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Book description

This volume deals with four non-Chinese regimes: the Khitan dynasty of Liao; the Tangut state of Hsi Hsia; the Jurchen empire of Chin; and the Mongolian Yuan dynasty that eventually engulfed the whole of China. It investigates the historical background from which these regimes emerged and shows how each in its own way set up viable institutions for the control of a multi-racial, multi-lingual, and multi-cultural population. It discusses these problems not just as a long negative episode in China's history, but shows the ingenuity and adaptability of these states, and their success in achieving political and social stability. The volume presents the fullest chronological account of the period, in which political, institutional, social, and economic changes are integrated as far as possible, and sees the period against a broad background of international relations in Northern and Central Asia.


"...the studies presented in this volume have...raised questions which need to be further explored....the level of scholarship expressed in this volume is very high. It is to the credit of the editors and each contributor that we can now say that the stage is set for a new understanding of this period in Chinese history." Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies

"This volume presents a more authoritative, more comprehensive, and far clearer picture of these regimes that occupied first nothern and western China, an eventually the entire country, than has previously been available....It is difficult to do full justice in reviewing a volume of such magnitude....This volume is indeed a rich banquet, but it is also one that needs to be digested slowly in order to sample fully its varied flavors. Its publication is an event worthy of celebration." The Historian

"...a tremendous contribution....this volume is an outstanding encyclopedic study of a unique part of Chinese history, and it should prove useful as a resource not only to researchers and graduate students, but also to those who teach undergraduates....unquestionably an important accomplishment. It will lead readers to a better understanding of the role of the non-Han peoples in Chinese history and encourage all to meditate upon the revolutionary question: what is, in fact, Chinese history?" China Review International

" important synthesis of aspects and periods of the history of China which have, until relatively recently, been somewhat neglected by scholars....Both editors and contributors deserve our congratulations and gratitude." D. O. Morgan, Reviews of Books

" indispensable reference work." The International History Review

"...a sound survey as well as an indispensable starting point for serious students or researchers." Choice

