance groups – the FUNCINPEC (Front Uni National pour un Cambodge Indépendant, Neutre, Pacifique, et Coopératif), the KPLNF (Khmer People's National Liberation Front) and the PDK (Party of Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge under the nominal presidency of Khieu Samphan). [148] "All held dissenting perceptions concerning the purposes and modalities of Cambodia’s future". Civil war displaced 600,000 Cambodians, who fled to refugee camps along the border to Thailand and tens of thousands of people were murdered throughout the country. [149] [150] [151]

Peace efforts began in Paris in 1989 under the State of Cambodia, culminating two years later in October 1991 in a comprehensive peace settlement. The United Nations was given a mandate to enforce a ceasefire and deal with refugees and disarmament known as the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). [152]

On 23 October 1991, the Paris Conference reconvened to sign a comprehensive settlement giving the UN full authority to supervise a cease-fire, repatriate the displaced Khmer along the border with Thailand, disarm and demobilise the factional armies, and prepare the country for free and fair elections. Prince Sihanouk, President of the Supreme National Council of Cambodia (SNC), and other members of the SNC returned to Phnom Penh in November 1991, to begin the resettlement process in Cambodia. [153] The UN Advance Mission for Cambodia (UNAMIC) was deployed at the same time to maintain liaison among the factions and begin demining operations to expedite the repatriation of approximately 370,000 Cambodians from Thailand. [154] [155]

On 16 March 1992, the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) arrived in Cambodia to begin implementation of the UN settlement plan and to become operational on 15 March 1992 under Yasushi Akashi, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General. [156] [157] UNTAC grew into a 22,000-strong civilian and military peacekeeping force tasked to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections for a constituent assembly. [158]

Over 4 million Cambodians (about 90% of eligible voters) participated in the May 1993 elections. Pre-election violence and intimidation was widespread, caused by SOC (State of Cambodia – made up largely of former PDK cadre) security forces, mostly against the FUNCINPEC and BLDP parties according to UNTAC. [159] [160] The Khmer Rouge or Party of Democratic Kampuchea (PDK), whose forces were never actually disarmed or demobilized blocked local access to polling places. [161] Prince Ranariddh's (son of Norodom Sihanouk) royalist Funcinpec Party was the top vote recipient with 45.5% of the vote, followed by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party and the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party, respectively. Funcinpec then entered into a coalition with the other parties that had participated in the election. A coalition government resulted between the Cambodian People's Party and FUNCINPEC, with two co-prime ministers – Hun Sen, since 1985 the prime minister in the Communist government, and Norodom Ranariddh. [162]

The parties represented in the 120-member assembly proceeded to draft and approve a new constitution, which was promulgated 24 September 1993. It established a multiparty liberal democracy in the framework of a constitutional monarchy, with the former Prince Sihanouk elevated to King. Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen became First and Second Prime Ministers, respectively, in the Royal Cambodian Government (RGC). The constitution provides for a wide range of internationally recognised human rights. [163]

Hun Sen and his government have seen much controversy. Hun Sen was a former Khmer Rouge commander who was originally installed by the Vietnamese and, after the Vietnamese left the country, maintains his strong man position by violence and oppression when deemed necessary. [164] In 1997, fearing the growing power of his co-Prime Minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Hun launched a coup, using the army to purge Ranariddh and his supporters. Ranariddh was ousted and fled to Paris while other opponents of Hun Sen were arrested, tortured and some summarily executed. [164] [165]

On 4 October 2004, the Cambodian National Assembly ratified an agreement with the United Nations on the establishment of a tribunal to try senior leaders responsible for the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. [166] International donor countries have pledged a US$43 Million share of the three-year tribunal budget as Cambodia contributes US$13.3 Million. The tribunal has sentenced several senior Khmer Rouge leaders since 2008. [167]

Cambodia is still infested with countless land mines, indiscriminately planted by all warring parties during the decades of war and upheaval. [168]


East Asia: China, Korea, Japan 1000 BCE

Ancient Chinese civilization expands under the Zhou dynasty, which will be the longest-lasting dynasty in China's history.

