Chapter 12


Empires in East Asia


Section 1: Two great Dynasties in China


Setting The Stage: After the Han Dynasty collapsed in A.D. 220, nomadic peoples from the northern steppe and Tibet conquered much of northern China. For 350 years, no emperor was strong enough to hold China together. More than 30 local dynasties rose and fell. By 589, an emperor named Sui Wendi had united northern and southern China once again. He restored a strong central government. Under the next two dynasties, the Tang and the Song, China experienced a golden age. It became the richest, most powerful, and most advanced country in the world.

Main Idea: During the Tang and Song dynasties, China experienced an era of prosperity and technological innovations.

Why It Matters Now: Chinese inventions from this period, such as printing, gunpowder, and the compass, changed history.


China Timeline-A timeline of all of the dynasties.

Tang Rulers-A list of rulers during the Tang Dynasty

Song Rulers-A list of rulers during the Song Dynasty

Review this section 

Section 2: The Mongol Conquests


Setting The Stage: While the Chinese grew prosperous during the Song Dynasty, a great people far to the north were also gaining strength. The Mongols of the Asian steppe lived their lives on the move. They prided themselves on their skill on horseback, their discipline, their ruthlessness, and their courage in battle. They also wanted the wealth and glory that would come with conquering mighty empires. Conflict between these nomadic people and settled people across Eurasia was about to explode into violence. The Mongol conquests would forever transform Asia and Europe.

Main Idea: The Mongols, a nomadic people from the steppe, conquered settled societies across much of Asia.

Why It Matters Now: The Mongols built the largest unified land empire in world history.


Mongol Conquests- a page on all of the Mongol empire.

Mongol Rule Under Genghis Khan- Accomplishments and history of the Mongols

Mongol Empire- Conquests and backgroung on the Mongols

Section 3: Empire of the Great Khan


Setting The Stage: Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, assumed the title great Khan in 1260. In theory, the Great Khan ruled the entire Mongol Empire. In reality, the empire had split into four khanates. Other descendants of Genghis ruled Central Asia, Persia, and Russia as semi-independent states. The Great Khan focused instead on extending the power and range of his own khanate, which already included Mongol, Korea, Tibet, and northern China. To begin, Kublai had to fulfill the goal of his grandfather to conquer all of China.

Main Idea: Kublai Khan ruled China and encouraged foreign trade, but the Yuan Dynasty was beset by problems.

Why It Matters Now: The influence of Chinese ideas on Western civilization began with the Mongols' encouragement of trade.


Kublai Khan, the son of Heaven- Accomplishments and history of Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan- Background and Biography

Section 4: Federal Powers in Japan


Setting The Stage: Japan lies east of China, in the direction of the sunrise. In fact the name Japan comes from the Chinese words ri ben, which mean "origin of the sun." From ancient times, Japan had borrowed ideas, institutions, and culture from the Chinese people. Japan's genius was its ability to take in new ideas and make them uniquely its own.

Main Idea: Japanese civilization was shaped by cultural borrowing from China and the rise of feudalism and military rulers.

Why It Matters Now: An openness to adapting innovations from other cultures is still a hallmark of Japanese society.



Section 5: Kingdoms of Southeast Asia and Korea


Setting The Stage: To the south of China lies the region called Southeast Asia. It includes the modern countries of Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and the Philippines. Thousands of miles from this region, to China's northeast, lies the Korean peninsula. This peninsula is currently divided between North Korea and South Korea. In the shadow of powerful China, many small but prosperous kingdoms rose and fell in Southeast Asia and Korea.

Main Idea: Several smaller kingdoms prospered in East and Southeast Asia, a region culturally influenced by China and India.

Why It Matters Now: Chinese cultural influences still affect East and Southeast Asia today.


Ancient Japan- a page on the history of Japan.