site's logo and link back to the English-speaking home page decorative picture arrow back

China and The Far-East

pages decorative bandeau, reminder of the one of the main entry home page and the localized home page

As far as the part of the world where China was the main power, nor China nor any of the other countries in the area, is mentioned nowhere in any source of the Carolingian times. The interest for China might have hindered, on the other hand, by the antagonist relationship with the Avars, the only Asiatic people at hand, somehow, as it's about likely that when the Silk Road remained opened, far-reaching merchants there surely told about their surroundings about the existence of China and countries in the Far East

for these countries of the region, see, too, the page 'The Nestorians, Missionaries in China and A Power Under the Abassides'

Northern China, in 7000 B.C. was the third original location where the Neolithic Revolution took place, with men passing from the status of hunter-gatherers to the one of farmers. Once the move on, it's the Yellow River which came to be where the fist villages were founded. In the area, Tibetans and Chinese were part of a same population that split into two groups sometime between 2750 to 5500 years ago only. At around 10,000 to 6,000 years ago, people from northern and southern China were genetically distinct as they began mixing after that by the late Neolithic 5,000–4,000 years ago. At the difference of what occurred in Europe a population of farmers mixed with a one of hunters-gatherers better than replace them. A coastal route might have been a pathway to populations of East Asia


From the First Dynasties to the Foundation of the Empire

After a Bronze Age -about 3000 B.C.- the first political entities appeared in China under the form of dynasties. The first to be was the Xia dynasty, maybe about 2000 B.C, which had built a solar observatory allowing to determine the dates of the agricultural works and the palace of which inaugurated a form which lasted until the Forbidden City. The Shang followed, about maybe the 13th century B.C. and lasting until about 1046 B.C. It might that two dynasties might have actually coexisted at the time. As the Zhou were appointed by the Shang to oversee their western borders during the Bronze Age, they eventually ruled out the former dynasty, instating a semi-feudal system and devising the concept of the 'Mandate of Heaven' to legitimize their rule, as, further, they initiated too the first of a North-South motion in the Chinese history. The Shaanxi, the province whence the Zhou originated, remained the politicial center to China, through the Qin, for example, until into the 10th century A.D. The Zhou feodality lead to a period when those military leaders named by this dynasty got independent as other peoples came from the northwest. The Zhou became the 'Eastern Zhou' as the dislocation of their rule kept however. This epoch, in the 8th century B.C., was marked however by the blossoming of the most influential movements in China like the Confucianism, the Legalism, or the Taoism. Those states born from the dislocation of the Zhou brought to the 'Warring States Period', when seven prominent states remained, by the end of the 5th century BC, fighting each other. Neighbouring territories of the warring states became annexed, under the form of commanderies or prefectures. That's the king of one of the Warring States -the state of Qin- who eventually united the six other kingdoms, and who, along with further annexations, proclaimed himself, in 214 BC, the first emperor of China. The Qin dynasty benefited from the turning point in the art of war, that the Iron Age had brought by 500 B.C. A greater agricultural productivity allowed then more men as armies became armies of several hundreds of thousands of soldiers who, moreover, were armed with a crossbow, a weapon that required almost no learning. Previously, the art of Chinese warfare was based on two-horse chariots manned by three people -- a pilot, a archer, and a spearman), and the armies consisted of tens of thousands of those heavy chariots. The peak of use of them occurred by about 700 B.C. The fights then remained very ritualized to the imitation of what the Western chivalry was to be. Under the Qin, chariots remained a prestige object for their owner

