China Ancient History Part V

By | October 20, 2021

The retreat began everywhere: from Central Asia, Korea, Vietnam and from southeast China. Emperor Suzong (Su-tsung, 756–762) with the help of Turkish, Tibetan and Uyghur auxiliaries and defectors from the ranks of the rebels to put down the uprising in 762, but this was bought with a double dependency: on the former vassals, who demanded tribute, and on the defectors, who with Governorships and military provinces were rewarded, where they, based on them professional armies, civil violence, v. a. the tax sovereignty. The court was never able to reverse this restriction of its authority, which is already evident from the fact that 9.6 million (tax) households were recorded in a census one year before the uprising, but only 1 a decade after the uprising.2 million. When the popular uprising of the Huang Chao (Huang Ch’ao, † 884) 874–884 covered almost all of China, the days of the dynasty were numbered. After all, the Tang kingdom experienced a cultural rebloom and produced poets like Bo Juyi and essayists like Han Yu, who revived the strict prose style of the Hanzeit and championed the primacy of Confucianism over Daoism and Buddhism, both germs that only bear fruit a century later should. The mighty Buddhist monasteries, whose rich possessions were secularized between 841 and 845, experienced a decline during this period – a blow from which they never recovered.

Second division of the empire (907–979)

From the battle for the legacy of the Tang after the rebellion of Huang Chao, the former rebel officer walked Chu Wen, when Emperor Taizu (T’ai-tsu, 907–915), emerged as the preliminary winner. Although he controlled only half of northern China, he was able to deliver the death blow to the Tang Dynasty and establish his own dynasty, the Later Liang (907-923). It was the first of five successive empires – three of which were ruled by Sinized Turkic peoples (later Tang, T’ang, 923–936; later Jin, Chin, 936–946; later Han, 947–950) – belonging to the age gave his name (Five Dynasties: Wu-tai, Wudai, 907-960). Later historiography saw them alone as the legitimate heirs of the Tang, but not the Ten States (Shiguo, Shih-kuo, 902–979) that ruled southern and central China at the same time: earlier Shu (907-925) and later Shu (934 -965) in Sichuan, Chu (Ch’u) in Hunan (927–951), Southern Han in Guangdong and Guanxi (917–971), Wu and Southern Tang (T’ang) in Jiangxi, Anhui and Jiangsu (902–975), Min in Fujian (909–944), Wuyue (Wu-yüeh) in Zhejiang (907-978) and Jingnan (Ching-nan) in Hubei (925-963); further in the north the Northern Han (951–979).

The states in the south experienced an economic upswing. Temporary tax exemption for colonists and improved cultivation methods increased agricultural production. Trade (in tea and china, a country located in Asia according to also flourished. On the other hand, they did not find the political and military strength for a new unification of the empire. In contrast, the development of the Five Dynasties in the north resulted in a strengthening of the central power, which in turn prepared the reunification of China from there.

Song (Sung, 960-1279)

Although he became important as a general and was elected emperor by soldiers, the founder of the Song (Sung) dynasty, Zhao Kuangyin (Chao K’uang-yin), created a state as ruler Taizu (T’ai-tsu, 960–976) whose distinct civil character was new to Chinese history. The elite of the empire was now (in continuation of a development already observed under the Five Dynasties) no longer dominated by the old aristocratic families, but by literary officials who were recruited via palace exams, which were theoretically accessible to everyone. Numerous public and private schools as well as the spread of block printing put education on a considerably improved basis, so that from the 11th to the 13th centuries almost all areas of life underwent radical changes. Hand in hand with increased ethnocentrism went a rejection of Buddhism and a renewed turn to Confucianism, which was to take the rank of state ideology in the teaching building of Zhu Xi until the end of the empire.

This cultural bloom was supported by the economic strength of a population whose number rose to 100 million thanks to the introduction of fast-ripening rice varieties in the south (two harvests a year) and the state support of the farmers (seaweed period: 60 million). Rapid urbanization with several metropolitan areas of more than 1 million residents as well as regional specializations in agriculture and in (partly already in guilds organized) handicrafts stimulated the money economy as well as domestic trade and even overseas trade with Japan, Annam, Malaya, South India and Bengal. The mobile urban society gave birth to a “bourgeois” culture geared towards entertainment, with novels and operas, whose means of expression was not the frozen idiom of the literary language, but the living vernacular; the individual gained freedom.

China Ancient History Song