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Indian History Japan's History The History of China

Find out more about The History of China, Japan and India

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Last chance! This week is a new free book launch,  “History of Asia (Bundle – 3 Books in 1)”

These civilizations all feature a history rich in culture, legends, characters, and mythology and remain some of the most interesting in the world.

In the pages that follow, you’ll find three books all with well-written and accurate information without bias. We strive to offer you a refreshing read with reliable, well-referenced information.

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Indian History Japan's History The History of China

3 Free Books! (The History of Asia –  India, China, Japan)

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As a subscriber we wish to introduce our new book “History of Asia (Bundle – 3 Books in 1)” – currently free.

Included in this Amazing 3 Book Collection are:

  • The History of China: A Concise Introduction to Chinese History, Culture, Dynasties, Mythology, Great Achievements & More.
  • History of India: A Concise Introduction to Indian History, Culture, Mythology, Religion, Gandhi, Characters, Empires, Achievements & More.
  • Japanese History: Explore The Magnificent History, Culture, Mythology, Folklore, Wars, Legends, Great Achievements & More Of Japan.

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History Brought Alivehttp://historybroughtalive.com/

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Indian History Japan's History The History of China

History of Asia (new & free book)

Welcome,

This week is a new FREE book launch, “History of Asia (Bundle – 3 Books in 1)”

History, Mythology & More From The World’s Most Interesting Civilizations

Join us on a discovery from the ancient origins to the present days of the fascinating civilizations in Asia.

Click here to download your FREE Copy.

https://dl.bookfunnel.com/112cf7khq4

We would appreciate your review on Amazon by September 01

And here is the book on Amazon

Best regards,

History Brought Alive

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Japan's History

Japanese History: Nara Period

The Nara period lasted from 710 to 794 CE. This was the time when Japan’s capital was in Heijo-kyo, or present-day Nara. This would become Japan’s first permanent capital city. Prior to this, a new capital was built for each Japanese Emperor. This was likely due to the concept of impurity we mentioned in the previous chapter. The death of the Emperor made the old capital impure, therefore a new one needed to be built. 

The capital at Nara was modeled after the Chinese capital and was the most lavish capital Japan had had thus far. The capital was moved a few times during the Nara period. In 740, Emperor Shōmu moved the capital to Kuni-kyo. In 743, it was moved to Shiragaki-kyo. Then in 745, the capital was moved back to Nara. Here it remained, until 784 when it was moved to Nagaoka-kyo. Then it was moved to Heian-kyo (modern day Kyoto) in 794. 

The Nara period was the period in which the Fujiwara clan began their rise to power by marrying their daughters to Emperors and high-ranking officials in the Imperial Court. In 645 CE, Prince Nakano Ōe (later known as Emperor Tenji) had led a coup against the powerful Soga clan and seized power for himself. Nakatomi Kamatari had assisted him in this coup. For his support, Emperor Tenji gave Nakatomi Kamatari the name Fujiwara. 

A series of government reforms followed this coup that was known as the Taika No Kaishin, or Taika era reforms. As Japan moved towards a more powerful centralized government, a series of laws were put in place that made the position of the Emperor more and more influential. 

During the Nara period, the Japanese also began writing. While there had been some writing during the prior Asuka period, it did not become widespread until the Nara period. It was in this period that the Nihon Shoki and Kojiki were written. These were a blend of history and myth that told the origin stories of Japan, Shinto legends, and solidified the legitimacy of the Japanese Emperors by claiming their direct descendants from the sun goddess, Amaterasu. The Nihon Shoki was written in Chinese, whereas the Kojiki was written in a blend of Chinese characters and unique Japanese characters. 

This increase in writing would set the stage for an explosion of writing and innovation in the Heian Period that followed.

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Japan's History

Japanese Mythology: The Disappearance of the Sun

Susanoo, the kami of the seas, was neglecting his duties and cried about how he longed to see his mother, Izanami, in the underworld. So, his father, Izanagi, sent him to go live in the underworld. Prior to leaving, Susanoo decided to visit his sister, Amaterasu, to say goodbye. She knew of Susanoo’s reputation as a troublemaker, so when she heard Susanoo was coming, she armed herself for battle. Susanoo was insulted that his sister did not trust him and they got into a big disagreement. To settle the argument, he challenged her to a contest. Amaterasu agreed.

Amaterasu asked for Susanoo’s sword. She then broke it into three pieces. Then she chewed them up and spat them out, creating three new kami. Susanoo then asked Amaterasu for her jewels. He chewed them up and spit out five new kami. Susanoo won the contest.

Susanoo then began to gloat over his victory. In his raucous celebration, he destroyed farmland and property. He flayed a horse and threw it at Amaterasu’s loom, inadvertently killing one of her maidens.

