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Forum LockedChinese Military Conduct Against Steppe Armies

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    Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 14:47
Originally posted by Yin


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.
 
Well. It's an interesting perspective Yin. But I didn't mean to say that Russians were somehow superior to Chinese. Smile
 
I was trying to say that it hardly could be the fact that the Chinese armies historically were "the most succesful" against the steppe armies compare to other armies that faced the steppe warfare in different historical periods.
 
Perhaps, the argument "who was the most succesful" deserves some more time and consideration. But as you pointed out, apparently, "the overall superior performance of Chinese armies" over the steppe warfare is a non-existent assumption.
 
 

 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 06:36
I think I've went over this. When one is strong the other is weak. This has been repeated over and over in steppe/Chinese history. They cannot both be powerful at the same time merely because the powerful one always uses its resources to fracture the other one. When steppe armies are strong, Chinese states are weak and thus can be overran. When Chinese states are strong, steppe armies are weak and can thus be overran. There is no one-sided contest, but a tug of war that have only stopped recently. There is no quality over quantity argument, as steppe warfare emphasize speed. Speed, not population size, means the ability to have numerical superiority at places that matter. This is why northern Chinese armies were always crazy for horses, and why dynasties who let their horse population dwindle could only hold onto the South were steppe warfare would be unsuitable to the terrain. This isn't something I pulled out of thin air, this is said by Han dynasty bureaucrats themselves. Speed is the key to numerical superiority when in the plains. When the horse supply on both sides are great, generally the one who attacks would have numerical superiority. Rarely would a sane general attack when he knows he is outnumbered(there are exceptions such as Huo Qubing, Ban Chao or Esen Tayisi, but I'm not sure Huo Qubing was sane given the circumstances. But no matter, his thinking worked). The wise choose their battles.

I've also went through the error in using modern concepts to force into past history. There is no concept of "Chinese" by blood. There is only a concept of being civilized by culture. For what we modern people labeled as the ancient Chinese, they saw it as a conflict between civilization against barbarians, not a conflict between nationalities. The fact that so-and-so dynasty was of non-Han blood is moot to them. Even today Chinese people don't equate Han with being Chinese. There was no concept of "foreign dominance", only barbarians having control of the empire (the barbarians might as well be Han as well as any other ethnic group). Just because one is of half-Xianbei blood doesn't mean the people see themselves as "foreign dominated". Whatever blood type the rulers are is completely irrelevant except perhaps in the unconscious ethnic/racial discrimination that everyone has. Nationalism by ethnicity is only a recent concept brought about by Europeans. In fact, Nationalism itself was largely a foreign concept brought about by Europeans. Even today, only Han chauvanists believe that only Han are Chinese. And in China that's equivalent to saying African Americans can't be Americans because they're black. Bringing up this subject would obviously bring resentment amongst present day Chinese due to racism on the one hand and national unity on the other (considering that China is a big multiethnic country and such a splittist philosophy would suggest disunification amongst any big multiehnic countries).

Also I would like to mention the idea that military culture in Chinese history was stifled by Confucianism. First I would like to say that this definitely wasn't true for the Han dynasty and previous. One of the most popular quotes of the Han dynasty was "drop the writing brush and join the military", as opposed to the later neo-Confucian ideology of "good men do not become soldiers". However, I must say that one should consider that history is written by Confucian bureaucrats and not the common people. Ever since China had a bureaucracy, the civil and military officials had disliked each other more often than not. Considering that it was the civil officials who wrote the history, what could one expect? However, anyone with a mere insight to Chinese post-Han fictional stories(which can only last to this day if it had popular appeal) could realize that it was usually the civil officials who were the villains, and the military generals were the heroes (Water Margin had Gao Qiu, Three Kingdoms had Cao Cao, Yang JiaJiang never had a main villain, but you can bet the most damaging of them hurt the Yang generals the most). This is not to say that civil officials can't be the heroes, but if there's a villain it's probably a civil official. So was the military really looked down by the masses? I don't think so. True, maybe they didn't want their sons to go to war, but that doesn't mean they looked down on soldiers. It's the same with today. Everybody in the US says "Support our troops", but the military is still short on men. Even in the historic records written by the civil officials are clues that the military branch was not treated with contempt. This is shown by portraying an "enlightened" emperor who treated any useful subjects with compassion. Generals, more often than not, was that emperor's target of compassion.

I would like to end with what the source(Chao Cuo of the Han dynasty) I gave earlier which sums up warfare between Chinese and nomad armies pretty well.

"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 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."

As stated before, this quote is not me trying to say the nomads are somehow inferior. The quote itself says the advantage/disadvantage of both. Thus I say it's pretty neutral (at least to this point. The bureaucrat later talks of how the XiongNu have only 3 advantages while the Han armies have 5). Considering that the one who wrote it was someone who lived during the time period, I would lend it credence as well.


