Historians divide history into large and small units to explain history to themselves and students. It is important to remember that any historical period is a construction and a simplification. In Asia, due to its large land area and diverse cultures, there are several overlapping timelines. Also, for the same reason, different regions have different histories, but they are all interconnected at different points in history. Here are some important basics to get you started.

Geographical divisions

Here are the main subcategories currently in use in textbooks or art museums. Keep in mind that these categories are complicated by earlier divisions, some of which reflect a violent history of colonial movements by Western or Asian countries.

*It is bordered by Central and North Asia, the Caspian Sea to the west, China to the east, and Afghanistan (perhaps part of the Central Asian region) to the south.

Are you unfamiliar with the term “North Asia”? A has a historical explanation. North Asia, also known as Eurasia, became part of Russia in the 17th century. “North Asia” is a region that has not yet been explored by Asian studies. Because it has historically been essential for the study of Russia as a continental country.

*West Asia, Iraq (ancient Mesopotamia), Iran (formerly Persia), Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean (now Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Gaza Strip and the West Bank), the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian Peninsula, the Gulf, Qatar, , Jordan and the United Arab Emirates), Anatolia and the Caucasus (present-day Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia).

*It is found in East Asia, Mongolia, China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and North and South Korea.

Central and West Asia are known as the “Near East” and the “Middle East”. By the same token, East Asia is known as the “East East.” All of these conditions are Western-centric, reflecting European geopolitics. They are verbal terms and they isolate and lionize one verbal point. For example, for the “East East” people, their lands and cultures are not “East” or “.” In stark contrast, they represent world geography created differently, by their own cultural and socio-political bias.

*South and Southeast Asia are geographically north of Australia, south of China and Japan, and west of Papua New Guinea. These countries are Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, East Timor, Laos, Singapore, Vietnam, Venezuela, Burma, and Thailand. South Asia, also known as the Indian subcontinent, consists of sub-Himalayan countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Bhutan, and the Maldives.

South Asia is often associated with a vague and politically motivated “India”, and from the point of view of the Western powers (Portuguese, French, Dutch, and British), over time, various parts of the region have been dominated and colonized. After…

Cultural divisions

A radically different way of looking at Asia’s cultural histories is to trace major transcultural phenomena — from religious to commercial — that spanned multiple periods and geographical regions. Such phenomena include


Buddhism, which developed in India in reaction to the established religion, Hinduism, and subsequently spread to other countries in South, Southeast, and East Asia. From the 6th century B.C.E. to the present day, Buddhism shaped various aspects central to these Asian cultures, from principles of government to visual and material culture.


BCE And the Iberian Peninsula. One can find in-depth traces of the history of the Islamic world and many Asian cultures and regional cultural phenomena in Asia and beyond.

The Silk Road,

The Silk Road, named only in the 19th century, is a network of trade routes dating back to the 2nd century. It has been connected for centuries from eastern China to southern Europe and North Africa. Although particularly involved in the silk trade, these Pan-Asian roads had a significant impact on local cultures and facilitated cross-cultural encounters.

As you read the timeline below

-Keep these divisions in mind and note the changes and adjustments;

-Think of parallel trajectories (important independent developments in different parts of the world) and convergent places (cross-cultural encounters and developments);

-Keep in mind that the “gray areas” of the past were generally the most complex, but they tend to provide the richest and most English history.

Note to teachers and students
For the most part, this periodicity corresponds to AP world history.

Prehistoric (before c. 2500 B.C.E.)

The term “prehistoric” refers to the time before written history. As elsewhere in Asia, as we know, this is the time when the basic elements of human civilization culture were created and developed. As irrigation is mastered, communities move from hunting and gathering to taming and land cultivation. Prehistoric men and women develop and eventually write language and customs expressed through intricate tools, pottery and clothing, houses and monuments, and various arts.


In Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), B.C.E. As many as 8000 indigenous agricultural communities have been established over time. By 2500 B.C.E., monumental architecture testified to the development of a hierarchy of social and political power. Writing – newly created – provides valuable information about city-states, rulers and their reigns. The cuneiform system is one of the oldest writings invented by the Sumerians. It is no coincidence that cuneiform inscriptions on clay tablets are one of the oldest and most widespread means of cultural transmission and artistic expression.


