The Tokugawa Dynasty of Japan and the Qing Dynasty of China played a significant part in the establishment of the current tradition and culture in Asia. These two empires were both successful in maintaining power and control throughout their existence. Tokugawa and Qing make an interesting comparison due to the variations they had and the various challenges they had to overcome to maintain their control and power. There are some similarities and differences when comparing the worldwide interaction, religion, society, systems of government, and geography between the two dynasties from 1600 to 1800.
Geography plays a critical role in the success of an empire. The Qing Dynasty was founded in China. It had a perfect geographical location. It bordered Mount Everest to the west that protected the empire from western powers and it also bordered Gobi and Taklimakan deserts to the north. Besides, invaders had to cross the two deserts to attack the Qing Dynasty that was difficult due to the harsh conditions of the deserts (Perdue, 2016). However, the primary factor that contributed to the success of Qing Dynasty was the two rivers, the Yangtze and Yellow that flowed from west to east. These rivers were essential for transport and trade.
However, Tokugawa Dynasty was located in Japan. The empire had a mountain terrain that made it difficult for Tokugawa to come up with effective trade routes during its existence (Siebert, 2004). Besides, the mountain terrains led to the spread-out of the population in the empire. Japan is surrounded by an ocean that secluded the empire from the rest of the world. Additionally, the mountain terrains and the ocean helped Tokugawa to view intruders and prepare for war and these physical features led to the success of the empire.
Systems of Government
The Qing Dynasty had a complex system of government adopted from the Ming Dynasty, its predecessor. The administration was a labyrinthine bureaucracy that was composed of various ranks. A person had to pass through various examinations to join one of the nine ranks found in the bureaucracy (Guy, 2017). These ranks ranged from the police officer to a secretary. The emperor was the head of government. The empire also served as the chief executive. The twelve presidents were directly below the emperor and they were in charge of various ministries. Besides, each ministry was headed by two presidents and each president had two vice presidents. The mandates of these individuals were to counsel and head the various ministries. They also represented the emperor in their respective jurisdictions. The six ministries were further sub-divided into boards. Each board was tasked with a primary objective (Guy, 2017). Nevertheless, the boards were assigned various civil projects that the ministry had to handle. Lastly, there was a bureaucracy that assumed the role of an administrator in each territory.
On the other hand, the Tokugawa had the most complex political system from 1600 to 1800. The Tokugawa Shogunate can be compared with any other government. The administration was the first responsibility of the government. It was followed by protecting its leaders, enforcing civil laws, collecting taxes, and expanding the samurai class (Hanley & Yamamura, 2015). There was also an aspect of this government that was not similar to other governments. The government had full control of the judicial system. The Shogun also controlled matters of foreign affairs and trade. The government also had a well-established spy and police networks that reported any suspicious activity taking place from the non-government class (Hanley & Yamamura, 2015). The Shogun headed the government and no person questioned his authority.
During 1600 to 1800, the Chinese society was centered entirely on power. The administration was strict in the social rankings where all citizens were ranked in various social classes. The primary focus of the social structure of Qing was to abuse the powers of various ranks and acquire more power from the society (Perdue, 2016). The emperor was the highest social ranking. The emperor was allowed to marry many wives and his actions were not questionable. A group of advisors followed the emperor and they usually discussed a high-class topic and important matters (Guy, 2017). This action placed the group of advisors in the second highest class because they spent most of their time with the emperor and were considered superior to workers, nobles, and generals. The generals were ranked topmost in the middle class followed by nobles and common workers respectively (Perdue, 2016). The primary focus of the community during this period was to acquire an education for their children that could help them move in the chain of social ranks. Besides, the peasants were ranked bottom in this chain. The reason is that they were the poorest in this chain.
The peasants were the majority in the empire and were often abused by the government officials. Artists were also considered peasants due to their low income, but they were respected and often spent most of their time with the nobles. Servants and slaves were ranked lowest in the social class. It is interesting to note that slaves and servants who worked for higher class citizens during this time received more respect compared to the peasants (Perdue, 2016).
The Shogunate in Tokugawa was determined to uphold a social class that is stable. They categorized their population into four different levels of a class system (Siebert, 2004). The Samurai occupied the highest class because it was composed of the elite military soldiers (Siebert, 2004). The Samurai maintained this position because they used elite weapons to pass fear into the society. The farmers followed the Samurai in this chain. The reason is that the farmers provided food particularly rice to the soldiers. Therefore, the farmers earned respect from the soldiers. Nevertheless, the Samurai taxed the farmers in the form of rice. The craftsmen occupied the third level of the social class (Siebert, 2004). They were tasked with providing tools and materials used in the military. The merchants occupied the forth in this chain. They were regarded inferior in the society because they did not offer anything substantial to the military. However, this class had most of the richest persons in the society and they usually gave out loans to the upper-class.
Confucianism was the widely practiced religion by many people in the Qing Dynasty (Guy, 2017). All emperors were required to adopt this religion that required them to offer sacrifices to the ancestors and earth. Daoism and Buddhism were also practiced in the empire. Various religions were accepted during this time because religion was assumed to be a personal experience. Some historians suggest that the population of Christians in Qing Dynasty was about a hundred thousand from 1600 to 1800 (Guy, 2017). There were idols that symbolized various religions, for example, the Buddha idols symbolized the Buddhism.
On the other hand, religion in Tokugawa was regarded as a personal movement and the people respected the religious freedom. Example of one religion adopted in Tokugawa was the Neo-Confucianism (Hanley & Yamamura, 2015). Neo-Confucianism was a more religious form of Confucianism practiced in China. The primary focus of this religion was to aim at the purest essence of the planet. Buddhism was also practiced it Japan during this period at entered the Dynasty via Korea (Hanley & Yamamura, 2015). Buddhism focused on self-discovery. Lastly, Christianity also emerged in Tokugawa in the 17th Century. The reason is that the people of Tokugawa began by trusting the Christian missionaries but later became suspicious of them killing the missionaries and banning the practice. Nevertheless, the 'Hidden Christians' continued to grow in the isolated parts of the Dynasty.
Western Interaction with Asia
The first interactions between the western powers and Qing were filled with wars and conflicts during 1600 to 1800. The Qing Empire began as a strong force and was able to push the Russians to the north and enabling them to occupy the Armur River Basin. Nevertheless, the Qing Dynasty started to weaken as the battles continued enabling Europe to become stronger compared to them (Perdue, 2016). The Opium wars eventually decided the interaction between Qing and Europe because it involved large wars and battles between China and England. The English and China did not see eye to eye and the wars caused losses and forced China to change its foreign ideologies and started adopting the western civilizations.
On the other hand, Japan was strict on who they interacted with. During this period they only interacted with the Dutch (Hanley & Yamamura, 2015). However, the Western societies demanded that Japan should open its ports to promote trade; therefore, they became open to all the western powers (Hanley & Yamamura, 2015). This action made the Japanese and the Europeans to establish a stronger relationship compared to the Chinese.
Guy, R. K. (2017). Qing governors and their provinces: the evolution of territorial administration in China, 1644-1796. University of Washington Press.
Hanley, S. B., & Yamamura, K. (2015). Economic and demographic change in preindustrial Japan, 1600-1868. Princeton University Press.
Perdue, P. C. (2016). Late Imperial China (c. 1500-1911). In The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Imperial Histories (pp. 119-146). Routledge.
Siebert, L. J. (2004). Mapping Early Modern Japan: Space, Place, and Culture in the Tokugawa Period (1603-1868). Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 35(2), 341-342.
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