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Forum LockedChinese Military Conduct Against Steppe Armies

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Chinese Military Conduct Against Steppe Armies
    Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 09:01
Oooh but movies and TV series are a horrible reference source! LOL

You should really listen more to Sarmat than me though, he's the steppe specialist. I've only studied them indirectly through works about the sedentary civilizations they encountered (Rome, China, medieval Europe, the Caliphate). Like he says, the main reason behind the higher military professionalism of the Mongols lies in how their culture was imbued with a warrior ideal that was absent in many of the sedentary armies they faced. They were animal herders, yes, but also professional horseback warriors by any comparison in the 13th century. Few armies in the world could match their professionalism at that time, so it doesn't make sense to think of them as anything but professionals.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 13:14
Originally posted by Brainsucker

 
I agree with you.
 
And maybe it's my fault to say that Mongol people were peasant. They were sheep & Horse herd weren't they? I doubt they were profesional soldider, because they were not specially trained to be a warrior and not dedicated their life to combat. I have watched several Mongol movie. According to the movie / tv Series I saw, the Mongol army was no other than the herder / people who live in a clan. They just called by the Khan to fight as soldier when their clan needed soldiers.
 
Well. It's hardly can be interpreted that way, cause the life of Ancient Mongols was the constant combat for survivor. A very limited amount of steppe resources always kept Mongols on the highest alert. The only means to survive was the constant warfare (to protect your herd from the others if you're rich or to take them from the others if you're poor the lack of herds simply meant death in the steppe) and hunting. A bow and arrow was not just a weapon but a necessary tool without which it woudn't be possible to survive. If you add to this the fact that the living conditions were very tough (Mongolian steppe is basically the natural continuation of the Siberian plain from the north so it's easy to imagine what temperatures are like there in winter) it's easy to understand why Mongols of the Middle Ages produced such an effective fighting force.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Brainsucker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 00:57
Originally posted by Sarmat

Originally posted by Brainsucker

 
I agree with you.
 
And maybe it's my fault to say that Mongol people were peasant. They were sheep & Horse herd weren't they? I doubt they were profesional soldider, because they were not specially trained to be a warrior and not dedicated their life to combat. I have watched several Mongol movie. According to the movie / tv Series I saw, the Mongol army was no other than the herder / people who live in a clan. They just called by the Khan to fight as soldier when their clan needed soldiers.
 
Well. It's hardly can be interpreted that way, cause the life of Ancient Mongols was the constant combat for survivor. A very limited amount of steppe resources always kept Mongols on the highest alert. The only means to survive was the constant warfare (to protect your herd from the others if you're rich or to take them from the others if you're poor the lack of herds simply meant death in the steppe) and hunting. A bow and arrow was not just a weapon but a necessary tool without which it woudn't be possible to survive. If you add to this the fact that the living conditions were very tough (Mongolian steppe is basically the natural continuation of the Siberian plain from the north so it's easy to imagine what temperatures are like there in winter) it's easy to understand why Mongols of the Middle Ages produced such an effective fighting force.
 
Yes, I agree with this. I don't think they were profesional Soldiers, but I agree if they were veteran warriors.
 
Samurai were a Profesional Soldier; because he devoted his entire life to study warfare. But the Mongol were herds in origin. They were not profesional, but conscript. So you can't say that they were profesional, but you can say that they were Excelent Warrior because of their way of life and experience.


Edited by Brainsucker - 30-Apr-2009 at 00:59
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 09:33
Which brings us back to definitions.

I don't know how you guys define "warrior" and "soldier", but to me the most useful definition has always been that of a warrior as a one who is primarily valued as an individual fighter, while a soldier's value lies primarily in his ability to fight as part of a group formation. In this sense I consider knights, samurai and berserkers to be warriors, while I consider hoplites, Swiss pikemen and Roman legionaries to be soldiers.

What constitutes a "professional" is less complicated, the most common definition being that a professional is someone who makes a living of what he/she is doing. As such I consider samurai, knights and Roman legionaries (depending on period) to be professionals, while I consider hoplites, Swiss pikemen and berserkers to be people who only fought on an amateur-basis.

