Chapter 26 Web Questions

Below please find a set of questions on the Ming, Qing, and Tokugawa dynasties in East Asia, written by tour classmate Niara Calliste.

Emperor Qianlong on horseback as painted by the Italian Jesuit, Giuseppe Castiglione (1688–1766).

1. In the seventeenth century, Japanese scholars encouraged the study of “native learning” over the “alien” Neo-Confucianism and Buddhism from China. Yet many Japanese customs and their writing system were derived from the Chinese. Why at this time did the Japanese seek to cut cultural ties with these Chinese, with whom they shared so much?

2. Chinese merchants trading with the Europeans and domestically contributed much to the country’s prosperity during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Yet the merchants were ranked at the bottom level of the Confucian social hierarchy. Why did Confucians have contempt even for powerful and wealthy merchants?

3. In the late 1300s, the Ming emperors were able to take back China from the Mongols, destroying Mongol rule and their influence across the land and restoring Chinese culture and system of government. Yet by the mid-1500s, it took more than forty years for the Ming to stop the rampant piracy that had developed along the Chinese coast. Why were governmental officials so inefficient in dealing with this problem?

16 Comments on “Chapter 26 Web Questions”

  1. Tabia Chu says:

    In response to question #3:

    From what I have read, it seems that the quality and effectiveness of the emperors from the Ming Dynasty steadily declined after Emperor Hongwu. I think what motivated Hongwu to enforce such strict rule during the time he was in charge was because they were trying to recover from the rule of the Mongol warriors during the Yuan Dynasty. Having never being ruled by foreign administrators, having their political and cultural traditions replaced by those of Turkish and Persian cultures must have been a time of great…dishonor. It is to my belief that the Chinese are proud people, to have their way of life replaced by an entirely different culture must have been frustrating, to say the least. Among the three emperors during the existence of the Ming Dynasty, the only emperor that sought oversea exploration (much like the Europeans) was Yongle. Once his reign was over, his successors abandoned his expeditions for what was passed off as lack of funds, however I believe there was another reason. Undoubtedly, European voyages had a pretty significant impact on different cultures. Their goals to conquer lands and spread Christianity was just a way to spread their way of life around the world. When Yongle launched his expeditions, I think most people disapproved of this choice because they wanted to keep their cultures exclusive. Even during the time of trading, Chinese merchants did not need anything but silver from European traders. Had their currency been made of a different material–perhaps something that they can have readily available, I believe they would not have made an appearance in the market at all.

    Government officials seemed to lose interest in ruling. Perhaps the reconstruction of the Great Wall fueled this false sense of security. Yes, the wall prevented Mongols from invading in land, however it seems they forgot to address the other methods of arriving to China. Pirates made a place for themselves on the coast, I believe had the Ming Dynasty been under control by Hongwu or an official who still had the Mongol invasion fresh in their mind, their guards would not have dropped so much as to allow the indulgence of appetites and pleasures among emperors.

  2. Gulnaz Aglyamova says:

    2) Chinese merchants had the lowest rank mainly because of the societal values. Another classes (gentry,scholars, workers) contribute some goods into society, but merchants were thought to be concerned only about their own enrichment. As I understand, the big role played by Confucianism, which taught people not to be selfish in the community, and that desire for profit is immoral (Wikipedia). Merchants did not produce anything, but only bought and sold the commodities, so these acts were considered as completely useless to the development of society itself. In such traditional society, where the community values were higher than personal, their position were very weak, even though some of them were rich people. In addition, government also preferred agricultural society because it was easier to control population, which cultivated food crops and lived in one place comparing to mobile traders. However, rich merchants could raise their status if they would educate themselves or their children and try to pass government examinations.

  3. Madiha Rao says:

    Question 3
    It seems that the reason that government officials were so inefficient in dealing with the pirates in the mid 1500’s was because because the Ming were focusing much efforts on stabilizing their society and building the Great Wall in the north than on focusing efforts elsewhere. Also, the emperors of the Ming dynasty were ignorant of the affairs of the government and became corrupt. During the 13th and 14th centuries, nomadic Mongol warriors would come into China and replace Chinese bureuacrats with Turkish, Persian or other foreign administrators. They did not respect Chinese political and cultural traditions and once their dynasty-the Yuan dynasty-collapsed, the Ming tried to get rid of the Mongols and their influence. They spent money on academies and colleges that taught Chinese cultural traditions such as Confucianism. They restored the civil service exams system for the men of China to earn academic degrees and be able to get jobs. Although the Ming tried to prevent the Mongol from invading, Mongol forces did try to return. For example, in the 1440’s, the Mongols killed many Chinese armies and captured the emperor too. In order to keep China safe from any more invasion, the Ming emperors began to build the Great Wall in the north. While they focused on the safety in the north and creating a stable society, they did not spend as much efforts in the security of the coastal areas. Another reason for the inefficiency of government in dealing with the pirates was because the emperors were not really interested in government affairs as they were in living luxurouisly. Corruption was widespread amongst the Ming emperors; for example emperor Wanli would not meet with government officials and instead met with eunuchs to carry out business. The eunuchs themselves were corrupt from their power and position that the imperial government failed to take care of the security of the coastal areas effectively.

