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Forum LockedChinese Military Conduct Against Steppe Armies

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Post Options Post Options   Quote kurt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Chinese Military Conduct Against Steppe Armies
    Posted: 29-Feb-2008 at 13:29
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Of all the civilizations which had to deal with steppe armies, the Chinese produced the most effective resistance. Only Persia and Russia had to deal with steppe armies as long and as frequently as China had, yet China was only subjugated to steppe warriors once, in two successive conquests, the first of which was conducted by Genghis Khan against the northen dynasties and the second by Kublai Khan against the southern dynasties.
 
So I'm wondering, why were the Chinese so effective against what are generally regarded as some of the fiercest warriors of their time? Persian and Russian history was almost cyclic with nomadic subjugation, and the Indians were conquered a fair few times, yet the Chinese fell only once, and almost nobody had to deal with the steppe warriors for as long as they did.
 
Although I'm aware diplomatic and other measures were a pretty big part, I'd particularly like to learn about how they fought them militarily.


Edited by Seko - 14-Jan-2010 at 20:14
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Seko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Feb-2008 at 15:18
Kurt the boundaries of those nations mentioned were always in flux in the past. Which also means that various dynasties within China have been raided by and taken over by the steppers, and vica versa. Xiong nu, Hsienpi, Toba-Wei, etc., all have successfully invaded parts of China prior to the Kublai's reign.
 
Why were the Chinese successful in counter attacks and actual defeat of the Steppe armies? Time tested methods. A great Chinese leader would make an agrressive foreign policy and take the battle to the heartland. Passive Emperors were replaced by real warriors. This policiy was evident with T'ai-tsung that halted Eastern Gokturuk expansion. The problem with the Chinese were that they eventually rested on their laurels and got soft. That was appealing enought to where a new Steppe invader with lofty goals of conquest grew ambitious. Resources and manpower was another bonus that the Chinese had in great supply.  
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Feb-2008 at 18:59
There were times when China wasn't successful against steppe armies, and there were times when they were successful. Generally, when at the height of their power, dynasties would have enough resources to launch periodic raids against steppe armies, and to forge alliances in order to keep nomads from uniting under one banner. Thus any strong tribe with the potential of turning the plains into a formidable fighting force would be elimitated by either the Chinese frontier armies or rivaling steppe alliances against these stronger tribes. However, when the times get tough, usually due to internal corruption, not only would the frontier armies degrade, but the steppe armies would be united into a powerful military machine, as in the case of Genghis Khan.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Temujin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Mar-2008 at 20:54
overall i would actually say the Russians were more sucessfull than Chinese against Steppe armies.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 01:46

Weird, the Manchu army which invaded China in 1644 was nothing less than a "steppe army." In fact, Chinese army was dealing very ineffective against the Steppans. China was able to conquer other steppe people only with the hands of other steppe people. That was during the Tang conquest of the west, that was also during the Manchu Qing dinasty expansion to the west.

China was conquered by the steppe people many times before Mongols and Seko already mentioned Toba Wei and Jin dynasties actually there were also others.



Edited by Sarmat12 - 04-Mar-2008 at 05:01
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 04:56
In fact for at least 400 out of the last 1000 years China has been ruled by invaders from the Steppe, so I don't know what effectiveness you are referring to.
overall i would actually say the Russians were more sucessfull than Chinese against Steppe armies.

I would consider that the Russians are invaders from the Steppe. Especially from the Chinese perspective.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 05:10
Well, if you count together Qing, Yuan, Jin and Liao dynasties it's actually 600 years of direct rule out of the last millenium by the steppe invaders.
 
For comparacent the "Tatar yoke" in Russia lasted a little longer than 200 years. Moreover, it wasn't a direct rule of the Golden Horde but only tributary vassal relations.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 12:58
Originally posted by Sarmat12

Weird, the Manchu army which invaded China in 1644 was nothing less than a "steppe army." In fact, Chinese army was dealing very ineffective against the Steppans. China was able to conquer other steppe people only with the hands of other steppe people. That was during the Tang conquest of the west, that was also during the Manchu Qing dinasty expansion to the west.

