History of Asia

Let us see the History of Asia. Asia is the world’s largest continent and the birthplace of world’s earliest civilizations, such as those the Sumerians, China and India. The emergence of these civilizations had a profound impact on history both ancient and modern, as did the emergence of three major world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Colonial interference affected Asia’s development over the centuries, but after decades of independent growth, today’s Asian economies are booming. There are still conflicts, however and those in Southeast Asia and the Middle East tend to affect world politics.

Early Development:

Early civilizations in Asia were largely isolated from each other and from the rest of the world by barriers of deserts, mountains and oceans. Only the Middle East has strong connections with Europe. Therefore Asian civilizations and culture developed independently for thousands of years. Over time major civilizations, such as those of Indian and China, began to affect other Asian countries.

Central Asia:

For centuries the only travelers in the inhospitable landscape of Central Asia were traders using the Silk Road. In 1398 the Mongolian warrior Timur (1336 – 1405) swept down from the steppes and founded a Central Asian empire.


In 1369 Timur moved his capital to the prosperous city of Summerland in modern Uzbekistan. The city experienced a golden age and became the architectural jewel of Central Asia as Timur and his descendants built palaces, astronomical observatories and Islamic colleges. In the early 1500s, nomadic Uzbeks attacked the city

Kushan Empire:

In c. 170 BC, a northern Chinese clan the Yuezhi, moved west to Central Asia. By the 3rd century AD, they had founded an empire that stretched from eastern Iran to the Ganges in India. The Kushans controlled fertile river valleys and were at the centre of the silk trade. They encouraged Buddhism and religious art, but declined in the 4th century.


A legendary sage and yoga expert from Swar, modem Pakistan, Padmasambhava founded Tibetan Buddhism. He and his consort Yeshe Tsogyal arrived in Tibet in 747 and established the first Buddhist monastery. The sage then spent his life writing and lecturing of the religion.

Ancient Civilizations:

The Sumerians of western Asia evolved the world’s first civilization, but it was the early civilizations of Indian and China that affected Asia the most. Their religions had special impact: Hinduism (The religion of the people of India) and Buddhism (Founded buy Siddhartha Gautama and one of the three great religions of China) spread over Asia.

Chola Dynasty:

From 850 – c. 1200, a powerful dynasty known as the Cholas began to dominate much of India. They built many Hindu temples and spread their religion to Sri Lanka. They extended their naval power over the seas of Southeast Asia and this helped spread Hinduism as far as Sumatra and Bali.

Koguryo Dynasty:

By the 7th century China’s influence was increasing and Chinese monks converted Korea to Buddhism. The Koguryo rulers 1st cent BC – AD 7th century) encouraged the spread of Buddhism. From Korea the missionaries went to Japan which adopted not only Buddhism but also Chinese script, architecture and culture.

Southeast Asia:

For 1,000 years, India was the major shaping force of this region and provided a mould for Southeast Asian culture, art and religion. Its influence declined after c. 1300.


Over centuries, waves of migrants from the North entered Siam (Thailand) and intermarried with the native tribes. In the 13th century The Thais a tribe unified Siam into a single nation with one monarch and one religion Buddhism.

Sea Routes:

From c.300 Indian traders sailed to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. From the 1200s Arabian merchants spread Islam along sea trade routes. From c.1500, the region also traded with Europe.

Trade and Culture:

During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries trade thrived, though some Asian countries were closed to outsiders. Russian and European countries bought silk, tea and porcelain from China. Indian traded with the world and was famous for its handmade textiles, such as PAISLEY which was a traditional Indian pattern. During this period, Western power became increasingly interested in annexing Asian territories for trade purpose.

Great Game:

During the 1800s, Russia expanded into Central Asia. The British feared the Russians were aiming to take over India and both sides began to spy on each other. The British called this the Great Game. To the Russians it was known as the Tournament of Shadows.

Manchu Dynasty:

China’s Manchu Dynasty (1644 – 1911) was expansionist and spread its culture by acquiring other territories, such as Mongolia (1697, Tibet (1751) and Eastern Turkistan (1760. At home however, economic conditions worsened.

Asian Resistance:

In the 17th and 18th centuries, China, Japan, Korea and Siam (Thailand) resisted European Expansion. China confined European Trade to Macao canton. Japan treaded only with Holland at Nagasaki and Korea remained closed to the west. In 1688, a revolution is Siam ended French attempts to gain influence in Bangkok.

Nineteenth – Century Colonization:

In the 19th century, European power colonized much of Asia. The British took over Burma, Malaya, North Borneo and Hong king; France Dominated Indochina. The Dutch controlled Indonesia. And Russia annexed Central Asian provinces.

Conversion of the Philippines:

In the late 1500s, the Spanish colonial government encouraged Filipinos to become Roman Catholics and gave financial support to missionaries. By the 18th century, most Filipinos in town and lowland areas had converted to Catholicism. The island of Mindanao, however, embraced Islam which was brought to them by Muslim traders.

