China history Guide 16: State, Society, Culture of Ming dynasty, Third golden age of imperial China

China history Guide 16: State, Society, Culture of Ming dynasty, Third golden age of imperial China


Lets start from government structure and functioning. Civil administration  was quite unchanged in comparison to Tang and Song dynasties. There was still division on Secretariat and six ministries. Secretariat was assisting in work of emperor and coordinated and supervised work of ministries.

Below are six ministries andtheir functions- taken from

  • The Ministry of Personnel handled all matters relating to government employees, from appointment to assessment of work, promotions etc.
  • The Ministry of Revenue was in charge of tax collection, state revenues, and currency.
  • The Ministry of Rites was in charge of all ceremonial matters and the priesthood.
  • Ministry of War was in charge of all matters relating to the armed forces. They also ran the courier system.
  • The Ministry of Justice was responsible for the judicial and penal process. They did not have jurisdiction over the Censorate.
  • The Ministry of Works was in charge of all government construction projects and maintenance of roads. They also were responsible for the standardization of weights and measures in the country.
symbol of power
Dragons, symbol of imperial power, source:

System was officially based on merits more than connections like before. But still corruption and nepotism existed often.

Censorate was reestablished in 1430. Main Censor was general supervisor of all affairs in state and administrative apparatus. He also sent insepctions to various ministries and regional governments. They could dissmiss and request punishment for corrupt official.

Administrative division was combination of Song dynasty and Yuan dynasty.  On highest level were provinces and were totally 13 of them. Except them there were 4 quasi autonomous regions. Province was governed by civil, military and surveilance commissions. Below province were prefectures governed by prefects and subprefectures governed by subprefect. There were also counties as lowest units governed by magistrate.


Social classes were same as before Yuan dynasty.

Educational system was same as before explained but with some restrictions for lower classes.  Legal system was based on Ming Code derived from Song Code.

Tibetan territories had some autonomy but were depended on Ming court and Ming court often gave tittles and At beginning of 15th century tittle of Tibetan Buddhist leader such as Dalai Lama appeared. He paid tribute to Ming court. In Tibet strict theocracy was formed in which trone Dalai Lama was and monastic elite which got large wealth. They were only 5% literate of Tibetan population. They were masters of  peasants which were widely exploited and punished severely.

By beginning of XVII century on Han settlers started to come on Taiwan. There lived local aborigines and also some parts were colonized by Dutch and Portoguese. Aborigines started to be assimilated by Han Chinese but kept some of indigenous traditions. Soon Taiwan fell completely under Chinese rule and Dutch and Portuguese were expelled.

Economy of Ming China was one of worlds strongest economies same as during significant Qing period. Ming dynasty rule is considered as third golden age of Chinese state, society and economy after first Han and second Tang/Song.  In first period agriculture was in very good condition and most of peasants were able to produce enough to sell both on rural and urban market too. Together with different tools water powered equipment was used for production of crops. Manufacture was mostly stable and large amounts of iron and salt were produced.  Maybe new achievements for boosting production were not made but technology of Tang and Song dynasties was used. Anyway production was very conceptualized and determined for internal market. Production of iron and salt was largely privatized what motivated merchants even further to produce and sell on national market. In 17th century there were more than 300 factories in China. First time in Chinese history waged labor appeared. Ming dynasty abolished forced labor and installed waged one. Peasants with low income had chance to join some factory and work in iron, salt or pottery production for money. Except privatization taxes were reduced too.  When emperor Hongwu died his successor Yongle Emperor didnt follow restrictive policy and promoted trade quite a lot. His successors again imposed restrictions   related to trade but kept opened few ports for free trade and leased Macau for conducting trade. National trade was completely free from state while international was under tight control much tighter than before in terms of taxes, determining amount and means of trade. China focused on maritime trade since Silk Road became too dangerous . Uighurs and other Turkic groups strengthened themselves in western borders and would attack caravans. Ottoman Empire occupied most of Arab world and it wasnt interested to trade. Only chance to trade was via sea with new emerging economies and powers such as Netherlands , Spain and Portugal.  Trade with Japan over sea was regular through few ports. China played real mercantilist policy since it exported everything and imported a little. It imported silver only mostly and was rejecting other demands of other powers which wanted either to sell different commodities or to impose their trade regulations.  With such commerce and production it is often considered that China experienced some proto capitalism and was about to reach industrial revolution if trade and invetions were more frequent and intense during Ming dynasty.

When it comes to technology discoveries were not so stunning and large like it was during Tang and Song dynasties. China already used advanced technologies in metalurgy, shipbuilding and in transport through canals, hydraulics and mechanics. Trade with Europe brought one of first telescopes to China. Chinese were also among first who proposed heliocentric model of solar system.  In military gunpowder was used in guns, canons, kind of rockets, mines and naval mines.  In medicine  many medical books were published about treating various diseases and conditions and more than 50 books about treating smallpox.

Type of brushteeth was invented too.

There was written largest encyclopedia of that time in printed form even. It included astronomy, arts, history, medicine, religion, techonolgy and agriculture.

Very detailed maps were drawn and printing was used for all major documents.

Zhang He did significant contribution to maritime communication. He commanded large fleet the biggest one of that time.  Ships were more than 65m long and longest one was 137m. He conducted 7 voyages  between 1405 and 1433 all starting from Nanjing. Aim was spreading knowledge of China and getting confirmation from all states that China is strongest in the world. His mission was not militarily invasive but only fought against pirates that they encountered on journey.  He wanted to gain cultural and political acknowledment that China is most superior country in the world with Mandate of Heaven. Zheng He delegation was bringing gifts and showing cultural and technological achievements to present superiority. He also issued invitations to rulers  of host countries to visit Chinese emperor and some of them did it. He also got tributes and official acknowledgements that they recognize China as supreme state in world.  Zhang He also established trade relations with these countries nas it was one of aims to expand the trade. Tribute from Somalia were girrafes which were brought to imperial palace. Girrafes were reminding Chinese on qilin- a mythological unicorn so they saw it as gift of Heaven and confirmation that their discoveries and journeys are good thing. But since 1433 further voyages were banned and biggest ships burnt because of mentioned influence of some Confucian scholars on emperor. Many written evidence of voyages was burnt in order to prevent new journeys and any knowledge gained outside China. Also state manuals for shipbuilding were changed and replaced with those which allowed building only of smaller ships in comparison to those used in jorneys. It was with aim to make ships unable to travel further from East and Southeast Asia. It is often believed that if voyages were not banned that Chinese fleets would reach Europe, discover America and Australia with aim of searching new trade opportunities. Confucians didnt want to encourage discoveries and expansion of trade believing that it can damage social order, dissolve culture and that dependence on trade will be too high. They believed that China should focus on own state, social order, own culture, national trade and education. They believed that China should be self-sufficient and to depend only on itself.

Zheng HE map
Routes traveled by Zheng He, source:


Arts experienced quite a big progress during Ming dynasty.  Literature was really rich during this time. There were written many short fictions often related to legends, martial arts and mythological beings.  Also longer novels were written among which is most famous Journey to the West written by Wu Chengen and this is one of 4 main Chinese classics. It is about legendary being Sun Wukong half human half monkey who is good, skillful in martial arts and a bit eccentric and funny. Also novel Romance of 3 Kingdoms ( Luo Guanzhong) appeared which depicts 3 Kingdoms Period and events and relations related to that period( 220-280). Among main characters there is Zhuge Liang a chancellor of Shu Han and brave and honest hero.  Another classic novel was Water Margin.  Various journey and travel essays were written.  Most famous travel writer was Xu Xiake. Poetry was also widespread during Ming dynasty across all China. Most famous poets were Gao Qi, Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhongdao, Ou Daren and Wang Wei. Wang Wei was female Taoist poet monk. She wrote mostly about nature and love. Generally poets wrote about nature, love, relationships, hedonism…

Painting was also very  widespread. Qiu Yang, Wen Zhengming, Tang Yin and Shen Zhou are regarded as Four Painting masters of Ming dynasty. They used styles from Tang and Song but also they invented own free independent styles. They sold paintings expensively and could make living from it.

ming giraffe
Ming dynasty painting of giraffe, source:

Music, opera and plays were very colorful and widespread during Ming Dynasty.  inese Drama was very popular and jingxi( Peking opera).

Religion  and philosophic developments were stable. State support of Tibetan Buddhism which was high during Yuan dynasty dropped. First few Ming emperors favored Taoism and promoted in widely. Yongle Emperor ordered collecting all Taoist texts in new version of canon Daozang.Whole proccess took long time between 1406 and 1447.  Zhengyi sect now overpowered Quanzhen in White Cloud Temple as abbot became member of Zhengyi sect. Chan Buddhism was mostly represented by Caodong and Linji schools. Martial arts were popular both in Taoist temples and Buddhist too.

Confucianism experienced reforms of during 15th and beginning of 16th century. There were two streams one liberal and one ultra conservative. Wang Yanming started to promote more liberal ideas whcih could be catalyst of change in China for increasing equality and freedoms. He promoted idea that careful investigation of yourself and surrounding can give you wisdom. Wang was saying that anyone could attain wisdom with patience and observation and be as wise as Confucius. He was saying that some intelligent and experienced peasant may be more wise than scholar who studied all classics and poetry. Hardline Confucians disliked his ideas and considered them as „rebelious“ as Taoist and Buddhist ones and same as emperor considered him as treat to hierarchical strict order. Therefore they often sent him to remote wars hoping that he will die. But his ideas started to be more widespread and he got very active followers such as Wang Ge, Li Zhi and He Xinyin. Wang Ge was spreading more equal ideas among commoners while Li Zhi and He Xinyin were advocating better opportunities for women in education and jobs and called for equality. This made conservative stream of Confucians and emperor very angry and they perceived them as usurpators and dangeer to the system. Li Zhi and He Xinyin were arrested and they died in jail. As a reaction to that and to strengthen system and power emperor and conservative Confucians made system even more strict, conservative and closed. Except mentioned partial closing trade and foreign influence they reduced rights of women even more and reduced opportunities for lower classes to enter bureaucracy.