China was conquered by the steppe people many times before Mongols and Seko already mentioned Toba Wei and Jin dynasties actually there were also others.

Yes, this is the first thing that struck me too; the premise for this discussion is faulty, since although the Chinese were periodically successful against steppe armies, this can't be said to have been a general trend in Chinese history.
 
Russia on the other hand, if we can use that term to denote the principalities of the Rus that were established in the in the 9th century, was overrun only once, and a century later the tide slowly turned and it was the Russians who in the end subjugated the Mongols. Prior to the Mongol invasion the Russian principalities repelled and/or conquered several steppe peoples such as the Khazaks and the Pechenegs
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 15:30
Actually the Manchus were semi-steppe at best. They had their own cities, their own infrastructure, and their own industrial focus points. It's just that they had a larger part of their economy dedicated to herding/grazing. In fact the Manchus were able to copy Portuguese-based weapons from the Ming.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 15:40

Tatars in Russia also had cities. And their capital Sarai was a magnificent city. However the bulk of Manzhu army always was mounted nomadic cavalry, mounted archers, the same thing was with Tatars.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 17:15
^which is why we couldn't call Russia's army "nothing less than a steppe army", yes? Same with the Manchus. Especially when they created a whole Han Banner, and backed up by the Ming iron cavalry when WuSanGui switched sides. Which also brings up another point. It was stated that China always used steppe armies to conquer steppe tribes, but the same is true the other way around. Even during the Mongolian invasion, the Mongols used many Chinese armies/generals that switched sides, since it was believed that they had the Mandate of Heaven instead of the Jin or the Song. Truth is, it takes a sedentary styled army to take well-fortified cities, and a steppe styled army to be successful in the open plains. All successful generals on both sides realized that.

Edited by Omnipotence - 04-Mar-2008 at 17:21
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 17:33
I would say the Russian army before the reforms of Peter the Great was essentially the combination of the Steppe and European warfare.
 
But regarding this topic, I thought we were talking about the alleged advantages of Chinese army tactics while fighting the Steppe armies on the open field.
 
Unfortunalely, I have to say that as a rule these kind of battles mostly were unsuccesful for the Chinese, despite usual numerical superiority.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 19:25
Wouldn't the Battle of Talas also fit under this category? I know that Arab's aren't steppe people in the usual sense but they most certainly used a similar type of warfare (horse/camel and bow/arrow).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 19:25
I would say the Russian army before the reforms of Peter the Great was essentially the combination of the Steppe and European warfare.
 
But regarding this topic, I thought we were talking about the alleged advantages of Chinese army tactics while fighting the Steppe armies on the open field.
 
Unfortunalely, I have to say that as a rule these kind of battles mostly were unsuccesful for the Chinese, despite usual numerical superiority.
 
Actually the Chinese had the tactical advantage while steppe armies had the strategic advantage(the ability to chose which battle to fight), which means the Chinese did not have the "usual numerical superiority"(I thought we were talking about general military conflict, not just in the open plains). The armies of sedentary China just can't get enough time to get organized to have enough of a numerical superiority. If they did, the steppe armies, more likely than not, would have retreated and out of reach. At the steppes the Chinese tended to have steppe based armies of their own, a natural process because steppe armies are the most successful in open plains warfare. This can be seen by the northern campaigns of WeiQing or TangTaiZong.
 
The memoirs of the Western Han dynasty stated this when comparing XiongNu(the main steppe power of the time) and Chinese military conflict.
 
In fact I have it here.
 
