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The Genesis of East Asia, 221 B.C.-A.D. 907

Charles Holcombe

Publication Year: 2001

The Genesis of East Asia examines in a comprehensive and novel way the critically formative period when a culturally coherent geopolitical region identifiable as East Asia first took shape. By sifting through an impressive array of both primary material and modern interpretations, Charles Holcombe unravels what “East Asia” means, and why. He brings to bear archaeological, textual, and linguistic evidence to elucidate how the region developed through mutual stimulation and consolidation from its highly plural origins into what we now think of as the nation-states of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Beginning with the Qin dynasty conquest of 221 B.C. which brought large portions of what are now Korea and Vietnam within China’s frontiers, the book goes on to examine the period of intense interaction that followed with the many scattered local tribal cultures then under China’s imperial sway as well as across its borders. Even the distant Japanese islands could not escape being profoundly transformed by developments on the mainland. Eventually, under the looming shadow of the Chinese empire, independent native states and civilizations matured for the first time in both Japan and Korea, and one frontier region, later known as Vietnam, moved toward independence. Exhaustively researched and engagingly written, this study of state formation in East Asia will be required reading for students and scholars of ancient and medieval East Asian history. It will be invaluable as well to anyone interested in the problems of ethno-nationalism in the post-Cold War era.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. v-vi

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series editor’s preface

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pp. vii-viii

We are extremely pleased to present Charles Holcombe’s work, The Genesis of East Asia, 221 b.c.–a.d. 907, the third volume in our series, Asian Interactions and Comparisons. Holcombe’s is neither an original monograph nor a textbook in the traditional sense of the term but more like a synoptic history of the first millennium...

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pp. ix

Special thanks (in alphabetical order) to Arano Yasunori, Andy Burstein, C. S. Chang, Patricia Crosby, Bob Dise, Judy Dohlman, Lou Fenech, Joanne Goldman, Vickie Hanson, He Qinggu, Reinier Hesselink, Rich Newell, Chawne Paige, Peng Wei,...

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pp. 1-7

Few people today seem to know very precisely where East Asia is, what exactly makes it “East Asian,” or why any such broad regional identification should matter anyway as more than only some empty geographic abstraction. Surely it is the nation-state....

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pp. 8-29

Before there was an East Asia, there was China, but what is “China”? The answer is not as obvious as it may seem. Elements of a remarkably sophisticated higher civilization first emerged in quite remote antiquity, clustering around the core Central...

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pp. 30-77

Beyond the borders of China’s All-under-Heaven, countless numbers of foreign peoples lived out their lives in blissful ignorance of their exclusion from the one true universal civilization. The Chinese people who gave the matter a moment’s thought...

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pp. 78-108

East Asia took shape around the multidimensional theme and variations of the ancient Central Plain prototype civilization as it played off against a variety of local cultures both within and beyond the present day borders of the People’s Republic...

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pp. 109-144

East Asia connected with the great centers of South Asian (Indic) civilization through trade and missionary activity across the waters of the South Seas, but the front line of East Asian cultural confrontation with outsiders unquestionably lay elsewhere: to....

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pp. 145-164

The present configuration of the country we call Vietnam would have been unimaginable to anyone living during the time period covered in this book. Not only was the entire southern half of what is now Vietnam incorporated into the country only...

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pp. 165-182

Documented Korean history begins in very much the same way that the written history of Vietnam began, with Chinese-language records of a newly dislodged fragment of the vast Qin world empire. Even before this time, the northeastern...

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pp. 183-214

From the perspective of the Chinese empire, the Japanese archipelago seemed to lie for an eternity “just off the coast of civilization.”1 The islands were literal outliers of the traditional EastAsian world.Unlike either Korea or Vietnam, Japan did not...

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pp. 215-228

In the year 755, a corpulent Tang general based in southern Manchuria named An Lushan (ca. 703–757), “calculating that he could take All-under-Heaven,” rose up in rebellion against the dynasty. As if in preparation for this very moment,...


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pp. 229-262

select bibliography

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pp. 263-324


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pp. 325-332

E-ISBN-13: 9780824864750
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824824150

Publication Year: 2001