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By Colin Mason

The peoples of Asia now make up greater than half the world's inhabitants. they're more and more well-educated, and winning in each quarter of recent alternate and know-how. Their impression within the remainder of the realm is usually changing into larger. Colin Mason offers a readable and transparent advent to their background and traditions, from prehistory correct as much as the current day. This completely revised, up-to-date and accelerated re-creation comprises the titanic alterations and additions made precious via the fast-changing scene in Asia, rather China's expanding prominence in international affairs. There are new chapters on Afghanistan and Taiwan, and on global conflict and its value in Asia, in addition to large transforming of the chapters at the countries of South Asia. Maps and illustrations now additionally improve the textual content all through, making this the basic consultant to the historical past of a desirable continent and its peoples.

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An embassy was even sent to Egypt. Ashoka was much given to setting up inscriptions of moral precepts. Thirty-five of these still exist in caves and on the monoliths previously mentioned. A system of law and order hitherto unparalleled is attributed to him, aimed at the protection of the sick, the unarmed and the helpless and the convenience of travellers. Staged resthouses for travellers along roads – 28 A Short History of Asia still a feature of several Asian countries – were one of the public services he instituted.

Often taxation reached such ruinous levels as to leave the peasants destitute, and even minor weather fluctuations resulted in major famines. The death penalty was imposed for a multitude of offences. 24 A Short History of Asia However, social inequality and art often flourish together, and such was the case in ancient India. This era produced the great Indian classics – the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. These writings stress the basic lesson that everyone must maintain his or her due place in society, that ‘it is better to do one’s own duty badly than another’s well’ – thus guaranteeing the privileged position of the twice-born.

A major point of interest was the gradual accumulation of this vast mass of religious strictures and legends which were committed to memory and carried on by word of mouth, and which are a basis of several major religions, and especially of Hinduism. The extent to which these reflect the times in which they originated is doubtful. They must have been added to and modified extensively over the period – perhaps 1000 years – before they were written down. Out of the obscurity of this early period one can still make some deductions.

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