"Both the topography and the martial skills of the XiongNu are different from those of the Chinese. For going up and down mountains and hills or in and out of streams, the horses of China cannot match [those of the XiongNu]. For going through narrow and twisting paths or shooting and riding at the same time, the horsemen of China cannot match [the XiongNu]. For going through narrow and twisting paths or shooting and riding at the same time, the horsemen of China cannot match [the Xiong Nu]. For facing wind, rain, fatigue, hunger, and thirst and not succumbing, the men of China cannot match them. These are the chief strengths of the Xiongnu. As for flat plains and easy terrain [suitable for] chariots and shock cavalry, there the hordes of the Xiongnu are easily scattered. As for powerful crossbows and long lances shot or cast from afar, the Xiongnu's bows cannot match them. With solid armour and sharp blades, long and short weapons complementing each other, mobile crossbows moving about, when such forces advance together the Xiongnu's troops cannot face them. When the arrows of the infantry are fired, each shaft striking home, then the Xiongnu's leather helmets and wooden shields cannot block them. If they dismount and fight on the ground, with swords and halberds clashing together, where if one pulls back the other presses in, then the Xiongnu's legs cannot keep up. These are the major strengths of the Han.
 
Thus we can see that the steppe armies advantages are mainly strategic, having to do with the movement of armies and logistics. While the armies of sedentary China are mainly tactical, having to do with combined arms/formation fighting and equipment.
 
 
Usually the steppe armies are at the height of their power when sedentary China is at its lowest point and vice versa. It's an interesting concept. TangTaiZong defeated the turks when the latter was suffering from a famine due to a devastating drought, and Genghis Khan defeated the Jin, which was suffering from internal rebellions due to that the yellow river went off course, causing famine. Neither could completely defeat the other when the enemy was internally stable.


Edited by Omnipotence - 04-Mar-2008 at 19:36
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 19:30
Wouldn't the Battle of Talas also fit under this category? I know that Arab's aren't steppe people in the usual sense but they most certainly used a similar type of warfare (horse/camel and bow/arrow).
 
I wouldn't say so when it comes to the Arabs. Although the Arabs used similar warfare, so did the Tang, in which its cavalry is extremely proportionaly high compared to other sedentary armies. However, we should still say that the Tang is a sedentary army, just like the Caliphs. However, what's interesting is that the battle became decisive when the steppe Qarluq mercenaries of the Tang switched sides. So we could say that the battle would fit into steppe vs sedentary warfare.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 19:49
Taizong defeated the Turks by using other Turks. His lifestyle essentially was Turkic and his favorite generals were Turks.
 
That what I meant when I was talking about the Western Tang conquests. All of them were done by the allied to Tang Turkic armies. However, as soon as the Turks left Tang, the decline of the dynasty began.
 
Also the comparacent with Xiongnu would not work with other steppans. Turks, Mongols and Manzhu were able to produce advance weapons and had heavily armed iron clad cavalry.
 
Chinese had numerical advantage almost all the time. But the Chinese army mainly consisted of peasant simply couldn't match "professional" nomadic army, neither it could survive in the steppe for a long time.
 
That's why almost all the expeditions which were conducted to the Steppe by Chinese without support of some local Steppan renegates were disastrous.
 
The classical example of that is the battle ot Tumu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumu_Crisis
 
BTW, Chinese lost the battle of Talas mainly bacause they were bertrayed by the Nomadic allies. In fact, there army during the battle mainly consisted of Turks and other nomades.


Edited by Sarmat12 - 04-Mar-2008 at 23:56
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2008 at 22:40

Although there is at best peripheral evidence that Li ShiMing(or even some of his generals) is partly Turkish, but LiShiMin living as a Turk? Definitely not true, even impossible in his environment. Even a 100% Turk couldn't live like a Turk when in Li ShiMin's palace. Anyway, I think that by now we are civilized enough to see through ethnicity or race. The Tang didn't care back then, so why are we even putting it into the equation. It doesn't matter what their background is, the fact is that they controlled Central Plains armies under the full command of the Tang dynasty, against a steppe army. THAT is the topic of the discussion, not some racial pride flingabout. Race doesn't determine the outcome of a battle(unless racism was involved in military diplomacy beforehand or the like), combat styles do.

