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Indianization Term Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 19 April 2017

Indianization Term

Question 1
What does the term `Indianization` or `sinicization` refer to when used to describe government administrations headed by invaders or foreign powers? Please give at least 2 examples.

                These two terms refer to a general cultural assimilation of the foreign government.  Over time, occupying powers in China and India became familiar with the local culture and began to blend in, appearing more and more as locals than foreigners.  In the case of these two countries, this process led to locals being promoted to government positions that were initially reserved for the foreign or invading power.  The nation gradually looks less and less like a conquered state, as more of its own people are placed in positions of power and its populace regains greater self-determination.

            In India, this process was introduced by the British in the 1920’s and was actually termed Indianisation.  The British appointed Indians to fill senior military ranks and government positions, and set up specific officers to handle this process in a deliberate manner.

            The example is perhaps clearer in China, where Kublai Khan fell in love with Chinese culture in his youth.  In 1271, after being Khan for 20 years, Kublai created the Yuan dynasty which covered the area of China under Mongole rule.  The Yuan dynasty was initially a Mongol administration and was part of the Mongol empire, but with time, successive rulers saw themselves as Chinese emperors rather than Mongol lords.  The Yuan dynasty lost influence over Mongol lands outside of China, and became a true Chinese empire until conquered by the Ming dynasty in 1388 (Saunders, 2001).

Question 2
What developments in Southern Song China resemble the Industrial Revolution of the West? Why were the emperors during the Song period so successful when their predecessors were not?

      The Song period was one of great growth and development in China’s industry and infrastructure.  One of the largest factors of this was the introduction of paper money, leading to a normalized market economy.  This was also a time of development of cities, as opposed to the agrarian economy that had characterized earlier periods.  Cities became centers of trade and industry, leading to the development of a merchant class similar to the later Bourgeoise in Europe.

            Chinese industry grew along with the merchant class during the Song period.  While finding exact numbers from the time period is difficult, Robert Hartwell notes that Chinese iron production lept sixfold from the early 800’s to 1078, where he notes that Chinese iron production reached 125,000 tons (Hartwell, 1962), far beyond that of the Western powers.  This abundance of iron allowed China to manufacture tools, machinery, and trade goods.  The result was that China’s economy grew dramatically, leading to China surpassing Western Europe in per capita income during the Song dynasty (Maddison, 2006).

            Several factors contributed to the occurrence of this Chinese “Industrial Revolution” under the Song dynasty.  One was the establishment of a civil bureaucracy as opposed to rule by warlords.  This helped to encourage the development of trade and industry, as well as education, as commoners could achieve these posts via taking the imperial examination.  Another factor was technological innovation, marked by developments such as gunpowder and movable type.  Such social and technological innovation led to expanded opportunities for the peasant class and allowed many to migrate from farms to cities to pursue the newer career paths available to them.

Question 3
What combination of Mongol attributes and Song weaknesses made the Mongol conquest successful? Please analyze it detail.

            The single largest factor leading to the successful Mongol conquest of the Song dynasty was the attitudes of each culture towards war.  The Mongols were born and bred for it.  Their culture glorified battle and conquest.  The Mongol empire had been growing for centuries, winning victory after victory, which surely inspired fear and doubt in any army forced to stand against them.  The Song were not pacifists by any means, but they were not warriors in the same vein as the Mongols.  When they broke the Mongol alliance to recapture former lost cities, they were not prepared for the war they had unleashed.

            One major Song weakness was that the initial battlefields of the war were not favorable positions to hold.  Kaifeng, Luoynag, and Chang’an were already ruined by war.  The Song strategy of defense also played into the Mongols’ hands, allowing the horsewarriors to choose the time and place of battles and ensure local superiority.  This led to the Song being driven back, finally retreating to Guangdong and losing their leader, Emperor Gong, in the process.

