Topic 07. Challenges to traditional East Asian societies (1700 - 1868)

This section focuses on the challenges faced by both imperial China and Japan from the mid-18th Century to the mid-19th Century as they dealt with domestic economic, political and social strains and also challenges from the West who wanted to open up both countries for trade. Both countries were to respond to these challenges in very different ways and with very different consequences.

Specifically this section looks at:

  • the nature of Imperial China in the 18th Century: Emperor Qianlong and imperial decline
  • the Chinese tribute system and attempts by the West to open up China to trade
  • the causes and consequences of the First and Second Opium Wars
  • Taiping Rebellion
  • Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate
  • he impact of Commodore Perry's expedition

1. The nature and structure of imperial rule under the Qing dynasty; Qianlong

The Qing dynasty, founded by the invading Manchus, was the last imperial dynasty of China; it was established in 1644 and ended in 1911 thus lasting for three centuries.

2. The Chinese tribute system and western trade missions

The 'tributary system' operated by the Qing dynasty assumed that China was culturally and materially superior to all other nations.

3. First and Second Opium Wars

In mid-19th century, two conflicts, known as the First and the Second Opium Wars were fought between Britain and Qing China.

4. Taiping Rebellion

Hong Xiuquan, a Chinese Christian convert who believed that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ, founded a movement that gathered momentum in China in the 1840s.

5. The Tokugawa Shogunate's rule in Japan

The Tokugawa Shogunate, also known as the Tokugawa Bakufu controlled Japan between 1603 and 1868. Society was characterised by a strict social order and isolation from the rest of the world.

6. The fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, 1853 to 1868

While the bakufu were struggling with the social and economic problems discussed on the previous page, a foreign crisis developed which brought matters to a head.

7. Challenges to East Asian societies: Essay planning

On this page you will find essay frames and essay planning exercises for this topic.

8. Challenges to traditional East Asian societies: Graded student examples

On this page you will find sample essays on this topic, written by students and graded by examiners. We have also suggested activities that can be done with these essays.

9. Challenges to traditional East Asian societies: Videos

There are already many videos on the ATL pages for this topic. Here are a few more on Tokugawa Japan which students may find interesting..

Challenges to East Asian Societies: Extra Resources

Here you can find just a small section of the websites and texts that students might find find enjoyable to develop their understanding further.


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