Reading #35 is removed for this week, since we won’t get there in class. Questions are due before the class begins, not after. It’s unfair to listen to class discussion and then write up your paper based on the themes you have stolen in class.
- Reunification under Sui dynasty (589 – 618 AD)
- Linking north to south
- Canal System, taxes, grain, and finance
- Tang dynasty (618 – 907 AD)
- Move north to south
- New kind of economy
There is a shift of population towards the south, which was being increasingly developed over time, also due to immigration pressures from central Asia. In the Tang (742 AD) you see that two things have happened. First, there’s a general increase in population so everywhere is more populated, and more land is covered to the north. Second, the Yangtze river delta region has really taken off. Part of the reason is that powerful families from the North don’t want to compete with immigrant warlords from the north, and simply move south. Also, this warmer wetter climate is easier for growing crops, giving two to four harvests per year instead of the one in the north.
The reunification of China is a dream of all the lords holding former Han land. However, China at this time is a large, diverse region. At the end of the 6th century, there was a state called the northern Zhou, who produced a charismatic leader (Sui Wendi) to found a new dynasty, the Sui, in Northern Zhou. Once he takes the throne, he has to put to death some 40-50 Zhou princes who might object to his dynasty. Then, he launches repeated military campaigns against the southern ministers. When Sui finally takes Nanjing, he forcibly relocates the migrated old aristocracy back to the old northern capital in Chang’an, and rules himself from Luyang. Thus, there’s a constant interchange of human capital between north and south.
However, reunification would require a reunification of the infrastructure of China. The Sui want to recreate the glory of the Han—that requires redoing the work of the Qin. Bringing southern revenue (the economic base) north was a major problem, as southern rice became the economic force of China. First, you must build canals to link the north and south to move grain. Behind all of this is a major change in Chinese economy and society that is usually hidden from view. Rice was not a big part of Chinese food until the Tang dynasty—it didn’t grow in the drier north. The basis of the economy shifts from millet and wheat to rice at this time, because rice more than doubles the yields of the grain. However, the standing water required to grow rice also breeds mosquitoes. Over time, the people become resistant to malaria, and choose foods to increase resistance.
Just as reunification exhausted the Qin over two emperors, the Sui lasted two emperors as well. The Sui tried to expand into Vietnam and Korea, but kept failing and trying again. From that, rebellion rose up uncorrected and an administrator was able to rise up and found the Tang dynasty. The Tang is considered a golden age because it contains the components we consider uniquely Chinese: Buddhism, Taoism, the southern economy, ties to non-Chinese groups, literati culture, and the examination system.
In the Han, you were recommended to office by a local who knew you to be evaluate for a position by higherups. In the period of disunity, you were born into one of nine ranks and stuck into a particular role based on your birth. The strategy was to slowly work up the rank of your family. In the Sui, since aristocracy was quite damaged, old aristocrats were on their was out. The Tang beefed up the civil service exam, making it the method of preference to put good people in high positions. You were tested on classical knowledge, and literary composition.
Chinese put their money into land and educating their children, as well as local religious institutions. Money given to the temple increases the family’s prestige. A family’s prestige allows them to build a library, hire tutors, bribe officials on the exams. That the exam system is a meritocracy is a myth—the reality is complicated by humans. It is popular because it allows the possibility of widening the pool for drawing up a meritocracy. It also allows the state to promulgate state values through exam preparations. Brainwashing! Cogs in the machine! Social harmony!
|This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 11th, 2006 at 5:35 pm and is tagged with yangtze river delta, river delta region, wetter climate, tang dynasty, yangtze river, southern ministers, military campaigns, south canal, class questions, glor, canal system, charismatic leader, reunification, wendi, central asia, zhou, harvests, aristocracy, warlords, princes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback.|