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An Lushan Rebellion in the Tang Dynasty History Essay

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Updated: Feb 16th, 2021

The Lushan rebellion was a fierce uprising against the Tang Dynasty between the years 755 and 763 CE (Hansen 63). An unsatisfied army general who served in the army of the Tang Dynasty started the rebellion which led to the collapse of the dynasty. It started as a small revolt but gradually expanded and spread to other parts of China. It is one of the longest rebellions in China because it lasted for more than ten years. Its consequences were severe because it nearly led to collapse of some of the most powerful dynasties in China. It is considered a turning point of the history of the Tang Dynasty and the whole pre-modern Chinese history. This is because it weakened Tang Dynasty, led to massive deaths, and had significant influence on Tang’s culture and Chinese culture (Hansen 63).

First, the rebellion led to deaths of millions of people that belonged to the Tang Dynasty. It also led to severe destruction of the dynasty’s economic and social systems, cause starvation, and encouraged combats that killed many civilians (Hansen 69). In addition, the period of the rebellion was characterized by diseases that caused many deaths. The most affected regions were north and middle china. The death toll affected the Tang Empire and the whole of china severely because it reduced population and affected economic and social systems (Hansen 73). Secondly, the rebellion weakened the Tang Empire significantly. The influence of Tang’s emperor was compromised by establishment of independent provinces within the empire by rebel army generals.

This reduced the political influence of the government. In addition, after the rebellion arose, many army members were deployed to crush the rebellion in areas that experienced revolts and attacks. This left the empire at risk of attack, which weakened regions such as the Western parts of the dynasty. The government was in desperate need of stability owing to effects of the rebellion. As a strategy to improve political stability, it pardoned many rebels and even made some of them army generals and commanders (Hansen 81). This strategy contributed to weakening of the army because the rebels were not conversant with the operations of the army and some of them formed alliances with barbarians. Continued erosion of the army’s credibility and economic depression led to power loss by the Tang government. Political weakness consequently led to economic weakness.

The effect of the rebellion spilled to other parts of China. For example, by the year 790, China had lost control of the Tarim Basin due to a weak army and political system. Tang Dynasty had borrowed money and army troops from the Uighurs in order to stop the rebellion. However, due to their weak economy, they were unable to pay and had to relinquish control of Tarim basin to Uighurs. In addition to political and economic effects, the rebellion also changed the intellectual culture of the dynasty. It interrupted careers of many intellectuals who were making great contributions to the dynasty at the time the rebellion started. Even though recovery efforts by the Tang dynasty were successful, effects of the rebellion led to devolution of the Dynasty into different dynasties and kingdoms (Hansen 104). The rebellion affected the whole of China. It is regarded as a turning point in the history of the Tang Dynasty because after its commencement, the Tang dynasty weakened gradually and never regained its power and influence in China. Power was the most important aspect of determining the strength of any dynasty. Due to effects of the rebellion, Tang emperors lost political power to warlords who were launching attacks on them. Loss of political power led to dissolution of Tang Empire in 907 CE. The rebellion affected China because it ushered in the period of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, which was very chaotic and destructive in the history of China (Hansen 113).

To what extent did “barbarian rule” of China differ from Chinese rule and in what ways did barbarian rule affect Chinese society?

Barbarian rule in the Chinese society was considered any rule that was advanced by dynasties that did not constitute native Chinese (Ebrey 54). In the history of China, there were 35 dynasties. However, only two of these were composed of natives. These were the Han Dynasty and the Ming Dynasty. The barbarian rule of China differed significantly from Chinese rule. Barbarians were mainly concerned with war and conquering other dynasties while Chinese rule was mainly concerned with advancing the Chinese society and bringing civilization. For barbarians, political power was the most important thing. The main barbarian tribes included the Mongols, Manchus, Kushans, Huns, and the Turks (Ebrey 55). These tribes were characterized by political illiteracy and primitiveness that motivated them to attack Chinese dynasties. Barbarians were cruel and vicious. They were a real threat to ancient China because they wanted to conquer China and subdue its power across the region (Ebrey 139). In addition, barbarian rule was defined by determination and discipline. For example, the organized nature of the Manchus enabled them to conquer the Chinese empire. The Manchus were disciplined, united, strong, and ready for war at any time.

Their rule was based on alliances that enable them to increase their strength. They formed an alliance with a general from the Ming dynasty that enabled them to infiltrate and conquer Ming Dynasty. They launched several attacks on Ming and continued to attack until they conquered it. Barbarians rule respected cultural values and people. For example, the Manchus did not oppress women as much as the Hans did. The Hans had a tendency to despise and oppress female children. The fact that Manchus did not oppress female children as much as the Hans did made the Hans despise the Manchus. Chinese rule was significantly weaker than the barbarian rule, which was the main reason why the barbarians easily conquered them. Chinese rule did not encourage formation of alliances. Chinese rulers believed that since they were civilized, barbarians who were primitive and illiterate could not subdue their power. However, they did not realize that the barbarians outnumbered them and thus could easily conquer them. In addition, betrayal was a common aspect of Chinese rule. For example, the Ming dynasty was conquered by the Manchus because of betrayal by one of its army generals who formed an alliance with the Manchus. The Chinese rule held in one religion while barbarian rule practiced different religions. For example, the Mongols practiced Taoism, Buddhism, and Islam.