Subscribe for more great content – and remove ads

Lost your way? See a list of all maps

Subscribe for more great content – and remove ads

Civilizations

Subscribe for more great content – and remove ads

What is happening in East Asia: China, Korea, Japan in 1000BCE

In the centuries since 1500 BCE, the first dynasty in the history of ancient China, the Shang, has now given way to the Zhou.

The Zhou dynasty in China

Under the Zhou, who have come from the fringes of the old Shang world, the various characteristics of Chinese civilization which developed under the Shang remain in place, though material and artistic culture may have declined somewhat for a time. The Zhou will be the longest-lasting dynasty in China’s history

Korea and Japan

In southern Korea, wet-rice cultivation has established itself as the staple crop, though in the north millet and soybeans retained their dominance. Bronze technology reaches the Korean peninsula about now, from northern China.

In Japan, the late Jomon people appear to be taking up farming as a minor part of their food culture, cultivating some local wild plants such as yams and taro, as well as rice. Hunting and gathering remain the major preoccupations, however.


South Korea

In contrast to the impoverished North, South Korea has both a vibrant economy and a vibrant democracy. Since the Korean War of the early 1950s, South Korea has experienced rapid economic growth, making it one of the so-called Asian Tigers. It has had to be vigilant, however, in the face of threats from neighboring North Korea, which has threatened to reunify the Korean Peninsula by force. Hence, South Korea has maintained a strong military alliance with the US, which still has thousands of troops stationed there.

South Korean flag and architecture. Image credit: T.Dallas/Shutterstock


Columbus reaches the "New World"

After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sights a Bahamian island, believing he has reached East Asia. His expedition went ashore the same day and claimed the land for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, who sponsored his attempt to find a western ocean route to China, India, and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia.

WATCH: Columbus: The Lost Voyage on HISTORY Vault

Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451. Little is known of his early life, but he worked as a seaman and then a maritime entrepreneur. He became obsessed with the possibility of pioneering a western sea route to Cathay (China), India, and the gold and spice islands of Asia. At the time, Europeans knew no direct sea route to southern Asia, and the route via Egypt and the Red Sea was closed to Europeans by the Ottoman Empire, as were many land routes. 

Contrary to popular legend, educated Europeans of Columbus’ day did believe that the world was round, as argued by St. Isidore in the seventh century. However, Columbus, and most others, underestimated the world’s size, calculating that East Asia must lie approximately where North America sits on the globe (they did not yet know that the Pacific Ocean existed).

With only the Atlantic Ocean, he thought, lying between Europe and the riches of the East Indies, Columbus met with King John II of Portugal and tried to persuade him to back his 𠇎nterprise of the Indies,” as he called his plan. He was rebuffed and went to Spain, where he was also rejected at least twice by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. However, after the Spanish conquest of the Moorish kingdom of Granada in January 1492, the Spanish monarchs, flush with victory, agreed to support his voyage.

On August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain, with three small ships, the Santa Maria, the Pintaਊnd the Nina. On October 12, the expedition reached land, probably Watling Island in the Bahamas. Later that month, Columbus sighted Cuba, which he thought was mainland China, and in December the expedition landed on Hispaniola, which Columbus thought might be Japan. He established a small colony there with 39 of his men. The explorer returned to Spain with gold, spices, and “Indian” captives in March 1493 and was received with the highest honors by the Spanish court. He was the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland in the 10th century.

During his lifetime, Columbus led a total of four expeditions to the "New World," exploring various Caribbean islands, the Gulf of Mexico, and the South and Central American mainlands, but he never accomplished his original goal𠅊 western ocean route to the great cities of Asia. Columbus died in Spain in 1506 without realizing the great scope of what he did achieve: He had discovered for Europe the New World, whose riches over the next century would help make Spain the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth.