In China, the writing was first seen as an oral inscription, a symbol of the Zhang dynasty (1700-1027 B.C.E.). Oracle bones made from the shoulder blades of cattle or from the feet of turtles – according to their titles – were used for divination (prediction of the future). Until then, China had developed a rich culture, from clay and clay figurines to carved jade and bronze ritual vessels. The second will have a lasting impact on Chinese art and design. Also, a pair of dragons and leopards, symbolizing water and wind, a central form of Chinese art, appear for the first time during this period. The oldest example is AD. From a river shell mosaic representation. 5300 B.C.E., excavations at a royal tomb in Shishuipo, Henan Province.

Ancient – Conquests, New Empires, and New Religions (c. 2500 B.C.E. to 650 C.E.)

The ancient world is often regarded as the cradle of contemporary student culture. It is home to important “origins” and changes that shape cultural practices and artistic expression. Like elsewhere in Asia, it was a period of military conquest that contributed to the emergence of the first great empires and quickly became a cultural center. The empires formed during this period extend across the geographical divisions mentioned above and beyond.


The first of these empires was B.C.E. Of Cyrus the Great, who started the multi-state Persian Empire in the 6th century. Maintaining control of a large area covering the Balkans and the Eastern Indus Valley in western (Europe) But empires come and go and cultures are transformed in that process. Much of Cyrus’ empire was conquered centuries later by Alexander the Great. The arrival of Alexander in West and Central Asia in the 3rd century B.C.E. Had a lasting effect on the visual representation of those regions and beyond. This phenomenon, known as Hellenism, brought the features of Greek art – especially its synthesis of naturalism and idealism – to the centers of local cultural production and imitated and translated them.


This powerful fusion of the ancient Gandhara (present-day north-western Pakistan) can be seen centuries later in the devotional images of the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas. Consider the subtle shine of the body, the expressiveness of the facial features, and the harmony of the garments. But human representations of the Buddha were not always the norm. In fact, the arrival of the Buddha in the oldest Indian images of the new religion at the time signaled a space under a footpath or parasol. The Gandhara tradition was the first to develop the human image of the Supreme Buddha. With the increasingly significant patronage of Buddhism in South Asia, other styles emerged, marking the shift from narrative to devotional images. The Gupta Empire (c. 319 to 543), known as the “Golden Age”, created the “ideal” images of the Buddha.

Middle Ages – Realms and Societies (c. 650 C.E. to 1500 C.E.)

The concept of a “medieval age” has been developed in connection with Western cultures to mark a period between ancient times and the Renaissance, showing a consistency not seen in Asia during that time. As in other time frames of the “Middle Ages”, different Asian regions had significantly different histories. This is a time of significant advances in communication and science throughout Asia. For example, the metal movable type was discovered in China in the 12th century (about 300 years before Gutenberg’s movable type printing press in Europe). Advances in technology and science to consolidate the political power of empires – used in military service such as the discovery and improvement of ammunition. The Mongol Empire (1206-1405), founded by Genghis Khan, was one of the most prominent. At its peak, the Mongol Empire ruled over Eurasia and the Silk Road and saw the intercontinental expansion of movable type printing and the flourishing of local cultures due to Mongol patronage.


Another major catalyst for cultural and artistic activity was the emergence of the Islamic Empire in Central and West Asia. it’s not. Started around 634. It was during this period that the Islamic political structure known as the Caliphate emerged. For new leaders seeking to legalize political power, the caliphs of the 7th and 8th centuries generally used art and architecture to mark their existence and to shape the cultural identity of their vast territories.

A striking example is the Great Mosque (Friday Mosque) of Damascus in today’s Syria — one of the oldest in the world and larger than any other mosque built before it. Constructed under the patronage of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I (who ruled from 705–715), the mosque occupied a site that once housed a temple dedicated to a Syrian god, then a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter, and later a church dedicated to John the Baptist. The Great Church of Damascus brought considerable fame to the caliphate. The land is considered sacred during many previous political and cultural reigns. The Great Church has three minarets, all with different historical and historical periods, and has a prayer hall modeled on the original Christian basilica. The walls are decorated with ornate mosaics attributed to Byzantine craftsmen and depict verses from the Qur’an.


It was during this period that Islam was introduced to China (some parts). In fact, this is a time of significant encounters and exchanges. For example, in 607 the first Japanese ambassador was recognized by the Chinese imperial court. This diplomatic relationship opened up a channel for cultural expansion that had a lasting impact on Japanese political thought, literature, and art. Shortly afterward, the Tang Dynasty was established in China, leading to a cultural “golden age.” Tang-dynasty poetry is among the most extraordinary literary achievements of our World Heritage and will become an extremely rich subject source for Chinese (and Japanese) artists over the centuries. The Tang Dynasty weakened at the end of the uprising, led to some dynasties focusing on the ethnic and cultural diversity of the vast territory under Chinese rule.