And I for one will like to see some sources. I have given mine, and it clearly states that the Chinese armies were very well trained and disciplined, proving the idea of "peasant hordes" is really nothing but a stereotype. Here it clearly states the advantages and disadvantages of both sides, by a bureaucrat that was living at the time. Steppe armies doesn't have to be professional either. Professional means they are paid, that's it, but some just live off of plunder. But being non-professional doesn't mean they aren't disciplined or trained. Song "professionals" were much less effective than Han/Tang conscript armies. The stereotypical "peasant hordes" wouldn't make much of an enemy, sending troops into battle with no training is basically telling them to commit suicide. Which would be why Han crossbowmen were required to draw a heavy crossbow 100 times without letup, or how a Tang horse archer had to be able to fully use a 90 pound on a running horse.
And as for Tumu, it is true that the outnumbered Oriats defeated a numerically superior Ming army, but then again the now numerically superior Oriats were repelled at the gates of Bejing. As said before, the Chinese didn't tend to have the numerical advantage. It's a give and take. Sometimes they were outnumbered, sometimes it's the other way around. One example surely isn't enough. Otherwise look at the battle of Mohei, where 70,000 cavalry had a confirmed kill of 70,000 enemies, not to mention the number captured. Or how HuoQuBing could lead 800 light cavalry in and out in of a steppe army of thousands in order to capture XiongNu princes. The examples on both sides are numerous.


Edited by Omnipotence - 05-Mar-2008 at 00:35
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Mar-2008 at 12:10
How many war horses did Han and Tang dynasties possess when they engaged with their steppe enemies?
 
How many did the Song possess? (Northern Song lost to Jurchen Jin and then Southern Song to Mongol Yuan).
 
And would that difference make any difference in the "effectiveness" of Chinese military conduct against enemies who possess most of the horses which are essential to warfare against steppe armies?
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Mar-2008 at 15:34
An interesting point, and the amount of horses do make a huge difference. The Han dynasty had 450,000 horses during the time of Wudi, which is a huge amount. I forget the exact number for the Tang, but it was also in the hundreds of thousands. The Song, on the other hand, used most of their pastureland for farming, and lacked horses, which could very well explain their early failures. Which may explain how the previous two dynasties did so much better militarily than the latter.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Mar-2008 at 16:59
Originally posted by Omnipotence

An interesting point, and the amount of horses do make a huge difference. The Han dynasty had 450,000 horses during the time of Wudi, which is a huge amount. I forget the exact number for the Tang, but it was also in the hundreds of thousands. The Song, on the other hand, used most of their pastureland for farming, and lacked horses, which could very well explain their early failures. Which may explain how the previous two dynasties did so much better militarily than the latter.
 
The Tang had 700,000 horses, the Song had no such luxury.
by comparison the Mongol empire under Genghiskhan had 1-2 million horses.
 
P.S.
 
also when the defense mechanism of the Great wall is intact, nomads were unable to penetrate into China.
The only times nomads managed to overrun China the defense mechanism of the Great wall was already scrapped.
 
"The five barbarians incursion into China" which ended the Western Jin dynasty was sparked by the "rebellion of eight princes", a Chinese civil war between the Jin ruling household which left Chinese society devastated. Like the Xiongnu leader Liu Yuan who overthrew the Western Jin, many of these nomads have already settled inside or along the borders, and like Liu Yuan, many served as subjects to Western Jin government.
 
Taking the opportunity of the weakness of Jin court that the "rebellion of eight princes" had left for China, many nomadic factions actually is more like declared "independence" within the Chinese empire rather than invaded the Chinese empire, the defense mechanism of the Great wall did not function this time as it did with the Xiongnu of Qin and Han period.
The establishment of Jurchen Jin dynasty again witnessed a period when non-Chinese nomadic factions were able to penetrate deep into China.
 
