Until the establishment of relationships between the Western countries and East Asia, Japan, Korea, and China had only their unique cultural and social features. With the growing connections between them, the Western impact became vivid. In some cases, the mentioned countries adopted the elements of the foreign culture, while they also rejected the negative issues. The social, political, and religious contexts should be considered to understand their reactions.
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Discussing Western Impacts on East Asian Countries
Among the Europeans with whom the inhabitants of the Japanese islands met were Portuguese traders who brought with them the muskets, which made a strong impression on the Japanese (Ebrey and Walthall 254). The mastering of a strange weapon and an understanding of the principles of its structure was achieved with the help of Eastern philosophy. In addition to merchants, in the 16th-18th centuries, there were many Jesuits in Japan who had the goal of spreading Christian doctrine. Monotheism was not familiar to the Japanese, and preachers faced difficulties trying to explain the basics of their faith (Ebrey and Walthall 260). The main principle that guided the inhabitants of the archipelago with respect to religion was the fact that it benefits the world. While the Japanese adopted the innovative weapon, they rejected a new faith since their religious identification was rather strong and reasonable. Having absorbed many elements of the life of the West and significantly enriched by this, Japanese culture retained its originality and, at the same time, did not lose any of its fundamental features.
Speaking of China, the example of an initially not common and forgotten tempered system became widespread only in the 18th century under the influence of the West. In turn, Chinese works of decorative and applied art deeply entered their everyday life, including tea accessories, painted and dressed fabrics, and bijouterie. Ebrey and Walthall state that from 1100 to 1800, China was not only an economically developed country but also a world technological power-driven by the West investments (219). Before 1800, China witnessed a huge increase in production capacity for the manufacture of exotic goods, technology, labor productivity, competitiveness, and export potential in the global market, which allowed it to outpace other regions of the world. Europe has long served as a model for modernizing China. However, by the end of the 18th century, the driving potential of European culture began to fade.
In its turn, Korea is marked by the impact of the Europeans by the emergence of the Western fraction on the country’s geopolitical arena. This fraction proactively proposed the change in the current political and social principles, which was not largely accepted by the population (Ebrey and Walthall 255). Another example refers to the concept of cultural openness when the links with the Europeans promoted greater awareness of other nations and their cultural backgrounds. Even though Korea did not change its religion and beliefs, it became more ready to recognize cultural variety.
To conclude, it is important to emphasize that the 16th-18th centuries were characterized by the increasing impact of the European countries on China, Japan, and Korea. These states proved to preserve their cultural identity yet improved their art, technology, and knowledge fields are driven by such interactions. Christianity and new political visions were rejected, but technological and economic advances offered by Europeans were largely adopted by East Asians.
Ebrey, Patricia and Anne Walthall. Pre-Modern East Asia to 1800: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. 3rd ed., Cengage Learning, 2014.