Asian History


You may never have heard of him, but Avicenna was one of the first, and probably the most influential, Islamic philosopher-scientists. He's listed among the great philosophers in Dante's Inferno and is mentioned in the prologue to the Canterbury Tales.

Sei Shonagon and the Heian Court

Thanks to the pillow book of lady-in-waiting Sei Shonagon, we have a first-person account of court life in Heian Japan. It's part diary, part commonplace book, part essay collection, and thoroughly fascinating.

Boxer Rebellion

"It was a culture clash of epic proportions. The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising, was a gruesome, violent slaughter of Chinese Christians and foreigners - followed by a gruesome, violent slaughter of the Boxers. "

India's Karni Mata Rat Temple

Though it's most famous for its rats, the story of this temple starts with Hindu goddess Durga and Karni Mata, a 15th-century mystic believed to be her incarnation. The reason for the rats in Karni Mata's temple is a combination of legend and devotion.

After becoming a concubine for Emperor Xianfeng at the age of 16, Cixi rose to power when he died and her young son inherited the throne. She governed China from behind a screen for more than 45 years, and eventually sealed the fate of the Qing Dynasty.

Okichi's story is filled with embellishment and hazy details. Sent to serve Townsend Harris, the first U.S. Consul to Japan, she was shunned after Harris left. Yet Okichi is now honored with an annual festival and has become a national symbol.

Gertrude Bell: The Uncrowned Queen of Iraq, Part 2

Part 2 of this series follows Gertrude Bell on her adventures after World War I begins. The British army asked her to help them retain their influence in the Middle East. But how did she get from there to helping found modern Iraq? Tune in to learn more.

Gertrude Bell: The Uncrowned Queen of Iraq

Gertrude Bell was the first woman to graduate with a First in Modern History from Oxford. Instead of marrying young, she went to Persia. Inspired, she traveled across the Middle East on numerous exploratory treks. But would it last in a time of war?

After the Japanese ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi died, regents and bureaucrats scrambled for power. The rivals Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ishida Mitsunari rallied supporters to face off in Sekigahara. Tokugawa emerged victorious. But what happened next?

Evliya Çelebi grew up in 17th century Istanbul as the "boon companion" of Sultan Murad IV. In his 20s, Evliya had a prophetic dream and spent decades traveling. During his travels he wrote the Seyahatname, one of history's important travel narratives.