Chinese and Western incursions

Southeast Asia, unlike many other parts of the world on the eve of European expansion, long had been a cosmopolitan region acquainted with a diversity of peoples, customs, and trade goods. The arrival of Europeans in force in the early 16th century (others had made visits earlier, beginning with Marco Polo in 1292) caused neither wonderment nor fear. Long-distance travel by then was no novelty, and already there was impressive precedence for the arrival of foreign delegations rather than of individual trading vessels. A century before the Portuguese first arrived at Malacca in 1509, that port and a number of others in Southeast Asia had been visited by a succession of Chinese fleets. Between 1403 and 1433 Ming-dynasty China had sent several enormous flotillas of as many as 63 large vessels and up to 30,000 people on expeditions that carried them as far as Africa. The purpose of these journeys, led by the Muslim court eunuch Zheng He, was to secure diplomatic and trade advantages for the Chinese and to extend the sovereign lustre of the ambitious Yongle emperor. Yet, except for efforts to regain Dai Viet (Vietnam) as a province, these expeditions had no permanent military or colonial ambitions and did not much disturb the Southeast Asian region. Perhaps in part because of the sound defeat the Vietnamese handed a Ming occupying army in 1427, China lost interest in its new and far-flung initiatives, and the voyages came to an abrupt end.

Europeans presented a rather different prospect for Southeast Asia, however, above all because they sought riches and absolute control over the sources of this wealth. The Europeans were few in number and often poorly equipped and generally could not claim great technological superiority over Southeast Asians, but they were also determined, often well-organized and highly disciplined fighters, and utterly ruthless and unprincipled. Except for the Spanish in the Philippines, they were not interested in colonization but rather in the control of trade at the lowest financial cost. These characteristics made Europeans a formidable—though by no means dominant—new force in Southeast Asia. Except in a few locales and special circumstances, for the better part of 250 years Europeans could accomplish little politically or militarily without strong Southeast Asian allies. Individual adventurers often were useful to a particular Southeast Asian ruler or aspirant to the throne, but they were carefully watched and, when necessary, dispatched. Constantine Phaulkon, the Greek advisor to the Siamese court who was executed in 1688 on charges of treason, was only the most dramatic example.

In economic affairs, Europeans soon discovered that they were quite unable, even by the most drastic means, to monopolize the spice trade for which they had come. They generally were forced to engage in commerce by Southeast Asian rules and soon found themselves dependent on the local carrying trade for survival. For these reasons, the celebrated Portuguese conquest of Malacca in 1511 did not signal the dawn of an age of Western dominance in Southeast Asia. The majority of the population and much of the trading activity deserted the port, the sultan moved his court elsewhere, and by the end of the 16th century Malacca was a backwater the Malay trade flourished elsewhere into the 18th century.

Yet it would be a mistake to conclude that the Western presence represented nothing more than a minor irritant. European commercial tools, especially the ability to amass large amounts of investment capital, were different and, from a capitalistic point of view, more sophisticated and dynamic than those of the Southeast Asians. The Dutch and British East India companies often were able to make inroads on certain markets simply by having a large amount of money available, and it was possible for them to adopt long-term strategies by carrying large deficits and debts. Although company directors in Europe warned against the dangers—and costs—of involvement in local affairs, the representatives on the spot often could see no other course. Thus, soon after permanently establishing themselves on Java in 1618, the Dutch found themselves embroiled in the succession disputes of the court of Mataram and, by the late 1740s, virtual kingmakers and shareholders in the realm. Finally, Europeans did bring with them much that was new. Some items shaped Southeast Asian life in unexpected ways: the chili pepper, which the Spanish introduced from the New World, came to hold such an important place in the region’s diet that today Southeast Asian cuisine can hardly be imagined without it. Another import, however, was coffee, with a more ominous effect. Smuggled into Java in 1695 against Dutch East India Company rules, coffee by the early 18th century had become a company monopoly produced through a unique relationship between the Dutch and the local Javanese elite in a system that prefigured the one adopted by the 19th-century colonial state.