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  • 1 - The Liao
    pp 43-153
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    The founding of the Liao dynasty at the beginning of the tenth century opened a second period of extensive foreign dominance in China. The name of the Khitan, the founders of the Liao dynasty, became a synonym for China. In 906 or 907 when the last Yao-lien khaghan, Hen-te-chin or Ch'in-te, was deposed because of his ineffectual leadership, the leaders of the eight tribes elected in his place the commander in chief of the confederation's forces, A-pao-chi, the chieftain of the I-la tribe. The basic annals of the Liao shih tell us that A-pao-chi "ascended the imperial throne" and founded a dynasty of his own in 907. For the Liao, their state was an invaluable buffer zone and a strategic stronghold from which any attempt by the Sung to strike into the occupied prefectures of northern Ho-pei could easily be outflanked. The reign of Sheng-tsung was the crucial period in the development of the Liao.
  • 2 - The Hsi Hsia
    pp 154-214
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    At its height in the middle of the twelfth century the Hsia state embraced the Ordos and the Kansu corridor. After the fall of Liao, the Tangut state occupied a position of considerable cultural and political standing in East Asia. An independent Tangut state came into being in 982, was formally proclaimed a "dynasty" in 1038, and was destroyed by the Mongols in 1227, 245 years after its founding. This chapter discusses the rise and fall of the Tanguts, T'angs, Liang-Chou and Tangut expansion into Ho-Hsi. By the early twelfth century the Hsia capital was commonly called Chung-hsing. The reigns of I-Tsung, Hui-Tsung, and Ch'ung-Tsung were an era of internal disorder and conflict between the states. The siege of Chung-hsing lasted for six months. From their T'o-pa roots to their post-Mongolian manifestations, the creators of the Hsia state left behind a complex historical legacy that is still far from being fully understood or appreciated.
  • 3 - The Chin dynasty
    pp 215-320
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    This chapter discusses the Jurchen people and their predynastic history, Chin-Sung relations before the treaty of 1142, the political history of Chin after 1142 and the the annihilation of Chin. The rise, decay, and fall of the Chin dynasty are to a great extent linked with the history of their institutions. The basic feature of their government and administrative system was the complex interplay between native Jurchen traditions, features inherited from the Liao state and Chinese (Sung) influence. Land, under the Chin, was in principle a commodity that could be inherited, sold, or mortgaged, and there were no general prescriptions regarding what the individual farmer or tenant had to grow, except for mulberry trees. Already before the establishment of their own state the Jurchen had come into contact with Buddhism, in the Po-hai region. Traditionalism certainly contributed much to the emergence of a feeling of a separate northern identity.
  • 4 - The rise of the Mongolian empire and Mongolian rule in north China
    pp 321-413
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    Toward the end of 1236 Mongolian armies crossed the Volga, the right wing moving north into the Bulghar lands and the Russian principalities, and the left wing into the north Caucasus and the western Qipchaq steppe. The unparalleled unification of the steppe tribes under the aegis of the Mongols in the thirteenth century stands in sharp contrast with the division and discord of the twelfth century. This chapter discusses the social order, economic conditions, early history, and the Temujin's reunion with the Onggirad. Temujin was then given the title of Chinggis khan, the chief shaman. Besides serving to confirm and consolidate Chinggis khan's hold on the eastern steppe, the khuriltai of 1206 laid plans for various new military and diplomatic initiatives. The Mongolian empire reached the high point of its power under Mongke. However, the Mongols' mandate to bring the known world under their dominion was never to be realized.
  • 5 - The reign of Khubilai khan
    pp 414-489
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    Khubilai became the most powerful figure in the Mongolian domains, profoundly influenced by his mother Sorghaghtani Beki. He was the only Mongolian noble who had recruited so many Chinese Confucians. By 1279, Khubilai and the Mongols had crushed the remnants of the Sung dynasty. Khubilai was also successful in pacifying Korea. In the Chaghadhai khanate in Central Asia, Khubilai confronted a foe who wished to wrest control from him. Khubilai eventually acknowledged that he could not control Central Asia and was compelled to accept Khaidu as the de facto ruler of the area. The Chinese theater, in particular, blossomed during Khubilai's era and the reign of his immediate successors. Khubilai's emphasis on the colloquial was a boon to novelists, who often portrayed characters of a lower-class origin. The achievements of Khubilai's reign were remarkable. Despite his flaws and the difficulties he faced in the last decade of his reign, Khubilai left his successors a stable and generally prosperous state.
  • 6 - Mid-Yüan politics
    pp 490-560
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    During the thirty-nine years of the mid-Yüan period, nine khaghans ascended the throne in quick succession, resulting in frequent bureaucratic turnovers and reversals of state policies. This chapter shows that the mid-Yüan rulers missed the opportunity afforded by the general peace in the country to make further constructive changes on the basis of what Khubilai had left them. The mid-Yüan khaghans inherited from Khubilai not only a great empire but also its multifarious problems. Politically, the system of government created by Khubilai was the product of a compromise between Mongolian patrimonial feudalism and the traditional Chinese autocratic-bureaucratic system. Temür's reign was significant as the transition between a period of continuing conquests and one of general peace. Khaishan, Ayurbarwada, Shidebala, and Tugh Temür followed. What was left by the mid-Yüan monarchs to Toghon Temür, the last Yüan khaghan, was a state that had been greatly weakened by the constant and violent conflicts within the ruling class.
  • 7 - Shun-ti and the end of Yüan rule in China
    pp 561-586
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    When Toghōn Temür, often referred to by his temple name, Shun-ti, was installed as tenth emperor of the Yüan dynasty in July 1333, when he was barely thirteen years of age. Khubilai was still very much a living memory. Bayan believed that things had drifted in undesirable directions in the forty years since Khubilai's death and that he wanted to restore the status quo ante. In March 1340, his nephew Toghtō, removed Bayan from all his offices and banished him. Toghto's first administration certainly exhibited fresh new spirit. It is remarkable that Toghtō managed not only to create a nationwide apparatus of pacification but also to keep effective control over it. Toghtō's ambitious activism demanded discipline and centralization. Toghōn Temür removed Toghtō, who, like his uncle Bayan before him, had grown very powerful. In the direct sense, the Yüan dynasty fell at last because the Ming founders willed it.
  • 8 - The Yüan government and society
    pp 587-615
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    The structure of Yüan government took shape during the reign of Khubilai, and the essential components of the government bureaucracy that formulated under him remained intact until the end of the dynasty in 1368. The strongest Chinese influence at Khubilai's early court came from Liu Ping-chung, a Ch'an Buddhist and confidant of the Mongolian emperor. It is clear that separate civil and military bureaucracies existed, though there also is evidence that military officials did not always refrain from meddling in civilian affairs, and vice versa. Originating as a tribal, military society, the pastoral nomadic Mongols of the early and mid-thirteenth century evidenced little social stratification. Although the thirteenth-century Mongols did indeed have slaves usually non-Mongolian war captives rather than indigenous slaves it would not be correct to describe slave holding as a fundamental characteristic of the Mongols' tribal and clan-based pastoral nomadic society and economy. Yüan government and society reflect both continuities and breaks with the Chinese past.
  • 9 - Chinese society under Mongol rule, 1215–1368
    pp 616-664
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    Khubilai khan's ceremonious adoption of Chinese dynastic forms in 1272 began the period of greatest Mongolian adaptation to Chinese influences on the patterns of government. This chapter attempts to suggest the kinds of issues in social history that give the Yüan dynasty its interest and importance in the minds of historians today. The uncertainty about the size and distribution of the Chinese population in Yüan society remains subject to speculation and debate. The chapter shows that the Yüan government went beyond all precedent in its effort to classify and register its subjects according to status and occupation, in order to serve its social management objectives. The fourfold ethnically defined system of social classes: Mongols, Western Asians, Han jen, and Nan jen, did not eliminate the preexisting Chinese elite or attempt to reduce all Chinese to one debased economic level, neither did it ensure superior economic status for all Mongols and Western Asians.
  • Bibliographical essays
    pp 665-726
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    This chapter presents essays on the Liao period, history of the Hsi Hsia, and Chin dynasty. It also talks about the official history of the Yüan, the Secret history of the Mongols, and the Chinese knowledge of Mongolian history beyond China. In mainland China the focus has been largely on Yüan social structure, presented in simplistic class analysis and, in particular, on the popular rebellions of the late Yüan. A leading figure in Yüan history studies was Han Ju-lin, who was a student of Paul Pelliot in Paris in the 1930s and was thoroughly conversant with Western, including Soviet, scholarship. Modern studies of the Yüan system of social classes were initiated by the preeminent Japanese historian of the Yüan period, Yanai Wataru, in a work known in Chinese translation as Yuan tai Meng-Han se-mu tai-yii k'ao, published in the mid-1930s in a translation by Ch'en Ch'ing-ch'uan.


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