So where do the 13th century Mongols fit in? Well, I'm sorry for contradicting you over and over, Brainsucker, but in my opinion there can be no doubt the Mongols must be considered professional soldiers by any standard in the 13th century. The Mongol army was no haphazard gathering of herdsmen; it was better trained and more disciplined than most other armies in the world, and unlike many other armies it was meritocratic, ie officers were assigned on the basis of skill rather than lineage. Mongol strategy and tactics did not normally allow for individual displays, on the contrary their success stemmed from their ability to execute complicated manouvres that demanded co-ordination of units that could each number in the tens of thousands. This would've been impossible for anyone but trained professionals who had been drilled in these manouvres for years on years, soldiers in every meaning of the word.

I would go as far as to say that part of the reason why the Mongols were so successful was precisely because they fielded armies of professional soldiers against armies that consisted of warriors and conscripts. In China they faced large, well-organised armies, but they mainly consisted of levies from a people among whom warlike qualities were held in low regard. In Europe they faced a warrior elite in the knights, and while the knights themselves were able to inflict unusually heavy casualties on the Mongols in melee encounters (like at Mohi), it was insufficient to secure victory as long as the knights remained a professional minority in armies that mostly consisted of levied amateurs.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Brainsucker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 13:18
Originally posted by Reginmund

Which brings us back to definitions.

I don't know how you guys define "warrior" and "soldier", but to me the most useful definition has always been that of a warrior as a one who is primarily valued as an individual fighter, while a soldier's value lies primarily in his ability to fight as part of a group formation. In this sense I consider knights, samurai and berserkers to be warriors, while I consider hoplites, Swiss pikemen and Roman legionaries to be soldiers.

What constitutes a "professional" is less complicated, the most common definition being that a professional is someone who makes a living of what he/she is doing. As such I consider samurai, knights and Roman legionaries (depending on period) to be professionals, while I consider hoplites, Swiss pikemen and berserkers to be people who only fought on an amateur-basis.

So where do the 13th century Mongols fit in? Well, I'm sorry for contradicting you over and over, Brainsucker, but in my opinion there can be no doubt the Mongols must be considered professional soldiers by any standard in the 13th century. The Mongol army was no haphazard gathering of herdsmen; it was better trained and more disciplined than most other armies in the world, and unlike many other armies it was meritocratic, ie officers were assigned on the basis of skill rather than lineage. Mongol strategy and tactics did not normally allow for individual displays, on the contrary their success stemmed from their ability to execute complicated manouvres that demanded co-ordination of units that could each number in the tens of thousands. This would've been impossible for anyone but trained professionals who had been drilled in these manouvres for years on years, soldiers in every meaning of the word.

I would go as far as to say that part of the reason why the Mongols were so successful was precisely because they fielded armies of professional soldiers against armies that consisted of warriors and conscripts. In China they faced large, well-organised armies, but they mainly consisted of levies from a people among whom warlike qualities were held in low regard. In Europe they faced a warrior elite in the knights, and while the knights themselves were able to inflict unusually heavy casualties on the Mongols in melee encounters (like at Mohi), it was insufficient to secure victory as long as the knights remained a professional minority in armies that mostly consisted of levied amateurs.
 
don't feel sorry, Mr. Reginmund. I learn a lot from you. I just... you know, a bad student who like to fight my teacher with bad argument, he he he.
 
Well, maybe my definition of this Warrior and Soldier is different than you. That's why we never agree with something.
 
For me, soldier is a man who paid by the government to protect their country. These men were called soldier because it is their job, and they earn money or something because of their job as a soldier. Well, some people call them Regular.
 
While a warrior is people who excel in combat, but doesn't necessary earn their living from the government as a regular / soldier. They can serve their country, getting paid and become a professional Soldier, or just come to answer the call of arm from their liege.
 
In other word, Soldier is a job, while warrior is a profession.
 