The First Main Dynasties

Qin Shi Huang, in his short reign of 12 years, managed however to constitute the core of the Chinese homeland for the centuries to come. The Legalism upon which the emperor governed proved inefficient for domestic affairs, as he eventually came to persecute scholars. The Great Wall of China also began under the Qin, as a whole system of unification was put into place, like a legal code, a written language, a currency. Banliang coins, which contain a square hole in the center were created by the first emperor of China and then fell out of use. Qin Shi Huang had had built for himself by 246 B.C. a famed mausoleum -in the nowadays city of X'ian, China- which was filled with 8,000 clay, life-tall statues of his military. The iron of the weapons of them was layered with chromium oxyde to prevent rust, a technique which came to be known in the West by the 17th century A.D. only. As the Han dynasty came into power in 202 BC, it adhered to Confucianism, setting the stage for all the following dynasties in China. Confucianism became the base for the recruitment of the civil servants and the educational curriculum, generally. Jade was the gem most prized by the dynasty, as quarries of it were located in southwestern Xin-Kiang and its trade the monopoly of Han sovereigns. Jade was thought to bring immortality and was used, in the funeral chambers, like 'jade suits' covering the corpse of deceased rulers. The Han dynasty turned a anchor landmark in the history of China with contemporary Chinese still terming themselves Han in terms of ethnicity and of language. The age of the Han dynasty is often considered the 'Golden Age' and it was also a age of economic prosperity. The era since the Eastern Han (about 25-220 AD) to the 9th century A.D. was called 'medieval China' by contrast to previous times when success in the civil service examinations was a prerequisite for any official career. New clans ruled and constituted a aristocraty or oligarchy. That did not last however as new elites were not landowners but instead, they maintained their status by producing many office-holders over time. The Han were the first to open a commercial road -the famed Silk Road- with the West due to that they managed to repell the Xiongnu (maybe the Huns) into Inner Mongolia. Land-based tax system reform brought to disorders, as the dynasty kept a while however. The dynasty eventually ended and let room to the return of feuds and warlords about 184 AD. The feuds -limited then to three main kingdoms- lasted, as non-Chinese ethnic, nomadic peoples invasions led to a large-scale motion of the Han South of China, beyong the Yangtze River. By about 303, 16 kingdoms existed, as the nomads were ruling North! Such nomadics however had long been sinicized before their invasion, allowed, for some, to live within the Great Wall. China was eventually reunified in 581, following nearly 4 centuries of fragmentation and the separate development of the North and the South. Tools for unity were set up again, paving the way to another apogee under the Tang, this following dynasty

Another Apogee With the Tang

The Tang dynasty was founded in 618 by Gaozu. An era of prosperity and innovations in art and technology began, buddhism becoming the main religion in the country -as it has gradually been established since the 1st century AD. The capital city was set at Xi'an (then named 'Chang'an' which means 'perpetual peace' in Chinese) in the province of Shaanxi, likely being the largest city in the world, along with Baghdad and then Constantinople, for that era. That location had already been the place of the capital city to the Qin, the first Chinese imperial dynasty, under the name of Xianyang. Chang'an, at times, when the Barbarians were threatening, was left off as the rulers settled in Luoyang, in the Henan province, which acted like the eastern capital city. The Shaanxi province remained the political center of China until in the 10th century A.D. Chang'an had been built according to a rectangular plan measuring 5.8 for its West-East side and 5.2 for the North-South one as 11 North-South avenues crossed 14 West-East arteries, delineating 106 neighbourhoods. A 'imperial city', of a classical shape, was lying at the center of the northern part of the city and the imperial palace was lying just outside the walls at the northeast of the imperial city. The palace was linked to the 'Great southern Door' through a 543ft-wide avenue. Chang'an likely was peopled with one million inhabitants as one more million were living in the suburbs. By 722 A.D., 91 Buddist temples and 16 Taoist ones were found in Chang'an with a western, and eastern market place. 4 zoroastrian temples and 2 Nestorian churches also added. Like the one of the Han, the Tang dynasty is often referred to as the most famed and prosperous in China! Extensive trade developed with the West and the South, as many foreign merchants settled in China. It was a period of 'Pax sinica.' It is under the Tang, by 713 A.D., that the first newspaper ever, the 'Tsching Pao' was published for the first time, as it lasted until in 1911. The Persian and Sogdian merchants benefited from the Silk Road, as they lied at the center of the exchanges between China and Europe. The Sogdian language was the language spoken along the Silk Road. Turks, Iranians, Indians and other nationalities from along the road came to live in the capital city, making it the most cosmopolitan city in the world. Japanese, Koreans and Malay, those maritime merchants, also were part of the trade routes, as they scoured, along with the Arabic traders, the Maritime Silk Road from and to Guangzhou -or Yang Cheng, 'the Goats' City,' as five spirits on goats' back having rescued the city from a famine according to legen- along with other sea routes, from the Middle East or southeastern Asia. Roman merchants already had been in touch with China with that southern Chinese city since the 2nd century A.D. The Silk Road however really remained open during 60 and 20 years only, respectively. The Tang dynasty also invented gun powder, competing with the preceding Sui dynasty for the title (in the 9th century A.D., Chinese monks seeking an elixir for long life, accidentally invented gunpowder by mixing saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal). The apogee of the Tang was in the 7th and 8th centuries mainly. A series of rebellion, beginning in 860, led to a decline, and eventually a chaos