Southern Song had no Great wall since most of Northern China was already ruled by Jin dynasty, Yangtze river was utilized by the Song to set up three defense zones against first the Jurchen Jin and then the Mongol invaders. The Jurchen were unable to break Southern Song's defense line for the rest of its existence.
This defense mechanism along the Yangtze river halted the advancement of the Mongol forces for decades. Early Mongol forces were unable to break the Chinese stronghold of Xiangfan, its the gateway to Southern China as the saying goes "if Xiangfan is bypassed, southern China will be an easy target" .
 
Cavalry is also of little use on the Southern terrain, The Jurchen Jin commander responsible for the overrun of much of China Jin Wushu exclaimed "the advantage of using ships in the south is just like the advantage of using horses in the north" , not to mention Song infantry found methods to counter the advantage of Jurchen Heavy cavalry.Despite initial momentum of their military incursion which they penetrated as far into Southern China(which is largely due to inheritance of former Liao assets, meaning the Great wall defense mechanism was not really functional,with a still fleeing central government, southern defense mechanism wasnt really functional as well)Jurchen army were unable to make any further advancement into southern China to achieve its objective of destroying Song regime or the conquest of whole of China, ever since the Southern defense mechanism is ensured, Song armies under able generals like Wu brothers were effectively countering Jurchen in north China, upon defeating Jurchens repeatedly Yuefei managed to recapture much of north China, Jurchen commander Jin wushu exclaimed "his army could topple the mountains but could not topple Yuefei's army",later one of Jin emperor wanted to launch another invasion on the Southern Song, when he asked his Jurchen generals in the court who would lead such campaign no one dared to take the job, because as previous similiar attempts were all ended in failures no one wanted to take that risk,the emperor helpless said i will take the responsibility myself.No wonder when the Jurchen signed a "peace agreement" with the corrupt Chinese court, the first precondition by the Jurchen demand was the elimination of general Yuefei, what the nomadic Jurchen horseman couldnt achieve on the battlefield, they achieved it by political manipulation.If Yuefei was the defense minister or the Chinese court fully back up his strategy against the Jurchen Jin, history would be different because the Jurchen by then had no effective means of stopping the advancement of the Chinese armies led by able generals like Yuefei if they dont act soon they will certainly be drove out of north China, hence the failure the Song couldnt regain northern territory was more of a politial inefficiency rather than military inefficiency.
 
But ultimately its the strategy of "Great detour" suggested by the Chinese advisors serving under the Mongol dynasty dealt a blow to the Southern Song defense.
 
Rather than making repeated but unsuccessful direct assaults on the frontal Southern Song defense line, Mongols redeployed and concentrated their efforts on the westernmost of Yangtze defense mechanism, the "region of Shu" or the Sichuan province. With Shu been taken, Mongol armies could sail the Yangtze river eastwards and reach the Southern Song capital of Lin An. History has proven this strategy effective, even with "great detour" Mongol forces were unable to break the defense of a tiny Shu city called Diaoyucheng for 36 years (1243-1279AD) during which the stronghold withstood more than 200 battles against the invading Mongol armies, the Mongol commander and one of the Mongol empire's most successful military ruler after Genghis khan, Mengge Khan(Mongke) himself was killed by Song artillery during the siege of Diaoyucheng, the Mongols commited their main military forces to the siege of this tiny Southern Song stronghold for decades and the fact the siege had to be commanded by the Great Khan of the Mongol empire Mengge himself is enough to demonstrate its military significance, yet the Mongol army couldnt breach Diaoyucheng's defense no matter how many times and how hard they try, ultimately like the defense of another Southern Song's stronghold Xiangfan city, the defending Chinese commander of Diaoyucheng eventually surrendered to Mongol court as the inefficient and corrupt Southern Song court could no longer maintain their necessary supplies and logistics for any prolonged resistence for them.
 
