FOREIGN RELATIONS IN THE TANG DYNASTY
The Tang era marked a period of unprecedented military and political dominance of the Asian continent. The T'ang dynasty was one of the most militarily powerful of all the Chinese dynasties. It expanded the Chinese empire across the Great Wall of China and beyond the Himalayas. At its height, it administered much of present-day China and exerted control or received tributes from a dozen other kingdoms, including those in Korea, Tibet, Mongolia, Japan, Indonesia and most of Southeast Asia.
The Tang didn't build walls. They were skilled at dealing with the Central Asian tribes that challenged them, knowing when to use diplomacy and when to go to war. The fact they were part Turkish, the ethnicity of many of the Central Asian tribes that threatened them, also helped The Tang dynasty period was a relatively peaceful phase in Chinese history. The other major power center during the Tang Dynasty was Baghdad, the home of the Muslim Abbasid dynasty. Robust trade between the two empires took place on the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road. Important ports included present-day Guangzhou in China and present-day Basra in Iraq. In the ninth century an estimated 10,000 foreign traders and merchants lived in Guangzhou, many of them Arabs and Persians.
Advances to the West by the Tang Dynasty were slowed by the Turks in the late 7th century. In 751, in the Battle of Talas, Tang Chinese forces attempting to extend the Chinese empire into Central Asia but were annihilated by a Muslim army not far from Samarkand in present-day Uzbekistan. The defeat kept the Chinese out of Central Asia and opened up Central Asia and Western China to Islam. From even further west, a tribute embassy came to the court of Taizong in 643 from the Patriarch of Antioch.
With its large population base, the dynasty was able to raise professional and conscripted armies of hundreds of thousands of troops to contend with nomadic powers in dominating Inner Asia and the lucrative trade routes along the Silk Road. Various kingdoms and states paid tribute to the Tang court, while the Tang also conquered or subdued several regions which it indirectly controlled through a protectorate system. Besides political hegemony, the Tang also exerted a powerful cultural influence over neighboring states such as those in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. [Source: Wikipedia +]
The 7th and first half of the 8th century are generally considered to be the era in which the Tang reached the zenith of its power. In this period, Tang control extended further west than any previous dynasty, stretching from north Vietnam in the south, to a point north of Kashmir bordering Persia in the west, to northern Korea in the north-east. of the kingdoms paying tribute to the Tang dynasty included Kashmir, Nepal, Khotan, Kucha, Kashgar, Korea, Champa, and kingdoms located in Amu Darya and Syr Darya valley. Turkic nomads addressed the Emperor of Tang China as Tian Kehan. After the widespread Göktürk revolt of Shabolüe Khan (d. 658) was put down at Issyk Kul in 657 by Su Dingfang (591–667), Emperor Gaozong established several protectorates governed by a Protectorate General or Grand Protectorate General, which extended the Chinese sphere of influence as far as Herat in Western Afghanistan. Protectorate Generals were given a great deal of autonomy to handle local crises without waiting for central admission. After Xuanzong's reign, military governors (jiedushi) were given enormous power, including the ability to maintain their own armies, collect taxes, and pass their titles on hereditarily. This is commonly recognized as the beginning of the fall of Tang's central government. +
Good Websites and Sources on the Tang Dynasty: Wikipedia ; Google Book: China’s Golden Age: Everday Life in the Tang Dynasty by Charles Benn books.google.com/books; Empress Wu womeninworldhistory.com ; Good Websites and Sources on Tang Culture: Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org ; Tang Poems etext.lib.virginia.edu enter Tang Poems in the search; Chinese History: Chinese Text Project ctext.org ; 3) Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization depts.washington.edu ; Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia Books: “Daily Life in Traditional China: The Tang Dynasty”by Charles Benn, Greenwood Press, 2002; "Cambridge History of China" Vol. 3 (Cambridge University Press); "The Culture and Civilization of China", a massive, multi-volume series, (Yale University Press); "Chronicle of the Chinese Emperor" by Ann Paludan.