It was the Tang who established the first penal code of China, by 624 A.D., which was a basis to all what followed until in 1912! It synthesized the Legalist (law) and Confucian (morals and societal classes) views, confucianizing Chinese law indeed. At the beginning of each dynasty since the Qin, a 'code of punishments,' the centerpiece to penal law, was issued. Punishments for men evolved from early physical penalties to beating and servitude, death penalty excepted as women were subjects to a variety as the 'Ten Abominations' hinted to was the most abhorrent to authorities, mostly sedition as the 'Eight Deliberations' were a set of principles lessening punishments for upper class members. The Chinese emperor was the source of any law, and above it. Civil law in the Western sense as far as it was concerned, was the field for customary law. A confession, generally was needed for conviction, which often was obtained through torture. A system of appeal existed

The period of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms followed, between 907 and 960, with numerous dynasties succeeding one another in the imperial heartland, in northern China, and 10 regimes occupying parts of southern and western China. The South came to be more stable than the North somehow. The Song dynasty took power in 960, establishing itself like the new rulers, until 1279, as it began to be challenged, North, in 1115. The Song had their capital in Kaifeng. It was a period of economic prosperity again, with even what was termed an 'industrial revolution' -with things like a per capita-per year consumption of 3 pounds of iron (against 1 pound in the West), the largest cities in the world at that time, and a GDP per capita income slightly superior, by 1000, to that in the West. The martial art of kung fu bull wrestling dates back to the Song Dynasty, brought by the northwestern ethnic minority of Hui Muslims. Practitionners had to learn the martial arts of kung fu and qigong. Each year during the Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, the Hui people fought bulls before slaughtering them for the festival

China, whence, kept on with the dynasties following one each other, until, after the Mongols, the Mings, then the Qing, the last, Manchu, of the Chinese dynasties. China, until by the beginning of the 19th century A.D. represented 32 percent of the net income, worldwide. Miscellaneous rulers of China, whatever the dynasty to which they belonged, always worried to show their power even in terms of the eternal life. As soon as under emperor Qin Shi Huang, every dynast cared to have gigantic mausoleums to be built, which were real towns and palaces for the afterlife, and buried under a large mound of earth. That concept had been initiated by a marquis 200 years before the Qin dynasty. As soon under the Han however, they realized that the effort which was imposed upon the people to the construction of such funeral complex brought to revolts and, eventually, to the fall of the dynasty concerned. That constituted a important contradiction of the Chinese history! Under the Han further, a series of royal tombs had been erected North of the capital city of Xi'an as they symbolized that the rulers, even in death, were participating into the defense of China against northern Barbarians; every mound was really featured with a small city and a garrison. Royal tombs' guard, on a other hand, was entrusted to a nobleman issued from a province, which helped Chinese emperors to check their nobility. As the Han already began to downsize the greatness and lavishness of mausoleums, it was eventually under the Tang that a first solution was found. Instead of having built a enormous hard-packed earth pyramid above the funeral monument, they contented themselves with digging tunnels and chambers under remarkable mountains. That necessitated tens of workers only instead of thousands like before. Sumptuary laws further at the time limited what wealth could be interred in the tombs and they also tried to discourage tombs' looters