Christianity experienced rises and falls during Ming dynasty. At beginning as contra policy towards Yuan dynasty it was restricted and declared illegal for further spreading. By end of 16th century Christian jesuits were only partially allowed as a measure of partial maintaining of openess towards trade and foreign culture. Jesuits educated in Macau came accross China to present new European technologies and to try to convince people by rationality to accept new faith. Matteo Ricci was one of most famous Jesuits in China. He with Chinese convert Xu Guangqi presented world map based on European cartography and also translated Euclids works into Chinese. They got some support from Confucians because they emphasized on knowledge and hierarchy. Almost forgotten stele built during Tang dynasty in Xian was pointed by jesuits to get affirmation of Christianity as old faith in China. Matteo Ricci promoted balanced preaching approach in which he spoke that converts could still practice traditional rituals, respct Confucius… But after his death his followers were more conservative what caused expelling of Jesuits in 1616 for several years back to Macau. Later they were allowed partially again. But now some movements were balancing with Chinese traditions while others such as Dominicans were criticial and spoke that Confucian rites are incompatible with Christianity. It later caused big disputes and baning during Qing dynasty.

Judaism was slightly present mostly in Kaifeng.

Islam was very respected during Ming dynasty. Marriage with Muslim people were legal. Muslims could also join state and serve. Except Zhang He there were several other Muslim generals in Chinese army. They commanded Muslim troops in wars with Mongols. Uighur general Hala Bashi was famous for surpassing rebelions of minorities in Yunnan.  At same time non-Chinese Muslims which were brought during Yuan dynasty, were deported from Gansu province back to todays Xinjiang, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan. Ming emperors and Confucians considered Muslims as loyal and that they fit Confucian ideology. Several emperors built a lot of mosques in Nanjing, Yunan, Guangzhou, Quanzhou, Fujian, Xian….In foreign policy China supported Champa and Malacca Sultanate a Muslim governed states. It supported Champa in war with Vietnam and fought Portuguese for attacking Malacca. Lin Nu was famous Chinese Muslim scholar and merchant.

Life in that period was quite similar in comparison to leisure, gardening, virtues, enterntainment to Tang and Song dynasties. Despite difference in life in city and village they became very interconnected thanks to better roads and canals. Because of rapid growth of cities they were coming closer to each other and towards villages. It eased communication and cooperation between various artistic, scholar, religious and other associations. Presence of women was reduced in public life and theri rights decreased in comparison to Song and even Tang dynasty.

Ming dynasty male clothing, source:
ming female
Ming dynasty, women dress


In new capital city Beijing life was very vibrant. There were many shops, markets,  temples, tea houses, brothels and other.  City started to take shape with gates and hutongs of todays appearance of old parts. Core of the city was around todays Qianmen, Shichihai and Temple of Heaven. During 15th century many grand constructions were done both for pleasure and duties of emperor. Most remarkable is Forbidden City a large imperial palace larger several times than those of Xian( Tangs dynasty palace) and of Nanjing( at beginning of Ming). Still it was smaller than the Weiyang Palace of Xian a residence of Han dynasty. It was called with a reason that no one who is not in aristocratic or bureaucratic top elite could enter it. Emperor lived there with his closer family in Inner area of palace and there only eunuch guards and servants were allowed and female servants. In outer area were performed various ceremonies and governmental procedures,  receptions, celebrations, conferences and decision making were conducted. Here could enter non eunuch soldiers on guard and top governmental officials. First European to enter it was Matteo Ricci. Emperors built other large complexes around Forbidden city such as Beihai Park and Jingshan park determined for leisure of imperial family. Emperors built several villas and temples at Xiangshan hills where they liked to spend summers and hunt and enjoy with concubines.

One of main halls of Forbidden City
Beihai park in Beijing, important imperial garden of Ming dynasty


Xiangshan mountain resort in Beijing suburbs enjoyed by Ming emperors

Within Beijing emperors invested in renovation of Imperial Academy( built during Yuan dynasty). Temple of Heaven, Temple of Sun, Temple of Moon and Temple of Earth were built in purpose of worshipping these bodies and elements. Most important was Temple of Heaven where emperor prayed for good harvest at beginning of new lunar year in order to confirm Mandate of Heaven.


Before we finish it is important to mention Jianghu a term for all quasilegal or illegal secret societies. Here belonged both good and bad societies.

Most of them lived as hermits in mountains and practiced martial arts.They had their code of conducts based on Taoist principles and some Confucian manners. They wanted to stay separate from state or other institutions as they wanted to be independent completely free from taxes, others influence and wanted to keep their martial arts in secret. They had own hidden shrines in some of their temples or city houses.  Also some of them resided in cities and secretly gathered in houses. They used this arts for self-defense from robbers. Some societies were aiming fighting against robers and helping people who were victims of robbers. Others were fighting against injustice and used to attack rich officials and rob them and distribute wealth to poor people. Such societies were always target of government and oftne were caught and executed but also often they managed to fight back successfully. Most famous such sects are quasi-fictional such as Emei Sect, Wudang Sect and Shaolin Sect. Kunlun Sect was purely fictional.  There were also secret societies of magicians, fortune tellers who wanted to remain in secret to keep their formulas and rituals away from competition and offered theri services to people who came for help. Some of societies were societies of artisans who were hiding their talents from others. There were also some societies which promoted apocalypse and were calling for disasters and violence and promoted some messianic ideas. Such extremist sects were very dangerous and manipulative. Among them most famous was White Lotus Sect. There were also secret societies of robers and assassins. Robers used to rob anyone while assassins were hired by some figure to eliminate another figure in power struggle. Such societies started to appear during Han dynasty, were becoming more widespread during Tang and Song dynasties. During Ming were even more widespread while they peaked during Qing dynasty when biggest crisis appeared and were aimed at foreigners and Manchu dynasty mostly  and help for the poor.

Wudangshan, source of  legends, martial arts and mystery, source:



source of featured image: ld-of-Martial-Arts-fridaythe13th-Opinions-aID11.html

Chinese ancient figure 8- Confucius, a father of imperial China, education and social norms

Chinese ancient figure 8- Confucius, a father of imperial China, education and social norms

Here I want to focus on biography and life of Confucius and basically some ideas. Also I will focus on some aspects of his life that seem to be legend and a question of his existence.

His Chinese name is Kong Qiu and simply great man with great ideas. He lived during Spring and Autumn Period( 771BC-476BC) a period of formal supremacy of Zhou dynasty in terms of politics and culture while there was large division on many states who often were in rivalry relations and fought wars. Confucius was born  in state of Lu in Qufu in todays Shandong province in 551BC.  Confucius was born during rule of Duke Xiang of Lu. He became later known as Kongfuzi what means master Kong so from this name he is known as Confucius. Confucius never met his father as he died when he was only 3 years old. He originates from aristocratic family which was impoverished already by time of his birth.  His ancestry dates to house of Dukes of Song during Shang dynasty. At age of 15 he was learning classical six arts which were compulsory for scholars  of Zhou dynasty and those were rites, archery, music, calligraphy, charioteering and math. At age of 19 Confucius married with Qiguan. At age of 23 his mother died and he mourned for 3 years as was tradition saying.  First he tried to be governmental official and worked on some position, He served as magistrate and later as assistant in Ministry of Public Affairs. .Confucius later became Minister of Crime in state of Lu. At that time he was in mid 30ies and decided to become teacher  too and spread his ideas and education as he saw biggest value in education and spreading it.  By proposing his ethical and governmental ideas he was collecting some disciples. Confucius was trying to give education for more people and never took money from his disciples like at that time aristocratic families were paying tutors for their male kids. Confucius played role of diplomat too  in managing relations between rivalry dukes and tried to mediate conflict peacefully and was successful several times.


Confucius was successful at this and centralized power and restored order in state of Lu. But state of Qi tried to distract Duke of Lu by sending beautiful dancing girls. As legend says Duke didn’t attend governmental meetings for few days and Kong Zi was disappointed ad decided to leave the Lu because of lack of morality of duke for whom he served. At that time he was in his 40ties. Kongzi visited many of smaller and bigger states and visited courts there but dukes and kings listened only to his proposals. But never applied them so Confucius was always on road seeking for someone who will apply it and collected disciples on his way. Kongzi considered rituals, governance and music of Western Zhou as core for Chinese culture and state and these ideals he promoted and tried to apply in Lu and other states. Western Zhou was period when  state was united and before Spring and Autumn decentralization. Confucius was teaching his disciples all 6 arts, ethics and governance. At age of 68 he returned his home to state of Lu. Before that he climbed a Mount Taishan which was sacred at that time already. In his hometown he continued teaching most until his death. Confucius was very friendly towards his disciples used to joke but also demanded respect but respected them back too. His son and one of favorite disciples died early and he felt sorry for both of them. At age of 73 Confucius died in his hometown in 479BC As a highly respected person he was buried on grand ceremony and state mourning was declared. Kong  Zi was buried in his hometown Qufu and his tomb still can be visited and people come there to pay respect.

tomb of confucius qufu
Tomb of Confucius, Qufu, Shandong province

He believed that basis for happiness is ideal family in which younger give respect to older and women are submissive to men. From a basis of ideal family goes ideal harmonious society with hierarchy respect and where everyone knows its place and deserves place according to education and skills. Education, respect and harmonious relations are basis of society and everyone by self-cultivation improves his position in society. Kongzi believed that every human serves to society for a higher good and functioning of society. He also believed that following virtues, traditions and high education give you better status in society. Confucius is often seen as conservative person promoting old traditions, rituals and customs which keep unity of family and society. In keeping family tradition each family must worship its ancestors what brings family unity. Under ideals of Western Zhou which established concept Mandate of Heaven legitimacy of ruler must be based. He considered that ruler must worship Heaven in order to gets its blessing and govern under divine power. Confucius considered that state must be strong and ruler generous, powerful and ethical. He considered that highest positions could have only people with highest education and highest skills and virtue. He considered that each ruler and member of society must think about his own behavior, morality and educate himself in order of perfection. In order to get respect leader must be self-disciplined and to respect others too. He believed that you must be compassionate and positive to motivate others to follow law. By education he believed you can achieve higher status and respect in society and only if you have high morality and are self-disciplined.  Confucius idealized concept of 4 professions and their contribution to society. Hierarchy, respect, self-discipline are a must according to him. Confucius emphasized highly on worship of Heaven and ancestors and with aim to keep order worship must be highly detailed. Which chants and when, number of vessels and all steps of ritual had to be according to some order done. Kong Qui considered major arts: computing, calligraphy, music, ritual, archery and chariot driving. He believed that they require strict self-discipline and hard working and therefore are contributive. Confucius believed that such concept of state and organization of society leads to harmnonius society. He was against wars and believed that  justified war only in case of defense.  However despite his brilliant ideas there are some controversies related to Confucius such as misogynic  ideas and underestimating living beings. There is a story when he asks only about human lives when there was accident in which horseridrers were involved and behaves towards animals as towards property of human. Also sometimes his philosophy may seem to strict with lack of spontaneity and joy but some important ideas are definitely serving functioning of society.