At this insult, Amaterasu went into a cave and shut herself in with a boulder. With the kami of the sun gone, the earth was plunged into darkness. Chaos ensued. The rest of the kami convened to see what they could do to convince Amaterasu to come out of the cave. They brought forth a large mirror. The kami Ame no Uzume, The Great Persuader, danced naked before a cheering crowd.

Amaterasu peeked out from the cave to see why everyone was cheering and celebrating. Ame no Uzume told her an even better and more beautiful kami than Amaterasu had come. They held up the mirror, showing Amaterasu her reflection. Amaterasu pushed the boulder back further to get a better look when one of the kami pulled Amaterasu out of the cave. Another kami pushed the boulder back over the opening to the cave and sealed it shut with a sacred rope called “shimenawa,” so she could not go back in.

Now that Amaterasu and her light returned to the world once again, the other kami approached Susanoo. As punishment for his behavior, they required him to provide 1,000 tables full of offerings to them. They shaved his beard, removed his nails, and cast him out of heaven.

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Japan's History

Japan’s History: Heian Period

Following the political reforms of the Nara Period, the Heian Period marks the era in which Japan’s capital stayed in Heian-kyo (modern-day Kyoto). This period lasted from 794-1185 CE. While scholars disagree as to why exactly the capital was moved from Nara to Heian-kyo, a common theory posits that Emperor Kanmu wished to escape the political might of the Buddhist temples (The Heian Period, an Age of Art… Ending in a Shogunate | History of Japan 34, n.d.).

Why the Capital Moved to Heian-kyo

In the late Nara Period, the retired Empress Kōken had fallen ill. She called for an ascetic monk by the name of Dōkyō. He claimed to have magical powers gained through his Buddhist spiritual practices which he used to cure the Empress. The Empress was grateful to Dōkyō and rewarded him by giving him titles and political power. There were rumors that the Empress even took Dōkyō as a lover. When the former Empress stripped Emperor Junnin of his rank and exiled him, she promoted Dōkyō to the position of daijō-daijin which gave him authority over religious and civil affairs. The Empress also instituted a new law that would allow her to pick her successor. Many assumed she would select Dōkyō. Since he did not have royal blood, this would end the old line of emperors and start a new line. There were also fears he would create a theocracy, giving Buddhists political control over Japan.

Dōkyō promoted members of his relatively unknown and unprestigious clan to high-ranking government positions, including his brother. He limited the amount of land that nobles could own but set no such restrictions on Buddhist Temples.

The current nobles were understandably less than pleased with Dōkyō’s rise to power, especially as it meant losing their own power. These tensions came to a head when an oracle delivered the prophecy that if Dōkyō were made Emperor, it would bring peace to the country. This enraged the nobles, particularly the Fujiwara clan. It was seen as confirmation of a coup by a lesser clan that would strip them of their power.

Shortly thereafter, in 770 CE, the Empress died. She had been Dōkyō’s main champion. With her out of the picture, the Fujiwara clan moved quickly to strip Dōkyō of his rank and exile him. Dōkyō would die in relative obscurity.

It is likely the capital was moved to distance the Imperial court from a large number of Buddhist shrines in Nara. It is also possible that this incident, known as the Dōkyō Incident, was responsible for the lack of any female Emperors for the next 1,000 years. 

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The Japanese History: The Fabled Sword Kusanagi

At the coronation of each Japanese Emperor, they are presented with three items that serve as proof of the Emperor’s divinity. These items are known as the Imperial Regalia. They consist of the jewel Yasakani no Magatama from the contest between Amaterasu and Susanoo mentioned above, the mirror Yata no Kagami that was used to lure Amaterasu from her cave in the previous myth, and the sword Kusanagi no Tsurugi. 

This is the tale of how the kami Susanoo came to possess the sword Kusanagi.

Having been banished from heaven, Susanoo was walking beside a river when he came across two parents and their daughter who were all weeping. Susanoo asked them what was wrong. The parents told him that they had eight daughters, but every year a horrible serpent monster with eight heads, Yamata no Orochi, killed and ate one of their daughters. Now they had only one daughter left. They were crying because it was almost time for the serpent to arrive again and they feared they would lose their last remaining daughter.

Susanoo offered to slay the serpent in exchange for their daughter’s hand in marriage. The family agreed. Susanoo turned the daughter into a comb. He puts the comb in his hair to keep the daughter safe and close by. Susanoo then instructed the old couple to fill eight vats with sake and place them behind a fence with eight gates, one behind each gate. The couple did as they were told. 

