Historians divide history into large and little units so as to form characteristics and changes clear to themselves and to students. It’s important to recollect that any period may be construction and a simplification. In Asia, due to its huge landmass and multiple diverse cultures, there are several overlapping timelines. Also, for an equivalent reason, different regions have different histories, but all of them intersect — in myriad ways — at different points in history. Below are some important basics to urge you to start.
Here are the main subdivisions currently utilized in textbooks or in curatorial departments in art museums. confine mind that these categories are complicated by previous divisions, a number of which reflect a violent history, like campaigns of colonization by Western or Asian countries.
Central and North Asia, comprising territories bordered by the Caspian within the west, China within the east, and Afghanistan within the south (which is sometimes considered a part of the Central Asian region).
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Unfamiliar with the term “North Asia”? there’s a historical explanation. North Asia is best referred to as Eurasia, coinciding largely with Siberia, which became a neighborhood of Russia within the 17th century. “North Asia” remains an under-explored area within studies of Asia because historically it’s been integral to studies of Russia, a transcontinental country whose leaders nevertheless endeavored to shape it as an EU power.
West Asia, comprising Iraq (in past, Mesopotamia), Iran (whose territory previously encompassed Persia), Syria and therefore the Eastern Mediterranean (today’s Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Gaza Strip, and West Bank), the Arabian Peninsula (comprising Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and therefore the United Arab Emirates), and Anatolia and therefore the Caucasus (today’s Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia).
East Asia, spanning Mongolia, China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and North and South Korea.
Central and West Asia are better referred to as the “Near East” and therefore the “Middle East”. By an equivalent logic, East Asia has been mentioned because the “Far East.” of these terms are Western-centric, reflecting European geopolitics. they’re problematic terms because they isolate and lionize one viewpoint. For the peoples of the “Far East,” for instance, their territories and cultures aren’t “Eastern” nor “far.” Quite to the contrary, they represent the “home base” from which world geography is envisioned differently, complete with its own cultural and sociopolitical biases.
South and Southeast Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically north of Australia, south of China and Japan, and west of Papua New Guinea. These countries are Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, East Timor, Laos, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Burma, and Thailand. South Asia, also referred to as the Indian subcontinent, comprises the sub-Himalayan countries of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Bhutan, and therefore the Maldives.
South Asia was often conflated with the vague and politically motivated category of “India,” from the attitude of Western powers (Portuguese, French, Dutch, and British) who dominated and colonized parts of the region at different points in time, as outlined later during this essay.
A radically different way of watching Asia’s cultural histories is to trace major transcultural phenomena — from religious to commercial — that spanned multiple periods and countries. 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 this day, Buddhism shaped various aspects central to those Asian cultures, from principles of state to visual and material culture. See the Smarthistory resource on Hinduism + Buddhism.
Islam, founded by Muhammad within the early 7th century C.E. at Mecca (in modern-day Saudi Arabia), cover the centuries in Central and Western Asia all the thanks to the Pacific nation of Indonesia, and reached non-Asian territories in North Africa and therefore the Iberian Peninsula. One can trace the history of the Islamic world and its deep imprint on many Asian cultures and on pan-regional cultural phenomena within Asia and beyond. See the Smarthistory resource, Introduction to Islam.
The Silk Road, named intrinsically only within the 19th century, maybe a network of trade routes harkening back to the 2nd century B.C.E., which connected, over the centuries, territories from Eastern China to Southern Europe and North Africa. Although occasioned by trade, especially in silk, these pan-Asian routes had a big influence on local cultures and enabled cross-cultural encounters.
As you read the timeline below…
keep these divisions in mind and see changes and reconfigurations;
think about parallel trajectories (similarly momentous developments occurring independently in several parts of the world) and points of convergence (cross-cultural encounters and developments);
and remember that the “gray areas” of the past are typically the foremost complicated, but they also tend to supply a number of the richest and most rewarding histories.