Asian Royalty

Figure 1.--Crown Prince Akahito married a commoner, Michiko Shoda, in 1959. Here are two of their three children in 1966. Naruhito (1960- ) and Akishino (1965- ).

Asia like Europe was governed by monarchies. We know less about them because they have not been well covered by Western historians. Of course Asian history has been dominated by China and the Chinese emperors and their dynadsties. In fact when Chinese emperors were strong they impacted Western history as well because they drove the war-like tribes of Central Asia west. The Chinese monarchy proved to be an impediment to modnization in contrast to Japan where it led the modernization of the country. The longest surviving modern monarchy is that of Japan. The Japanese monarchy used Shinto and emperor worship to launch the disaterous Pacific War, but the emperor survived. Indian monarchs have also played important roles, although here due the sub-Continents political fragmentation, the historical accont is more complicated.


Assam or Vietnam also, like China, also had an emperor. The Vietnamese were more like kings, but because the Vietnamese did not want to be seen as of a lesser rank than the Chinese imperial monarchy, the monarch was also styled an emperor. The emperial capital was located at Hue. The French tried to ruke Vietnam which they called Indochina theough a colonil regime using the emperor as a figurehead. The Vietnamese emporors, however, proved to be difficult to manage.



The Kymer once dominated Southeast Asia from Angkor Wat in western Canbodia. We have no information on Cambodia's long royal line. The only monarch we know about at this time is long reigning King Sihanouk. Cambodia at the time was part of French Indochina. The French placed him on the throne (1941).


Perhaps the most fabled royal dynasties, certainly in Asia, are those of China. Chinese gistory was at first a period of wrring sttes (445–221 BC), much like Europe. Each of these states had its own royal line. The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of a unified China (221-06 BC). The Qin state was named after the heartland of Qinin (modern Gansu and Shaanxi), one of the warring states. The Qin achievbed a series of swift conquests, first ending the weak Zhou Dynasty, and eventually conquering the remaining six warring states to control the whole of China (mid- and late-third century BC). China thus unlike Europe from an early stage was unified. This meant that Chinese history was not one of wars and rivalrie between rival nation states and many different royal lines. Rather this major wirld area was governed by aseries of dynasties with very detailed historical records. Once Chiana was unified, much of modern history have been affected by the Chinese emperors and developments in China. Several of the dynasties have been foreign. The last dynasty was the Manchu (Qing) and the last Manchu emperor was Puyi.


Indian royal lines are an extremely complicated topic. This is a topic that would take a maot study to address. Today India is one country. Historically it was more of a continent which included modern Pakistan and Bangladash. There were many different monarchies rather like Europe, but with less well thorough documented hostories. . Rather than one are a few royal lines, In India there are hindreds if not thousands of lines. There have been many Indian empires as well as kingdoms in addition to countless small principalities. Sorting all this out is a danting challenge. The most important was the empire established by the Islamic Mogul invaders who for the first time united most of India. The resulting Mogul Dynasty included some truly remarkable rulers, including Barbur and Akbar . For a brief moment in time it looked like the Mogul emperors were suceeding in establishing a highly tolerant multi-cultural India. The final great Mogul Emperor, however, embraced a stidently Islamic vision for India. It was the beginning of a long period of decline. By the time the British arrived in India, the Mogul emperor in Deli had lost most of his authority. India was divided into many small principalities. We have not yet assessed these principalities. In addition there was the Aga Kahn who was a hereditary Islamic religious leader. When Indias became a republic at independence (1947), the princes or nabobs, with a few exceptions, surrendered their authority to the republic.