Golden East:

As Europe gained in military and industrial strength in the 19th century, it expanded and Asia became a rich source of food and raw materials. European planters developed tea, coffee and rubber plantations, found tin mines, exploited Asian timber and prospected for gold, silver and precious stones.

Rama V:

Chulalonkon (1853 – 1910) became Rama V King of Siam in 1868. He traveled widely throughout Asia and was determined to strengthen his country by a process of modernization. In the 1880s He created a modern army, civil service and education system. Although Thailand lost some provinces to Britain and France, it managed to preserve its prestige and independence.

Anglo-Burmese War:

In 1886, Burma lost its independence to Britain after a series of wars. This takeover was strategic rather than trade-based. The Britain wanted to prevent the French from getting too much influence in Asia.


From the 1850s, there were rebellions against European interference in Asian affairs. In 1857, the Sepoy Rebellion took place in India and in 1990 there was the Boxer Rebellion in China. Both revolts were protests against western strength and culture. They were crushed by western or colonial government forces.


4000 – c. 2500 BC: The world’s earliest civilization flourishes in Sumer, western Asia.

c. 2500 BC: be Indus Valley period: India’s earliest civilization.

1800 BC: Sang period: China’s earliest civilization starts to build its first cities.

c. 330 BC: Alexander the Great destroys the Persian Empire.

138 BC: First recorded Journey on the Silk Road.

c.50: Buddhism reaches China from India.

206 BC – AD 220: Height of the Chinese Han Empire.

Growth of Nationalism:

After World War 1, Asian Nationalism (A belief in independence) grew. In 1918 Arab leaders overthrew Turkish rule. The desire of Jews to create an independent state in Palestine gained support. By 1933, 238,000 Jews had settled in Palestine and in 1948 the state of Israel was created

Independence Movements:

After 1946, many Asian countries threw off colonial rule. In 1947 Indian and Pakistan struggled for and won independence from Britain. In 1948, a Jewish homeland Israel came into being. Indonesia won independence from the Netherlands in 1949 after a four year battle. France also tried to prevent Vietnamese independence. But it was defeated in 1964. The other fresh colonies, Laos and Cambodia, become independent in 1954 and 1935 respectively.

World War II:

In 1941–42, Japan occupied Burma, Indochina and Indonesia. After the horrors of occupation, these areas rejected all foreign rules. In China, communist guerrillas resisting the Japanese gained popular and political support.

Death Railway:

During World War II, the Japanese built railway to link Burma and Thailand to supply Japanese troops in Burma. Many thousands of Asian laborers and western prisoners died from malnutrition, disease and it became known as the Death Railway.

Dragon Economies:

In the 1980s, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea used their well educated populations and high investment to become prosperous Dragon Economies. In the 1990s, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia also developed rapidly.

Taiwanese Exported Goods:

Taiwan traditionally exported agricultural products, such as sugar, pineapples and bananas. But by the 1980s it also exported advanced electronic products, such as personal computers, television and portable phones.

Communist Asia:

In 1949, the communists established the People’s Republic of China – the world’s largest communist state. In 1954, the North Vietnamese created an independent communist state. From the 1960s, communist movements in Indonesia and Malaysia threatened to overthrow existing governments.

Middles East Conflicts:

Since 1948, Arab - Israeli territorial conflict, such as the war of 1973 (When Egypt and Syria attacked Israel) has dominated the Middle East. There have also been conflicts between Arab countries, such as the Iran – Iraq war (1980 – 88). Although the oil boom has helped this situation by lessening poverty, the situation in the Middle East remains unstable.

Vietnam War:

From 1954 communist North Vietnam sought to reunite with non – communist South Vietnam by force. Originally a Civil War, the Vietnam War escalated into an international conflict with the gradual intervention of the United States in the 1960s. Following defeats and heavy casualties, the USA agreed to withdraw in 1973. In 1975 northern force unified both halves of Vietnam.

Chaim Weizmann:

Weizmann (1874 – 1952) was born near Pinsk in Belorussia and studied chemistry in Switzerland. In his youth he became a passionate Zionist and eventually was made head of the world Zionist movement. After World War II Weizmann campaigned for the creation of Israel and in 1948 became the state of Israel’s first president.

Time Line:

c. 618 – 907: The sophisticated T’ang dynasty dominates China.

1211: Mongol warrior Ghengis Khan invades China.

1300s: Silk Road is shut.

1368: Ming dynasty expels Mongols from China.

1397: Mongols invade India.

1350 – 1460: Collapse of Khmer Empire - Cambodia.

1453: Fall of Constantinople to the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

c. 1488: Ming emperors rebuild the Great Wall of China.

1526 – 1707: Domination of Mughal in India.

1600 – 1614: British, French and Dutch from East India companies.

1736 – 96: Manchu china prospers under Emperor Qianlong.

c. 1750: Cultural and artistic peak in Japan.

1757: British take control of Bengal - India.

1839 – 42: First Opium war.

1907: Anglo – Russian Agreement ends. The Great game in Central Asia begins.

1949: Chinese revolution

1950 – 53: Korean War

1954 – 75: Vietnam War

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