East Asia in the year 1 CE - History

During the third century B.C., Emperor Ashoka sent missionaries to the northwest of India that is, present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. The mission achieved great success, as the region soon became a centre of Buddhist learning with many distinguished monks and scholars. When the merchants of Central Asia came into this region for trade, they learnt about Buddhism and accepted it as their religion. With the support of these merchants, many cave monasteries were established along the trade routes across Central Asia. By the second century B.C., some Central Asian cities like Khotan, had already become important centres for Buddhism. The Chinese people had their first contact with Buddhism through the Central Asians who were already Buddhists.

Spread of Buddhism Among the Chinese

When the Han Dynasty of China extended its power to Central Asia in the first century B.C., trade and cultural ties between China and Central Asia also increased. In this way, the Chinese people learnt about Buddhism so that by the middle of the first century C.E., a community of Chinese Buddhists was already in existence.


Kumarajiva, the translator.

As interest in Buddhism grew, there was a great demand for Buddhist texts to be translated from Indian languages into Chinese. This led to the arrival of translators from Central Asia and India. The first notable one was Anshigao from Central Asia who came to China in the middle of the second century. With a growing collection of Chinese translations of Buddhist texts, Buddhism became more widely known and a Chinese monastic order was also formed. The first known Chinese monk was said to be Anshigao's disciple.

The earliest translators had some difficulty in finding the exact words to explain Buddhist concepts in Chinese, so they made use of Taoist terms in their translations. As a result, people began to relate Buddhism with the existing Taoist tradition. It was only later on that the Chinese came to understand fully the teachings of the Buddha.

After the fall of the Han Dynasty in the early part of the third century, China faced a period of political disunity. Despite the war and unrest, the translation of Buddhist texts continued. During this time, Buddhism gained popularity with the Chinese people. Both foreign and Chinese monks were actively involved in establishing monasteries and lecturing on the Buddhist teachings.

Among the Chinese monks, Dao-an who lived in the fourth century was the most outstanding. Though he had to move from place to place because of political strife, he not only wrote and lectured extensively, but also collected copies of the translated scriptures and prepared the first catalogue of them. He invited the famous translator, Kumarajiva, from Kucha. With the help of Dao-an's disciples, Kumarajiva translated a large number of important texts and revised the earlier Chinese translations. His fine translations were popular and helped to spread Buddhism in China. Many of his translations are still in use to this day. Because of political unrest, Kumarajiva's disciples were later dispersed and this helped to spread Buddhism to other parts of China.

The Establishment of Buddhism in China
From the beginning of the fifth century to around the end of the sixth century, northern and southern China came under separate rulers. The south remained under native dynasties while non-Chinese rulers controlled the north.

The Buddhists in southern China continued to translate Buddhist texts and to lecture and write commentaries on the major texts. Their rulers were devoted Buddhists who saw to the construction of numerous temples, participated in Buddhist ceremonies and organised public talks on Buddhism. One of the rulers expanded on the earlier catalogue of Buddhist texts.

In northern China, except for two short periods of persecution, Buddhism flourished under the lavish royal patronage of rulers who favoured the religion. By the latter half of the sixth century, monks were even employed in government posts. During this period, Buddhist arts flourished, especially in the caves at Dun-huang, Yun-gang and Long-men. In the thousand caves at Dun-huang, Buddhist paintings covered the walls and there were thousands of Buddha statues in these caves. At Yungang and Long-men, many Buddha images of varying sizes were carved out of the rocks. All these activities were a sign of the firm establishment of Buddhism in China by the end of this period.

The Development of Chinese Schools of Buddhism

With the rise of the Tang Dynasty at the beginning of the seventh century, Buddhism reached out to more and more people. It soon became an important part of Chinese culture and had great influence on Chinese Art, Literature, Sculpture, Architecture and Philosophy of that time.

By then, the number of Chinese translations of Buddhist texts had increased tremendously, The Buddhists were now faced with the problem of how to study this large number of Buddhist texts and how to put their teachings in to practice. As a result, a number of schools of Buddhism arose, with each school concentrating on certain texts for their study and practice. The Tian-tai School, for instance, developed a system of teaching and practice based on the Lotus Sutra. It also arranged all the Buddhist texts into graded categories to suit the varying aptitudes of the followers.

