History of the World in Objects and Art

20 000BC      
1200BC 800 1455 1820
700BC 1070 1500 1840
350BC 1205 1530 1868
200BC 1260 1600 1890
100BC 1290 1685 1910
30 1350 1755 1920
600 1400 1800 1950
History of the World in Objects and Art Timeline

The Battle of Benevento

After the Gupta Empire collapsed in the late 5th century, India broke up into regional states. From time to time, one or other of these exerted dominance over large parts of the subcontinent. But their dominance was always short-lived, because rival dynasties soon reasserted themselves.
Around 467 ce, the Huns invaded India and overpowered the forces of Skandagupta, the last significant Gupta ruler of the country. After this, the empire fragmented into smaller kingdoms. King Harsha, a member of the ruling family of one of these kingdoms, conquered much of India. Some dynasties, such as the mighty Cholas in the early 10th century, managed to assert supremacy over southern India, while others, such as the Pratiharas and Rashtrakutas, dominated the northern part of the country at around the same time.


Between 500 and 1100, Buddhist monasteries were the major centers of education and manuscript production; monks from as far as China visited these holy places to pray and study. The worship of Shiva, Vishnu, and Devi-Ma (or the Great Goddess Mother), who took on many forms including Durga and Kali, became ever more popular. The religious map of India became still more diverse with the advent of Islam, whose spread began with the Arab conquest of Sind in 712.

It continued with the establishment of Mahmud of Ghazni's empire across much of northwestern India. During this time, India saw many notable achievements in art and architecture. Fabulous cave paintings were added to the walls of the stone-cut temples of Ajanta in the south. The Hindu temple style was further developed, culminating in iconic temples such as the Brihadisvara, built by the Cholas around 1000, and the 11th-century complexes at Khajuraho, 400 miles (600 km) southeast of Delhi.
Early forms of the Hindu religion emphasized the performance of elaborate rituals and offerings in honor of the gods. Hindu rituals were carried out by Brahmins, highly trained priests who devoted their lives to these sacred practices.
Around 300 ce, new ways of worship became popular, especially in southern India. Later known as Bhakti traditions, they emphasized a loving relationship between the worshipper and the god. By the 6th century, these practices had profoundly transformed Hinduism. The teachers, or saints of the Bhakti movement, believed that an individual might have a role in striving for liberation from the cycle of rebirth, which could be achieved without the aid of a Brahmin's sacred rituals. According to Bhakti traditions, love for god was considered to be more important than rituals and sacrifices.


There are different forms of Bhakti. Saivism stressed the worship of Shiva, who as both the creator and destroyer
of all things, represents the contrasting values of peace and destruction. Another prominent form, Vaishnavism, focuses on the devotee's worship of the god Vishnu and the various avatars in which he has manifested himself on Earth during times of crisis and struggle. Goddess worship venerated Devi-Ma in her many forms, from fierce warrior to loving mother.

As the Bhakti movement grew, the building of temples, which had previously not been a feature of Hinduism, began. These were, at first, mainly dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Parvati, or Durga, deities featured in the Puranas—cycles of devotional poems eulogizing the Hindu gods.

The early temples were centered around an inner sanctum, the garbha-griha, or "womb chamber," in which the main image of the deity was placed. By the 13th century, most of these beautifully decorated temples, had developed into huge complexes in which many hundreds of devotees could worship.

Under the Tang and Song dynasties, China enjoyed over six centuries of relative stability and powerful central control, occasionally punctuated by revolts and incursions by nomads, from the north and west, and by the Mongols. A strong bureaucracy ensured equitable governing of the provinces, while the emperors facilitated a flowering of literature and of the arts, especially painting and sculpture.
The final collapse of the Han dynasty in 220 ce led to three centuries of disunity until China was finally reunified in 581 by Yang Jian, the first emperor of the Sui dynasty. In 618, the Tang toppled the Sui during a brief civil war. The Tang pushed the borders of China deep into central Asia under the great reformer Emperor Taizong. He restructured the bureaucracy, reestablished formal examinations for entry into the civil service, and set up an official records bureau. He was also a generous patron of the arts. Literature, painting, and ceramics flourished during the early Tang dynasty and Emperor Xuanzong founded an Imperial Academy of Literature. Since the dragon was the emblem of imperial power, the throne of the Emperor of China was known as the "Dragon Throne."


