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A History of China by Wolfram Eberhard

Part 4 out of 9

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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

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

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

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.

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

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_

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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