Throughout ancient history, there were three distinct periods: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age (which spanned from approximately 2300-700 BCE), and the Iron Age (which spanned from approximately 700-1 BCE). Different Asian cultures and civilizations entered these ages at different times and became experts in the technologies associated with each era. Writing also emerged during the Bronze Age in Asia, and the technologies of this era, as well as the Iron Age, brought about significant cultural changes to other parts of Asia. Each age was characterized by the use of metal to create tools for agriculture, war, and rituals. The introduction of bronze tools made agriculture easier with the use of bronze plows, and cutting down trees became more manageable with a bronze hatchet.
In ancient times, bronze was a popular material for crafting various items, but it had a significant drawback - it couldn't be sharpened. Iron, on the other hand, was made by heating iron ore and shaping it with a hammer. This allowed for the creation of sharp tools and weapons, greatly improving farming and making long battles more feasible. As a result, crop yields increased, and populations grew. The map (4.1.1) depicts the population distribution in Asia during this period. With the exception of India and China, most of the world was sparsely populated. The cultures of the time had unique names and were distinct from the countries we know today. The areas labeled with a name and 'Peoples' following them had few culturally identifiable groups and were still nomadic, without any established cities.
Throughout a significant period of historical development, various regional states were established across different territories. In China, the Western Zhou dynasty introduced the idea of a ruler who was considered the 'Son of Heaven' and governed according to the 'Mandate of Heaven.' The ruler or emperor was believed to be divinely ordained. During this period, unique states emerged, and a unified elite culture structure was established. However, the Eastern Zhou period saw political fragmentation and a decline in centralized rulers. Every state vied for power and sought to conquer its neighbors, leading to a period of war during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period.
In a period marked by the emergence of various philosophical schools, the '100 Schools of Thought' collectively made their mark in Chinese government and future civilizations. Among these schools, three stood out as particularly noteworthy: Confucianism, Legalism, and Daoism. Confucius, a leading figure in this era, believed that man was a primary social being and lived within a specific set of relationships, with great emphasis placed on the importance of family and rituals. Confucius lived during a time of other classical philosophers, such as Isaiah in Israel, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in Greece, Zoroaster in Iran, and Buddha in India.
India transitioned to the Iron Age during the time of the Buddha, born as Siddhartha Gautama, an esteemed prince. His ideas spread across Asia and transformed India. Mahavira Vardhamana, a contemporary of Buddha, founded Jainism.
In the Mumun Pottery Period, the Korean peninsula saw the emergence of small states, characterized by plain pottery that historians discovered. This era also witnessed the growth of more complex societies and intensive agriculture, although the use of bronze remained limited to certain regions. In Vietnam, the shift towards town living gave rise to various cultures, with the Dong Son and Sa Huynh cultures being the most notable. Meanwhile, Japan continued to be dominated by the Jomon culture, renowned for its distinctive pottery designs.