Barbarization and sinizicization processes of the Steppe-pastoralist-and-East Asian-agrarian interaction sphere

Excerpted from  Ping-Ti Ho, “In Defense of Sinicization: A Rebuttal of Evelyn Rawski’s “Reenvisioning the Qing,” ” The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 123-155:  URL:

“It is my guess that, since the loessic soil made it possible for large numbers of Yang-shao farmers to live closely together along numerous small streams, they had learned instinctively and empirically that the only way to avoid unnecessary violence and bloodshed was to respect each other’s territoriality (as do primates and large carnivorous animals) and rights to survival. Psychically, therefore, the circle demarcating “us” and “them” was constantly being enlarged in favor of the former, once the benefits of peaceful coexistence were better understood (Ho 1996). Over time, notions and norms that guided dealings among various feudal states and ethnic groups crystallized into what may be regarded as a unique Sinitic ethical precept, best expressed in Confucius’ Analects: “Restore states that have been annexed and revive lines that have become extinct (hsing-mieh-kuo, chichiieh-shih)” (Lau 1992, 201). While this ethical precept could at best only mitigate the unceasing processes of annexing small and weak states by the large and powerful, it does help to explain how and why the ancient Sinitic world had kept on expanding. Mencius explains it best: Shun [the legendary sage king before Yu) was originally an Eastern barbarian; King Wen [of Chou) was originally a Western barbarian…. their native places were a thousand Ii apart, and there were a thousand years between them. But when they got their wish, and carried their principles into practice throughout the Middle Kingdom, it was like uniting the two halves of a seal. (Legge I and II: 316-17, with minor alteration in phrasing) What Mencius really meant to say is that the original “Sinitic” group was relatively small and that any subsequent leaders of non-Sinitic tribes or states who adopted the original Sinitic way of life and contributed to its enrichment were retrospectively to be regarded as sage-kings of the progressively enlarging Sinitic world. This saying of Mencius suggests that long before the rise of Chou the fundamental criterion for defining membership in the Sinitic world was the awareness of a common cultural heritage rather than rigid racial or ethnic identity (Ho 1975, 344). It is also prophetic because throughout the following millennia this deeply ingrained culture-orientation in interethnic relationships has largely accounted for the fact that China has become a state with fifty-six officially defined “nationalities.” From the standpoint of sinicization, China’s long imperial age (221 B.C.-A.D. 1911) may be conveniently demarcated by the end of the Turk-dominated Five Dynasties and the inception of the Sung in 959-960. Prior to this watershed, the polyethnic empires of Han (206 B.C-A.D. 220) and T’ang (618-907) were the outcome of Chinese expansion and conquest. After 960 it was the aliens who succeeded in partial or total conquest of China. Although the alien dynasties of conquest-the Khitan Liao, Jurchen Chin, Mongol Yuan, and Manchu Ch’ing-have attracted most attention of Western students of Chinese history, the various pre-960 non-Chinese groups may have played a far more important role in the growth of China as a multiethnic state. This may be partially shown statistically. The great steppe empire of the Huns (Hsiung-nu), which reached the height of its power around 200 B.C., boasted of between 300,000 and 400,000 horse-riding archers, not including a fairly large Wuhuan population enslaved by them for farm and sundry work. (Wu-huan was one of the Tung-hu, literally the “Eastern Barbarian,” groups who belonged to the proto-Mongolic linguistic family.) This would mean a total Hun population of between 1.5 and 2 million. This figure takes on extra meaning when we realize that the then population of Han China probably did not amount to one-third of the peak former Han population of nearly 60 million in A.D. 2. In other words, the ratio of Hsiungnu to Chinese population is likely to have been 1:1O. We find a similar situation in the early seventh century: a total population of 2 million for the Turkish empire as compared to a total of less than 3 million registered households during the reign of T’ang T’ai-tsung (627-49); and the Turks were but one of a score or so of non-Chinese ethnic groups within and without T’ang China. What intrigues me the most is the situation in the fourth century, certainly the most chaotic in Chinese history. The incessant wars among various ethnic groups, devastation of large tracts of farm land, forced mass migrations, and recurrent famines and epidemics all exacted the heaviest toll on Chinese lives. On the other hand, all the major non-Chinese ethnic groups were of considerable size. There were well over 100,000 sinicized Huns who had been allowed to live along and within the Great Wall and who were the first to revolt against the Chin Dynasty and to establish a regional regime. The western part of the Chin empire, from