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  • 1947
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[Illustration: 7 General view of the Buddhist cave-temples of Yuen-kang. In the foreground, the present village; in the background, the rampart. _Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson_.]

Owing to his bringing up, the emperor no longer regarded himself as Toba but as Chinese; he adopted the Chinese culture, acting as he was bound to do if he meant to be no longer an alien ruler in North China. Already he regarded himself as emperor of all China, so that the South Chinese empire was looked upon as a rebel state that had to be conquered. While, however, he succeeded in everything else, the campaign against the south failed except for some local successes.

The transfer of the capital to Loyang was a blow to the Toba nobles. Their herds became valueless, for animal products could not be carried over the long distance to the new capital. In Loyang the Toba nobles found themselves parted from their tribes, living in an unaccustomed climate and with nothing to do, for all important posts were occupied by Chinese. The government refused to allow them to return to the north. Those who did not become Chinese by finding their way into Chinese families grew visibly poorer and poorer.

5 _Victory and retreat of Buddhism_

What we said in regard to the religious position of the other alien peoples applied also to the Toba. As soon, however, as their empire grew, they, too, needed an “official” religion of their own. For a few years they had continued their old sacrifices to Heaven; then another course opened to them. The Toba, together with many Chinese living in the Toba empire, were all captured by Buddhism, and especially by its shamanist element. One element in their preference of Buddhism was certainly the fact that Buddhism accepted all foreigners alike–both the Toba and the Chinese were “foreign” converts to an essentially Indian religion; whereas the Confucianist Chinese always made the non-Chinese feel that in spite of all their attempts they were still “barbarians” and that only real Chinese could be real Confucianists.

Secondly, it can be assumed that the Toba rulers by fostering Buddhism intended to break the power of the Chinese gentry. A few centuries later, Buddhism was accepted by the Tibetan kings to break the power of the native nobility, by the Japanese to break the power of a federation of noble clans, and still later by the Burmese kings for the same reason. The acceptance of Buddhism by rulers in the Far East always meant also an attempt to create a more autocratic, absolutistic regime. Mahayana Buddhism, as an ideal, desired a society without clear-cut classes under one enlightened ruler; in such a society all believers could strive to attain the ultimate goal of salvation.

Throughout the early period of Buddhism in the Far East, the question had been discussed what should be the relations between the Buddhist monks and the emperor, whether they were subject to him or not. This was connected, of course, with the fact that to the early fourth century the Buddhist monks were foreigners who, in the view prevalent in the Far East, owed only a limited allegiance to the ruler of the land. The Buddhist monks at the Toba court now submitted to the emperor, regarding him as a reincarnation of Buddha. Thus the emperor became protector of Buddhism and a sort of god. This combination was a good substitute for the old Chinese theory that the emperor was the Son of Heaven; it increased the prestige and the splendour of the dynasty. At the same time the old shamanism was legitimized under a Buddhist reinterpretation. Thus Buddhism became a sort of official religion. The emperor appointed a Buddhist monk as head of the Buddhist state church, and through this “Pope” he conveyed endowments on a large scale to the church. T’an-yao, head of the state church since 460, induced the state to attach state slaves, i.e. enslaved family members of criminals, and their families to state temples. They were supposed to work on temple land and to produce for the upkeep of the temples and monasteries. Thus, the institution of “temple slaves” was created, an institution which existed in South Asia and Burma for a long time, and which greatly strengthened the economic position of Buddhism.

Like all Turkish peoples, the Toba possessed a myth according to which their ancestors came into the world from a sacred grotto. The Buddhists took advantage of this conception to construct, with money from the emperor, the vast and famous cave-temple of Yuen-kang, in northern Shansi. If we come from the bare plains into the green river valley, we may see to this day hundreds of caves cut out of the steep cliffs of the river bank. Here monks lived in their cells, worshipping the deities of whom they had thousands of busts and reliefs sculptured in stone, some of more than life-size, some diminutive. The majestic impression made today by the figures does not correspond to their original effect, for they were covered with a layer of coloured stucco.

We know only few names of the artists and craftsmen who made these objects. Probably some at least were foreigners from Turkestan, for in spite of the predominantly Chinese character of these sculptures, some of them are reminiscent of works in Turkestan and even in the Near East. In the past the influences of the Near East on the Far East–influences traced back in the last resort to Greece–were greatly exaggerated; it was believed that Greek art, carried through Alexander’s campaign as far as the present Afghanistan, degenerated there in the hands of Indian imitators (the so-called Gandhara art) and ultimately passed on in more and more distorted forms through Turkestan to China. Actually, however, some eight hundred years lay between Alexander’s campaign and the Toba period sculptures at Yuen-kang and, owing to the different cultural development, the contents of the Greek and the Toba-period art were entirely different. We may say, therefore, that suggestions came from the centre of the Greco-Bactrian culture (in the present Afghanistan) and were worked out by the Toba artists; old forms were filled with a new content, and the elements in the reliefs of Yuen-kang that seem to us to be non-Chinese were the result of this synthesis of Western inspiration and Turkish initiative. It is interesting to observe that all steppe rulers showed special interest in sculpture and, as a rule, in architecture; after the Toba period, sculpture flourished in China in the T’ang period, the period of strong cultural influence from Turkish peoples, and there was a further advance of sculpture and of the cave-dwellers’ worship in the period of the “Five Dynasties” (906-960; three of these dynasties were Turkish) and in the Mongol period.

But not all Buddhists joined the “Church”, just as not all Taoists had joined the Church of Chang Ling’s Taoism. Some Buddhists remained in the small towns and villages and suffered oppression from the central Church. These village Buddhist monks soon became instigators of a considerable series of attempts at revolution. Their Buddhism was of the so-called “Maitreya school”, which promised the appearance on earth of a new Buddha who would do away with all suffering and introduce a Golden Age. The Chinese peasantry, exploited by the gentry, came to the support of these monks whose Messianism gave the poor a hope in this world. The nomad tribes also, abandoned by their nobles in the capital and wandering in poverty with their now worthless herds, joined these monks. We know of many revolts of Hun and Toba tribes in this period, revolts that had a religious appearance but in reality were simply the result of the extreme impoverishment of these remaining tribes.

In addition to these conflicts between state and popular Buddhism, clashes between Buddhists and representatives of organized Taoism occurred. Such fights, however, reflected more the power struggle between cliques than between religious groups. The most famous incident was the action against the Buddhists in 446 which brought destruction to many temples and monasteries and death to many monks. Here, a mighty Chinese gentry faction under the leadership of the Ts’ui family had united with the Taoist leader K’ou Ch’ien-chih against another faction under the leadership of the crown prince.

With the growing influence of the Chinese gentry, however, Confucianism gained ground again, until with the transfer of the capital to Loyang it gained a complete victory, taking the place of Buddhism and becoming once more as in the past the official religion of the state. This process shows us once more how closely the social order of the gentry was associated with Confucianism.

(E) Succession States of the Toba (A.D. 550-580): Northern Ch’i dynasty, Northern Chou dynasty

1 _Reasons for the splitting of the Toba empire_

Events now pursued their logical course. The contrast between the central power, now become entirely Chinese, and the remains of the tribes who were with their herds mainly in Shansi and the Ordos region and were hopelessly impoverished, grew more and more acute. From 530 onward the risings became more and more formidable. A few Toba who still remained with their old tribes placed themselves at the head of the rebels and conquered not only the whole of Shansi but also the capital, where there was a great massacre of Chinese and pro-Chinese Toba. The rebels were driven back; in this a man of the Kao family distinguished himself, and all the Chinese and pro-Chinese gathered round him. The Kao family, which may have been originally a Hsien-pi family, had its estates in eastern China and so was closely associated with the eastern Chinese gentry, who were the actual rulers of the Toba State. In 534 this group took the impotent emperor of their own creation to the city of Yeh in the east, where he reigned _de jure_ for a further sixteen years. Then he was deposed, and Kao Yang made himself the first emperor of the Northern Ch’i dynasty (550-577).

The national Toba group, on the other hand, found another man of the imperial family and established him in the west. After a short time this puppet was removed from the throne and a man of the Yue-wen family made himself emperor, founding the “Northern Chou dynasty” (557-580). The Hsien-pi family of Yue-wen was a branch of the Hsien-pi, but was closely connected with the Huns and probably of Turkish origin. All the still existing remains of Toba tribes who had eluded sinification moved into this western empire.

The splitting of the Toba empire into these two separate realms was the result of the policy embarked on at the foundation of the empire. Once the tribal chieftains and nobles had been separated from their tribes and organized militarily, it was inevitable that the two elements should have different social destinies. The nobles could not hold their own against the Chinese; if they were not actually eliminated in one way or another, they disappeared into Chinese families. The rest, the people of the tribe, became destitute and were driven to revolt. The northern peoples had been unable to perpetuate either their tribal or their military organization, and the Toba had been equally unsuccessful in their attempt to perpetuate the two forms of organization alongside each other.

These social processes are of particular importance because the ethnical disappearance of the northern peoples in China had nothing to do with any racial inferiority or with any particular power of assimilation; it was a natural process resulting from the different economic, social, and cultural organizations of the northern peoples and the Chinese.

2 _Appearance of the (Goek) Turks_

The Toba had liberated themselves early in the fifth century from the Juan-juan peril. None of the fighting that followed was of any great importance. The Toba resorted to the old means of defence against nomads–they built great walls. Apart from that, after their move southward to Loyang, their new capital, they were no longer greatly interested in their northern territories. When the Toba empire split into the Ch’i and the Northern Chou, the remaining Juan-juan entered into treaties first with one realm and then with the other: each realm wanted to secure the help of the Juan-juan against the other.

Meanwhile there came unexpectedly to the fore in the north a people grouped round a nucleus tribe of Huns, the tribal union of the “T’u-chueeh”, that is to say the Goek Turks, who began to pursue a policy of their own under their khan. In 546 they sent a mission to the western empire, then in the making, of the Northern Chou, and created the first bonds with it, following which the Northern Chou became allies of the Turks. The eastern empire, Ch’i, accordingly made terms with the Juan-juan, but in 552 the latter suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Turks, their former vassals. The remains of the Juan-juan either fled to the Ch’i state or went reluctantly into the land of the Chou. Soon there was friction between the Juan-juan and the Ch’i, and in 555 the Juan-juan in that state were annihilated. In response to pressure from the Turks, the Juan-juan in the western empire of the Northern Chou were delivered up to them and killed in the same year. The Juan-juan then disappeared from the history of the Far East. They broke up into their several tribes, some of which were admitted into the Turks’ tribal league. A few years later the Turks also annihilated the Ephtalites, who had been allied with the Juan-juan; this made the Turks the dominant power in Central Asia. The Ephtalites (Yeh-ta, Haytal) were a mixed group which contained elements of the old Yueeh-chih and spoke an Indo-European language. Some scholars regard them as a branch of the Tocharians of Central Asia. One menace to the northern states of China had disappeared–that of the Juan-juan. Their place was taken by a much more dangerous power, the Turks.

3 _The Northern Ch’i dynasty; the Northern Chou dynasty_

In consequence of this development the main task of the Northern Chou state consisted in the attempt to come to some settlement with its powerful Turkish neighbours, and meanwhile to gain what it could from shrewd negotiations with its other neighbours. By means of intrigues and diplomacy it intervened with some success in the struggles in South China. One of the pretenders to the throne was given protection; he was installed in the present Hankow as a quasi-feudal lord depending on Chou, and there he founded the “Later Liang dynasty” (555-587). In this way Chou had brought the bulk of South China under its control without itself making any real contribution to that result.

