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Japan, Korea, and Vietnam in the Process of Sinification Essay

The elites in all three civilizations actively pursued the Chinese way of life. In both Japan and Korea, almost all traits of Chinese culture and political organization had to be modified to fit the ancient traditions of these societies, while the Vietnamese mainly learned from the Chinese’s military organization. The Korean elite controlled every aspect of their society, and shaped Chinese values to their own principles. Although Buddhism was favored among the elites of all three societies, there was never a complete imitation of China in any due to each region’s unique characteristics and traditions. While Japanese rulers embraced Chinese culture, and especially Buddhism, the aristocracy and Buddhist monks sometimes at odds and sometimes in concert, opposed Sinification.

Court culture borrowed heavily from China, although indigenous traditions contributed. Korea was originally settled by peoples who were unlike those that created China and had a longer tradition than Japan of development independent from China. Sinification was limited to only the upper level of society. Like Korea, the Vietnamese people were culturally distinct from China and, moreover, separated by mountainous regions. Like Korea, Vietnamese elites were most heavily influenced by Chinese culture.

Use of Chinese models of military and political organization aided the Vietnamese against their southern neighbors. In all three, Sinification was sought, and Chinese culture was viewed as more sophisticated than native culture. Chinese culture had an impact on all sides of the three cultures. Despite different patterns, the power of Chinese model had one other important result for Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Contacts with other parts of the world were nonexistent, because there was no sense that any other place had examples worth emulating.


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