Foreigners and Foreign Settlements in Tang China
According to Silk Road Foundation: Tang dynasty China was like a magnet of culture to all the peoples around her, who came to her to learn all that a great civilization could offer. The most important foreign visitors to Tang were the envoys, the clerics, and the merchants, representing the great interests of politics, religion, and commerce. Among them the most famous was probably the envoy Peroz, son of King Yazdgard III and scion of the Sasanids, a client of the Chinese sovereign in the 7th century. [Source: “Exoticism in Tang (618-907), Silkroad Foundation”, Silk Road Foundation silk-road.com ==]
“Most of the foreigners who came to China during Tang dynasty were Turks, Uighurs, Tocharians, Sogdians, and the Jews in the north comparing to the Chams, Khmers, Javanese, and Singhalese who crowded the south. In both places, however, there were many Arabs, Persian, and Indians. The Iranian population must have been most important that the Tang government even had an office "of the Sarthavak" (literally, "of the Caravan Leader") to watch over their interests. ==
“With the establishment of the Islamic empire in the 7th century, the inflow increased, and the newcomers were mostly Arabs. Some of the foreigners came to trade, made a profit, and returned home; others settled permanently in the cities in China. Within each of these cities, foreigners lived in segregated quarters, and from them the city government selected a respected or influential man as their chief. The Arabs constituted the largest number of foreigners in residence, and very often the chief was an Arab. Most foreigners adopted Chinese manners and habits. If a foreign committed a crime against his own countrymen, the customary law of his native land would apply; if the crime were committed against a man of a different nationality or a Chinese, the Chinese law would prevail. Intermarriage with Chinese was allowed and many foreigners did marry Chinese women; they were not allowed, however, to take their Chinese wives back to their home countries. ==
“In general, Chinese and foreigners interacted peacefully until the 9th century when Uighur traders started conflicts with Chinese. The public resentment against foreigners became clear when a law was passed in 779 to compelled 1000 Uighurs resident in Ch'ang-an to wear their own native custom and forbade them to marry Chinese or to pass themselves off as Chinese in any way at all. Popular feeling against them mounted until finally in 836, all private intercourse with foreigners was prohibited. In 845 all foreign religions were persecuted.” ==
Tang Empire and Tibet
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 Tang decades of diplomatic effort before they attained, in 699, their aim of breaking up the Tibetans' realm and destroying their power. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]
In 641, the Tang's princess Wenchen married Tibetan king Songtsan Gambo (d. 649). Chinese culture began to infiltrate among the Tibetans. In 670, Tibetans took over the kingdoms in the Tarim basin in present-day Xinjiang that included Kucha, Karashar, Kashgar and Khotan — the "Four Garrisons" of the Chinese. In 692 — Wu Tse-tien, Tang's female emperor, recovered the Tarim basin and won back the "Four Garrisons". The Tang captured a vital Silk Road route through the Gilgit Valley in present-day Pakistan from Tibet in 722, lost it to the Tibetans in 737, and regained it under the command of the Korean General Gao Xianzhi. [Sources: Silk Road Foundation. Wikipedia]
From the A.D. 7th century, Chinese historians referred to Tibet as Tubo. The first externally confirmed contact with the Tibetan kingdom in recorded Tibetan history occurred when King Namri Löntsän (Gnam-ri-slon-rtsan) sent an ambassador to China in the early 7th century. At the beginning of the 7th century, King Songtsan Gambo began to rule the whole of Tibet and made "Losha" (today's Lhasa) the capital. He designated official posts, defined military and administrative areas, created the Tibetan script, formulated laws and unified weights and measures, thus establishing the feudal kingdom known as "Bo," which was called "Tubo" (“Tupo) in Chinese historical documents. [Source: China.org china.org |]
According to the Chinese government: “After the Tubo regime was established, the Tibetans increased their political, economic and cultural exchanges with the Han and other ethnic groups in China. The Kingdom of Tibet began to have frequent contacts with the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and the Tibetan and Han peoples got on well with each other. In 641, King Songzan Gambo married Princess Wencheng (d. 680) of the Tang Dynasty. In 710, King Chide Zuzain married another Tang princess, Jin Cheng. The two princesses brought with them the culture and advanced production techniques of Central China to Tibet. From that time on, emissaries traveled frequently between the Tang Dynasty and Tibet. The Tibetans sent students to Changan, capital of the Tang Dynasty, and invited Tang scholars and craftsmen to Tibet. These exchanges helped promote relations between the Tibetans and other ethnic groups in China and stimulated social development in Tibet. The Tubo Kingdom began to decline in 842 and was finally replaced by the Guge Kingdom. |
The Tang Empire competed with the Tibetan Empire for control of areas in Inner and Central Asia,which was at times settled with marriage alliances such as the marrying of Princess Wencheng (d. 680) to Songtsän Gampo (d. 649). A Tibetan tradition mentions that Chinese troops captured Lhasa after Songtsän Gampo's death, but no such invasion is mentioned in either Chinese annals or the Tibetan manuscripts of Dunhuang. There was a long string of conflicts with Tibet over territories in the Tarim Basin between 670–692, and in 763 the Tibetans even captured the capital of China, Chang'an, for fifteen days during the An Shi Rebellion. In fact, it was during this rebellion that the Tang withdrew its western garrisons stationed in what is now Gansu and Qinghai, which the Tibetans then occupied along with the territory of what is now Xinjiang. Hostilities between the Tang and Tibet continued until they signed a formal peace treaty in 821. The terms of this treaty, including the fixed borders between the two countries, are recorded in a bilingual inscription on a stone pillar outside the Jokhang temple in Lhasa. [Source: Wikipedia]
Tang Empire Versus Turkic People to The North and West
