Chaos, diplomacy and invasion





Five Dynasties : 907 – 923

Social and economic growth kept the Tang dynasty together during the years of disunion, known also as the Five Dynasties period.  Handicraft guilds were first founded and paper  money was introduced during this time. Not only did five short-lived dynasties form during this period, but ten independent states were also formed, primarily in Southern China.

Song Dynasty :
Northern Song : 960 - 1127

To avoid the problems the Tang government faced, the Northern Sung made the military subordinate to the civil government and in fact, every thing was subordinate to the civil government. The civil service test was expanded so that the government would have a constant flow of young talent. The Sung re-organized the imperial government, centralizing the control of the dynasty at the capital but leaving local government largely unchanged. Education flourished and the economy continued to expand. The literature that was being created in the late Tang dynasty continued to flourish as well.

The Sung's military, however, was not very powerful, and they frequently signed treaties to end fighting. Usually included in the treaties were stipulations requiring the Sung make payments to the enemies they were fighting. With the population growth came greater economic growth. The military was a large portion of the annual income due to border defenses. The Northern Sung fell apart due to differences in opinions by the civil bureaucrats.

In 1069, a young Sung emperor appointed Wang An-shih as his chief counselor. Wang brought about great change in the government. He proposed plans to increase government income, decrease spending, and strengthen military forces. Wang An-Shih realized that the government owed its wealth to the peasants, and that the wealthier the peasants were, the wealthier the government would be. So, Wang introduced land reforms to give equal allotments of land to farmers, loans to cultivators to assist planting and harvesting, and a graduated tax on wealth. Parts of Wang's plan were adopted, but some met with bureaucratic opposition.

Southern Song : 1127 - 1279

Due to their weakness, the Sung made an alliance with a Chin dynasty (1122-1234) of northern Manchuria. After defeating their mutual enemies, the Chin turned on the Sung. This forced them to retreat and form a new capital in the South in 1135. This new Sung dynasty far surpassed the old one. The economic and intellectual achievements increased while the former Sung dynasty to the north slowly decayed. The dynasty showed no internal sign of collapse, but its downfall was many years of bitter fighting against a superior force.

Genghis Khan

In 1206, all the Mongol tribes convened at Karakorum in Outer Mongolia to confirm Mongol unity under the command of Genghis Khan. Soon, the mongols started to conquer the surrounding land to form the largest empire of that time. First, Genghhis Khan captured the manchurian Chin dynasty. This was the dynasty that had pushed the Sung out of the North. The Southern Sung was not captured until 1279, when Genghis Khan's grandson, Kublai Khan, took control.


Art in the Sung Dynasty:  Landscape painting became even more refined in the Sung Dynasty than it was in the T’ang. Artists continued to use simple lines to create impressionist views of mountains, rivers, and trees, trying to use the fewest possible lines and usually working only with black ink. Artists also learned to show distance by blurring outlines and enveloping far-away mountaintops in fog.
Artists sometimes depicted people, but they were small and unimportant; nature was the true subject, which fit in with Taoist and Confucian philosophical ideas about how the world worked. It was important to these artists to show how nature and man worked together in peace.

Starting about 1200 A.D., artists became interested in drawing smaller objects: a flower, or a bird, or a leaf. Again, they tried to draw these things using the fewest possible lines, and to show the most important things about that flower or bird, rather than drawing every detail.

One of the artists most renowned for painting flowers was the Emperor Hui-tsung. He opened a school for painters, which was attended by many people who went on to become famous artists themselves.

Another group of Sung Dynasty painters were Zen Buddhists, who tried to paint their ideas of calm and peacefulness with quick, clean brushwork.