            The Song dynasty was now left effectively leaderless.  The two heirs were mere children.  Without a decisive and strong leader, further efforts at resistance were to prove futile.  The final defeat of the Song at the Battle of Yamen in 1279 was almost a foregone conclusion, as the demoralized and cornered Song were beaten soundly by Kublai Khan’s naval forces, leading to the death of the final Song emperor and the assimilation of Song lands.

Question 4
Why did Chinese culture become so popular and accepted in Japan? What are the major differences and similarities between the Chinese and Japanese culture.

            Many aspects of Chinese culture passed to Japan in the earlier centuries AD, when China was a more advanced society and the Japanese eager to learn and advance themselves.  This hunger for learning and improvement of their culture was the primary factor that allowed Chinese cultural influence to infiltrate Japanese society.  When the two cultures first made contact Japan had no formal written language and adopted that of the Chinese, which would later be evolved to a similar but distinct written form.  Japan also modelled its imperial bureaucracy after that of China, and the courts of the two nations ended up being very similar in the ranks and titles used.

            The largest form of cultural influence, though, was religion.  Both Confucianism and Buddhism made strong inroads in Japan, which at the time had a much less sophisticated form of religion.  Both of the Chinese religions imparted practical knowledge about how to run a society and live one’s daily life, and this proved attractive to the Japanese.  This influence led to the development of Zen Buddhism and the famous Japanese samurai culture.

            With these similarities, differences between the two cultures remained.  One of the strongest was the samurai culture, the code of Bushido.  The Japanese samurai evolved to be a warrior caste, something which did not have a counterpart in China on nearly the same scale.  As a result of this, Japan evolved to a more feudal society, with peasant-serfs supporting the samurai nobility in a system of lesser warlords (daimyo) owing fealty to the imperial court (in reality, the Shogun).  Chinese culture, especially in the Ming period, treated the peasantry more as independent landowners rather than as the lowest tier in the feudal machine.

Question 5
What impact did Buddhism have on the development of Japanese culture and lifestyles? Give examples in both art and literature where Buddhism was a major factor.

            Japanese Zen Buddhism infiltrated and permeated every aspect of Japanese culture, influencing the way they thought, governed, created, even loved and made war.  The Japanese have long been famous for appearing reserved, for keeping emotion private.  This is a very Buddhist trait coming from the teachings of the Middle Path, the path of moderation.  Excess is frowned upon.  Discipline and focus are encouraged.  Those two words have formed the foundation of Japanese lifestyles for centuries.  The formalized ritual of the tea ceremony also demonstrates Buddhist influences over such a simple thing as the drinking of tea.

            The samurai give excellent examples of how Buddhism affected Japanese culture.  The samurai were the ruling class, and as the elite, the commoners would seek to emulate them.  The samurai were known for their unshakeable dedication to their duty, that of serving their daimyo, or leige.  They paid particular emphasis to Samadhi, one of three branches of Buddhism’s Noble Eightfold Path.  The teachings of Samadhi emphasized right effort (continual self-improvement, via constant training at their disciplines), right mindfulness (awareness of one’s surroundings, seeing the world clearly), and right concentration (self-awareness, accomplished via meditation and self-reflection).

            Buddhism’s influences also spread into the art and literature of the period.  The clearest example in art is in Japanese gardens and architecture.  Japanese homes were sparse and minimalist, rejecting luxury in favor of the simple necessities, in which the Japanese took joy.  Their gardens were designed and grown as places for tranquility, as places of meditation.  Buddhist influence over literature is seen in such writings as “An Account of My Hut” by Chomei, an argument for a life of peaceful meditation and tranquility.

Question 6
How did a Japanese emperor differ from the Chinese emperor? Which would you consider more superior and why?

            The primary difference was in the power they wielded.  Chinese emperors tended to wield far more power over their territory and ruling in a monarchial fashion.  While many Chinese emperors were overthrown in the end by court intrigue, regicide, or revolution; during their time on the throne a Chinese emperor was his nation’s absolute ruler.