Barbarian rule affected the Chinese society significantly. First, it changed the Chinese culture by introducing certain cultural aspects that were nonexistent in the Chinese culture. For example, Mongols introduced certain aspects of their dressing style and food culture into the Chinese culture. They introduced buttons and chilies. On the other hand, the Manchus introduced some new cultural aspects into the Chinese culture. When the Manchus conquered the Hans, they initially adopted the culture of the Hans. However, they gradually revived their traditions and incorporated them into the Hans’ culture. Barbarians were incorporated into the Chinese populatuon as constituent tribes. The main activities that Mongols enjoyed included wrestling and chord singing. In contrast, Chinese people enjoyed poetry and art because they considered them promoters of civilization. The barbarians eroded Chinese culture by introducing certain primitive aspects of their cultures. Each of the barbarian rulers introduced an aspect of its culture into the Chinese culture. Today, the Chinese culture is a collection of different aspects of the various barbarian cultures.

Some scholars believe the Ming dynasty represented a new stage in the Chinese state’s ability to reach down and affect the lives of ordinary people. Given what you have read in the course (including 1587: A Year of No Significance) do you agree? You answer could contrast the Ming with other dynasties we have studied.

The Ming dynasty ruled during a period in which the Chinese state could reach down and affect the lives of ordinary people. The dynasty was formed by a poor monk known as Zhu Yuanzhang (Ebrey 203). He was the first emperor of the dynasty and did not trust intellectuals because they were manipulative. Therefore, he surrounded himself with ordinary people. He feared that if he surrounded himself with intellectuals, he could not control them as easily as he could control ordinary people. He formed a secret army that constituted mainly eunuchs who arose from poor families from the north (Huang 74). People from poor families were not well educated and possessed little knowledge on political matters. Yuanzhang took advantage of this and gave them administrative roles in his government so that he could manipulate them easily (Ebrey 203). The emperor’s association with ordinary people improved their lives because he faced their harsh situation while dealing with them every day.

The emperor established policies that strengthened his rule and favored the poor. He revived Ming’s economy by freeing people who had been captured during the reign of the Mongols (Ebrey 204). He resettled them on reclaimed land especially in the northern regions of china. In addition, he reduced taxes for peasants and established a tax policy that regulated taxes paid by peasants. Agriculture was the main economic activity of the poor and the emperor did his best to help them excel in it. As such, he repaired dilapidated irrigation channels and rebuilt granaries to store agricultural produce. He reconstructed dams and canals, and established new fields for agricultural purposes (Huang 77). In addition, the government rehabilitated deserts and settled some people there where they used irrigation channels and dams to do farming.

The emperor introduced the baojia system of administration that improved the lives of poor people. The system comprised groups of 10 families that formed a jia and 10 jia that formed a unit known as a bao. Each of the units had 100 families that had a leader. This system gave poor people authority to govern themselves and deal with their affairs more effectively (Huang 87). It was during the rule of Ming that cotton cultivation and cloth manufacture was at its peak in China. This provided clothes for ordinary people who could not afford them during the reign of other emperors (Huang 89). It was also during the reign of Ming that many manufacturing industries were established. For example, there were more than 3,000 porcelain-manufacturing industries that offered employment to poor people. They enabled poor people to earn a decent living and pay taxes with the little money they earned from these jobs.

Poor people were treated different in other dynasties. For example, in the Shang Dynasty, the emperor forced poor people to work for him without pay even though they were expected to pay taxes that they could hardly afford. They were oppressed and mistreated. Slavery was common and slaves were used as human sacrifices. In the Zhou Dynasty, poor people were food suppliers. Their role was to provide food by working on the emperor’s farm. They were given a portion of what they produced and were expected to pay taxes using the little money they earned. Even though slaves were fewer than during the Shang period, poor people were still oppressed. In the Qin Dynasty, poor people were forced to work for the emperor and those who refused were severely punished (Huang 122). They were subjected to forced labor, high taxes, and cruel punishments. This kind of treatment was not common in the Ming Dynasty. The emperor respected poor people and treated them fairly because he was form a poor family and his administrators also came from poor families.

Works Cited

Ebrey, Patricia. Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. New York: Free Press, 1993. Print.

Hansen, Valerie. The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600. New York: Cengage Learning, 1997. Print.

Huang, Ray. 1857, a Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline. New York: Yale University Press, 1981. Print.

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