But, maybe I'm wrong


Edited by Brainsucker - 30-Apr-2009 at 13:27
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 16:14
Originally posted by Reginmund

Which brings us back to definitions.

I don't know how you guys define "warrior" and "soldier", but to me the most useful definition has always been that of a warrior as a one who is primarily valued as an individual fighter, while a soldier's value lies primarily in his ability to fight as part of a group formation. In this sense I consider knights, samurai and berserkers to be warriors, while I consider hoplites, Swiss pikemen and Roman legionaries to be soldiers.

What constitutes a "professional" is less complicated, the most common definition being that a professional is someone who makes a living of what he/she is doing. As such I consider samurai, knights and Roman legionaries (depending on period) to be professionals, while I consider hoplites, Swiss pikemen and berserkers to be people who only fought on an amateur-basis.

So where do the 13th century Mongols fit in? Well, I'm sorry for contradicting you over and over, Brainsucker, but in my opinion there can be no doubt the Mongols must be considered professional soldiers by any standard in the 13th century. The Mongol army was no haphazard gathering of herdsmen; it was better trained and more disciplined than most other armies in the world, and unlike many other armies it was meritocratic, ie officers were assigned on the basis of skill rather than lineage. Mongol strategy and tactics did not normally allow for individual displays, on the contrary their success stemmed from their ability to execute complicated manouvres that demanded co-ordination of units that could each number in the tens of thousands. This would've been impossible for anyone but trained professionals who had been drilled in these manouvres for years on years, soldiers in every meaning of the word.

I would go as far as to say that part of the reason why the Mongols were so successful was precisely because they fielded armies of professional soldiers against armies that consisted of warriors and conscripts. In China they faced large, well-organised armies, but they mainly consisted of levies from a people among whom warlike qualities were held in low regard. In Europe they faced a warrior elite in the knights, and while the knights themselves were able to inflict unusually heavy casualties on the Mongols in melee encounters (like at Mohi), it was insufficient to secure victory as long as the knights remained a professional minority in armies that mostly consisted of levied amateurs.
 
Good summary Regimund. Thumbs Up  But I would say that despite being "professional soldiers" apparently individual Mongolian horsemen were warriors as well. Particularly, renowned warriors were known as "bagaturs"  (heros).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Brainsucker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2009 at 13:55
Bagaturs? Are you refering people like Jebe? a full time Warrior who serve a Khan, or just a wanderer warrior who excel in combat?
 
I think I can learn a lot from you, Mr. Sarmat.


Edited by Brainsucker - 01-May-2009 at 13:57
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2009 at 16:20
Yes, Jebe and Subudei were Bagaturs very fierce and skillfull warriors in hand to hand fighting. Jebe also was a master bowman. But they later became much more famous for their skills as generals, commanders and tacticians.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2009 at 17:21
I guess this was before Subudei grew so fat he had to be transported in a cart. Tongue
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2009 at 22:56
LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Temujin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-May-2009 at 16:51
Originally posted by Sarmat

Yes, Jebe and Subudei were Bagaturs very fierce and skillfull warriors in hand to hand fighting. Jebe also was a master bowman. But they later became much more famous for their skills as generals, commanders and tacticians.


Jebe was not Ba'atur, he was Noyan.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-May-2009 at 16:56
Sometimes he is referred as bagatur as well.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote honeybee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-May-2009 at 19:38
Originally posted by Sarmat

Originally posted by honeybee


No, my source my source stated Mongol Russia as a whole, including the steppe lands.
 
As I say you repeat this mamba-jamba again. Why does it make you so happy?
 
"Mongol Russia" in the meaning of the paragraph you cited with or without steppe lands doesn't even try to include Crimea, Cuacasus or agricultural oasises of the Central Asia i.e. the most populous, developed and prosperious lands of the Golden Horde.
 
 
 
I am repeating this mamba jamba because it apparently hasn't sank in to your head yet. It is not making me happy, its quite annoying and boring I might add. Read it again and stop repeating the same discredited statement.
 According to J. M. Smith, Jr., in "Mongol Manpower and Persian Population", Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 18 (1975), 271-299. The population of Mongol Russia in the early fourteenth century may actually have been as low as 3,000,000, counting 2,150,000 people between Nizhni-Novgorod in the east to Galicia in the west, and 850,000 nomads in the steppe zone farther south.
 
