East Asia can be defined in two different ways. Geographically speaking, it can be defined as the eastern region of the Asian continent and the countries located there, principally China, North and South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. But historians also define East Asia as a broader cultural realm, and include countries that both shared close historical relations with China and were impacted by China’s political and legal institutions, and Confucian and Buddhist traditions. When defined in this way, Vietnam is also included. This chapter, however, as an introduction to the early history of East Asia, will focus on China, Korea, and Japan.
- 4.5: Geography of East Asia
- China’s early historical development long predated Japan’s and Korea’s, which is why a chapter on East Asian history logically begins in the second millennium BCE with China’s first dynasty. However, today’s nation of China is much larger than China was in ancient times. In earlier times, the bulk of the Chinese population lived in China proper, by which we mean the historical heartland of ancient China.