This shows that the world_s largest circular route connecting the land route and the sea route had already been established at the time of the Mongol dynasty. The sea route was later named the _spice route_ or the _china route_ after the goods that were carried along it. In which direction were these commodities carried? The flow of goods was from Asia to Europe, in other words, from the place of higher culture to that of lower culture. This underlines the unjustness of Ranke_s description of Asian civilization as barbarian.
After the land and sea routes were linked in the Mongol dynasty, the main stage of history steadily shifted from land to sea and _maritime Asia_ (the India Ocean and China Sea regions) became the pivotal axis of history. It was through their involvement in maritime Asia that Europe and Japan came to take their places on the center stage of world history.
From the Mongol Invasions to Japanese Pirates
Ancient civilization first flourished around the basins of great rivers such as the Tigris-Euphrates, Indus, and Yellow River which had their sources in the great mountain ranges of the Eurasian continent. Viewed from the perspective of ancient civilization, Japan and Britain, located respectively in the seas beyond the westernmost and easternmost tips of the Eurasian continent, were the furthest removed from civilization. Geographically, they were literally on the remotest frontiers of culture. In these remote island nations, new modern civilizations eventually emerged. At the western frontier, Britain became the world_s first industrialized nation, while at the eastern frontier Japan became the Asia_s first industrialized nation. While ancient civilization was formed on the Asian continent, modern civilization was born across the seas beyond the Asian continent. How did the dynamics of world history shift from Asia to _non-Asia_ and from the land to the sea?
When the main arena of civilization was the continent, the Silk Road was the great artery linking the continental civilizations of the East and West. This land artery came to be connected with the sea route that had been developed in the South Seas, thanks to the tolerant attitude of the Mongol Empire towards Islam, which had already spread across the Indian Ocean to Southeast Asia. The culture and institutions of the ancient civilizations of the Middle East, India and China were transmitted back and forth across the seas by Islamic merchants.
The fact that neither Europe nor Japan, the main protagonists in later ages, was conquered by the Mongols does not mean that they were not influenced by the Mongol Empire. Indeed, Mongolia had a decisive influence in leading both Japan and Europe to the sea route.
The impact on Japan, of course, occurred through the Mongol invasions in the late thirteenth century. In a state letter to the _King of Japan_ delivered in 1266, Kublai Khan wrote, _I pray that henceforth we can forge friendship through dialogue and enjoy mutual exchange. Wise men of the past have viewed the sea as part of their homes. If we do not travel to other lands, how can we establish our homes? Is there anyone who likes to use military force?_ (A copy of this state letter is currently kept at the Todaiji Temple.) The letter clearly threatened the use of military force if Japan did not enter into diplomatic relations.
At this time, the Southern Song (Sung) dynasty was still strong in China and Japan enjoyed exchange with it through maritime trade. Mongolia, which had the capacity to overthrow the Song rulers, was their greatest enemy. From the intelligence the Japanese had received from the Chinese, Japan already viewed the Mongols as potential invaders and refused Kublai Khan_s request for diplomatic relations as a matter of course. Kublai persistently repeated his demands, sending envoys to Japan on as many as six occasions, but the regent Hojo Tokimune remained firm. Kublai Khan finally decided to invade Japan. In the first Mongol invasion of 1274, the Mongol forces consisted of about 20,000 Mongols, North Chinese and Jurchen Tartar troops and an army of 6,000 men from the Kingdom of Koryo (Korai). The main battles were fought on the islands of Iki and Tsushima and in the western part of Hakata Bay.