Mongol Russia was my use of words, so nice try, but the author is refering to all of the Golden Horde here. He also gave 3.5 million for all of the steppe, so your figure tens of millions was simply rubbish and a fabrication.

 

And how many times do I have to repeat to you that the Kirghiz Steppe is virtually uninhabited, so no, it does not add anything to the population of "mongol russia"


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Post Options Post Options   Quote honeybee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-May-2009 at 19:45
Originally posted by Sarmat

Originally posted by honeybee


Mark Elliot couldn't predict such picky questions. Nomadic means some one who "migrate around with herds in steppe" by itself.
 
And as I said, southern Manchuria had no steppe. So unless Mark Eliot gives details on the lifestyle of Manchus, he is just generalizing and you are not understanding how the Manchus lived.
 
 
 
[QUOTE=honeybee]
What am I doing? I gave the links on the internet. You didn't do even this... Actually, anybody can clearly see that I provided much more sources than you did.

No offense, but wikipedia is not a source, I can edit on it myself, I provided an academic source that provided the details of Manchu lifestyle, which is not migrating around the steppe, unless Mark Eliot do the same, I can't say that he knows what he is talking about and neither do you.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-May-2009 at 20:30
No offence.
 
But it seems that you have not been reading at all the others posts in this thread.
 
First of all, I don't understand your meaningless references to "Mongol Russia", I have repeated to you many times that the Golden Horde included much more populous and developed areas in Central Asia, Crimea and Caucasus than just the territories "between Nizhni-Novgorod in the east to Galicia in the west, and 850,000 nomads in the steppe zone farther south."
 
So, either way, you're blind or don't understand simple English language or have other issues. But it's your problem anyway, not mine.
 
Secondly, it's the official position of the Chinese historiography that Manchu belonged to "North Steppe Nomadic people" I gave the reference to the full article from the official Chinese government site before.
 
So, help yourself, read it and upgrade your knowledge. If you don't understand Chinese, use google translator, it can help you.
 
Hope this finally can resolve you numerous problems with historical facts.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-May-2009 at 01:44
  Southern Manchuria was not Steppe territory. Over half of its territory consist of forests and the steppe land makes up less than 20 percent of its territory. You can categorize it as either sedentary or nomadic so it belongs to neither side. You can read it here: http://www.meet-greatwall.org/gwsd/wen/earth/earth80.htm

“满洲人与蒙古人不同,作为非游牧民族的蛮族”


Edited by dick - 28-May-2009 at 02:02
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Post Options Post Options   Quote honeybee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-May-2009 at 02:19

Originally posted by Sarmat

No offence.

 

But it seems that you have not been reading at all the others posts in this thread.

 



Oh no. I read all of it, and none of them are academic publications, in another word, they are worthless just like wikipedia.

Originally posted by Sarmat

No offence.

 

First of all, I don't understand your meaningless references to "Mongol Russia", I have repeated to you many times that the Golden Horde included much more populous and developed areas in Central Asia, Crimea and Caucasus than just the territories "between Nizhni-Novgorod in the east to Galicia in the west, and 850,000 nomads in the steppe zone farther south."

 

 



In case you haven't read my last post, “Mongol Russia” was referring to the entire Golden Horde, for the second time in two consecutive posts. And if that is still confusing to you, let me quote the exact passage for you from "Mongol Manpower and Persian Population" p. 278;  “The population of the Golden Horde numbered around 850,000, in addition to that, there were some 2,150,000 Russian subjects to the north...” So nice try with playing semantics. But because you never read the material, you still lost in the end. All you've succeeded in accomplishing is bore me with 4 misinterpreted redundant posts that never needed to appear if you simply humbly asked for the source.

