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The Spread of Chinese Literary Traditions to Japan and Korea for AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Apr 18

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The Spread of Chinese Literary Traditions to Japan and Korea is an illustrative example of the Developments in East Asia from 1200 to 1450 topic in Unit 1 of AP World History. You could reference this example on your AP World History test.



map of Asia
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From ancient times through the medieval period, China was seen as the cultural and intellectual epicenter of East Asia. The Chinese system of writing, its philosophies, religious texts, and bureaucratic practices were highly regarded and broadly disseminated across the region. During the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) and subsequent dynasties, China developed a sophisticated bureaucratic system based on Confucian principles, which included the civil service examination system. This system became highly influential among its neighbors, who viewed China’s stability and culture with great admiration.


Korea, geographically close and often under the political influence of China, was one of the first to adopt Chinese culture. During the Three Kingdoms period in Korea (57 BCE – 668 AD), Chinese literacy and Confucian texts entered Korea, where they were eagerly absorbed and integrated into the local culture. By the time of the Unified Silla (668-935) and subsequent Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Korea had fully embraced Chinese bureaucratic methods. The establishment of Gukjagam, later known as Sungkyunkwan, a Confucian academy, marked the zenith of Chinese scholarly influence, emphasizing the study of Confucian classics and preparing candidates for government service examinations modeled on the Chinese system.


Japan’s relationship with Chinese culture began around the 5th century AD, when Chinese characters and Buddhism were introduced, mainly through Korea. The Asuka (538-710) and Nara (710-794) periods saw the importation of Chinese legal codes, the adoption of Buddhism, and the initial use of the Chinese writing system. However, it was during the Heian period (794-1185) that Japan began to forge a distinct cultural identity, developing its unique scripts, hiragana and katakana, from Chinese characters to accommodate the Japanese language. Despite this, Chinese literary styles and Confucian ideals continued to influence Japanese governance and education, especially among the aristocracy.


Throughout these periods, all three countries engaged in diplomatic missions known as “tributary missions,” which, although framed as acknowledging the supremacy of the Chinese emperor, served as vital opportunities for cultural and scholarly exchange. Scholars and monks traveled extensively between these nations, spreading religious, philosophical, and scientific knowledge, which included not only texts but also art, music, and technology.


Printable Reading Passage on the Spread of Chinese Literary Traditions to Japan and Korea

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The Spread of Chinese Literary Traditions to Japan and Korea FREE Reading Passage


Do you want to watch a video about Confucianism?






Developments in East Asia from 1200 to 1450


Unit 1:The Global Tapestry


AP World History



The Spread of Chinese Literary Traditions to Japan and Korea

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Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Apr 18

3

0

0

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