Edited by Omnipotence - 04-Jun-2009 at 08:45
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 08:35
Here's the source of the quote with a more thorough summary.

Warfare in Chinese history

 By Hans J. Van de Ven

The Xiongnu do not depend upon the soil for their food and clothing, and due to this they easily cause disturbances on the frontier. How can one explain this? The Xiongnu eat meat and drink milk; they wear skins and furs. They have no walled towns, fields, or houses to serve as bases. They are like flying birds or running beasts in the vast, open fields. When they find good grass and fresh water they halt, and when the grass and water are used up they move on. Coming and going, wandering about, now arriving and now departing, this is the livelihood of the Xiongnu. It is also the reason that the Chinese abandon their homes. Now we allow the Xiongnu in several places on our frontier to drive their flocks and hunt. Sometimes they face Yan and Dai, sometimes Shangjun, Beidi, or Longxi, all in order to observe our frontier troops. If these are few, then they invade. If your Majesty does not save them, the frontier people despair and think of submimtting to the Xiongnu. Should you try to save them by sending out a few troops, they will be insufficient. If you send out many, then by the time they arrie at the distant prefectures, the barbarians will already have departed. If you keep them movilized and do not disperse them, then the expenses will be very great. If you disperse them, then the barbarians will again invade. If it is like this year after year, then China will be poor and suffering, and the people will know no peace.
Your Majesty is concerned for the frontier. You dispatch generals and officers, and send out troops to handle border defences. This is indeed a great blessing. But if you have soldiers from distant places defend the border and change them annually, then they will not know the skills of the barbarians. It would be best to select permanent inhabitants, dwelling with their families and working in the fields in order to prepare against attack. Where it is suitable, build towns with high walls, and then gather stones to serve as missiles and lay out the caltrops. Inside the wall erect another wall, leaving one hundred and fifty paces between them. In strategic places and along major roads establish walled towns of not fewer than one thousand households and set a palisade around the wall. First erect the houses and gather the agricultural implements, then recruit criminals and reprieved convicts to inhabit them. If these are insufficient, then recruit adult slaves who are redeeming crimes and transport slaves who hope to earn titles. If these are insufficient, then allow people who so desire to go there.
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 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 the Xiongnu have three strengths and the Chinese five. Moreover, your Majesty raises hundreds of thousands to crush tens of thousands of Xiongnu. Calculated from the aspect of numbers, it is the method of using ten to attack one.
However, weapons are inauspicious implements and war is a dangerous matter. For the big to become small and the strong to become weak takes no more time than just looking up and down. In using men's lives to struggle for victory, if you stumble once you will not rise again, and then regret will be of no use. The Way of kings and emperors stems from absolute certainty. Several thousand Yiju and Manyi have submitted to China, and their diet and skills are identical to those of the Xiongnu. We ought to give them sturdy armour and padded garments, strong crossbows and sharp arrows, and supplement them with crack frontier cavalry. Then send a brilliant commander who can learn their customs and win their hearts, and through your Majesty's splendour he will control and command them. Then if the terrain is narrow and difficult, we will use them to oppose the Xiongnu. If it is evel ground with passable roads, we will use chariots and infantry to crush them. These two armies will match like the inside and outside of a single object. Each will use its own strength. In addition to this we have the preponderance of number. This is the strategy of absolute certainty.

I think you'll find that what this primary source says (underlined) matches with the statements in my earlier posts. From the primary source, the bureaucrat says that when on the defensive they are outnumbered, but in this case in which they are on the offensive, they are the one with numerical superiority. Also, one can see that they switch the style of battle depending on the terrain, and no doubt the nomads do as well. Thus, one can say that there is no "Chinese" or "Nomadic" style of warfare. The style of warfare depends on where they fight, not the category of people they are. The idea that people belong in categories and each category of people have certain innate attributes in their blood(such as styles of warfare) exists only in our heads, not in reality.


Edited by Omnipotence - 04-Jun-2009 at 08:51
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Yin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 23:32
Omnipotence: the Han Dynasty is widely considered to be one of the most effective, if not the most effective, Chinese dynasties when facing off against steppe armies. The Han Empire contended with the Xiongnu for dominion over North China and Inner Mongolia and we know how that story ended. The Great Wall of the Qin and Han shows that Chinese control of the North was substantive - significant regions of Inner Mongolia  lay behind the Great Wall, as did Liaoning and parts of North Korea. But these were early eras, when the Chinese state was still in flux, and it still possessed a sizable military aristocracy. This was before the real beginning of the imperial examination system for selecting officials and the solidification of Chinese society along Confucian (and, later, Neo-Confucian) lines.