            In constrast the Japanese emperors were mostly figureheads.  Though viewed by the populace as a living god, in truth their power was very limited.  For most of the last 1,000 years the real power in Japan was held by the Shogun, the primary warlord who had gained dominance over the others.  Within that period were also many times of strife where Japan had no strong leader but was instead fragmented into many separate warring states, led by Daimyo.  The emperor still reigned during these periods but had no power to stop the warfare.

            Chinese emperors fit more closely with the western idea of monarchy, whereas Japanese emperors were described by European explorers as being more akin to the Pope: a spiritual leader with little political clout, while the Shoguns were mentioned as being similar to the European monarchs (Howe, 1999).

            In absolute terms, Chinese emperors seem to be superior to Japanese by virtue of the greater power they wield.  Argument could be made that monarchial institutions have the inherent weakness of relying too much on one man who may or may not be qualified to rule (just look at the damage some of the Roman emperors such as Nero and Caligula caused), that is beyond the scope of this work.  For the purposes of this discussion, I will argue that Chinese emperors were superior as the Japanese emperors were for the most part figureheads.

Question 7
What characteristics of the nomadic peoples made them `barbaric` to the civilizations of India and China?  What characteristics of the nomadic peoples would you consider to be strengths?

            China and India viewed their nomadic neighbors as barbarians due to what was seen as an overall lack of civilization.  Most of the nomadic cultures lacked such “civilizing” characteristics as a large and detailed government system, with most using a system that was very feudal in nature, chieftains owing fealty to greater warlords.  They also lacked what were seen as other civilizing characteristics, such as advanced agriculture with public works projects like canals to support it.

            Another major factor was that of religion.  China and India had very sophisticated religious belief systems, as opposed to the less developed beliefs of the various nomadic groups around them.  As has been seen throughout history in all parts of the world, religion is commonly used as a barometer to judge the level of civilization of a culture, such as in Europe where Christians viewed non-Christians are barbarians.

Based on this barometer, the Chinese and Indian cultures viewed others with simpler belief structures as not being as advanced spiritually and philosophically.  Finally, many of the neighboring nomadic cultures had not developed a fully-functional form of written language, often borrowing from Chinese writing.

            And yet despite these “disadvantages”, nomadic cultures such as the Mongols would end up conquering the great civilized empires.  Their active tribal lifestyle bred them as warriors, not farmers.  Their lifestyle also led them to be superior horsemen, which proved yet another advantage in warfare.  Their people were hardy, used to living without luxury, and well-suited to conducting long campaigns. These cultures that were dismissed as “barbaric” would end up proving mightier than expected.

Question 8
When did the Mughal dynasty rule India. What achievements occurred during this dynasty? What led to the decline of Mughal rule in India?

            The Mughal dynasty began in 1504 when Babur of the Timurids conquered Kabul.  His force was a Muslim army of Mongols and other more local peoples (such as Afghans and Persians).  This and the following decades of consolidation of power with battles fought against smaller regional powers established the Mughal dynasty, and brought Islam to the front in the Indian subcontinent.

            Of note, though, is that the Mughals exercised a religious tolerance rarely seen in the time period.  Though Islam was the primary religion throughout most of the dynasty, Hindus and other religions were rarely persecuted.  The reign of Akar from 1556-1605 brought about the most dramatic change of all, with a policy of direct attempts at reconciliation with Hindus, promoting them to high government office and abolishing the poll tax on non-Muslims.

            Another major and lasting achievement of the Mughals was their architecture.  They were renowned for massive construction projects, including large fortress-palaces such as the monstrous Red Fort in Dehli.  There is also the Taj Mahal, perhaps the most famous lasting architectural sample, built in Agra and completed in 1648.

            The decline of the Mughal empire was a long process.  The reign of the last of the strong Mughal emperors, Aurangzeb from 1658 to 1707, saw the empire hold together but the decay had begun and his policies, while temporarily effective, added to the long-term problems.  Wars demonstrated Mughal military might, but drained the treasury; and new anti-Hindu policies led to resentment and rebellion at home and class struggle (Habib, 2001).  This led the way to foreign invasion from the neighboring Marathas, Persians, and Afghans, eating away at the empire until the commonly accepted date of the empire’s final ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar  who was exiled in 1857.