Unlike the Chinese state of Ch’i, Chou followed the old Toba tradition. Old customs were revived, such as the old sacrifice to Heaven and the lifting of the emperor on to a carpet at his accession to the throne; family names that had been sinified were turned into Toba names again, and even Chinese were given Toba names; but in spite of this the inner cohesion had been destroyed. After two centuries it was no longer possible to go back to the old nomad, tribal life. There were also too many Chinese in the country, with whom close bonds had been forged which, in spite of all attempts, could not be broken. Consequently there was no choice but to organize a state essentially similar to that of the great Toba empire.

There is just as little of importance that can be said of the internal politics of the Ch’i dynasty. The rulers of that dynasty were thoroughly repulsive figures, with no positive achievements of any sort to their credit. Confucianism had been restored in accordance with the Chinese character of the state. It was a bad time for Buddhists, and especially for the followers of the popularized Taoism. In spite of this, about A.D. 555 great new Buddhist cave-temples were created in Lung-men, near Loyang, in imitation of the famous temples of Yuen-kang.

The fighting with the western empire, the Northern Chou state, still continued, and Ch’i was seldom successful. In 563 Chou made preparations for a decisive blow against Ch’i, but suffered defeat because the Turks, who had promised aid, gave none and shortly afterwards began campaigns of their own against Ch’i. In 571 Ch’i had some success in the west against Chou, but then it lost parts of its territory to the South Chinese empire, and finally in 576-7 it was defeated by Chou in a great counter-offensive. Thus for some three years all North China was once more under a single rule, though of nothing approaching the strength of the Toba at the height of their power. For in all these campaigns the Turks had played an important part, and at the end they annexed further territory in the north of Ch’i, so that their power extended far into the east.

Meanwhile intrigue followed intrigue at the court of Chou; the mutual assassinations within the ruling group were as incessant as in the last years of the great Toba empire, until the real power passed from the emperor and his Toba entourage to a Chinese family, the Yang. Yang Chien’s daughter was the wife of a Chou emperor; his son was married to a girl of the Hun family Tu-ku; her sister was the wife of the father of the Chou emperor. Amid this tangled relationship in the imperial house it is not surprising that Yang Chien should attain great power. The Tu-ku were a very old family of the Hun nobility; originally the name belonged to the Hun house from which the _shan-yue_ had to be descended. This family still observed the traditions of the Hun rulers, and relationship with it was regarded as an honour even by the Chinese. Through their centuries of association with aristocratically organized foreign peoples, some of the notions of nobility had taken root among the Chinese gentry; to be related with old ruling houses was a welcome means of evidencing or securing a position of special distinction among the gentry. Yang Chien gained useful prestige from his family connections. After the leading Chinese cliques had regained predominance in the Chou empire, much as had happened before in the Toba empire, Yang Chien’s position was strong enough to enable him to massacre the members of the imperial family and then, in 581, to declare himself emperor. Thus began the Sui dynasty, the first dynasty that was once more to rule all China.

But what had happened to the Toba? With the ending of the Chou empire they disappeared for all time, just as the Juan-juan had done a little earlier. So far as the tribes did not entirely disintegrate, the people of the tribes seem during the last years of Toba and Chou to have joined Turkish and other tribes. In any case, nothing more is heard of them as a people, and they themselves lived on under the name of the tribe that led the new tribal league.

Most of the Toba nobility, on the other hand, became Chinese. This process can be closely followed in the Chinese annals. The tribes that had disintegrated in the time of the Toba empire broke up into families of which some adopted the name of the tribe as their family name, while others chose Chinese family names. During the centuries that followed, in some cases indeed down to modern times, these families continue to appear, often playing an important part in Chinese history.

(F) The Southern Empires

1 _Economic and social situation in the south_

During the 260 years of alien rule in North China, the picture of South China also was full of change. When in 317 the Huns had destroyed the Chinese Chin dynasty in the north, a Chin prince who normally would not have become heir to the throne declared himself, under the name Yuean Ti, the first emperor of the “Eastern Chin dynasty” (317-419). The capital of this new southern empire adjoined the present Nanking. Countless members of the Chinese gentry had fled from the Huns at that time and had come into the southern empire. They had not done so out of loyalty to the Chinese dynasty or out of national feeling, but because they saw little prospect of attaining rank and influence at the courts of the alien rulers, and because it was to be feared that the aliens would turn the fields into pasturage, and also that they would make an end of the economic and monetary system which the gentry had evolved for their own benefit.

But the south was, of course, not uninhabited. There were already two groups living there–the old autochthonous population, consisting of Yao, Tai and Yueeh, and the earlier Chinese immigrants from the north, who had mainly arrived in the time of the Three Kingdoms, at the beginning of the third century A.D. The countless new immigrants now came into sharp conflict with the old-established earlier immigrants. Each group looked down on the other and abused it. The two immigrant groups in particular not only spoke different dialects but had developed differently in respect to manners and customs. A look for example at Formosa in the years after 1948 will certainly help in an understanding of this situation: analogous tensions developed between the new refugees, the old Chinese immigrants, and the native Formosan population. But let us return to the southern empires.

The two immigrant groups also differed economically and socially: the old immigrants were firmly established on the large properties they had acquired, and dominated their tenants, who were largely autochthones; or they had engaged in large-scale commerce. In any case, they possessed capital, and more capital than was usually possessed by the gentry of the north. Some of the new immigrants, on the other hand, were military people. They came with empty hands, and they had no land. They hoped that the government would give them positions in the military administration and so provide them with means; they tried to gain possession of the government and to exclude the old settlers as far as possible. The tension was increased by the effect of the influx of Chinese in bringing more land into cultivation, thus producing a boom period such as is produced by the opening up of colonial land. Everyone was in a hurry to grab as much land as possible. There was yet a further difference between the two groups of Chinese: the old settlers had long lost touch with the remainder of their families in the north. They had become South Chinese, and all their interests lay in the south. The new immigrants had left part of their families in the north under alien rule. Their interests still lay to some extent in the north. They were working for the reconquest of the north by military means; at times individuals or groups returned to the north, while others persuaded the rest of their relatives to come south. It would be wrong to suppose that there was no inter-communication between the two parts into which China had fallen. As soon as the Chinese gentry were able to regain any footing in the territories under alien rule, the official relations, often those of belligerency, proceeded alongside unofficial intercourse between individual families and family groupings, and these latter were, as a rule, in no way belligerent.

The lower stratum in the south consisted mainly of the remains of the original non-Chinese population, particularly in border and southern territories which had been newly annexed from time to time. In the centre of the southern state the way of life of the non-Chinese was very quickly assimilated to that of the Chinese, so that the aborigines were soon indistinguishable from Chinese. The remaining part of the lower class consisted of impoverished Chinese peasants. This whole lower section of the population rarely took any active and visible part in politics, except at times in the form of great popular risings.

Until the third century, the south had been of no great economic importance, in spite of the good climate and the extraordinary fertility of the Yangtze valley. The country had been too thinly settled, and the indigenous population had not become adapted to organized trade. After the move southward of the Chin dynasty the many immigrants had made the country of the lower Yangtze more thickly populated, but not over-populated. The top-heavy court with more than the necessary number of officials (because there was still hope for a reconquest of the north which would mean many new jobs for administrators) was a great consumer; prices went up and stimulated local rice production. The estates of the southern gentry yielded more than before, and naturally much more than the small properties of the gentry in the north where, moreover, the climate is far less favourable. Thus the southern landowners were able to acquire great wealth, which ultimately made itself felt in the capital.

One very important development was characteristic in this period in the south, although it also occurred in the north. Already in pre-Han times, some rulers had gardens with fruit trees. The Han emperors had large hunting parks which were systematically stocked with rare animals; they also had gardens and hot-houses for the production of vegetables for the court. These “gardens” (_yuean_) were often called “manors” (_pieh-yeh_) and consisted of fruit plantations with luxurious buildings. We hear soon of water-cooled houses for the gentry, of artificial ponds for pleasure and fish breeding, artificial water-courses, artificial mountains, bamboo groves, and parks with parrots, ducks, and large animals. Here, the wealthy gentry of both north and south, relaxed from government work, surrounded by their friends and by women. These manors grew up in the hills, on the “village commons” where formerly the villagers had collected their firewood and had grazed their animals. Thus, the village commons begin to disappear. The original farm land was taxed, because it produced one of the two products subject to taxation, namely grain or mulberry leaves for silk production. But the village common had been and remained tax-free because it did not produce taxable things. While land-holdings on the farmland were legally restricted in their size, the “gardens” were unrestricted. Around A.D. 500 the ruler allowed high officials to have manors of three hundred mou size, while in the north a family consisting of husband and wife and children below fifteen years of age were allowed a farm of sixty mou only; but we hear of manors which were many times larger than the allowed size of three hundred. These manors began to play an important economic role, too: they were cultivated by tenants and produced fishes, vegetables, fruit and bamboo for the market, thus they gave more income than ordinary rice or wheat land.

With the creation of manors the total amount of land under cultivation increased, though not the amount of grain-producing land. We gain the impression that from _c_. the third century A.D. on to the eleventh century the intensity of cultivation was generally lower than in the period before.

The period from _c_. A.D. 300 on also seems to be the time of the second change in Chinese dietary habits. The first change occurred probably between 400 and 100 B.C. when the meat-eating Chinese reduced their meat intake greatly, gave up eating beef and mutton and changed over to some pork and dog meat. This first change was the result of increase of population and decrease of available land for pasturage. Cattle breeding in China was then reduced to the minimum of one cow or water-buffalo per farm for ploughing. Wheat was the main staple for the masses of the people. Between A.D. 300 and 600 rice became the main staple in the southern states although, theoretically, wheat could have been grown and some wheat probably was grown in the south. The vitamin and protein deficiencies which this change from wheat to rice brought forth, were made up by higher consumption of vegetables, especially beans, and partially also by eating of fish and sea food. In the north, rice became the staple food of the upper class, while wheat remained the main food of the lower classes. However, new forms of preparation of wheat, such as dumplings of different types, were introduced. The foreign rulers consumed more meat and milk products. Chinese had given up the use of milk products at the time of the first change, and took to them to some extent only in periods of foreign rule.

2 _Struggles between cliques under the Eastern Chin dynasty_ (A.D. 317-419)

The officials immigrating from the north regarded the south as colonial country, and so as more or less uncivilized. They went into its provinces in order to get rich as quickly as possible, and they had no desire to live there for long: they had the same dislike of a provincial existence as had the families of the big landowners. Thus as a rule the bulk of the families remained in the capital, close to the court. Thither the products accumulated in the provinces were sent, and they found a ready sale, as the capital was also a great and long-established trading centre with a rich merchant class. Thus in the capital there was every conceivable luxury and every refinement of civilization. The people of the gentry class, who were maintained in the capital by relatives serving in the provinces as governors or senior officers, themselves held offices at court, though these gave them little to do. They had time at their disposal, and made use of it–in much worse intrigues than ever before, but also in music and poetry and in the social life of the harems. There is no question at all that the highest refinement of the civilization of the Far East between the fourth and the sixth century was to be found in South China, but the accompaniments of this over-refinement were terrible.

We cannot enter into all the intrigues recorded at this time. The details are, indeed, historically unimportant. They were concerned only with the affairs of the court and its entourage. Not a single ruler of the Eastern Chin dynasty possessed personal or political qualities of any importance. The rulers’ power was extremely limited because, with the exception of the founder of the state, Yuean Ti, who had come rather earlier, they belonged to the group of the new immigrants, and so had no firm footing and were therefore caught at once in the net of the newly re-grouping gentry class.

The emperor Yuean Ti lived to see the first great rising. This rising (under Wang Tun) started in the region of the present Hankow, a region that today is one of the most important in China; it was already a centre of special activity. To it lead all the trade routes from the western provinces of Szechwan and Kweichow and from the central provinces of Hupei, Hunan, and Kiangsi. Normally the traffic from those provinces comes down the Yangtze, and thus in practice this region is united with that of the lower Yangtze, the environment of Nanking, so that Hankow might just as well have been the capital as Nanking. For this reason, in the period with which we are now concerned the region of the present Hankow was several times the place of origin of great risings whose aim was to gain control of the whole of the southern empire.

