Chinese Military Vassals and Client States, Part 1, the Tang Jimi System 唐羁縻制
Music: The East
The Jimi system (Chinese: 羁縻制) or Jimifuzhou (羁縻府州) was an autonomous administrative and political organization system used in China between the 7th century and 10th century. It should not to be confused with the tributary system- which dealt with independent but deferential states. Jimi administrative divisions were used primarily during the high point of the Tang dynasty from the 650s until the 740s.
The Chinese Emperors of the Qin and Han dynasties had always received tributes from many outlying neighbor states (Tributary System.) During 400 years of Han Dynasty rule, the central court would usually reward local allies with titles to act as local 王 "Kings," 侯 "Lords," and 长 "Chieftans," The imperial court would also cultivate favors by rewarding allied warlords with imperial daughters through marriage, gifts, and declarations of imperial protection. During the Han, many Kings of the Tarim Basin also served as Han dynasty officials while the Han dominated the western regions.
But when the Han realm collapsed into anarchy during the chaotic wars of the Three Kingdoms- and the 3 centuries of political fragmentation that followed, the smaller states from around China faced a strange new dilemma. What happens when at any given time there's always SEVERAL (rather than just ONE) ruler who claim to be the sole "Son of Heaven?"
THE TANG DYNASTY REGIONAL DIVISIONS
Music: Tai He Song (Song of the Supreme Harmony)
The Tang Empire at its greatest extent from 648-672. Orange represented provinces directly ruled by the centralized imperial court where as yellow represented the various protectorates and frontier military prefectures on the empire's frontiers. It is in these areas where many vassals of the displaced Gokturk Khaganate remained, that the Tang delegated them autonomy to both preserve their traditional titles as Kings and magnates while they also served as Tang governors.
Throughout the next two decades the Tang would expand vigorously in all directions, they would destroy the then great powers of Central and Eastern Asia, the Eastern and Western Gokturk Khaganates and nearly triple the size of the realm by the end of their conquest. With these sudden conquests, also came new vassals and responsibilities.
The Tang dynasty administered territory using a hierarchical system of three descending divisions: circuit dào (道), prefecture zhōu (州), and county xiàn (縣). Prefectures have been called jùn 郡 as well as zhōu 州 interchangeably throughout history, leading to cases of confusion, but in reality their political status were the same. The prefectures were furthered classified as either Upper Prefectures (shàngzhōu 上州), Middle Prefectures (zhōngzhōu 中州), or Lower Prectures (xiàzhōu 下州) depending on population.
By the Tang dynasty, northern China was an estuary of many religions- especially "western religions," some of the biggest ones in the western regions included Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and a sizable contingent of Manicheans.
An Upper Prefecture consisted of 40, 000 households and above, a Middle Precture 20, 000 households and above, and a Lower Prefecture anything below 20, 000 households. Some prefectures were further categorized as bulwark prefectures, grand prefectures, renowned prefectures, or key prefectures for strategic purposes. A superior prefecture was called a fu (府).
They were established in the area of today's northern Hebei, northern Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia, Siberia, Sogdiana and Afghanistan to the north and west, Hunan and Guangxi to the south, western Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan to the southwest, where they co-existed with the regular prefecture, and also parts of Inner and Central Asia. Until 755, there were approximately 1,000 loose-control prefectures in the empire. Most of these titles were allocated to the frontiers of northern China.
In additions, there were also two Loose-Control Protectorates (duhufu 都护府) established in the former Western Turkic Khaganate at around the Tarbagatai Mountains and Lake Balkhash in 658, these represented the legacy of the Taizong Emperor's soft rule over these territories and these were the only loose-control protectorates ever established.
With the great sand sea of the Taklamakan desert at its center, and the ring of shield- like mountains surrounding it on four sides, human settlements could only emerge from the sparse oases dotting the region. With time, each of these oasis erected its own walled city-state headed by a local king who simultaneously acted as a governor of the Tang.
THE CLIENT VASSALS
Music: Qizil Gülüm (My Rose)
The Uyghurs, a Turkic ally of the Tang dynasty that aided the destruction of the Gokturks-
during the 8th-10th century still preserved their Buddhist- Manichaean beliefs, were rotated
into a position of power as a result of these wars. ^ The above painting depicts high Uyghur princes in elaborate colorful garbs. The Migration of the Turkic people would bring Islamic
Jihad ricochet back into the Tarim Basin and instill Islam as the dominate religion
in the region with the displacement of Buddhism.
