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

#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: Crown in the Gutters  

The AnShi Rebellion grinds on to its bitter conclusion, claiming lives at a rate unprecedented in human history. Crown 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!

#99 - Tang 17: The Battle of Talas  

The armies of the Far West Anxi Protectorate of the Tang face down a force commanded by the ascendant Abbasid Islamic Caliphate, fresh off its victorious insurgency over the Umayyad Caliphate. But in this one and only clash between Chinese and Arab might, the ramifications for both will be felt long after the blood dries on the battlefield along the Talas River. Time Period Covered: May- September, 751 Major Historical Figures: Tang Dynasty – Protectorate of Western Pacification Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (Li Longji) Governor-General Fumeng Lingcha Governor-General Gao Xianzhi (Go Seonji) Bian Lingchen, Court Eunuch on Assignment to Anxi Lieutenant Li Siye Officer Duan Xiushi Transoxiana: Lesser Bolü Kingdom (Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan) Shi Kingdom (Tashkent, Uzbekistan) Turgesh Khannate Karluk (Qarluq) Turks Tibetan Empire Abbasid Islamic Caliphate: Governor Ziyad ibn Salih Major Works Cited: Bartold, Vasily (1928). Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion (Trans. T. Minorsky & C.E. Bosworth). Chen, Sanping (2012). Multicultural China in the Early Middle Ages. Golden, Peter B. (1990). “The Kharakhanids and early Islam” in The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, vol. 1 (ed. Denis Sinor). Hoberman, Barry (Sept/Oct. 1982). “The Battle of Talas” in Aramco World, vol. 33 no. 5. Ibn al-Athir, Ali (ca. 1231) The Complete History. Sima, Guang (1084). Zizhi Tongjian. Soucek, Svak (2000). A History of Inner Asia. Starr, S. Frederick (2004). Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Borderland. Szczepanski, Susan (2015). “Battle of Talas River” in About.com: http://asianhistory.about.com/od/centralasia/a/BattleofTalas.htm Tsien Tsuen-hsuin (1985). “Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 1: Paper and Printing.” In Science and Civilization in China: Vol. 5. Twitchett, Denis (ed.) (1979).“Hsuang-Tsüng: Li-Lin Fu’s Regime” in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 3.

#98 - Tang 16: All Along the Watchtowers  

We leave the capital behind to take a tour of the Tang Empire’s neighbors, both old and new. A tenuous peace with Tibet leads to a westward push putting the Chinese into contact – and eventual conflict – with the Islamic Abbasid Caliphate. Meanwhile, to the north and east rebellious Khitan tribesmen will spark a huge military buildup in the region under the control of one man, while the former Goguryeo reorganizes itself into the powerful state of Balhae, forcing the Tang Court to re-assess its diplomatic options. Time Period Covered: 730-750 CE Major Historical Figures: Tang Dynasty: Li Longji (Emperor Xuanzong of Tang) [r. 712-756] Gen. Zhang Shougui, Military Governor of Fanyang Gen. An Lushan, Military Governor of Pinglu, Prince of Dongping Tibetan Kingdom Turgesh Kaghanate: Sulu Kaghan [d. 738] Abbasid Islamic Caliphate Second Turkic Kaghanate: Bilgé Kaghan [r. 716-734] Kul Tigin [d. 731] Khitan and Xi Tribes: Ketuyu [d. 733] Balhae Kingdom: King Go [r. 698-719] King Mu [r. 719-737] King Mun [r. 737-793]

#97 - Tang 15: Law & Order: XZU  

In the Justice System of the Tang Imperial Court, the throne’s interests are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the Confucians, who argue for traditional ethics, and the Legalists, who argue for the unbending application of the letter of the law. These are their stories… Time Period Covered: 731-740 CE Major Historical Figures: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang Chief Minister Zhang Jiuling Chief Minister Li Linfu Eunuch Commander Gao Lishi General Wang Maozhong Major Sources Cited: Herbert, Penelope A. "A Debate in T'ang Chinaon the State Monopoly on Casting Coin" in T'oung Pao LXII Twitchett, Denis. "Hsuang-Tsüng: The Middle Reign" in The Cambridge history of China, vol. 3 Sima, Guang. Zizhi Tongjian.

#96 - Tang 14: The Sacrifices of Feng and Shan  

Military reforms mark our entrance into Xuanzong’s early-middle reign, which is more or less a basket of unicorn foals: external peace, internal stability… now if only that darned economy would fix itself! But the emperor will turn a fateful corner in the 724, when his official Zhang Yue convinces him to conduct the Feng and Shan Sacrifices: the highest ritual a Chinese ruler could conduct – a sacrifice to Heaven and Earth atop holy Mount Tai. Time Period Covered: 714 – 726 CE Important Historical Figures: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (Li Longji) [r. 714- ] Empress Wang [d. 724] Lady Wu Chief Minister Zhang Yue Minister Yuwen Rong Minister Cui Yinfu

#95 - Tang 13: Xuanzong Can Fix It!  

Wu Zetian’s grandson Li Longji (aka Xuanzong of Tang) is left to pick up the pieces of 50+ years’ worth of overindulgence, royal excess, and the rampant deconstruction of the entire imperial bureaucratic apparatus. Thanks, grandma. Fortunately, he’ll prove uniquely suited to the role of maintenance-man, and under his unexpectedly capable leadership, he’ll reign in his family members, do away with the thousands of excess positions, reform the government, and stabilize the regime. He’s building up to a second Golden Age for the Tang Dynasty… all he has to do is get his obnoxious Aunt Taiping out of the way first… Major Historical Figures Li Longji (Emperor Xuanzong of Tang) [r. 712-756] Princess Taiping [d. 713] Li Dan (Retired Emperor Ruizong) [r. 710-712, d. 716] Yao Chong [650- ] Song Jing [663 - ]

#94 - Tang 12: Two Second Reigns  

The Tang Dynasty has been restored following Empress Wu's eldest son's coup d'etat. But dynastic restoration does not equate to societal reformation, and many of the problems Wu inherited or exacerbated remain. Throw into that mix a decade long period of palatial infighting between princes and princesses, and we have a period so chalk full of intrigue, espionage, and assassination... that classical historians have preferred to steer around this decade rather than even deign to acknowledge it. Time Period Covered: 705-712 CE Notable Historical Figures: Deposed Empress Wu Zetian [d. 705] Li Xian (Emperor Zhongzong of Tang) [2nd r. 705-710] Li Dan (Emperor Ruizong of Tang) [2nd r. 710-712] Li Longji (Emperor Xuanzong of Tang) [r. 712- ] Princess Taiping Empress Wei [d. 710] Princess Anlou [d. 710] Wu Sansi [d. 707] Crowned Prince Li Chongjun [d. 707]

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