There were many Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms formed in early Indonesia. There origins relate to trade with South Asia and Souteast Asia. Little information is available on these kingdoms. We also see Islamic kingdomes being established (13th century). And the Islamic rulers gradually became the dominant force on the islands by the time the Europeans arrived attracted by the spices and other products (16th century). European traders with their superior fire power gradually gaining influence in the Indonesia. Eventually the Dutch took control. Some of the mostly Islamic royal houses fouught the Dutch. Most made peace with them. The Dutch integrated the various royal houses into the colonia political system. The Dutch unified the islands politically for the first time as the Dutch East Indies (DEI). Tge monaries were mostky Islamic, except on Bali where Hindism was still prominant. The DEI was a major objective of the Japanese when they launched the Pacific War because of oil (1941). The Indonesians nationalists and royal houses largely cooperated with the Japanese even though Japanese imperial policies resulted in a horific famine. After the War the Nationalists resisted the reimposition of Dutch colonial control. The Dutch granted Indonesians independence (1949). With the victories of the Nationalists, the traditional leaders lost their political power, but continue to exert influence.


The Japanese imperial family is the world's oldest hereditary monarchy.. Emperors were, and are known by the name, or names of their reigns. The current reigning Emperor, Akihito is number 125 in the unbroken chain of sucession. The first was, Jimmu (660-585 B.C.). The Japanese word for Emperor is Tenno. Since the foundation of Japan in about 600 BC, The Imperial Household of Japan (in Japanese, Koshitsu) has been keep the unbroken line of the Family and Emperors as the only dynasty in Japan for over 2600 years. More than 90 percent of Japanese people reportedly support the Imperial Household and His Majesty the Emperor. The Imperial family in a very real sence has become the modern symbol of the unity of the Japanese nation. For a long term of the periods of Japan, the Emperor has been a mere figurehead and real power was yielded by a series of military shogans. Even through this period, however, the dynastic chain remained unbroken and the Emperor's continued to be vernerated by the Japanese peolple. To understand Japan, it is necessary to know about the Imperial family. The first article of the Japanese constitution states that "the Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of them people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power." This established a new role for the Japanese Imperial Family in Japanese society, bringing into line with that of royal families in most other countries. As most other present-day royal or Imperial Heads of State, the Japanese Emperor has no powers related to government, and can only act in matters of the state as described in the constitution. (Article 4), the Emperor performs official duties such as the promulgation of laws and treaties, convoking the Diet, proclamation of general elections, awarding of honors, etc. with the advice and approval of the Cabinet (Article 7).


The Goryeo Dynasty ruled Korea for 400 years (11-14th centuries). They were weakened by both internal power struggles and nominal occupation by the declining Mongol Empire (late-14th century). A Goryeo army general, Yi Seong-gye, was ordered to invade Manchuria (1388). Instead he tirned his army on Kaesong, the Goryeo capital. He defeated the forces of rival General Choe Yeong. This enabed him to depose the last Goryeo ruler, King U. General Yi didn't immediately seized the throne, he ruled through Goryeo puppets (1389-92). He soon decided to seize power in his name. He ordered King U and his 8-year-old son King Chang executed. General Yi then founded his owm dynasty and ruled as King Taejo, meaning 'highest ancestor'. The capital was relocated to what is now modern Seoul. The Yi Dynasty was also known as the Yi clan of Jeonju. The Yi Dynasty ruled Korea for the next five centuries. The Korean kingdom was nominally within the Chinese sphere of influence. The degree of Chinese influence varied over time. Japan, after the Meiji Restoration, had moved acquire modern Western military technology and begin to industrialize. The Japanese with their growing power forced King Joseon to sign the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876. It effectively shifted Korea from the Chinese to the Japanese sphere of influence. This enabled Japan to begin to exploit Korean resources (fish, iron ore, and other natural resources) and established a substantial economic presence in Korea. Korea was a majpr factor in the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-85) which fundamentally changed the balance of power in East Asia. Much of the War was fought in Korea. The Chinese defeat in the war led to the Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895) which officially ended Chinese influence in Korea and effectively granted Japan direct control over Korean politics. Not only China, but Russia had an iterest in Mabchuria and Korea. The Japanese after their victory in the the Russo-Japanese War (1894-95) formaly seized Korea (1909). The Japanese forced the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1910 on the Koreans. This meant the Japanese annexation of Korea. Some members of the Yi royal family were 'mediatised' aslower members of the Japanese Imperial family and the Japanese peerage. Their status as royalty ended with Japan's defeat in World War II and the end of Japanese colonial rule in Korea. The Republic of Korea in its constitution after the War did not recognize the imperial Yi family.


