FC: The Mysteries of the Far East: Based on a True Story By: Abdulkarim Bora and Terra James
2: CHAPTER 1: Journey to the Safavids February 2nd, 1650, I finally reached my destination here in the Safavid Empire. I took a few days to rest after my long trip. I noticed that the buildings have an opulent, majestic quality to them. They have domes and minarets as a decorative style, as well as numerous arcs. These buildings belong to the current Shah, or emperor, who is distantly related to the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. The people believe that someone who is related to Prophet Muhammad is best suited to rule them, which therefore makes the government system a theocracy. The government has many lower officers, including a prime minister, military generals, and Khans (local governors). These officers are part of a system of “checks and balances,” where the political power does not become lopsided to solely the Shah, but stays relatively equal throughout the political body. This is interesting because European governments have a monarchy, which is often patriarchal. Some monarchies, such as that of England, are more connected to the people, whereas the French monarchy strictly relies on its king.
3: The Ali Qapu palace is one of the architectural wonders I saw This is a portrait of the founder of the Safavid Empire, Shah Ismail I
4: February 6th, 1650, Today, Friday, was the Muslim’s religious day of the week. The men gather at the mosque to hear a sermon from the Imam, the equivalent to a Christian Priest, and pray in congregation. In Europe, Christians go to church every Sunday and ask for repentance and hear the Priest’s sermon. The similarity between the two customs is astonishing. The Safavids have adopted Shia Islam as the state religion. Apparently, there is another sect of Islam, called the Sunni branch. Shia Islam strays from Sunni traditions as Shiites believe Ali, one of the Prophet Muhammad’s cousins, to be the second most important figure after the Prophet. The Shiites also have different Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet) than the Sunni sect does. This reminds me of the Reformation in Europe where Catholicism was losing popularity to newly created Lutheranism, which emphasized the Individual’s faith, and Calvinism, which believed in predestination, the concept that each person’s placement in Heaven or Hell was predetermined. Another thing I noticed is that other religions are not allowed and therefore persecuted within the dynasty.
5: (Right) This is the Lutfallah Mosque, where many Muslims came to pray their five daily prayers | (Left) This is Masjid-e-Shah, or the Shah Mosque
6: February 8th, 1650, After experiencing Safavid life more and more each day, I can see that a social hierarchy does exist within the empire. The higher ranks are given to those who are closely affiliated with the Shah, while the lower ranks go to the merchants and especially peasants. This is almost the same as the Feudalistic hierarchy that takes place in Europe, where the Nobles and Religious figures were at the top, and the peasant majority was at the bottom. The people here enjoy luxury and leisure time in activities such as wrestling matches and dancing. Every person I have interacted with are very polite and educated. The social standard seems to be high around here, where each person doesn’t have a burden than they can bear, and they enjoy free time. In Europe, only the high ranked people have time for leisure, as all others must work constantly to survive. Next week, I am going to India where the Mughal Empire reigns. I met a Mughal merchant traveler who will be going back to India soon, so he asked me to go along with him. I just can’t wait!
7: (Left) Typical Safavid female clothing | (Right) Typical Safavid male clothing
8: SAFAVID TIMELINE, 1500-1700 May 1st, 1701 1501: Shah Ismail I (a 14-year old boy who claimed to be a descendant of the 12th Imam) united Persia and most of Afghanistan. He founded the Safavid Empire with its capital in Isfahan and declared Shia Islam to be the state religion. 1534: The Ottomans captured Baghdad 1555: The Ottoman Empire conquered Mesopotamia from the Safavid Empire 1587: Safavid King Abbas I creates a gunpowder-based military force 1623: The Safavids capture Baghdad from the Ottomans 1638: The Ottomans recapture Baghdad from the Safavids (I know that this Baghdad ordeal can become repetitive. It's because the Safavids were strong enough to fight the Ottomans.
9: (Left) Shah Ismail I
10: CHAPTER 2: Mughal Magnificence February 16th, 1650, I finally reached the Mughal empire, and right as I entered its territory, I noticed similar architecture designs to the Safavids. The buildings had domes, minarets, arcs for entryways, and many of these belonged to the emperor. The form of government here is a patriarchal monarchy, which is much more common in Europe. King Akbar advanced the empire to include people of all cultures and religion in the government so that there was no discrimination within the empire. The system here is similar to England, where the government is quasi-democratic, allowing the middle class to perform better than the middle class of other monarchies. The Mughal government is centralized among several officer positions, but the emperor holds the civil and military authority. Justice is an essential trait of the government because the Mughals feel that all dealings should be fair, no matter which people are being dealt with. Europe’s monarchies hold that the emperor’s decisions are the ones that stand, whether they are just or unjust.