Wang Tun had grown rich and powerful in this region; he also had near relatives at the imperial court; so he was able to march against the capital. The emperor in his weakness was ready to abdicate but died before that stage was reached. His son, however, defeated Wang Tun with the aid of General Yue Liang (A.D. 323). Yue Liang was the empress’s brother; he, too, came from a northern family. Yuean Ti’s successor also died early, and the young son of Yue Liang’s sister came to the throne as Emperor Ch’eng (326-342); his mother ruled as regent, but Yue Liang carried on the actual business of government. Against this clique rose Su Chuen, another member of the northern gentry, who had made himself leader of a bandit gang in A.D. 300 but had then been given a military command by the dynasty. In 328 he captured the capital and kidnapped the emperor, but then fell before the counterthrust of the Yue Liang party. The domination of Yue Liang’s clique continued after the death of the twenty-one-years-old emperor. His twenty-year-old brother was set in his place; he, too, died two years later, and his two-year-old son became emperor (Mu Ti, 345-361).

Meanwhile this clique was reinforced by the very important Huan family. This family came from the same city as the imperial house and was a very old gentry family of that city. One of the family attained a high post through personal friendship with Yue Liang: on his death his son Huan Wen came into special prominence as military commander.

Huan Wen, like Wang Tun and others before him, tried to secure a firm foundation for his power, once more in the west. In 347 he reconquered Szechwan and deposed the local dynasty. Following this, Huan Wen and the Yue family undertook several joint campaigns against northern states–the first reaction of the south against the north, which in the past had always been the aggressor. The first fighting took place directly to the north, where the collapse of the “Later Chao” seemed to make intervention easy. The main objective was the regaining of the regions of eastern Honan, northern Anhui and Kiangsu, in which were the family seats of Huan’s and the emperor’s families, as well as that of the Hsieh family which also formed an important group in the court clique. The purpose of the northern campaigns was not, of course, merely to defend private interests of court cliques: the northern frontier was the weak spot of the southern empire, for its plains could easily be overrun. It was then observed that the new “Earlier Ch’in” state was trying to spread from the north-west eastwards into this plain, and Ch’in was attacked in an attempt to gain a more favourable frontier territory. These expeditions brought no important practical benefit to the south; and they were not embarked on with full force, because there was only the one court clique at the back of them, and that not whole-heartedly, since it was too much taken up with the politics of the court.

Huan Wen’s power steadily grew in the period that followed. He sent his brothers and relatives to administer the regions along the upper Yangtze; those fertile regions were the basis of his power. In 371 he deposed the reigning emperor and appointed in his place a frail old prince who died a year later, as required, and was replaced by a child. The time had now come when Huan Wen might have ascended the throne himself, but he died. None of his family could assemble as much power as Huan Wen had done. The equality of strength of the Huan and the Hsieh saved the dynasty for a time.

In 383 came the great assault of the Tibetan Fu Chien against the south. As we know, the defence was carried out more by the methods of diplomacy and intrigue than by military means, and it led to the disaster in the north already described. The successes of the southern state especially strengthened the Hsieh family, whose generals had come to the fore. The emperor (Hsiao Wu Ti, 373-396), who had come to the throne as a child, played no part in events at any time during his reign. He occupied himself occasionally with Buddhism, and otherwise only with women and wine. He was followed by his five-year-old son. At this time there were some changes in the court clique. In the Huan family Huan Hsuean, a son of Huan Wen, came especially into prominence. He parted from the Hsieh family, which had been closest to the emperor, and united with the Wang (the empress’s) and Yin families. The Wang, an old Shansi family, had already provided two empresses, and was therefore strongly represented at court. The Yin had worked at first with the Hsieh, especially as the two families came from the same region, but afterwards the Yin went over to Huan Hsuean. At first this new clique had success, but later one of its generals, Liu Lao-chih, went over to the Hsieh clique, and its power declined. Wang Kung was killed, and Yin Chung-k’an fell away from Huan Hsuean and was killed by him in 399. Huan Hsuean himself, however, held his own in the regions loyal to him. Liu Lao-chih had originally belonged to the Hsieh clique, and his family came from a region not far from that of the Hsieh. He was very ambitious, however, and always took the side which seemed most to his own interest. For a time he joined Huan Hsuean; then he went over to the Hsieh, and finally returned to Huan Hsuean in 402 when the latter reached the height of his power. At that moment Liu Lao-chih was responsible for the defence of the capital from Huan Hsuean, but instead he passed over to him. Thus Huan Hsuean conquered the capital, deposed the emperor, and began a dynasty of his own. Then came the reaction, led by an earlier subordinate of Liu Lao-chih, Liu Yue. It may be assumed that these two army commanders were in some way related, though the two branches of their family must have been long separated. Liu Yue had distinguished himself especially in the suppression of a great popular rising which, around the year 400, had brought wide stretches of Chinese territory under the rebels’ power, beginning with the southern coast. This rising was the first in the south. It was led by members of a secret society which was a direct continuation of the “Yellow Turbans” of the latter part of the second century A.D. and of organized church-Taoism. The whole course of this rising of the exploited and ill-treated lower classes was very similar to that of the popular rising of the “Yellow Turbans”. The movement spread as far as the neighbourhood of Canton, but in the end it was suppressed, mainly by Liu Yue.

Through these achievements Liu Yue’s military power and political influence steadily increased; he became the exponent of all the cliques working against the Huan clique. He arranged for his supporters to dispose of Huan Hsuean’s chief collaborators; and then, in 404, he himself marched on the capital. Huan Hsuean had to flee, and in his flight he was killed in the upper Yangtze region. The emperor was restored to his throne, but he had as little to say as ever, for the real power was Liu Yue’s.

Before making himself emperor, Liu Yue began his great northern campaign, aimed at the conquest of the whole of western China. The Toba had promised to remain neutral, and in 415 he was able to conquer the “Later Ch’in” in Shensi. The first aim of this campaign was to make more accessible the trade routes to Central Asia, which up to now had led through the difficult mountain passes of Szechwan; to this end treaties of alliance had been concluded with the states in Kansu against the “Later Ch’in”. In the second place, this war was intended to increase Liu Yue’s military strength to such an extent that the imperial crown would be assured to him; and finally he hoped to cut the claws of pro-Huan Hsuean elements in the “Later Ch’in” kingdom who, for the sake of the link with Turkestan, had designs on Szechwan.

3 _The Liu-Sung dynasty_ (A.D. 420-478) _and the Southern Ch’i dynasty_ (479-501)

After his successes in 416-17 in Shensi, Liu Yue returned to the capital, and shortly after he lost the chief fruits of his victory to Ho-lien P’o-p’o, the Hun ruler in the north, while Liu Yue himself was occupied with the killing of the emperor (419) and the installation of a puppet. In 420 the puppet had to abdicate and Liu Yue became emperor. He called his dynasty the Sung dynasty, but to distinguish it from another and more famous Sung dynasty of later time his dynasty is also called the Liu-Sung dynasty.

The struggles and intrigues of cliques against each other continued as before. We shall pass quickly over this period after a glance at the nature of these internal struggles.

Part of the old imperial family and its following fled northward from Liu Yue and surrendered to the Toba. There they agitated for a campaign of vengeance against South China, and they were supported at the court of the Toba by many families of the gentry with landed interests in the south. Thus long-continued fighting started between Sung and Toba, concerned mainly with the domains of the deposed imperial family and its following. This fighting brought little success to south China, and about 450 it produced among the Toba an economic and social crisis that brought the wars to a temporary close. In this pause the Sung turned to the extreme south, and tried to gain influence there and in Annam. The merchant class and the gentry families of the capital who were allied with it were those chiefly interested in this expansion.

About 450 began the Toba policy of shifting the central government to the region of the Yellow River, to Loyang; for this purpose the frontier had to be pushed farther south. Their great campaign brought the Toba in 450 down to the Yangtze. The Sung suffered a heavy defeat; they had to pay tribute, and the Toba annexed parts of their northern territory.

The Sung emperors who followed were as impotent as their predecessors and personally much more repulsive. Nothing happened at court but drinking, licentiousness, and continual murders.

From 460 onward there were a number of important risings of princes; in some of them the Toba had a hand. They hoped by supporting one or another of the pretenders to gain overlordship over the whole of the southern empire. In these struggles in the south the Hsiao family, thanks mainly to General Hsiao Tao-ch’eng, steadily gained in power, especially as the family was united by marriage with the imperial house. In 477 Hsiao Tao-ch’eng finally had the emperor killed by an accomplice, the son of a shamaness; he set a boy on the throne and made himself regent. Very soon after this the boy emperor and all the members of the imperial family were murdered, and Hsiao Tao-ch’eng created the “Southern Ch’i” dynasty (479-501). Once more the remaining followers of the deposed dynasty fled northward to the Toba, and at once fighting between Toba and the south began again.

This fighting ended with a victory for the Toba and with the final establishment of the Toba in the new capital of Loyang. South China was heavily defeated again and again, but never finally conquered. There were intervals of peace. In the years between 480 and 490 there was less disorder in the south, at all events in internal affairs. Princes were more often appointed to governorships, and the influence of the cliques was thus weakened. In spite of this, a stable regime was not built up, and in 494 a prince rose against the youthful emperor. This prince, with the help of his clique including the Ch’en family, which later attained importance, won the day, murdered the emperor, and became emperor himself. All that is recorded about him is that he fought unsuccessfully against the Toba, and that he had the whole of his own family killed out of fear that one of its members might act exactly as he had done. After his death there were conflicts between the emperor’s few remaining relatives; in these the Toba again had a hand. The victor was a person named Hsiao Yen; he removed the reigning emperor in the usual way and made himself emperor. Although he belonged to the imperial family, he altered the name of the dynasty, and reigned from 502 as the first emperor of the “Liang dynasty”.

[Illustration: 8 Detail from the Buddhist cave-reliefs of Lung-men. _From a print in the author’s possession_.]

[Illustration: 9 Statue of Mi-lo (Maitreya, the next future Buddha), in the ‘Great Buddha Temple’ at Chengting (Hopei). _Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson_.]

4 _The Liang dynasty_ (A.D. 502-556)

The fighting with the Toba continued until 515. As a rule the Toba were the more successful, not at least through the aid of princes of the deposed “Southern Ch’i dynasty” and their followers. Wars began also in the west, where the Toba tried to cut off the access of the Liang to the caravan routes to Turkestan. In 507, however, the Toba suffered an important defeat. The southern states had tried at all times to work with the Kansu states against the northern states; the Toba now followed suit and allied themselves with a large group of native chieftains of the south, whom they incited to move against the Liang. This produced great native unrest, especially in the provinces by the upper Yangtze. The natives, who were steadily pushed back by the Chinese peasants, were reduced to migrating into the mountain country or to working for the Chinese in semi-servile conditions; and they were ready for revolt and very glad to work with the Toba. The result of this unrest was not decisive, but it greatly reduced the strength of the regions along the upper Yangtze. Thus the main strength of the southern state was more than ever confined to the Nanking region.

The first emperor of the Liang dynasty, who assumed the name Wu Ti (502-549), became well known in the Western world owing to his love of literature and of Buddhism. After he had come to the throne with the aid of his followers, he took no further interest in politics; he left that to his court clique. From now on, however, the political initiative really belonged to the north. At this time there began in the Toba empire the risings of tribal leaders against the government which we have fully described above. One of these leaders, Hou Ching, who had become powerful as a military leader in the north, tried in 547 to conclude a private alliance with the Liang to strengthen his own position. At the same time the ruler of the northern state of the “Northern Ch’i”, then in process of formation, himself wanted to negotiate an alliance with the Liang, in order to be able to get rid of Hou Ching. There was indecision in Liang. Hou Ching, who had been getting into difficulties, now negotiated with a dissatisfied prince in Liang, invaded the country in 548 with the prince’s aid, captured the capital in 549, and killed Emperor Wu. Hou Ching now staged the usual spectacle: he put a puppet on the imperial throne, deposed him eighteen months later and made himself emperor.

