East Asia: China, Korea, Japan 1837 CE

New intrusions into East Asian history, Western merchants and missionaries, are clamouring to be let into China and the other countries of East Asia.

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What is happening in East Asia: China, Korea, Japan in 1837CE

The Qing empire

On the face of it, much in East Asia remains the same as it has been for a long time. The Qing dynasty of China is still vigorous, its empire as vast as it has ever been, except for a small, remote notch taken out of it by a peace treaty with Russia. The Qing-dominated tributary system still covers most of the states of this vast region – Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma. Japan remains the one notable exception, continuing the self-imposed aloofness it has maintianed through centuries of history.

Western contact

Westerners, however, are an increasingly troubling presence in the region. Their notion of international trade and diplomacy knows nothing of the carefully regulated relationships involved in the tribute system; for them, commercial and political relations between nations are conducted on equal terms. They are knocking more and more clamorously on the doors of East Asian countries to be let into their markets and mission fields. The ruling elites of these nations – conservative Confucians – all react with a mixture of disdain, bafflement and fury. They are determined to keep the Westerners out, especially as many of the European traders – particularly the British – are little better than drugs pushers trying to create a market for opium.

Next map, East Asia in 1871

Dig Deeper

The Qing dynasty (brief article)

Japanese civilization

Korean civilization (brief article)

Tibetan civilization (brief article)

European empires

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Modern China: the later imperial period, 1760-1901

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