The Sui and Tang carried out very successful military campaigns against the steppe nomads. Chinese foreign policy to the north and west now had to deal with Turkic nomads, who were becoming the most dominant ethnic group in Central Asia.To handle and avoid any threats posed by the Turks, the Sui government repaired fortifications and received their trade and tribute missions. They sent royal princesses off to marry Turkic clan leaders, a total of four of them in 597, 599, 614, and 617. The Sui stirred trouble and conflict amongst ethnic groups against the Turks. As early as the Sui dynasty, the Turks had become a major militarized force employed by the Chinese. When the Khitans began raiding northeast China in 605, a Chinese general led 20,000 Turks against them, distributing Khitan livestock and women to the Turks as a reward. On two occasions between 635 and 636, Tang royal princesses were married to Turk mercenaries or generals in Chinese service. Throughout the Tang dynasty until the end of 755, there were approximately ten Turkic generals serving under the Tang. While most of the Tang army was made of fubing Chinese conscripts, the majority of the troops led by Turkic generals were of non-Chinese origin, campaigning largely in the western frontier where the presence of fubing troops was low. Some "Turkic" troops were nomadisized Han Chinese, a desinicized people. [Source: Wikipedia +]
Civil war in China was almost totally diminished by 626, along with the defeat in 628 of the Ordos Chinese warlord Liang Shidu; after these internal conflicts, the Tang began an offensive against the Turks. In the year 630, Tang armies captured areas of the Ordos Desert, modern-day Inner Mongolia province, and southern Mongolia from the Turks. After this military victory, Emperor Taizong won the title of Great Khan amongst the various Turks in the region who pledged their allegiance to him and the Chinese empire (with several thousand Turks traveling into China to live at Chang'an). On June 11, 631, Emperor Taizong also sent envoys to the Xueyantuo bearing gold and silk in order to persuade the release of enslaved Chinese prisoners who were captured during the transition from Sui to Tang from the northern frontier; this embassy succeeded in freeing 80,000 Chinese men and women who were then returned to China. +
While the Turks were settled in the Ordos region (former territory of the Xiongnu), the Tang government took on the military policy of dominating the central steppe. Like the earlier Han dynasty, the Tang dynasty (along with Turkic allies) conquered and subdued Central Asia during the 640s and 650s. During Emperor Taizong's reign alone, large campaigns were launched against not only the Göktürks, but also separate campaigns against the Tuyuhun, the Xiyu states, and the Xueyantuo. Under Emperor Gaozong, a campaign led by the general Su Dingfang was launched against the Western Turks ruled by Ashina Helu. +
During the Islamic conquest of Persia (633–656), the son of the last ruler of the Sassanid Empire, Prince Pirooz, fled to Tang China. According to the Old Book of Tang, Pirooz was made the head of a Governorate of Persia in what is now Zaranj, Afghanistan. During this conquest of Persia, the Islamic Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan (r. 644–656) sent an embassy to the Tang court at Chang'an. By the 740s, the Arabs of Khurasan had established a presence in the Fergana basin and in Sogdiana.
Tang Policy Towards the Turks
Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: “The foreign policy of this first period of the Tang, 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 Tang 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 Tang, 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 Tang. The Tang 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. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]
Suddenly, however, for reasons not disclosed by the Chinese sources, the Turks withdrew, and the Tang 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 Eastern 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-yu-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 Tang.
“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 Tölös Turks with a large army, with which they turned once more against Turkestan in 647-48, and now definitely established their rule there.
Battle of Talas
In 751, Chinese forces of the Tang dynasty attempting the extend Chinese control into Central Asia were annihilated by the Muslim army of the Baghdad-based Abbasid Empire, in Talas not far from Samarkand. The defeat of the Chinese gave Muslims control of much of the Silk Road.
As China became strong during the Tang dynasty it began expanding westward, for the most part relying more on diplomatic skills than military might to achieve its goals. The strategy worked well until one Chinese viceroy went too far and ordered the murder of the khan of the Tashkent Turks.
In 751 an alliance of enraged Turks, opportunist Arabs and Tibetans maneuvered a Chinese force into the Talas Valley in present-day Kazakhstan and Kyrzgzstan. In the ensuing battle — the Battle of Talas —Qarluq mercenaries under the Chinese defected, helping the Arab armies of the Islamic Caliphate to defeat the Tang force under commander Gao Xianzhi. The Chinese were routed and forced back across the Tian Shan. Tibetans moving up from the south were driven out of the Tarim basin by Uighur Turks, allies of the Tang. The Uighars have been in the region ever since.
The Battle of Talas, ended Chinese ambitions in Central Asia. After the battle, the Turk, Arab and Tibetans splintered and instability was the rule in Central Asia until the 9th century when the Samanid dynasty rose up. It also marked the spread of Chinese papermaking into regions west of China as captured Chinese soldiers revealed secrets of Chinese papermaking to the Arabs. These techniques ultimately reached Europe by the 12th century through Arab-controlled Spain. [Source: Wikipedia +]
Although they had fought at Talas, on June 11, 758, an Abbasid embassy arrived at Chang'an simultaneously with the Uyghur Turks bearing gifts for the Tang Emperor. In 788–9 the Chinese concluded a military alliance with the Uighur Turks who twice defeated the Tibetans, in 789 near the town of Kuch'eng in Jungharia, and in 791 near Ning-hsia on the Yellow River. +
Major Events of the Tang in Central Asia
626 — Eastern Turks from Outer Mongolia crossed the Gobi and advanced on Ch'ang-an led by Turkish leader, Hsieh-li Kaghan. They failed to take the capital and asked for peace with Tang. [Source: “Exoticism in Tang (618-907), Silkroad Foundation”, Silk Road Foundation silk-road.com ]
629-644 — Xuan Zang, a Buddhist pilgrim, traveled the Silk Road to India.
630-682 — Khanate of the Eastern Turks remained subject to China.
632 — Khotan surrended to Tang in 632 and the king sent his son to serve the Tang's imperial guard in 635.
640 — Turfan revolted and defeated by Tai-tsung's army.
643 — Tai-tsung sent an ambassador to India to the emperor Harcha.
644 — The general Kuo Ksiao-ke led Tang army and conquered Karashar.
