Short History of Asia
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This work presents a comprehensive account of civilizations that had credit banking, mass production industries and whole libraries of printed books, while Europe was still in the Dark Ages. Colin Mason covers the history of the whole of Asia, from India to Japan, with particular emphasis on the pre-colonial period. He also takes a critical look at imperialism and identifies Asian traditions which continue to profoundly influence the modern states. The chapters on recent history are enlivened by the personal experience of the author, who has lived and worked in almost all of them. This should be of interest to is the student, businessman and traveller who seek to understand the Asian nations that now make up more than half of the human race.
malaria that hastened this process. Lavish pagoda building, at huge public cost, impoverished the Sinhalese kingdom, forcing it further into decline. A new kingdom grew up at Kandy, resulting in three rival authorities controlling the island. Such was the situation when the Portuguese arrived in Colombo in 1505, attracted by the trade in cinnamon and pepper, which were Sinhalese royal monopolies. The lack of any central authority over the island gave the Portuguese the opportunity for intrigue,
sophisticated for Early South-east Asia: Ships from India 39 its time, but to the Chinese it was a mixed blessing – often their merchant junks, which sailed as far west as Sri Lanka, were attacked by its fast pirate ships. However, its musicians, who visited China in the third century, were highly regarded there. Its rulers used Sanskrit and imposed trial by ordeal, such as carrying a red-hot chain or plunging the hands into boiling water. Funan, which was probably a loose alliance of
the crude punt-like Japanese ships of the time. Many of those who did return brought books, ranging from the Confucian classics to treatises on medicine and history. These were the main avenues through which Chinese culture was transferred to Japan. An additional major influence came from the regular stream of Chinese and Korean migrants to Japan. They were 68 A Short History of Asia educated and cultured far beyond the Japanese, and were welcomed as associates and advisers to yamato chiefs.
Asia of today and will have unpredictable future effects. But for colonialism it is likely that Indonesia would have been more than one country. Sumatra might have been associated with the Malay Peninsula which it neighbours and which its terrain and people so closely resemble. Java and Madura, with their dense populations and distinctive cultures, might have made up a second. The eastern islands and the Philippines could have comprised a third. There are hill-tribe people in north-east India who
grow plantation crops there. By contrast, India’s poorest and most lawless state is Bihar, where caste enmities seem at their worst. The wealthy high-caste landowners have private armies, which they regularly use to attack desperate or even protesting peasants. One estimate, by the Kolkata Statesman, places deaths as high as 40 a week. Bihar, with 90 million people, has India’s highest birth rate, with a population growth of almost 30 per cent in the 1990s. Most of these are landless poor,