2013-06-21 11.03.19
statue of Confucius in Confucius Temple, Beijing

He never left book behind him but his followers gathered his main ideas into  few books.  Confucius left behind 72 disciples who continued spreading his idea,, Moreover they wrote his basic concepts in  Classics of Poetry, Book of Documents, Book of Rites, Spring and Autumn Annals, Great Learning, Mencius and Analects.

2013-06-21 11.05.44
Confucius temple Beijing,

During era of Han dynasty he was deified and worshipped by his followers and scholars. His idea of governing was institutionalized during Han dynasty( 206BC-220CE) when such hierarchy, family and social relations were established like he promoted. Also imperial examination of civil servants who studied his classics existed until 1905. Today Confucianism is still important in China but not in terms of empire, inferiority of women and blaming those sick or unsuccessful and keeping them in poor condition. Today Confucianism serves as idea of hierarchy, social harmony and working on your own skills and education for self-achievement and serving your society.

If you read my history articles you will see how on  his principles Chinese state and society functioned for 2000 thousand years. About role of Confucianism in modern China will be in last chapter of history.


China History Guide 15- Ming Dynasty( 1368-1644) Last ethnic Han dynasty

China History Guide 15- Ming Dynasty( 1368-1644) Last ethnic Han dynasty




Key events: Ming dynasty was last ethnic Han dynasty of China. First period of this dynasty can be seen as still prosperous for China but in later period China started to stagnate as we will see.

Ming dynasty inherited territories of Yuan dynasty except parts of Manchuria, Mongolia, Xinjiang which will be regained later. Some areas of Xinjiang and Manchuria were under direct rule of Ming emperor. Parts of Manchuria was governed by Jurchens( Manchus). Tibet was not under direct control by Ming troops but was in tributary relation and didnt exist as one territorial unit. It was divided on 5 parts where each lord had limited sovereignty since local religous authorities and local aristocrats were more powrful. They were paying tribute to Ming court and Ming court interferred in lobbying in favor of religious sects that they favored. Few times Ming court sent military visits to Tibet.

MING map

During Hongwu rule Han Chinese and Hui Muslims were settling in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces in order to outbalance Miao and other ethnic minorities. Many of Uighurs living in parts of Xinjiang and Qinghai volontarily accepted Ming rule.

In Manchuria Ming troops defeated several times between 1380 and 1387 Manchu and Mongol tribes. Parts of Manchuria which were inhabited by Sinicized Manchus accepted Ming rule while those unsinicized were fighting still and attacking constantly on Ming troops. Yongle Emperor established Military Commandery which had to strictly control areas of Manchuria and protect them. It was later abolished on lower military presence in middle of 15th century.

First Ming Emperor was Hongwu as we mentioned in previous chapter. Hongwu governed between 1368 and 1398 and was one of longest ruling Ming emperors. Natural conditions improved during his reign and he reestablished Censorate as special body determined for anti-corruption. He relied heavily on literati and pursued importance of state examination. Hongwu assured to keep eunuchs out of politics since they often were corrupt and acted as own clan that disrupted bureaucracy. Until later times of Ming era they were  mostly excluded from political life but acted as servants in imperial court. Hongwu wanted to focus more on agriculture than trade since he was former peasant and following Confucian principles he considered merchants as parasits. He wanted to reduce dependence of China on foreign trade and industry unlike Tang and Song dynasties but wanted to depend on agriculture. Therefore he lowered taxes for peasants maximally and poorest peasants were completely freed from taxes. This stimulated growth of agriculture and peasants lived better. On another hand he wanted to reduce trade and increase taxes for merchants drastically. But he didnt expect that merchants would start to sell for even more expensive prices their products abroad and that strengthned mechant class. Hongwu acted very aggressively towards any opponents or anyone who said some critic towards him. He used his secret police to eliminate potential threats and he killed thousands of people in this way. In 1380 thunder hit his palace and he started to fear that he can lose „Mandate of  Heaven“ and started to be less oppressive. Because of his irrational printing of money printed currency largely devalued and silver and bronze coins were again widely used instead of paper money which started to be less used. He died in 1398. He was speaking against foreign trade and need to reduce it but his successors such as Yongle didnt folow it.


After Hongwu Jianwen became emperor and ruled only until 1402. Zhu Di nephew of Jianwen Emperor initiated a coup against his uncle and overthrew him in 1402. He became Emperor Yongle and moved capital to Beijing.  Since beginning of 15th century until 1927 and than again from 1949 and still is Beijing capital of China. Emperor Yongle built new grand palace in the heart of Beijing known as Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven determined for worshipping heaven. About it will be more in next chapter. In order to increase importance of new capital it was widely invested in renewing section of Grand Canal that connects Beijing. He also strengthened parts of Great Wall that were nearby Beijing in order to prevent Mongol and Jurchen invasions. These sections of Great Wall are best preserved today.

In 1406 Yongle attacked Vietnam and occupied it successfully. Occupation lasted until 1427. There were numerous guerrila factions who constantly fought against Chinese troops. It led to withdrawal of troups and leader of guerillas established Le dynasty in Vietnam. But anyway Vietnam stayed tributary state.

China was one of most powerful countries and economic, technological and military terms during that time. In order to assure world dominance Yongle Emperor sent large fleet commanded by Zhang He. More about Zhang He will be in next part but here is important to say that he was sent on expedition to collect tributes and get recognition of many states worldwide. Between 1405 and 1433 Zhang He led 7 expeditions between China, South Asia, India and East Africa. He became very important and respected figure in China and abroad. Zhang visited Mecca during hajj since he was Muslim. Aim was to increase positive image of China and show its power.  Also he showed woodblock print to other countries to show prosperity of China. He was collecting there very specicif gifts and brought even girraffes to China which were considered as holy animals since they reminded on qilin a mythological being. Zhang He travelled over existing routes where private merchants were moving. Even there was plan to continue further trips which could lead to journeys to North Africa, Europe or even Americas but after Yongles death new Emperor Hongxi ( 1424-1425)and than Emperor Xuande ( 1426-1435) discouraged expeditions.

Zheng He, source:
Zheng He fleet
Zheng Hes mighty fleet, source:

In 1449 large battle at Tumu occured. Mongols with only 20 000 soldiers launched attack on  China. Ming court sent 500 000 soldiers to confront them but due to poor coordination of troops they were severely defeated. During battle Mongols captured Emperor Zhengtong and wanted to use him as a object in negotiations. However his brother declared himself as Emperor Jingtai. When Mongols realized that it was useless to keep him they set him free but he was under house arrest in China ordered by his brother. In 1457 he arranged coup against his brother and overthrew Jingtai and he became emperor again under new name Tianshun.  Cao Qin general with some Mongol soliders who served in Ming army initiated coup against Emperor Tianshun because of his oppressive policies in 1461. They tried to set Forbidden City on fire. Some gates were burnt but coup was surpassed.

With Honxi and Xuande discourage of trade started and they ordered building of smaller ships. Later about impact of stoping discoveries and journeys will be more spoken in next chapter. Problems started to appear since China avoided to engage in trade as some Confucians beliefed it is good for China to allow too much foreign influence and depend on trade.  Confucians believed that social order is more important than prosperity and flexibility. China was entering isolation which was a grave decision for empire. China was self-sufficient but it was cut from events around world and wasnt in touch with new inventions.  Silk Road was closed because of falling interest to trade and because Uigurs often attacked routes so it became too risky to travel on road. European powers focused on maritime trade but China avoided it and wasnt engaged in trade anymore, motivation for inventions dropped and therefore lost chance to be a potentially first industrialized country in world and to discover many places in world.

Since middle of 15th century only partial trade was allowed with Dutch and Portugese merchants in some moderately open ports.  There were several open ports for free trade but under Chinese regulations. In 1521 short Sino-Portugese war occured. Reason was that at Tunmen Portugese were stealing Chinese children and selling. Portugese fleet was blocked by Chinese and severely defeated.  In 1522 new Sino-Portugese war occured and reason was that Portugal attacked Mallacca Sultanate which was Chinese tribute. China wanted to provide help to its tribute and again severely defeated Portugese fleet at Xicaowan.  Chinese fleet captured 20 Portugese canons and produced its version based on copying taken ones.  In 16th century relations improved and Chinese gave port Macao as a rent to Portugese merchants and army to conduct trade under some taxes.


Last successful Emperor was Wanli Emperor who ruled between 1572 to 1620. At beginning he was very active and decisive in conducting state affairs and had many things over control. He also gave some power to eunuchs and they were not just servants at court but got some civil service postiions and could collect provincial taxes. But eunuchs were usually too corrupt and took to much money for them what destabilized state apapratus. Between 1592 and 1598 China fought a war on side with Joseon Korean Kingdom against Japan which attacked Korea. At the end they defeated Japan and Japan withdrew from Korean peninsula. In last few years of rule Wanli emperor wasnt interested anymore in state affairs and spent time enjoying in palace. With that eunuchs strengtheend their position and different aristocratic adn bureaucratic clans started to fight for supremacy in court. Afte Wanli Emperor Tianqi came to power and reigned until 1627. Wei Zhongxian was strongest eunuch of that time and Emperors advisor but was very cruel. He was killing and torturing all oponents and spent too much money on building palaces.