Kansu, Kokonor, southwards to Szechwan and Yunnan, was teeming with Ti farmers and Ch’iang herdsmen, both of Tibetan stock. The one non-Chinese ethnic group destined to unify North China was the Hsien-pei, a major Tung-hu group. After groups of Northern Huns fled westwards to the Urals and beyond in A.D. 91, the Hsien-pei conglomerate had the numerical and military strength to incorporate some 500,000 or 600,000 Huns stranded on the steppe and also to absorb large numbers of their ethnic kin, the Wu-huan people previously subjugated by the Huns (Lin 1983, 152-53; Ma 1962a, 27). In A.D. 258, when the To-pa Hsien-pei subnation began to become powerful, it boasted of “more than two hundred thousand horse-riding archers.” In 308 the whole Hsien-pei conglomerate had more than 400,000 archers, which means an aggregate population of 2 million [Wei Shu, chap. 1, passim}. It is my conjecture that during this century of serious decimation of the Chinese population and of intense intermingling of peoples in North China, the ratio of major non-Chinese ethnic groups to the Northern Chinese might have been as high as one to five. After the To-pa Hsien-pei founded the Northern Wei dynasty in 386 and reunified all North China thirty years later, peace in general prevailed. The various non-Chinese ethnic groups, which had been uprooted from tribal living within and without the Chin empire since the beginning of the fourth century, were now scattered far and wide and mingled daily with the Chinese population. The continual deportation cumulatively involving a million Chinese peasants and craftsmen to the Northern Wei metropolitan area of Northern Shansi took place simultaneously with efforts to relocate large numbers of Hsien-pei soldiers for settled village farming. Forces of acculturation went on apace throughout the empire, while the cream of the Hsien-pei tribal army was stationed in the six northern headquarters, keeping constant vigilance against the fierce marauding Jou-jan nomads. Contrary to the necessarily gradual process of acculturation at the bottom of the social scale, the ethnic aristocracy was susceptible to Chinese cultural influence rather early. A classic example is Chin Mi-ti (d. 86 B.C.), a captured heir-apparent to a Hsiung-nu Shan-yii (great khan), whose political and personal conduct was so profoundly influenced by Confucian moral precepts that he won contemporary recognition as a paragon of virtue; his descendants chose to die as Han loyalists rather than to serve the usurper Wang Mang [Han-shu, ch. 68}. Since such non-Chinese ethnic groups as the Huns, the Ti, and Ch’iang had been permitted to continue their tribal mode of living inside China since the first century B.C., it is to be expected that in the course of time their great and lesser chiefs knew the Han Chinese language. But I am surprised to learn that practically all of the leaders of various major non Chinese ethnic groups of the early fourth-century were not only well-versed in Chinese classics and history, but also took Chin Mi-ti as their role model. In spite of their inevitable involvement in the scramble for power which led to the rise and fall of a number of non-Chinese dominated regional states, their full acceptance of Confucian morals, norms, and of the Chinese imperial system as the only political orthodoxy indicates a considerably higher degree of sinicization than is usually expected of the “barbarians” [Chin-shu, ch. 101-3, passim}. Although the dynasty-founding To-pa group was less sinicized than the two other Hsien-pei subnations, they also had to follow the logic of the time: to shift a largely nomadic economy to the Chinese type of sedentary agriculture and to adopt by increasing measure the Chinese imperial system and bureaucracy for better management of the majority Chinese subjects. Besides, culturally and institutionally sinicization would serve as a common denominator with which to homogenize the polyethnic subject population. For all these reasons, the Hsiao-wen emperor from 494 onwards embarked upon a policy of systematic sinicization, which consisted of such measures as the moving of the capital from northern Shansi to Loyang, which was the heart of the agricultural zone, the prohibition of Hsien-pei language, the use of Chinese as the lingua franca, the change of polysyllabic Hsien-pei surnames into monosyllabic Chinese ones, the abandonment of Hsien-pei costumes for Chinese-style attires, and the full-scale adoption of Chinese rituals and legal code. By forcing the Hsien-pei aristocracy to take up permanent residence in the new metropolitan Loyang area and by encouraging their intermarriage with Chinese noble houses, he succeeded in forging a close bond between the biethnic ruling class. All these were parts of longrange planning for a military conquest of the southern Chinese dynasty-the only way to gain legitimacy to supreme rulership of the entire China world. Emperor Hsiao-wen did not live to see the realization of his ultimate goal. On the contrary, full-scale sinicization in the Loyang area made the Northern Wei court, aristocracy, and officialdom increasingly extravagant and effete. The subsequent