646-648 — Kucha allied with Karashar against Tang, but failed.
665 — the Western Turks came out in open rebellion.
706 — The Turks of Mongolia led by Kultegin continued their ravages and won a great victory against the Chinese at Ning-hsia.
709 — The Arabs imposed their suzerainty ont he kings of Bukhara and Samarkand.
712-714 — The Arabs reached Tashkent and penetrated into Fergana.
714 — Tang won a victory near Tokmak over the Western Turks.
715 — Tang army entered Fergana and drove away the Arabs.
716 — Bekchor (Mo-chueh), ruler of the Mongolian Turks, was killed and his head sent to the Chinese court.
721-722 — Bekchor's nephew, Bilga Kaghan made brief peace with Tang.
736-744 — Tang won further victories against various rebellious Turkish khans in the Ili Valley, south of Lake Balkhash.
743-744 — Mongolian Turks was overthrown by Uighurs Turks, who established their headquarters on the upper Orkhon, where their capital occupied the present site of Karabalghasun -- "the black city" -- near the present day Karakorum. The Uighurs were later to prove faithful allies of the Tang.
747 — Kuo Tzu-i, a Korean in the service of Tang's court, established a Chinese protectorate over Gilgit.
748 — A Chinese temple was built at Tokmak. Karashar, Kucha, Khoan and Kashgar once more became faithful vassals to Tang.
750 — Kuo Tzu-i's army helped Tokharestan (Balkh) against Tibetans.
751 — Kuo Tzu-i army was annihilated on the banks of the Talas, near present day Aulie Ata, by the united Turkish and Arab forces. The battle decided the fate of Central Asia; instead of becoming Chinese, it was to become Muslim.
756 — An Lu-shan revolted and occupied Ch'ang-an on July 18.
757 — With the help of Uighurs, emperor Su-tsung restored Ch'ang-an and Loyang.
762 — Second rebel captured Loyang a second time. The ruler of the Uighurs himself came down from Mongolia with his cavalry and saved Tang.
762-840 — Several Tang princesses were sent to the Uighur court in marraige.
840 — The Uighurs were overthrown by the Kirghiz Turks.
Infusion of Turkic-Mongols Into China
Ping-Ti Ho wrote: “For a proper historical perspective, one should search deeper into the significance of the system of “Heavenly Khan.” Rawski, relying entirely on Pamela Crossley, contends that the origin of the “Khan of Khans” must be sought in Chinggis Khan and that “the ‘Khan of Khans’ was not a Chinese emperor” (Rawski 1996, 835). As is shown above, the archetypal Khan of Khans was the T’ang emperor T’ai-tsung’s “Heavenly Khanate.” E. G. Pulleyblank explains it best: “It established a separate basis of legitimacy for his rule beyond the Great Wall, with its roots in nomad conditions, and was not simply an extension of universalist claims by a Chinese Son of Heaven. Moreover, it had as its corollary the assumption, quite contrary to Chinese traditional attitudes, of the equality of barbarian and Chinese as subjects. This was a point ofview consciously maintained and expressed by T’ai-tsung” (Pulleyblank 1976, 38). Needless to say, T’ang T’ai-tsung’s legitimacy as the Chinese emperor was never questioned, while later “Khan of Khans” such as Kublai or Ch’ien-Iung, being “resident alien” in China, had to devise various political, institutional, cultural, and ideological means to legitimize their rulership in China. On the other hand, while later Tibetan Lamaist Buddhism could make Kublai or Ch’ien-Iung “God” incarnate (Franke 1978, esp. 77-79), T’ang T’ai-tsung’s Heavenly Khanate was a secular institution, though not devoid of cosmological meaning. [Source: Excerpted from Ping-Ti Ho, “In Defense of Sinicization: A Rebuttal of Evelyn Rawski’s “Reenvisioning the Qing,” ” The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 123-155 ]
“A different kind of acculturation took place in the heavily garrisoned northern border areas. It is beyond the scope of this essay to outline the evolution of the T’ang army system. Suffice it here to point out that, with the impending collapse of the Chinese peasant army (ju-ping) system and its inevitable replacement by a professional polyglot mercenary army, soon after 700 there was the need to merge several normal provinces into one large military region for better coordination and efficiency. In order to check the power of the newly instituted military governors, the T’ang court finally decided to fill such posts only with non-Chinese ethnics of humble social origin on the theory that such men did not have political ambition. Consequently, in 742 An Lu-shan (d. 757), a Sogdian fluent in six steppe languages and dialects who was also a courtier, emerged as the most powerful of the northern military governors, with much of modern Hopei and southern Manchuria under his command. Although the great rebellion (755-62) he launched ended in failure, the T’ang court could never regain effective control of the northeastern provinces, which remained in the hands of virtually “hereditary” warlords, mostly of non-Chinese origins. The extent to which people of this northeastern region had undergone the process of “barbarization” may be reflected in the fact that henceforth they identified themselves more with the memories of An Lu-shan and his warlord successors than with later T’ang emperors (Ch’en [1942}; 1997,1:179-200). Defying the national trend that literary attainments procured more and more social prestige, people in this northeastern region still valued such qualities as physical prowess and personal valor that make up good soldiery.
