Asia: A Concise History by Milton W. Meyer

By Milton W. Meyer

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Rice, as in most other Asian countries, is the main crop. The course of Indian history to a great extent has been determined by geographical features. The deserts, hills, and plateaus tended to divide people internally, most pronounced between north and south. The vast riverine plains of the north were most conducive to fostering empires, which only occasionally spilled south into the Deccan, an effective land barrier. The great mountain ranges that demarcated India from the rest of the world favored the creation of a distinctive civilization, one which was molded, however, by two major invasions from the northwest.

Relatively shallow and wide, it is not easily navigable. The North China plain produced the earliest historic centers of Chinese civilizations and was the site for most of the traditional dynastic capitals. Beijing (Peking) and Tianjin (Tientsin), the two biggest cities, are on the northern fringe of the plain. The growing season in North China is short, and a year's rainfall averages only 25 inches. The main crops include such dry-land grains as legumes, wheat, millet, and kaoliang (a type of millet).

While little remains of their original books, the basic works of history, literature, and philosophy were copied and recopied, to be transmitted down through the ages. A sense of history preoccupied the Chinese intellectuals, who took pride in their long continuous heritage. , Korea and Japan, borrowing from the Chinese script, began to develop their own literate traditions. India, despite generalizations characterizing the country as nonhistorical in outlook, had works of history. , a native literary tradition eventually crystallized in Sanskrit.

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