Medieval China

Preface

  1. Geography
    1. Isolated due to mountains and deserts
    2. Large, typically unified land mass
    3. Regular competition with Northern neighbors (Mongols)
  2. Rise and Fall of the Qin Dynasty
    1. Warring States 403-221BC
      1. Massive civil war fought amongst Chinese nobility for total control of China
    2. Emperor Qin Shi-Huangdi (221-206BC)
      1. Ended the warring states period
      2. United China under his complete Authority
      3. Established a legalistic gov’t
      4. Angered many citizens by his autocratic rule
      5. Established the rule of China under an Emperor
      6. Qin dynasty collapsed after his death

Medieval China

  1. Han Dynasty (206BC- 220AD)
    1. Imperial gov’t with a scholar-official system
      1. Supreme authority belongs to the Emperor by birthright 
      2. Gov’t officials chosen based on examination
        1. Exam is on the teachings of Confucius
      3. Bureaucracy- complex gov’t system based on specific offices with specific authority
    2. Development, expansion, and trade
      1. Largest competitor were the Xiongnu to the north
        1. Expanded west to the Persian empire to prevent Mongol flank
        2. Conquered Korean peninsula to defend N.E.
      2. Large empire, expensive to maintain and defend
        1. Heavy taxation of farmers and private businesses
        2. Government established monopolies in specific trades and productions (ie iron and grain sales)
      3. Silk Road
        1. Defense of western border secured safe travel west
        2. First time Chineses made contact with other cultures
        3. Opened huge trade routes between east and west
    3. Fall
      1. Early death of emperors lead to a succession of child emperors
        1. Ruled by temporary regents who took power
          1. Eventual break-up and rebellion
          2. Leads to the Age of Division (220-589)
  2. Tang Dynasty (618-907)
  3. Song Dynasty (960-1279)
    1. Political Difficulties
      1. Emperor moved authority of the military under gov’t officials
      2. To defend against Khitans (northern barbarians)
        1. Paid them gold and silk each year
        2. Kept a large military
          1. Military consumed half of gov’t expenses
          2. Increased need for horses
    2. Meritocracy- rule of officials based on merit (examination)
      1. Chinese peak in use of the Confucian Examinations
        1. State supported schools- made available to almost all
        2. Four Books– study of China’s classic lit
      2. Neo-Confucianism- a blend of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism
    3. Movable Type Printing
      1. Each character can be moved around a print face
      2. Lowered book prices and increased literacy
    4. Agricultural Developments
      1. Population of nearly 115 Million, most in the South
        1. Encouraged growth of rice- grows well in south
          1. New strain of rice imported that grows faster
        2. New farming techniques
          1. Fertilizer
          2. New plows and harrows
          3. Chain pumps to move water
          4. Terracing
        3. Growth of cotton, tea, and mulberry trees (for silkworms) 
          1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqFm_7KyfHI
          2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JihQ7Uh7-Kk
    5. Urbanization
      1. The growth of cities
        1. Could contain up to 2 million people
        2. Due to surplus of crops, there was a large growth of merchants and tradesman
          1. Easier to make money in cities
  4. Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)
    1. Rule of the Mongols over China
    2. Mongol Culture
      1. Northern nomads live in migratory groups
      2. Fierce warriors of tribal groups
      3. Great horsemen
      4. Very durable
    3. Mongol Invasion
      1. Genghis Khan consolidated power of many Mongol tribes
      2. Conquered other tribal groups, ie Jurchens
      3. Continued south to invade Northern China
        1. Issued warnings to surrender before arriving
          1. Surrendered; they local leaders remained in charges as Genghis’ ally
          2. Resisted; completely destroyed the city, and often all of its citizens
        2. Conquered cities by surrounding and cutting off supply routes
        3. Used catapults, explosive arrows, and any technologies available
      4. After China, went west and conquered as far as Poland and Baghdad
    4. Genghis’ Success
      1. Employed anything or anyone that gave him an advantage
      2. Made allys or completely destroyed enemies to prevent rebellion
      3. Gave positions of power to foreigners who allied with him
        1. Respected valiant warriors
      4. Took pride in his fighting and leadership
      5. After death, his empire splits among 4 of his sons
    5. Kublai Khan and the Yuan Dynasty
      1. After death of final Song emperor, Kublai claims power
      2. Class system
        1. Mongols
        2. Foreigners
        3. Northern Chinese
        4. Southern Chinese
      3. Ends civil service exams, and places Mongols and foreigners in positions of governance
        1. Restore exam in 1315 but with limited accessibility
    6. Foreign trade and Influence
      1. Safe travel across the entire silk road
        1. Made travel safer and easier
        2. Rest stops every 20 miles
      2. Increased naval trade, especially to India and Sri Lanka
      3. Encouraged trade and exchange
        1. Very welcoming of foreign trade and culture
          1. Large religious migration of Christians and Muslims
        2. With trade came new idea and technologies
          1. Mathematics, astronomy, religions, medicine, architecture, etc
          2. Europeans gain gunpowder and printing
      4. Welcomed foreigners into political positions
    7. Marco Polo
      1. Venetian trader
      2. Spent 24 years traveling China, recording what he saw, and serving as a political official of the Yuan gov’t (1269-1295)
      3. On his returned collected his experience into the Travels of Marco Polo
        1. Hugely influential for introducing Europeans to Chinese culture and customs
    8. Fall
      1. Mongol civil wars and disputes weakened imperial rule
      2. Mongols abandoned Chinese leadership and returned to Mongolia