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China, a History


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Bee Cha
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« Reply #150 on: December 08, 2007, 05:18:27 pm »



Sun Yangdi, Emperor of Sui
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Bee Cha
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« Reply #151 on: December 08, 2007, 05:20:22 pm »

Following the example from the Sui Dynasty, the Tang abandoned the nine-rank system in favor of a large civil service system. The Tang drafted learned and skilled students of Confucian studies who had passed standardized exams, and appointed them as state bureaucrats in the local, provincial, and central government (see imperial examination). There were two types of exams that were given, mingjing ('illuminating the classics examination') and jinshi ('presented scholar examination'). The mingjing was based upon the Confucian classics, and tested the student's knowledge of a broad variety of texts. The jinshi tested a student's literary abilities in writing essay-style responses to questions on matters of governance and politics, as well as their skills in composing poetry. Candidates were also judged on their skills of deportment, appearance, speech, and level of skill in calligraphy, all of which were subjective criteria that allowed the already wealthy members of society to be chosen over ones of more modest means who were unable to be educated in rhetoric or fanciful writing skills. Indeed there was a disproportionate amount of civil officials coming from aristocratic as opposed to non-aristocratic families. Nonetheless, these exams differed from the exams given by previous dynasties, in that they were open to all (male) citizens of all classes, not just those wealthy enough to receive a recommendation. In order to promote widespread Confucian education, the Tang government established state-run schools and issued standard versions of the Five Classics with selected commentaries.

This competitive procedure was designed to draw the best talent into government. But perhaps an even greater consideration for the Tang rulers, aware that imperial dependence on powerful aristocratic families and warlords would have destabilizing consequences, was to create a body of career officials having no autonomous territorial or functional power base. The Tang law code ensured equal division of inherited property amongst legitimate heirs, allowing a bit of social mobility and preventing the families of powerful court officials in becoming landed nobility through primogeniture. As it turned out, these scholar-officials acquired status in their local communities and in family ties, and shared values that connected them to the imperial court. From Tang times until the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, scholar-officials functioned often as intermediaries between the grassroots level and the government. Yet the potential of a widespread examination system was not fully realized until the Song Dynasty (960-1279), where the merit-driven scholar official largely shed his aristocratic habits and embodied more or less the modern concept of an educated bureaucrat. As historian Patricia Ebrey states of the Song period scholar-officials:

“ The examination system, used only on a small scale in Sui and Tang times, played a central role in the fashioning of this new elite. The early Song emperors, concerned above all to avoid domination of the government by military men, greatly expanded the civil service examination system and the government school system. ”

Nevertheless, the Sui and Tang dynasties institutionalized and set the foundations for the civil service system and this new elite class of exam-drafted scholar-officials.

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Bee Cha
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« Reply #152 on: December 08, 2007, 05:21:31 pm »



A Tang era gilt-silver ear cup with flower design
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« Reply #153 on: December 08, 2007, 05:22:37 pm »

Religion, namely Buddhism, also played a role in Tang politics. People bidding for office would have monks from Buddhist temples pray for them in public in return for cash donations or gifts if the person was to be selected. There were many Buddhist temple structures built during the Tang Dynasty, such as the Xumi Pagoda of 636, during the reign of Taizong. Before the persecution of Buddhism in the 9th century, Buddhism and Taoism were accepted side by side, and Emperor Xuanzong of Tang invited monks and clerics of both religions to his court. At the same time Xuanzong exalted the ancient Laozi (granting him grand titles), wrote commentary on the Taoist Laozi, set up a school to prepare candidates for examinations on Taoist scriptures, and called upon the Indian monk Vajrabodhi (671–741) to perform Tantric rites to avert a drought in the year 726. In 742 Emperor Xuanzong personally held the incense burner during the ceremony of the Ceylonese monk Amoghavajra (705–774) reciting "mystical incantations to secure the victory of Tang forces." In addition, if religion played a role in politics, then politics played a role in religion as well. In the year 714, Emperor Xuanzong forbade shops and vendors in the city of Chang'an to sell copied Buddhist sutras, instead giving the Buddhist clergy of the monasteries the sole right to distribute sutras to the laity. In the previous year of 713, Emperor Xuanzong had liquidated the highly lucrative Inexhaustible Treasury, which was run by a prominent Buddhist monastery in Chang'an. This monastery collected vast amounts of money, silk, and treasures through multitudes of synonymous people's repentances, leaving the donations on the monastery's premise. Although the monastery was generous in donations, Emperor Xuanzong issued a decree abolishing their treasury on grounds that their banking practices were fraudulent, collected their riches, and distributed the wealth to various other Buddhist monasteries, Taoist abbeys, and to repair statues, halls, and bridges in the city.
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« Reply #154 on: December 08, 2007, 05:23:37 pm »



Tang emperor Xuanzong (685-762, governed 712/13-56)

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« Reply #155 on: December 08, 2007, 05:24:50 pm »

