• Japan notes

    China & Japan

    Things to know…

    Japan’s early history

    Kyoto court

    Shinto, Buddhism (Pure Land and Zen also), Confucianism, Daoism

    Tokugawa Shogunate

    Samurai, Daimyo, Shogun

    Geography of Japan

    Chinese inventions-know what they invented and how it worked

    Chinese Characters

    Activity “Chinese Influences on Japan”

    Activity “Japanese Cultural info”-Chanoyu, Ikebana, dry landscape garden, Japanese houses

    Slide lecture “Feudalism in Japan”


    Quotes from Buddha, Laozi, and Confucius


    Chinese characters:












    Draw a map of Japan and label the following:

    Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, Sea of Japan, Pacific Ocean,

    Ou Mountains, Japanese Alps, Mt. Fuji, Chugoku Mountains, Hidaka Mountains


    Draw a map of China and label the following:

    Turfan Depression, Taklimikan Desert, Mt. Everest, Huang He, North China Plain, Tian Mountains, Gobi Desert, Plateau of Tibet      East China Sea, Sichuan Basin, Himalayas, Yellow Sea     

    Define the key terms and people for both chapters:

    Period of Disunion

    Grand Canal

    Empress Wu


    Woodblock printing




    Civil service


    Genghis Khan

    Kublai Khan

    Zheng He




    Prince Shotoku



    Lady Murasaki Shikibu










    Writing a Haiku


    A haiku is a three-line poem consisting of 17 syllables: five in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. 

    A haiku often includes a reference to nature or to a particular event. 

    The haiku presents the reader with a series of images which, when connected with the reader’s imagination, yield a wealth of associations, visions, and emotions.

     Most haiku are written in the present tense.


    On the wide seashore

    a stray blossom and the shells

    make one drifting sand.

    --Basho (A.D. 1644-1694)

    The fields and mountains

    have all been taken by snow

    and nothing remains.

    --Joso (A.D. 1661-1704)

    The full autumn moon

    cast upon the straw mat floor

    shadows of the pines.

    --Kikaku (A.D. 1660-1707)

    Writing a Haiku--Directions:

    * Imagine you are a Japanese poet

    *  Write a haiku based on one of the four scenes you just viewed. 

    *     Your haiku must contain three lines consisting of 17 syllables: 5 in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.

    *    Your haiku must be written in the present tense and should use words to paint an image that helps the reader imagine the scene and understand its mood.

    *     Your haiku must be illustrated with a colored background drawing.



     Japanese Culture

    Dry-Landscape Garden

    Shinto:  gardens capture the spirit of nature and replicate the natural world

    Japan’s Geography: The rocks suggest mountains, the raking of the stones creates water like patterns, the small size reflects limited space in Japan

    Zen Buddhism: recreate the natural world with simplicity and produce a meditative calm and invite contemplation


    Shinto: shows reverence for nature; the seasonal flowers are arranges to recreate the natural world

    Japan’s Geography: seasonal trees and flowers suggest time and season as well as the beauty of the growth process

    Zen Buddhism: inspires tranquility and peace of mind; is purposely simple and uncluttered—like the state of mind during meditation

    Japanese Houses

    Shinto: Designed to keep the natural world close by having its principle room, the zashiki, face and open out to the garden; has ikebana and seasonal hanging scroll to reflect the Japanese reverence for nature

    Japan’s Geography: Homes are designed to keep occupants cool when days are hot and humid

    Zen Buddhism: simple furnishings, ikebana, openness, crisp lines—produce a calm feeling and a non-distracting environment

    Chanoyu—Tea Ceremony

    Shinto: guests are lead to the tea room through a garden

    Japan’s Geography: tatami mats, flower arrangements, and the tea itself reflect Japan’s natural resources and the small room reflects use of space

    Zen Buddhism: the ceremony reveres simple and selfless tasks; the décor and gestures used in the ceremony reflect the harmony of the moment and the beauty of simple things



    Chinese Influences on Japan

    Japan’s culture and government is a unique mix of native traditions and borrowed Chinese elements.  Very proud of their heritage, the Japanese were, however, within China’s direct sphere of influence.  Starting in the sixth century, Japanese envoys and traders traveled to nearby China to learn about Chinese art, technology, religion, and political thought.  Over the next 400 years, the Japanese selectively borrowed elements of Buddhism, Confucianism, written language, government organization, law, tax systems, architecture, and dress from Chinese culture.  In later times—particularly during the Tokugawa period when contact with foreign countries was prohibited—the Chinese influenced subsided.  Still, Chinese influences on Japanese culture are visible today.


