East Asian and American Civilization

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012

Time Line

2000 BC Mound Builders in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys
1400 BC Cult of Chavín
1200 BC Olmec civilization
200 BC Moche civilization
100 BC

Establishment of Teotihuacán

Anasazi culture takes shape in the southwestern desert


300 Height of the Mayan civilization
618 Tang dynasty begins in China
668 Three Kingdoms period in Korea ends with Silla’s victory over Koguryo
735 China concedes Korean independence
794 Heian period begins in Japan
907 Ten Kingdoms/Five Dynasties period begins in China
936 Koryo dynasty reunites Korean principalities
950 Toltec civilization begins
960 Song dynasty begins in China

Aztecs settle in southern Mexico

Manco Capac settles in Cuzco Valley

1438 Incan Empire
1450-1600 Iroquis Confederacy founded
1503 Montezuma II becomes Aztec emperor


East Asian and American Civilization

The Tang dynasty in China oversaw the culmination of many central Chinese customs and traditions, particularly the all-important merit examination for the civil service. China expanded very far into the west under the Tang emperors, only to lose territory near the end of the eighth century. The Tang dynasty saw the invention of printing and gunpowder; these two items would revolutionize the Western world, but not until the technologies made their way westward hundreds of years later.

As very small states in the shadow of a very large one, Japan and Korea absorbed many Chinese traditions—everything from the form of government to the styles of architecture. Japan’s distance from the mainland enabled it, over time, to develop its own distinct cultural and political traditions, related to the Chinese but not imitative of them. China would remain more dominant over Korea than over Japan.

Civilization came to South and Central America in ancient times, when the people learned to cultivate maize. This staple crop and the knowledge of how to grow it slowly spread north. Latin America was the location of a variety of civilizations that resembled ancient Mediterranean ones in many ways, such as geographical expansion, the building of cities, the creation of beautiful artifacts and monumental architecture, achievements in mathematics, and autocratic systems of government. The mightiest of the civilizations, the Aztec and Incan empires, fell swiftly with the arrival of the Spaniards.

The North Americans never became civilized in the sense of building cities, becoming literate, or undertaking conquest and expansion. The culture remained traditional and tribal, with small communities that (apart from the warlike Apaches) generally left one another alone. When the Europeans began grabbing North American land after 1500, the people they called “Indians” would have no means with which to fight them off.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

East Asian and American Civilization Practice Test

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