This man of the Toba on the throne of South China was unable, however, to maintain his position; he had not sufficient backing. He was at war with the new rulers in the northern empire, and his own army, which was not very large, melted away; above all, he proceeded with excessive harshness against the helpers who had gained access for him to the Liang, and thereafter he failed to secure a following from among the leading cliques at court. In 552 he was driven out by a Chinese army led by one of the princes and was killed.

The new emperor had been a prince in the upper Yangtze region, and his closest associates were engaged there. They did not want to move to the distant capital, Nanking, because their private financial interests would have suffered. The emperor therefore remained in the city now called Hankow. He left the eastern territory in the hands of two powerful generals, one of whom belonged to the Ch’en family, which he no longer had the strength to remove. In this situation the generals in the east made themselves independent, and this naturally produced tension at once between the east and the west of the Liang empire; this tension was now exploited by the leaders of the Chou state then in the making in the north. On the invitation of a clique in the south and with its support, the Chou invaded the present province of Hupei and in 555 captured the Liang emperor’s capital. They were now able to achieve their old ambition: a prince of the Chou dynasty was installed as a feudatory of the north, reigning until 587 in the present Hankow. He was permitted to call his quasi-feudal territory a kingdom and his dynasty, as we know already, the “Later Liang dynasty”.

5 _The Ch’en dynasty (A.D. 557-588) and its ending by the Sui_

The more important of the independent generals in the east, Ch’en Pa-hsien, installed a shadow emperor, forced him to abdicate, and made himself emperor. The Ch’en dynasty which thus began was even feebler than the preceding dynasties. Its territory was confined to the lower Yangtze valley. Once more cliques and rival pretenders were at work and prevented any sort of constructive home policy. Abroad, certain advantages were gained in north China over the Northern Ch’i dynasty, but none of any great importance.

Meanwhile in the north Yang Chien had brought into power the Chinese Sui dynasty. It began by liquidating the quasi-feudal state of the “Later Liang”. Then followed, in 588-9, the conquest of the Ch’en empire, almost without any serious resistance. This brought all China once more under united rule, and a period of 360 years of division was ended.

6 _Cultural achievements of the south_

For nearly three hundred years the southern empire had witnessed unceasing struggles between important cliques, making impossible any peaceful development within the country. Culturally, however, the period was rich in achievement. The court and the palaces of wealthy members of the gentry attracted scholars and poets, and the gentry themselves had time for artistic occupations. A large number of the best-known Chinese poets appeared in this period, and their works plainly reflect the conditions of that time: they are poems for the small circle of scholars among the gentry and for cultured patrons, spiced with quotations and allusions, elaborate in metre and construction, masterpieces of aesthetic sensitivity–but unintelligible except to highly educated members of the aristocracy. The works were of the most artificial type, far removed from all natural feeling.

Music, too, was never so assiduously cultivated as at this time. But the old Chinese music disappeared in the south as in the north, where dancing troupes and women musicians in the Sogdian commercial colonies of the province of Kansu established the music of western Turkestan. Here in the south, native courtesans brought the aboriginal, non-Chinese music to the court; Chinese poets wrote songs in Chinese for this music, and so the old Chinese music became unfashionable and was forgotten. The upper class, the gentry, bought these girls, often in large numbers, and organized them in troupes of singers and dancers, who had to appear on festal occasions and even at the court. For merchants and other people who lacked full social recognition there were brothels, a quite natural feature wherever there were considerable commercial colonies or collections of merchants, including the capital of the southern empire.

In their ideology, as will be remembered, the Chinese gentry were always in favour of Confucianism. Here in the south, however, the association with Confucianism was less serious, the southern gentry, with their relations with the merchant class, having acquired the character of “colonial” gentry. They were brought up as Confucians, but were interested in all sorts of different religious movements, and especially in Buddhism. A different type of Buddhism from that in the north had spread over most of the south, a meditative Buddhism that was very close ideologically to the original Taoism, and so fulfilled the same social functions as Taoism. Those who found the official life with its intrigues repulsive, occupied themselves with meditative Buddhism. The monks told of the sad fate of the wicked in the life to come, and industriously filled the gentry with apprehension, so that they tried to make up for their evil deeds by rich gifts to the monasteries. Many emperors in this period, especially Wu Ti of the Liang dynasty, inclined to Buddhism. Wu Ti turned to it especially in his old age, when he was shut out entirely from the tasks of a ruler and was no longer satisfied with the usual pleasures of the court. Several times he instituted Buddhist ceremonies of purification on a large scale in the hope of so securing forgiveness for the many murders he had committed.

Genuine Taoism also came to the fore again, and with it the popular religion with its magic, now amplified with the many local deities that had been taken over from the indigenous population of the south. For a time it became the fashion at court to pass the time in learned discussions between Confucians, Buddhists, and Taoists, which were quite similar to the debates between learned men centuries earlier at the wealthy little Indian courts. For the court clique this was more a matter of pastime than of religious controversy. It seems thoroughly in harmony with the political events that here, for the first time in the history of Chinese philosophy, materialist currents made their appearance, running parallel with Machiavellian theories of power for the benefit of the wealthiest of the gentry.

Principal dynasties of North and South China

_North and South_

Western Chin dynasty (A.D. 265-317)

_North_ _South_

1. Earlier Chao (Hsiung-nu) 304-329 1. Eastern Chin (Chinese) 317-419 2. Later Chao (Hsiung-nu) 328-352
3. Earlier Ch’in (Tibetans) 351-394 4. Later Ch’in (Tibetans) 384-417
5. Western Ch’in (Hsiung-nu)385-431 6. Earlier Yen (Hsien-pi) 352-370
7. Later Yen (Hsien-pi) 384-409 8. Western Yen (Hsien-pi) 384-395
9. Southern Yen (Hsien-pi) 398-410 10. Northern Yen (Hsien-pi) 409-436
11. Tai (Toba) 338-376
12. Earlier Liang (Chinese) 313-376 13. Northern Liang (Hsiung-nu)
14. Western Liang (Chinese?) 400-421 15. Later Liang (Tibetans) 386-403
16. Southern Liang (Hsien-pi)
17. Hsia (Hsiung-nu) 407-431
18. Toba (Turks) 385-550
2. Liu-Sung 420-478 3. Southern Ch’i 479-501 19. Northern Ch’i (Chinese?)550-576 4. Liang 502-556 20. Northern Chou (Toba) 557-579 5. Ch’en 557-588 21. Sui (Chinese) 580-618 6. Sui 580-618

Chapter Eight


(A) The Sui dynasty (A.D. 580-618)

1 _Internal situation in the newly unified empire_

The last of the northern dynasties, the Northern Chou, had been brought to an end by Yang Chien: rapid campaigns had made an end of the remaining petty states, and thus the Sui dynasty had come into power. China, reunited after 360 years, was again under Chinese rule. This event brought about a new epoch in the history of the Far East. But the happenings of 360 years could not be wiped out by a change of dynasty. The short Sui period can only be described as a period of transition to unified forms.

In the last resort the union of the various parts of China proceeded from the north. The north had always, beyond question, been militarily superior, because its ruling class had consisted of warlike peoples. Yet it was not a northerner who had united China but a Chinese though, owing to mixed marriages, he was certainly not entirely unrelated to the northern peoples. The rule, however, of the actual northern peoples was at an end. The start of the Sui dynasty, while the Chou still held the north, was evidence, just like the emergence in the north-east some thirty years earlier of the Northern Ch’i dynasty, that the Chinese gentry with their landowning basis had gained the upper hand over the warrior nomads.

The Chinese gentry had not come unchanged out of that struggle. Culturally they had taken over many things from the foreigners, beginning with music and the style of their clothing, in which they had entirely adopted the northern pattern, and including other elements of daily life. Among the gentry were now many formerly alien families who had gradually become entirely Chinese. On the other hand, the foreigners’ feudal outlook had influenced the gentry, so that a sense of distinctions of rank had developed among them. There were Chinese families who regarded themselves as superior to the rest, just as had been the case among the northern peoples, and who married only among themselves or with the ruling house and not with ordinary families of the gentry. They paid great attention to their genealogies, had the state keep records of them and insisted that the dynastic histories mentioned their families and their main family members. Lists of prominent gentry families were set up which mentioned the home of each clan, so that pretenders could easily be detected. The rules of giving personal names were changed so that it became possible to identify a person’s genealogical position within the family. At the same time the contempt of the military underwent modification; the gentry were even ready to take over high military posts, and also to profit by them.

The new Sui empire found itself faced with many difficulties. During the three and a half centuries of division, north and south had developed in different ways. They no longer spoke the same language in everyday life (we distinguish to this day between a Nanking and Peking “High Chinese”, to say nothing of dialects). The social and economic structures were very different in the two parts of the country. How could unity be restored in these things?

Then there was the problem of population. The north-eastern plain had always been thickly populated; it had early come under Toba rule and had been able to develop further. The region round the old northern capital Ch’ang-an, on the other hand, had suffered greatly from the struggles before the Toba period and had never entirely recovered. Meanwhile, in the south the population had greatly increased in the region north of Nanking, while the regions south of the Yangtze and the upper Yangtze valley were more thinly peopled. The real South, i.e. the modern provinces of Fukien, Kwangtung and Kwangsi, was still underdeveloped, mainly because of the malaria there. In the matter of population the north unquestionably remained prominent.

The founder of the Sui dynasty, known by his reign name of Wen Ti (589-604), came from the west, close to Ch’ang-an. There he and his following had their extensive domains. Owing to the scanty population there and the resulting shortage of agricultural labourers, these properties were very much less productive than the small properties in the north-east. This state of things was well known in the south, and it was expected, with good reason, that the government would try to transfer parts of the population to the north-west, in order to settle a peasantry round the capital for the support of its greatly increasing staff of officials, and to satisfy the gentry of the region. This produced several revolts in the south.

As an old soldier who had long been a subject of the Toba, Wen Ti had no great understanding of theory: he was a practical man. He was anti-intellectual and emotionally attached to Buddhism; he opposed Confucianism for emotional reasons and believed that it could give him no serviceable officials of the sort he wanted. He demanded from his officials the same obedience and sense of duty as from his soldiers; and he was above all thrifty, almost miserly, because he realized that the finances of his state could only be brought into order by the greatest exertions. The budget had to be drawn up for the vast territory of the empire without any possibility of saying in advance whether the revenues would come in and whether the transport of dues to the capital would function.

This cautious calculation was entirely justified, but it aroused great opposition. Both east and south were used to a much better style of living; yet the gentry of both regions were now required to cut down their consumption. On top of this they were excluded from the conduct of political affairs. In the past, under the Northern Ch’i empire in the north-east and under the Ch’en empire in the south, there had been thousands of positions at court in which the whole of the gentry could find accommodation of some kind. Now the central government was far in the west, and other people were its administrators. In the past the gentry had a profitable and easily accessible market for their produce in the neighbouring capital; now the capital was far away, entailing long-distance transport at heavy risk with little profit.