Liao Dynasty : 916 - 1125

The Liao Dynasty was a regime established by the Khitan tribe (Qidan).
The Khitan ethnic group was an ancient nomadic tribe that lived in Northern China. They were first mentioned in historical records in 389 during the Northern Wei Period. By the early 7th Century they sought to establish their own state on China's frontier but failed due to the strong resistance of the Tang (618 - 907). As a result, the Khitan tribe was brought under Chinese rule. After the decline of the Tang, the Khitan tribe frequently attacked its neighbors, capturing people from other states and rapidly increasing in power.
In 916, Yelu Abaoji, the chief of the Khitan tribe, established the Khitan Kingdom and proclaimed himself emperor. Historically, Yelu Abaoji was called Emperor Taizu. Two years later, Yelu Abaoji located his capital north of the Xar Moron River and named it Huangdu (Imperial Capital). In 947, Emperor Taizong renamed his dynasty the "Great Liao". In 983, Emperor Shengzong revived the name Khitan. In 1066, Emperor Daozong restored the name the "Great Liao".
After the founding of the kingdom, Abaoji gradually conquered its weak neighbouring tribes. In 926, he conquered the Uigurs in Ganzhou and captured the Bohai State. The Emperor Taizong (Yelu Deguang), reigned from 926 to 947. During this period, the Liao Dynasty expanded to the Mongolian border and into Manchuria together with the sixteen prefectures below the Great Wall. This area south of the Great Wall was to remain outside Chinese control for more than 400 years. This posed a dangerous threat to the Northern Song (960 -1127). However, the region acted as a centre for the mutual exchange of culture between the Chinese and the northern peoples during this period.
After obtaining the sixteen prefectures, the Liao founded its alternate capital in Yanjing on the site of modern Beijing. Taking Beijing as their base, the Liao began its expansion to the Central Plains. In 946 they took Kaifeng, the capital of the Song Dynasty and proceeded to attack the weak troops of the civil-oriented Song government. However, due to strong resistance in the Central Plains, the attempt was abandoned.
After the Emperor Taizong, political disputes troubled the Liao court until the reign of Emperor Jinzong.
Upon the death of Emperor Jinzong, his 12-year-old son Yelu Longxu historically known as Emperor Shengzong succeeded to the Throne. Since the new emperor was too young to conduct state affairs, Empress Xiao, his mother, took control of the court. She appointed Yelu Xiuge as her senior general, launched a war and defeated the Song army in 987. From then on, warfare between the two countries never stopped.
In 1104, Liao launched a war again and in the next year, tired of the ceaseless skirmishes with the nomad people, the Song proposed the Shanyuan Treaty with the Liao. The treaty required the Liao to keep the borders at peace for the Song. In return, the Song had to pay a yearly tribute to the Liao.
The conclusion of the Shanyuan Treaty was the pivotal point in relations between the Song and the Liao. The signing of the Shanyuan Treaty was the first time that the Liao forced the Song, who considered themselves the natural heirs to political dominance as the Central Kingdom, to recognize their legitimacy. After many years of fighting with one another, the Song and the Liao finally decided to negotiate peace, which was achieved through the signing of this significant treaty. This relationship lasted until 1125, when the Song broke the treaty by inviting the Jin to attack the Liao.
After the treaty was signed, the nature of the relationship between these two states changed from one of purely political rivalry to a supposedly fraternal one. For the first time in Chinese history there were two Sons of Heaven, each of whom recognised the other.
The Liao Dynasty, using the tribute paid by the Song, made rapid progress and reached an economical and political zenith.

Political System
The dynasty claimed to be the legitimate successors of the Tang. They incorporated their own tribes under respective chieftains and formed a confederation with other subdued tribes in the region, which was then transformed into a hereditary monarchy.
The Liao employed a differential ruling system. That is, different systems were applied to people from different cultures and economies in different areas. The system of administration mainly consisted of the tribal system, the slavery system, the Bohai system, and the feudal system.
For Khitan people, tribal system was adapted, in which they maintained their traditional rites and to a great extent retained their own style of cuisine and clothing. And for Han people, particularly in the farming region, the system established under the Tang was used. This included the use of Tang official titles, an examination system for the appointment of the civil service and a Chinese style tax regime. The Chinese language continued to be used and Han customs were kept.
Officials of that time were divided into two groups according to where they came from (the north or the south). Corresponding administration systems were set up for each area. The Khitan administrative system, called the orthodox system, was applied to Khitan officials who were called northern officials, while the Han administrative system was applied to the Han officials, who were called southern officials. Because of different customs and levels of economic development, the northern officials mainly governed the Khitan Tartars and other nomadic peoples while the southern officials took charge of agriculture mainly in areas where the Han people resided. As the Liao Dynasty was founded by the Khitan, the northern officials were superior in status to their southern counterparts. But the southern administrative system was actually the feudal system that used to be practiced in the Central Plain states. After the Liao conquered the sixteen prefectures in the Yanyun area, this system was further improved.