The Great Wall of China already is extant at the time of the Carolingians, as it was begun under the Qin dynasty and was aiming to contain the varied tribes dwelling North. It then extended from the nearly-Korean coast of the Yellow Sea to the 'Ordos', that plateau lying inside the great bent of the Yellow River, with a branch doubling it there. Under the Han, the wall was extended West, down to the first oases of the Sin-Kiang, protecting the Silk Road. The Great Wall was eventually rebuilt under the Ming and, in its final scheme, it encompassed 3,890 miles of walls, 224 miles of ditches, and 1,387 miles of natural barriers, like mountains or rivers. The Great Canal, as far as it is concerned, which is linking the area of current Shanghai to Beijing, via Kai-Fend, is dating back to about 595 as it was restaured under the Tang

Japan, Korea


The 'Jomon' period lasted, after the last ice age, from 10,000 to 300 B.C. It was the local equivalent of the neolithic, with semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer lifestyle only and characterized with much artefacts of pottery. New practices like rice, shamanism, and iron and bronze-making, were brought into Japan by migrants from outside of Japan, likely from the Yangtze region, in China, during the "Yayoi" period, from 300 B.C. to 250 A.D. The political organization became more complex, as Japan began to be mentioned in Chinese texts, as the tribes there paid tribute to China. According to those sources, Japan, in the 3rd century turned to a unified polity, ruled by a shaman queen

The following period, between 250 and 710 A.D., saw the emergence of a strong, imperial authority -on the model of China- in the Yamato Court and having a strong influence in western Japan. During a first semi-period -the Kofun period, 250-550- some rivalling states are transiting to the imperial form of power with strong relations with the Baekje kingdom in southern Korea during the 5th and 6th century, yielding the introduction of the buddhism. Some turbulence might have been due to further migratory waves from the continent. During the second period, the Asuka one (550-710 A.D.), the imperial power kept fortifying, with a code of governing laws and the generalization of buddhism in the country. The Chinese influence kept going as the Confucianism was eventually introduced and remained dominant until the 19th century. Name of Japanese 'eras' during the whole story of Japan, always was issued from Chinese texts. Only the most recent 'Reiwa Era' came from the Manyoshu, the most ancient collection of Japanese poems

The Nara period (707-794) saw Japan emerging like a strong state. Empress Genmei moved the capital slightly, to present day's Nara, in 710, with the city modelled on Chang'an, the capital of the Tang as the imperial family struggle against monks and regents. The capital moved to Nagaoka in 784 and Kyoto (or Heian-kyo) in 794. Writings, in the early 8th century gave an history of the mythological foundation of Japan, as it would have been in 660 B.C. by the emperor Jimmu, a direct descendant of Amaterasu, a Shinto deity, the Sun Goddess

The Heian period (794-1185) saw the apogee of imperial Japan and was noted for its poetry and litterature. A strong differentiation occurred from Asian mainland, with an indigenous writing system -the 'kana'. Chinese influence ended in 838, with the last mission to the Tang, in China, due to the decline of this dynasty. Trade and Buddhist pilgrimages to the continent kept on however. The power, on the other hand, passed -like it was the custom during most of Japanese history- to powerful aristocratic families, who ruled liked regents (termed 'Sessho' and 'Kampaku'). A civil war between various military clans ended that period, leading to another trait of the Japanese history, namely the emergence of the samurai clans, and the political rule of a shogun


The Neolithic is known to have begun in the Korean peninsula in 6000 B.C. Sometimes between the 7th and the 4th century, the kingdom of Gojoseon developed from a federation of walled cities. As its capital might have been first settled at the Manchuria border, it was later moved to Pyongyang. A Indian princess from Ayodhya in India married the King of South Korea in 48 A.D. The Chinese Han dynasty temporarily invaded Korea by 108 B.C. and installed 4 commanderies in the region of Liaoning, three of them falling as soon as by 75 B.C. One of them remained under the Chinese control until 313 A.D.

