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Tag Archives: Ch’in

The Coming of the Mongols A.D.1135-1368

mongol

IN 1135, Hangchow became the capital of the Southern Sung. Thereafter, the Sung kept an uneasy peace with their unwelcome northern neighbours, the Chin. Then, out of Mongolia came the mighty Genghis Khan, whose warriors and their descendants were to spread terror across Asia into Christian Europe and the lands of Islam. Before he died in 1227, Genghis had crushed the Hsi Hsia and all but crushed the Chin. His son, Ogodai, made a treaty with the Sung emperor, and the Sung and Mongol armies together put an end to the Chin. This alliance with a barbarian power turned out just as disastrously for the Chinese as Hui Tsung’s alliance with the Chin. The Mongols moved south against the Sung. When Ogodai died in 1241, his son Mangu took command. When Mangu died in 1259, a year after his cousin Hulagu destroyed the Abbasid caliphate in faraway Baghdad, his brother Kublai carried on. The Sung army resisted bravely. Both sides used cannon and catapults — huge engines which hurled rocks and bombs in the same way a crossbow hurled arrows. Some catapults were so big it took a hundred men to operate them. If the Mongols had not had such weapons, they might have been stopped. Much of South China consisted of flooded rice fields and canals and cavalry warfare would have been difficult if not impossible. In 1276, Kublai took Hangchow. Next he took Canton. In 1279 his men destroyed the last ships of the Sung fleet. Soon after this, the despairing Sung emperor flung himself from a high Cliff into the sea. Long before his victory was complete, Kublai had picked a name for his dynasty. Earlier barbarian conquerors had taken the name of a region or of a famous Chinese dynasty of the past. Kublai did not …

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The Sung Dynasty: Barbarians Threaten the Empire A. D. 960 – 1279

sung

DURING THE turbulent Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms era, the main outside threat to China came, as usual, from the north. A tough Mongol people from Manchuria helped one of the Chinese Warlords conquer North China. In return, he let them settle around Peking. Some of them became farmers, but their nomadic habits of roving and fighting remained strong. From time to time they raided the North China Plain, striking terror into the hearts of the peasants. These troublesome people were called the Khitan. Another form of their name, Khitai, sounded like “Cathay” to European travelers who later came to China. Throughout the Middle Ages, China was known in Europe as Cathay. In 960, the ruler of north China sent his best general after the Khitan to teach them a lesson. Instead, the general seized power and proclaimed himself emperor. As founder of the Sung dynasty, he was later called T’ai Tsu, or “Great Beginner.” Before he died in 976, he conquered most of China. His brother T’ai Tsung — “Great Ancestor”– conquered the rest, except for the Khitan kingdom in the northeast. The Sung dynasty was to reign until 1279. A1though it started out boldly, it never became as powerful as the Han and T’ang dynasties. One reason was that the emperors deliberately kept their army commanders short of men and money to make sure they did not revolt. As a result, the empire was constantly menaced by barbarians. In the end, it was destroyed by them. For generations, the Sung emperors bought peace by bribing the Khitan and a northwestern barbarian nation called the Hsi Hsia. Then a third barbarian nation entered the picture. In 1114, Manchurian nomads who called themselves the Chin, meaning “Golden,” attacked the Khitan. Seeing a chance to recover the long-lost northeast territory, Emperor …

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China under the Han 206 B. C. – A. D. 221

han

THE vast East Asian land of China is named after its first family of emperors, the Ch’in. The Ch’in brought the country together under one government and built the Great Wall to keep out northern barbarians. They were in such a hurry to get things done, however, that they drove their subjects too hard and lost their support. In 206 B.C., after only a few years in power, they were overthrown. The Ch’in were replaced by an imperial family named Han. The Han dynasty ruled for two centuries before the time of Christ and then, after a break, for another two centuries. These two periods are called the Former Han and the Later Han. By the time the Han finally fell from power, the Chinese people all spoke the same language and used the same “idea-pictures,” made with brush-strokes, in writing. They had truly become a nation. To this day their descendants call themselves “men of Han.” The Former Han emperors took power away from rich landowners and gave it to officials who had passed difficult examinations in the teachings of Confucius, the great Chinese thinker and religious teacher. Their armies checked many attacks by wild herdsmen-warriors known as the Hsiung Nu, or Huns. As trade flourished, so did the painting of pictures, the composing of poems and the study of the classic Chinese writings of the past. Toward the end of their reign, however, the Former Han emperors had to surrender more and more power to the wealthy noblemen who owned the country’s richest farmlands. In A.D.8, a man named Wang Mang seized control of the empire. Although he was a nobleman himself, he set out to reform the unfair tax system which allowed aristocratic landowners to grow rich at the expense of the peasants and the government. He …

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