Question 9
Ironically, while Europeans later fought wars over control of the sea routes in the Asian region, China abandoned its dominant position. Why did the Ming court decide to end the maritime voyages of Zheng He just as China reached domination of the Asian seas? Was this a poor decision or one that strengthened China? Please explain.

            There were multiple factors that seem to be present in the Ming’s decision to suspend Zheng He’s voyages.  Zheng He did most of his exploring during the time of the Yongle Emperor, and when he died in 1424 his successors seemed to view Zheng He’s growing influence at court as a threat.  Curbing his travels that made him famous would be a good way to reduce his influence.

            Cost was also a major factor, as China became embroiled in conflict with its Mongolian neighbors to the north.  Having been once conquered by the Mongolians, the Ming court took this threat very seriously, and devoted every effort to protecting their borders and resisting the Mongols.  Zheng He’s expedition fleet was massive, and the cost of the journeys was thus immense, as he went as an emissary and explorer rather than a trader.  His journeys did not result in wealth pouring into Chinese coffers as did that of the European explorers from the colonies they founded and trade routes they started.  The Ming needed their resources to fight the Mongols, and thus cut back in other areas, such as these naval expeditions in order to meet the Mongol threat.

            It is difficult to say whether this was a wise decision or not in retrospect.  The money saved on naval excursions surely assisted the Ming in their mostly successful efforts to resist the Mongols, culminating in the expansion of the Great Wall of China.  Perhaps if Zheng He’s costly voyages had continued, the resources would not have been available to hold off the Mongols.  And yet there was a cost, which is that when the European nations began arriving in force, the Chinese were not able to resist them.  Overall I would say the decision was wise, in facing the immediate threat rather than a potential and vague future threat that might never materialize.

Question 10
Who founded the Ming Dynasty and what were main characteristics of rule during this period? What were the major achievements of the Ming Dynasty? What is meant by saying that the `sprouts of capitalism` can be found in the Ming Dynasty?

            The Ming dynasty was founded in 1368 by Zhu Yuanzhang, a man of peasant birth and monastery education who was one of the leaders of a series of revolts that destroyed the Yuan dynasty.  Upon ascending to the position of emperor, he took the name Hongwu.  Some major traits of Ming rule were favor given to the poor, a strong military, a strong internal focus, and the replacement of the prime minister post with that of the Grand secretary.

            The Ming period was a good one for the peasantry.  Hongwu seemed to favor the poor, and gave land to peasants to farm.  Peasants who moved to and farmed unused land could claim it as their own and be free from taxation on it.  This led to an agricultural class much like that to be found later in America, with free citizens owning and cultivating land rather than a feudal serf system.

            The early Ming favored agriculture over trade, and would eventually forbid oceangoing trade ships from leaving China.  Despite this, trade flourished due to other factors, such as the introduction of silver to the economy which established currency and limited barter.  Another major achievement of the Ming dynasty was its refinement of the Chinese legal code.  The laws were designed to be fair and understandable, so that they could not be taken advantage of by the upper class.

            Capitalism in China flourished during the Ming period.  The empire was stable politically, the lower class more prosperous than ever before.  Owning their own land meant that they received the benefits from their work rather than owing most of the fruits of their labor to a leige.  This was the beginning of a free market, and combined with increased trade, Chinese citizens were rewarded for their hard work and this encouraged them to do well.


Habib, I. (2001). The Agrarian System of Mughal India, 1526-1707. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hartwell, R. (1962). A Revolution in the Chinese Iron and Coal Industries During the Northern Sung, 960-1126 A.D. The Journal of Asian Studies , 21 (2), pp. 153-162.

Howe, C. (1999). The Origins of Japanese Trade Supremacy. Development and Technology in Asia from 1540 to the Pacific War. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Maddison, A. (2006). The World Economy: Volume 1: A Millennial Perspective and Volume 2: Historical Statistics. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Saunders, J. J. (2001). History of the Mongol Conquests. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

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