Tang China and the Collapse of the Uighur Empire: A Documentary History

Tang China and the Collapse of the Uighur Empire: A Documentary History

Tang China and the Collapse of the Uighur Empire: A Documentary History

Tang China and the Collapse of the Uighur Empire: A Documentary History

Synopsis

The extant writings of the late Tang chief minister Li Deyu form the basis for Michael Drompp's reconstruction of the Tang dynasty's response to a threatening event, viz. the collapse of the Uighur steppe empire in 840 C. E., and the subsequent fleeing of large numbers of Uighur refugees to China's northern frontier. Through a translation of seventy relevant documents the author analyzes the rhetoric of the crisis, as well as its aftermath. The extant writings of Li Deyu uniquely allow an in-depth look into Chinese-Inner Asian relations, very unusual for such an early period. This volume permits us a close look at the workings of the late Tang government, particularly in terms of policy formation and implementation, as well as the rhetoric surrounding such activities.

Excerpt

The rise and fall of states has been a central concern of historians since their craft was first conceived. Great states in particular command our attention. the creation of an empire, often accomplished through violence and oppression, has nonetheless long been regarded by many as a mark of the potential greatness of human industry, while in the collapse of an empire can be seen the gloomy failure of a mighty human endeavor. This failure is particularly poignant in that it often signals an end to political order and the unleashing of chaos—a terrifying prospect for most human beings. the downfall of a massive structure is inherently magnetic. We cannot look away.

In the ninth century C.E., two great states faced one another across the Gobi Desert. One, China’s Tang empire, saw itself as the epitome of civilization. Established early in the seventh century, this state had quickly achieved remarkable military power and extended its sway well beyond the traditional confines of China proper. At its greatest extent, it was a massive realm that required extraordinary force simply to hold it together. Tang officials governed from the borders of Korea in the east to the farthest end of the Tarim Basin in the west, from the great bend of the Yellow River in the north to the tropics of Vietnam in the south. Two centuries after its founding, however, the Tang empire’s strength as well as its territory had diminished significantly. Buffeted by internal rebellions and foreign threats, the Tang state in the ninth century was no longer the dynamo it once had been. Still, it remained a potent force in its world, holding a position of centrality that was both political and cultural. Its enemies might be strong, but they could not take its place.

To the north of the Gobi was one of the Tang dynasty’s greatest rivals, the Uighur empire of Mongolia. the Uighurs were nomadic pastoralists who spoke a Turkic language. Their empire, established in the middle of the eighth century, had been able to take advantage of the decline of Tang power, which they exploited to the fullest of their abilities. the Uighurs were just one of Tang China’s competitors, but they held a special position as well. the nomadic powers to China’s north had for more than a millennium been the chief military threat to the Middle Kingdom. Having inherited that position, the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.