The dissatisfied circles of the gentry in the north-east and in the south incited Prince Kuang to rebellion. The prince and his followers murdered the emperor and set aside the heir-apparent; and Kuang came to the throne, assuming the name of Yang Ti. His first act was to transfer the capital back to the east, to Loyang, close to the grain-producing regions. His second achievement was to order the construction of great canals, to facilitate the transport of grain to the capital and to provide a valuable new market for the producers in the north-east and the south. It was at this time that the first forerunner of the famous “Imperial Canal” was constructed, the canal that connects the Yangtze with the Yellow River. Small canals, connecting various streams, had long been in existence, so that it was possible to travel from north to south by water, but these canals were not deep enough or broad enough to take large freight barges. There are records of lighters of 500 and even 800 tons capacity! These are dimensions unheard of in the West in those times. In addition to a serviceable canal to the south, Yang Ti made another that went north almost to the present Peking.

Hand in hand with these successes of the north-eastern and southern gentry went strong support for Confucianism, and a reorganization of the Confucian examination system. As a rule, however, the examinations were circumvented as an unimportant formality; the various governors were ordered each to send annually to the capital three men with the required education, for whose quality they were held personally responsible; merchants and artisans were expressly excluded.

2 _Relations with Turks and with Korea_

In foreign affairs an extraordinarily fortunate situation for the Sui dynasty had come into existence. The T’u-chueeh, the Turks, much the strongest people of the north, had given support now to one and now to another of the northern kingdoms, and this, together with their many armed incursions, had made them the dominant political factor in the north. But in the first year of the Sui period (581) they split into two sections, so that the Sui had hopes of gaining influence over them. At first both sections of the Turks had entered into alliance with China, but this was not a sufficient safeguard for the Sui, for one of the Turkish khans was surrounded by Toba who had fled from the vanished state of the Northern Chou, and who now tried to induce the Turks to undertake a campaign for the reconquest of North China. The leader of this agitation was a princess of the Yue-wen family, the ruling family of the Northern Chou. The Chinese fought the Turks several times; but much more effective results were gained by their diplomatic missions, which incited the eastern against the western Turks and vice versa, and also incited the Turks against the Toba clique. In the end one of the sections of Turks accepted Chinese overlordship, and some tribes of the other section were brought over to the Chinese side; also, fresh disunion was sown among the Turks.

Under the emperor Yang Ti, P’ei Chue carried this policy further. He induced the Toeloes tribes to attack the T’u-yue-hun, and then himself attacked the latter, so destroying their power. The T’u-yue-hun were a people living in the extreme north of Tibet, under a ruling class apparently of Hsien-pi origin; the people were largely Tibetan. The purpose of the conquest of the T’u-yue-hun was to safeguard access to Central Asia. An effective Turkestan policy was, however, impossible so long as the Turks were still a formidable power. Accordingly, the intrigues that aimed at keeping the two sections of Turks apart were continued. In 615 came a decisive counter-attack from the Turks. Their khan, Shih-pi, made a surprise assault on the emperor himself, with all his following, in the Ordos region, and succeeded in surrounding them. They were in just the same desperate situation as when, eight centuries earlier, the Chinese emperor had been beleaguered by Mao Tun. But the Chinese again saved themselves by a trick. The young Chinese commander, Li Shih-min, succeeded in giving the Turks the impression that large reinforcements were on the way; a Chinese princess who was with the Turks spread the rumour that the Turks were to be attacked by another tribe–and Shih-pi raised the siege, although the Chinese had been entirely defeated.

In the Sui period the Chinese were faced with a further problem. Korea or, rather, the most important of the three states in Korea, had generally been on friendly terms with the southern state during the period of China’s division, and for this reason had been more or less protected from its North Chinese neighbours. After the unification of China, Korea had reason for seeking an alliance with the Turks, in order to secure a new counterweight against China.

A Turco-Korean alliance would have meant for China a sort of encirclement that might have grave consequences. The alliance might be extended to Japan, who had certain interests in Korea. Accordingly the Chinese determined to attack Korea, though at the same time negotiations were set on foot. The fighting, which lasted throughout the Sui period, involved technical difficulties, as it called for combined land and sea attacks; in general it brought little success.

3 _Reasons for collapse_

The continual warfare entailed great expense, and so did the intrigues, because they depended for their success on bribery. Still more expensive were the great canal works. In addition to this, the emperor Yang Ti, unlike his father, was very extravagant. He built enormous palaces and undertook long journeys throughout the empire with an immense following. All this wrecked the prosperity which his father had built up and had tried to safeguard. The only productive expenditure was that on the canals, and they could not begin to pay in so short a period. The emperor’s continual journeys were due, no doubt, in part simply to the pursuit of pleasure, though they were probably intended at the same time to hinder risings and to give the emperor direct control over every part of the country. But the empire was too large and too complex for its administration to be possible in the midst of journeying.

[Illustration: Map 5: The T’ang realm (_about A.D. 750_)]

The whole of the chancellery had to accompany the emperor, and all the transport necessary for the feeding of the emperor and his government had continually to be diverted to wherever he happened to be staying. All this produced disorder and unrest. The gentry, who at first had so strongly supported the emperor and had been able to obtain anything they wanted from him, now began to desert him and set up pretenders. From 615 onward, after the defeat at the hands of the Turks, risings broke out everywhere. The emperor had to establish his government in the south, where he felt safer. There, however, in 618, he was assassinated by conspirators led by Toba of the Yue-wen family. Everywhere now independent governments sprang up, and for five years China was split up into countless petty states.

(B) The T’ang dynasty (A.D. 618-906)

1 _Reforms and decentralization_

The hero of the Turkish siege, Li Shih-min, had allied himself with the Turks in 615-16. There were special reasons for his ability to do this. In his family it had been a regular custom to marry women belonging to Toba families, so that he naturally enjoyed the confidence of the Toba party among the Turks. There are various theories as to the origin of his family, the Li. The family itself claimed to be descended from the ruling family of the Western Liang. It is doubtful whether that family was purely Chinese, and in any case Li Shih-min’s descent from it is a matter of doubt. It is possible that his family was a sinified Toba family, or at least came from a Toba region. However this may be, Li Shih-min continued the policy which had been pursued since the beginning of the Sui dynasty by the members of the deposed Toba ruling family of the Northern Chou–the policy of collaboration with the Turks in the effort to remove the Sui.

The nominal leadership in the rising that now began lay in the hands of Li Shih-min’s father, Li Yuean; in practice Li Shih-min saw to everything. At the end of 617 he was outside the first capital of the Sui, Ch’ang-an, with a Turkish army that had come to his aid on the strength of the treaty of alliance. After capturing Ch’ang-an he installed a puppet emperor there, a grandson of Yang Ti. In 618 the puppet was dethroned and Li Yuean, the father, was made emperor, in the T’ang dynasty. Internal fighting went on until 623, and only then was the whole empire brought under the rule of the T’ang.

Great reforms then began. A new land law aimed at equalizing ownership, so that as far as possible all peasants should own the same amount of land and the formation of large estates be prevented. The law aimed also at protecting the peasants from the loss of their land. The law was, however, nothing but a modification of the Toba land law (_chuen-t’ien_), and it was hoped that now it would provide a sound and solid economic foundation for the empire. From the first, however, members of the gentry who were connected with the imperial house were given a privileged position; then officials were excluded from the prohibition of leasing, so that there continued to be tenant farmers in addition to the independent peasants. Moreover, the temples enjoyed special treatment, and were also exempted from taxation. All these exceptions brought grist to the mills of the gentry, and so did the failure to carry into effect many of the provisions of the law. Before long a new gentry had been formed, consisting of the old gentry together with those who had directly aided the emperor’s ascent to the throne. From the beginning of the eighth century there were repeated complaints that peasants were “disappearing”. They were entering the service of the gentry as tenant farmers or farm workers, and owing to the privileged position of the gentry in regard to taxation, the revenue sank in proportion as the number of independent peasants decreased. One of the reasons for the flight of farmers may have been the corvee laws connected with the “equal land” system: small families were much less affected by the corvee obligation than larger families with many sons. It may be, therefore, that large families or at least sons of the sons in large families moved away in order to escape these obligations. In order to prevent irregularities, the T’ang renewed the old “_pao-chia_” system, as a part of a general reform of the administration in 624. In this system groups of five families were collectively responsible for the payment of taxes, the corvee, for crimes committed by individuals within one group, and for loans from state agencies. Such a system is attested for pre-Christian times already; it was re-activated in the eleventh century and again from time to time, down to the present.

Yet the system of land equalization soon broke down and was abolished officially around A.D. 780. But the classification of citizens into different classes, first legalized under the Toba, was retained and even more refined.

As early as in the Han period there had been a dual administration–the civil and, independent of it, the military administration. One and the same area would belong to a particular administrative prefecture (_chuen_) and at the same time to a particular military prefecture (_chou_). This dual organization had persisted during the Toba period and, at first, remained unchanged in the beginning of the T’ang.

The backbone of the military power in the seventh century was the militia, some six hundred units of an average of a thousand men, recruited from the general farming population for short-term service: one month in five in the areas close to the capital. These men formed a part of the emperor’s guards and were under the command of members of the Shensi gentry. This system which had its direct parallels in the Han time and evolved out of a Toba system, broke down when short offensive wars were no longer fought. Other imperial guards were staffed with young sons of the gentry who were stationed in the most delicate parts of the palaces. The emperor T’ai-tsung had his personal bodyguard, a part of his own army of conquest, consisting of his former bondsmen (_pu-ch’ue_). The ranks of the Army of conquest were later filled by descendants of the original soldiers and by orphans.

In the provinces, the armies of the military prefectures gradually lost their importance when wars became longer and militiamen proved insufficient. Many of the soldiers here were convicts and exiles. It is interesting to note that the title of the commander of these armies, _tu-tu_, in the fourth century meant a commander in the church-Taoist organization; it was used by the Toba and from the seventh century on became widely accepted as title among the Uighurs, Tibetans, Sogdians, Turks and Khotanese.

When the prefectural armies and the militia forces weakened, special regional armies were created (from 678 on); this institution had existed among the Toba, but they had greatly reduced these armies after 500. The commanders of these new T’ang armies soon became more important than the civil administrators, because they commanded a number of districts making up a whole province. This assured a better functioning of the military machine, but put the governors-general in a position to pursue a policy of their own, even against the central government. In addition to this, the financial administration of their commands was put under them, whereas in the past it had been in the hands of the civil administration of the various provinces. The civil administration was also reorganized (see the table on pages 83-84).

Towards the end of the T’ang period the state secretariat was set up in two parts: it was in possession of all information about the economic and political affairs of the empire, and it made the actual decisions. Moreover, a number of technical departments had been created–in all, a system that might compare favourably with European systems of the eighteenth century. At the end of the T’ang period there was added to this system a section for economic affairs, working quite independently of it and directly under the emperor; it was staffed entirely with economic or financial experts, while for the staffing of the other departments no special qualification was demanded besides the passing of the state examinations. In addition to these, at the end of the T’ang period a new department was in preparation, a sort of Privy Council, a mainly military organization, probably intended to control the generals (section 3 of the table on page 83), just as the state secretariat controlled the civil officials. The Privy Council became more and more important in the tenth century and especially in the Mongol epoch. Its absence in the early T’ang period gave the military governors much too great freedom, ultimately with baneful results.

At first, however, the reforms of A.D. 624 worked well. The administration showed energy, and taxes flowed in. In the middle of the eighth century the annual budget of the state included the following items: over a million tons of grain for the consumption of the capital and the palace and for salaries of civil and military officials; twenty-seven million pieces of textiles, also for the consumption of capital and palace and army, and for supplementary purchases of grain; two million strings of money (a string nominally held a thousand copper coins) for salaries and for the army. This was much more than the state budget of the Han period. The population of the empire had also increased; it seems to have amounted to some fifty millions. In the capital a large staff of officials had been created to meet all administrative needs. The capital grew enormously, at times containing two million people. Great numbers of young members of the gentry streamed into the capital for the examinations held under the Confucian system.