I am very aware you repeated it several times and it bores me each time since you never explained what this imaginary territory of yours include that is beyond what I described. You didn't even know the existence of the Kirghiz steppe and its uninhabited environment, so where did you come up with the figure? And even now you still can’t provide a single source to back up your nonsense figure of 10s of millions of people. So let me ask you again, where did you get that source or do you just admit you don’t have one?

Originally posted by Sarmat

Secondly, it's the official position of the Chinese historiography that Manchu belonged to "North Steppe Nomadic people" I gave the reference to the full article from the official Chinese government site before.

 








Which “official” source? Show it to me again.

 


Originally posted by Sarmat

 

So, help yourself, read it and upgrade your knowledge. If you don't understand Chinese, use google translator, it can help you.

Hope this finally can resolve you numerous problems with historical facts.




I minored in Chinese in my undergrad studies at Wu Han university. Do you even speak Chinese?



Edited by honeybee - 28-May-2009 at 02:34
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-May-2009 at 03:48
Originally posted by honeybee


In case you haven't read my last post, “Mongol Russia” was referring to the entire Golden Horde, for the second time in two consecutive posts. And if that is still confusing to you, let me quote the exact passage for you from "Mongol Manpower and Persian Population" p. 278;  “The population of the Golden Horde numbered around 850,000, in addition to that, there were some 2,150,000 Russian subjects to the north...” So nice try with playing semantics. But because you never read the material, you still lost in the end. All you've succeeded in accomplishing is bore me with 4 misinterpreted redundant posts that never needed to appear if you simply humbly asked for the source.

I am very aware you repeated it several times and it bores me each time since you never explained what this imaginary territory of yours include that is beyond what I described. You didn't even know the existence of the Kirghiz steppe and its uninhabited environment, so where did you come up with the figure? And even now you still can’t provide a single source to back up your nonsense figure of 10s of millions of people. So let me ask you again, where did you get that source or do you just admit you don’t have one?


 
 
You're simply lying. I explained to you many times what are my "imaginary territories". And repeat again that Golden Horde included Crimea, Caucasus, and Central Asian territories which were more populous than the Russian lands. Russian territories formed only a smaller part of the Horde. I gave you the names and even referred you to the fact that it was Urgench in Central Asia that was the biggest city under the Hordes control. Lands that had been a part of the Horde and later became Astrakhan, Kazan Khantates never were historically Russian territories and were conquered by Moscow only in the 16th century and Crimean Khanate only in the 18th century. All of those had large populous cities Like Bulgar, Sarai, Sudak, Urgench etc. cities under Golden Horde control in Caucasus like Derbent were very ancient urban centers from the times BCE. And those lands were actually more developed and populated and much more important for the Horde that their vassal Russian states. That's why you can't calculate all the population of the lands under the Horde control only by referring only to the Russian principalities and nomadic Tatar population. It's incorrect. You still don't get it?

Perhaps, you forget that the whole argument started when I gave you reference to the data from the book of the Russian historian, Vernadsky, according to whom the population of the Horde was close to 10 million. Then you question was, where were all these people when as you "knew" the Golden Horde just included some scarcely populated Russian territories and almost uninhabitted Kyrgyz Steppe. I explained to you where exactly those urban centers were. And now you're pretending that you don't understand what is going on.


Originally posted by Sarmat

Secondly, it's the official position of the Chinese historiography that Manchu belonged to "North Steppe Nomadic people" I gave the reference to the full article from the official Chinese government site before.

 





[QUOTE=honeybee]


Which “official” source? Show it to me again.

And please don't lie again after that that you "read everything" in this thread.
 
Here is my source again, that looks much more official than your "advanced"  Changcheng wenhua wang.
 