Social Economy
The Liao went through different stages of economic development. In its early years, it mainly depended on outward expansion, slavery and thievery, so its development remained slow and disrupted. It was not until the reign of Emperor Shengzong when the Liao managed to institute feudal reform, its economy attained some distinct progress. The Liao rulers also adopted a differential economic management system, similar to its political one. This system promoted the economic development throughout the whole northern area.
The Liao economy was based on agriculture and on raising horses and sheep. Fishing also played an important complementary role. Those engaged in agriculture were mostly the Han people who lived in the southern area and the Bohai people who lived in the eastern area. The nomadic zone consisted of various northern grassland nationalities and the fishing-hunting zone covered the Khitan area between the Xar Moron and Tuhe rivers, and the Jurchen people's area in the northeast. The integration of the three economic zones into a political system sped up communication between different nationalities and promoted a higher level of economic development. The southern economy, which had been feudal for a long time, dominated the whole economy.
The supply of salt was controlled by government monopoly and provided an important source of revenue. Iron smelting was also an important industrial contribution to the wealth of the dynasty.

Culturally, the Liao made advances mainly in astronomy, medicine and architecture. They also introduced a new calendar, and not only did the Liao calendar keep the best parts of the Central Plain Han calendar, but also retained some of the special traits of the Khitan people. Important achievements were made in acupuncture, pulse-feeling diagnosis, gynecology, obstetrics and preservation of corpses. The Book of Acupuncture and Pulse-Feeling, written by a celebrated doctor named Zhi Lugu, enjoyed wide popularity at the time. The Liao architecture, influenced by the Tang style and accommodating the Khitan customs, achieved its own unique style.
The Liao honored Confucian philosophy but the rulers patronized Chinese Buddhism. The Khitan dialect and the Han language were the main languages used by the Liao.

Collapse of the Liao Dynasty
After the prosperity enjoyed during the reigns of Emperor Shengzong and Xingzong, the Liao Dynasty started to decline. In the early years of the 12th century, the Jurchen tribe gradually grew in strength and became a great threat to the Liao. In 1115, the Jurchen established their own dynasty Jin (Kin) Dynasty (1115 - 1234) with Aguda as the emperor and in the same year, the Jin army captured Huanglong, a strategically important town of the Liao. Later the Jurchen established an alliance with the Song in order to attack the Liao. This was an alliance that the Song would come to regret as the Jurchen later defeated the Song and established themselves as the Jin Dynasty in 1115.
The Liao government, weakened by economical disasters and internal quarrels, became inflexible. Quickly, the Jin army occupied most of the Liao territory. In 1125, Emperor Tianzuo was captured by the Jin army, which brought the Liao Dynasty to an end. In 1131, Yelu Dashi, a minister of the former Liao, reestablished the Liao in the Chuhe valley which became known as the Western Liao. In 1218, the Mongols conquered the kingdom of Western Liao.
The Liao Dynasty lased for 219 years with nine emperors occupying the throne. At the height of its power and influence, its territory reached the coast of the Northern Sea, the Eastern Sea, the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Sea in the east, the Jinshan (now the Altai Mountain) and Liusha (now the Bailongdui Desert in Xinjiang) in the west, the Kelulun, the E'erkun and the Selun'ge Rivers in the north, the southern side of the Outer Xing'anling Mountains in the northeast, the northern part of Shanxi, Baigou in Hebei Province and the northern part of Gansu in the south.

