Sino-Japanese Lecture


Above is a rare photo of the the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895).  It depicts Korean soldiers with their Chinese captives.

The Sino-Japanese populations represent a combination of Japanese and Chinese cultures.  Japanese language is greatly influenced by Chinese writing characters written into the Japanese language.  Sino-Japanese cultures are of mixed Chinese and Japanese characteristics. Their descendants live in the Sino-Japanese Global Village, which includes North and South Korea, Japan, and much of mainland China.  There are other indigenous groups, share in this culture, as a result of migration, as you will learn.  Chinese culture may be the longest shared culture in the world, but it is not the most documented.  Human remains, dating back to the Old Stone Age 35-50,000 BC, have been found quite recently in China.  A partial skeleton of a woman, approximately 10,000 years old was found in North Korea in 1959.  In Japan there have been human remains found on the island of Ishigaki which date to the Paleolithic Period about 24,000 years ago, found as recently as 2010.

Dynasties and Ruling Elites of China

China’s ancient history and cultural story is based upon the rulers of dynasties.  China is not the only culture distinguished by dynasties or kingdoms.  Think of the ancient Egyptians and their kingdoms, which were also based on descent.

Dynasties are built upon descent with accompanying loyalties, deceit, greed, jealousy, and chaos. Powerful upheavals occur depending upon who in the descent line ends up the winner of such struggles.  China’s first dynasty was the Xia Dynasty beginning from about 3,000 BC to 1,600 BC.  The last dynasty was the Quin (Ch’in) Dynasty that came to power around 221 BC.  The Quin Dynasty united China by instating its first Emperor, Shi Huangdi.  This was the beginning of the Emperor period, which lasted until 1912.

Ruling elites in every Global Village set the stage for cultural changes, initiated by force quickly, or gradually over time.  China was invaded by the Monguls and the Manchus during the vulnerable times in between dynasties and some acculturation of the masses took place, which added to China’s diversity, both genetically and culturally.   Many of China’s cultural patterns, however, remained fairly stable until the advent of Communism in the 20th century.  China’s writing system arose early, around 4,000 years ago.

War and Conflict

In the 19th and 20th centuries there were two Sino-Japanese wars, which continue to cause conflicts today between the Sino-Japanese and the island Japanese cultures. Both the Japanese and Chinese cultures are heavily influenced by each other.  We will be discussing attributes which have [glossary id=’873′ slug=’diffusion’ /]into the various territories of this  Global Village.

China is proclaimed today to be the most capitalistic economic system in the world, second to the United States.  The Sino-Japanese global village is becoming more important and influential in both economic and political status in the world, as both the Chinese and Japanese have made great strides in technology and trade aspirations.

Artist Depiction of the Sino-Japanese Wars

Ethnic groups that share in the culture of the Sino-Japanese Global Village, include those related to indigenous groups of Mongolia, Central Asia, and  Siberia.

The Ainu are the only true indigenous people of Japan, inhabiting Hokkaido, one of the many Japanese islands.  The Ainu are a unique culture with debatable origins; and first mention of them is in a 6th century Chinese text.  Their unique heritage and culture remains viable today.

China and Japan share much of the same cultural attributes, and they are merged within the same Global Village, but there is not much peace attributed to this joining of culture regions.  China celebrates annually in May the anniversary of the Chinese Patriotic Protest Movement which had its beginnings in 1919.  The protests were against Japan’s “imperial ambitions in China” (Barme 2005).  According to some scholars, these protests set the stage for the rise of the Communist Party in 1921, which was both a cultural and social transformation, and is still very much “. . . at the heart of modern Chinese identities” (Barme 2005)

It is important to remember these cultural dis-unities and conflicts when studying this large Asian cultural area. Both the Chinese and the Japanese carry an innate dissatisfaction with the other about their various aggressions towards each other.  Both China and Japan’s media authorities promote themselves as their own defenders of their own national interests.