Trade was still stable in some free ports. China was selling silk for silver to Spanish, Dutch and Portugal. Netherlands were demanding more openess of Chinese market and insisted to trade by copper while China was refusing and wanted only silver. This led to Dutch-Sino war. Dutch were angry on Chinese because they provided Macau port for Portugese and demanded from China to open one port in Fujian for Dutch. Chinese refused it and Dutch fleet attacked Chinese merchant boats in 1618.  In 1622 Dutch were defeated by Portugese at Macau and than attacked and captured Penghu and built a fort there. Chinese demanded from Dutch to withdraw back to Taiwan and conduct trade from there while Dutch were refusing and attacking Chinese merchant junks. In 1622 and 1623 they attacked Xiamen several times. In 1624 Dutch were finally defeated and expelled from Penghu and they had to withdraw to Taiwan. In 1633 another battle occured at Liaoluo Bay in Taiwan strait. Dutch fleet attempted to control trade in strait again and it angered China and it attacked again.. Dutch were again defeated and their position at Taiwan was weakened.

Often wars, draughts and floods were destabilizing country. Famine occured which killed millions between since 1630. Also epidemic of plague started which killed many. Lack of trade which was limited also negatively contributed to economy and state. Peasants were starving and unable to pay taxes.  Also threat from north appeared and these were Manchu tribes. Strong tribal leader Nurhaci( 1616-1626) united all Manchu tribes and declared Later Jin dynasty on territories of Manchuria. Nurchaci ceased tributary relations with Ming court. Later Jin capital was Shenyang where they built large palace. Nurchaci is often considered as founder of Qing dynasty but his son renamed it to Qing. His son Abahai took Chinese name became Hong Taiji. He was very ambitious and preparing to conquer whole China under his dynasty. He realized that he must lead harmonius politics if he wants to control large Han population and that they cant be excluded from politics like in time of Yuan dynasty or otherwise they will fail. He invited many educated officials from Ming court to serve at his court in Shenyang and completely copied political system of Ming dynasty.  Also  he promoted marriages between Han people and Manchu people.  In 1636 he changed name from Later Jin to Qing because of few reasons. First one was that he thought that name Later Jin may anger Han Chinese because Jin dynasty was name of Manchu dynasty which was hostile to ethnic Han Song dynasty.  Another reason was that behind name of Ming their protection element was fire and he gave name Qing to his dynasty what can mean pure and is related to water an element that overpowers fire.  So there is big influence of Taoist cosmology in power relations and showing dominance. So than he became Emperor of Qing while his father Nurhaci was Emperor of Later Jin.  In 1630ies Ming dynasty lost vassality over Joseon Korean Kingdom as they were defeated by Qing armies. Joseon Kingdom became vassal of Qing dynasty and fought alongside them.

nurchaci a unifier of Manchu
Nurhaci, source:

With all this events Chinese people started to rebel  in 1640 because of natural disasters, famine, plague, foreign invasions and of course name which symbolized  more power for Qing that for Ming. People believed that Ming Emperor Chongzhen lost Mandate of Heaven. Li Zicheng a soldier organized rebels and took tittle Prince Shun. He easily defeated government troops as they were underfed and unmotivated to fight. Firstly they captured Xian where Li Zicheng declared himself as Emperor of Shun dynasty. So rebels captured Beijing in May 1644. In Beijings imperial Jingshan park Emperor Chongzhen committed suicide in order to avoid captivity, torture or execution. In Jingshan park tree on which he hung himself still exists. This was end of Ming dynasty. Li Zicheng declared himself as Emperor of whole China. But powerful Qing troops crossed Great Wall and were joined by some dissolved Ming troops. Li Zicheng wanted to consolidate his power over whole China and gathered army but was severely defeated at Shanghai Pass in 1644. After that he withdrew and in June 1644 Qing troops with some former Ming troops captured Beijing. Young Qing Emperor Fulin was declared as Emperor of whole China in 1644 and claimed Mandate of Heaven. This was end of Ming dynasty and era of Qing a last Chinese imperial dynsty started.

tree jing
Tree in Jingshan park on which last Ming emperor hung himself, 
Mukden palace, of first Qing rulers, source:

Source:  source of picture of map

Chinese ancient legends 7- Zhuge Liang, hero and strategist of 3 Kingdoms Period

Chinese ancient legends 7- Zhuge Liang, hero and strategist of 3 Kingdoms Period

This legend is about one of very glorified historical and legendary person famous for its honesty, loyalty, kindness and excellent military strategies. He is often considered as first one to apply in practice Sun Tzu military strategies.  Zhuge Liang is also a character of Chinese literature work- Romance of 3 Kingdoms.


Lets see first about his life and later about significance and consecration.  Zhuge Liang was born in 181 in todays Shandong province. When he was very small he got orphaned. When he was 16 his uncle died too and he moved to Hubei province. While he was hardly studying he was  working as  a farmer in order to feed himself. About him have heard Liu Bei founder of Shu Han state an important warlord and figure who opposed distorted Han dynasty which was dominated by General Cao Cao. Cao Cao was misusing his post and keeping Han emperor as puppet while he governed and while corruption and famine were on rise..

zhuge game
in video game 

Liu Bei personally visited Zhuge Liang in his cottage in Hubei province. Liu Bei heard a lot about intelligence and honesty of Zhuge so he decided not to invite him but to come on his own there. They met for the first time in 207 when they created so called Longzhong plan. It was a military strategy and idea of reunification of China under honest and new ruler. It included idea of capturing Xianyang and Luoyang in the northeast and replacing current Han dynasty. For such a large idea king Liu Bei needed to make closer union with another warlord and rebel King Sun Quan who later became ruler of Dong Wu. Liu Bei employed Zhuge Liang as diplomat and sent him to palace of Sun Quan. Thanks to his diplomatic skills and wisdom Zhuge Liang managed to persuade Sun Quan to accept alliance with Liu Bei. Thanks to that in 208 they severely defeated Cao Cao at Battle of Red Cliffs and thanks to that prevented Cao Caos expansion to the south. After this battle Zhuge Liang got position of Military Advisor General in todays Hunan.  Between 212-214 Zhuge Liang provided strategy and logistics for capturing of todays Sichuan province. Zhuge Liang and Liu Bei became even friends. In 223 Liu Bei died and Zhuge Liang wanted to continue to stay loyal to his family and than served his son and was friend to his son Liu Shan. They developed close friendship too and Liu Shan perceived him as his second father. He was nominated as marquis of Wu and executed function of the chancellor and soon became chancellor. He was working on reunification of China during 3 Kingdoms Period. But first he knew that unity must be in Shu Han and therefore went to the south to calm down rebellions on the south that held todays Yunnan, parts of Sichuan and Guizhou province. Campaign finished successfully and Zhuge Liang stabilized southern and southwestern borders of Shu Han. So now he was ready to advance to the north against Cao Wei but before that he decentralized economy and promoted industry and agriculture. He knew that for stable state and waging for economy must be strong. His reform was successful. It was like that because many peasants that were escaping Cao Wei during wars they inhabited todays Sichuan and parts of Yunnan. Also large number of peasants from south inhabited Sichuan. Thanks to that agriculture was spontaneously blooming in Shu Han.  Trade of silk and natural materials developed. Cooper coins were used as currency. Production of silk, salt and iron and development of transport were under control of state like in case of Han dynasty. With secure resources he initiated conquest of Cao Wei in 228  and in total conducted 5 campaigns. Most crucial battles were at Tianshui in 228 which ended in stalemate, at Jieting in 228 which finished with Zhuges failure, Chengsang battle in 229 which ended in success of Zhuge Liang, at Jianwei in 229 Zhuge Liang won, at Qishan in 231 Zhuge was defeated. At Qishan was one of biggest failures for Shu Han. Despite great strategies and highly motivated soldiers army of Cao Wei was much stronger and much larger so army of Shu Han didn’t have chance to compete successfully. But Zhuge Liang wasn’t giving up and wanted to try until his last breath to conquer Cao Wei. In 234 he initiated his last campaign and battle of Wuzhang started. He felt there seriously ill and died during stalemate. After that Shu Han forces retreated. He was buried at Dingjunshan.


He is known as first statesman who used in practice strategies proposed by Sun Tzu in book Arts of War.  He also did a lot of innovations in warfare. Zhuge invented more advanced crossbows and started to use balloons with candles for signaling between troops. He did it first time once when he was surrounded by troops of Cao Wei and he sent signal for help. Zhuge Liang was also a good writer and poet. He liked to spend time in nature and write. Zhuge wrote Mastering Art of War and his own memoirs.

zhuge temple
In a temple,

After his death legends and legends were retold about him for hundreds and even more than thousand years. Zhuge Liang was deified by Taoists. There are several temples in Sichuan devoted to Zhuge Liang where his statues are located and people come to worship him for his honesty, bravery and smartness.

Zhuge Liang is one of main characters of Romance of 3 Kingdoms a work which dates from Ming dynasty. He is there described as hero, real warrior, honest and loyal man. There are many fictional events in which Zhuge participated written in this book.

zhuge takeshi
Takeshi Kaneshiro as Zhuge Liang in movie Red Cliff 1 and 2 source;

Zhuge Liang is still popular today. He is depicted in many movies and series. Takeshi Koneshiro plays role of Zhuge Liang in 2008 movie Red Cliff. Zhuge Liang is also a character in card games, video games and comics.  Song about Zhuge Liang from Serial Romance of 3 Kingdoms

ENjoy China 😉

source of featured image:


China History Guide 14- Rise and fall of Yuan dynasty( 1279-1368)

China History Guide 14- Rise and fall of Yuan dynasty( 1279-1368)

Key events: With fall of Southern Song Yuan dynasty  took control of whole China and China  was again under rule of one dynasty after fall of Tang in 907. But this time Kublai Khan had Mandate of Heaven who was an ethnic Mongol together with his elite. It was first foreign dynasty that controlled whole China and despite some tolerance only dynasty in which Han Chinese had lowest position.