             Paste the pictures of each placard in your notes. 

             Review each placard and do the following:

    Write the aspects of Chinese culture that you see as influences in the picture on the Japanese Culture.



    Development of Feudalism in Japan

             Clans were united by a common religion called Shinto.  They worship nature by revering kami—divine spirits of nature

             Taika Reforms made the emperor supreme, not just religiously, but also politically

             This put the power over land in the hands of the emperor; he appointed the regional leaders as tax collectors

             Heian nobles at the Kyoto court led a life focused on beauty and manners.

             They spent time playing games like “Go”, memorizing and writing poetry, and having ceremonies, festivals, and parties.

             Provincial nobles were rugged and self-sufficient.  Kyoto court nobles refined and spent time doing leisure activities.

             Beauty was…multicolored robes, white powder on the face.  Women blackened teeth and shaved their eyebrows and added 2 small painted artificial eyebrows high on the forehead.  Men wore pointy beards on their chins.

    (Military Government)


    Military and

    political leader of Japan


    High-ranking samurai lords

    who provided shogun with warriors

    in exchange for land


    Lower-ranking warriors who served their

    daimyo in exchange for small manors


    Lowest class; worked land for their lord

             There were years of civil strife among warring states.

             Oda Nobunaga (ruled A.D. 1534-1582) was able to consolidate control of central Japan—32 of the 66 provinces.

             Toyotomi Hideyoshi used negotiations to bring all 66 provinces together and reunify Japan.

             Tokugawa family ruled Japan and there was a time of peace during this era. 

             The Samurai’s code of conduct, Bushido, was developed during this time. “Way of the Warrior”

             Castle towns were set up and became the center of feudal society.




    Kabuki Dramas of Life in Feudal Japan

          Wigs used to heighten emotion

          Faces painted red for strength, blue for evil

          Elaborate costumes

          Quick costume changes

          Revolving stage and trap doors

          Ramp leading to stage for ghosts and magicians

          Music provided by shamisens, drums, bells, and flutes

          Melodies reflect certain characters, emotions, or natural sounds


    Feudal Japan

           -Zen Buddhism and Shinto were the primary religions

          -Samurai acted as bureaucrats

           -the merchants were viewed as       lowest social class

    Medieval Europe

          -Christianity was the primary religion

          -church officials acted as bureaucrats

          -serfs were viewed as the lowest social class


             Soldiers promised

             to wage battle for

             their lords

             -Some individuals devoted themselves to the monastic life

             -Lords built castles for protection

             -Peasants were bound to turn their crops over to their lords

             -craft guilds trained artisans and monitored the quality of goods they produced



    Marco Polo

    Marco Polo, a 13th century Italian from the city of Venice, was one of the first Europeans after the fall of the Roman Empire to journey across Asia to China.  Beginning in 1271, Marco accompanied his father and uncle, diamond merchants who had traveled to China before, on a 3-year trip from Palestine to Shang Du in China.

    In China, Marco Polo found a civilization more advanced than Europe.  At one of the large cities, Marco discovered that there were 300 baths for public use, with hot and cold water. He saw grand palaces, tree-shaded highways, paved roads, parks, and fine bridges. 

    Impressed with Marco’s integrity and intelligence, Kublai Khan, who had befriended Marco’s father and uncle on their first journey to China, appointed Marco as commissioner to the imperial council in 1277.  Later Marco was appointed governor of the Chinese city of Hangzhou. 

    These positions allowed him to travel to such faraway places at Tibet, India, Burma, and eastern China, where he saw other wondrous sights, such as cloth that would not burn (asbestos), black stones that would burn (coal), and paper money.

    Homesick, Marco Polo returned to Venice in 1295 and found the city at war with Genoa.  Polo acted as the commander of a Venetian galley until he was captured by the Genoese and put in prison.  There among the prisoners, jailers, and visitor he found an audience for his stories of fantastic travels.  One of the inmates copies the narrative from Marco’s dictation.  This resulted in the book…A Description of the World (now called The Travels of Marco Polo. 

    People thought his claims about Asia were exaggerated.  On his deathbed in 1324, a priest begged Marco to admit that much of his book was false otherwise he would die a liar.  Marco allegedly replied, “I never told half of what I saw!”  It was not until the 20th century scholars confirmed much of what appeared in his book that it was recognized that Polo had accurately describe the culture of Yuan China.