negligence and degradation of the Hsien-pei rank and file at the six northern garrison headquarters precipitated a strong nativist revolt that lasted ten years and finally brought down the Northern Wei dynasty in 534. North China was politically divided into an eastern and a western state until the former was annexed by the latter in 577. Initially, both the eastern and western states had to vie with each other in attracting the broken-up units of the northern garrison forces. While the east ~remained strongly nativist and prejudiced against the majority Chinese population, the west carried out a policy of appeasing the nativist sentiments of the traditional Hsien-pei elements, on the one hand, and of generating a sense of Hsien-pei-Chinese solidarity, on the other. At the bottom, the “privilege” of military service was extended to propertied Chinese farmers, the backbone of the newly ‘created Chinese fu-ping army, so as to broaden the social and ethnic base of armed forces. At the top, the policy of power-sharing and intermarriage between the Hsien-pei and Chinese aristocracy was so successful that it was precisely this so-called Kuan-Lung (Shensi-Kansu) bloc that finally reunified all China and founded the Sui-T’ang multiethnic empires. The greatest political and military genius produced by this northwestern biethnic bloc was Li Shih-min (597-649), the second ruler but the real founder of the T’ang dynasty. Since his grandmother and mother were Hsien-pei, he was genetically 75 percent Hsien-pei, though legitimately Chinese. It was from this multiethnic cultural milieu that he acquired a profound understanding of the traits and customs of the most powerful of the steppe peoples, the Turks under the Great Khan Hsieh-li. From various historical sources it can now be ascertained that as early as 617-18 he had already entered a sworn brotherhood with Tu-li, the second-ranking great khan and nephew and adopted son of Hsieh-Ii. I suspect he was able to speak Turkish because in the fall of 624 when Hsieh-Ii and his troops reached the north bank of the Wei River near the capital city of Ch’ang-an, he determinedly left his forces behind and rode alone without any escort to confront Hsien-li from south ofthe river, reproaching the latter for failure to observe the spirit of a previous oath. Then he dispatched someone to remind Tu-li not to forget the bond of “sworn brotherhood (hsiang-huomeng).”3 This and many later accounts show that T’ang T’ai-Tsung was truly unique because the Turks and various steppe peoples genuinely believed that he was “one of them.” The most eloquent testimonial to the polyglot and multiethnic character of the T’ang empire was the assumption by T’ang T’ai-tsung of a second and entirely novel imperial title of “Heavenly Khan,” upon the requests of vanquished Turkish khans and rulers of various other steppe tribal states and ethnic groups in the year 630, shortly after he had crushed the Eastern Turkish empire. An event of no less significance was the acceptance by T’ang T’ai-tsung in the early spring of 647, after a great deal of feasting and merry-making, of a plea jointly made by all attending tribal chieftains that a road be opened up between the northerly Uighurs and the southerly Turks, and be named the “Road to facilitate [various vassal peoples of the steppe} to make obeisance to their ‘Heavenly Khan (Ts’an t’ien-k’o-han tao)'” [Tzuchih-t’ung-chien, T’ang Chi, 198, 114}. From abundant T’ang records, there can be little doubt that this and many similar requests and gestures from the steppe peoples were spontaneous and sincere. We can catch glimpses of the grandeur of the T’ang multiethnic empire from the top of the mausoleum of Emperor Kao-tsung (650-83) and Empress Wu (684-704): halfway down the hill there stand at attention two symmetrically arranged groups of stone statues, each representing the head or envoy of one of the sixty-four vassal states that stretch 3,000 miles from Korea across the Eurasian steppe to the state of Tokhara, southeast of the Aral Sea. The rare sense of mutual belonging between T’ang T’aitsung and his multiethnic vassals and ministers can be detected from the ground plan of his own mausoleum, which was made in 636, thirteen years before his death: the mausoleum to be guarded in the north by statues representing fourteen of his loyal Turkish and other ethnic vassals and appended in the south by a very large cemetery consisting of tombs of some members of the imperial lineage, meritorious Chinese, and non-Chinese officials and generals. For a proper historical perspective, one should search deeper into the significance of the system of “Heavenly Khan.” Rawski, relying entirely on Pamela Crossley, contends that the origin of the “Khan of Khans” must be sought in Chinggis Khan and that “the ‘Khan of Khans’ was not a Chinese emperor” (Rawski 1996, 835). As is shown above, the archetypal Khan of Khans was the T’ang emperor T’ai-tsung’s “Heavenly Khanate.” E. G. Pulleyblank explains it best: “It established a separate basis of legitimacy for his rule beyond the Great Wall, with its roots in nomad conditions, and was not simply an extension of universalist claims by a Chinese