restricted access Chapter 5 Han Commanderies, Korean Kingdoms, and Wei China
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53 Himiko would not be known if the Chinese had not had their historians and if the Wei had not been successful in putting down rebellions in north Korea and requiring all subdued people to show their respect and pay tribute.Those who were one step removed, like the Japanese Wa, were sufficiently intimidated to follow the wise course of professing goodwill and sending missions,even flattering by asking for aid. Himiko was an astute fringe neighbor. Her court circle had learned the mechanics of international politics and ways of enhancing the Wa position, for which the Chinese recognized her and found good reason to make favorable note of her. The other effect of the Chinese occupation in north Korea and battles to extend their influence—or to save their holdings—was pressure on less cooperative Koreans whose presence was threatened or others who were merely seeking work or land to settle on. Some may have been led to believe that conditions were more peaceful in Japan. Migrations—whatever the events that triggered them—included members of the elite class to judge by Korean weapons and Chinese mirrors in graves, artisans who showed the Wa the rudimentary techniques of iron and bronze working, craftspeople who instructed in methods of textile production, and others who became farmers and laborers. Rice, probably from coastal China, helped to initiate an economic base for a society that took on the characteristics of social stratification familiar to north Korea. It was, therefore, out of this milieu that the Wa became “civilized,” if one accepts a popular view that raising rice has a civilizing effect. Because the very record of Himiko owes so much to events on the peninsula and the known cultural level of the north at the time, a look at these events will show why and how she brought Japan into the international world. Western or Former and Eastern or Later Han were historically divided by the interregnum of Wang Mang from AD 9 to 23. Wang’s efforts to reform corrupt practices in landholdings, agricultural loans, control of slaves, and currency management and to further centralize the government’s authority cost him his life in a peasant rebellion.1 The Eastern Han (AD 23–220) capital was at Luoyang, but on peripheral affairs east of China the Chinese delegated the responsibility to their outpost at Daifang. Later Han, with which the Wa had to deal, was much concerned with preserving the lines as established in earlier times. The Xiongnu along the northern border of China had broken up through internal squabbles, and the more CHAPTER 5 Han Commanderies, Korean Kingdoms, and Wei China amenable group had joined Han’s tribute system.The trade routes were active, court politics were no less intense, and uprisings among farmers were periodic threats. The administrative units here called commanderies (jun/gun, kòri; prefecture/county) were inherited by the Han from the Qin and the term not changed until several centuries later.The rush to consolidate and reform was on in the first century of Han rule, especially under Wen-di (r. 180–157 BC) and Wu-di (r. 141–187). Civil service examinations were set up for appointment to offices (165), the Imperial Academy was founded (124), and in the interest of revenue, the state took control of the mining and distribution of iron and salt, and alcohol in the following century.The state also sponsored lacquer and silk production. Lelang, the chief of the commanderies in north Korea, was established (108) as part of a major move to prevent the population of southern Manchuria and the old Choson region from joining forces with the nomadic enemies along the northern frontier. Social conditions at home were stable, the size of the population rose dramatically , and agricultural production increased with the use of the wheelbarrow and water mill. Paper was being made. But the dynasty’s problems of its second century were the direct outcome of the Inner Asia expansionist policies of its first century— a continuous pattern of northern border skirmishes, negotiations, and compromises with the aggressive and virtually indestructible Xiongnu.Access to the trade routes was important, but just as important was protection of the north Chinese from the raids and incursions by these nomadic barbarians.Among other methods of defense, much construction was done on the Great Wall, sections of which had been built even before it became a major project of the Qin regime. Another face of the Han legacy was the...