Ancient Korea -

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: History, Ancient History, Ancient China
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Ancient Korea

Presentation created by Robert L. Martinez Primary Content Source: Prentice Hall World History Images as cited.

Korea is located on a peninsula that juts south from the Asian mainland with its tip pointing toward Japan. At the northern end of the peninsula, mountains and the Yalu River separate Korea from China.

Low but steep mountains cover nearly 70 percent of the Korean peninsula. The most prominent range is the T’aebaek. It runs from the north to the south along the eastern coast, with smaller chains branching off to form hilly areas.

Because farming is difficult on the mountains, most people live along the western coastal plains, Korea’s major farming region.

Korea has a 5400 mile coastline with hundreds of good harbors. Since early times, Koreans have depended on seafood for most of the protein in their diet.

Korea’s location on China’s doorstep has played a key role in its development. From its powerful mainland neighbor, Korea received many cultural and technological influences.

At various times in history, China extended political control over the Korean peninsula. Throughout its history, Korea served as a cultural bridge linking China and Japan.

Despite strong ties, the Korean language is not related to Chinese. The earliest Koreans probably migrated eastward from Siberia and northern Manchuria during the Stone Age.

They evolved their own way of life before the first wave of Chinese influence reached the peninsula during the Han dynasty. In 108 B.C.E., the Han emperor Wudi invaded Korea and set up a military colony there.

Confucian traditions and Chinese writing and farming methods spread in Korea.

Between 300 C.E. and 600 C.E., powerful local rulers forged separate kingdoms: Koguryo in the north, Paekche in the southwest, Shilla in the southeast, and Kaya in the south.

Although they shared the same language and cultural background, the kingdoms often warred with one another or with China. Still, Chinese influences continued to arrive (i.e. Buddhism.)

In 668, with the support of the Tang empress Wu Zhao, the Shilla kingdom united the Korean peninsula.

Under the Shilla dynasty, Korea became a tributary state, acknowledging Chinese supervision but preserving its independence.

Over the centuries, Korea came to see its relationship to China in Confucian terms, as that of a younger brother who owed respect and loyalty to an older brother. Koreans adopted the Confucian emphasis on the family as the foundation of the state.

Confucian ideas affected the rights of women. Early on, Korean women had the right to inherit property. Some upper-class women held public roles. Over time, as Confucian views took root, women’s rights became restricted. Women could no longer inherit property, and a woman’s position within the family became more subordinate.

At the same time, Koreans adapted and modified Chinese ideas. For example, they adapted the Chinese civil service examination to reflect their own system of inherited ranks. In China, even a peasant could win political influence by passing the exam. In Korea, only aristocrats were permitted to take the test.

During the Koryo age, Buddhism reached its greatest influence in Korea. Korean scholars wrote histories and poems based on Chinese models, and artists created landscape paintings following Chinese principles.

Koreans used woodblock painting from China to produce a flood of Buddhist texts. Later, Korean inventors made movable metal type to print large numbers of books.

They learned to make porcelain from China, but then perfected techniques of making celadon, a porcelain with an unusual blue-green glaze. Koran celadon vases and jars were prized throughout Asia.

The Mongols occupied Korea until the 1350s. In 1392, the brilliant Korean general Yi Songgye set up the Choson dynasty. Yi reduced Buddhist influence and set up a government based upon Confucian principles. With a few generations, Confucianism had made a deep impact on Korean life.

Despite Chinese influence, Korea preserved its distinct identity. In 1443, Korea’s most celebrated ruler, King Sejong decided to replace the complex Chinese system of writing. Sejong had experts develop hangul, an alphabet using symbols to represent the sounds of spoken Korean.

Although Confucian scholars rejected hangul at the outset, its use quickly spread. Hangul was easier for Koreans to use than the thousands of characters in Chinese. Its use led to an extremely high literacy rate.

In the 1590s, an ambitious Japanese ruler decided to invade China by way of Korea. Japanese armies landed and for years, looted and burned across the peninsula.

To stop the invaders at sea, the Korean admiral Yi Sun-shin used metal-plated “turtle-boats.” After six years, the Japanese armies withdrew from Korea. As they left, they carried off many Korean artisans to introduce their skills to Japan.

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