Son of Heaven. Moreover, it had as its corollary the assumption, quite contrary to Chinese traditional attitudes, of the equality of barbarian and Chinese as subjects. This was a point ofview consciously maintained and expressed by T’ai-tsung” (Pulleyblank 1976, 38). Needless to say, T’ang T’ai-tsung’s legitimacy as the Chinese emperor was never questioned, while later “Khan of Khans” such as Khubilai or Ch’ien-Iung, being “resident alien” in China, had to devise various political, institutional, cultural, and ideological means to legitimize their rulership in China. On the other hand, while later Tibetan Lamaist Buddhism could make Khubilai or Ch’ien-Iung “God” incarnate (Franke 1978, esp. 77-79), T’ang T’ai-tsung’s Heavenly Khanate was a secular institution, though not devoid of cosmological meaning. During the entire T’ang period there were altogether 369 “prime ministers” from 98 surname groups. Those of non-Chinese ethnic origins account for 9 percent of the total but constitute 17.4 percent of the aggregate of surnames-a record unsurpassed by any “Chinese” dynasty. No less unique in Chinese history is the fact that the various steppe ethnic groups, such as the Turks, Sogdians, and other Central Asians; the Khitans, Hsi, Koreans; and toward late T’ang the Sha-t’o Turks, consistently dominated the T’ang polyethnic army. Other statistics, facts, and facets relevant to the study of sinicization up to and including T’ang times are either illuminating or self-explanatory. The author of the phonetic dictionary Ch’ieh-yun, Lu Fa-yen, who completed this landmark work late in the sixth century, was a member of an aristocratic Hsien-pei family. China’s greatest romantic poet, Li Po (? 705-62), was brought to Szechwan in his early boyhood by his Central Asian merchant father. More revealingly, the three lifelong friends and leading poets of late T’ang were all of non-Chinese ethnic origins: Po Chu-i (772-846), Yuan Chen (779-831), and Liu Yu-hsi (772-842) were respectively of Central Asian, Hsien-pei, and Hun (Hsiung-nu) descent. During Sui and early T’ang, the great architect Yu-wen K’ai was of mixed Hsiung-nu and Hsienpei descent. His contemporary, the architect Ho Ch’ou, who was commissioned to do the initial planning for the metropolitan Ch’ang-an (Ta-hsing in Sui times) area, was the grandson of a Sogdian merchant from Central Asia. Mi Fu (1051-1107), a great calligrapher and father of the splash-ink school of landscape painting, is very likely to have been of Sogdian descent too (Yao 1962, passim).  Not to be completely overshadowed by the north, the south that had remained Chinese throughout the pre-Tang centuries also produced its own share of preeminent persons. The aboriginal Hsi people of modern Kiangsi area could take pride in producing China’s foremost pastoral poet T’ao Ch’ien (365-427), better known by the name T’ao Yuan-mingo The aboriginal people of modern northern Hunan had the honor of producing Ou-yang Hsun (557-645), one of the most famous T’ang calligraphers. If a dozen or so of these southern ethnic groups were pushed increasingly into the hills and mountains of inland Yangtze as the Chinese immigrants advanced, significant numbers of these aborigines had their compensation by becoming the backbone of the southern army, especially because the carpet-bagging Chinese ruling class was too effete and self-indulgent to lead the ranks. One of the stout ethnic generals who saved the nascent Eastern Chin dynasty from military collapse was T’ao K’an (259-334), great-grandfather of T’ao Yuan-m,ing. A different kind of acculturation took place in the heavily garrisoned northern border areas. It is beyond the scope of this essay to outline the evolution of the T’ang army system. Suffice it here to point out that, with the impending collapse of the Chinese peasant army (ju-ping) system and its inevitable replacement by a professional polyglot mercenary army, soon after 700 there was the need to merge several normal provinces into one large military region for better coordination and efficiency. In order to check the power of the newly instituted military governors, the T’ang court finally decided to fill such posts only with non-Chinese ethnics of humble social origin on the theory that such men did not have political ambition. Consequently, in 742 An Lu-shan (d. 757), a Sogdian fluent in six steppe languages and dialects who was also a courtier, emerged as the most powerful of the northern military governors, with much of modern Hopei and southern Manchuria under his command. Although the great rebellion (755-62) he launched ended in failure, the T’ang court could never regain effective control of the northeastern provinces, which remained in the hands of virtually “hereditary” warlords, mostly of non-Chinese origins. The extent to which people of this northeastern region had undergone the process of “barbarization” may be reflected in the fact that henceforth they identified themselves more with the memories of An Lu-shan and his warlord successors than with later T’ang emperors (Ch’en [1942}; 1997,1:179-200). Defying the national trend that literary attainments procured more and more social