Tang expansion toward what is now Iran was halted when the Chinese were defeated by forces of the Abbasid Caliphate at the River Talas in 751. This left the central Asian outposts beleaguered as the dynasty began to decline, leading to a rebellion against the Tang led by the military general An Lushan between 755 and 763. In 907, China again descended into a time of chaos known as the "Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms" period, which only ended with the rise of the Song dynasty in 960. The first Song ruler, Taizu, a former general, ushered in a glorious period in Chinese cultural history. Taizu and his four successors strengthened the administration, encouraged the arts, and exercised moderation in their rule. They were guided by the secular philosophy of neo-Confucianism, which rejected the mythical elements of Buddhism and Taoism that had influenced Han dynasty Confucianism.

The civil service examination was broadened to include engineering, law, geography, and medicine. Economic reforms included the spread of paper money known as "flying money." In the 1070s, the minster Wang Anshi built government grain warehouses in the provinces. He also instituted official loans to farmers so they could purchase seeds and tools.
The arts flourished under the Song dynasty. Particularly important was the development of block printing in the 9th century, which led to the widespread dissemination of literary and scientific texts. Song emperor Huizong presided over a brilliant court and also collected over 6,000 paintings. But the Song's military weakness let Jin nomads from the north breach the empire's borders. The invaders sacked the capital, Kaifeng, in 1126, and occupied all of northern China. A branch of the Song survived in southern China, but the Mongol armies of Kublai Khan deposed the last Song emperor in 1279.


The Mongols ruled China as the Yuan dynasty, adopting many Chinese practices. They were overthrown by the Ming—the last native Chinese dynasty—in 1368. The Ming emperors built the Forbidden City, a new palace complex in Beijing, and strengthened the Great Wall of China. Civil service exams were reintroduced in 1384, and the civil service hierarchy came to dominate the military. Meanwhile, traditional Chinese drama, originating in the Song dynasty and banned under Mongol rule, was restored. Chinese culture flourished once again.

People in ancient China believed that life in the afterworld was as important as life on Earth. In traditional Chinese religion, the earthly soul, or po, remained present in the grave and was dependent on offerings presented by the living to nourish it. This belief led to the creation of elaborate burials for the dead in tombs that replicated earthly dwellings. During the Han dynasty, the practice of furnishing tombs with ceramic figurines flourished. The figurines were substitutes for real objects because the dead were thought to need possessions and, if rich, servants, to sustain them in the afterlife.

By the beginning of the Tang dynasty, burial goods had become so lavish that emperors were issuing laws restricting the types, sizes, and numbers of grave goods that people could have, according to their rank and status.


By the 7th century, one of the most important uses of ceramic material in China was the manufacture of intricate funerary figurines of humans, animals, and fierce lion-headed tomb guardians.
Funerary goods were so popular during the Tang dynasty that workshops were forced to use molds in order to keep up with the demand.

Sometimes lead glazes were applied to the figurines and three-color glazes, or sancai, were popular during the 7th and 8th centuries. The oxides needed for this type of glaze were expensive commodities, and so sancai glazed figurines were items of great prestige found only in imperial and elite tombs.


The masterpieces of Tang funerary figurines are undoubtedly the horses, which were created in a naturalistic style with a high level of detail, giving them a sense of animation. Horses were revered in China, especially the mythical "celestial horses"—flying beasts with dragonlike features. They were imported at great expense from the Central Asian territory of Ferghana. In 608, the emperor received a large number of horses in tribute from the region. Symbols of access to exotic trade goods, such horse figurines are frequently found in Tang dynasty tombs.
Japan, a unified state under the Yamato emperors from the 3rd century ce, imported cultural influences from Korea and China, but also retained a strong native tradition. The interplay between these cultures produced unique and rich artistic, political, and religious traditions.
The arrival of Buddhism in Japan— signaled by the sending of an image of the Buddha by the king of Paekche in Korea in 552—marked the beginning of the Asuka period (552-646) in which the country opened itself to cultural influences from the east Asian mainland. The Imperial administration became more formalized, notably under the influence of Prince Shotoku, regent for the Empress Suiko (592-628). In addition to being a talented Buddhist scholar, in 604 he issued the Seventeen Articles. They established principles for the government based on Chinese Confucian ethics and were consolidated in 702 by the Taiho Code, which set up government ministries along Chinese lines but allowed tax exemptions for the nobility that gradually undermined imperial rule.