  4. Madiha Rao says:

    1. Once Japan stabilized under the Tokugawa dynasty around the seventeenth cenury, Tokugawa authorities tried to reduce the daimyos and samurais to become bureucrats when initially the shoguns had developed a military government (bakufu) to stabilize Japan and they used the military to prevent any turmoil. I think as the daimyos and samurais began to incorporate into a government less focused on military affairs and the worry that the country will destabilize any minute, people in Japan began to develop their own ideas. Unlike before where Japan was constantly unstable and they were not unified, the Japanese began to experience a sense of unification and think that they can have their own sense of identity in intellectual and everyday affairs. They didn’t feel a need to get all their ideas from the Chinese and some of them didn’t feel like they should use any of the ideas from the Chinese. They believed that the ideas of classical Japan before China influenced Japan, should be studied. They felt that their native Shinto religion should be emphasized rather than neo-Confucianism or Buddhism. Many of the scholars of “native learning” thought Japanese were superior to all people and perceived any “alien” influence negatively. Japan seems to be almost experiencing a sort of renaissance of Japanese ideas before the civil wars and sengoku. There was peace and stability and the Japanese could revive their culture now. Not only did the Japanese revive their “native learning” but they also established popular types of entertainment and centers (ukiyo) where people would flock to be entertained. Two forms of popular drama, kabuki theater and bunraku emerged. A new genre of prose literature known as “books of the floating world” developed. Many people in Japan also around this time embraced Christianity.

  5. Jemima Georges says:

    Before the Chinese system of government fell into the hands of rulers, Ming emperors were able to secure and stabilize their empires by reconstructing the Great Wall which provided great defense against foreign invasion. Emperor Hongwu promulgate government policies by making “extensive use of Mandarins…who traveled throughout the land” implementing these policies, and was careful not to jeopardize his imperial authority by putting power in the hands of his eunuchs. Yongle also sought to fortify the empire by moving the capital from Nanjing to Beijing in order to keep a closer watch on the states’ enemies (the Mongols), which he controlled militarily (pg 57, Traditions and Encounters). Unlike, Yongle and Hongwu, Later emperors were extremely self-indulgent and did not bother with affairs of the state. They did not implement constructive tactics to strengthen their kingdom, “sometimes ignored government affairs for decades on end while satisfying their various appetites (pg. 57).While they were enjoying the good life in the Forbidden Kingdom, the country was falling into turmoil allowing pirates to ravage communities and for smugglers to gain their own sense of manipulation.

    • Jemima Georges says:

      For first sentence it’s supposed to be “before the chinese government fell in the hands of inefficient rulers”. Question #3

  6. Jemima Georges says:

    1) The Japanese highly respected Confucius philosophy and probably saw it necessary to observe the importance of learning the Chinese language because of Confucianism, which came from China. The Japanese also welcomed Buddhism which came from China. These systems of religion and philosophy helped shaped the Japanese culture and since they were partaking in Neo-Confucianism they needed to understand first (and make a personal cultural connection) with where that system came from, China. Thus, why they immersed themselves in the Chinese language and literature. They sought to sever cultural ties with the Chinese religion and philosophy because they were probably going through some cultural identity crisis. Maybe they felt like they were losing touch with their own customs and traditions. After all they were an independent country, with their own history and culture; they realized that they were totally disregarding their “Japanese-ness” for Chinese so they may have feared losing a sense of their own ways and traditions. Therefore, it was only natural that they wanted to claim something for themselves that was rightfully theirs, but at the same time the Japanese couldn’t help to admit that they owed much to the Chinese because that culture ultimately made up who they were too, maybe not entirely, but a great deal indeed. The emergence of popular culture such as “floating worlds” helped pacify their sense of “lost identity” and received the approval they needed to build national pride.