When the serpent appeared, it fell for Susanoo’s trap and placed one head in each vat of sake to drink from it. Susanoo acted quickly, slicing off each of the eight heads one by one. Then he began to hack off the creature’s tails as well. When he tried to slice off the forth tail, his sword broke. He discovered that inside this tail, there was an exquisite sword. He named the sword Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi (“Heavenly Sword of Gathering Clouds). He presented this sword to Amaterasu to help make amends for his previous behavior towards her.

Many years later, under the reign of Emperor Keikō, the sword was given to Yamato Takeru, a great and powerful warrior. Takeru was lured into a grass field. His enemy used flaming arrows to set fire to the field, trapping Takeru, so he would die in the flames. Takeru used the sword to cut down the grass, so the fire could not spread. He discovered that the sword also had a magical ability to control the wind. He was able to use it to redirect the fire towards his enemies and win the battle. After this victory, Takeru renamed the sword Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (“Grass Cutting Sword”).

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Japan's History

The Japanese Creation Myth

Before there was land, the world was covered by an enormous sea. There were two kami (god or spirit) siblings named Izanagi and Izanami. These names translate literally into “he who invites” and “she who invites,” respectively. They received orders from the other kami to solidify the shape of the Earth. Together, they thrust a jeweled spear into the water and churned it. Mud congealed on the tip of the spear. When they lifted the spear from the water, the mud fell into the sea forming an island. 

Izanagi and Izanami went down to live on the island. They fell in love and married one another. They had eight children, which became the eight main islands of Japan. They gave birth to many more kami after that, such as the Kamis of wind, mountains, and rivers. When Izanami gave birth to the kami of fire, however, she was badly burned. Izanagi knelt beside his dying wife/sister in tears. As his tears fell, each tear created a new kami.

Izanami died and was sent to the underworld. In his grief, Izanagi went to the underworld to find her. Izanami told him that she would ask the kami of the underworld to release her but warned Izanagi not to look at her. After a time, curiosity got the better of Izanagi. He lit a torch so he could see his beloved Izanami once more. He was horrified to see that she was now a hideous, rotting corpse. In terror, he ran. Izanami chased him. 

When Izanagi returned to the land of the living, he placed a giant boulder in front of the entrance to the underworld. From behind the boulder, Izanami yelled that she would kill 1,000 people every day if he left her. Izanagi replied that in that case, he could create 1,500 people every day. This explained why every day many people die and still more people are born. 

Izanagi took a bath to purify himself. When Izanagi washed his left eye, the kami of the sun, Amaterasu, was created. When he washed his right eye, the kami of the moon, Tsukiyomi, was created. When he washed his nose, the kami of storms and the sea, Susanoo, was created. Amaterasu became the most important kami. All emperors of Japan claim to be descendants of this sun goddess. 

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Japanese History: The Ainu

To the north, lived another distinctly separate group of people from both the Yayoi and the Jomon People. While they may not have a lasting impact on the Jomon and Yayoi, their culture is unique, fascinating, and certainly deserves to be mentioned here. These people are known as the Ainu.

The Ainu inhabited Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido. The majority of the estimated 25,000 remaining Ainu people living today still reside here. The origin of the Ainu people is largely unknown. Some claim they descended from a group of Jomon People who went north, breaking off from the main population and thus maintaining the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of Japan’s early settlers. It is also possible that they came to Japan as a completely separate group of people. 

The Ainu have a distinct appearance. They have light skin, European-shaped eyes, thick wavy hair, and the men grow full, thick beards. The Ainu women were covered in tattoos. This began as a small black dot on the upper lip. As they matured, more tattooing was added until a black tattoo surrounded the woman’s mouth and eventually her forearms too. These were said to ward off evil spirits. The pain of tattooing was also supposed to prepare the woman for the pain of childbirth. In fact, a fully tattooed woman was a sign that she was of marrying age. Conversely, men never shaved past a certain age. Both men and women kept their hair at roughly shoulder length.

Like the mainland Japanese, the Ainu were animistic, meaning they believed that everything had a spirit (or “kami”). To the Ainu people, the chief amongst these was “Kim-un Kamuy.” This was the spirit of bears and the mountains. The bear was believed to be the highest god. The Ainu practiced a tradition known as “lotame,” which involved raising a bear from a cub as one of their children. Then, when the bear cub reached adulthood, the Ainu would sacrifice the bear to release the “kamuy.”

The Ainu language was (and is) distinct from mainland Japanese. During the Meiji restoration in 1899, the Japanese government began a campaign of forced assimilation of the Ainu people. They outlawed the Ainu from speaking their native language or participating in their native customs. It was not until 1997 that this ban was lifted, though by this time Ainu culture had been all but wiped out. Today, the remaining Ainu are attempting to preserve their culture and pass it on to the next generations.

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