A Call for Questions! (End of the Dynasty)

As we near the demise of the Tang Empire, it’s time once again to send out a call across the land asking for your China-related questions! Pretty much anything goes, doesn’t have to be related to this era (though that helps!)




15 thoughts on “A Call for Questions! (End of the Dynasty)

  1. I recently finished Sima Quian’s Basic Annals of Gaozu of Han. I was struck by the way in which he is portrayed; a drunk (the book says he was intoxicated when he started his rebellion in Pei), and a coward (children in the cart). Why would the Grand Historian risk his life to publish such a critical portrait of the Supreme Ancestor, and why was the book not suppressed? I do know he was castrated, but was that not for other offenses?

  2. I have recently watched the movie “House of Flying Daggers” which is supposed to be set during the Tang Dynasty. The question I have is that during the scene in the restaurant at the beginning of the movie the main character throws out what looks like miniature silver ingots as payment. What were these and why were they shaped that way? Why was it used as payment instead of regular coins, was this a result of the lack of coinage you have mentioned several times throughout the episodes?

  3. Who do you feel was the best emperor during the Tang Dynasty? If not the same person, what about throughout all of Chinese history up to the end of the Tang Dynasty? What makes a good ruler? Is a good ruler a father figure who spends treasury on the masses? Is a good ruler a conqueror? Would Socrates and Confucius agree on what a good ruler is, and if so, what drink would they share in such a bugging bromance?

  4. 1. The bureaucracy that was created during the Tang Dynasty was vast. Following the fall of the dynasty into the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period and then into the Song, how did the massive institution for the Middle Kingdom survive the test?

    2. It is clear when emperors that are only on the throne for a short period of time there is a troubling time in the empire. When Emperors that are on the throne for ten plus years or even twenty plus years that stability usually ushers in a time of prosperity. If the Tang had periods where rulers reigned for longer periods would the stability of the dynasty lasted longer or would have it still collapsed into itself due to the known issues in the latter periods of the dynasty?

    Finally episode 97, the opening that you did made me chuckle hard.

  5. As I understand, the actual way the battles were fought and any tactics used weren’t recorded too thoroughly in Chinese history. As best you can, can you shed any light on the evolution of tactics or army composition from conscripted armies to professional forces over the centuries?
    Also, is there any data on how the soldiers of varying classes would be armed and armored and how that changed from the Warring States period to our current Tang period?
    Any advances in metallurgy or smithing techniques leading to different types of weaponry preferences?
    I know this is a lot, and a very broad topic, so feel free to pick what you want to answer.

    As always, thanks.

  6. In the latest episode, you mentioned the use of “peasant rebellion” as a traditional label. I wonder how far back was this phrase used? The modern phrase, 农民起义 (peasant uprising) is used throughout the Communist textbook from Chen Sheng and Wu Guang’s time, as the same text considers the First Empire also the formal beginning of feudal economy when a formal peasant class started to exist. (Before that, it was all “slave rebellion”.) But I cannot easily relate the phrase to an ancient form. As you mentioned, 亡命 and such were quite common but they do not convey the same connotations. Even when the righteousness associated with 起义 (uprising for justice) is replaced with violence, like in 农民暴乱, a four-syllable word still sounds modern. In classic historic fictions, the Romance of Three Kingdoms uses negative phrases such as 乱军 to describe Yellow Turbans, and Water Margin uses positive phrases such as 好汉 to describe Song Jiang. Later uprisings with a political ambition like Li Zicheng describe themselves as 义军. All of them use two syllables to which 农 is difficult to attach.

    Unrelated, thinking about the traditional Communist explanation of the Chinese history makes me wonder how is agricultural revolution related to the transition to feudal society. For some reason, maybe because of the Chinese word 农 appears in both agriculture and in peasantry, I had this strong impression that the feudal society began to form with the agricultural revolution. (Or perhaps my history teachers had said so. It was too long ago.) In formal history text I learned, although feudal economy had evolved since Spring and Autumn, the First Emperor was the one who formalised the system throughout China. But even if that is correct, the Yellow Emperor is supposed to have taught people how to farm. This would push the Chinese agricultural revolution very far before Spring and Autumn. So were farmland mainly in the hands of royalties before that time?

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