  7. Samantha Bryant says:

    The Ming Dynasty desolved during the mid-sixteenth century, because it was burdened by many problems. Pirates often looted and killed thousands of people from the coastal community of China. The government officials were so inefficient in dealing with the problem of the rampant piracy that developed along the China coast because they were corrupt and inefficient. They used their wealth and power to help themself. While the people went through this time of great hardship, the emperors and his eunuch were indulging in luxury and satisfying their own interest and appetite, living extravagantly in the Forbidden. Emperor Wanli often ignored government affairs and refused to meet with the government officials, he would often use his eunuch as intermediaries. They were not concern about the outsiders. They had their own interest at heart, while thousands of people perished at the hands of these vicious pirates.

  8. YU,ZEXUN says:

    Question 3
    Based on the readings that I read about the Ming dynasty, Ming dynasty was a centralized government, which made the Emperor directly control his power. The beginning of Ming dynasty was powerful, wealthy, and vast. The Ming emperor thought China is the center of the world, other country should learn from China. This negative thought made Ming emperor became arrogant and sloth administration. During Yongle period, the Forbidden City was completed, and Ming emperor started to live in that huge “house”, which was secluded from the world. Ming government was being corrupted from almost the middle of its power. As the question said, the rampant piracy was developing along the Chinese coast. So there are two problems that make the government so inefficient. First, Ming dynasty was a centralized government so the emperor directly controlled the power. So the first thing that government officer could do is report the situation to the emperor. Second, Ming dynasty had a vast land, so the sea coats was far away from Forbidden City, that distance made every report takes a long time to process. By the way, you can imagine how many times that the emperor needs for reading every single report from everywhere in China. One addition, the emperor was becoming a hedonist, and didn’t administrate empire affairs. So the Ming dynasty was being corrupted. Those are the reasons why Ming dynasty took more than forty years to stop the rampant piracy that had developed along the sea coast.

  9. Abdul Awal says:

    In the seventeenth century, Japanese scholars study Confucius philosophy and Buddhism which came from China. These religion and philosophical system helped Japanese to establish their culture. Around 17th century Japanese culture was similar to Chinese culture because they used to follow each other tradition. However, this time Japanese seek to cut cultural ties with Chinese because of many reasons. I think Japanese felt that they were losing their own culture because of following Chinese tradition. They didn’t want to continue follow Chinese because in future people many think that they both are one countries because of same culture. I believe that the main reason was that Japanese wanted to be independent in cultural way with Chinese. So, in future people will know the different between Chinese and Japanese. Also, to show up the world that Japanese are on top of Chinese by creating their own culture.

  10. Keisha Jones says:

    Response to question 2:

    With great wealth, most people tend to stray from the norms of the general population. How one treats others may drastically change for the worse. Your virtue and ethics goes out the window. These two key factors however are the basis of Confucianism. They believe in humanism and being wealthy takes that away from people like merchants. I understand why Confucians felt this way about them. It is easy to get lost in the world of riches. Becoming a better person by seeking knowledge was the way and being so deeply immersed in making profits, with the Europeans especially, didn’t sit well with them at all.

  11. Anita Persaud says:

    In the sixteen century Japan was in a state of civil war. At the end of the century powerful states emerged in several regions. Relations between Japan and the outside world was closely controlled. This restriction gradually loosened and Japan started trading with China. The Japanese even started to follow the Chinese culture. As they became stabled Japanese went to school in China and studied the Chinese language and literature.
    I think Japanese recognized their debt to Chinese traditions and wanted to establish a sense of their own Japanese identity and not depend on culture kinship with China. They were viewed as people who are superior and were urged to study their Japanese classics and have their own society. They ended having the finest creative talent.

  12. Anita Persaud says:

    forget to post the ques #
    My comment is on ques. 1
    information from class text – Tradition

  13. Dinghua Zeng says:

    Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed by the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (wiki resource). Confucianism supported low class people-peasant for agriculture-base society. Because of the peasants living style were self-feeding, they didn’t involved with any purpose which the selfless would lead to a perfect society. Confucius believed that merchant were more care about his wealth. They could chase their profit for any ways although it may harm the society. Secondly, Confucians was supported by the Empire. The Empire didn’t want anyone who could threaten his position. The merchants would consider as threaten if a merchant ranked at the high level in society and with huge fortune. That’s why merchants were ranked at the bottom level of the Confucian social hierarchy.

  14. Natalia Roldan says:

    The Japanese were slightly xenophobic in the 17th century because they viewed themselves as being superior to others, including China and nearby countries. They were so xenophobic in fact, that the government made it illegal for Japanese citizens to leave the country. If one broke this law, they would be punished by death. The Japanese also forbade the construction of large ships to prevent long distance travel, they banished all Europeans from the country and they banned most foreign merchants from trading at their ports. Japan remained isolated until the 19th century when ships from Great Britain, the United States and France sailed to the country to maintain relations.

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