The Mongols especially hate those who can produce fierce resistence to their military might, hence Mengge Khan gave the order that when the city of Diaoyucheng is conquered the Mongol army would massacre its populace, except the Mongols never really conquered Diaoyucheng militarily.
 
The Yangtze defense mechanism has served to protect Southern regimes previously, during the "three kingdoms" period, when the Northern Chinese lord Caocao just managed to unify northern China and made a direct frontal assault on the Southern regime of Wu, but his forces was utterly destroyed by the Wu at the battle of Red cliff (btw a film depicting this great battle by director John Woo will soon be available http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Cliff_(film)) on the Yangtze river, later Caocao's Wei regime was replaced by the Western Jin regime, the Jin only managed to conquer the Wu after the Shu regime was conquered first. Learning from the history of "three kingdoms" and Western Jin's strategy against Wu and Shu, Chinese advisors serving under the Mongol banner also applied same strategy known as "great detour".
 
Just like the Chinese would employ nomads against nomads, the successful nomadic regimes also used Chinese against Chinese, as matter of fact, Kubilai once said "Mongol army is formidable on the grassland, but laying sieges to cities is of a job more suitable for Chinese army rather than ours".
 
Kubilai is a successful political leader in the sense that he managed to incorporate Chinese factions into his forces which proved to be essential in his conquest of Southern Song, the "great detour" strategy which ultimately break down the Song defense mechanism, and the final battle of Yashan on the seas of Canton wasnt possibly conducted by cavalry of steppe army rather than the naval forces of Chinese army serving under the Yuan banner.
To be able to incorporate Chinese into their ranks also proved essential for later success of the Qing dynasty. When the second Manchu emperor Huangtaiji captured former Ming defense minister Hongchengchou and managed his surrender, Huangtaiji hailed him as "the light in the darkness" in his endeavor of conquering Ming dynasty. Another former Ming general Wu sangui who was in charge of the defense of Shanhai pass(which halted Manchu advancement in previous times)not only let Manchu armies enter "China" without a fight, he was also responsible for conquering southern China and capturing the last Ming emperor in Burma.By comparison, the Xiongnu leader Muodu got no response from renegade Chinese warlords, without the Chinese guide any further adventure into China could result in disaster.
 
Not only if the defense mechanism of the Great wall is intact northern nomads were unable to penetrate(Xiongnu of Han and Turks of Tang period couldnt manage a breakthrough despite they were both at the height of its power), even nomadic regimes entered "China" without effective and running Great wall defense mechanism in their way,the completion of conquest of whole of China could not be achieved without employing "Chinese mercenaries". Just as Confucius commented "if the Chinese would not turn on each other, the "barbarians" would not able to cause a problem to China", this is certainly consistent with what happened in the cases of "five barbarians incursion into China", and incursion of Jurchen Jin and loss of north China by the Song regime, also the demise of the Ming dynasty, those are the only times nomadic forces managed to overrun China.
 (This is the real time tested measure for dealing with Chinese, thats why the 1989 "Tiananmen square crackdown" was a failed "attempt of democracy in China" and "brutal crackdown" by Chinese regime as portraited by the dominant and influential Western media but also it was a failed "orange revolution" orchestrated by the "enemies of China" , as was the recent "monk uprising" in Burma, guess whos behind it? By utilizing internal division of ones adversary,the Jin(partial conquest), Yuan and Qing are the successful examples, the modern enemy of China are merely following the practice, so in the future they may not necessarily need direct assault to manage the subjugation of China. Just as Sun tzu's "art of war" promotes "to defeat ones enemy without a fight is the greatest of all military art".)
 