The art of the Asuka and the succeeding Heian (794-1185) periods was heavily influenced by Buddhism, particularly the sculpture and architecture of temples (such as Todaiji in the city of Nara). A strong tradition of landscape painting
emerged alongside the beginnings of a long-lasting literary culture, which culminated in such masterpieces as the Tales ofGenji in the 11th century.


During the 8th century, power devolved into the hands of a series of dominant families, first the Fujiwara, then the Taira and Minamoto. Regional nobles held power bases largely outside central control. A damaging civil war resulted, from which Minamoto no Yoritomo emerged victorious in 1185. He established the Kamakura shogunate, which was the first of a series of military dictatorships to rule Japan.

A new militarized society developed in Japan. The samurai, the new warrior elite, served the shugo, the regional aristocracy, who had taken most of the power from the shogunate itself by the 15th century. The rise of the samurai was accompanied by a new strengthening of Shintoism, the traditional Japanese religion, as outside influences were rejected.

The unification of Korea in the mid-7th century led to its rule by a succession of dynasties, starting with the Silla and the Goryeo. These dynasties held sway over the peninsula for more than a thousand years. Long periods of relative stability allowed the flourishing of a culture steeped in Buddhist belief.
The weakening of the Three Kingdoms of ancient Korea, aggravated by a series of invasions from Tang China in the mid-7th century, led to the unification of Korea under the Silla dynasty in the 670s. Chinese influence remained extremely strong and the Silla capital Kyong-ju was modeled on the Tang capital, Gyeongju. Buddhism became so widespread that by 806 King Aejong was forced to ban the building of any further Buddhist temples to check their proliferation. The collapse of the Tang in 907 in China had a secondary effect on Korea. Silla control fragmented during a series of civil wars, ending with the establishment of the Goryeo dynasty under Wang Geon in 918. His will, encapsulated in what became known as the Ten Admonitions, urged his subjects to maintain a separate culture from China.

Despite upheaval in China, strong artistic and cultural ties between the two countries continued. An examination mirroring the Chinese system was introduced for Korean civil servants in 950. Meanwhile, Buddhism became the de facto state religion.
Artistically, this period is noted for its high-quality celadon ceramics and woodblock printing.


Goryeo rule was affected by wars with the Khitan and Jurchen nomads from Manchuria in the 11th century, military revolts in the 1170s, and Mongol raids in the 1230s. Korea stayed under Mongol influence until the reign of King Gongmin from 1351-74. But the Goryeo collapsed and was replaced in 1392 by the Joseon dynasty, founded by Taejo—a former Goryeo general.

Sacred Buddhist scripture

The Angkor kingdom flourished in modern Cambodia and extended across much of southeast Asia from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Its rulers built a series of capitals at Angkor around monumental temple complexes. The greatest of these was adorned with spectacular shrines.
During the 9th century, a series of great kingdoms emerged in southeast Asia. They were influenced by fndian culture and religion, particularly Buddhism and Hinduism. Their rulers also built magnificent temples, such as Borobudur in modern Java and Pagan in Myanmar.

One of the most spectacular sites was built at Angkor, in modern Cambodia, by the Khmers, a dynasty founded by King Jayavarman II in 802. The Khmer monarchs believed they had a divine right to rule and were called devamjas, or supreme kings. At times, the Angkor kingdom extended to modern Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Angkor became the Khmer capital and it was built over centuries. It contains beautiful palaces, pools, sculptures, and temples.


The largest temple complex at Angkor is Angkor Wat. It was built by King Suryavarman II at the start of the 12th century. Dedicated to Vishnu, the walls and galleries of the temples and walkways of Angkor Wat are adorned with intricate reliefs showing scenes of everyday life, battles, and stories from the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. A five-towered temple stands at the center of the complex, which was built to represent Mount Meru, the mythical home of the Hindu gods and the center of the Universe.

From the reign of King Jayavarman VII, starting in 1181, the Angkor kingdom began a long decline. Jayavarman VII made Buddhism the new state religion and converted the Hindu shrines at Angkor Wat. He built a new capitalat Angkor Thom and the Bayon temple, dedicated to Buddha. Many of his Buddhist sites were destroyed by his Hindu successor, Jayavarman VIII. From the 13th century, drought and threats from neighboring peoples kept the Angkor kingdom from ever regaining its former glory.
Hall of dancers

The Voyage of Marco Polo

The Voyage of Marco Polo
The End of the Crusader States