Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/796

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(ii.) The invasion and temporary subjection of Russia by the Mongols, who penetrated as far west as Silesia, (iii.) The conquests of Timur. (iv.) The conquest of Asia Minor and eastern Europe by the Turks. (v.) The conquest of India by the Moguls. (vi.) The conquest of China by the Mongols under Kublai. (vii.) The later conquest of China by the Manchus. To these may be added numerous lesser invasions of India, China and Persia.

These tribes have a genius for warfare rather than for government, art or literature, and with few exceptions (e.g. the Moguls in India) have proved poor administrators. Apart from conquest their most important function has been to keep up communications in central Asia, and to transport religions and civilizations from one region to another. Thus they are mainly responsible for the introduction of Islam with its Arabic or Persian civilization into India and Europe, and in earlier times their movements facilitated the infiltration of Graeco-Bactrian civilization into India, besides maintaining communication between China and the West.

5. Babylonia and Assyria.—The movements mentioned above have been the chief factors of relatively modern Asiatic history, but in early times the centre of activity and culture lay farther west, in Babylonia and Assyria. These ancient states began to decline in the 7th century B.C., and on their ruins rose the Persian empire, which with various political metamorphoses continued to be an important power till the 7th century A.D., after which all western Asia was overwhelmed by the Moslem wave, and old landmarks and kingdoms were obliterated.

The materials for the study of their institutions and population are abundant, but lend themselves to discussion rather than to a summary of admitted facts. In the early history of south-western Asia the Semites form the most important ethnic group, which is primarily linguistic but also shares other remarkable characteristics. Two of the greatest religions of the world, Christianity and Islam, are Semitic in origin, as well as Judaism. In politics these races have been less successful in modern times, but the Semitic states of Babylonia and Assyria were once the principal centres for the development and distribution of civilization. It is generally agreed that this civilization can be traced back to an earlier race, the Sumero-Akkadians, whose language seems allied to the agglutinative idioms of central Asia. If this ancient civilized race was really allied to the ancestors of the Turks and Huns, it is a remarkable instance of how civilization thrives best by being transplanted at a certain period of growth. Still less is known of the early non-Aryan races of Asia Minor such as the Hittites and Alorodians. One hypothesis supposes that the shores of the Mediterranean were originally inhabited by a homogeneous race neither Aryan nor Semitic.

The earliest Sumerian records seem to be anterior to 4000 B.C. Shortly after that period Babylonia was invaded by Semites, who became the ruling race. The city of Babylon came to the fore as metropolis about 2285 B.C. under Khammurabi. Assyria was an offshoot of Babylonia lying to the north-west, and apparently colonized before the second millennium. While using the same language as the Babylonians, the Assyrians had an individuality which showed itself in art and religion. In the 9th and 8th centuries B.C. they became the chief power within their sphere and the suzerain of their parent Babylon. But they succumbed before the advance of the Medo-Persian power in 606 B.C., whereas it was not till 555 that Cyrus took Babylon. Assyria, being essentially a military power, disappeared with the destruction of Nineveh, but Babylon continued to exercise an influence on culture and religion for many centuries after the Persian conquest.

6. China.—This is the oldest of existing states, though its authentic history does not go back much beyond 1000 B.C. It is generally admitted that there was some connexion between the ancient civilizations of China and Babylonia, but its precise nature is still uncertain. It is clear, however, that the Chinese came from the west, and entered their present territory along the course of the Hwang-ho at an unknown period, possibly about 3000 B.C. In early historical times China consisted of a shifting confederacy of feudal states, but about 220 B.C. the state of Tsin or Chin (whence the name China) came into prominence, and succeeded in forming a homogeneous empire, which advanced considerably towards the south. The subsequent history of China is mainly a record of struggles with various tribes, commonly, but not very correctly, called Tatars. The empire was frequently broken up by successful incursions, or divided between rival dynasties, but at least twice became a great Asiatic power: under the Han dynasty (about 200 B.C.-A.D. 220), and the T’ang (A.D. 618-906). The dominions of the latter extended across central Asia to northern India, but were dismembered by the attacks of the Kitans, whence the name Cathay. China proper, minus these external provinces, was again united under the Sung dynasty (960-1127), but split into the northern (Tatar) and southern (Chinese) kingdoms. In the 13th century arose the Mongol power, and Kublai Khan conquered China. The Mongol dynasty lasted less than a century, but the Ming, the native Chinese dynasty which succeeded it, reigned for nearly 300 years and despatched expeditions which reached India, Ceylon and East Africa. In 1644 the Ming succumbed to the attacks of the Manchus, a northern tribe who captured Peking and founded the present imperial house.

Until the advent of Europeans, the Chinese were always in contact with inferior races. Whether they expanded at the expense of weak aboriginal tribes or were conquered by more robust invaders, Chinese civilization prevailed and assimilated alike the conquered and the conquerors. It is largely to this that we must ascribe the national conservatism and contempt for foreigners. The spirit of the Chinese polity is self-contained, anti-military and anti-sacerdotal. Rank is nominally determined by merit, as tested by competitive examinations. Society is conceived as regulated by mutual obligations, of which the duties of parents and children are the most important. The emperor is head of the state and the high priest, who sacrifices to Heaven on behalf of his people, but he can be deposed, and no divine right is inherent in certain families as in Japan and Turkey. On the contrary there have been 20 dynasties since the Christian era.

The most conspicuous figure in Chinese literature is Confucius (551-475 B.C.). Though he laid no claim to originality and merely sought to collect and systematize the traditions of antiquity, his influence in the Far East has been unbounded, and he must be pronounced one of the most powerful advocates of peace and humanity that have ever existed. Confucianism is an ethical rather than a religious system, and hence was able to co-exist, though not on very friendly terms, with Buddhism, which reached China about the 1st century A.D. and was the chief source of Chinese religious ideas, except the older ancestor worship. But they are not a religious people, and like many Europeans regard the church as a department of the state.

7. Japan appears to have been formerly inhabited by the Ainus, who have traditions of an older but unknown population, but was invaded in prehistoric times by a race akin to the Koreans, which was possibly mingled with Malay elements after occupying the southern part of the islands. Authentic history does not begin till about the 6th century A.D., when Chinese civilization and Buddhism were introduced. The government was originally autocratic, but as early as the 7th century the most characteristic feature of Japanese politics—the power of great families who overshadowed the throne—makes its appearance. We hear first of the Fujiwara family, and then of the rivalry between the houses of Taira and Minamoto. The latter prevailed, and in 1192 established the dual system of government under which the emperor or Mikado ruled only in name, and the real power was in the hands of a hereditary military chief called Shogun. Japan has never been invaded in historical times, but an attempt made by Kublai Khan to conquer it was successfully repulsed. The chief power then passed to the Ashikaga dynasty of Shoguns, who retained it for about 200 years and were distinguished for their patronage of the arts. The second half of the 16th century was a period of ferment and anarchy, marked by the arrival of the Portuguese