Western Xia Dynasty : 1038 - 1227

The Tangut Empire (literally "Western Xia") was an empire that existed from 1032 up to 1227 in what are now the northwestern Chinese provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi, and Ningxia. It was populated by Tangut tribes and spoke Tangut. Established in the 11th century, it flourished through the early 13th century until conquest by the Mongols. Occupying the area along the trade route between Central Asia and the West, the Tangut were neighbors to Northern China, controlled by Song China and, later on, the Jurchen Empire.

Name - The English name "Tangut" comes from the Mongolian name for the country Tang . The Chinese name is Xi-Xia , literally "Western Xia", and thus that name is often used in Sinological literature. The Tanguts called their own country "The Great State of the White and the Lofty".

- After coming under military pressure from the Tibetan Empire some Tangut tribes submitted to Tang China under Emperor DeZong in 799. The Tanguts who submitted were moved to the Ordos region near Ningxia, whereas those who stayed, accepted Tibetan political dominance, and became known in Chinese as Mi-yao.
The Tanguts remained loyal to the Tang during the revolt of Huang Chao, but established de-facto independence when Tang fell in 906. They retained their de-facto independence throughout the Five Dynasties period. During this period, their chieftain had the title of Dingnan Jiedushi and nominally remained under the Five Dynasties. Emperor Mingzong of Later Tang made an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Dingnan in 932 after believing incorrectly that Dingnan was about to enter an alliance with Liao.
The foundation of a Tangut state as such goes back to the year 982 under Li Deming . However, it would not be until 1038 that the Tangut chieftain Li Yuanhao Li Deming's son, who also ordered the creation of a Tangut writing system and the translation of Chinese classics into Tangut, named himself emperor, and demanded of Song emperor the recognition as an equal. The Song court accepted the recognition of Li Yuanhao as 'governor', but not like 'emperor', that title considered exclusive to the Song emperor. After intense diplomatic contacts, in 1043 the Tangut state accepted the recognition of the Song emperor as emperor in exchange for an annual tribute, which supposed a tacit recognition on the part of the Song of the military power of Tangut.

The Tanguts and the Mongols
- The Mongol Empire campaigned six time against the Tanguts (1202, 1207, 1209-10, 1211-13, 1214-19, 1225-26).
In 1207 Li An-ch'uan submitted to the Mongols, and gave his daughter to the man commonly known as Genghis Khan in marriage. Li An-ch'uan abdicated, and then died, in 1211.
The Mongols asked their allies and tributaries for military aid in the campaign against the Islamic countries, although the Tangut emperor Li Zunxu was willing, his court and in particular his general were against the idea. When Genghis Khanan returned from his campaign the new emperor Li Dewang pled with him, but his challenged him. The emperor Dewang died during the fighting and was succeeded by Li Xian, the last of the Tangut rulers. Li Xian sued for peace, which was accepted, but he was then executed by Tolui the son of Genghis Khanan, and the Tangut state was fully incorporated into Mongolian administration.

Jin Dynasty : 1115 - 1234

The Jin Dynasty (1115-1234; Anchu in Jurchen), also known as the Jurchen dynasty, was founded by the Wanyanclan of the Jurchen, the ancestors of the Manchus who established the Qing Dynasty some 500 years later. The name is sometimes written as Jinn to differentiate it from an earlier Jin Dynasty of China whose name is spelled identically in the Roman alphabet.