The Tang Dynasty government attempted to create an accurate census of the size of their empire's population, mostly for effective taxation and matters of military conscription for each region. The early Tang government established both the grain tax and cloth tax at a relatively low rate for each household under the empire. This was meant to encourage households to enroll for taxation and not avoid the authorities, thus providing the government with the most accurate estimate possible. In the census of 609, the population was tallied by efforts of the government at a size of 9 million households, or about 50 million people. Again, the Tang census of the year 742 approximated the size China's population to about 50 million people. Even if a rather significant amount of people had avoided the registration process of the tax census, the population size during the Tang had not grown significantly since the earlier Han Dynasty (the census of the year 2 recording a population of 59 million people in China). In the Tang census of the year 754, there were 1,859 cities, 321 prefectures, and 1,538 counties throughout the empire. Although there were many large and prominent cities during the Tang, the rural and agrarian areas comprised the majority of China's population at some 80 to 90 percent. A high salt commission was also introduced, which proved valuable as a means of raising revenue for the central government since taxes from the populace could be gathered indirectly from cooperating merchants.

Chinese population size would not dramatically increase until the Song Dynasty (960–1279) period, where the population doubled to 100 million people due to extensive rice cultivation in central and southern China, coupled with rural farmers holding more abundant yields of food that they could easily provide the growing market
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« Reply #156 on: December 08, 2007, 05:26:04 pm »



A Man Herding Horses, by Han Gan (706–783), a court artist under Xuanzong.
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« Reply #157 on: December 08, 2007, 05:27:14 pm »

The 7th century and first half of the 8th century is generally considered the zenith era of the Tang Dynasty. Emperor Tang Xuanzong (r. 712–756) brought the Middle Kingdom to its golden age while the Silk Road thrived, with sway over Indochina in the south, and to the west Tang China was master of the Pamirs (modern-day Tajikistan) and protector of Kashmir bordering Persia. Some of the major kingdoms paying tribute to the Tang Dynasty included Kashmir, Neparo (Nepal), Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and over nine kingdoms located in Amu Darya and Syr Darya valley. Nomadic kingdoms addressed the Emperor of Tang China respectfully as Tian Kehan. Under Emperor Xuanzong, several military provinces were established on China's frontiers from Sichuan to Manchuria, as the military governors of these were given a great deal of autonomy to handle local crises without waiting for central admission. By the year 737, Emperor Xuanzong discarded the policy of conscripting soldiers that were replaced every three years, replacing them with long-service soldiers who were more battle-hardened and efficient. It was more economically feasible as well, since training new recruits and sending them out to the frontier every three years drained the treasury. By the year 742 the total number of enlisted troops in the Tang armies had risen to about 500,000 men.
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« Reply #158 on: December 08, 2007, 05:28:45 pm »


A bas-relief of a soldier and horse with elaborate saddle and stirrups, from the tomb of Emperor Taizong, c. 650.
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« Reply #159 on: December 08, 2007, 05:30:03 pm »

The Sui and Tang had one of the most successful military campaigns against the steppe nomads during its history. In terms of foreign policy to the north and west, the Chinese now had to deal with Turkic nomads, who were becoming the most dominant ethnic group in Central Asia. To handle and avoid any threats posed by the Turks, the Sui government repaired fortifications and received their trade and tribute missions. They sent royal princesses off to marry Turkic clan leaders, a total four of them in 597, 599, 614, and 617. The Sui stirred trouble and conflict amongst ethnic groups against the Turks. As early as the Sui Dynasty the Turks had become a major militarized force employed by the Chinese. When the Khitans began raiding northeast China in 605, a Chinese general led 20,000 Turks against them, distributing Khitan livestock and women to the Turks as a reward. The Tang, unlike the Sui, did not send royal princesses to their leaders; instead they were married to Turk mercenaries or generals in Chinese service, and such marriages only occurred in two rare occasions between 635 and 636. Throughout the Tang Dynasty until the end of 755, there were approximately ten Turkic generals serving under the Tang. While most of the Tang army was made of fubing Chinese conscripts, the majority of the army led by Turkic generals was of non-Chinese origin, campaigning largely in the western frontier where the presence of fubing troops was low.

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« Reply #160 on: December 08, 2007, 05:30:52 pm »

After much of the civil war was ended by 626, along with the defeat of Liang Shidu in 628, a Chinese warlord who occupied the Ordos region, the Tang began an offensive against the Turks. In the year 630, Tang armies captured areas of the Ordos Desert, modern-day Inner Mongolia province, and southern Mongolia from the Turks. After this military victory, Emperor Taizong won the title of Great Khan amongst the various Turks in the region who pledged their allegiance to him and the Chinese empire (with several thousand Turks traveling into China to live at Chang'an). On June 11, 631, Emperor Taizong also sent envoys to the Xueyantuo bearing gold and silk in order to persuade the release of enslaved Chinese prisoners who were captured during the transition from Sui to Tang from the northern frontier; this embassy succeeded in freeing 80,000 Chinese men and women who were then returned to China. While the Turks were settled in the Ordos region (former territory of the Xiongnu), the Tang government took on the military policy of dominating the central steppe. Like the earlier Han Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty (along with Turkic allies) conquered and subdued Central Asia during the 640s and 650s. During Emperor Taizong's reign alone, large campaigns were launched against not only the Göktürks, but also separate campaigns against the Tuyuhun, the Tufan, the Xiyu states, and the Xueyantuo.