Kublai Khan took also Chinese name and became Emperor Shizu. He was on Mongol throne since 1260 and declared himself an Emperor of China in 1271( when he already controlled significant Chinese territories)  and conquered remaining parts of Song China in 1279. He adopted Chinese governmental system and took some Han Chinese advisors into government in which Mongols were dominant. Kublai Khan tried to find some compromise in order to prevent Han and Mongol tension. Not only Han elite was angry because of lower power that they had but Mongol nobility too since they believed that Kublai Khan is giving too much compromise with Han Chinese. Capital became Dadu( in Mongol Khanbaliq) what is todays Beijing. It was first time that Beijing was capital of all China. Now Chinese empire had much bigger territory and included todays Mongolia, parts of Russia, whole North Korea, todays northeastern China, Xinjiang region and Tibet. This was first time that Tibet with some religious autonomy was completely part of China. Since the fall of Tibetan Empire in 10th century it was never a state again but different regions were governed by different lord.


Kublai Khan widely promoted trade, culture and science. After he strengthened government he started attracting foreign merchants and some new military campaigns. He expanded Grand Canal to Beijing. In 1281 he initiated large scale invasion on Japan. Large Mongol-Han fleet ( 3500 ships and 100 000 soldiers)  was moving towards Japanese isles but was destroyed by typhoon and therefore lost resources for other invasions on Japan. It was one of biggest disasters for Yuan dynasty. Kublai Khan launched attacks on Dai Viet, Champa, Burma and Java. Only launching attack on Burma was successful. Most severe defeat Kublais army experienced at Bach Dang( 1288) where they were defeated by Vietnamese.  Problem was that Mongol army wasn’t prepared for fighting war in tropical areas. Anyway Champa, Dai Viet and Burma accepted to be tributary vassals of Yuan China.  In 1294 Kublai Khan died and later years of  Yuan dynasty were not so glorious. Between 1294 and 1307 ruled Temur Khan( Emperor Chenzong). He was famous for accepting into administration on higher posts Han Chinese, Tibetans, Khitans, Koreans, Uighurs and other. He promoted Confucianism widely. Temur Khan also promoted good relations with Siam, Champa and Burma. He stopped invasive policies on Dai Viet and Japan. He also seated Zhengyi Taoists in Longhushan mountain and Quanzhen in White Cloud Temple in Beijing.  Despite promoting Confucian principles corruption was highly increasing like never before in Chinese history. He was succeeded by Kulug Khan( Emperor Wuzong) who ruled between 1307 and 1311 but he managed to do a lot of harm to China during his short reign. He led very luxurious life and spent too much on himself. Kulug Khan was printing as much money as he wanted without calculating consequences. Value of money started to drop and hyperinflation occurred. It was first inflation not only in history of China but in whole world. Currency devalued for 80% and it had severe impact on rich merchants. Living standard started to decline in all categories except in highest ones and public anger increased.

In 1332 Toghun Temur( Emperor Huizong) came to power and he was last emperor from Yuan dynasty. In state apparatus was present corruption, Emperor Huizong tried to conduct reforms but unsuccessfully. Trade incomes were not sufficient for recovering all situation and were not equally distributed. Moreover big drought what caused big shortage of food and famine started among peasants and later among other low or middle circles. In areas of Hoanghe and Yangtze started big floods which also destroyed crops. In north China little ice age started and frost damaged harvests. Millions of people died from famine. Also large epidemics of plague started what was real disaster and millions of people died  from it since plague was far from curable during that time. All these was showing people that Yuan dynasty doesn’t have “blessing of Heaven” anymore and that it is time for change. Peasant rebellions started in many parts of China. In 1351 Red Turban Rebellion started. It was initiated by secret and illegal White Lotus Sect ( Buddhist sect that was illegal even during previous dynasties). They started war against Yuan calling for overthrowing the dynasty. Red Turbans were defeated but their idea was kept and more people arouse against Yuan dynasty. Real civil war started and rebels were led by Zhu Yuanzang. He was originating from poor peasant family and was former Buddhist monk. Zhu Yuanzang defeated Yuan army in several battles and in 1368 captured Beijing. Yuan elite escaped and tried again in same year to recapture Beijing but it failed. With defeating Mongols Zhu Yuanzang  declared that he got Mandate of Heaven and became Emperor Hongwu. Emperor Hongwu claimed own new Ming dynasty and moved capital to Nanjing.  He was chasing Mongols until 1380ies into Manchuria where they retreated after that they escaped to Mongolia and formed Northern Yuan. Ming  was last ethnic Han dynasty of China and it will be written about it in next chapter.

State, Society and Culture: Despite short life of Yuan dynasty at beginning its economic success was big, institutions were strong and culture was flourishing.  Still many Chinese consider Yuan dynasty not as legitimate dynasty of China but a foreign invader since they were treated as second class citizens.

State system of government, imperial court and ministries was copied from Song dynasty. Kublai Khan established Censorate a special supervisory body was supposed to be eyes and ears of the emperor and detect corruption. There were several branches of Censorate. The Palace Branch was responsible for monitoring the behaviour of officials during audiences. The Admonish Branch was responsible for monitoring the behaviour of the emperor, to ensure that he did not make mistakes and remind him of his duties; it was staffed by equerry censors. The Detection Branch was responsible for monitoring the behaviour of local officials; monitor censors ) would tour the country in circuits to ensure the proper discharge of the functions of government and good performance of local officials.

Kublai Khan established system of governance same one as existed in Tang and Song dynasties and name of institutions had Chinese names. Main difference was that most of members in ministries were ethnic Mongols what was unfair when it comes to majority Han population. Very few high officials were Han Chinese. Even on middle positions most of people were Mongols. Han Chinese could  most often have low rank positions. Even educational system was changed in a way to make Han Chinese excluded and kept on bottom.

Administrative reforms were conducted this time. It was something innovative as they divided China on 11 provinces which were divided on circuits. Circuits were divided on prefectures, prefectures on subprefectures and subprefectures on counties. Such administrative division was later adopted by Ming and Qing dynasties.  Provinces were accountable to central secretariat( government). There was established Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs which was supposed to control Tibet. It was top level office that supervised bureaucratic and governmental issues over Tibet. It was composed of Mongols but also Tibetan envoys. It governed todays Tibet and parts of Sichuan, Qinghai and Kashmir where Tibetan ethnicity lived.

Social classes were same as during Tang and Song dynasties but there were divisions also on categories of citizens under basis of ethnic origin. There were 4 tiers of citizens that determined status more than belonging to class during Yuan era and was discriminative towards Han Chinese.  There were 4 main categories of population that were defined by Yuan dynasty: 1) Mongols- here belonged Mongol elite, army, Mongol merchants and Mongol peasants they took played role which Han population had during previous dynasties. They were minority but played as being majority population. 2) Semu- non-Mongols such as Uighurs, Tatars, Persians, Turkestani, Nestorian Christians, Jews, Tibetans. Here belonged all allies of Mongol Empire who fought on side with Mongol armies since they began invasions in 13th century. Also here belonged those who surrendered earlier to Mongols such as many Turkic groups so they enjoyed bigger trust and could participate on important positions. Also here belonged foreign merchants which were considered as important and were welcomed. 3) Were Han Chinese from Jin dynasty, Jurchens and Koreans. They were here because they surrendered before South Song and after Turkic people. They occupied some middle to lower positions in state. 4) Were Han Chinese of southern China that belonged to Song dynasty. They were here since Song dynasty surrendered last of all and therefore they were most mistrusted and occupied low positions or were excluded  from political life and had to pay higher taxes if wanted to participate in commerce. They could have own property and many wealthy merchants from South China actively participated in trade. So there were 2 categories of Han Chinese northern and southern based on date of surrender.

Imperial Academy Beijing, source:

Mongol elite considered Han Chinese as threat to their dominance and that’s why they adopted regulations to put them down and limit as much as possible their presence in society on important and influential positions. Even if wealthy Han Chinese could hardly be admitted on higher positions in state service. At beginning of 14th century in Beijing were built Confucius Temple and Imperial Academy. Since it was capital city it was considered as important to conduct imperial examinations there. But they were unfair towards Han Chinese since for them exams were prepared to be more difficult and they required more points in order to get accepted in imperial service.  For Tibet serfdom was typical and clerical elite was on top which was severely exploiting and punishing peasants.

Generally there is also idea  that ethnic group wasn’t crucial factor for determining position in society but date of surrender and when someone earlier surrendered was more trusted than those who later surrendered. Status of category didn’t determine someones wealth but position in political life. There were also very poor Mongol peasants who were same oppressed as poor Han peasants and more oppressed by own regime than wealthy Han.

Kublai Khan cared much about economic development and trade. He invested in expansion of Grand Canal towards Beijing in order to ease the connection and trade. He used slaves for that project that were hired part time until construction was finished what was typical practice in imperial China. Kublai Khan also supported all new industrial techniques that were used during Song dynasty but wasn’t boosting innovation but only maintenance of existing technologies. State held monopoly on salt while other things were both either in state or private hands. Kublai Khan created favorable conditions for trade and maintained open doors for foreigners via Silk Road. He eased conditions for Mongols and foreigners that were merchants by lowering taxes for them while he increased taxes for Han Chinese especially for those who lived in south but they still widely participated in trade. Silk Road which was reactivated since Tang dynasty and during Yuan still was very vibrant and vital artery between East and West.  Most famous foreign merchant of that time was Marco Polo an Italian from Venetian Republic.  In 13th century he came to China via Silk Road with his father and uncle. He was one of first Western Europeans who came to China. In 1266 his father and uncle while being in Levant were invited to meet Kublai Khan since he wanted to meet Europeans. They were warmly welcomed in Dadu( Beijing) and Kublai Khan asked them to bring him 100 educated Christians and oil lamp from Jerusalem. They returned to Venice and asked Marco to join them. They together went across Levant, Persia and Central Asia and arrived to Dadu in 1271. On the road they were attacked by bandits many times. Marco and his father and uncle brought him oil lamp and some Christians. They were very welcomed and given luxury and palace to enjoy there. There are even stories that Marco was a governmental advisor or personal advisor of Kublai Khan. There is even version that Marco was a governor of one Chinese city. He traveled a lot across China and came even to todays Burma. They took very dangerous journey on  Persian ship( Persian prince was ally of Kublai) on ship were 600 people and only 18 survived.  They returned back to Venice in 1295. There is a story that Marco while being in prison in Genova in 1298 retold to a storyteller his trips who wrote a book about Marcos trips and experiences. He for the first time told in Europe about printing machine, paper money, compass, noodles, ice cream and many other things that made him surprised as they were not known in Europe.

paper money, source:

Army was mostly Mongolian  but also had Chinese members who were either ordinary soldiers or low ranking officers but majority of soldiers and high ranking officers were Mongols or Semu. There were special army divisions in which only Han Chinese were soldiers and high ranking officers. They often appeared to be trustful and reliable for Yuan regime. Yuan army had used some technologies taken from Han such as gunpowder.