Other statistics, facts, and facets relevant to the study of sinicization up to and including T’ang times are either illuminating or self-explanatory. The author of the phonetic dictionary Ch’ieh-yun, Lu Fa-yen, who completed this landmark work late in the sixth century, was a member of an aristocratic Hsien-pei family. China’s greatest romantic poet, Li Po (? 705-62), was brought to Sichuan in his early boyhood by his Central Asian merchant father. More revealingly, the three lifelong friends and leading poets of late T’ang were all of non-Chinese ethnic origins: Po Chu-i (772-846), Yuan Chen (779-831), and Liu Yu-hsi (772-842) were respectively of Central Asian, Hsien-pei, and Hun (Hsiung-nu) descent. During Sui and early T’ang, the great architect Yu-wen K’ai was of mixed Hsiung-nu and Hsienpei descent. His contemporary, the architect Ho Ch’ou, who was commissioned to do the initial planning for the metropolitan Ch’ang-an (Ta-hsing in Sui times) area, was the grandson of a Sogdian merchant from Central Asia. Mi Fu (1051-1107), a great calligrapher and father of the splash-ink school of landscape painting, is very likely to have been of Sogdian descent too (Yao 1962, passim). [Source: Excerpted from Ping-Ti Ho, “In Defense of Sinicization: A Rebuttal of Evelyn Rawski’s “Reenvisioning the Qing,” ” The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 123-155 ]
Korea and Tang Dynasty China
In the east, the Chinese military campaigns were less successful than elsewhere. Like the emperors of the Sui dynasty before him, Taizong established a military campaign in 644 against the kingdom of Koguryo in present-day Korea in the Koguryo-Tang War; however, this led to its withdrawal in the first campaign because they failed to overcome the successful defense led by General Yeon Gaesomun. [Source: Wikipedia +]
In August 663, forces from T'ang China and Silla ( a kingdom in southern Korea) defeated a united force from Yamato Japan and Paekche (a kingdom in northern Korea) in the Battle of Baekgang. Wa (Japanese) and Paekche forces were defeated at the Paekchon River (Hakusukinoe or Hakusonk in Japanese) in the decisive Tang–Silla victory. Silla had made an alliance with Emperor Ganzong of Tang China, with the strategy of defeating Paekche and then attacking Koguryo simultaneously from both north and south in order to unify the Korean peninsula. Paekche was defeated in 660 by a combination of Chinese forces and Silla forces despite a strong last minute resistance by Paekche Prince Pung, who had returned from Japan. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com]
The Tang dynasty navy had several different ship types at its disposal to engage in naval warfare, these ships described by Li Quan in his Taipai Yinjing (Canon of the White and Gloomy Planet of War) of 759. The Battle of Baekgang was actually a restoration movement by remnant forces of Baekje, since their kingdom was toppled in 660 by a joint Tang–Silla invasion, led by Chinese general Su Dingfang and Korean general Kim Yushin (595–673). In another joint invasion with Silla, the Tang army severely weakened the Koguryo Kingdom in the north by taking out its outer forts in the year 645. +
In 667, Silla and Tang armies under commander Li Shiji (594–669) successfully invaded Koguryo and destroyed the Kingdom of Koguryo. From 668 to 676, the Tang Empire controlled northern Korea. However, in 671 Silla began fighting the Tang forces there. At the same time the Tang faced threats on its western border when a large Chinese army was defeated by the Tibetans on the Dafei River in 670. Silla fought the Chinese army in a series of battles in the region of the Han river basis and eventually drove back the Chinese in 676. The success of Silla against the Chinese allowed the independent development of the unified Korean kingdoms. +
Although they were formerly enemies, the Tang accepted officials and generals of Koguryo into their administration and military, such as the brothers Yeon Namsaeng (634–679) and Yeon Namsan (639–701). By 676, the Tang army was driven out of Korea by Unified Silla. Following a revolt of the Eastern Turks in 679, the Tang abandoned its Korean campaigns. After independence from China, Silla established peaceful diplomatic relations with the Tang period Chinese bringing an end to armed conflict so that many monks and students were able to travel to Tang China to study Buddhism or Confucian scholarship. The Silla capital, the layout of which was based on Tang Dynasty Changan grew in splendor after unification. Many new temples and pleasure grounds for aristocrats and courtiers were built. These developments had a deep impact on Japan. Artefacts from the tomb mound No. 126 at Niizawa Senzuka Kofun in Nara prefecture (including exotic Persian glass items thought to be of Parthian or Sassanian manufacture) are said to show the strong influence of Silla. +
Japan and Tang Dynasty China
Conditions in China became be better known in Japan through the medium of Japanese envoys to the Sui and Tang capitals as Sui and Tang power began to extend into Korea,. In 630, the first delegation from Nara-era Japan was sent to Tang China. In August 663, forces from T'ang China and Silla (a kingdom in southern Korea) defeated a united force from Yamato Japan and Paekche (a kingdom in northern Korea) in the Battle of Baekgang. Wa (Japanese) and Paekche forces were defeated at the Paekchon River (Hakusukinoe or Hakusonk in Japanese) in the decisive Tang–Silla victory.