Guru Tashi, a Tibetian prince of the Minyak Dynasty entered Sikkim from the Kham district of Tibet. He founded the Namgyal (Chogyal) Monarchy. The Chogyal, meaning king or divine ruler, were the country's absolute rulers (1642-1975). This was similar to Bhutan where a related dynasty ruled. The modern history of Sikkim has been dominated by efforts by neighboring Nepal to conquer and absorb Sikkim. This began with border raids and was followed by actual invasion and territorial seizures. During the reign of Tenzing Namgyal (sixth Chogyal), Nepal invaded and occupied substantial areas of Sikkim (18th century). When the Nepali reached Rabdanste, the Chogyal fled north to Tibet seeking Chinese protection. The eboldened Nepali next began attacking areas in Tibet proper. This caused the Chinese to intervene, defeating the invading Nepali forces, but not occupying Napal. The resulting Sino-Nepal treaty resulted in the loss of small aeeas, but restored the Chogyal to the throne (1793). Tenzing Namgyal died in Lasha, Tibet, but his son Tsudphud Namgyal was sent to Sikkim and enthroned as Chogyal. While the Nepali subsequently refrained from attacking Tibet to the north, they continued attacks on India and Neal to the south and deast. By this time India was largely controlled by the British East India Company. The British seeking to stabilize the situation along the northern border, cultivated relations with Sikkim. And the Chogyal saw the British as needed support against the Nepali Gorkhas. The British defeated the Nepali in the Anglo-Nepalese War fought at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe (1814-16). The Treaty of Sigauli broughpeace to the northern border. The British restored lost territory to Sikkim in the Treaty of Titalia. Sikkim became a British protectorate (1890). When India granted independence to India (1947), Sikkim unlike most of the princely states became independent. The Kingdom turned over responsibility for defense, foreign relations, and communications to India (1950). Magharaja Gyalsay Palden Thondup Nangyal became Chogyal (1965). He married an American, Hope Cook (1963). Sikkim because if the growing unpopularity of the monarchy voted to abrogated it and join India (1975). It is now the second smallest Indian state.

Sri Lanka

Sri Kanka is an island nation off the southen coast of the Indian subcontinent. As such, .the ountry's history and ruling families are part of the fabric of Indin history. The Sinalese themselves originated in norther Indi.Thre have been a series of invasions from Tamil kingdoms in southrn India. The single most important Sri Lanka state was the Anuradhapura Kingdom which dominated the iland for a mienium and a half. The Kingdom ws rled by seberal different dynasties. After the fall of Anuradhapura, sevral smller kingdoms vied for control of the island, each with its own ruing dynasties. We are just beginning to develop some basic information on the various


The Thai monarchy is little knowm outside of Southeast Asia. All that most Westerners know is that there was a Thai monarchy as a result of the wonderful play and movie: "Ana and the King of Siam"/"The King and I". The Chakrias are the current reigning dynasty. The dynasty has reigned since 1782. In the more than two centuries there have been nine reigning kings, a remarkably small number. Each of the Chakria kings has taken the name Rama. The famous king in the "King and I" was King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). Chulalongkorn took many steps to modernize the country and prevent seizure by the European colonial powers. Thialand (then called Siam) was located between British Burma to the west and Frech Indochina to the east. He abolished slavery among other modernizing steps. He was succeeded by two of his sons, first Vajiravudh (1910) and Prajadhipok (1925). King Prajadhipok died unexpectedly (1935). The crown then passed to to Prajadhipok's nephew--Ananda Mahidol. King Mahidol was assasinated (1946). The throne then passed to his younger brother--Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). He is greatly revered in Thailand although his real power is limited. The king and Queen Sirikit married in 1950. King Adulyadej is still the Thai monarch, the longest reigning living monarch. The royal couple have four children, including the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is heir to the throne.


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Created: 8:02 PM 5/21/2009
Last updated: 9:35 AM 10/27/2017