11: (Top) The Taj Mahal is one of many Mughal marvels, and this one has a love story behind it (Left) This is a portrait of Akbar the Great, who was highly influential to the Mughals
12: February 18th, 1650, The Mughal Empire allows freedom of religion for all people. I’ve noticed that the primary religion followed is Islam, though Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Sikhism also exist. The emperor encourages discussion between various religions to settle the differences between them and make the people at peace with each other. In fact, a new religion was created in the Mughal Empire called Din-i-ilahi. This religion took the best elements of each religion and merged them to create one big religion. I find this to contrast European events. The major religion used to be Catholicism, but then new forms of Christianity were rising. Several of these forms, especially the Anabaptists, were discriminated against and even persecuted. To see such peaceful negotiation between the religions as opposed to violent European happenings surprises me.
13: This is a portrait of Akbar the Great having a gathering of people of different religions. Here they worship together, and discuss their religions. | This is the holiest shrine in the religion of Sikhism, and I saw it!!!
14: February 21st, 1650, The government respects the human rights of all peoples. Every person, no matter what background and religion they are from, can gain a title of nobility with the emperor. The equality within the Mughal Empire is something that could never be in Europe. The Mughals give everyone an equal opportunity for occupations, whereas Europe limits each Feudalistic rank to their specific tasks. Women are given major rights that are not found anywhere else, especially in Europe. Women could influence political decisions as well as play a much larger role in the family decisions. So equal were women among the empire, that there were even specific times allotted to women to go to the market. I marvel at these observations of mine because I have never seen women act so freely in Europe, where women play no significant role in society. The people here like to attend dances in big halls, create poetry, sit at gardens, or any other leisurely activity.
15: This is Shalimar Gardens, which was created by the Mughals as a place of relaxation | The Mughals would often go to dance halls like this one to watch women perform various dances in colorful clothing
16: MUGHAL TIMELINE May 1st, 1701 1504: Baabur captured Kabul, making it and eastern Afghanistan the first possession of the Mughal Empire 1526: In a battle at Panipat, Babur defeated the sultan of Delhi, therefore launching the Mughal Empire 1527: Babur gained control of Northwest India when he defeated the Hindu confederation of Rajput rulers 1530: The first Mughal emperor, Babur, died and his son, Humayan, gained control 1555: Civil war within India enables Humayan to win a battle at Sirhind 1556: Humayan died and his son, Akbar, gained the throne at the age of 13 1571: Akbar has his new palace built at Fatehpur Sikri
17: 1573: Humayan's tomb introduced the shape of the domes in other Mughal architecture 1605: After Akbar's death, his son Jahangir took the throne 1615: Sir Thomas Roe, the first British ambassador to India, arrived at Jahangir's court 1632: Shah Jahan, Jahangir's son, ordered that all recently built Hindu temples be destroyed, ending the Mughal quality of religious tolerance 1658: In the final years of his life, Shah Jahan was held captive by his son Aurangzeb, in Agra's Red Fort 1690: France and the British East India Company had established several trading settlements on the Coast of India
18: CHAPTER 3: The Charming Chinese March 15th, 1650, I haven’t written in this diary for a long time. I travelled with a merchant along the Silk Road to get to China. I’ve been staying in China, and it is a significant detour from the Safavid and Mughal Empires. The Chinese Empire has a monarchy, but the power is divided among several bodies. There is one Department and the Secretariat which controls the 6 ministries. This government system is definitely more complex than anything I have seen in Europe. The monarchies in Europe may have minor power divisions below the absolute monarchies, but the Chinese have adopted a system which incorporates the voice of many. There are eunuchs who handle household affairs, but can also climb in political rank. There is also a bureaucracy that has a civil, military, and surveillance commissions. Europe has definitely not seen these many divisions in its political power.
19: (Left) The Great Wall of China was refurbished when I visited. (Middle) The Forbidden City where emperors lived | (Right) The Wanli Emperor
20: March 20th, 1650, There is no one religion that people follow in the Chinese empire. Based on my observations, different families have different forms of worship. Some families participate in ancestor worship, some follow Buddhism, and some follow Daoism. The amount of diversity in religion in this empire as well as in the Mughal empire prove to be captivating. People with different religious beliefs can live side by side to each other. In Europe, people argue over different sects of Christianity, where the essential religion is the same. Much of the population in China believes in a host of deities, thereby making their religion a form of polytheism. Minorities in the Chinese Empire include Muslim figures, Jews, as well as Christians that were brought over by Europeans. I tend to see that European ideas have made their way to other areas of the world, but foreign ideas have not made their way to Europe. Maybe I can change that with this little diary of mine.
21: This is a picture of a Daoist statue representing one of many deities of the religion
22: March 24th, 1650, The hierarchy is divided based upon the occupations that people belong to. The government officials are at the top, whereas the peasants are at the bottom. The peasants are favored by the Chinese emperor as he gives them land to farm on without much loss to the peasants. The government can be cruel at times to its people, but the benefits given to the people do not disappear. Artisans can live their life only by painting as artwork seems to be in high demand even when sold at high prices. This value for art is something that I can relate to Europe, especially during the Renaissance time period. The demand for art grew in that time period and highly-ranked people were paying artists to create new, extraordinary art. In the Chinese empire, women are a large potential audience for theater shows, which gradually opens up future significance for the role of women. If small roles like these were allotted to women in public society, Europe could have a social reformation.