Although the Tang had fought the Japanese, they still held cordial relations with Japan. There were numerous Imperial embassies to China from Japan, diplomatic missions that were not halted until 894 by Emperor Uda (r. 887–897). The Japanese Emperor Temmu (r. 672–686) established his conscripted army and state ceremonies on the Chinese model, and constructed his palace at Fujiwara on the Chinese model of architecture. [Source: Wikipedia]
The early political and economical structures of Japan were based on the Taiho Code (Taiho Ritsuryo) of 701. The code consisted of six volumes of penal law (ritsu) and 11 volumes of administrative law (ryo), modeled after the legal code of China’s Tang Dynasty (618-907). Wado Kaichin coins, first minted starting in A.D. 708, making them the oldest official Japanese coinage, were inspired by the Tang coinage named Kaigentsuho, first minted in Chang'an in A.D. 621. The Wado Kaichin had the same specifications as the Chinese coin, with a diameter of 2.4 centimeters and a weight of 3.75 grams.
The Taika Reforms of 645 were a political movement to restore power to the Imperial family from a powerful clan. The Taika reforms attempted to centralize much of Japan according to Chinese Tang Dynasty bureaucratic models and philosophical values. The reforms failed because of the desire of some major clans to go their own way. Although it did not constitute a legal code, the Taika Reform (Taika means great change) mandated a series of reforms that established the ritsuryo system of social, fiscal, and administrative mechanisms of the seventh to tenth centuries. Ritsu was a code of penal laws, while ry was an administrative code. Combined, the two terms came to describe a system of patrimonial rule based on an elaborate legal code that emerged from the Taika Reform. [Source: Library of Congress *]
During the 660s, large numbers of Korean immigrants entered Japan following the Tang invasions of Korea. We know this both from references in the Nihon shoki (an ancient Japanese historyical document) as well as from the Korean styles and methods indicated in architecture, art and artefacts of the time. The immigrants came in two waves, one in 663 from Paekche and another in 668 from Koguryo. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com]
China and Nara-Era Japan
The Nara period is characterized by the maturing of the ritsuryo system of government, inspired by the Chinese model, as well as the adoption of many other aspects of Chinese culture and technology. Delegations of Chinese and Japanese diplomats, envoys and representatives traveled on Japanese-made, double-masted Kentoshi ships between Japan and Tang dynasty China from A.D. 630 and 894. The ships were sturdy 30-meter-long ocean-going vessels with a 15-meter-high main masts and squarish bows that looked like car ramps. What the envoys learned while they were in China had a great impact on Japan.
Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan. Modeled after Changan, the capital of Tang Dynasty China, the city was divided into western capital and eastern capitals, which together measured 4.9 kilometers from north to south and 4.3 kilometers from east to west. Geyoko, an extension of the eastern side of the eastern capital was 2.1 kilometers from north to south and 1.6 kilometers from east to west. Changan was designed to be cosmically aligned with the heavens, a cosmic worldview inherited by Japan during the Nara period. Kyoto was also modeled on Chang’an.
Aileen Kawagoe wrote in Heritage of Japan: From the 8th century to 9th century, Japan was greatly influenced by China and its cosmopolitan civilization at Changan and Luoyang. At this time, Japan already had in place a sophisticated centralized bureaucracy and legal system. The imperial government had in the previous era established the legal Taiho Ritsuryo or the Taiho Code. [Source: Heritage Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com]
The latest Tang dynasty fashions and culture were believed to have been brought to Japan by Japanese envoys to the dynasty and used in various items decorating the court. Commenting on the presence of feathers on Nara-era clothing in Japan, Akio Donohashi, professor emeritus at Kobe University said, “Clothes decorated with feathers were all the rage in the Tang dynasty court. I believe the dynasty’s latest trends were imported to Japan,” said.”
Buddhism Arrives in Japan From Tang-Era China
Many Chinese Buddhist monks came to Japan to help further the spread of Buddhism there. Two 7th-century monks in particular, Zhi Yu and Zhi You, visited the court of Emperor Tenji (r. 661–672), whereupon they presented a gift of a south-pointing chariot that they had crafted. This 3rd century mechanically driven directional-compass vehicle (employing a differential gear) was again reproduced in several models for Tenji in 666, as recorded in the Nihon Shoki of 720. [Source: Wikipedia]
Aileen Kawagoe wrote in Heritage of Japan: ““During the Nara period the power and influence of Buddhism grew under the supervision of Buddhist monks who had studied in and returned from Tang China. Temples in Japan accumulated vast landholdings during this era, their priests gained tremendous political influence (particularly during the reigns of Emperor Shomu and Empress Shotoku). Buddhism in Japan had the stamp of Tang control: ten Buddhist masters who had studied in Tang China as well as the superintendents placed in charge of temple property, extended state control over all Buddhist matters. With the burgeoning numbers of worshippers and clergy, many temples had to be constructed. There were about two hundred temples at the beginning of the period but over a thousand at the end of it. Thus Buddhism gained official recognition as the state religion, and the network of Buddhist temples served to buttress the authority of the central state. [Source: Heritage Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com]
Japanese monks also visited China; such was the case with Ennin (794–864), who wrote of his travel experiences including travels along China's Grand Canal. The Japanese monk Enchin (814–891) stayed in China from 839 to 847 and again from 853 to 858, landing near Fuzhou, Fujian and setting sail for Japan from Taizhou, Zhejiang during his second trip to China. Kukai (774-835) was a Japanese envoy to Tang Dynasty China in 804. During a two-year stay in China he studied esoteric Buddhism; upon returning to Japan, he devoted himself to systemizing and spreading its teachings.