 
Here is just a random quote about "steppe cultures" and which people they included
 
进入青铜器时代后,草原文化逐渐转向以游牧业为经济基础。由此,在古代中国,形成了三大类型的经济文化区,即北方草原游牧经济文化区,秦岭、淮河以北的旱地农业经济文化区,秦岭、淮河以南的水田农业经济文化区。三大经济文化区的形成主要是自然地理环境造成的,同时也是民族历史文化发展的结果。草原文化在经历匈奴、鲜卑、突厥、契丹、蒙元、满清、现当代几个高峰期的发展以及与中原文化的长期碰撞交流、融合后,今天已经演变成为蒙古族文化为典型代表的、历史悠久、特色鲜明、内涵丰富的文化体系。这个体系已经融入中华文化的大体系之中,使中华文化成为一个包容工业、农耕、游牧、渔猎等生产方式在内的多元一体的文化体系。
 
My very rough translation into English.
 

With the coming of the Bronze Age, the steppe culture gradually shifted towards nomadic pastoralism as the economic base. In ancient China, three major types of economic and cultural areas, had been formed i.e. Northern Nomadic cultural and economic realm, dryland agriculture economic and cultural realm to the north from Qinling Mountains and Huaihe River, paddy fields economic and cultural realm to the south from Qinling Muntains and Huaihe river. These three  major economic and cultural realms naturally developed based on geographical environment, but at the same they are also the result of the development of the historical ethnic culture.  The steppe culture that had been going through Xiongnu, Xianbei, Turkic, Khitan, Yuan Mongols, Qing Manchu  periods as peaks of its development , as well as well as long times of collisions and integration with the Central Plains culture,  today evolved into a rich cultural system with ancient history and distinct features with Mongolian culture as a typical example of such. This system has been integrated into the Chinese cultural system, so that Chinese culture has become an all-inclusive multi-cultural system containing industrial, agricultural, nomadic, hunting and fishing and other ways of life (production).



Edited by Sarmat - 03-Jun-2009 at 14:27
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Yin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 05:27
Outside of the Qin and Han dynasties, native Chinese tactics against organized steppe armies were largely disastrous. The Qin and Han dynasties were successful primarily because they were able to respond to the nomads' equestrian superiority by a combination of superior technology and adaptation of steppe cavalry tactics. Han Wudi is the perfect example of how a Chinese emperor should have dealt with steppe armies - by building his own cavalry force from the best of horses and destroying the nomads' bases of power - their pastures and herds. The Qin and Han dynasty policies of settling both nomads and native Chinese farmers on captured pasture land was effective in curbing Xiongnu power, as was subduing and colonizing the Xiongnu's vassals/allied states in West China and Korea.

Later Chinese dynasties, and emperors after Han Wudi, became more and more decadent in terms of military power. Confucianism crushed the civilization's warrior spirit (the "Chinese" were originally a conquering people, who might have even been pastoral themselves), granting power, instead, to scholar bureaucrats and wealthy landlords. These classes had a tendency to appease foreign threats whenever they could, including by turning over the country when needed, and in any case they were incapable of real resistance. Consequently, what real combat the Chinese of later ages offered depended primarily on a military corps plagued by bureaucratic corruption and subject to self-defeating court politics (see the story of Yue Fei), mercenaries, conscripts, and peasant rebels. By contrast, a warrior elite, like Japan's, was largely absent. While the history of warfare eventually came to favor conscripts with advanced weapons, this was not the case for most of China's history, wherein steppe armeis with their superior equestrian skills dominated the vast, open plains of North China. Meanwhile, South China, having been largely colonized for agricultural work, lacked the jungles and swamps of Southeast Asia, which might have been conducive to guerilla resistance against steppe armies (as Vietnam proved in its repelling of the Mongols).

If we look at the last two thousand years of Chinese history, we see that after the fall of the Han/Eastern Jin Dynasty (~Roman Empire in the West), North China, aka the traditional heartland of Chinese civilization, spent as long or longer under the control of various steppe peoples than it did under native dynasties, especially if you consider the fact that even when native dynasties controlled North China, its control was often incomplete and/or contested (ie parts of Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, etc. would fall in and out of Chinese control). South China fared better - it was under nominal Han Chinese control during the Han, Eastern Jin, and Age of Fragmentation (~1-600 AD), during the Sui-Tang era(~600-900 AD) - though arguably the Sui-Tang were semi-Xianbei, during the Song (~950-1250) and finally the Ming (~1350-1650), suffering only about a hundred years of foreign dominance under the Mongols and then another three hundred under the Manchus, totaling 400 in the last 2000 years, which is not bad (compared to other ancient civilizations, at least).