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« Reply #161 on: December 08, 2007, 05:32:09 pm »


A Tang period gilt-silver jar with a pattern of dancing horses, shaped in the style of northern nomad's leather bag. The horse is seen dancing with a cup of wine in its mouth, just how the horses of Emperor Xuanzong were trained to do.
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« Reply #162 on: December 08, 2007, 05:33:48 pm »

On and off the Tang Empire fought with the Tibetan Empire for control of areas in Inner and Central Asia, which was at times settled with marriage alliances. There were a long string of conflicts with Tibet over territories in the Tarim Basin between 670–692 and in 763 the Tibetans even captured the capital of China, Chang'an, for fifteen days amidst the An Shi Rebellion. Hostilities continued until the Tibetan Empire and the Tang Dynasty finally signed a formal peace treaty in 821. The terms of this treaty, including the fixed borders between the two countries, are recorded in a bilingual inscription on a stone pillar outside the Jokhang temple in Lhasa.

By the 740s, the Arabs of Khurasan - by then under Abbasid control - had established a presence in the Ferghana basin and in Sogdiana. At the Battle of Talas in 751, Qarluq mercenaries under the Chinese defected, which forced Tang commander Gao Xianzhi to retreat. Although the battle itself was not of the greatest significance militarily, this was a pivotal moment in history; it marks the spread of Chinese papermaking into regions west of China, ultimately reaching Europe by the 12th century.

During the Islamic conquest of Persia (633–656), the son of the last ruler of the Sassanid Empire, Prince Pirooz, fled to Tang China. According to the Book of Tang, Pirooz was made the head of a Governorate of Persia in what is now Zaranj, Afghanistan.

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« Reply #163 on: December 08, 2007, 05:35:05 pm »

In terms of foreign policy to the east, the Chinese had more unsuccessful military campaigns as compared with elsewhere. Like the emperors of the Sui Dynasty before him, Taizong established a military campaign in 644 against the Korean kingdom of Goguryeo in the Goguryeo-Tang Wars. Since the ancient Han and Jin dynasties once had a commandery in ancient northern Korea, the Tang Chinese desired to conquer the region. Allying with the Korean Silla Kingdom, the Chinese fought against Baekje and their Yamato Japanese allies in the Battle of Baekgang in August of 663, a decisive Tang-Silla victory. The Tang Dynasty navy had several different ship types at its disposal to engage in naval warfare, these ships described by Li Quan in his Taipai Yinjing (Canon of the White and Gloomy Planet of War) of 759. The Battle of Baekgang was actually a restoration movement by remnant forces of Baekje, since their kingdom was toppled in 660 by a joint Tang-Silla invasion, led by notable Korean general Kim Yushin and Chinese general Su Dingfang. In another joint invasion with Silla, the Tang army severely weakened the Goguryeo Kingdom in the north by taking out its outer forts in the year 645. With joint attacks by Silla and Tang armies under commander Li Shiji (594–669), the Kingdom of Goguryeo was destroyed by 668. Although they were formerly enemies, the Tang accepted officials and generals of Goguryeo into their administration and military, such as the brothers Yeon Namsan and Yeon Namsaeng. From 668 to 676, the Tang Empire would control northern Korea. However, in 671 Silla began fighting the Tang forces there. By 676, the Tang army was driven out of Korea by Unified Silla.

Although the Tang had fought the Japanese, they still held cordial relations with Japan. There were numerous Imperial embassies to China from Japan, diplomatic missions that were not halted until 894 by Emperor Uda, upon persuasion by Sugawara no Michizane. The Japanese Emperor Temmu (r. 672–686) even established his conscripted army on that of the Chinese model, his state ceremonies on the Chinese model, and constructed his palace at Fujiwara on the Chinese model of architecture. Many Chinese Buddhist monks came to Japan to help further the spread of Buddhism as well. Two 7th century monks in particular, Zhi Yu and Zhi You, visited the court of Emperor Tenji (r. 661–672), whereupon they presented a gift of a South Pointing Chariot that they had crafted. This 3rd century mechanically-driven directional-compass vehicle (employing a differential gear) was again reproduced in several models for Tenji in 666, as recorded in the Nihon Shoki of 720. Japanese monks also visited China; such was the case with Ennin (794–864), who wrote of his travel experiences including travels along China's Grand Canal.
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« Reply #164 on: December 08, 2007, 05:36:18 pm »



The South Pointing Chariot compass-vehicle with differential gears was crafted by two Chinese monks for Japanese Emperor Tenji in 658 and 666.
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