Perhaps the relationship between China and Japan is best summarized by Dr. Geramie R. Barme of the Australian National University.  He has lived in, researched, and written much about the history of this Global Village.  In an article he wrote several years ago, Mirrors of History: On a Sino-Japanese Moment and Some Antecedents,  he stated:

Facing up to history, respecting history, learning the lessons of history are all themes of both official and popular protests against Japan’s officially-sanctioned textbooks, the visits of government officials to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo and the perceived failure of Japan as a nation to show full and continued contrition for the acts of imperial aggression throughout East and Southeast Asia before and during WWII. –

See more at the following link, but you will have to copy and paste it into your browser.:

Japan’s Rulers

According to mythology, Japan’s first Emperor Jimmu was a descendant of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu and enthroned in the year 660 BC. While the myths are not considered historically accurate, it is commonly accepted that emperors have reigned over Japan for more than 1500 years, and that they have all descended from the same family. The imperial crest is a 16-petaled chrysanthemum flower.  More information is at the following link, which you will have to copy and paste into your browser.

Despite the fact that the effective power of the emperors was limited or purely symbolic throughout most of Japan’s history, all actual rulers, from the Fujiwara and Hojo regents to the Minamoto and Tokugawa shoguns respected the emperor and were keen in having the imperial legitimization for their position as rulers.  (


Both China and Japan have had long periods of isolation for various reasons.  China was mostly isolated by natural geographic barriers such as mountains, rivers, deserts, and seas in the past, but now is isolated somewhat because of its political views.  The Communist Government of China limits the information that is available to its citizens.  There are sometimes internet “blackouts” in order to limit access to information from the rest of the world.

Japan, on the other hand, isolated itself in the 1600’s due to the spread of Christianity and other Western influences, which were not deemed desirable.  During the next 250 years there was tight control over Japan by the [glossary id=’6447′ slug=’shogun-japan’ /], who were appointed by the Emperor.  Cultural heritage from this period is not only the samurai (warriors), and martial arts perfection, but also the tea ceremony, which became a part of the Geisha rituals.  By 1868, Japan’s isolation ended and more trade alliances were established.  At the same time Japan recognized that the West had needed important information such as science, military, and literature.

World War II was a tumultuous time for both Japan and China.  China, because Japan was continually attacking and trying to encroach on territories, both mainland and island.  Japan, because of their alliances with Hitler and eventual attack on America’s Pearl Harbor.

Post World War II

At the end of WWII, Japan surrendered and withdrew from China as the Allied foreign Forces occupied Japan for the first time in its history.  The occupation by the United States was formally over in 1951 and Japan became an independent country on April 28, 1952.  The short occupation of the Allied Forces transformed Japan into a democracy, still with an Emperor, but an Emperor with little political power.

All wars, and their aftermath have great influence both culturally and socially on the losers; and Japan was no exception.  Women’s roles changed as they needed to enter the work force in order to repair the country from its devastation.  Whenever women leave the home and enter the work force, it changes their status.  They gain more political, legal, and social freedoms when not confined to the home front.  This, in turn, changes roles within the family structure and lessens the importance of family as a social and cultural unit.  Arranged marriages, household occupants, and workforce populations, had endured for centuries changed dramatically.  Japan became an economic power in a few short years after they became an independent nation.

With the cultural dis-unities, the oppositions of the two governments, globalization, and China being a nuclear power, we may expect to see continued cultural changes within this Global Village.

North and South Korea

Studying these two very different, yet similar nations would require a course all its own.  Please view the films below to grasp how North and South Korea became politically and culturally separated.  The first one is a World Investigative Documentary, with a rare glimpse into North Korea and its secrecy.

The second film is also a documentary about South Korea.  The two Koreas could not be more different with respect to their governments and their economies.  After viewing these two films, and the other films for this lesson, you should have a good view of this Sino-Japanese Global Village and its diverse cultural traits and yet see the many wonderful commonalities of the Asian cultures represented.

You have not been exposed to all the populations of this Global Village, but only the main “players.”  When you research on your own some of the ethnic groups in this region, you will discover other peoples who are greatly influenced by the activities of these major powers, yet have little voice in any decisions, which concern their welfare.





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