The crowding of people into the capital and the accumulation of resources there promoted a rich cultural life. We know of many poets of that period whose poems were real masterpieces; and artists whose works were admired centuries later. These poets and artists were the pioneers of the flourishing culture of the later T’ang period. Hand in hand with this went luxury and refinement of manners. For those who retired from the bustle of the capital to work on their estates and to enjoy the society of their friends, there was time to occupy themselves with Taoism and Buddhism, especially meditative Buddhism. Everyone, of course, was Confucian, as was fitting for a member of the gentry, but Confucianism was so taken for granted that it was not discussed. It was the basis of morality for the gentry, but held no problems. It no longer contained anything of interest.

Conditions had been much the same once before, at the court of the Han emperors, but with one great difference: at that time everything of importance took place in the capital; now, in addition to the actual capital, Ch’ang-an, there was the second capital, Loyang, in no way inferior to the other in importance; and the great towns in the south also played their part as commercial and cultural centres that had developed in the 360 years of division between north and south. There the local gentry gathered to lead a cultivated life, though not quite in the grand style of the capital. If an official was transferred to the Yangtze, it no longer amounted to a punishment as in the past; he would not meet only uneducated people, but a society resembling that of the capital. The institution of governors-general further promoted this decentralization: the governor-general surrounded himself with a little court of his own, drawn from the local gentry and the local intelligentsia. This placed the whole edifice of the empire on a much broader foundation, with lasting results.

2 _Turkish policy_

The foreign policy of this first period of the T’ang, lasting until about 690, was mainly concerned with the Turks and Turkestan. There were still two Turkish realms in the Far East, both of considerable strength but in keen rivalry with each other. The T’ang had come into power with the aid of the eastern Turks, but they admitted the leader of the western Turks to their court; he had been at Ch’ang-an in the time of the Sui. He was murdered, however, by Chinese at the instigation of the eastern Turks. The next khan of the eastern Turks nevertheless turned against the T’ang, and gave his support to a still surviving pretender to the throne representing the Sui dynasty; the khan contended that the old alliance of the eastern Turks had been with the Sui and not with the T’ang. The T’ang therefore tried to come to terms once more with the western Turks, who had been affronted by the assassination; but the negotiations came to nothing in face of an approach made by the eastern Turks to the western, and of the distrust of the Chinese with which all the Turks were filled. About 624 there were strong Turkish invasions, carried right up to the capital. Suddenly, however, for reasons not disclosed by the Chinese sources, the Turks withdrew, and the T’ang were able to conclude a fairly honourable peace. This was the time of the maximum power of the eastern Turks. Shortly afterwards disturbances broke out (627), under the leadership of Turkish Uighurs and their allies. The Chinese took advantage of these disturbances, and in a great campaign in 629-30 succeeded in overthrowing the eastern Turks; the khan was taken to the imperial court in Ch’ang-an, and the Chinese emperor made himself “Heavenly Khan” of the Turks. In spite of the protest of many of the ministers, who pointed to the result of the settlement policy of the Later Han dynasty, the eastern Turks were settled in the bend of the upper Hwang-ho and placed more or less under the protectorate of two governors-general. Their leaders were admitted into the Chinese army, and the sons of their nobles lived at the imperial court. No doubt it was hoped in this way to turn the Turks into Chinese, as had been done with the Toba, though for entirely different reasons. More than a million Turks were settled in this way, and some of them actually became Chinese later and gained important posts.

In general, however, this in no way broke the power of the Turks. The great Turkish empire, which extended as far as Byzantium, continued to exist. The Chinese success had done no more than safeguard the frontier from a direct menace and frustrate the efforts of the supporters of the Sui dynasty and the Toba dynasty, who had been living among the eastern Turks and had built on them. The power of the western Turks remained a lasting menace to China, especially if they should succeed in co-operating with the Tibetans. After the annihilation of the T’u-yue-hun by the Sui at the very beginning of the seventh century, a new political unit had formed in northern Tibet, the T’u-fan, who also seem to have had an upper class of Turks and Mongols and a Tibetan lower class. Just as in the Han period, Chinese policy was bound to be directed to preventing a union between Turks and Tibetans. This, together with commercial interests, seems to have been the political motive of the Chinese Turkestan policy under the T’ang.

3 _Conquest of Turkestan and Korea. Summit of power_

The Turkestan wars began in 639 with an attack on the city-state of Kao-ch’ang (Khocho). This state had been on more or less friendly terms with North China since the Toba period, and it had succeeded again and again in preserving a certain independence from the Turks. Now, however, Kao-ch’ang had to submit to the western Turks, whose power was constantly increasing. China made that submission a pretext for war. By 640 the whole basin of Turkestan was brought under Chinese dominance. The whole campaign was really directed against the western Turks, to whom Turkestan had become subject. The western Turks had been crippled by two internal events, to the advantage of the Chinese: there had been a tribal rising, and then came the rebellion and the rise of the Uighurs (640-650). These events belong to Turkish history, and we shall confine ourselves here to their effects on Chinese history. The Chinese were able to rely on the Uighurs; above all, they were furnished by the Toeloes Turks with a large army, with which they turned once more against Turkestan in 647-48, and now definitely established their rule there.

The active spirit at the beginning of the T’ang rule had not been the emperor but his son Li Shih-min, who was not, however, named as heir to the throne because he was not the eldest son. The result of this was tension between Li Shih-min and his father and brothers, especially the heir to the throne. When the brothers learned that Li Shih-min was claiming the succession, they conspired against him, and in 626, at the very moment when the western Turks had made a rapid incursion and were once more threatening the Chinese capital, there came an armed collision between the brothers, in which Li Shih-min was the victor. The brothers and their families were exterminated, the father compelled to abdicate, and Li Shih-min became emperor, assuming the name T’ai Tsung (627-649). His reign marked the zenith of the power of China and of the T’ang dynasty. Their inner struggles and the Chinese penetration of Turkestan had weakened the position of the Turks; the reorganization of the administration and of the system of taxation, the improved transport resulting from the canals constructed under the Sui, and the useful results of the creation of great administrative areas under strong military control, had brought China inner stability and in consequence external power and prestige. The reputation which she then obtained as the most powerful state of the Far East endured when her inner stability had begun to deteriorate. Thus in 638 the Sassanid ruler Jedzgerd sent a mission to China asking for her help against the Arabs. Three further missions came at intervals of a good many years. The Chinese declined, however, to send a military expedition to such a distance; they merely conferred on the ruler the title of a Chinese governor; this was of little help against the Arabs, and in 675 the last ruler, Peruz, fled to the Chinese court.

The last years of T’ai Tsung’s reign were filled with a great war against Korea, which represented a continuation of the plans of the Sui emperor Yang Ti. This time Korea came firmly into Chinese possession. In 661, under T’ai Tsung’s son, the Korean fighting was resumed, this time against Japanese who were defending their interests in Korea. This was the period of great Japanese enthusiasm for China. The Chinese system of administration was copied, and Buddhism was adopted, together with every possible element of Chinese culture. This meant increased trade with Japan, bringing in large profits to China, and so the Korean middleman was to be eliminated.

T’ai Tsung’s son, Kao Tsung (650-683), merely carried to a conclusion what had been begun. Externally China’s prestige continued at its zenith. The caravans streamed into China from western and central Asia, bringing great quantities of luxury goods. At this time, however, the foreign colonies were not confined to the capital but were installed in all the important trading ports and inland trade centres. The whole country was covered by a commercial network; foreign merchants who had come overland to China met others who had come by sea. The foreigners set up their own counting-houses and warehouses; whole quarters of the capital were inhabited entirely by foreigners who lived as if they were in their own country. They brought with them their own religions: Manichaeism, Mazdaism, and Nestorian Christianity. The first Jews came into China, apparently as dealers in fabrics, and the first Arabian Mohammedans made their appearance. In China the foreigners bought silkstuffs and collected everything of value that they could find, especially precious metals. Culturally this influx of foreigners enriched China; economically, as in earlier periods, it did not; its disadvantages were only compensated for a time by the very beneficial results of the trade with Japan, and this benefit did not last long.

4 _The reign of the empress Wu: Buddhism and capitalism_

The pressure of the western Turks had been greatly weakened in this period, especially as their attention had been diverted to the west, where the advance of Islam and of the Arabs was a new menace for them. On the other hand, from 650 onward the Tibetans gained immensely in power, and pushed from the south into the Tarim basin. In 678 they inflicted a heavy defeat on the Chinese, and it cost the T’ang decades of diplomatic effort before they attained, in 699, their aim of breaking up the Tibetans’ realm and destroying their power. In the last year of Kao Tsung’s reign, 683, came the first of the wars of liberation of the northern Turks, known until then as the western Turks, against the Chinese. And with the end of Kao Tsung’s reign began the decline of the T’ang regime. Most of the historians attribute it to a woman, the later empress Wu. She had been a concubine of T’ai Tsung, and after his death had become a Buddhist nun–a frequent custom of the time–until Kao Tsung fell in love with her and made her a concubine of his own. In the end he actually divorced the empress and made the concubine empress (655). She gained more and more influence, being placed on a par with the emperor and soon entirely eliminating him in practice; in 680 she removed the rightful heir to the throne and put her own son in his place; after Kao Tsung’s death in 683 she became regent for her son. Soon afterward she dethroned him in favour of his twenty-two-year-old brother; in 690 she deposed him too and made herself empress in the “Chou dynasty” (690-701). This officially ended the T’ang dynasty.

Matters, however, were not so simple as this might suggest. For otherwise on the empress’s deposition there would not have been a mass of supporters moving heaven and earth to treat the new empress Wei (705-712) in the same fashion. There is every reason to suppose that behind the empress Wu there was a group opposing the ruling clique. In spite of everything, the T’ang government clique was very pro-Turkish, and many Turks and members of Toba families had government posts and, above all, important military commands. No campaign of that period was undertaken without Turkish auxiliaries. The fear seems to have been felt in some quarters that this T’ang group might pursue a military policy hostile to the gentry. The T’ang group had its roots mainly in western China; thus the eastern Chinese gentry were inclined to be hostile to it. The first act of the empress Wu had been to transfer the capital to Loyang in the east. Thus, she tried to rely upon the co-operation of the eastern gentry which since the Northern Chou and Sui dynasties had been out of power. While the western gentry brought their children into government positions by claiming family privileges (a son of a high official had the right to a certain position without having passed the regular examinations), the sons of the eastern gentry had to pass through the examinations. Thus, there were differences in education and outlook between both groups which continued long after the death of the empress. In addition, the eastern gentry, who supported the empress Wu and later the empress Wei, were closely associated with the foreign merchants of western Asia and the Buddhist Church to which they adhered. In gratitude for help from the Buddhists, the empress Wu endowed them with enormous sums of money, and tried to make Buddhism a sort of state religion. A similar development had taken place in the Toba and also in the Sui period. Like these earlier rulers, the empress Wu seems to have aimed at combining spiritual leadership with her position as ruler of the empire.

In this epoch Buddhism helped to create the first beginnings of large-scale capitalism. In connection with the growing foreign trade, the monasteries grew in importance as repositories of capital; the temples bought more and more land, became more and more wealthy, and so gained increasing influence over economic affairs. They accumulated large quantities of metal, which they stored in the form of bronze figures of Buddha, and with these stocks they exercised controlling influence over the money market. There is a constant succession of records of the total weight of the bronze figures, as an indication of the money value they represented. It is interesting to observe that temples and monasteries acquired also shops and had rental income from them. They further operated many mills, as did the owners of private estates (now called “_chuang_”) and thus controlled the price of flour, and polished rice.

The cultural influence of Buddhism found expression in new and improved translations of countless texts, and in the passage of pilgrims along the caravan routes, helped by the merchants, as far as western Asia and India, like the famous Hsuean-tsang. Translations were made not only from Indian or other languages into Chinese, but also, for instance, from Chinese into the Uighur and other Turkish tongues, and into Tibetan, Korean, and Japanese.