Inventions that were found in Tang and Song dynasties continued to be widely used during Yuan dynasty. Printing continued to be applied in printing books both in Chinese and Mongol languages. Main printing office was Library Directorate. Many ancient books and verses were printed and even translated to Mongol. Educational, medicine, historical, literal and religious works were printed widely and stored in many libraries. It was systematized and most printing houses were in Beijing. Printing paper money was also characteristic for Yuan dynasty. Discoveries in algebra appeared too. Many scientists and inventors were both Han Chinese and Mongols. Medicine also experienced advancements. As in other spheres of science and inventions Han Chinese experts were not discriminated here. Their knowledge of acupuncture, pulse measuring and their use of elixirs and herbs was widely respected and applied for healing even of imperial members. Yuan rulers promoted Chinese medicine abroad and were selling medical products and offering knowledge of Chinese medicine to the Middle East even.  Kublai Khan built Medical Academy in Beijing where he attracted Confucian scholars to learn medicine as he promised high income for doctors if they have true virtue. So physicians were considered as highly respected group of people. Also he promoted writing of Chinese medicine books but also Mongol medicine books. Mongol medicine was also studied and mostly various use of herbs and shamanistic rituals. Kublai brought physicians from Middle East to teach and spread their medicine. Also Kublai founded Office of Western Medicine where European physicians mostly Nestorians were working and teaching. Many medical brochures were published and were focusing on healthy lifestyle and diet.

Cities, canals, temples and palaces were widely built.

Arts were also very advanced during Mongol rule of China. Mixture of Mongol, Han Chinese and Muslim styles dominated. Painting was very developed both landscape painting and also calligraphy. Calligraphy was widely expanding among Mongols too. When it comes to poetry it was had specific development. Previously known styles from Han, Tang and Song dynasties were developing independently but also mixture of Mongol and Han poetry appeared. It created a special hybrid in poetry. Also Mongol poetry existed independently so basically 3 styles of poetry existed. Novels became very popular and most famous novel was written by Luo Guanzhong and it is known as Romance of 3 Kingdoms. This novel takes place during 3 Kingdoms Period. It both romanticizes and dramatizes lives of aristocrats and military commanders of 3 Kingdoms Period. It is first and one of biggest novels in history of China.

Drama and theatre develops. Dramas and operas were widely watched those of higher quality by richer in kind of opera and tea houses and those of lower quality , cheaper tea house or street performances by middle or poorer people.

In pottery new style appeared at beginning of XIV century. Glaze wares and vases were made in blue and white and from ceramic or porcelain. They were both made for domestic use but were exported everywhere from Japan to Italy. This style of blue and white porcelain pottery became most popular during Ming dynasty.

Yuan dynasty was very religiously diverse. Mongols widely accepted Tibetan Buddhism because of their close ties to Tibet and started to promote it over China. Many Tibetan temples were built.  Tibetan Buddhism significantly differs from Chan Buddhism. For example Tibetan Buddhism promotes strong relationship between teacher and disciple considering that disciple always must look on teacher as his idol. In Chan Buddhism it is more promoted that teacher opens you door but you enter by yourself. Also tantric practices similar to those in Zhengyi Taoism were popular in Tibetan Buddhism. During Yuan dynasty Chan Buddhism intersects more with Pure Land Buddhist Sect ( focuses on chanting name of Amituofo) and basically Pure Land Sect becomes fraction of Chan Buddhism. Many Tibetan scripts were translated to Chinese and Mongol. Confucian doctrine and scripts were translated to Mongolian too. Mongol shamanism was still practiced by Mongols who even followed Tibetan Buddhism. Islam was moderately spreading during Yuan era. Kublai Khan brought many Turkic Muslims to work as state administrators and many held middle or high governmental positions. Many Turkic Muslims inhabited areas of todays. Some of Muslim officials were in Beijing too. Arab and Persian merchants lived in coastal towns. Smaller number of Han Muslims appeared who started to be called Hui people. Hui lived in Qinghai, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia but also in other places.  In Quanzhou small minority of Hindu merchants lived.  Small Jewish communities existed too. Taoism was highly respected during Yuan dynasty. It wasn’t much promoted but enjoyed high status. Mongols sympathized Taoism since Genghis Khan. During his conquests notable Quanzhen Taoist scholar Qiu Chuiji visited Genghis Khan in Samarqand. It was one of most important meetings between Taoist and some powerful figure. Qiu told Genghis Khan about importance of compassion and respect. He persuaded Genghis Khan to stop persecuting civilians claiming that it is against way of nature. Thanks to his work and work of his sect during Kublai Khans conquest of China millions of lives were saved and sparred from execution. Kublai Khan granted a monastery in Beijing to be a center of Quanzhen sect. Zhengyi sect got own headquarters in Longhu Shan when Kublai Khan acknowledged their connection to lineage of Way of Celestial Masters. Christians were minority during Kublai Khan and belonged to second category of population. Only Muslims and Jews were partially discriminated since it was banned and severely punished to sacrifice goats and perform circumcision as Mongols considered it as cruel practices.

Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, source:

In international relations when Kublai Khan stopped conquests he started to promote more peaceful policy. He was collecting tributes from Korean, Vietnamese, Burmese, Javanese vassals. He promoted good relations with Western Turkic khanates and sent there many high educated Han Chinese advisors to be in their governmental service. Also he sent Han Chinese slaves there to work on some projects.


Provinces, regions and municipalities of China!

Provinces, regions and municipalities of China!

China is so big and diverse as you already know but have you ever wondered how many provinces and autonomous regions it has? Have you ever wondered how China is administratively divided? If you want to have a more clear picture of how China is regionally divided you are on right place. If you want to know what are top attractions, biggest cities and much more in each province and region you are on right place. It will really ease you to understand what is located in which part of China and ease you to travel to different parts of China. About political competences and further divisions of provinces and regions wont be here as it will be in chapter about modern development and politics of PRC.  Here will be basic info about each province.



Lets start from the north,

Heilongjiang-  is northern most province of China famous for cold weather, Amur river and was former part of Manchuria.  During winter temperature drops to -40C.  Its capital is Harbin city where you can find Orthodox Church and Ice Festival every winter.

Liaoning-  Is a province that has access to Yellow Coast and borders North Korea. Its capital city is Shenyang famous for Mukden Palace.  One of largest cities is Dalian located on the coast a big port and very developed city.


Jilin- is a province famous for Korean minority. Its capital is Changchun. Changbaishan is a big famous snow mountain which is worth visiting.

Hebei-  Its capital is Shijiazhuang.  It is most developed city in the province. Most famous spot is Chengde Mountain Resort and 8 outer temples built during Qing dynasty.  Also a must visit is a spot where Great Wall enters Yellow Sea at Qinhuangdao town. Ancient Handan city is there too.


Shandong- Its capital is Jinan a very developed city. Another large coastal city is Qingdao. Province is famous for sacred Taishan mountain, Qufu a birthplace of Confucius and Qingdao beer. It is one of  culturally richest provinces with many attractions, palaces, gardens and temples.

taishan 1

Shanxi- Its capital is Taiyuan. Province is famous for very ancient history, Pingyao ancient town and other attractions such as temples and Yungang grottoes. There is also located Buddhist Wutaishan mountain.

Shaanxi-  is one of historically richest provinces. Its capital is Xian and largest city what was capital of China for many centuries. In Xian there are old imperial palaces, temples, pagodas and ancient quarter. Also in the province there is famous site of Terracotta Warriors which date from 3rd century BC.



Qinghai- is a vast territory of grasslands. Its capital is Xining. Province is famous for  Mongol, Tibetan and Hui minority. Biggest attraction is large Qinghai Lake which is salted and very clear.


Gansu- Its capital is Lanzhou one of very old cities but quite developed today. Famous yellow river passes through Lanzhou. Ancient Silk Road was passing here too. Most famous sites are Mogao Buddhist Caves and Bingling Thousand Buddha cave.

Jiangsu- One of culturally and historically richest provinces where Yangtze river passes. Its capital is Nanjing today a very modern city and in past was capital for several times. One of most famous locations is Suzhou water town famous for gorgeous gardens. Other water towns such as Tongli and Zhouzhuang are here too. There are really a lot sites to see here.

suzhou-gardens (5)

Henan- Its capital is Zhengzhou. This province offers really a lot such as Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang ancient city which was capital several times, Kaifeng a very ancient and beautiful city which was capital during Song dynasty and Shaolin Temple one of most famous martial arts temples.

Shaolin Warriors

Anhui– its capital is Hefei a fast developing city. Its most famous spot is Mount Huangshan one of most dangerous mountains in the world. Province is also famous for Hongcun ancient village.

Hubei- its capital is Wuhan. This province is one of provinces where Chinese people settled indigenously. Most famous spot is Wudangshan mountain famous for Taoist monks and Tai Chi.



Sichuan- is one of largest and culturally richest provinces of China. Its capital is Chengdu one a most developed city in western China. Chengdu offers also  a lot of cultural spots. In Sichuan you can find mount Emeishan a sacred Buddhist mountain, mount Qingchengshan a sacred Taoist mountain, Leshan Buddha a giant carved Buddha, sanctuaries of pandas and valley of azure lakes and Tibetan villages.  Province is famous for most beautiful girls in China and spicy food.


Zhejiang- is one of richest culturally, historically and economically province. Its capital is Hangzhou which was capital of China under South Song dynasty. Hangzhou offers a lot of attractions such as West Lake and Feilai Feng nearby Hangzhou. Another most famous city is Ningbo which is developed today but offers a lot of old sites.



Jiangxi- its capital is Nanchang with a 1000 year old pavilion. Other famous cities are Fuzhou and Jingdezhen( famous for porcelain). There are also natural spots such as Mount Lushan and Mount Longhushan a Taoist sacred mountain.

