The Self-Strengthening Movement (洋务运动 or 自强运动), c 1861–1895, was a period of institutional reforms
initiated during the late Qing Dynasty following a series of military defeats and concessions to foreign powers.
To make peace with the Western powers in China, Prince Gong was made regent, grand councilor, and head of the
newly formed Zongli Yamen (Office of Foreign Affairs). By contrast, Empress Cixi was virulently anti-foreign, but she
had to accommodate Prince Gong because he was an influential political figure in the Qing court. She would, however,
become the most formidable opponent of reform as her political influence increased.
The majority of the ruling elite still subscribed to a conservative Confucian worldview, but following China‟s serious
defeats in the First and Second Opium Wars, several officials now argued that in order to strengthen itself against the
West, it was necessary to adopt Western military technology and armaments. This could be achieved by
establishing shipyards and arsenals, and by hiring foreign advisers to train Chinese artisans to manufacture such wares
in China. It was believed that the intelligence and wisdom of the Chinese civilization was superior to those of Western
“barbarians”, and thus China would first learn from foreigners, then equal them, and finally surpass them. As such, the
“self-strengtheners” were by and large uninterested in any social reform beyond the scope of economic and military
Oracle bones (甲骨) are pieces of shell or bone, normally from ox scapulae or turtle plastrons, which were used for
scapulimancy – a form of divination – in ancient China, mainly during the late Shang dynasty. Diviners would submit
questions to deities regarding future weather, crop planting, the fortunes of members of the royal family, the military
endeavors, and other similar topics. These questions were carved onto the bone or shell in oracle bone script (甲骨文)
using a sharp tool. Intense heat was then applied with a metal rod until the bone or shell cracked due to thermal
expansion. The diviner would then interpret the pattern of cracks and write the prognostication upon the piece as well.
The oracle bones bear the earliest known significant corpus of ancient Chinese writing and contain important historical
information such as the complete royal genealogy of the Shang dynasty. When they were discovered and deciphered in
the early twentieth century, these records confirmed the existence of the Shang.
Chinese Civil Examination System
The imperial examination (科舉) was an examination system in Imperial China designed to select the best
administrative officials for the state‟s bureaucracy. This system had a huge influence on both society and culture in
Imperial China and was partly responsible for changes in the power structure of the Tang and Song Dynasties that
would hold long after their dissolution. The system assisted in the replacement of what had been relatively few
aristocratic families with a more diffuse and populous class of typically rural-dwelling, landowning scholar-bureaucrats,
organized into clans.
Established in 605 during the Sui Dynasty, the system was used only on a small scale during the Tang Dynasty. Under
the Song dynasty, the emperors expanded the examinations and the government school system in order to counter the
influence of military aristocrats, increasing the number of those who passed the exams to more than four to five times
that of the Tang. Thus the system played a key role in the emergence of the scholar-officials, who came to dominate society. Under the MingDynasty and QingDynasty, the systemcontributedto thenarrownessofintellectual life andthe
autocratic power of the emperor. The system continued with some modifications until its 1905 abolition under the Qing
Dynasty. The modern examination system for selecting civil service staff also indirectly evolved from the imperial one.
Samurai (侍) were the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: “In
Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany persons in the upper ranks of
society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau. In both countries the terms were nominalized to
mean “those who serve in close attendance to the nobility,” the pronunciation in Japanese changing to saburai.
By the end of the 12th century, samurai became almost entirely synonymous with bushi (武士), and the word was
closelyassociated with themiddle and upper echelonsof the warrior class. The samurai followed a set of rules that came
to be known as bushidō.
Meiji ishin (1868)
The Meiji Restoration (明治維新), also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of
events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868 under Emperor Meiji. The goals of the restored government were
expressed by the new emperor in the Charter Oath. The Restoration led to enormous changes in Japan‟s political and
social structure, and spanned both the late Edo period (often called Late Tokugawa shogunate) and the beginning of
the Meiji period. The period spanned from 1868 to 1912 and was responsible for the emergence of Japan as a
modernized nation in the early twentieth century.
Mandate of Heaven in Chinese dynastic history
The Mandate of Heaven (天命) is a traditional Chinese philosophical concept concerning the legitimacy of rulers. It is
similar to the European concept of the divine right of kings, in that both sought to legitimize rule from divine approval;
however, unlike the divine right of kings, the Mandate of Heaven is predicated on the conduct of the ruler in question.
The Mandate of Heaven postulates that heaven (天) would bless the authority of a just ruler, as defined by the Five
Confucian Relationships, but would be displeased with a despotic ruler and would withdraw its mandate, leading to the
overthrow of that ruler. The Mandate of Heaven would then transfer to those who would rule best. The mere fact of a
leader having been overthrown is itself indication that he has lost the Mandate of Heaven.
The Mandate of Heaven does not require that a legitimate ruler be of noble birth, and dynasties were often founded by
people of mean birth (suchas the Han dynasty and Ming dynasty). The concept of the Mandate of Heaven was first used
to support the rule of the kings of the Zhou Dynasty, and their overthrow of the earlier Shang dynasty. It was used
throughout the history of China to support the rule of the Emperors of China, including „foreign‟ dynasties such as
the Qing Dynasty.
The Mandate of Heaven is a well-accepted and popular idea among the people of China, as it argues for the removal of
incompetent or despotic rulers, and provided an incentive for rulers to rule well and justly. The concept is often invoked by philosophers and scholars in ancient China as a way to curtail the abuse of power by the ruler, in a system that
otherwise offered no other check to this power. The Mandate of Heaven had no time limitations, instead depending on
the just and able performance of the ruler. In the past, times of poverty and natural disasters were taken as signs that
heaven considered the incumbent ruler unjust and thus in need of replacement.
Zheng He (1371-1433)
Zheng He (1371–1433), formerly romanized as Cheng Ho, was a Muslim Hui-Chinese court eunuch, mariner,
explorer, diplomat and fleet admiral, who commanded voyages to Southeast Asia, SouthAsia, the Middle
East, Somalia and the Swahili coast, collectively referred to as the “Voyages of Zheng He” from 1405 to 1433.As a
favorite of the Yongle Emperor, whose usurpation he assisted, he rose to the top of the imperial hierarchy and served
as commander of the southern capital Nanjing. These voyages were long neglected in official Chinese histories but
have become well known in China and abroad since the publication of Liang Qihao‟s “Biography of Our Homeland‟s
Great Navigator, Zheng He” in 1904.Atrilingual stele left by the navigator was discovered on Sri Lanka shortly
Iwakura Mission 1871
The Iwakura Mission or Iwakura Embassy (岩倉使節団, Iwakura Shisetsudan) was a Japanese diplomatic journey
around the world, initiated in 1871 by the oligarchs of the Meiji period. Although it was not the only such “mission”, it
is the most well-known and possibly most important for the modernization of Japan after a long period of isolation from
Kang Youwei‟s idea of grand commonality