For example, between the Song and the Ming dynasties, the Yuan dynasty was founded by the Mongolian Kublai Khan and held power for nearly a century before it collapsed. Is a legitimate part of Chinese culture. Although relatively short-lived compared to the relatively peaceful and prosperous Ming Dynasty, the Yuan Dynasty saw the emergence of contemporary classical figures in Chinese visual arts, especially the so-called “Four Lords of the Yuan Dynasty” (Huang Gongwang, Ni San, Wang Meng). – Experimental painters who cultivate the ideals of personal expression. Their distinctive styles – Wang Meng’s elaborate, tape-like composition compared to the brushwork developed at Ning San – inspired and challenged generations of Chinese artists.


Another prominent society in the south of China prospered. In the territory of present-day Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began the Hindu-Buddhist Angkor Empire, which developed to destroy the mainland of Southeast Asia as well as parts of southern China. The cultural “golden age” of the Khmer Empire in the 12th century led to the capture of Angkor Wat, one of the largest religious monuments in the world, by the Khmer capital Angkor over 400 acres. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, it gradually became a Buddhist temple as Buddhism was embraced by the Khmer rulers, especially by King Jayavarman VII, the most powerful leader of the Angkor Empire. Many temples blended with Hindu and Buddhist iconography and Angkor reflected the creative tension of a multicultural empire in its spectacular architecture.

Early Modern – Self-Fashioning and Transcultural Encounters (c. 1500 – c. 1850)

As the old empires consolidated their power and new rulers and dynasties emerged, this period saw some of the most striking manifestations of self-design. Created by art historian Steven Greenblatt for the Western Renaissance (especially 16th-century England), “self-design” is an apt term for describing the cultural processes of Asia at the same time. Self-design is a response to the power struggles of an increasingly rich world, from military tensions and diplomatic missions to cross-cultural encounters ranging from the Silk Road to trade exchanges to cultural and scientific collaborations.


1501 marks the beginning of Safavid’s rule in Persia. His fascinating history presents a fusion of transitional culture and self-design. The Safavids continued to rule for more than two centuries. Their empire today includes Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Armenia, Eastern Georgia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Throughout this vast territory, many cultures became intertwined, and the Safavids used architecture and art to strengthen their rule. The capital of Isfahan concentrated the cultural power of the empire by providing excellent examples of Safavid architecture and visual and material culture.

An interesting and important gift presented by Safavid Shah Abbas in 1611 in memory of his spiritual ancestor, the Sufi sheik Sheikh Safi al-Din, is a fine example of how the Safavids used their multicultural reality. Ardabil. The gift consisted of over a thousand blue-and-white porcelain objects of the Chinese Ming Dynasty and is one of the most important collections of such pottery outside of China to this day.

Why does a Safavid ruler donate and display Chinese artifacts in honor of Safavid’s spiritual creator? It has been argued that this is a prime example of “porcelain diplomacy.” In other words, Safavid Shah publicly sent a message that his universality was a sign of his power on the world stage and signaled that many of the finest examples of Chinese porcelain had been compiled by his own and had now been redesigned as an offering to an important Safavid. . the church. The gift was an important part of the Ardabil architectural complex, and a “Chinese [porcelain] house” (Chinese mine) was built to accommodate hundreds of specially designed shelves and pottery on the walls.


In China, the Ming Dynasty – producing blue-and-white porcelain under their control and expanding globally – led the Qing Dynasty in 1636. The Qing Dynasty, led by the Manchu emperors and ruling a large and culturally diverse territory, strategically emphasized multiculturalism in a manner reminiscent of the Safavids’ similar efforts. Qing Court became an important patron of the arts. To a large extent, it is characterized by greatness, wealth, and the eccentricity of design.

In Japan, the early 17th century marked a turning point with the Tokugawa family ruling the country and establishing their long and relatively peaceful and prosperous shogunate. Tokugawa was ruled by Edo (present-day Tokyo). Where a vibrant urban culture developed. It is somewhat an isolated column in the palace of the Kyoto emperor.

