China’s Historical and Cultural Impact on the Rest of Asia: Part 1 of 2

In the West, and the United States in particular, few know that China was the wealthiest—and after the Roman Empire fell—the most powerful and technologically advanced civilization in the world for about 1,000 years until the 15th and 16th centuries and the rise of the Western colonial empires: the British, French, German, Italian, Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Russia, and, yes, the United States.

In fact, Global reports “The study of world power has been blighted by Eurocentric historians who have distorted and ignored the dominant role China played in the world economy between 1100 and 1800. … As early as 1078, China was the world’s major producer of steel (125,000 tons); whereas Britain in 1788 produced 76,000 tons.

“China was the world’s leader in technical innovations in textile manufacturing, seven centuries before Britain’s 18th century ‘textile revolution’.

“China was the leading trading nation, with long distance trade reaching most of Southern Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.  China’s ‘agricultural revolution’ and productivity surpassed the West down to the 18th century.

“Its innovations in the production of paper, book printing, firearms and tools led to a manufacturing superpower whose goods were transported throughout the world by the most advanced navigational system.

“China possessed the world’s largest commercial ships.  In 1588 the largest English ships displaced 400 tons, China’s 3,000 tons.  Even as late as the end of the 18th century China’s merchants employed 130,000 private transport ships, several times that of Britain. China retained this pre-eminent position in the world economy up until the early 19th century.

“British and Europeans manufacturers followed China’s lead, assimilating and borrowing its more advanced technology and were eager to penetrate China’s advanced and lucrative market.

“Banking, a stable paper money economy, manufacturing and high yields in agriculture resulted in China’s per capita income matching that of Great Britain as late as 1750.

“China’s dominant global position was challenged by the rise of British imperialism, which had adopted the advanced technological, navigational and market innovations of China and other Asian countries in order to bypass earlier stages in becoming a world power.”

It is safe to say that the concept of ‘face’ is similar throughout most of Asia. China was a regional super power for more than 1,500 years starting before the Han Dynasty in 206 BC to the Qing Dynasty’s collapse in 1911 AD. In addition, Chinese merchants sailed to and traded with most if not all of the nations in Asia during that period and Chinese merchants and business people migrated to many of those areas spreading the influence of a collective culture—Europe and North America, for instance, are individualist cultures.

Continued in Part 2 on January 13, 2016.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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