The northern defense mechanism which is defined by the Great wall was already diminished prior to the establishment of Northern Song, especially the key strategical front of Youzhou(presentday Beijing) region was already lost to the rising Khitan Liao dynasty. The period before the Northern Song is called "five dynasties and 10 kingdoms", one of the "five dynasties", Later Jin dynasty ceded Youzhou to the Khitan, as consequence a fatal gap is created along the defense mechanism of the Great wall, this bear the major responsibility for the overrun of much of northern China by the later Jurchens. The loss of this strategical region was during the period of "five dynasties", but the cause for the divide can be further traced back to social unrest during the Tang dynasty.
 
Manchu again were able to establish a Chinese-style Qing dynasty. Nevertheless Ming dynasty's capital Beijing was not conquered by Manchu military, rather it was conquered by the Chinese peasant rebels who established a regime called "great Shun" dynasty. But the Ming commander of Shanhai pass which is considered the gateway to China by the Manchus outside of the Great wall defense mechanism surrendered to the Manchu, Manchu forces entered China without a fight, and they entered the city of Beijing without a fight as well because they portraited themselves as the restorer of orders in the name of legitimate Ming government as they drove the peasant rebels out of Beijing. rather than military effort, its a successful political manipulation. Again the defense mechanism of the Great wall is breached.
 
Both Han and Tang dynasties launched counter offensives into the steppe with decisive results, while the Qin and Ming also launched counter offensives but without decisive results though they were enough to keep steppe enemies at bay for sometime.
With the case of the battle of Tumu, although Ming sufferred heavy defeat at the hands of the Wala Mongols(Oirats) it is not simply explained by military capability, but corrupt officials in charge of the army, meaning men know nothing about warfare as the one giving military orders which leads to inevitable military defeats, hardly a case to reflect the actual capability of the Chinese military even for Ming period, for after this incident Ming also managed to defeat the formidable Japanese army in Korea peninsula. Not to mention despite their victory at the battle of Tumu Mongols were unable to capture Beijing at the hands of more able Chinese commanders.
 
To be able to launch successful counter offensives into steppe, as its nature is "counter", one need to halt the advancement of the steppe enemy first, the defense mechanism of the Great wall proved to be influential factor, when its intact steppe enemy were often halted, when its defense mechanism is scrapped or diminished(often due to non military causes) "steppe enemy" were often able to penetrate deep into China.
An unified China with strong central government needs to be ensured, only then the necessary material supplies of war horses for the Chinese cavalry can be accumulated, also since the warring state kingdom Zhao set an example of learning tactics from nomads in order to fight a steppe warfare, later Han, Tang, Ming regimes all learned from their steppe opponents, the Xiongnu, Turks, Mongols were also employed by those regimes as the instructor of steppe warfare to Chinese cavalry. One cant fight western gunboats with "boxer's fist" or the Germans wouldnt be able to manage "blitzkrieg" without their tanks, and one needs tanks to counter tanks, the "West" dominated the world with their gunboats and rifles, the battle of Baliqiao bear a witness to the disastrous defeat of an elite Mongol cavalry army of Qing dynasty at the hands of Western cannons and guns, if this was during the 13th century, the result would be very different.
 
The Chinese military development has experienced several "military epochs", from the "chariot epoch" of Shang dynasty to the "infantry epoch" , whether there are abundant material supplies for steppe warfare(war horses) available or not will determine the outcome of military performance, thus before enter the modern "gun battle epoch", Chinese military had both successful and unsuccessful experience of military performance against the steppe nomads, rolling back and forth between "infantry epoch" and "cavalry epoch", before cavalry was outdated by modern rifles, the "barbarians" from the steppe were able to defeat much more advanced and populous sedentary civilizations including China is just like "gunboats" would defeat "Boxer's fist", the times China managed successful counter offensives against the steppe nomads was when its military could manage "upgrade" to the equal military epoch with their opponent, and given there is a stable and strong central government rather than inefficient and corrupt ones.
 
some photos of Diaoyucheng stronghold

 
 
 


Edited by The Charioteer - 07-Mar-2008 at 13:02
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