East Asia: China, Korea, Japan 1453 CE

The history of the region has been dominated by the rise and fall of the Mongol empire, but Ming dynasty China is now at the center of a tributary system spanning East Asia.

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What is happening in East Asia: China, Korea, Japan in 1453CE

The Mongol Empire

In the last two centuries have seen, the whole of East Asia has been affected by the rise and fall of the vast Mongol Empire. In the 13th century its armies conquered all China, Korea and Tibet, and mounted huge but unsuccessful invasions of Japan, Burma and even Java.

The Mongols also united much of central and western Asia under their rule. Under them, the Silk Road, that great trade route across central Asia, was at its most active. As well as valuable trade goods, it carried technological innovations such as printing and gunpowder – and disease: in the mid-14th century the Black Death spreads throughout Asia and Europe.


From the later 14th century, however, the Mongols were pushed back to their homelands in central Asia. Native rulers, most famously the Ming dynasty of China, regained control in the countries of East Asia.

Elsewhere in East Asia

The rulers in Korea, Vietnam and Burma all acknowledge the seniority of the Chinese emperors, and their countries are deeply influenced by Chinese political and cultural ways. Regular missions between these tributary countries and China stimulate much international trade.

The Japanese stand aloof from this system, whilst in central Asia, the Mongols remain a real threat.

In the coming centuries China will again fall victim to invasion from outside its borders, but not from the Mongols.

Next map, East Asia in 1648

Dig Deeper

The Mongol Empire

The Ming dynasty

Japanese civilization

Korean civilization (brief article)

Tibetan civilization (brief article)

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The late dynasties of imperial China, 1450 to 1760

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