The ‘Secret History of the Mongols’

Written from a Mongolian perspective, the work is an invaluable record of their legends as well as oral and written histories. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Secret History of the Mongols is a chronicle written in the 13th century CE (with some later additions) and is the most important and oldest medieval Mongolian text. The[…]

Ogedei: Third Son and Unlikely Mongol Successor of Genghis Khan

Ogedei was a surprising choice for khan because he already had a reputation for often being drunk. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Ogedei Khan (aka Ogodei) ruled the Mongol Empire from 1229 to 1241 CE. The third son of Genghis Khan (r. 1206-1227 CE), the empire’s founder, Ogedei’s accomplishments included creating a new capital at Karakorum,[…]

Medieval Mongol Warfare

Ultimately, the Mongols would establish the largest empire the world had ever seen. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Mongols conquered vast swathes of Asia in the 13th and 14th century CE thanks to their fast light cavalry and excellent bowmen, but another significant contribution to their success was the adoption of their enemies’ tactics and[…]

A Short History of the Buddhist Schools

Today, the four major Buddhist branches are Mahayana, Theravada, Vajrayana and Zen Buddhism. Introduction Like any other religious tradition, Buddhism has undergone a number of different transformations that have led to the emergence of many different Buddhist schools. Analyzing the major Buddhist traditions, we find a great number of topics ranging from moral concerns (which[…]

Feudalism in Medieval Japan

Feudalism (hoken seido) began to be widespread in Japan from the beginning of the Kamakura Period (1185-1333 CE). By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Feudalism in medieval Japan (1185-1603 CE) describes the relationship between lords and vassals where land ownership and its use was exchanged for military service and loyalty. Although present earlier to some degree, the feudal system in Japan was[…]

Woodblock Prints of Domestic ‘Westernization’ in Asia, 1868-1912

In the 19th and early-20th centuries, Japan, among the major countries of Asia, escaped colonial or neo-colonial domination by the United States and expansionist nations of Europe. Introduction What does it mean to speak of people, cultures, or nations responding to “the challenge of the Western world”?  What does “Westernization” involve in concrete practice? Beginning[…]

Woodblock Prints of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-1895

The Sino-Japanese War provided something very new—a modern and highly mechanized war against a foreign foe. Prints and Propaganda The Sino-Japanese War began in July 1894 and ended in China’s shattering defeat in April 1895. It involved battles on land and sea; began with fighting in Korea that spilled over the Yalu River into Manchuria;[…]

Early Evidence of Cannabis Smoking Found on Chinese Artifacts

The findings are some of the earliest evidence of cannabis used as a drug. People have been smoking pot to get high for at least 2,500 years. Chinese archaeologists found signs of that when they studied the char on a set of wooden bowls from an ancient cemetery in western China. The findings are some[…]

A Brief History of the Cultures of Asia

In Asia, because of its huge land mass and multiple diverse cultures, there are several overlapping timelines. Overview Historians divide history into large and small units in order to make characteristics and changes clear to themselves and to students. It’s important to remember that any historical period is a construction and a simplification. In Asia,[…]

Images of Enlightenment: Aniconic vs. Iconic Depictions of the Buddha in India

One of the most important moments in the story of Prince Siddhartha is when he reached spiritual enlightenment—a state of infinite knowledge. Depicting the Divine Representing divine figures has long been a thorny issue. After all, depicting the divine in human form would seem to define and limit the divine in a manner which seems to contradict the idea[…]

Angkor Wat Archaeological Digs Yield New Clues to Its Civilization’s Decline

Research around Angkor Wat suggests its collapse might be better described as a transformation. By Dr. Alison Kyra CarterAssistant Professor of AnthropologyUniversity of Oregon Introduction Cambodia’s famous temple of Angkor Wat is one of the world’s largest religious monuments, visited by over 2 million tourists each year. It was built in the early 12th century by King Suryavarman II, one[…]

Atheism Has Been Part of Many Asian Traditions for Millennia

It might appear to many that atheism is a modern idea. However, in parts of Asia, particularly in India, atheism has been part of beliefs for thousands of years. A group of atheists and secularists recently gathered in Southern California to talk about social and political issues. This was the first of three summits planned[…]

Emigration: Colonial Circuits between Europe and Asia in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Examining comparisons and connections between British and Dutch migration circuits with Asia. Introduction The emergence of colonial migration circuits between Europe and Asia followed the ascendency of European mercantile and military power. In the early 19th century, the European presence in Asia was still extremely modest and very much involved in intra-Asian migration and trading circuits.[…]

The Mongol Invasion of Russia in the 13th Century

Because of its geography, Russia is a relatively easy country to invade from both east and west. Introduction “Give us trade,”demanded the Vikings from the north. “Try our religion,” urged missionaries from the south. Now a new voice was heard throughout Russia. “Pay us taxes,” ordered the Mongols of the east. Because of its geography,[…]