The attitude of the Turks can only be understood when we realize that the background of events during the time of empress Wu was formed by the activities of groups of the eastern Chinese gentry. The northern Turks, who since 630 had been under Chinese overlordship, had fought many wars of liberation against the Chinese; and through the conquest of neighbouring Turks they had gradually become once more, in the decade-and-a-half after the death of Kao Tsung, a great Turkish realm. In 698 the Turkish khan, at the height of his power, demanded a Chinese prince for his daughter–not, as had been usual in the past, a princess for his son. His intention, no doubt, was to conquer China with the prince’s aid, to remove the empress Wu, and to restore the T’ang dynasty–but under Turkish overlordship! Thus, when the empress Wu sent a member of her own family, the khan rejected him and demanded the restoration of the deposed T’ang emperor. To enforce this demand, he embarked on a great campaign against China. In this the Turks must have been able to rely on the support of a strong group inside China, for before the Turkish attack became dangerous the empress Wu recalled the deposed emperor, at first as “heir to the throne”; thus she yielded to the khan’s principal demand.

In spite of this, the Turkish attacks did not cease. After a series of imbroglios within the country in which a group under the leadership of the powerful Ts’ui gentry family had liquidated the supporters of the empress Wu shortly before her death, a T’ang prince finally succeeded in killing empress Wei and her clique. At first, his father ascended the throne, but was soon persuaded to abdicate in favour of his son, now called emperor Hsueang Tsung (713-755), just as the first ruler of the T’ang dynasty had done. The practice of abdicating–in contradiction with the Chinese concept of the ruler as son of Heaven and the duties of a son towards his father–seems to have impressed Japan where similar steps later became quite common. With Hsuean Tsung there began now a period of forty-five years, which the Chinese describe as the second blossoming of T’ang culture, a period that became famous especially for its painting and literature.

5 _Second blossoming of T’ang culture_

The T’ang literature shows the co-operation of many favourable factors. The ancient Chinese classical style of official reports and decrees which the Toba had already revived, now led to the clear prose style of the essayists, of whom Han Yue (768-825) and Liu Tsung-yuean (747-796) call for special mention. But entirely new forms of sentences make their appearance in prose writing, with new pictures and similes brought from India through the medium of the Buddhist translations. Poetry was also enriched by the simple songs that spread in the north under Turkish influence, and by southern influences. The great poets of the T’ang period adopted the rules of form laid down by the poetic art of the south in the fifth century; but while at that time the writing of poetry was a learned pastime, precious and formalistic, the T’ang poets brought to it genuine feeling. Widespread fame came to Li T’ai-po (701-762) and Tu Fu (712-770); in China two poets almost equal to these two in popularity were Po Chue-i (772-846) and Yuean Chen (779-831), who in their works kept as close as possible to the vernacular.

New forms of poetry rarely made their appearance in the T’ang period, but the existing forms were brought to the highest perfection. Not until the very end of the T’ang period did there appear the form of a “free” versification, with lines of no fixed length. This form came from the indigenous folk-songs of south-western China, and was spread through the agency of the _filles de joie_ in the tea-houses. Before long it became the custom to string such songs together in a continuous series–the first step towards opera. For these song sequences were sung by way of accompaniment to the theatrical productions. The Chinese theatre had developed from two sources–from religious games, bullfights and wrestling, among Turkish and Mongol peoples, which developed into dancing displays; and from sacrificial games of South Chinese origin. Thus the Chinese theatre, with its union with music, should rather be called opera, although it offers a sort of pantomimic show. What amounted to a court conservatoire trained actors and musicians as early as in the T’ang period for this court opera. These actors and musicians were selected from the best-looking “commoners”, but they soon tended to become a special caste with a legal status just below that of “burghers”.

In plastic art there are fine sculptures in stone and bronze, and we have also technically excellent fabrics, the finest of lacquer, and remains of artistic buildings; but the principal achievement of the T’ang period lies undoubtedly in the field of painting. As in poetry, in painting there are strong traces of alien influences; even before the T’ang period, the painter Hsieh Ho laid down the six fundamental laws of painting, in all probability drawn from Indian practice. Foreigners were continually brought into China as decorators of Buddhist temples, since the Chinese could not know at first how the new gods had to be presented. The Chinese regarded these painters as craftsmen, but admired their skill and their technique and learned from them.

The most famous Chinese painter of the T’ang period is Wu Tao-tz[)u], who was also the painter most strongly influenced by Central Asian works. As a pious Buddhist he painted pictures for temples among others. Among the landscape painters, Wang Wei (721-759) ranks first; he was also a famous poet and aimed at uniting poem and painting into an integral whole. With him begins the great tradition of Chinese landscape painting, which attained its zenith later, in the Sung epoch.

Porcelain had been invented in China long ago. There was as yet none of the white porcelain that is preferred today; the inside was a brownish-yellow; but on the whole it was already technically and artistically of a very high quality. Since porcelain was at first produced only for the requirements of the court and of high dignitaries–mostly in state factories–a few centuries later the T’ang porcelain had become a great rarity. But in the centuries that followed, porcelain became an important new article of Chinese export. The Chinese prisoners taken by the Arabs in the great battle of Samarkand (751), the first clash between the world of Islam and China, brought to the West the knowledge of Chinese culture, of several Chinese crafts, of the art of papermaking, and also of porcelain.

The emperor Hsuean Tsung gave active encouragement to all things artistic. Poets and painters contributed to the elegance of his magnificent court ceremonial. As time went on he showed less and less interest in public affairs, and grew increasingly inclined to Taoism and mysticism in general–an outcome of the fact that the conduct of matters of state was gradually taken out of his hands. On the whole, however, Buddhism was pushed into the background in favour of Confucianism, as a reaction from the unusual privileges that had been accorded to the Buddhists in the past fifteen years under the empress Wu.

6 _Revolt of a military governor_

At the beginning of Hsuean Tsung’s reign the capital had been in the east at Loyang; then it was transferred once more to Ch’ang-an in the west due to pressure of the western gentry. The emperor soon came under the influence of the unscrupulous but capable and energetic Li Lin-fu, a distant relative of the ruler. Li was a virtual dictator at the court from 736 to 752, who had first advanced in power by helping the concubine Wu, a relative of the famous empress Wu, and by continually playing the eastern against the western gentry. After the death of the concubine Wu, he procured for the emperor a new concubine named Yang, of a western family. This woman, usually called “Concubine Yang” (Yang Kui-fei), became the heroine of countless stage-plays and stories and even films; all the misfortunes that marked the end of Hsuean Tsung’s reign were attributed solely to her. This is incorrect, as she was but a link in the chain of influences that played upon the emperor. Naturally she found important official posts for her brothers and all her relatives; but more important than these was a military governor named An Lu-shan (703-757). His mother was a Turkish shamaness, his father, a foreigner probably of Sogdian origin. An Lu-shan succeeded in gaining favour with the Li clique, which hoped to make use of him for its own ends. Chinese sources describe him as a prodigy of evil, and it will be very difficult today to gain a true picture of his personality. In any case, he was certainly a very capable officer. His rise started from a victory over the Kitan in 744. He spent some time establishing relations with the court and then went back to resume operations against the Kitan. He made so much of the Kitan peril that he was permitted a larger army than usual, and he had command of 150,000 troops in the neighbourhood of Peking. Meanwhile Li Lin-fu died. He had sponsored An as a counterbalance against the western gentry. When now, within the clique of Li Lin-fu, the Yang family tried to seize power, they turned against An Lu-shan. But he marched against the capital, Ch’ang-an, with 200,000 men; on his way he conquered Loyang and made himself emperor (756: Yen dynasty). T’ang troops were sent against him under the leadership of the Chinese Kuo Tz[)u]-i, a Kitan commander, and a Turk, Ko-shu Han.

The first two generals had considerable success, but Ko-shu Han, whose task was to prevent access to the western capital, was quickly defeated and taken prisoner. The emperor fled betimes, and An Lu-shan captured Ch’ang-an. The emperor now abdicated; his son, emperor Su Tsung (756-762), also fled, though not with him into Szechwan, but into north-western Shensi. There he defended himself against An Lu-shan and his capable general Shih Ss[)u]-ming (himself a Turk), and sought aid in Central Asia. A small Arab troop came from the caliph Abu-Jafar, and also small bands from Turkestan; of more importance was the arrival of Uighur cavalry in substantial strength. At the end of 757 there was a great battle in the neighbourhood of the capital, in which An Lu-shan was defeated by the Uighurs; shortly afterwards he was murdered by one of his eunuchs. His followers fled; Loyang was captured and looted by the Uighurs. The victors further received in payment from the T’ang government 10,000 rolls of silk with a promise of 20,000 rolls a year; the Uighur khan was given a daughter of the emperor as his wife. An Lu-shan’s general, the Turk Shih Ss[)u]-ming, entered into An Lu-shan’s heritage, and dominated so large a part of eastern China that the Chinese once more made use of the Uighurs to bring him down. The commanders in the fighting against Shih Ss[)u]-ming this time were once more Kuo Tz[)u]-i and the Kitan general, together with P’u-ku Huai-en, a member of a Toeloes family that had long been living in China. At first Shih Ss[)u]-ming was victorious, and he won back Loyang, but then he was murdered by his own son, and only by taking advantage of the disturbances that now arose were the government troops able to quell the dangerous rising.

In all this, two things seem interesting and important. To begin with, An Lu-shan had been a military governor. His rising showed that while this new office, with its great command of power, was of value in attacking external enemies, it became dangerous, especially if the central power was weak, the moment there were no external enemies of any importance. An Lu-shan’s rising was the first of many similar ones in the later T’ang period. The gentry of eastern China had shown themselves entirely ready to support An Lu-shan against the government, because they had hoped to gain advantage as in the past from a realm with its centre once more in the east. In the second place, the important part played by aliens in events within China calls for notice: not only were the rebels An Lu-shan and Shih Ss[)u]-ming non-Chinese, but so also were most of the generals opposed to them. But they regarded themselves as Chinese, not as members of another national group. The Turkish Uighurs brought in to help against them were fighting actually against Turks, though they regarded those Turks as Chinese. We must not bring to the circumstances of those times the present-day notions with regard to national feeling.

7 _The role of the Uighurs. Confiscation of the capital of the monasteries_

This rising and its sequels broke the power of the dynasty, and also of the empire. The extremely sanguinary wars had brought fearful suffering upon the population. During the years of the rising, no taxes came in from the greater part of the empire, but great sums had to be paid to the peoples who had lent aid to the empire. And the looting by government troops and by the auxiliaries injured the population as much as the war itself did.

When the emperor Su Tsung died, in 762, Tengri, the khan of the Uighurs, decided to make himself ruler over China. The events of the preceding years had shown him that China alone was entirely defenceless. Part of the court clique supported him, and only by the intervention of P’u-ku Huai-en, who was related to Tengri by marriage, was his plan frustrated. Naturally there were countless intrigues against P’u-ku Huai-en. He entered into alliance with the Tibetan T’u-fan, and in this way the union of Turks and Tibetans, always feared by the Chinese, had come into existence. In 763 the Tibetans captured and burned down the western capital, while P’u-ku Huai-en with the Uighurs advanced from the north. Undoubtedly this campaign would have been successful, giving an entirely different turn to China’s destiny, if P’u-ku Huai-en had not died in 765 and the Chinese under Kuo Tz[)u]-i had not succeeded in breaking up the alliance. The Uighurs now came over into an alliance with the Chinese, and the two allies fell upon the Tibetans and robbed them of their booty. China was saved once more.

