Take Home Final
May 6, 2013
In the 1980s, the world talked was amazed by the rapid economic recovery of Asia as Hong Kong and Japan, war ravaged backwaters merely 35 years prior, were suddenly out competing their western contemporaries. China, South Korea, and Japan experienced incredible economic growth near the end of the 20th century. So well prepared to tackle the 21st are these countries that some have gotten excited enough to call our century, the Asian century. East Asia will undoubtedly have a strong presence in the following decades, but what exactly is the unique East Asian fingerprint? What is East Asia and what unique characteristics does it have that make its members so important in today's modern era? As Charles Holocombe explained it, "A persuasive argument can be made that rather than representing some fundamentally unprecedented departure from past experience, the recent economic rise of East Asia is really more of a return to normal." ( A History of East Asia, p1) East Asia is the world most usefully defined as the region of the world which extensively use Chinese writing system and absorbed much of the philosophy of Confucianism. ( A History of East Asia, p3) These major regions which share the use of Chinese writing, a rich political history of dynastic rulers, and who bear respect for the virtues of Confucianism have colorful and diverse cultures that make them uniquely East Asian; moreover, China, Korea, and Japan each have long eventful histories prior to being dragged through the fires of war and revolution and miracle stories of their own before becoming the economic powerhouses that we know them as today. A vast majority of the people in East Asia would call themselves Chinese. They would be proud to call themselves so because China has since ancient times, exerted pressure on the East Asian sphere and commanded respect from its neighbors-- today, it is second only to the United States in terms economic power. China is the birthplace of Confucianism and its imperial court system served as the model for the imperial courts of Korea and Japan. Because of these contributions and interactions with its neighbors, China is integral to the East Asian fingerprint. Its economy and production power has long been the best in the world until they were overtaken by the west, but great revolutionary leaders were able to transform China into a modern economy and country that deserves attention. The first unified Chinese empire was the Qin Dynasty and it emerged in 221BC, and though short lived, the Qin dynasty marked the start of this court trend in China that would last until 1911. Chinese emperors were powerful and significant figures who shaped much of China's history by integrating the teachings of Confucius into their leadership and society. Confucius emphasized leading by example, tradition, learning, and filial piety-- through these, one becomes humane. The teachings of Confucius spread far in East Asia as it had an influence in Tokugawa Japan, and was wholly taken to heart by Choson Korea. Chinese emperors wove Confucianism into the government by issuing standardized tests on these virtues to virtually every individual who held a position in government. In addition, emperors used the concept of the Mandate of Heaven to legitimize their rule and this allowed for the stability of dynasties. The concept of the Mandate of Heaven therefore legitimized repeated changes throughout premodern Chinese history and imposed an ideal standard obligation of meritorious rule on earth. (A History of East Asia, p33) The young empires of Korea and Japan each emulated this as well and created accounts of their leaders possessing divine lineage and copied much of the Chinese court system, such is the extent of the Chinese influence on its neighbors. The rulers of premodern China also did well to take care of their economy as even in the 18th century, China enjoyed a standard of living...
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