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"The Song Dynasty" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2019 8:25 p.m. PST

"After the dissolution of the central government's control of the Tang Empire, the tenth century CE in China was marked by increased political instability. Almost as soon as one military commander seized control, his rule would be undercut by infighting and coup d'etats. This pattern repeated frequently in the five northern and ten southern kingdoms into which the Tang empire had dissolved. In 960, when the general Zhao Kuangyin seized control of Bian (modern Kaifeng), he appeared to be just another warlord making a bid for power. Yet the manner in which Zhao, known to history by his reign name Emperor Taizu (ruled 960-976), managed to consolidate power demonstrated that he was a masterful politician and strategist as well as a brilliant military commander.

Taizu's rise to the throne was as much a public relations campaign as it was a military one. Influential allies helped mold public opinion, creating the impression that Taizu had been unwillingly thrust into the position of leadership, and that popular demand left him no option but to take the throne. Then, to preempt any further possible coups on the part of these same allies, Taizu offered them large prosperous estates, hereditary titles and generous pensions in exchange for their retirement from their respective martial offices. Taizu then replaced these career military men with civil servants, so that the ranks of commanders, generals and other high-ranking military positions were filled by bureaucrats totally inexperienced with military service. Furthermore, the holders of these posts were frequently rotated, so no single commander was given the opportunity to develop an independent power base from which to launch a revolt. Once his new cabinet was established, Taizu engaged in a reunification plan composed of a mixture of warfare and diplomacy, often winning over rivals with extremely generous rewards for defection, and thus avoiding battle altogether. Using this strategy, the reunification of China was complete by 978 with surprisingly little loss of life and destruction of property.

After Taizu's death in 976, his brother took the throne as Emperor Taizong. Taizong made it a high priority to win back territories in northern China now controlled by the Liao dynasty, founded by the once-nomadic Khitan. Taizong's failed campaign against the Khitan generated disastrous results, since the Khitan attacked in reprisal, coming within a few days march of the Song capital. After this demonstration of the limitations of their own military strength, the Song court came to rely a policy of appeasement, inaugurating a tribute system in which massive annual payments were offered to the Khitan, promised for perpetuity, in return for peace. The same policy would later be used to pacify the Jurchen (founders of the Jin dynasty, 1115-1234 CE), the Tanguts and Mongols. A healthy economy made such policies of appeasement practical, and the stable political environment that resulted initially led to even more thriving domestic and international trade, higher agricultural yields, and a number of impressive technological advances…"
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