Much has been preserved from the outside world (unlike Safavid Persia and Qing Dynasty China), and Japanese Edo-era poets and artists were inspired not only by nature and classics but also by everyday life. These are called generative paintings (representations of ordinary people engaged in ordinary activities). In this category, a spectacular sub-genre is Rakucha Rakugai Soo (“Capital and Surrounding Scenery”), depicting Kyoto and its suburbs, mixing information from street life with the capital’s public spaces and seasonal festivals.

“Scenes in and around the capital” (rakuchū rakugai zu 洛中洛外図), Edo period, 17th century, six-panel folding screens, ink, color, gold, and gold leaf on paper, 66 15/16 in. × 12 ft. 3/16 in. (170 × 366.2 cm) each (Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015, Metropolitan Museum of Art, image: public domain).

Modern (after c. 1850)

The 19th century brought about great changes in many worlds in Asia. By the middle of the twentieth century, societies were undergoing a waterfall transformation. In Japan, after the exploration of the “Black Ship” in 1853, Japan “opened up” to the world, and after the discovery of American Commodore Perry, who called for the 1868 Rebellion to stop the Tokugawa Shogunate and restore imperial power, art expanded into an unprecedented fashion and ended during World War II. Foreign influences as well as imperialist aspirations and rising nationalism. In China, the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912 marked the end of the imperial history of a country of more than two thousand years. The rise of the Communist Party, China’s participation in World War I, and Manchuria’s invasion of Japan all led to World War II, which later led to the establishment of the People’s Republic of Mao Zedong. In response to centuries of authoritarian and colonial rule, communism became a gathering place for revolutionaries in Asian countries. Each was a manifesto of Karl Marx’s policy, as well as the October Revolution of 1918 in Russia, led by Vladimir Lenin.


The Soviet regime changed local cultural and artistic expression from the so-called pre-revolutionary Tsarist regime of so-called Turkestan (present-day Afghanistan, China’s Xinjiang province, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, eastern Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan). These areas, which were exploited for its natural resources and later subjected to Soviet collectivization and mechanization, made great efforts to maintain their multinational identities. Factories.

Posters and advertisements in Soviet-ruled Asia demonstrate the dynamic dynamism of modernist design (activism-oriented, bold compositions on a network system, and visually striking keyboards) and the aggressive use of art as a tool for publicity. Such images serve as a reminder of the power of images, which have been used to deceive, manipulate, and even rewrite history.

Unknown artist, “Participation of women in work (…)”, Turkic text (Arabic script), book factory of the Central Publishing House of USSR Nations , 920s, print run: 2000 copies, 108.4×70 cm. (image: “Уголок Ленина,”


Colonization is another phenomenon that has had far-reaching consequences for the cultures and societies of modern-day Asia. In the 19th century, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam were colonized by France; The so-called Indian subcontinent was under British rule. Today Indonesia has become a Dutch colony known as Dutch East India. Unlike the Soviet situation in Central and North Asia, the European powers in the colonial South and Southeast Asia dictated what resources were exploited, how they were produced, and for what purposes. In the process, colonization became problematic and eroded local art and art traditions. However, the colonial powers also invested in learning and recording local history, thereby strengthening the identity and self-image of colonial societies. This was reflected in the conscious non-Western art of 20th-century artists.

For example, the Indigenous movement in India encouraged artists to create non-Western, purely Indian art. However, in the case of the Bengal School of Painting which emerged in this context, European and modern developments can still be seen in the basic concepts of the new school. The Indigenous Bengali school shared many features with contemporary Nihonga (literally “Japanese paintings”) in Japan. Like the Bengali school, Nihanga was interpreted as opposed to Western painting but was influenced by Western ideas and techniques. Some proponents and professionals at both schools knew each other.

Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951), founder of the Bengal School of painting, The Journey’s End, c. 1913, tempera on paper (National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, accession no. 1832, photo: public domain).

Contemporary Asian Cultures in a Global Context

Ai Weiwei, Han Jar Overpainted with Coca-Cola Logo, 1995, earthenware,

In an interconnected art world where regional identities are more prevalent than ever, contemporary Asian art offers a wide variety of individual styles and expressions. Internationally acclaimed artists Subodh Gupta (Indian, b. 1964) and Takashi Murakami (Japanese, b. 1962) explore the creative tension between tradition and innovation, as well as global and local.

Working on the same ideal, artists such as I Yiwi (Chinese, b. 1957) combine a reference to traditional cultural elements with an active agenda (for Ii Yiwu, which occurred at the time of his arrest in China). Recognized by many contemporary artists across Asia, IVV exemplifies work in a variety of media, from site-specific installations to film and trust projects.

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