Three kingdoms (Goguryeo -North and center of the peninsula, Silla -southeast, and Baekje -southwest) then developed from the year 0. Those kingdoms were competing with each other both economically and militarily, as the northernmost of them -the dominant one- was at constant war with the Chinese Sui and Tang dynasties. It was then the kingdom of Silla, which became dominant between the 5th and 7th centuries, ending by 935 A.D., forming a alliance with the Tang to win over Baekje and Goguryeo, and then repelling the Chinese troops! Silla eventually then founded the first unified state to cover the whole of the Korean peninsula. The Silla kingdom was reknown like a place of gold ore and it passed from being a small kingdom to a cosmopolitan one where, for example, treasures were preserved which came from a vast area stretching from China to the Mediterranean. The official dates of the dynasty (57 B.C.-935 A.D.) make it one of the longest-ruling royal dynasties as it constituted the base for many of Korea's current culture. A Goguryeo general, meanwhile, formed the Korean kingdom of Balhae, which extended from northern Mandchuria to the northern provinces of Korea. This kingdom which had been founded in 698 A.D. was destroyed by the Khitans in 926, as many of his people returned back to Korea. During that period, Silla had fallen apart in the 9th century. After a tumultuous period of the Later Three Kingdoms (892-936), the Goryeo dynasty established itself in 935, tending to style itsefl an empire, albeit it avoided the term 'emperor' for its rulers, using 'supreme king' instead. About 960, a code of laws was written, as about 980-990 a civil service system instaured as a land-ownership had been established and officials appointed to local areas, as Buddhism flourished. Slaves were freed in 958. By 990, the king centralized his kingdom on Confucian tradition, as he sent learned men to the local territories to oversee local education, integrating the aristocracy into the new bureaucratic system. This new kingdom had the Khitan threatening its northern borders between 993 and 1019 as the central government eventually gained complete authority over this kingdom of Goryeo under the reign of king Munjong (1046-1083)


A large area of modern day Cambodia was under water by 4000 B.C. as a neolithic culture existed in Cambodia during the 2nd and 1st millenia B.C., likely migrated there from southern China as by the 1st century A.D. various groups, with various political organizations existed. The Khmer people settled in the region, arriving there in the wake of the proto-Malays. The Khmers were under the religious and political influence of India -via the merchants, with the first Khmer kingdom existing between the 1st and the 6th century A.D. and followed by one, which controlled large areas of modern Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. The golden age of the Khmers however took place from the 9th to the 13th century, with the kingdom of Kambuja, centered on the city of Angkor, ruling large territories and unifying divided kingdoms. The Khmer Empire then stretched across much of mainland Southeast Asia, with a network of highways connecting far-flung settlements to the capital cities. Sizable cities often existed within and around large temple complexes as the classical Angkorian period began about the 8th to 9th century A.D. The height of the kingdom was reached about 1200 A.D. only. Jayavarman II (802-830) founded three capitals: Indrapura, Hariharalaya, and Mahendraparvata. Khmer kings were considered gods as each one was endeavouring to surpass its predecessor in terms of magnificence. The city of Angkor in nowadays Cambodia was also established by Jayavarman II, by 800 A.D, as it was the capital of that Khmer empire, the major player in southeast Asia for nearly five centuries. Angkor stretched over more than 385 square miles, making it the most extensive urban complex of the preindustrial world at a size three times the one of current Philadelphia. Angkor Tom was the first architectural ensemble in Angkor to be built. In Angkor, Khmers had developed a complex water management system, with a network of channels, moats, and embankments and reservoirs known as barays to collect and store water from the summer monsoons for use in rice paddy fields in case of drought. Largest reservoir, the West Baray, could hold 1.87 billion cubic feet of water. The site of Angkor was lying close both to the Mekong river and the Tonlé Sap lake. The Mekong river was a bounty for trade. By the time of the monsoon, the river's current was overtaking the one of the lake and the Mekong was inundating the swamps of it. That drove thousands of tons of fishes into and the Tonlé Sap turned a inexhaustible food reserve as its waters too were used for rice paddies. The royal palace was surrounded, on a rectangular plan, the boroughs where inhabitants were dwelling. The fall of the Khmer Empire in the late 14th to early 15th A.D. likely was due to several different factors — social, political and environmental. About that last aspect, the region experienced long spans of drought interspersed with unusually heavy rainfall and the water management systems of the Khmers might have revealed insufficient to cope with sudden and intense variations in climate

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 3/30/2019. contact us at
Free Web Hosting