Other schools arose which focused on different areas of the Buddhist teachings and practice. The two most prominent schools were the Chan and the Pure Land schools. The Chan School emphasised the practice of meditation as the direct way of gaining insight and experiencing Enlightenment in this very life. The Chan school of Buddhism is said to have been introduced to China by Bodhidharma who came from India at the beginning of the sixth century. He was, like many early missionaries, not only well versed in the Buddhist teachings, but also proficient in meditation. However, during his lifetime, he was not very well known as he secluded himself in a mountain temple. Later, through the efforts of his successors, this school became one of the most important of the Chinese schools of Buddhist practice.

The Pure Land School centres its practice on the recitation of the name of Amitabha Buddha. The practice is based on the sermon, which teaches that people could be reborn in the Western Paradise (Pure Land) of Amitabha Buddha if they recite his name and have sincere faith in him. Once in Pure Land, the Buddhists are said to be able to achieve Enlightenment more easily. Because of the simplicity of its practice, this school became popular especially among the masses throughout China.

Xuan-zang's Pilgrimage to India

During the sixth and seventh centuries, when the various Chinese schools of Buddhism were being developed, there were more monks than before making pilgrimages to India to study the Buddhist scriptures there. Among the most famous of these pilgrims was Xuan-zang, who travelled overland to India. His journey was extremely difficult, as he had to cross high mountains and deserts and was also confronted by bandits. He studied at the well-known monastic university at Nalanda and later travelled widely throughout India. On his return to China, he brought back a large collection of Buddhist texts, which he translated during the remaining years of his life.

Because of his profound understanding of Buddhism and his excellent skill in languages, his translations marked a new period in Buddhist literature. His travel record gives detailed descriptions of Central Asia and India and provides an eyewitness account of these regions during his time.

Further Development of Buddhism in China

In the middle of the ninth century, Buddhism faced persecution by a Taoist emperor. He decreed the demolition of monasteries, confiscation of temple land, return of monks and nuns to secular life and the melting of metal Buddha images. Although the persecution lasted only for a short time, it marked the end of an era for Buddhism in China. Following the demolition of monasteries and the dispersal of scholarly monks, a number of Chinese schools of Buddhism, including the Tian-tai School, ceased to exist as separate movements. They were absorbed into the Chan and Pure Land schools, which survived. The eventual result was the emergence of a new form of Chinese Buddhist practice in the monastery. Besides practising Chan meditation, Buddhists also recited the name of Amitabha Buddha and studied Buddhist texts. It is this form of Buddhism, which has survived to the present time.

Just as all the Buddhist teachings and practices were combined under one roof in the monasteries, Buddhist lay followers also began to practise Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism simultaneously. Gradually, however, Confucian teachings became dominant in the court, and among the officials who were not in favour of Buddhism.

Buddhism, generally, continued to be a major influence in Chinese religious life. In the earlier part of the twentieth century, there was an attempt to modernise and reform the tradition in order to attract wider support. One of the most well-known reformists was Tai-xu, a monk noted for his Buddhist scholarship. Besides introducing many reforms in the monastic community, he also introduced Western-style education, which included the study of secular subjects and foreign languages for Buddhists.

In the nineteen-sixties, under the People's Republic, Buddhism was suppressed. Many monasteries were closed and monks and nuns returned to lay life. In recent years, a more liberal policy regarding religion has led to a growth of interest in the practice of Buddhism.

Introduction of Buddhism to Korea

The earliest historical records state that there were three kingdoms in Korea, namely Koguryo in the north, Packche in the southwest and Silla in the southeast. According to tradition, a Chinese monk in the second half of the fourth century C.E first introduced Buddhism to the northern kingdom of Koguryo. A Central Asian monk is said to have brought Buddhism to Packche sometime later.