Thus, while I acknowledge the adaptivity of the Han Dynasty with regards to military matters, the same should not be transposed to all subsequent dynasties of China and Chinese civilization as a whole. Generally, the main trajectory of Chinese history has been towards increasing degrees of native military failure vis-a-vis the nomads, such that compared to the earlier dynasties, later dynasties had to depend more and more on nomadic allies and vassals (which became problematic when these "allies and vassals" rebelled). Yet, even here we can see that the Han officials acknowledged distinctions between their own military strengths and that of their foes', which we recognize today to have been due to the different natures of the two peoples (nomadic vs. sedentary). Consequently, we see them encouraging the use of "non-Chinese" forces (Manyi, Yiju) for contending with the Xiongnu - the early stages of "using barbarians to fight barbarians." Clearly, the Han bureaucrats were wise enough to understand their own limitations and to make up for them through other means. But part of their success was also due to the fact that, at this stage, the Xiongnu were relatively unsophisticated in their own military matters - lacking, for example, the superior armaments of the Han and the ability to mobilize strong infantry components, which were instrumental to the success of later nomadic/semi-nomadic victories over Chinese dynasties.

I would also not agree that early peoples had no notions of race or ethnicity until the Europeans arrived. True, the Chinese had the ideological dichotomy between barbaric and civilized, but they also named specific peoples and associated characteristics with them (ie Rong, Khitan, etc.) The Mongols and Manchus, in turn, had their ethnic-based caste systems, which alluded to perceptions of ethnic difference even in these early times.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Jun-2009 at 07:22
Omnipotence: the Han Dynasty is widely considered to be one of the most effective, if not the most effective, Chinese dynasties when facing off against steppe armies. The Han Empire contended with the Xiongnu for dominion over North China and Inner Mongolia and we know how that story ended. The Great Wall of the Qin and Han shows that Chinese control of the North was substantive - significant regions of Inner Mongolia  lay behind the Great Wall, as did Liaoning and parts of North Korea. But these were early eras, when the Chinese state was still in flux, and it still possessed a sizable military aristocracy. This was before the real beginning of the imperial examination system for selecting officials and the solidification of Chinese society along Confucian (and, later, Neo-Confucian) lines.
Thus, while I acknowledge the adaptivity of the Han Dynasty with regards to military matters, the same should not be transposed to all subsequent dynasties of China and Chinese civilization as a whole. Generally, the main trajectory of Chinese history has been towards increasing degrees of native military failure vis-a-vis the nomads, such that compared to the earlier dynasties, later dynasties had to depend more and more on nomadic allies and vassals (which became problematic when these "allies and vassals" rebelled). Yet, even here we can see that the Han officials acknowledged distinctions between their own military strengths and that of their foes', which we recognize today to have been due to the different natures of the two peoples (nomadic vs. sedentary). Consequently, we see them encouraging the use of "non-Chinese" forces (Manyi, Yiju) for contending with the Xiongnu - the early stages of "using barbarians to fight barbarians." Clearly, the Han bureaucrats were wise enough to understand their own limitations and to make up for them through other means. But part of their success was also due to the fact that, at this stage, the Xiongnu were relatively unsophisticated in their own military matters - lacking, for example, the superior armaments of the Han and the ability to mobilize strong infantry components, which were instrumental to the success of later nomadic/semi-nomadic victories over Chinese dynasties.
 


I must disagree and say that the relation in power between the steppes and sedentary states had been a tug of war, not a general decline from an advantageous situation to a disadvantageous one. Post-Han dynasties such as the Tang, Jin, Ming, and Qing did very well in keeping the nomads apart when the dynasties were in their early states. The Tang even directly controlled Mongolia as the "protectorate of the pacified north" for about 40 years and the Qing till the dynasty's collapse, and so in a way was more successful than Han attempts which drained a huge hole in the treasury and the nomads were at most vassals. But in the later stages of each of these (including the Han dynasty as well) we can see a rise in nomadic power as sedentary power declined, and the repeated Chinese incursions into nomad territory switched to repeated nomadic incursions into Chinese territory. Different name, same game. Only the Qing did not undergoe through this because the area of Mongolia and China became for the first time the chess pieces instead of the major players. I also don't see how Han reliance on nomadic styled armies is any less than the others. These auxiliaries came from tribes that already subjected themselves to the dynasty, and it is not uncommon in Han times (and pre-Han) times to use such subjects in warfare. The source also says that they used these auxiliaries in certain terrain, not against certain enemies. The more south the nomads drive, the more the army must be composed of chariots and infantry, while the more outward the Han armies drive, the more the army must be composed of horsemen. Thus, I must argue that the style of warfare does not depend on the different natures of the two peoples. The style of warfare depends on the nature of the terrain that people live on and fight on. People in general are pretty much all the same genetically, despite belonging in ethnic/racial categories. It's the different environment that they live on which forces them to adapt to different ways of life, including war. This doesn't just apply to the Chinese, but all of humanity. By common sense one should be able to figure this out. For example, the famous Mongol invasion used Xi Xia soldiers and later Song military cooperation to defeat the Jin, and by the time they invaded the Song they had already developed the precursor to the Ming weisuo system in which there were perhaps up to a million sedentary soldiers. I do not see this as a weakness. Using locals to conquer locals is a popular strategy, considering the locals know the local terrain much better than outsiders.

I believe I'm also unclear on the topic of ethnicity. It was not my intention to say that the ancients didn't have the concept of ethnicity, they did and mentioned it in there texts. However, they did not have the concept of "nationalism by ethnicity". They do not define their status as "foreign dominated" merely because the emperor is from an ethnic minority within the empire or outside the empire (present day people still don't when it comes to the former). Such an idea rose only when China became more and more in touch with European concepts, and eventually it fell again and is looked down on by most Chinese in present day. Ethnic distinction in the case of nationalism is irrelevant when compared with the regime's cultural status. If the regime fails to perform certain rituals, or performs "barbaric" rituals, then that would have a much larger impact on the bureaucracy than any ethnicity. Like in todays case, no one cares if president Obama is half black (if they care they wouldn't dare admit it), but if Obama stops all government elections it would turn a couple of heads.

Lastly, I do agree that the Xiong nu were unsophisticated militarily as compared to future nomadic empires, but that's only because technology gets more sophisticated over time (you can say the same about the Han). There were times in which a civilization would lose past technological advances(such as the Han crossbow trigger mechanisms that even the Song dynasty 1000 yrs later admired), but for the most part technological progress increased (The Song may not be able to reproduce Han crossbow triggers, but additional add ons to the crossbow such as the stirrup more than made up for it). Relative to the rest of the contemporary world, the Xiong Nu were just as formidable as any. The Shiji recorded that they had a formidable army of up to 300,000 horse archers. The Xiongnu empire itself was rival in size to the size of the Mongolian empire that Genghis Khan left when he died.



Edited by Omnipotence - 05-Jun-2009 at 11:25
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Jun-2009 at 15:56
Originally posted by Omnipotence


I must disagree and say that the relation in power between the steppes and sedentary states had been a tug of war, not a general decline from an advantageous situation to a disadvantageous one. Post-Han dynasties such as the Tang, Jin, Ming, and Qing did very well in keeping the nomads apart when the dynasties were in their early states.
 
I don't think these are good examples. Tang was a dynasty established by a ruler with Nomadic roots that enjoyed a direct support of Turks was even called a "kagan" by them.
 
Jin and Qing dynasty were established by steppe people. In other words, those were not native Chinese dynasties but rather foreign dynasties with strong Nomadic warfare traditions that succesfully used their skills against other Nomades.
 
Only Ming was complitely "native" Chinese and it had been indeed succesful against the Nomades in the beginning, however,  the later years of Ming's warefare against the Steppe simply turned into a disaster.

 
Originally posted by Omnipotence

The Xiongnu empire itself was rival in size to the size of the Mongolian empire that Genghis Khan left when he died.
 
It was actually much smaller.


Edited by Sarmat - 06-Jun-2009 at 07:09
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2009 at 03:27
^Samart, I believe we've already went over this before in another thread on whether Jin/Qing was considered Chinese or not(and reading back on the thread you discussed this with plenty of others). Obviously I can't convince you and you can't convince me. But nevertheless, even if these dynasties were foreign, they owned cities and had a mainly agricultural economy. Thus, as long as this thread is concerned I must say they are sedentary. Bloodline is simply irrelevant to the discussion. As for the Ming, you restated my point exactly, it's a tug of war. When one is strong the other is weak. However, there is one part I am willing to discuss and which I simply must point out.

Tang was a dynasty established by a ruler with Nomadic rules that enjoyed a direct support of Turks was even called a "kagan" by them.

This is exactly why I said the Tang was initially successful against nomads. The Chinese called Kublai Khan the Mandate of Heaven. It's what happens when you conquer a people. You become their king. 

As for the Xiongnu, I admit it's smaller than the Genghis Khan's empire when he died. However, it seems to me that the Xiongnu empire certainly rivaled it in size, all thx to the conquests of Modun who expanded Xiongnu territory to about twice its normal size.


Edited by Omnipotence - 06-Jun-2009 at 03:54
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2009 at 07:15
Originally posted by Omnipotence


Tang was a dynasty established by a ruler with Nomadic rules that enjoyed a direct support of Turks was even called a "kagan" by them.

This is exactly why I said the Tang was initially successful against nomads. The Chinese called Kublai Khan the Mandate of Heaven. It's what happens when you conquer a people. You become their king. 
 
Well. Taizong's case was very different. He was not just the king that "conquered other people" he was viewed by the Turks as "their own." They loved him not feared them. And some of his behavoir was very untypical for a "native" Chinese emperor, like sucking the poisoned blood out of a wound of one his Turkic generals. That what I mean. It's also obvious from the Gok-Turks inscriptions that Taizong was viewed as being in a totally separate category compare to later Tang emperors and I believe only he enjoyed the title of "kagan."
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2009 at 09:15
Samart, we've completely went over this. I'll even quote myself to my previous response:

"Yes, most emperors that are praised in history books would have moments like these(I believe the Turk who Tang Taizong helped was named Asma, he also administered the wounds of many other soldiers as well. It's a good way to inspire loyalty and fervor to the dynasty). But also note that in Chinese culture it's not about whether the subject is nomadic or not, it's about whether the subject admits the Mandate of Heaven. The latter is pretty much the Be All and Is All. Tang Tai Zong treated the revolting Mogher tribes pretty badly(he took no prisoners), but because Asma and the like admits the Mandate of Heaven(thus a subject), Taizong cared for him. Emperors who don't give a damn to nomadic subjects who admits the Mandate of Heaven probably wouldn't give a damn about sedentary subjects either."

I must say these types of behavior are not at all untypical for what was a good Chinese emperor. Some emperors are good and some emperors are bad. Just because he treated his subjects kindly doesn't mean such actions aren't Chinese. Such actions are the better part of human nature, and nationality has nothing to do with it. It is the same with "winning the people's hearts". This has nothing to do with sedentary or nomadic warfare. This is just a typical strategy used throughout any culture. You can't put a nationality to it. What Tang Taizong did do different was randomly riding into Turkic camps and challenging their leaders to personal combat (The Turks declined, I don't understand why they didn't just order their soldiers to kill the crazy guy). As much as Tang Taizong had it in him to respect the customs of others(by "others" I meant the ones who didn't oppose him), I doubt he saw himself as a Turk by heart. The crown prince certainly did, as he performed many Turkish rituals. But this was precisely why Chenqian thought he couldn't remain crown prince, as Taizong frowned upon his rituals. In short, Chen panicked and started a failed coup. He could have just stopped the rituals and waited for Taizong to die from old age. When he himself becomes emperor, he could have done whatever ritual he wanted.



Edited by Omnipotence - 06-Jun-2009 at 10:09
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2009 at 17:10
Yes, with all due respect, but I hardly can imagine that Han Wudi or even some high rank Chinese officials who were responsible for the relations with Nomades like for example Ban Chao or Zhang Qian would treat their Nomadic allies in the same fashion. What I want to stress out that Taizong treated Nomades according to Nomadic customs and traditions; while the rest of the Chinese emperors hardly ever attempted this kind of policy and as a rule reqired Barbarians totally submit to the rules and rituals of the only one "civilized" Middle Kingdom.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Brainsucker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jun-2009 at 12:48
Originally posted by Sarmat

Originally posted by Omnipotence


I must disagree and say that the relation in power between the steppes and sedentary states had been a tug of war, not a general decline from an advantageous situation to a disadvantageous one. Post-Han dynasties such as the Tang, Jin, Ming, and Qing did very well in keeping the nomads apart when the dynasties were in their early states.
 
I don't think these are good examples. Tang was a dynasty established by a ruler with Nomadic roots that enjoyed a direct support of Turks was even called a "kagan" by them.
 
Jin and Qing dynasty were established by steppe people. In other words, those were not native Chinese dynasties but rather foreign dynasties with strong Nomadic warfare traditions that succesfully used their skills against other Nomades.
 
Only Ming was complitely "native" Chinese and it had been indeed succesful against the Nomades in the beginning, however,  the later years of Ming's warefare against the Steppe simply turned into a disaster.

 
Originally posted by Omnipotence

The Xiongnu empire itself was rival in size to the size of the Mongolian empire that Genghis Khan left when he died.
 
It was actually much smaller.
 
Sarmat, I won't disagree (as long as there is no document or something that proof otherwise) that Li Shemin has a foreign mother. But you should reconsider your line here
 
"I don't think these are good examples. Tang was a dynasty established by a ruler with Nomadic roots that enjoyed a direct support of Turks was even called a "kagan" by them."
 
Because you just claim that Tang is a Turk Dinasty and not Chinese; in other word you just claim that Han people was conquered by Foreign country that day.
 
You know, it doesn't matter if we share the Tang to a Turk; but saying that the one who rules the Tang was a Turk is not acceptable. Because what? Yes, maybe Li Shemin has a Turk blood, but his father - Li Yuan still a Han Native (or not?)
 
and plus, your statement above just sound like a weak chinese who infused with a superior Turk Blood had become a superman and able to conquer Korea and other countries. Is it true that it is your intention??? or just want to humiliated some people here?
 
I prefer if Li Shemin enjoy the Steppe people support because they saw his mother who was a Turk Princess. <--- because it respected both Turk and Chinese people.


Edited by Brainsucker - 08-Jun-2009 at 12:56
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Post Options Post Options   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jun-2009 at 13:03
From the little Chinese history that I read (and learned from this forum), Li Yuan, the founder of the Tang, was of Sinicised Xianbei stock.

You have to remember that the Sui and Tang dynasties were born directly after the age of barbarian invasions and great fragmentation (somewhat comparable to what happened in the same period in Europe); and during that time the Han Chinese were heavily mixed with Xianbei (proto-Mongol), Xiongnu (Hun), Tocharian, and Xiang (Tibetan) peoples; and ethnic boundaries might not have been clear.
Many so-called "Han Chinese" might have lived under heavy steppe influence, and other people of barbarian descent could have lived under heavy Han influence.

Therefore, putting nationalists sentiments aside, praising a "mestizo" Chinese emperor for his accomplishments against steppe nations isn't necesarrily belittling the Chinese nation.

In the same way, by attributing Catherine the Great's German background in her imperial conquests isn't necessarily stating that Russians are inferior to Germans.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jun-2009 at 16:22
Originally posted by Brainsucker

 
Sarmat, I won't disagree (as long as there is no document or something that proof otherwise) that Li Shemin has a foreign mother. But you should reconsider your line here
 
"I don't think these are good examples. Tang was a dynasty established by a ruler with Nomadic roots that enjoyed a direct support of Turks was even called a "kagan" by them."
 
Because you just claim that Tang is a Turk Dinasty and not Chinese; in other word you just claim that Han people was conquered by Foreign country that day.
 
You know, it doesn't matter if we share the Tang to a Turk; but saying that the one who rules the Tang was a Turk is not acceptable. Because what? Yes, maybe Li Shemin has a Turk blood, but his father - Li Yuan still a Han Native (or not?)
 
and plus, your statement above just sound like a weak chinese who infused with a superior Turk Blood had become a superman and able to conquer Korea and other countries. Is it true that it is your intention??? or just want to humiliated some people here?
 
I prefer if Li Shemin enjoy the Steppe people support because they saw his mother who was a Turk Princess. <--- because it respected both Turk and Chinese people.
 
It is not my intention Brainsucker and I don't want to humliate anyone here. I expressed my view about Taizong earlier in this thread. I believe he was Han, but belonged to a special, now extinct ethnic subgroup of Han, called by some historians "Tabgach." Tabgaches were a result of melting of Han and Nomadic traditions. They had Han self-consciosness with very strong Nomadic element and perfectly understood the culture and traditions of the Steppe. If you know about the history of Russian Cossacks who lived on the Russian Southern borders with the Steppe and were very influenced by the Steppe, they would be a good analogy to describe Tabgaches. So, Tabgaches in a sense were "Chinese Cossacks."
 
What I meant is that because of this Taizong was able to attract willing support of Turks who saw him as a person of "their own." Unfortunately for Tang dynasty later emperors lost that direct link to the hearts of the Nomades, which was one of the reason of the decline and fall of the dynasty.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Brainsucker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jun-2009 at 20:15
Originally posted by Sarmat

Originally posted by Brainsucker

 
Sarmat, I won't disagree (as long as there is no document or something that proof otherwise) that Li Shemin has a foreign mother. But you should reconsider your line here
 
"I don't think these are good examples. Tang was a dynasty established by a ruler with Nomadic roots that enjoyed a direct support of Turks was even called a "kagan" by them."
 
Because you just claim that Tang is a Turk Dinasty and not Chinese; in other word you just claim that Han people was conquered by Foreign country that day.
 
You know, it doesn't matter if we share the Tang to a Turk; but saying that the one who rules the Tang was a Turk is not acceptable. Because what? Yes, maybe Li Shemin has a Turk blood, but his father - Li Yuan still a Han Native (or not?)
 
and plus, your statement above just sound like a weak chinese who infused with a superior Turk Blood had become a superman and able to conquer Korea and other countries. Is it true that it is your intention??? or just want to humiliated some people here?
 
I prefer if Li Shemin enjoy the Steppe people support because they saw his mother who was a Turk Princess. <--- because it respected both Turk and Chinese people.
 
It is not my intention Brainsucker and I don't want to humliate anyone here. I expressed my view about Taizong earlier in this thread. I believe he was Han, but belonged to a special, now extinct ethnic subgroup of Han, called by some historians "Tabgach." Tabgaches were a result of melting of Han and Nomadic traditions. They had Han self-consciosness with very strong Nomadic element and perfectly understood the culture and traditions of the Steppe. If you know about the history of Russian Cossacks who lived on the Russian Southern borders with the Steppe and were very influenced by the Steppe, they would be a good analogy to describe Tabgaches. So, Tabgaches in a sense were "Chinese Cossacks."
 
What I meant is that because of this Taizong was able to attract willing support of Turks who saw him as a person of "their own." Unfortunately for Tang dynasty later emperors lost that direct link to the hearts of the Nomades, which was one of the reason of the decline and fall of the dynasty.
 
alright, I apology for my rude word.
 
I think the Han's military tradition, technologies, and tactic was the best at the ancient time. Their military method was the most advanced in the world. For your insight, even the French in Napoleon era was successful because they use conscription and something that called grande armee (well, Peasant >>> Noble because their numbers were far greater than nobles and knights). The problem is their government type was not compatible with their military method of warfare.
 
The Ancient Han government type was an empire, just like the other kingdoms in the ancient time. Just like every kingdoms in this world, the country was belong to the emperor and everyone inside the country was his subjects. Well, it is true that aristocrats were loyal to their emperor because of Confusius study. But for conscript and mere peasants, this concept was not true. For them (the conscripts and peasants), the most important thing in this world was not their Emperor, but their own stomach and their family. That's why when they were conscripted and sent to the battlefield, they tend to run or leave the battlefield.
 
Why? Because for them, the Empire was not belong to them, but belong to someone else (the Emperor).
 
It was different to France after their revolution. For their conscript, France was their motherland. That's why their spirit was higher than the enemy's army, thus make them braver than anyone in the battlefield.
 
That's why, because of the peasants reluctant to die for their Emperor, peasants was always considered as the lowest class in a kingdom or Empire; and the rulers tend to create a smaller, profesionals, and more loyal soldiers (just like Samurai, Knights, etc). This warrior class / caste was more compatible to an Empire type government rather than large conscripts with advanced weaponary and discipline. At least, they willing to die for their emperor
 
If only the Ming Dinasty was a republic just like France, they could become the most powerful country in the world just like US at their time.


Edited by Brainsucker - 08-Jun-2009 at 20:23
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Jun-2009 at 22:46
^With all due respect, I believe that's a fairly inaccurate picture of Chinese warfare. The warrior caste was officially extinct by the end of the Warring states, and only existed unofficially much like Japanese ronins (warriors without a lord). Untrained conscripts and warrior classes are very stereotypical and inaccurate for most part of Chinese history. Allow me to bring up the quote I gave before:

"In strategic places and along major roads establish walled towns of not fewer than one thousand households and set a palisade around the wall. First erect the houses and gather the agricultural implements, then recruit criminals and reprieved convicts to inhabit them. If these are insufficient, then recruit adult slaves who are redeeming crimes and transport slaves who hope to earn titles. If these are insufficient, then allow people who so desire to go there."

Thus I find it more accurate to say that Chinese armies, in periods of non-attrition warfare, relied mostly on convicts and slaves who hoped to win their freedom through battle. Only when there is a massive war of attrition would the rest of the population be conscripted in significant numbers. Otherwise conscripts usually only stayed in service for two years. One year of training and one year of active service. This means they probably never saw battle. The military system changed with each dynasty but usually it involves giving each male of servicable age some military experience in case of major war in which conscription would be needed, but using volunteers, locals, and convicts to patrol the border. However, wars of attrition are few when it comes to fighting nomads, except for perhaps the campaigns of Han WuDi.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Brainsucker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Jun-2009 at 10:49

@Omnipotence : thank you to correct me. Your post is indeed give me more insight about China History

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Yin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jun-2009 at 22:00
Originally posted by calvo

From the little Chinese history that I read (and learned from this forum), Li Yuan, the founder of the Tang, was of Sinicised Xianbei stock.

You have to remember that the Sui and Tang dynasties were born directly after the age of barbarian invasions and great fragmentation (somewhat comparable to what happened in the same period in Europe); and during that time the Han Chinese were heavily mixed with Xianbei (proto-Mongol), Xiongnu (Hun), Tocharian, and Xiang (Tibetan) peoples; and ethnic boundaries might not have been clear.
Many so-called "Han Chinese" might have lived under heavy steppe influence, and other people of barbarian descent could have lived under heavy Han influence.

Therefore, putting nationalists sentiments aside, praising a "mestizo" Chinese emperor for his accomplishments against steppe nations isn't necesarrily belittling the Chinese nation.

In the same way, by attributing Catherine the Great's German background in her imperial conquests isn't necessarily stating that Russians are inferior to Germans.


Ah, but that is exactly what the age of ethno-nationalism (which we have yet to really move beyond) is all about: the concept of "blood" and "genetic ancestry" associated with notions of superiority and/or inferiority. To be sure, this sort of thinking has always been a part of human nature ("he is of noble blood," etc.), but it has become especially relevant in the age of ethno-national states due to the ideological substitution of class by ethnicity. Whereas before, the rulers of a state might consider themselves superior by blood to the commoners, now that privilege is extended to the entire nation - but not to other nations - and that's why we have the controversies that we do over ethinc history, today.

To this end, things like Catherine the Great being German probably did get used as evidence that Russians were inferior to Germans - the Nazis, for example, believed whole-heartedly that the Nordic Aryan was a master race by virtue of having produced so many great men, whereas the Slavs were an inferior, slave race that the Germans could "justifiably" exploit. One would like to think we're over all that, today, but this is not so; that's the point of my earlier post - you might not think you're denigrating the Chinese nation by alleging that the great Tang emperor was Xianbei, but people inevitably do interpret it in such a fashion, as a cursory glance around the web can tell you. So-called "Altaic" netizens (really Koreans, Turks, and Mongolians), in particular, love to use such arguments to denigrate Chinese.

Towards this end, you have to understand why the Chinese are protective of their history. It's not so much that the facts are offensive, but that the insinuations can be. Somebody always finds a way to argue, through history, that some group is superior/inferior and that's why people are so attentive to historical revisionism. Unfortunately, people do still view others in terms of their group identity, so anything that detracts from one group's identity is inevitably going to be intensely (and perhaps unfairly) scrutinized and criticized by that group. It's a form of self-defense, in some sense, though one could hope that in the end, the facts, and only the facts, would triumph. One could also hope that evidence of the multi-ethnic and interconnected nature of human history would bring us closer together, rather than drive us further apart... But maybe that's too much to hope for.


Edited by Yin - 12-Jun-2009 at 22:10
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omnipotence Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Jun-2009 at 08:59
It's also obvious from the Gok-Turks inscriptions that Taizong was viewed as being in a totally separate category compare to later Tang emperors and I believe only he enjoyed the title of "kagan"


I've been reading up on old posts and I can't help but be nitpicky about this. I would like to mention that later Tang emperors were also called the "heavenly khagan", BUT it is true that this position gradually lost power over the generation of emperors, until the title was just something that sounded good to the ear but had no real power.

In fact, Tang Taizong wasn't even the first Chinese emperor to be labeled as "khagan". Both Sui Wendi and Sui Yangdi received the title of "khagan" from the Gokturks and Western Turks respectively, although I don't believe these titles contained as much power as Tang Taizong's "heavenly khagan".


Edited by Omnipotence - 18-Jun-2009 at 09:04
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Jun-2009 at 18:50
Originally posted by Yin



To this end, things like Catherine the Great being German probably did get used as evidence that Russians were inferior to Germans - the Nazis, for example, believed whole-heartedly that the Nordic Aryan was a master race by virtue of having produced so many great men, whereas the Slavs were an inferior, slave race that the Germans could "justifiably" exploit.
 
Yeah, in fact Nazis did like to speculate with the fact that Catherine was German. But it didn't change anything for them in the end it were Russians who conquered Berlin, not Germans who conquered Moscow. So, that even Hitler seeing the collapse of his "Aryan master race" myth had to come up with another crazy idea saying that "the German nation is weak."
 

Originally posted by Yin

Towards this end, you have to understand why the Chinese are protective of their history. It's not so much that the facts are offensive, but that the insinuations can be. Somebody always finds a way to argue, through history, that some group is superior/inferior and that's why people are so attentive to historical revisionism. Unfortunately, people do still view others in terms of their group identity, so anything that detracts from one group's identity is inevitably going to be intensely (and perhaps unfairly) scrutinized and criticized by that group. It's a form of self-defense, in some sense, though one could hope that in the end, the facts, and only the facts, would triumph. One could also hope that evidence of the multi-ethnic and interconnected nature of human history would bring us closer together, rather than drive us further apart... But maybe that's too much to hope for.
 
Everything depends on education and personal views of a particular person. I, for example, don't see any problems in the fact that Russia was ruled by people from different ethnic backrounds, I would rather be proud of their contribution to the Russian history and diversity of the Russian ethnos.
 
However, if a person is raised and educated in strict categories like "of our own" - "not of our own," 'us - they," "inferioir"-"superior" etc. there always will be a room for baseless speculations and ethnic complexes.
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