23: This is one of the many, many paintings and art pieces created by artisans during the Ming Dynasty. Art like this was in high demand.
24: CHINESE TIMELINE May 1st, 1701 16th century: European traders and missionaries arrived seeking the riches of the empire 1550s: Portuguese traders were allowed to settle in Macao; China began trading with the Netherlands 1580s: the Jesuits established a presence in Beijing 1600: The Ming ruled the largest and most advanced nation in the world. China continued to suffer from outside threats, as Japanese pirates attacked at sea, and Mongols raided the northern parts. 1644: Manchurian tribesmen from the north invaded Beijing, the last Ming emperor hanged himself, and the Manchus started founding the Qing dynasty. 1662-1722- the Kangxi emperor encouraged trade and art. The empire expanded into Tibet, Turkestan, and Nepal. The Qing dynasty flourished in its early years.
25: (Left) Architecture of the Ming Dynasty | (Right) Architecture of the Qing Dynasty
26: CHAPTER 4: The Confucian Koreans March 27th, 1650 This morning I arrived in yet another foreign land, the empire of Korea. The buildings have a simple, functional beauty to them. They look humble and there is not such an obvious difference in lavishness of different types of workers. There are not the mansions and slums of Europe present here, everyone lives in comfort but work hard so that they might have leisure time. As I passed through the countryside headed for the city, I saw vast farming lands and as I passed into the city all I could see were government buildings. I believe most people must pertain to either profession and certainly must live outside of the city because I saw no homes within the city. For now I am staying at a Silk Merchant’s home just outside of the city, he has a beautiful home and his family has been so kind in welcoming me and providing for me.
27: Top picture is of the korean throne house belonging to the emperor and below is a picture of my friend Gyeongguk's house.
28: April 2nd, 1650 After spending several days with my dear friend and business associate Gyeongguk and observing his family I have really grown fond of their customs and social structures. Everyone in the family works hard to make a better life, Gyeongguk is the head of the family and is a proper business man, he cares for his family and tries to teach to give his son everything he has to offer. His son, a strapping lad of about 13, studies constantly, he studies literature, arithmetic and politics. He also trains to be a proper military man, when I asked him why he studies so hard and trains so much he told me about his aspirations to be one of the state council officials and he must pass a rigorous amount of gwageo exams to become one. His parents are so proud of him, becoming an official would put him even higher up than their already wealthy merchant family. While Gyeongguk's wife is the hardest working woman I have ever met. She runs a large household full of servants, has a vast garden, raises animals and cooks meals fit for a king every night.
29: Gyeongguk's wife pouring tea. | A depiction of meals we enjoy nightly.
30: April 9th, 1650 It has been a week since my last entry and I can say it has not been a good week, I am on my way to Japan after being asked to leave the capital. I never intended to visit Japan but it seems the only way to get out of here, you see I, uh, insulted the 1st rank officer of the king. Gyeongguk managed to defend me from his wrath and escape flogging but as soon as we left the state council building he politely asked for me to leave his home and arranged for a ship to take me to Japan. You see Korean culture is based on a family and political structure based on Confucianism. While Gyeongguk had taken me to see the state council building and explain to me the use of it and how it related to Confucianism when I commented that the state council was like the wife of the house, the husband has the real power while the wife runs the household or in this case the affairs of the empire. In Europe it would have been welcomed as an interesting thought on the matter, but the first official was so insulted
31: A map given to me by Gyeongguk before he told me of the travel plans he made for me. | he threatened to have me publicly flogged. I tried to explain that I meant it in the most respectful day because of how hardworking all Korean women I have met are. But I was immeadiately silenced while my benofactor Gyeongguk spoke for me. Anyways I am writing this from a ship on the way to Kyushu Island and I may pick this up when I get settled in Japan.
34: Chapter 5: The Gentle Japanese April 25th, 1650 This place is full of beauty and art, the countryside is the most peaceful place that I’ve ever had the pleasure of living in, for I may be living here. I honestly don’t know if I’ll be coming back anytime soon because I honestly have no way to get back home. I spent a bit of time trying to find somewhere to stay, but I know no one and speak no Japanese. Thankfully a kindly old woman spoke some Korean and said she would let me stay with her if I would work her fields for her with her grandsons. I quickly jumped at the chance although I can say I did not know what I was getting myself into. I have never worked so hard in my entire life than I do to farm rice for this family. I am incredibly thankful for their help and if it were england they would be the most worthy Christians I had ever met. Speaking of which, this family is extremely buddhist, they don't eat meat and try not to even harm worms in the fields. They have very little and yet they care so much for life.
35: The rice fields of this small farming village are beautiful and geniusly designed, I've never seen something that had such a functinoal beauty.
42: Bibliography "BBC - Religions - Islam: Mughal Empire (1500s, 1600s)." BBC - Homepage. Web. 16 Feb. 2011.
43: "Ming Dynasty - New World Encyclopedia." Info:Main Page - New World Encyclopedia. Web. 16 Feb. 2011.