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East Asian History Sourcebook

There is no way of avoiding the fact that China is the central culture of Eastern Asia. Massively larger than any of her neighbors, China may have  developed its cultural forms in relative isolation, but since the advent of Buddhism has both absorbed outside influences and disseminated its own culture. Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese cultures are not comprehensible without taking into account power of Chinese culture in art, literature and religion.

Chinese culture itself is highly complex, and the other East Asian cultures also reflect local circumstances and traditions. For instance the (later) Chinese ideal of a scholar-gentleman contrasts strongly with Japanese warrior ideals. It is not going to far to suggest that the very different responses of the various East Asian to the Western intrusion of the past two centuries reflect the variety of previous historical developments.

See my Brooklyn College: Chinese Cultural Studies class page.


This page is a subset of texts derived from the three major online Sourcebooks listed below, along with added texts and web site indicators. For more contextual information, for instance about Western imperialism, or the history of a given period, check out these web sites.


In addition to direct links to documents, links are made to a number of other web resources.

Link to a secondary article, review or discussion on a given topic.
Link to one of the megasites which track web resources.
Link to a website focused on a specific issue.. These are not links to every site on a given topic, but to sites of serious educational value.


Cultural Origins


Yellow River Valley Cultures



Religious Traditions


Chinese Traditional Religion






Imperial China


The Zhou

The Qin

The Han

The Sui and Tang

The Sung

The Mongols [Yüan]

The Ming

The Qing

Chinese Technology


Education in Traditional China

Chinese Views on Other Cultures

Other Cultures' Views of China


Traditional Japan



Tokugawa Era





The Western Intrusion


European Imperialism

British East Asia

Other European Powers in East Asia

United States' Imperialism


Japan as a World Power


The Forced Opening

The Meiji Restoration

The Greater East Asia Prosperity Zone

World War II

Use of Atomic Bomb

China's Disaster:1840-1949


  • Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, (New York: Random House, 1987), pp. 3-30 [extended excerpts are online]
  • The Hai-lu, a Chinese traveler's account of the West in the 18th century.
  • One China, The Atlantic Monthly, March 1996 [At The Atlantic, subscription required]
    Coverage by the magazine of China in the 20th century.

Rejection of the West

Government Efforts to Reform

Religion and Rebellion

Modernization: The May 4th Movement


Early Communism

The Chinese in America

  • California: Anti-Coolie Act, 1862 [At Drug Library]
    "An Act to protect free White labor against competition with Chinese collie labor, and to discourse the immigration of the Chinese into the state of California, April 26, 1862"
  • San Francisco Chinatown Opium Den – 1870's [Image][At Drug Library]
  • Chinese Miners in the Gold Fields - 1860 [Image][At Drug Library]
  • Chinatown Declared a Nuisance! [At Drug Library]
    This is the full text of a sixteen-page pamphlet, "Chinatown Declared a Nuisance!"; distributed by the Workingmen's Committee of California, it called for the abatement of Chinatown as a health menace.
  • Albert S. Evans: A Cruise on the Barbary Coast, Chapter 12 of A la California. Sketch of Life in the Golden State, c, 1871.

China Since World War II


The Liberation

The 1950s

The Cultural Revolution

Chinese Foreign Relations

The Four Modernizations

Hong Kong

  • Atlantic Report: Hong Kong, The Atlantic Monthly, June 1957 [At The Atlantic, subscription required]
    Hong Kong still in the early stages of its emergence as an economic powerhouse.
  • Maynard Parker: Report on Hong Kong, The Atlantic Monthly,  November 1967 [At The Atlantic, subscription required]
    Hong Kong in the face of  Mao's Cultural Revolution.
  • Cait Murphy: A Culture of Emigration, The Atlantic Monthly, April, 1991 [At The Atlantic, subscription required]
    The growing unease among Chinese Hong Kong citizens about the impending Chinese rule.
  • Hong Kong Constitution, 1990 [At ICL]

Taiwan [Republic of China]

  • Taiwan (Republic of China) Constitution, 1994 [At ICL]


Tiananmen Square, 1989

Japan Since World War II


American Occupation

Economic Growth


Korea Since World War II


The Korean War

Other East Asian Countries


  • Cambodia Constitution, 1993 [At Cambodian]
  • Tibet Constitution 1991 [At ICL]
    This is the constitution of the "government in exile".
  • Mongolia Constitution, 1992 [At ICL]
  • Nepal Constitution, 1990 [At ICL]
  • Singapore Constitution, 1995 [At ICL]
  • The Manila Accord, 1963 
    Between Malaya, Indonesia and the  Philippines,

The Non-Aligned Movement

Addendum: The Vietnam War

Addendum: Asian-Pacific Immigrants in the US

  • John W. Foster: The Chinese Boycot, The Atlantic Monthly, January 1906 [At The Atlantic, subscription required]
    Criticizes America's discrimination against Chinese immigrants in America as racist. This behavior incited a Chinese boycott of American trade.
  • Lowell Weiss: Timing is Everything, The Atlantic Monthly, January1994 [At The Atlantic, subscription required]
    The fate of two groups of Vietnamese immigrants in America.
  • Roy Beck: The Ordeal of Immigration in Wausau, The Atlantic Monthly, April 1994 [At The Atlantic, subscription required]
    Effects of  Southeast Asian refugees in Wausau.

East Asian Genders and Sexualities

Women: China

Women: Japan


Further Resources on East Asian History

Other Resources

General Reference Documents

© This text is copyright. The specific electronic form, and any notes and questions are copyright. Permission is granted to copy the text, and to print out copies for personal and educational use. No permission is granted for commercial use.

If any copyright has been infringed, this was unintentional. The possibility of a site such as this, as with other collections of electronic texts, depends on the large availability of public domain material from texts translated before 1923. [In the US, all texts issued before 1923 are now in the public domain. Texts published before 1964 may be in the public domain if copyright was not renewed after 28 years. This site seeks to abide by US copyright law: the copyright status of texts here outside the US may be different.] Efforts have been made to ascertain the copyright status of all texts here, although, occasionally, this has not been possible where older or non-US publishers seem to have ceased existence. Some of the recently translated texts here are copyright to the translators indicated in each document. These translators have in every case given permission for non-commercial reproduction. No representation is made about the copyright status of texts linked off-site. This site is intended for educational use. Notification of copyright infringement will result in the immediate removal of a text until its status is resolved.

© Paul Halsall,  July1998. Last Updated March 13, 2007.