After examining the rise of the early Korean and Vietnamese societies as discussed in Bentley and Ziegler's Traditions & Encounters, in what ways were they different?

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In the post-classical period (600 CE–1450 CE), Vietnam and Korea both contended with Chinese territorial expansion and culture. They differ most in how much Chinese culture and influence they adopted, through a process known as sinification.

During the Tang Dynasty in China (618–904 CE), emperors led conquests of their surrounding regions to increase Chinese territory and to create tributary states out of their neighbors. In addition to Japan, Korea and Vietnam became tributary states. Korea and Vietnam, however, sinified to two different degrees.

Korea adopted more Chinese culture than Vietnam. Korea adapted Chinese script into its own written language, borrowed technologies, set up its government and education systems to mirror China's, and even sent its young boys to study in Confucian academies in the Chinese capital, Chang'an. As Korea is so geographically close to China, cultural transmission happened efficiently through trade.

Vietnam sinified less than Korea did. In Vietnam, unlike with Korea, we see a more Buddhist influence. While Chinese Confucianism caught on in the north, below the swamps and mountains, Buddhism and local religions were more prominent. In addition, Confucianism seemed too strict to adapt to the Vietnamese social lifestyle, where women enjoyed more freedom than their Chinese counterparts and where family units were structured differently. Chinese cultural transmission seemed more of an attack on Vietnamese culture than it did with Korea. Vietnam also had a more distinct, individualized culture. Other ethnic groups were encouraged to intermarry with the Vietnamese, including the Khmers (from today's Cambodia) and the Tais, suggesting that Vietnamese society was more independent from China than Korea's society. Additionally, given geographic and cultural differences, the Vietnamese had formed drastically different cultures, differing in everything from style of dress to art and literature.

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In the chapter of Traditions & Encounters that you appear to be referring to (Chapter 12 in my brief Second Edition), Bentley and Ziegler are not really discussing differences between Korean and Vietnamese society per se.  Instead, they are discussing the different ways in which Korea and Vietnam responded to Chinese influence.

China was by far the most dominant country in East Asia.  It was powerful and rich.  Because of this, it was able to spread its influence across the region, including what are now Vietnam and the Korean peninsula.  While Korea and Vietnam both came to be influenced by China, there was one major difference that Bentley and Ziegler identify in their respective responses to China.  The major difference was that Korea essentially accepted Chinese domination while Vietnam did not.

In Korea, China came relatively easy to a political compromise.  The Chinese left the Silla kings in place, but those kings acknowledged Chinese supremacy.  They brought gifts to the Chinese emperor and regularly renewed their vow of loyalty to him.  This was very beneficial to Korea in economic and social terms.  By contrast, the Vietnamese were much more reluctant.  They did give tribute to China at times, but they also rebelled.  This culminated with them throwing off Chinese rule and becoming independent in the tenth century.

Thus, the major difference between these two countries (in this chapter of Bentley and Ziegler) is that Korea was much more willing to accept Chinese domination. 

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