An assembly of various Uyghur Princes and chieftains. The Uyghurs were initially a minor tribe within the Rouran Khaganate, when the Gokturk Khaganate toppled the Rourans they became the bannermen of the Gokturks. They were once only relegated to a valley that had 1,000 households. During the Gokturk Civil War and the ensuing 2 decades of chaos on the steppes, the Uyghurs sought an alliance with the rising Tang. After the establishment of the Tang they became allies of the Tang. Throughout the majority of the Tang dynasty and the Uyghur Khaganate the two state enjoyed a great deal of trust with each other as allies.
Portrait of an elder Uyghur Khagan, the Khaganate reached its zenith under the guidance of the Bayanchur Khan~ known for his wisdom. In October 756 Bayanchur Khan came to Tang China to rescue Tang Dynasty from collapse during the An Lushan Rebellion and to quell the rebels. This military expedition was preceded by the Treaty of Peace and Alliance enacted with the newly ascended Emperor Suzong of Tang, who took a Uyghur princess in marriage while Bayanchur himself was given a Chinese princess, Ninguo, as his bride. In December 756 Bayanchur combined 4,000 of his selected cavalry with Tang forces and launched military operations against the rebels. These operations were successful and in 757 the joint forces liberated the Tang Dynasty capital Chang'An from rebel control.
A LIP-SERVICE BADGE
As Tang China faltered in the middle of the 8th century, Tibet ramped up its efforts dislodge the Tang holds in the western regions by throttling the thin Gansu Corridor, in total, hundreds of battles were fought between a weakened Tang and the Tibetan Empire until both empires eventually imploded into anarchy by the 10th century.
Padmasambhava Statue from the Johkan Temple, first built in the 7th century. Under strong Tibetan Emperors (Chosgyal) such as Songtsen Gampo, Trisong Detsen, and Ralpacan, Tibet became a supreme regional power by the advent of 7-9th century. Just like the Gokturks from the earlier part of Tang history, the Tibetan Empire would become one of the mortal nemesis of the Tang Empire during the latter part of its existence. However, it would suddenly implode in 842 when its last Emperor was assassinated by a Buddhist fanatic. Throughout the 800s, the Tang would frequently ally with the Uighur Kaganate against the Tibetan armies.
The last incarnation of these titles were conferred merely to act as lip-service to various states considered 敌国 "Hostile States" such as various Tibetan lords (the Tibetan Empire was the nemesis of the Tang) and 绝域之国 states within the spheres of influence- such as Japan, culturally converted to be similar to the Chinese but preferred to be isolated. Most of the titles given to those state were mere symbolic gestures and had little actual power or meaning, many simple states 皇帝敬问 "The Emperor's Esteem."
1909 Map of the British Indian Empire, showing British India in two shades of pink and the princely states in yellow. The frontier of the Chinese Empire were usually composed of a patchwork of local governors who were simultaneously the strongmen of their own local polities.
Later, as Tang power weakened and the central political power receded in the aftermath of the disastrous An Lushan Rebellion. A new caste of men became dominant within the empire. Because of drastic uptick of foreign invasions all along the northern and western frontiers of the empire- the Tang government reluctantly delegated a great deal of military authority and political autonomy to its military- governors called the Jiedushi (not the aforementioned Jimi native governors-strongmen, but provincial ones directly controlling large chunks of Tang provinces.)
In the post-Ān Lùshān period, approximately 75% of all provincial governors were military men regardless of their titles and designations. Out of these, four of the most powerful military governors rebelled in Hebei. In return for their surrender, they were allowed to remain in command of their armies and to govern large tracts of land as they saw fit. In the year 775, Tian Chengsi of Weibo Jiedushi attacked and absorbed a large portion of Xiangzhou from Zhaoyi Jiedushi, resulting in the "three garrisons of Hebei."
THE AGE OF THE JIEDUSHI
Music: Duel of Minds
Map of the 10 major Jiedushi and their military strengths during Emperor Xuanzong's reign (as of 745 AD) Powerful jiedushi eventually became fanzhen rulers (de facto warlords) and overrode the power of the central government. An early example of this was An Lushan, who was appointed jiedushi of three regions, which he used to start the An Lushan Rebellion that abruptly ended the golden age of the Tang dynasty. Even after the difficult suppression of that rebellion, some jiedushi such as the Three Fanzhen of Hebei were allowed to retain their powers due to the weakened state of the court.