Friendship with the Uighurs had to be paid for this time even more dearly. They crowded into the capital and compelled the Chinese to buy horses, in payment for which they demanded enormous quantities of silkstuffs. They behaved in the capital like lords, and expected to be maintained at the expense of the government. The system of military governors was adhered to in spite of the country’s experience of them, while the difficult situation throughout the empire, and especially along the western and northern frontiers, facing the Tibetans and the more and more powerful Kitan, made it necessary to keep considerable numbers of soldiers permanently with the colours. This made the military governors stronger and stronger; ultimately they no longer remitted any taxes to the central government, but spent them mainly on their armies. Thus from 750 onward the empire consisted of an impotent central government and powerful military governors, who handed on their positions to their sons as a further proof of their independence. When in 781 the government proposed to interfere with the inheriting of the posts, there was a great new rising, which in 783 again extended as far as the capital; in 784 the T’ang government at last succeeded in overcoming it. A compromise was arrived at between the government and the governors, but it in no way improved the situation. Life became more and more difficult for the central government. In 780, the “equal land” system was finally officially given up and with it a tax system which was based upon the idea that every citizen had the same amount of land and, therefore, paid the same amount of taxes. The new system tried to equalize the tax burden and the corvee obligation, but not the land. This change may indicate a step towards greater freedom for private enterprise. Yet it did not benefit the government, as most of the tax income was retained by the governors and was used for their armies and their own court.

In the capital, eunuchs ruled in the interests of various cliques. Several emperors fell victim to them or to the drinking of “elixirs of long life”.

Abroad, the Chinese lost their dominion over Turkestan, for which Uighurs and Tibetans competed. There is nothing to gain from any full description of events at court. The struggle between cliques soon became a struggle between eunuchs and literati, in much the same way as at the end of the second Han dynasty. Trade steadily diminished, and the state became impoverished because no taxes were coming in and great armies had to be maintained, though they did not even obey the government.

Events that exerted on the internal situation an influence not to be belittled were the break-up of the Uighurs (from 832 onward) the appearance of the Turkish Sha-t’o, and almost at the same time, the dissolution of the Tibetan empire (from 842). Many other foreigners had placed themselves under the Uighurs living in China, in order to be able to do business under the political protection of the Uighur embassy, but the Uighurs no longer counted, and the T’ang government decided to seize the capital sums which these foreigners had accumulated. It was hoped in this way especially to remedy the financial troubles of the moment, which were partly due to a shortage of metal for minting. As the trading capital was still placed with the temples as banks, the government attacked the religion of the Uighurs, Manichaeism, and also the religions of the other foreigners, Mazdaism, Nestorianism, and apparently also Islam. In 843 alien religions were prohibited; aliens were also ordered to dress like Chinese. This gave them the status of Chinese citizens and no longer of foreigners, so that Chinese justice had a hold over them. That this law abolishing foreign religions was aimed solely at the foreigners’ capital is shown by the proceedings at the same time against Buddhism which had long become a completely Chinese Church. Four thousand, six hundred Buddhist temples, 40,000 shrines and monasteries were secularized, and all statues were required to be melted down and delivered to the government, even those in private possession. Two hundred and sixty thousand, five hundred monks were to become ordinary citizens once more. Until then monks had been free of taxation, as had millions of acres of land belonging to the temples and leased to tenants or some 150,000 temple slaves.

Thus the edict of 843 must not be described as concerned with religion: it was a measure of compulsion aimed at filling the government coffers. All the property of foreigners and a large part of the property of the Buddhist Church came into the hands of the government. The law was not applied to Taoism, because the ruling gentry of the time were, as so often before, Confucianist and at the same time Taoist. As early as 846 there came a reaction: with the new emperor, Confucians came into power who were at the same time Buddhists and who now evicted some of the Taoists. From this time one may observe closer co-operation between Confucianism and Buddhism; not only with meditative Buddhism (Dhyana) as at the beginning of the T’ang epoch and earlier, but with the main branch of Buddhism, monastery Buddhism (Vinaya). From now onward the Buddhist doctrines of transmigration and retribution, which had been really directed against the gentry and in favour of the common people, were turned into an instrument serving the gentry: everyone who was unfortunate in this life must show such amenability to the government and the gentry that he would have a chance of a better existence at least in the next life. Thus the revolutionary Buddhist doctrine of retribution became a reactionary doctrine that was of great service to the gentry. One of the Buddhist Confucians in whose works this revised version makes its appearance most clearly was Niu Seng-yu, who was at once summoned back to court in 846 by the new emperor. Three new large Buddhist sects came into existence in the T’ang period. One of them, the school of the Pure Land (_Ching-t’u tsung_, since 641) required of its mainly lower class adherents only the permanent invocation of the Buddha Amithabha who would secure them a place in the “Western Paradise”–a place without social classes and economic troubles. The cult of Maitreya, which was always more revolutionary, receded for a while.

8 _First successful peasant revolt. Collapse of the empire_

The chief sufferers from the continual warfare of the military governors, the sanguinary struggles between the cliques, and the universal impoverishment which all this fighting produced, were, of course, the common people. The Chinese annals are filled with records of popular risings, but not one of these had attained any wide extent, for want of organization. In 860 began the first great popular rising, a revolt caused by famine in the province of Chekiang. Government troops suppressed it with bloodshed. Further popular risings followed. In 874 began a great rising in the south of the present province of Hopei, the chief agrarian region.

The rising was led by a peasant, Wang Hsien-chih, together with Huang Ch’ao, a salt merchant, who had fallen into poverty and had joined the hungry peasants, forming a fighting group of his own. It is important to note that Huang was well educated. It is said that he failed in the state examination. Huang is not the first merchant who became rebel. An Lu-shan, too, had been a businessman for a while. It was pointed out that trade had greatly developed in the T’ang period; of the lower Yangtze region people it was said that “they were so much interested in business that they paid no attention to agriculture”. Yet merchants were subject to many humiliating conditions. They could not enter the examinations, except by illegal means. In various periods, from the Han time on, they had to wear special dress. Thus, a law from _c_. A.D. 300 required them to wear a white turban on which name and type of business was written, and to wear one white and one black shoe. They were subject to various taxes, but were either not allowed to own land, or were allotted less land than ordinary citizens. Thus they could not easily invest in land, the safest investment at that time. Finally, the government occasionally resorted to the method which was often used in the Near East: when in 782 the emperor ran out of money, he requested the merchants of the capital to “loan” him a large sum–a request which in fact was a special tax.

Wang and Huang both proved good organizers of the peasant masses, and in a short time they had captured the whole of eastern China, without the military governors being able to do anything against them, for the provincial troops were more inclined to show sympathy to the peasant armies than to fight them. The terrified government issued an order to arm the people of the other parts of the country against the rebels; naturally this helped the rebels more than the government, since the peasants thus armed went over to the rebels. Finally Wang was offered a high office. But Huang urged him not to betray his own people, and Wang declined the offer. In the end the government, with the aid of the troops of the Turkish Sha-t’o, defeated Wang and beheaded him (878). Huang Ch’ao now moved into the south-east and the south, where in 879 he captured and burned down Canton; according to an Arab source, over 120,000 foreign merchants lost their lives in addition to the Chinese. From Canton Huang Ch’ao returned to the north, laden with loot from that wealthy commercial city. His advance was held up again by the Sha-t’o troops; he turned away to the lower Yangtze, and from there marched north again. At the end of 880 he captured the eastern capital. The emperor fled from the western capital, Ch’ang-an, into Szechwan, and Huang Ch’ao now captured with ease the western capital as well, and removed every member of the ruling family on whom he could lay hands. He then made himself emperor, in a Ch’i dynasty. It was the first time that a peasant rising had succeeded against the gentry.

There was still, however, the greatest disorder in the empire. There were other peasant armies on the move, armies that had deserted their governors and were fighting for themselves; finally, there were still a few supporters of the imperial house and, above all, the Turkish Sha-t’o, who had a competent commander with the sinified name of Li K’o-yung. The Sha-t’o, who had remained loyal to the government, revolted the moment the government had been overthrown. They ran the risk, however, of defeat at the hands of an alien army of the Chinese government’s, commanded by an Uighur, and they therefore fled to the Tatars. In spite of this, the Chinese entered again into relations with the Sha-t’o, as without them there could be no possibility of getting rid of Huang Ch’ao. At the end of 881 Li K’o-yung fell upon the capital; there was a fearful battle. Huang Ch’ao was able to hold out, but a further attack was made in 883 and he was defeated and forced to flee; in 884 he was killed by the Sha-t’o.

This popular rising, which had only been overcome with the aid of foreign troops, brought the end of the T’ang dynasty. In 885 the T’ang emperor was able to return to the capital, but the only question now was whether China should be ruled by the Sha-t’o under Li K’o-yung or by some other military commander. In a short time Chu Ch’uean-chung, a former follower of Huang Ch’ao, proved to be the strongest of the commanders. In 890 open war began between the two leaders. Li K’o-yung was based on Shansi; Chu Ch’uean-chung had control of the plains in the east. Meanwhile the governors of Szechwan in the west and Chekiang in the south-east made themselves independent. Both declared themselves kings or emperors and set up dynasties of their own (from 895).

Within the capital, the emperor was threatened several times by revolts, so that he had to flee and place himself in the hands of Li K’o-yung as the only leader on whose loyalty he could count. Soon after this, however, the emperor fell into the hands of Chu Ch’uean-chung, who killed the whole entourage of the emperor, particularly the eunuchs; after a time he had the emperor himself killed, set a puppet–as had become customary–on the throne, and at the beginning of 907 took over the rule from him, becoming emperor in the “Later Liang dynasty”.

That was the end of the T’ang dynasty, at the beginning of which China had risen to unprecedented power. Its downfall had been brought about by the military governors, who had built up their power and had become independent hereditary satraps, exploiting the people for their own purposes, and by their continual mutual struggles undermining the economic structure of the empire. In addition to this, the empire had been weakened first by its foreign trade and then by the dependence on foreigners, especially Turks, into which it had fallen owing to internal conditions. A large part of the national income had gone abroad. Such is the explanation of the great popular risings which ultimately brought the dynasty to its end.


Chapter Nine


(A) The period of transition: the Five Dynasties (A.D. 906-960)

1 _Beginning of a new epoch_

The rebellion of Huang Ch’ao in fact meant the end of the T’ang dynasty and the division of China into a number of independent states. Only for reasons of convenience we keep the traditional division into dynasties and have our new period begin with the official end of the T’ang dynasty in 906. We decided to call the new thousand years of Chinese history “Modern Times” in order to indicate that from _c_. 860 on changes in China’s social structure came about which set this epoch off from the earlier thousand years which we called “The Middle Ages”. Any division into periods is arbitrary as changes do not happen from one year to the next. The first beginnings of the changes which lead to the “Modern Times” actually can be seen from the end of An Lu-shan’s rebellion on, from _c_. A.D. 780 on, and the transformation was more or less completed only in the middle of the eleventh century.

If we want to characterize the “Modern Times” by one concept, we would have to call this epoch the time of the emergence of a middle class, and it will be remembered that the growth of the middle class in Europe was also the decisive change between the Middle Ages and Modern Times in Europe. The parallelism should, however, not be overdone. The gentry continued to play a role in China during the Modern Times, much more than the aristocracy did in Europe. The middle class did not ever really get into power during the whole period.

While we will discuss the individual developments later in some detail, a few words about the changes in general might be given already here. The wars which followed Huang Ch’ao’s rebellion greatly affected the ruling gentry. A number of families were so strongly affected that they lost their importance and disappeared. Commoners from the followers of Huang Ch’ao or other armies succeeded to get into power, to acquire property and to enter the ranks of the gentry. At about A.D. 1000 almost half of the gentry families were new families of low origin. The state, often ruled by men who had just moved up, was no more interested in the aristocratic manners of the old gentry families, especially no more interested in their genealogies. When conditions began to improve after A.D. 1000, and when the new families felt themselves as real gentry families, they tried to set up a mechanism to protect the status of