The Silla kingdom was the most isolated region and was at first not ready to accept Buddhism. The people held firmly to their traditional religious beliefs. There was such strong opposition to Buddhism that a monk who went there to spread the Buddha's teachings is said to have been killed. Eventually, by the middle of the sixth century, even the Silla people accepted Buddhism.

Spread of Buddhism in Korea

During the sixth and seventh centuries, many Korean monks went to China to study and brought back with them the teachings of the various Chinese schools of Buddhism. Towards the end of the seventh century, the three kingdoms were unified under the powerful Silla rulers. From then onwards, Buddhism flourished under their royal patronage. Great works of art were created and magnificent monasteries built. Buddhism exerted great influence on the life of the Korean people. In the tenth century, Silla rule ended with the founding of the Koryo Dynasty. Under this new rule, Buddhism reached the height of its importance. With royal support, more monasteries were built and more works of art produced. The whole of the Tripitaka in Chinese translation was also carved on to wooden printing blocks. Thousands of these blocks were made in the thirteenth century and have been carefully preserved to the present day as part of Korea's national treasures.

Period of Suppression of Buddhism in Korea

Under the new rule of the Yi Dynasty from the end of the fourteenth century to the early twentieth century, Buddhism lost the support of the court when Confucianism became the sole official religion of the state. Measures were taken to suppress the activities of the Buddhist community. Buddhist monks were forbidden to enter the capital, their lands were confiscated, monasteries closed and Buddhist ceremonies abolished. Despite all the troubles of this difficult period, there were occasionally some great monks who continued to inspire their followers and kept Buddhism alive.

Revival of Buddhism in Korea

With the collapse of the Yi Dynasty, Korea came under Japanese control. The Japanese who came to Korea introduced their own forms of Buddhism, which included the tradition of the married clergy. As a result, some monks in Korea broke away from their tradition of celibacy.

From this period onwards, there was a revival of Buddhism in Korea. Many Buddhists in Korea have since been actively involved in promoting education and missionary activities. They have founded universities, set up schools in many parts of Korea and established youth groups and lay organisations. Buddhist texts, originally in Chinese translation, are now being retranslated into modern Korean. New monasteries are being built and old ones repaired. Today, Buddhism is again playing an important role in the life of the people.

Introduction of Buddhism to Japan

In the sixth century, the king of Packche, anxious to establish peaceful relations with Japan, sent gifts of images of the Buddha and copies of Buddhist texts to the Japanese imperial court. Buddhism was recommended as a means of bringing great benefit to the country. The Japanese people soon accommodated Buddhism along with their indigenous Shinto beliefs. Being a religion of universal appeal, Buddhism helped to foster harmony within the country.

From the very beginning, the establishment of Buddhism depended on the protection and support of the Japanese rulers. Among these, Prince Shotoku deserves special mention for his great contribution to the early growth and expansion of Buddhism in Japan during the early part of the seventh century. Tradition says that Prince Shotoku wrote the first "constitution" of Japan, which promoted moral and social values as taught in Buddhism. His devotion and royal patronage of Buddhism helped to make it widely known. Many Buddhist temples were built and works of art created. Monks were also sent to China to study. Besides encouraging Japanese monks to read the scriptures, Prince Shotoku lectured and later wrote commentaries on some of these scriptures. His commentaries are said to be the first ever written in Japan and are now kept as national treasures.

The eighth century in Japan is known as the Nara Period. During this period, Buddhism continued to spread as more new temples were built in all the provinces, the most famous being the Todaiji Temple at Nara. Buddhist scriptures were copied and distributed throughout the country. It was also during this time that Chinese monks started to arrive and many Chinese schools of Buddhism were introduced to Japan.

The Japanese monks not only studied and practised the Buddhist teachings, but also became involved in administrative roles. Some of them served as scribes and clerks in the court, while others helped in the carrying out of public works. A few were assigned to explore and draw maps of distant parts of the country. Though the monastic order grew in size, it remained firmly under the control of the court as the ordination of monks was only permitted at a few centres approved by the court.