The 48 Fanzhen (Military Districts under Buffer Towns) of late Tang dynasty, as of the 15th year of Emperor Xianzong's reign (820 AD).
REMNANTS: AFTER THE TANG
The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period was an era of high localized violence and inter state wars. Gun powder, fragmentation grenades, fire lance weapons and primitive rocketry were invented along with many other advancements in the arts and technology. On a political level: for those familiar with Asian history- especially Japanese history, this era could have turned out similar to the Genpei Wars in Japan, where China' could (almost enduringly) be turned into a feudal society ruled by a hereditary military aristocracy.
Music: The Eternal Chang An
NOTE: BEFORE CONTINUE,
know that he section below is a summary, if you prefer a much more extensive fullcoverage of the vassals and client states after the fall of the Tang dynasty, please read this section here.
WESTERN XIA 西夏
Buddhist Apsara (guardian angel) roof tile statue from Western Xia
One of greatest examples of these former client kingdoms that were able to assert a great decree of power and rise to prominence was Western Xia, or Xi Xia. Western Xia was a multi-ethnic state composed of an ethnic Tangut elite that ruled over various denizens of Han Chinese, Tibetan, Uyghur, and Qiang minorities in what is now the arid Gansu Province.
In 881 the Tangut general Li Sigong was granted control of the Dingnan Jiedushi, also known as Xiasui by the Tang emperors, for assisting the Tang in suppressing the Huang Chao Rebellion (874–884)- for their services, their clan was conferred the Tang imperial clan's last name of "Li" which were retroactively applied to all of the clan's ancestors.
Mural depicting what many scholars have deeped to be
a Western Xia Iron Sparrowhawk Cavalryman. They
were the military elite of the Western Xia state
TARIM CITY STATES- KHOTAN 于阗
A Khotanese noblewoman. A Khotanese noblewoman. The royalty of the Tarim Basin were known to have worn heavy make up (like the Tang) and lived in palaces that blended Chinese and local architectures. The outer walls were made of rammed earth while the interior were constructed in the square based Chinese Fengshui layout.
Li Shengtian (simplified Chinese: 李圣天; traditional Chinese: 李聖天; pinyin: Lǐ Shèngtiān; Saka: Viśa' Saṃbhava) (died 966) was the king of the Indo-European kingdom of Khotan from 912 to 966. His era name was Tongqing (同慶, lit. "to celebrate together"). He married the second daughter of Cao Yijin (曹議金), the first governor of the Guiyi Circuit. In another act of marital diplomacy, Cao Yijin's grandson, Cao Yanlu (曹延祿), married Li Shengtian's third daughter.
A scroll written with the ancient Khotanese, a Saka (Indo- European) language
Fashion of a late Tang lady, and the fashion of an early Song dynasty lady. Despite being isolated from the epicenter of Chinese culture, the nobility of Khotan still closely imitated the fashions and norms of the Chinese heartlands.
THE SHATUO TURKS DYNASTIES 沙陀突厥
They gained in strength through the 910s until finally in 923, they were able to completely overcome the Later Liang with Khitan assistance to found The Later Tang, after the collapse of the Later Tang, the Shatuo founded the Turkic- Chinese dynasties of Later Jin, and after that the mostly Turkic Chinese dynasty of Later Han.
THE JIMI SYSTEM: LEGACY AND ANALYSIS.
The extensive Jimi system provided a framework as a model for frontier governance, but would serve as an inspiration for the later dynasties to represent how a Chinese polity would conduct itself while having to delegate powers to autonomous vassals.
With modifications, it was subsequently used in the Song, the Mongol Yuan, and Ming dynasties under other names such as the Tusi system (土司制) until around 1726, when a new civil order called the Amban was established under the Qing government.
In the next chapter we will cover the special vassal relations of the Yuan and Ming dyansties- especially the various autonomous divisions of the Yuan government and Ming dynasty's special relation with various Tusi Chieftains that were so fierce in temperament and set in their ways that they were better left off as unconquered allies. Stay tuned friends.
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