Monday, August 13, 2012

unifications of china 1

Random idea from this weekend: create a set of spatiotemporal maps illustrating the unifying conquests of China. For fun. Let's make a list:

1. Qin: Ying Zheng and Guanzhong
Qin was one of many Warring States in the centuries leading up to the first true unification of China in 9780HE. Qin was based in the area around and to the west of Xi'an, which is protected by mountain ranges and accessible only through narrow passes (I traveled through the Hangu pass to visit Xi'an in 12010HE): hence the region's name of Guanzhong, "within the passes". The conquest has an ill-defined starting point, since the different states had been in contention for centuries. However, it was with Ying Zheng's rule that most of the work was done: between 9771 and 9780, China proper went from seven states to one. This period, the Qin Unification War, could be taken as the first.

2. Han: Liu Bang and Guanzhong
Qin didn't long outlive Ying Zheng, who died in 9791. Soon after his death, Qin was overthrown and broken up into a number of kingdoms, united in theory by the Emperor of Chu, who was in fact a puppet of the warlord Xiang Yu. Xiang Yu's confederation quickly disintegrated into civil war between Xiang's Chu state and Liu Bang's Han state, which lasted from 9795 to 9799, when Chu was finally defeated and absorbed into Han. Han, by the way, based its power in the mountain-protected cities of Hanzhong and Chang'an, as Qin had done. Xiang Yu had placed his capital in Pengcheng, in eastern China. This war, and its result, was messy: at any given point in time, even for a decade after the war ended, it was unclear just who was in charge of particular regions, and a lot rested on the proclaimed allegiances of one or another warlord. However, there are standard interpretations of who was with who and when, that could be used to clarify an illustration.

3. Wei/Jin: Cao Cao and Guandong (east of the passes)
Han lasted for 400 years. When it finally collapsed around 10190, there were more than 20 years of war, followed by a half-century period of fracture into the Three Kingdoms of Wei, Wu, and Shu. The Wei state, based in the western edges of the central plains, just east of the mountain strongholds favored by Qin and early Han, eventually conquered Shu in 10263, was replaced in a coup by Jin in 10265, and finally conquered Wu in 10280. After this, Jin slowly fell apart, and China wouldn't be put together under one government again for another four centuries. The Wei/Jin unification was so slow, taking more than 80 years, that it can't really be considered a 'conquest'; it was a slow succession of local wars, with long spaces of quiet in between. I don't think this one would count.

I don't know much about the establishment of Sui - we'll wait until I've read a bit more on it before I continue.

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