These essays explore the rise and fall of China's Han and Tang empires and the kingdoms that laid the stage for the rise of dynasties.
The Concise Essay first looks at the origins of the empire or kingdom – how founder-kings exploited favorable circumstances to their advantage. I then turn to an examination of sources of wealth and power in the ancient world – agriculture, foreign trade, and foreign conquest. I move on to means of control – political organization and religious persuasion – used by ruling elites to retain power and extract wealth from the masses. Next I examine causes of decline in China – internal erosion of control followed by foreign incursions by competing enemies. I then summarize the key trends in the aftermath of each dynasty – how successful later groups were in holding on to power and creating wealth. At the end of the essay, I draw lessons for contemporary powers from the experiences of ancient empires and kingdoms.
The Complete Essay offers a deeper dive into Chinese history. The first section of this essay examines the rise, rule, and fall of the Han dynasty, an early peak period of economic and cultural creativity in China. In many respects, Chinese imperial history then repeated itself. The second part of this essay relates how that occurred. In the 6th century, two short-lived kingdoms brought China back together again. The Northern Zhou kingdom (534-581) forcefully re-united north China, and then the Sui kingdom (581-618) re- unified north and south China through conquest. China’s second dynastic empire, the Tang Empire (618-907), began when the Sui over-extended itself and imploded. Much has happened in China in the aftermath of the Han and Tang dynasties. The third part of the essay reviews the most recent eleven centuries of Chinese history to draw conclusions about the impact of the two primary Chinese dynasties on later events. Four major dynasties reigned after the Tang Empire. Two, the Song and Ming dynasties, were Chinese and two, the Yuan and Qing dynasties, were foreign. But Qing rule and China’s prestige declined markedly during the 19th century, when Western powers took control of key Chinese ports and Japan defeated China and claimed Taiwan. This essay concludes with a review of China’s turbulent 20th century, the final aftermath of the Han and Tang dynasties. A time line, an annotated bibliography, and a description of sites visited in China are appended at the end.
Macro Polo Expedition Urumqi and Kashgar Dunhuang, Shangdu (Xanadu) and Duolun Beijing,HangzhouAboard the Silver Whisper Hong Kong–China, China Shanghai, China, Shanghai, Xian Guilin The Yangtze River (Chongqing to Yichang) Suzhou
Airplane-based, Lijiang and Zhongdian, Yunnan, China, Chengdu, Sichuan, Ship-based, Aboard the Clipper Odyssey Putuoshan Island, China, Putuoshan, Airplane-based, Urumqi and Turfan, China