Tang-Era Stele and the What it Says About Korea
On a Tang-Era boulder-like stele taken from China to Japan, Jane Perlez and Bree Feng wrote in the New York Times, “Historians from China and Japan had puzzled over its significance. An inscription with 29 Chinese characters mentions a Tang emissary, Cui Xin, who gave instructions for two wells to be dug... While hardly a thing of beauty, it carries considerable historical significance, because it shows the northern reach of the Tang dynasty. A Chinese historian who has devoted 20 years to the study of the stele, Wang Renfu, says the stele is important because it shows that Cui Xin had gone to the region around Lushun, then known as Bohai (and Balhae in Korean), to establish China's sovereignty over the people there."Source: Jane Perlez and Bree Feng, New York Times, August 21, 2014 ==]
“But interpretations of the overlapping histories of China, Japan and Korea are rarely simple: They are often at the root of emotional, and even strategic, squabbles among the countries today. In the case of the stele, the Koreans have an important role, said an American scholar of Asian art, James C.Y. Watt, former chairman of the department of Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Modern-day Koreans say that the people of Bohai were successors to Koguryo, one of the three ancient kingdoms of Korea, Mr. Watt said. Japanese archaeologists excavated the Bohai sites in the 1930s, and many of the artifacts they found are now in the National Museum of Korea in Seoul. Korean scholars would probably not be happy if the stele ended up in China, he said. “Since the 13th century, the area has been part of China," Mr. Watt said, “but at the time of the stele, it was not." ==
“Jesse Sloane, assistant professor of East Asian studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, agrees. “The Tang empire didn't have effective control that far north thanks to Bohai/Balhae/Parhae control of the region," he said. (Parhae is another name used by Koreans for the region.) “This stele is one of very few, perhaps the only object found in the area that contains text explicitly mentioning the Tang." ==
“But some Chinese academics have been waging a campaign to prove that the ancient kingdoms of Korea were actually part of China. In 2002, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences began a five-year “Northeast Project” that sought to compile the historical evidence. “Requesting the stele fits that initiative perfectly," Mr. Sloane said. Mr. Wang, the historian, said he recognized that the Chinese argument that the stele rightfully belonged to China would run into objections in South Korea. “Sovereignty issues are sensitive," he said. ==
Chinese Group Calls on Japan to Return Tang-Era Stele
On a Tang-Era stele taken from China to Japan, Jane Perlez and Bree Feng wrote in the New York Times, “At some point between 1906 and 1908 — no one is sure precisely when — the Japanese military removed a nine-ton Tang dynasty stele from Lushun, the northeastern city also known then as Port Arthur, and shipped it to Tokyo, a trophy of Japan's victory over the Russians in 1905. Imperial Palace records, uncovered by Japanese researchers, show that the 1,300-year-old Honglujing Stele was proudly received on April 30, 1908. It has remained sequestered there ever since, available for the viewing pleasure of only the emperor and his household. Photos provided by the palace to a Japanese peace group a few years ago show what resembles a large boulder nestled in the vast gardens of the palace, sheltered from the weather by an elegant pavilion that was looted along with the stele. [Source: Jane Perlez and Bree Feng, New York Times, August 21, 2014 ==]
“Now a Chinese organization that campaigns for recompense from the Japanese government for suffering inflicted on the Chinese during World War II wants the stele back. Last week, the head of the China Federation of Demanding Compensation From Japan, Tong Zeng, told the Chinese state news media that Japan should return the stele. In an interview in Beijing, Mr. Tong insisted that his organization was not affiliated with the Chinese government or acting on its behalf, although it seems clear that if the authorities did not approve his request, it could not proceed. ==
“In contrast to some of the other disputes with Japan the federation's request for the stele is polite in tone, though still politically charged. In August 2005 — months after anti-Japanese demonstrations erupted across China, partly over historical issues — scholars from both countries met in Dalian, the city that now encompasses Lushun, to exchange views on the stele, Mr. Wang said. In the process, he said, he learned of the document stored at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo that records the date of the stele's arrival. ==
“The demand for an object that is in Japanese hands but also of significance to Koreans would appear in line with current efforts by Beijing to stir antagonisms between Japan and South Korea on strategic issues. Could there be a hidden hand of the Chinese government in pushing for the stele's return? Mr. Tong, the head of the Chinese federation, said no. Mr. Wang also denied such political motives. ==
“Mr. Wang said he believed that eventually the stele would return to China with the good will of the Japanese. As a start, he said, the Chinese scholars meeting with their Japanese counterparts in 2005 had suggested that the stele be removed from the Imperial Palace to a place where the public could view it. “Because it's not only we Chinese who cannot see the stele," he said, “but the Japanese people as well." ==
Vietnam Under Tang Dynasty China (618-907)