The Heian Period began towards the end of the eighth century, when the capital was established at Heian (present day Kyoto). During this period, two Japanese monks named Saicho and Kukai brought two schools of Buddhism to Japan from China.

Saicho had a temple on Mount Hiei, which was near the new capital. Soon the ruler began to patronise the temple and also sent Saicho to study in China. On his return to Japan, Saicho introduced the Tian-tai school of Buddhism from China. However, he later combined several schools of Buddhism into one comprehensive system. At his temple on Mount Hiei, monks had to undergo a twelve-year course of study and meditation. Some of those who completed their training stayed on the mountain, while others left to serve the state in various administrative posts. The Tian-tai school of Buddhism soon flourished and at the height of its development, there were three thousand buildings on Mount Hiei and thirty thousand monks. Its influence on the development of Buddhism in Japan continued to be felt even a few centuries later.

At about the same time the other monk, Kukai returned from China and introduced Vajrayana Buddhism to Japan. This school of Buddhism became very popular with the Japanese court and its influence was even greater than that of the Tian-tai school of Buddhism. Kukai himself was a learned monk and wrote a great deal on the teachings of this school.

At the end of the twelfth century, political power shifted to a group of warriors (Samurai) who had their headquarters at Kamakura. During this period, a number of distinctly Japanese Buddhist sects arose. They became popular because of their simplicity and directness of approach. Among these sects were the Jodo Shinshu, Nichiren and Zen.

The Jodo Shinshu was founded by Shinran who studied at Mount Hiei. His master, Honen, taught that the practice of reciting the name of Amitabha would be sufficient for its followers to be reborn in the Western Paradise. However, the other monks on Mount Hiei objected to his teaching. As a result, Honen and his disciples were forced into exile. Shinran was one of the disciples who accompanied Honen into exile.

Shinran's teaching was a modification of his master's. He taught that one need only to have faith in Amitabha to be reborn in the Western Paradise. According to Shinran, it was not even necessary to recite Amitabha's name.

Shinran later got married and, in this way, started the tradition of the married clergy in Japan. Those who follow this tradition continued to live in temples and conduct religious services, while leading a family life.

The Nichiren sect was founded by Nichiren who studied at Mount Hici but was not satisfied with the traditional Buddhist practices taught there. He later left Mount Hiei and travelled widely before returning to his native district.

Nichiren felt that the truth of Buddhism was to be found in the Lotus Sutra. He taught that reciting the formula, "Homage to the Lotus Sutra" is the only means of attaining Enlightenment. As he was intolerant of other Buddhist sects and vigorously denounced them, he was later sent into exile. In his later years, he was pardoned and allowed to return. After his death, his followers spread his teaching throughout the country and it soon gained popularity.

The Zen sect is actually a Japanese version of the Chan school of Buddhism. It gained popularity among the warriors because of its emphasis on strict discipline of the mind and body. Zen teaching also influenced the development of the tea-ceremony, black-ink paintings, the art of flower arrangement and the Noh drama, which consists of dances, and recitation of poems that conveyed Buddhist ideas.

Buddhism from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century

From the sixteenth century, Buddhism lost favour with the military rulers who feared the rising power and influence of Buddhist religious groups in Japan. Some important Buddhist centres were even destroyed by these rulers. In the next three centuries, Buddhism came under the close supervision of the military dictatorship, which had strict control over all areas of life. The traditions of the various sects were, however, maintained. The temples also continued to play an active role in the fields of education and social service.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the Japanese emperor took control of the government. He did not support Buddhism. In fact, many Buddhist temples were demolished and valuable Buddha images and scriptures burned. The Buddhists in Japan responded by modernising their organisations. Schools and universities were established and Buddhist monks were given a modern education.

Developments in the Present Century

Since the Second World War, Japan has seen the rise of many religious groups which are modifications of the older established sects. Nichiren Shoshu, for example, grew out of the Nichiren sect of the Kamakura Period. The lay members of these newer religious groups play a prominent role in promoting Buddhist culture and education. At the same time, the older sects continue to exist and still attract support both inside and outside Japan.