Hunan- its capital is Changsha. Except Changsha a must visit are Zhangjiajie national partk and Fenghuang water town. It is famous for spicy food too.

Guizhou- its capital is Guiyang a city of contrasts between old and new. Province offers several ancient villages, Anshun area of mountains, caves, waterfalls and ethnic minorities.

Yunnan- Its capital is Kunming. Is one of naturally and culturally most beautiful provinces. Top attractions are Dali ancient town, Lijiang ancient town one of most romantic towns in China, Erhai Lake, Lugu lake and Cangshan mountain. Province is famous for more than 20 ethnic minorities.


Taiwan- Is officially province of PRC but acts as an unrecognized state. Capital is Taipei and there are a lot of mountains to visit. PRC aims to reunite with Taiwan under principle One Country Two Systems.

Fujian- Capital is Fuzhou. Other famous cities are Xiamen and Zhuhai. Wuyishan is most famous natural spot. There are many Hakka villages worth visiting.

Guangdong- is one of most developed provinces. Its capital is Guangzhou one of most developed cities in China.  Except Guangzhou there is large and very developed Shenzhen city.


Hainan- is an island province. Its capital is Haikou which is together with Sanya one of most developed cities on island. Its famous for tropical climate, beautiful nature and as most popular summer resort in China.




Autonomous Regions

Are mostly different from provinces as they are regions of ethnic minorities. Here ethnic minorities play big role in choosing their governor.

Inner Mongolia-  Its capital is Hohhot.  There lives large Mongolian minority. Most famous spots are Mausoleum of Genghis Khan, Wanbu pagoda and Dazhao Temple. There are vast grasslands.

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region- Its capital is Yinchuan. It is region of Hui people a Chinese Muslim minority. You can visit there West Xia Tombs, Sand Lake, ride a camel, Haibao pagoda and many mosques. You can try there halal food. You can experience authentic life of Chinese Muslims.

Xinjiang Autonomous Region- is westernmost region of China with capital in Urumqi. It is region of Uighurs a minority of Turkic origin. Other important cities are Kashgar and Turpan. You can really feel there a Turkic influence in architecture, cuisine and traditional clothing. There are many beautiful mountains and deserts.



Tibetan Autonomous Region- located on plateau on high altitude. Its capital is Lhasa.  This region is region of Tibetan minority people. It is homeland of Tibetan Buddhism where Dalai Lama formerly resided. Most famous locations are Putuo Palace, Samye monastery, Jokhgang monastery, Mt. Everest and much more…


Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region- Is a region of Zhuang people. Its capital is Nanning. Region is famous for natural beauties and ethnic diversity.  Most famous locations are Guilin, Yangshuo, Detian waterfall…


Municipalities- are 4 cities which are directly under control of central government and have status similar as those of province but instead of local it is under governance of central government. More about them will be in last historical chapter.

Beijing- a capital city and municipality. It includes urban, suburban and rural areas in total 16 districts. I wrote a lot already about scenic spots in and around Beijing city.

Tianjin- is also one of most developed Chinese cities. It is 30min by train from Beijing. Is composed of 16 districts includes city and area around it. Most famous spots  are, Dule Temple, Section of Great Wall, Water Park, Da Bei Temple,  Old Culture Street. Modern landscape predominates in the city. There are quarts held by foreign troops during their invasion of China.

Shanghai- is a most developed city in China and one of most developed cities in world. It has 3 times more skyscrapers than New York. Shanghai is composed of 16 districts. Most famous spots are The Bund, Yu Garden, Jade Buddha Temple, Nanjing Road, Disneyland Park and  Xin Tian Di an early 20th century area.


Chongqing- is a city and municipality surrounded by Sichuan province. It is composed of 26 districts and is one of largest and most modern Chinese cities. Yangtze river passes among urban area full of skyscrapers. Three Gorges, Dazu carvings, Jiefangbei and several more.



Special Administrative Regions

Are regions which exercise high degree of autonomy but are officially part of China under principle One Country Two Systems. More about their governance will be in last historical chapter about modern China.

Hong Kong- is a city and SAR region. It is one of worlds most developed cities. In past it was occupied by Britain and was returned to China in 1997. There are many modern areas and famous Lantau island and several Buddhist and Taoist temples.


Macau– was reunited with China in 1999 after several centuries of being leased to Portugal. It is famous for casinos and is often called Las Vegas of China. There is famous Catholic cathedral which shows heritage of Portuguese presence.

ENjoy China 😉


China History Guide 13- Northern China under Liao( 907-1125),Western Xia(1038-1225) and Jin dynasties( 1115-1234)

China History Guide 13- Northern China under Liao( 907-1125),Western Xia(1038-1225) and Jin dynasties( 1115-1234)

This is related mostly to areas of northern, northeastern, some eastern and central areas of mainland China that were not under rule of Song dynasty which governed under legitimacy of “Mandate of Heaven”.  Majority of population was Han Chinese but they were governed by minority population which settled there as a result of wars. These ethnic groups were more or less Sinicized but also had preserved elements of their culture which of course had influence in these regions. In order to get support from local Han population they gave Chinese names to their ruling dynasties and conducted tolerant policies towards population.  This led again to diversification of Northern and Southern China since south was governed by Han dynasties and north by nonHan dynasties. Only by coming of Mongol Yuan dynasties both parts of mainland were reunited.

Liao dynasty ( 907-1125)


Key figures and events:  Abaoji a Khan of Khitans declared himself Emperor of Liao in 907. It happened as a result of fall of Tang dynasty and when Abaoji Khanate moved southwards and conquered poorly controlled northern Chinese territories. He gave to himself Chinese name and became Emperor Taizu. Liao Empire included todays northern and northeastern China, Inner Mongolia, whole Mongolia, parts of Kazakhstan, parts of North Korea and parts of Russian Far East. Later Jin( 936-947) was a vassal of Liao and in 947 captured completely by Liao. Khitans( Qidan in Chinese) were Mongolic ethnicity. Capital of Liao was Shangjing(todays Bairin, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region).  Emperor Taizu died in 926 and appointed his son Yelu Bei as his successor under principle of primogeniture what was typical for Han Chinese. Khitan elite disliked this idea and among them powerful Empress Dowager Shulu Ping who rejected to be buried with her dead husband and took command of 200 000 soldiers. She considered that Yelu Bei is too pro Chinese and that he should give up throne to more capable son of Taizu Yelu Deguang. Yelu Bei accepted this and gave up throne to his brother and  left to be prince of Dongdan( territorial unit within Liao). Thus in 926 Yelu Deguang became Emperor Taizong of Liao. He still perceived his brother as threat and expelled him to Later Tang where he was protected by Emperor Minzong of Later Tang but by Emperor Gaozu of Later Jin which was puppet of Liao.  With fall of Shatuo dominated Later Tang Liao captured a lot of new territories between Bohai Sea and Datong.( including todays Beijing. In 947 Liao defeated Later Jin and captured Kaifeng. But soon Kaifeng was lost and fell in hands of Later Han. After death of Taizong there was trouble since Yelu Beis son Yelu Ruan wanted to be emperor and was respected as brave and capable man among Khitan nobility. But Empress Hulu wanted to bring on throne Taizongs brother Yelu Luhu who wasn’t favored by Khitan nobility since they saw him as immoral. But they exiled Yelu Luhu and Empress Hulu and Yelu Ruan became Emperor Shizong. But only after 4 years he was killed in rebellion and succeeded by Yelu Jing a son of Taizong who became Emperor Muzong of Liao who governed until 969.  In 990 Liao recognized newly established Western Xia Empire. Liao captured Baelhe Jurchen Kingdom( todays Liaoning province) and started raid on Goreyo with 800 000 combatants. Korean diplomat with hard work succeeded to persuade Liao leaders not to conquer Goreyo but to accept tributes from it. In 1009 King Hyenjong of Goreyo rejected vassal status under Liao and Liao sent army  initially took some  territories but was later defeated. In 1018 at Gwaju 400 000 Liao Army was defeated and after that negotiations resumed until 1020 when tributary relations were renewed.


Liao Empire had very turbulent relations with Song Dynasty. Initially their relations were peaceful and they exchanged embassies in 974. In 976 Song captured vassal of Liao Kingdom  Northern Han and continued northern into Liao territory but were defeated at Gaoliang river. In 1005 they signed treaty at Chanyan which established good relations and trade between Liao and Song. For almost 100 years their relations were stable and friendly. Liao was severely defeated by Jurchens and Song Empire, Jurchens who captured capital in 1125 and established Jin Empire. After that Khitan leadership withdrew to West and established new state in Central Asia Qara Khitai that also controlled Xinjiang( which at that time wasn’t inhabited by Chinese). It was later captured by Mongols.

State, Society and culture:

In Liao Empire controlled territories a bit less than million Khitans lived and 3 million Han Chinese. So in order to get support of majority population they gave Chinese name to dynasty and its emperors and were quite tolerant towards Han population. Khitans were partially Sinicized but they differed in many terms from Han Chinese.

It was already said that there was trouble in succeeding throne because some Sinicized Khitans wanted to follow Chinese concept of primogeniture and others traditional Khitan concept of tribal council on which was chosen most capable nobleman to be new leader. These issues often caused troubles among ruling circles.

In order to deal with different cultures of Khitans and Han Chinese they established two parallel governments and one governed under Khitan principles and another under Chinese. Northern Administration was government that was governing in Khitan style northern areas where most of population were Khitans. Northern Administration dealt by tribal sessions about various issues, herds and controlled military. They were mostly composed from Khitans and only few Han Chinese and Uyghurs worked there. On another hand Southern Administration dealt with Han population and was structured under Tang dynasty principles. Here most of medium and low positions were taken by Han Chinese and few high positions too. Still emperor had most of power in his hands and met with two governments twice a year.

In order to improve governance and adapt to Chinese culture Khitan administration transalted a lot of Confucian works and built one Confucian temple.