Founded in 1115 in northern Manchuria, it successfully annihilated in 1125 the Liao Dynasty which had held sway over Manchuria and the northern frontier of China for several centuries. On January 9, 1127 Jin forces ransacked Kaifeng, capital of the Northern Song Dynasty, capturing both Emperor Qinzong, and his father, Emperor Huizong, who had abdicated in panic in the face of Jin forces. Following the fall of Kaifeng, Song forces under the leadership of the succeeding Southern Song Dynasty continued to fight for over a decade with Jin forces, eventually signing a peace treaty in 1141, and ceding all of North China to the Jin in 1142 in return for peace.
After taking over North China, the Jin Dynasty became increasingly Sinicized, moving its capital from Huining Fu in northern Manchuria (south of present-day Harbin) to Zhongdu (now Beijing). Starting from the early 13th century the Jin Dynasty began to feel the pressure of Mongols from the north. In 1214 the Jin Dynasty moved its capital to Kaifeng (the old Song capital) to evade the Mongols; but under the forces of the Mongol Empire led by ?gedei Khan, third son of Genghis Khan, as well as their allies in the Southern Song Dynasty, the dynasty crumbled in 1234.
In 1616, Manchus under the leadership of Nurhaci established the Later Jin Dynasty, taking its name from this dynasty. Later Jin was renamed the Qing Dynasty in 1636, and went on to conquer China proper and become the last dynasty of Imperial China.

Yuan Dynasty : 1279 - 1368

Kublai moved the Mongol capital from Karakorum to somewhere near Beijing. The mongol empire was vast. It stretched from eastern Europe to Korea and from northern Siberia to the northern rim of India. Instead of being tribal lords, the mongols ruled as if they were chinese. That is why they adopted the the dynasty name, Yuan. During this time, the traffic from West to East were greatly increased. Many missionaries and merchants influenced the Chinese.

The most notable foreigner that visited during this time was Marco Polo. There was resentment towards the mongols by the Chinese. They accepted them as rulers but resented the fact that they held back able Chinese due to the Confucianism tests. Eventually, the mongol control of China was started to deteriorate. Uprisings sprung up in every province of China and, in the 1360s, Chu Yuan-chang was successful in exerting control throughout the Yellow River Valley. In 1371, Chu was successful in pushing the mongols back into Mongolia.

In 1276 A.D. when the Mongols invaded and took over China, they had already been ruling a large empire for about fifty years. Their empire stretched from India and Russia to northern China and Korea. In 1276 the Mongols captured the Sung capital at Hangzhou, and by 1279 the Mongols controlled all of China. Kublai Khan, the Mongol leader, moved the capital of the Mongol empire from Karakorum in Central Asia to Beijing, China. In 1271, when he was 56, Kublai Khan declared himself emperor of China.
Kublai Khan tried to conquer Japan in 1274 and 1281 AD, but was prevented by a great storm. He also tried to recapture northern Vietnam (Annam) and Burma, but without much success. Even in China, Kublai Khan's rule was not very successful. The Chinese were very angry that Kublai Khan gave foreigners like the Venetian Marco Polo all the jobs as governors and judges, instead of choosing Chinese people. But Kublai Khan did not trust the Chinese. And the Chinese were also angry that the Mongols kept their own language and customs, and didn't want to act like the Chinese.
Kublai Khan died in 1294 AD, and his successors were weaker and less able to keep the Mongol empire together. During the 1350's AD, a revolutionary movement called the Red Turbans became active in northern China. In 1356, the Red Turbans, under the leadership of Chu Yuan-chang, captured Nanjing. Chu Yuan-chang gradually conquered China, and threw out the Mongols. In 1368 AD Chu Yuan-chang declared himself emperor of China, under the name Hung-wu, and then he finally captured the Mongol capital at Beijing, starting the Ming Dynasty.

Art in the Yuan Dynasty: You might think that the invasion of the Mongols in 1279 A.D. would have killed off a lot of artists and that there wouldn't be much good art during this time, but that's not true. Or, you might think that Chinese artists would begin to paint in a more Mongol style, but that's not what happened either. Actually traditional painting continued at a very high level throughout this time. Artists went right on drawing landscapes, although people became more important in the landscapes than they had been under the Sung Dynasty. Artists also began to pay a lot of attention to different kinds of brushstrokes and the surface of paintings.
Still-life painting of objects like flowers also remained important, or even got more important.
At this time, a lot of rich men painted pictures, men who wanted to show how artistic and well-educated they were.
Pottery also continued to develop during the Yuan dynasty.

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