ASIAN HISTORY 7
Rolesof great families during the Period of Disunion (220-589)
Inthe period of 220 AD, Han the last emperor was dethroned by powerfulwarlords leading to turmoil in the empire that saw many dynastiesestablished. In this period three kingdoms were established with thenorthern kingdom of Wei been the strongest. This period witnessedmany years of fighting which annexed two other states founded underJin Dynasty in 270 AD. The nomads from the north used the chaoticnature of the North to attack the Jin Dynasty lost its powerfulterritory. Subsequent years saw the northern China ruled by manysmall dynasties (Gascoigne,2003).
However,the unlike the chaotic north dynasties, the south Dynasties hadpowerful hereditary aristocratic families entrenched in thegovernment. The Wei ranked the civil service in groups in whichranks were assessed on the basis of talent and character. Familiesplayed great role in this chaotic era especially in the southerndynasties. The aristocratic viewed them and others based on theirsocial status of their ancestors. As such the social status of thefamily determined ones post in the government. This brought aboutintermarrying between the Nobles and the aristocrat in order toattain government jobs in the civil service. It is recorded thatNoble world not only marry within families of their equivalent socialstanding but also compiled list and genealogies of most eminentfamilies.
Byentrenching in government post, the aristocratswere assured ofgovernment salaries and were exempted from labor service and taxes.These great families saw themselves as maintaining cultures of Hanand as such based on this pampering, they excelled in intellectual,artistic achievements and literary many of these great familiesbecame prominent in such works as poetry, landscape painting andwitty conversations. In respect, the great families were able toamass great wealth and estates in which they employed the poorrefugees from the North. The aristocrats viewed emperors ofsuccessive dynasties at court as military men and not men of culture.
SixDynasties and Sui-Tang periods
Thecrucial element of power during this time of disunity was themilitary, family, land, courts and government especially in theSothern dynasties. The army was the bulwark of the state serving thearistocrat. However, due to constant fighting and dissidents in thearmy the power of military significantly reduced especially in thesouthern empires courts were therefore used to command militaryoperations. However, in the dynasties that followed in the southerndynasties (420-589 AD), this power arrangement did not guaranteestability. It is recorded that as emperor military power reducedthey turned to status identity in the interest of genealogies andfamily classifications. The north was in constant disability andconflicts unlike the south. The nomads lacked administrative skillsto establish administrative structures to govern their northterritory. Were constant trouble rouser and kept moving to the stablesouth where they were employed in the military.
Evidenceindicates that, due to weak state and central governments of thenorthern and southern dynasties frustrations led to splitting of theempires into smaller units. For instance the constant warfare in theNorthern states led to deterioration of state power of Western Weiand Northern Zhou. This was largely due to the fragmented nature ofthe northern tribes unlike in the southern empires where empires werecentralized hereditary dynasties of aristocrats with strong armiesand administrative system. During the six dynasties, the southerneconomy prospered, had imperial courts, agriculture expanded as amajor source of government tax which unlike in the north(Gascoigne, 2003).
Duringthe Sui-Tang dynasties, unlike in the preceding dynasties, theyconsolidated the north and southern empires as a way of creating amodel of governance and have power in administration. Reforms wereinitiated as a way of closing the gap between the societies. It isimportant to note that, major source of power for this dynasties camefrom vast armies that each emperor recruited. A great differenceexisted between the north and the southern dynasties, the south hadstrong culture, intellectual and military might compared to thenorth. For instance, in 588, Sui amassed 518,000troops, and drove back Chen Dynasty back to North where the northernaristocrats were fascinated with the south culture and intellectually589 AD.
Culturally,majority of the southern dynasties who were Chinese practiced peasantfarming while the aristocrats special led in artistic works such aspoetry and landscape paintings. The north was mostly non Chinesetribes who practiced nomadic and were mostly illiterate unlike thesouthern counterpart but largely due to the segregation that hadoccurred during the disunity. During this period (581–605),Buddhismwas also introduced as a way of uniting people.
Politicaland social transformations during the Tang-Song period
Duringthe Tang and Song period great changes took place in the economic,political and social aspects. It is generally referred to as thegolden age for the cosmopolitan culture that took place. Politicalthe dynasty expanded empire territories through military campaign andthe creation of central government, raised professional armies andestablished a political hegemony that exerted powerful culturalinfluence over neighboring states like Japan and Vietnam. Greatprogress and changes in the social and cultural aspects took place inwhich painting and Buddhist culture were encouraged in the state(Gascoigne,2003).
Inhis dynasty, Tang designed law codes as a way of solving problemsthat plagued past dynasties. This legal ode set out punishment fordifferent members of the social and political hierarchies. Tang alsoset departments to draft, review and implement policies in themilitary, finance, justice and public works. The political power ofTang was the capital city of Chang’an where he had huge palacefilled with incredible wealth and riches, political emissaries andgovernment t officials. The Song dynasty was divided into north andsouth empires unlike Tangs Empire which was unified. The Song dynastywhich is also known as the ‘gun powder period’ developed newmilitary technology, improved spread of literature and knowledge andenhanced the invention of movable printing. As a result of increasedpopulation in the Song dynasty, monetized economy enhanced moredevelopment in technology, science, philosophy, mathematics andengineering. In general Songs state made great strides in thegovernment administration, society and culture. In the civil service,examinations and the gentry were introduced a state administrative(Gascoigne,2003).
Memorialcrop loans policy
Withthe cash at hand, it was proposed to follow the example set by thecrop loan system of Shaanxi province to give farmers desiring toborrow money before harvest to be granted loans, which was to berepaid at the same time as they paid their tax, half with the summerpayments and half with the autumn payments. Farmers were free torepay either in kind or in cash, or they could prefer to do so if theprice of grains was high at the time of repayment.
Inthe event that disaster strikes, they could be allowed to deferpayments until the date when the next harvest payment would be due.In this way not only could they be prepared to meet the distress offamine but also the people could receive loans from the government,as such it would be impossible for the monopolistic houses to exploitthe gap between harvests by charging interest to farmers at twice thenormal rate (Gascoigne,2003).
Gascoigne,Bamber (2003), TheDynasties of China: A History,New York: Carroll & Graf, ISBN 1-84119-791-2