The Chinese had occupied parts of Vietnam since 111 B.C.. For the Tang dynasty, Chiao Chih (Vietnam) was not only a colony for exploitation, but also a starting point for expansion into Southeast Asia. In A.D. 679, they instituted the "Protectorate of Annam (Pacified South)"; the term then came to be used for tile country itself. The Tang dynasty extended their administrative network to cover villages and mountainous regions; the annual tribute to the Court and the various taxes, cover and duties were increased. However agriculture and handicrafts in particular, continued to develop, as well as land, river and maritime communications. The three doctrines -Confucianism, Taoism, and notably Buddhism - spread nationwide, without doing away with local beliefs. The veneration of local genies, often patriots or founders of villages, remained widespread. In order to stifle deep-rooted national sentiment, the Chinese imperialists used geomancy in an attempt to drain the "veins of the dragon" running through Vietnamese soi resulting in resistance from the people. In society, more and more of those obtaining high positions in the administration through education or bribery were those who obtained important domains. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]
The Chinese Tang dynasty (618-907) instituted a series of administrative reforms culminating in 679 in the reorganization of Vietnamese territory as the Protectorate of Annam (or Pacified South), a name later used by the French to refer to central Vietnam. The Tang dynastic period was a time of heavy Chinese influence, particularly in Giao Chau Province (in 203 the district of Giao Chi, had been elevated to provincial status and was renamed Giao Chou), which included the densely populated Red River plain. The children of ambitious, aristocratic families acquired a classical Confucian education, as increased emphasis was placed on the Chinese examination system for training local administrators. As a result, literary terms dating from the Tang dynasty constitute the largest category of Chinese loan words in modern Vietnamese. Despite the stress placed on Chinese literature and learning, Vietnamese, enriched with Chinese literary terms, remained the language of the people, while Chinese was used primarily as an administrative language by a small elite. During the Tang era, Giao Chau Province also became the center of a popular style of Buddhism based on spirit cults, which evolved as the dominant religion of Vietnam after the tenth century. Buddhism, along with an expanding sea trade, linked Vietnam more closely with South and Southeast Asia as Buddhist pilgrims traveled to India, Sumatra, and Java aboard merchant vessels laden with silk, cotton, paper, ivory, pearls, and incense. [Source: Library of Congress *]
As Tang imperial power became more corrupt and oppressive during the latter part of the dynasty, rebellion flared increasingly, particularly among the minority peoples in the mountain and border regions. Although the Viet culture of Giao Chau Province, as it developed under Tang hegemony, depended upon Chinese administration to maintain order, there was growing cultural resistance to the Tang in the border regions. A revolt among the Muong people, who are closely related to the central Vietnamese, broke out in the early eighth century. The rebels occupied the capital at Tong Binh (Hanoi), driving out the Tang governor and garrison, before being defeated by reinforcements from China. Some scholars mark this as the period of final separation of the Muong peoples from the central. *
Vietnamese, which linguistic evidence indicates took place near the end of the Tang dynasty. In the mid-ninth century, Tai minority rebels in the border regions recruited the assistance of Nan-chao, a Tai mountain kingdom in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan, which seized control of Annam in 862. Although the Tang succeeded in defeating the Nan-chao forces and restoring Chinese administration, the dynasty was in decline and no longer able to dominate the increasingly autonomous Vietnamese. The Tang finally collapsed in 907 and by 939 Ngo Quyen, a Vietnamese general, had established himself as king of an independent Vietnam. *
Battles and Revolts in Tang-Dynasty-Controlled Vietnam (618-907)
Under the Tang dynasty rule, Vietnam faced several invasions from the south — Champa, Java, and Malaya and from the kingdom of Nan Chiao (present-day Yunnan). In 863, Nan Chiao troops reached the capital Tong Binh and destroyed it. The Tang Court had to send General Gao Pian to fight against the Nan Chiao. Becoming governor after defeating the Nan Chiao, Gao Pian tried to suppress the nationalist movement which had continued to develop after the Tang dynasty took power. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]
During the Tang Dynasty, Vietnamese guerrillas fighting the Chinese sang a martial song that emphasized their separate identity in the clearest of terms: “Fight to keep our hair long/ Fight to keep our teeth black/ Fight to show that the heroic southern country can never be defeated.”
Many insurrections took place under the Tang dynasty, including that of Ly Tu Tien and Dinh Kien in 687, of Mai Thuc Loan in 722, of Phung Hung in 766-791, and Duong Thanh in 819-820. By the end of the 9th century, internal disturbances, particularly the insurrection of Hwang Chao (874-883) in China, shook the Tang reign and China entered a long period of anarchy that started at the beginning of the 10th century. In 905, the last governor sent by the Chinese imperial court to Vietnam died. ~
Taking advantage of the disturbances in China, a nobleman from Cuc Bo (in the present-day province of Hai Duong), Khuc Thua Du, made himself governor, and in 906 the Tang court had to recognize this fait accompli. Khuc Thua Du's son, Khuc Hao, tried to set up a national administration; in 930 the Southern Ban dynasty, which had taken power in southern China, again invaded the country. In 931, however, a patriot, Duong Dinh Nghe, took up the fight and made himself governor. After Duong Dinh Nghe died, murdered by one of his aides, the fight was led by Ngo Quyen, who in 938 clashed with a Southern Han expeditionary corps approaching by sea. The Southern Han fleet entered Vietnam via the Bach Dang estuary (mouth of the river which flows into Halong Bay) where iron-tipped stakes had been sunk into the riverbed by Ngo Quyen. At high-tide a Vietnamese flotilla attacked the enemy then, pretending to escape, lured the Southern Han boats into the estuary beyond the stakes still covered by the tide. At low-tide, the entire Vietnamese fleet counter-attacked, forcing the enemy to flee and sink, impaled on the barrage of stakes. ~
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei; Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.
Last updated August 2021