The five capital cities were Shangjing  meaning Supreme Capital, which is located in modern-day Inner Mongolia, Beijing; Dongjing, which is located near modern-day Liaoning; Zhongjing located in modern-day Hebei province,; and Xijing, which is located near modern-day Datong.Each circuit was headed by a powerful viceroy who had the autonomy to tailor policies to meet the needs of the population within his circuit. Circuits were further subdivided into administrations called fu, which were metropolitan areas surrounding capital cities, and outside of metropolitan areas were divided into prefectures called zhou,, which themselves were divided into counties called xian.

Both Khitan and Chinese were official languages and major documents were in both. Thanks to Chinese symbols Khitan language got its letters which were derived from Chinese.

This duality in systems was supposed to be guarantor of peace and harmony between Han Chinese and Khitans since both sides were governed by system that suited their cultures and traditions.

Many habits and perceptions between Han Chinese and Khitans differed. There was big difference in perception of women between Han Chinese and Khitans. We already spoke about status of women and its improvement during Tang and Song dynasties but here they could go hunting and to wars, and could hold high governmental positions. Polygamy was also common for Khitans but also Polyandry. Han Chinese had right to live under their own habbits and traditions same if they would live in Song Empire.

When it comes to economy it was not market oriented or industrialized like one in Tang and Song empires. It was less developed one than Chinese Empire. Primary economic sector was agriculture, fishery and hunting. Not only Khitans living there were busy with this but also Han Chinese since they didn’t live under more prosperous Song dynasty. There was difference that in agriculture Han Chinese were more busy with seeds while Khitans with cattle. This difference in agriculture was based on different traditions. In last few decades of Liao Empire when ties with Song Empire improved they started to develop trade  they were selling cattle and ceramics and imported silk from Song.

Arts also were specific here. They were developed sculpturing from wood, metal and ceramics. Poetry was developed too and most of poems were related to wars, riding horses and hunting. Also music was quite developed with similar topics like poetry.

Religious freedoms were very developed and tolerance existed. Most of Khitans were Buddhists and some of them remained Shamanistic. Han Chinese were on larger scale Taoists and on lower Buddhists. Uyghurs were either Buddhists or Muslims. Religious disputes were not known and Liao Emperors built a lot of temples both Buddhist and Taoist temples on Miaofengshan mountain( nearby Beijing) in order to guarantee religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence. Islam was also present mostly among Uyghurs and some Han Chinese. There was built Niujie mosque in Beijing which still exists today. It is oldest mosque in Beijing.

Liao pagoda Beijing
Liao pagoda Beijing



Western Xia (1038-1227)

Western Xia was a state that controlled some areas of todays Mongolia, parts of Chinese inner Mongolia, parts of Chinese Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, areas of Ningxia Autonomous Region( PRC), and Chinese provinces such as parts of Shaanxi, Gansu and Qinghai.

It was formed by end of 10th century in territory of Gansu and was spreading to Song territories and took some of them. Empire was declared in 1038.  Emperor Li Jingzong was first one that was emperor and demanded recognition from Song as equals. Initially Song Emperor rejected it but after negotiations in 1043 he recognized him as emperor under condition to pay tribute to Song.  Tanguts were primary ethnic group that formed this Empire although they were minority similar like in case of Liao. They initiated Sinicization and translated Chinese classics into newly established Tangut script. Relations between Song Empire and Western Xia empire was unfriendly and they fought often wars that finished with stalemate. Western Xia was defeated by Liao Empire and became its vassal. After that Western Xia often fought wars between Song and Liao. Jin attacked Song Western Xia used an opportunity and took some Song territories. Genghis Khan attacked Western Xia several times at beginning of 13th century and finally completely conquered it in 1227. Mongol troops committed extreme atrocities and destroyed almost everything. Some experts believe that it was one of first genocides in human history since big eradication of population, its traces of existence occurred. Because of that very little is known about Western Xia. There are suggestions because of region and nature of Tangut nomads that primary economic branches were hunting, cattle breeding and fishing. Also it is known that emperors had Chinese names and that a lot of Confucian traditions were accepted. Almost nothing is known about its arts and governmental structure. It is known that Tanguts, Han Chinese, Uyghurs and Tibetans served as governmental officials. Another sign of tolerance was multi religious background since Han Chinese were Taoists and Buddhists and little of them Muslims, Uyghurs Muslims or Buddhists, Tanguts Buddhists and Tibetans Buddhists. About social structure and social relations there is no evidence except that multiethnic marriages were legal and common.  Capital of Western Xia was todays Yinchuan( Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region).



Jin Dynasty( 1115-1234)

Key events: On territories of todays Heilongjiang and Jilin existed Jurchens which were ascendants of Manchu people. By beginning of 12th century they continuously attacked Liao territories and when they captured significant part of them they  declared empire. Jurchen leader Aguda declared himself Emperor Taizu of Jin. He started sinicization with that as he gave to his name and dynasty Chinese names. He called new country Zhonghuo( middle state, what in Chinese means China). Song empire called it itself too like that like its predecessors. He didn’t considered term Mandate of Heaven but was calling himself emperor of China. With that he aimed that part of China should be also non-Han ethnicities and extended term China to Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces. His claim gave legitimacy to other Chinese emperors over these lands. Except parts of todays China Jin Empire included some areas of Russia. When in 1125 Jin completely conquered Liao with alliance with Song they took Liao territories. Han Chinese living on Liao territory without problem accepted new also Sinicized Jin rule.  . In 1127 Jin attacked Song Empire and captured Kaifeng the capital and sacked it. After that Song nobility withdrew behind Yangtze and established Southern Song. Jin spread territories almost to bank of Yangtze. Under Jin control lived 3 million Jurchens and 30 million Han Chinese. Emperor Xizong of Jin continued sinicization by accepting Chinese traditions and Confucian ethics. Later he was murdered by his nobility since he became too brutal. His cousin Wanyan Liang became new emperor. In order to strengthen legitimacy over Chinese territories he moved capital to Beijing. So in 1153 todays Beijing became capital of Jin Empire. At that time it was called Yanjing.  Before that Jin capital was Huining( todays Harbin). Emperor Wanyan Liang wanted to become emperor of all China and thus initiated large scale attacks on Southern Song. As mentioned attacks were stopped and they were severely defeated between 1161 and 1164. Emperor Wanyan was forced to sign peace treaty since he had to deal with internal Jurchen and Khitan rebellions. During 1180ies emperor Shizong ruled the Jin Empire and did significant reforms in economy and education what will be mentioned later.  He promoted both Chinese and Jurchen culture and peace between two ethnic groups. Also as very significant and prosperous emperor is considered his grandson Emperor Zhangzong who married Han Chinese woman.  Empror Zhangzong adopted Taihe Legal Code in 1201 which was based on Tang Legal Code. This again shows its large pretension on China and adapting  government and culture to Chinese one.  In 1207 they successfully stopped Song invasion.

But new threat appeared for Jin Empire the Mongols. Mongol troops invaded in 1211. Despite resistance Mongols were more successful and won several times and captured Datong in 1212. In 1213 they besieged Beijing. Jin ruler hardly tried to persuade Mongols not to capture it. They accepted status of vassals and for security reasons moved capital to Kaifeng. As vassals they fought against other shortly against other Mongol vassal Western Xia. In 1219 Jin Emperor Xuanzong attacked Song empire what was big mistake since it was  too hard to wait for new war with Mongols and fight Song. They were defeated and even more weakened. In 1232 Mongol troops were even stronger than before they were also joined by many Han rebels and Khitan rebels from Jin.  Mongols created special fraction known as Han army which was composed of Han soldiers and Han and Khitan commanders. In 1232 Mongol Empire and Song Empire created alliance and jointly severely attacked Jin Empire. They defeated Jin together and captured Kaifeng in 1233. Jin imperial court escaped to Caizhou( Henan province) and established small capital there. But already in 1234 Mongol and Song troops captured it. Emperor Aizong of Jin committed suicide before being captured. It was end of Jin. Dispute arouse between Song Empire and Mongol Empire over newly captured territories and new war started. As you know from previous chapter Kublai Khan declared himself as Emperor of China and captured Song in 1279. With that moment he had control over all China and China got new Yuan dynasty. It will be written about it in next chapter.


State, Society and Culture:

Again state system was mixture of Han Chinese and Jurchen. There were again two governments such as one which dealt with Jurchen affairs and one with Han Chinese. Jurchen government was based on tribal sessions and customary law. Han Chinese government was conceptualized on Tang dynasty government and governed by Legal Code that was based on Tang Code. Primogeniture was accepted by emperors and not opposed by Jurchen nobility. In both governments top positions Jurchen bureaucrats had while low and middle positions Han Chinese could had.  This was compromise that didn’t affect relations between Han Chinese and Jurchen residents.

Jin dynasty adopted a lot of Confucian governing norms and translated them to Jurchen language. Also they founded imperial academy for state examinations based on Chinese system but except Chinese Jurchen language was used too.

When it comes to economy it was initially most focused on agriculture, cultivating grains, livestock, fishery and hunting.  With the influence of Han Chinese it started to develop commerce, handicraft and textile industry. When it comes to technologies Jin Empire borrowed gunpowder from Song Empire and used it in army. It used gunpowder much less than Song Empire and that’s why Song was more superior.

In arts and architecture Han Chinese influence was big. Jin Emperors built palaces and pavilions in and around Beijing. Also in Kaifeng they built a lot of temples and pagodas. Han influence was visible in painting and in poetry. Especially big infuelnce on poetry had Quanzhen Taoist sect. Two thirds of poems that belong to Jin Empire were written by Quanzhen Taoists.

Religious tolerance and diversity was present. Jurchens were mostly Buddhists while as usually Han Chinese were either Taoists or Buddhists. Administration supported both religions and invested in temples and rewriting of Canons. Using woodblock printing they copied significantly Buddhist and Taoist Cannons. Significant part of Quanzhen Taoist sect was present on Jin territory and in 12th century they got headquarters in Beijing what will a bit later become White Cloud Temple. Also woodblock printer is machine that Jin Empire inherited from Han Chinese that used it since Tang dynasty.

Relations between two ethnic groups were peaceful and friendly and multiethnic marriages were common. Even Emperor Zhangzong married Han Chinese women.

Now as we have finished with different dynasties that governed during more or less same time period it is time to analyze whole China under Yuan dynasty.