9.4 Korea and Its Traditions

As early as Han times, China expanded its influence to a ring of states and peoples on the border of the Middle Kingdom. To the northeast, Korea lay within the Chinese zone of influence. While Korea absorbed many Chinese traditions over the centuries, it also maintained its own identity.

Photo of several connected temples in forested mountain setting.

During the Silla dynasty, Buddhism expanded in Korea and stunning temples, such as the Pulguksa Temple shown here, were built. It is considered the most famous Buddhist temple in Korea.


  • Describe how geography affected life on the Korean peninsula.
  • Understand the influence of China and Buddhism on Korea.
  • Explain the major achievements of the Choson dynasty.

Key Terms

  • Silla dynasty
  • Koryo dynasty
  • celadon
  • Choson dynasty
  • King Sejong
  • hangul
  • literacy rate

The Geography of Korea

The Korean Peninsula

Korea is located on a peninsula that juts south from the Asian mainland and points toward Japan. At the northern end of the peninsula, mountains and the Yalu River separate Korea from China.

An early visitor once compared Korea's landscape to “a sea in a heavy gale.” Low but steep mountains cover nearly 70 percent of the Korean peninsula.

The most important range is the T'aebaek (ta bak). It runs from north to south along the eastern coast, with smaller chains branching off to form hilly areas. Because farming is difficult on the mountains, most people live along the western coastal plains, Korea's major farming region.

Korea has a 5,400-mile coastline with hundreds of good harbors. In addition, the offshore waters feature thousands of islands. Since early times, Koreans have depended upon seafood for most of the protein in their diet. Today, South Korea has one of the largest fishing industries in the world.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments