The History of China

The History of China

United Kingdom

An audio journey through the 5000 year history of one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations.

Episodes

#119 - Tang 31: Reap the Whirlwind  

The poison seeds that have been planted across China for the last century and longer will all begin to sprout, as the rebel commander Huang Chao takes command of the latest and greatest of internal threats to imperial stability. Yet it won't be the rebels themselves that will prove the decisive factor in the chaos to come... but instead the Empire's own supposedly "loyal" generals and soldiers... already looking ahead to their own places in the post-Tang world. Time Period Covered: 878-882 CE Major Historical Figures: Tang Dynasty: Emperor Xizong of Tang (Li Yan/Xuan) [r. 874-888] General Zhang Zimian Governor-General Li Tiao of Guangdong [d. 879] General Gao Pian, "The General Who Lost the North" Xi Dynasty: Huang Chao, "The Heaven-Storming General" [d. 884] Sources Referenced: Levy, Howard S. (1955). Biography of Huang Ch'ao Somers, Robert M. (2008). "The end of the T'ang" in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 3: Sui and T'ang China, 589–906 AD, Part One (ed. Denis C. Twitchett) Wei, Chuang(881). "Lament of the Lady of Qin"(tr. Lionel Giles)

#118 - Tang 30: Sow the Wind  

Dear empire, we’re having a very mild case of severe rebellion, um, everywhere. But don’t worry, it’s totally under control. Everything’s fine, we’ve got this. Don’t panic. PS, rebel leaders if you’re reading this we’ll give you more than you’ve ever dreamed of if you’ll just stop attacking us, pretty please. But no it’s fine, we’re totally going to win, for sure. PPS, Imperial Army please stop refusing to fight. We’re totally serious about this. Joke’s over, it’s not funny anymore. Fight the rebels or we’re going to be, like, super angry with you. Victory is assured. No problem whatsoever. PPS, local magistrates, please recruit your peasants to fight the rebels – promise them whatever you have to. Seriously, anything. Long live the victorious Tang. No, the plane engines only look like they’re on fire. They’re supposed to look like that. That’s completely normal. Love, Emperor Xizong. Time Period Covered: 873-878 CE Major Historical Figures: Tang Dynasty: Emperor Yizong of Tang [d. 873] Emperor Xizong of Tang (Li Wen) [r. 873-888] Tian Lingzi, court eunuch-official General Song Wei General Zhang Zimian Rebel Commanders: Wang Xianzhi, Supreme Rebel General [d. 877] Huang Chao, Heaven-Storming General [d. 884]

#117 - Tang 29: The Gathering Storm  

The Tang Empire enters its death spiral. The cumulative effects of more than a century of economic mismanagement intersects with the peasantry and military's respective gripes with the government to disastrous effects south of the Yangtze River. Rebellions beget further rebellions as the whole enterprise spirals down toward the drainpipe. Time Period Covered: 859-873 CE Major Historical Figures: Emperor Yizong of Tang (Li Wen/Cui) [r. 859-873] Princess Tongcheng [d. 870] General Wang Shi General Zhuye Chixin (later Li Guochang) Governor-General Linghu Tao Qiu Fu, rebel leader, "Grand Generalissimo of the Empire" [d. 860] Pang Xun, rebel leader [d. 869]

#116 - Tang 28: I, Xuānzong  

Li Yi was never trained to be emperor. Not only was he the thirteenth son of Xianzong, but he'd been ruthlessly mocked and belittled his whole life by his entire family for being an idiot, an invalid, and a mute. But when his hated nephew dies in 846, he's going to shock the world by revealing he was faking it the whole time, and go on to become the last good emperor of the Tang before its final bow. Time Period Covered: 846-859 CE

#115 - Tang 27: The Third Disaster of Wu  

The new Emperor Wuzong will have a lot on his plate right from the get-go. Foreign threats and domestic squabbles will frame his early reign, but it's his own fanatical devotion to Daoism and antipathy to Buddhism that will define his reign. Period Covered: 840-846 CE

#114 - Tang 26: The Sweet Dew Plot  

Behind the throne of Tang is where the true power lies in the mid-9th century, among squabbling bureaucrats, shadowy factions, and conniving eunuchs. But this game of shadows is difficult to follow. Nevertheless, when events reach a head in 835 we’ll need to know how all the pieces on the imperial chessboard got where they are, and so we take a look at the real movers and shakers of the late Tang court. Time Period Covered: 808-836 CE Major Historical Figures: Tang Emperors: Emperor Xianzong of Tang (Li Chun) [r. 805-820] Emperor Muzong of Tang (Li Heng/You) [r. 820-824] Emperor Jingzong of Tang (Li Zhan) [r. 824-827] Emperor Wenzong of Tang (Li Han/Ang) [r. 827-840] Crowned Prince Li Yong [d. 838] Emperor Wuzong (Li Chan) [r. 840-846] Niu Faction Officials: Niu Sengru, Duke of Qizhang Li Zhongmin Li Xun [d. 835] Li Faction Officials: Li Jifu, Duke of Wei [d. 814] Li Deyu, Duke of Wei Nonaligned Officials: Zheng Zhu [d. 835] Eunuch Officials: Wang Shucheng [d. 835] Qiu Shiliang, Duke of Chu

#113 - Tang 25: The Longshoreman's Prophecy  

In the wake of Emperor Xianzong’s unexpected death in 820, his work remains unfinished… and now left in the hands of his incapable, incompetent successors. The eunuchs are hard at work securing ultimate authority for themselves, and have no time for a strong central leader, and the Governor-generals of the northeast are eager to get out from under the imperial thumb once again. Into all this madness, a dock-worker, a fortuneteller, and an army of vagabonds will make a quixotic bid for the throne. Time Period Covered: February, 820- January, 827 CE Important Historical Figures Emperor Muzong of Tang (Li Heng) [r. 820-824] Emperor Jingzong of Tang (Li Zhan) [r. 824-827] Emperor Wenzong of Tang (Li Ang) [r. 827-840] Prince Li Han of Jiang [d. 827] Eunuch-Official Liang Shoujian Eunuch Official Liu Keming [d. 827] Chief Minister Xiao Mian Su Xuanming, Fortuneteller Extraordinaire [d. 824] Zhang Shao, Unlikely Sitter of Thrones [d. 824] Sources Dalby, Michael T. (1979). “Court politics in late T’ang times: Mid-Ninth Century Court (820-59)” in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 3.

#112 - Tang 24: Make Tang Great Again!  

Young Emperor Xianzong has a plan to restore China's supremacy in the 9th century world... and - surprisingly enough - it involves precisely zero walls being built. Time Period Covered: 805-820 CE

#111 - Special: Strange Tales  

Today, we veer off our main narrative and into several seasonal tales which celebrate the spooky season in Chinese fashion. We feature a ghostly gathering, a bewitched battle, injurious jests, and lethal looks. Author: Pu Songling [1640-1715 CE] Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio Featuring: The Golden Goblets (begins: 2:15) The Necromancer (begins: 13:30) The Killing Joke (begins: 21:15) The Painted Skin (begins:

#110 - Tang 23: Where the Wangs Went Wrong  

We take a look at the final years of Emperor Dezong's reign, his political successes and failures, and the strange, mysterious,short-lived Wang Party that would seize control over government for about 5 minutes before being kicked out by Dezong's grandson Xianzong. Also, we have a paralyzed, mute emperor, so there's that, too! Time Period Covered: ca. 790-806 CE Major Historical Figures: Tang Dynasty: Li Kuo, Emperor Dezong of Tang [r. 780-805] Li Song, Emperor Shunzong of Tang [r. 805] Li Chun, Emperor Xianzong of Tang [r. 805-820] Dou Wenchang, Eunuch Protector of the Army Huo Xianming, Eunuch Protector of the Army Wang Shuwen, Wang Party Founder Wang Pi, Wang Party Member Tibetan Empire: Prime Minister Shang Jiecan (Shan-rgyal-btsan) Uyghur Khannate: Tun-Baga-Tar Khan Dalby, Richard. "Court Politics in Late Tang Times" in The Cambridge history of China vol. 3 Zizhi Tongjian Jiu Tangshu Wang, Yunsheng (1963). "Second Treatise on the historic Significane of that Bastard Sima's Political Innovations" in Lishi Yanjiu.

#109 - Tang 22: Innie or Outie?  

Dezong has had it up to here with his mumbling, bumbling, stumbling courtiers and their inability to solve the empire’s problems. So he’s going to give them 3 last shots to prove the worth of the bureaucracy, and when they strike out, he’ll turn toward his private inner count to make the Tang Empire great again. Time Period 786-795 CE Major Historical Figures: Emperor Dezong of Tang [r. 779-805] Chancellor Cui Zao (term of office: 785-787, exiled and d. 787) Chancellor Li Mi [term: 787-789, d. 789] Chancellor Dou Can [term: 789-792, d. 793 by forced suicide] Chancellor Lu Zhi [term: 792-794, exiled] Director of Finances Pei Yanling [792-796, d. 796] Major Works Cited: Dalby, Michael T. "Court Politics in Late Tang Times" in The Cambridge history of China, vol. 3. Sima, Guang. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 234, 235

#108 - Tang 21: General Disaster  

The echoes of the An Lushan Rebellion still reverberate destructively through Tang China even three decades after its conclusion. As the new emperor, Dezong, attempts to revitalize the glory days of old, he’ll kick off an new round of wars with the governor-warlords of Hebei who don’t want to have to listen to him anymore. Time Period Covered: 781-785 CE Major Historical Figures: Emperor Dezong of Tang (Li Kuo) [r. 779-805] Li Zhengji, Governor-General of Pinglu [d. 781] Zhu Tao, King of Ji Zhu Ci, Governor-General of Huaixi, Emperor of Qin/Han [d. 785] Duan Xiushi, Tang double-agent [d. 783] General Li Huaiguang General Li Sheng

#107 - Tang 20: This Is Only a Test  

Today we explore the insanely difficult, stressful, byzantine... and sometimes fatal... world of the would-be imperial official as they attempt to climb their way through the labyrinth of tests explicitly designed to fail them out. One unlikely success of this system is Yuan Zai, who will going from impoverished nobody to Chancellor of the Empire... all before getting his head lopped off. We then finish out Emperor Daizong's time on the throne before the reign of his son Emperor Dezong. Time Period Covered: 762-781 CE Major Historical Figures: Emperor Daizong of Tang (Li Yu) [r. 762-779] Emperor Dezong of Tang (Li Kuo) [r. 779- 805] Chancellor Yuan Zai [d. 777] General Guo Ziyi [d. 781] Major Works Cited: Dalby, Michael T. "Court Politics in Late Tang Times" in The Cambridge history of China, vol. 3. Miyazaki, Ichisada. China's Examination Hell. Sima, Guang. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 225.

#106 - Tang 19: Not Quiet on the Western Front  

You would think that finally quelling the largest rebellion on Earth would by the realm back into peaceful harmony. Unfortunately for the Tang, you’d be wrong. While China was forced to spend every waking moment in the Northeast desperately trying to drive back An Lushan for the past 7 years, the Tibetans went ahead and moved in from the West, cutting off Chinese access to the Far West Protectorate, and by 763 poised to deliver a devastating broadside to the already-devastated Tang Empire. And as if that’s not enough, in the middle of all this, a loyal military commander has false accusations of treason leveled against him by a paranoid regional official, but then through a series of zany happenstances is forced to actually rebel against the government for fear of being convicted and killed for the initial false charges. This is why we can’t have nice things… Time Period Covered: 763~770 CE Major Historical Figures: Tang Empire: Emperor Daizong of Tang (Li Yu) [r. 762-779] Crowned Prince Li Kuo General Guo Ziyi, Guard Commander of Chang’an General Pugu Huai’en [d. 765] Luo Fengxian, Imperial Eunuch Official Xin Yunjing, Governor of Hedong Yu Chao’en, Commander of the Army of Divine Strategy [d. 770] Tibetan Empire: Tsenpo Trisong Detsen Uyghur Khaganate: Tengri Bögü Khagan (Qutlugh Tarqan Sengün) Major Works Cited: Chamney, Lee (2012). “The An Shi Rebellion and Rejection of the Other in Tang China, 618-763.” University of Alberta. Dalby, Michael T. (1979). “Court Politics in Late Tang Times” in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 3. Liu, Xu. (945). Jiu Tang Shu. Ouyang, Xiu (1060), (tr. Colin Mackerras, 2004) “The History of the Uyghurs” in Xin Tang Shu. Sima, Guang. (1084). Zizhi Tongjian. Wang, Bing-Wen (2012). “A Tragedy of Marriage and Politics: the Puku Huai’-en Rebellion” in New History Journal (新史學雜誌).

#105 - Tang 18: Retrospective  

Before getting into the latter half of the Tang Dynasty, we take a look back at the 175 years we’ve covered since the Sui first reunified China at the conclusion of the Period of Disunion. Join us on this high-altitude, rapid journey charting the highs and lows the the 2 & a half dynasties we’ve looked at since Episode 76. Time Period Covered: 581-764 CE Major Historical Figures: Sui Dynasty: Emperor Wen (Yang Jian) [r. 581-604] Emperor Yang (Yang Guang) [r. 604-617] Tang Dynasty: Emperor Gaozu (Li Yuan) [r. 618-626] Princess Pingyang [d. 623] Emperor Taizong (Li Shimin) [r. 627-649] Emperor Gaozong (Li Zhi) [r. 650-683] Emperor Zhongzong (Li Xian) [r. 684-684] Emperor Ruizong (Li Dan) [r. 684-690] Zhou Dynasty: Empress Regnant Wu Zetian (Wu Meiniang) [r. 690-705] Tang Dynasty (restored): Emperor Zhongzong (Li Xian) [r. 705-710] Emperor Ruizong (Li Dan) [r. 710-712] Princess Taiping [d. 712] Emperor Xuanzong (Li Longji) [r. 712-756] Emperor Suzong (Li Heng) [r. 756-762] Emperor Daizong (Li Yu) [r. 762-779] Northeastern Protectorate/ Yan Dynasty: Emperor An Lushan [r. 756-757] Emperor An Qingxu [r. 757-759] Emperor Shi Siming [r. 759-761] Emperor Shi Chaoyi [r. 761-763]

#104 - AnShi 4: Crowns in the Gutters  

The AnShi Rebellion grinds on to its bitter conclusion, claiming lives at a rate unprecedented in human history. Crowns and throne will be cast to the wind by fathers and sons alike, and in the end China will before force to decide between national cohesion and national sovereignty… a true devil’s choice, if ever there was one. Time period covered: 756 – 764 CE Major Historical Actors: Tang Dynasty: Retired Emperor Xuanzong [d. 762] Emperor Suzong (Li Heng) [r. 756-762] Emperor Daizong (Li Yu) [r. 762-779] Yan Dynasty An Lushan [d. 757] Emperor An Qingxu [r. 757-759] Emperor Shi Siming [r. 759-761] Emperor Shi Chaoyi [r. 761-763] Uyghur Khaganate Tengri Bügü Khagan [r. 759-779]

#103 - AnShi 3: Strange Bedfellows  

Reeling from the loss of both capital cities to the rebel army, Emperor Xuanzong and his heir Li Heng split up. Three days later from the northern garrison at Lingwu, the Crowned Prince declares himself the new emperor, Suzong – surprise, Dad! Newly enthroned, Suzong will be forced to cobble together an unlikely coalition of China’s neighbors in order to have any hope of turning the tide of the civil war that threatens to drown the Tang Dynasty in blood. Arabs, Transoxianans, Ferghanans, and even Uyghur Stepperiders will join forces with a corps of Han Chinese soldiers willing to die to the last man if it means stopping An Lushan and his Yan rebel army in its tracks. Time Period Covered: July 756 – December 757 CE Major Historical Figures: Tang Dynasty: (Retired) Emperor Xuanzong [Li Longji] (r. 712-756, as retired emperor 756-762) Emperor Suzong of Tang [Crowned Prince Li Heng ] (r. 756-762) Crowned Prince Li Yu [b. 727] General Guo Ziyi Yan Dynasty Rebels: An Lushan [d. 757] An Qingxu [r. 757-759] General Yan Zhuang Uyghur Khaghanate: Bayanchur Khan [r. 747-759] “The Viceroy” (Yagbu), Field Commander of the Uyghur Cavalry Major Works Cited: Chamney, Lee (2012). “The An Shi Rebellion and Rejection of the Other in Tang China, 618-763.” University of Alberta. Dalby, Michael T. (1979). “Court Politics in Late Tang Times” in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 3. Inaba, Minoru. (2010). “Arab Soldiers in China at the Time of the An-Shi Rebellion” in The Memoirs of the Toyo Bunko, 68. Liu, Xu. (945). Jiu Tang Shu. Pulleyblank, Edwin G. (1976). “The An Lu-Shan Rebellion and the Origins of Chronic Militarism in Late T’ang China” in Essays on Tʻang Society: The Interplay of Social, Political and Economic Forces. Ouyang, Xiu (1060), (tr. Colin Mackerras, 2004) “The History of the Uyghurs” in Xin Tang Shu. Twitchett, Denis. (1979). “End of the Reign” in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 3. Sima, Guang. (1084). Zizhi Tongjian. Wang, Qinruo, et al. (1013). Cefu Yuangui.

#102 - AnShi 2: Song of Everlasting Sorrow  

An Lushan marches south, occupying Louyang with blinding speed and leaving the Tang Dynasty reeling. Still, ultimately the tide seems ready to turn against the rebel general and self-styled-Emperor of Yan, until Chancellor Yang Guozhong's bungling ruins absolutely everything. Time Period Covered: Jan-July, 756 Major Historical Actors: Tang Dynasty: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang Chancellor Yang Guozhong (d. 756) Consort Yang Guifei (d. 756) Crowned Prince Li Heng General Feng Chengqian (d. 756) General Gao Xianzhi (d. 756) General Geshu Han Dongan Protectorate/Yang Dynasty An Lushan An Qingzong (d. 756) Major Works Cited: Abramson, Marc S. (2008). Ethnic Identity in Tang China. Chamney, Lee (2012). “The An Shi Rebellion and Rejection of the Other in Tang China, 618-763.” University of Alberta. Pulleyblank, Edwin G. (1976). “The An Lu-Shan Rebellion and the Origins of Chronic Militarism in Late T’ang China” in Essays on Tʻang Society: The Interplay of Social, Political and Economic Forces. Twitchett, Denis. “End of the Reign” in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 3. De la Vaissière, Étienne, (tr.) James Ward (2002). Sogdian Traders: A History.

#101 - AnShi 1: Heart & Belly, Claws & Teeth  

The aged Emperor Xuanzong of Tang rest uneasily on his throne as 751 brings not just the sting of defeat at Talas, but also to the far south and northeast. He and his chancellor will become increasingly reliant on the Governor-General of Dongan Protectorate, the Sogdian-Turk An Lushan. But at a time when loyalty, ethnicity, and what it means to be Chinese is increasingly strained, how much pressure can the system take before it snaps? Time Period Covered: 751-755 CE Major Historical Figures: Li Longji (Emperor Xuanzong of Tang) Chancellor Li Linfu (d. 753) Chancellor Yang Guozhong Consort Yang Huiyuan Crowned Prince Li Heng An Lushan, Governor-General of the Andong Protectorate Geshu Han, Governor-General of the Anbei Protectorate An Qingzong (Gen. An’s eldest son and heir) Sources Cited: Abramson, Marc S. (2008). Ethnic Identity in Tang China. Chamney, Lee (2012). “The An Shi Rebellion and Rejection of the Other in Tang China, 618-763.” University of Alberta. Pulleyblank, Edwin G. (1976). “The An Lu-Shan Rebellion and the Origins of Chronic Militarism in Late T’ang China” in Essays on Tʻang Society: The Interplay of Social, Political and Economic Forces. Twitchett, Denis. “End of the Reign” in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 3. De la Vaissière, Étienne, (tr.) James Ward (2002). Sogdian Traders: A History.

#100 - Special: Di Yi Bai!  

Title Meaning: “Hundredth!” It’s a Q&A between you listeners and myself on topics far and wide! They range from yet further exploration of Empress Wu, to the nature of Chinese alcohol, my favorite Chinese movies, Chinese classes and slavery within the Empire and even today, China’s relations with Southeast Asia and why it seems to be a particularly difficult place to conquer across time, the end of the Ming Dynasty, the surprisingly contentious history of silk, and finally a question likely to land me in hot water: a question on how China might change in the century to come (bring it on, Fifty Cent Party!) Enjoy!

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