Sarmat is of course correct to point all this out, though the hostility he's getting is easily explained. It's history, you see, and in particular the memory of racism, especially as it applies to China's history. You see, when the West arrived in the 1800s and 1900s, they noted that the Manchus were a ruling caste among the Chinese, and that given the Manchus themselves weren't all that advanced, the Chinese must be an even more backward race. If you read European assessments of China in the early 1900s, the concept of the Chinese race as a weak, degenerate people ("sick man of Asia") incapable of independence and doomed to extinction and/or enslavement was widespread. Some Western authors lumped the Chinaman with the Negro as the lowest of the lows, but gave grudging respect to the Japanese for their martial spirit. The Japanese, in turn, responded by casting themselves as the masters of East Asia and, taking a page out of the Manchu's book, decided to lord it over the "inferior" Chinese themselves.

This may all seem old news to the post-colonial West, but it is not that old to the Chinese experience for two reasons. First, nationalism: the rise of Japan and South Korea as economic powers have resurrected the "Altaic supremacy" theory, which Japanese and South Korean nationalists like to hold over Chinese nationalists by emphasizing their racial connections to the old steppe empires and therefore their intrinsic superiority. The Chinese nationalists, in turn, would respond by emphasizing how great and mighty they were historically, relative to Koreans, Japanese, and other "barbarians" - something that naturally depends on promoting China as a militarily dominant state. You see this kind of battle take place all the time over the web, be it on forums, youtube, or whatever. Second, cultural Sinocentrism, which gave the Chinese elite, of old, some measure of self-respect even as their emperor came from the steppes, has largely broken down (in part prompted by the Communist Party, which has emphasized a multi-ethnic view of China for political reasons), and a re-examination of Chinese history in light of ethnic/racial theories suggests that the West might have been onto something when it described the Chinese as a weak people, at least militarily. This is, of course, extremely distressing because it resurrects all the other spectres of racism and racial victimization, including the historical ones (Yuan caste system, Qing caste system). Re-imagining Chinese history in these terms makes it clear that the Han Chinese could be considered an under caste during many centuries of Chinese history, which brings about a great deal of resentment, on one hand, and denial, on the other. Nobody, after all, wants to think that they were once slaves of other, more dominant peoples. Moreover, it is considered by some to not be conducive to building a proud, self-confident, and unified nation-state, and actually you see the same trends in Japanese and Korean nationalism (ie Japanese denying that their ruling families might've come from Korea, Koreans downplaying the Jizi legend and the Han colonization of their country, etc.)

Consequently, it is very explicable that Chinese and pro-Chinese members of this board would express discontent over Sarmat's comments, which to me could be easily construed (misconstrued?) to indicate that steppe peoples and Russians were somehow superior to Chinese, since he insists that despite numerical superiority, the Chinese were nevertheless unable to resist the steppe invaders whereas the Russians were. This is in fact somewhat reminiscent of Western racial theorists' opinions of the Chinese at the turn of the 20th century - that the Chinese constituted a "horde" that emphasized quantity over quality, and that the average Chinese, therefore, is fundamentally inferior to the average white man or even Japanese. You could see why Chinese people would take great offense at such a suggestion, even if it's not intended. To this end, I think people should try to understand why the Chinese have such a strong aversion to admitting defeat and subjugation by foreign peoples, given how near this topic is to their immediate history and their need to cast off the image of being the "sick man of Asia."


Edited by Yin - 03-Jun-2009 at 05:54
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Post Options Post Options   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 08:28
Yin,

Have to admit that this is a very interesting analysis of the Chinese mentality of pride in the past, nationalism, mixed with an inferiority complex caused by the humiliations suffered in the recent centuries.
Many other old empires that had fallen on hard times over the last 2 centuries, such as Spain, Portugal, and Persia; have a comparable mentality.
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