prestige, people in this northeastern region still valued such qualities as physical prowess and personal valor that make up good soldiery. There was also another kind of “barbarization” that may be more correctly described as “Central-Asianization” or “Western-Asianization.” Throughout the period 600-900 there was the continual introduction of Central and Western Asian music; dance; magic; acrobatics; polo; Turkish and other ethnic costumes; various exotic foods including grape wines, refined granular cane sugar, many types of pancakes and pastry; and certain nomad ways of cooking meats. In early T’ang it was fashionable to learn to speak and to act Turkish. The best-known case was the illstarred first heir apparent of T’ai-tsung, prince Ch’eng-ch’ien. In the realm of interracial, interethnic, and interfaith dealings, the openmindedness and large-heartedness of the early T’ang Chinese are nowhere better shown than in the words of T’ang T’ai-tsung, who, after receiving the Nestorian monk 0 Lo Pen in 635, expressed his opinion on religions in general, including Nestorian Christianity: The Way has more than one name. There is more than one Sage. Doctrines vary in different lands, their benefits reach all mankind. 0 Lo Pen, a man of great virtue from Ta Ts’in (the Roman Empire) has brought his images and books from afar to present them in our capital. After examining his doctrines we find them profound and pacific. After studying his principles we find that they stress what is good and important. His teaching is not diffuse and his reasoning is sound. This religion does good to all men. Let it be preached freely in Our Empire. (Fitzgerald 1935, 336) Although the specific circumstances of their introduction were not clearly recorded, Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism were equally welcomed into T’ang China. It may indeed be said that the spirit of tolerance and of cosmopolitanism exhibited by T’ang Chinese is almost the exact opposite to “Han chauvinism,” arrogance, and xenophobia, which some students of Chinese history believe to have characterized the so-called “sinicization.” Broadly speaking, whether at the spiritual and philosophical level or at the mundane everyday level, the T’ang court and society at large seem to have well understood the futility of forced assimilation and the wisdom of “laissez-faire” in the sense of letting all ethnic and religious groups play themselves out in the same melting pot. The “final” outcome would be something that may be called “sinicization.” Biologically and culturally, the almost complete absence of reference to such ethnic terms as Hsiung-nu, Wu-huan, and Hsien-pei, seems to indicate that they had long become “sinicized” or absorbed into the enlarged Chinese nation. Religiously and philosophically, a similar phenomenon is found in the case of Buddhism. Its pre-T’ang phase is nowhere more aptly described than by the title of Eric Zurcher’s standard treatise, The Buddhist Conquest of China: The Spread and Adaptation of Buddhism in Early Medieval China (1959). As a result of centuries of adaptation to the Chinese milieu, Indian Buddhism finally became thoroughly “sinicized” in T’ang times, as may be evidenced by the maturation of such typically “Chinese” schools of Buddhism as the T’ien-t’ai, the Hua-yen, the Pure Land, and especially the Ch’an (Zen). Before concluding the section on the T’ang, I would like to examine some available figures. Between T’ang T’ai-tsung’s accession in 617 and the outbreak o fthe An Lu-shan rebellion in 755, a span of 138 years, the aggregate number of such steppe people as the Turks and the nineteen Turkish T’ieh-Ie tribes, the Koreans, the T’ufan Tibetans, the Tang-hsiang Tibetans (the Tanguts), and Central and Western Asians who were captured by the T’ang army or voluntarily submitted to the T’ang and were hence settled within China amounted to at least 1.7 million (Fu 1992,257). This total does not, of course, include those alien ethnics who chose to reside in China through normal channels, nor does it include those alien ethnics who took up permanent residence in China in the late eighth and ninth centuries. Thousands of Uighurs served in the T’ang army as mercenaries. After having helped the T’ang court to crush the An Lu-shan rebellion, many Uighurs became merchants and usurers. The number of Uighurs who eventually settled in Ch’ang-an and other cities of China is impossible to estimate. There were Persians in Ch’ang-an and Yang-chou by the thousands. A very large Arab population resided in Kuang-chou (Canton) in late T’ang. C. P. Fitzgerald summarizes thus: “the Arab and other foreign communities resident in the port were very large…. Abu Zaid, an Arab traveler who was in China towards the end of the T’ang period, relates that when Canton was taken by storm by the rebel Huang Tsao in A.D. 879, 120,000 foreigners, Arabs, Jews, Zoroastrians and Christians, were massacred, as well as native population of the city” (Fitzgerald 1935, 334). The kind of true metropolitanism that characterized the life, outlook, and attitude of the T’ang Chinese is almost unique in world history, paralleled perhaps only by the Roman Empire from Hadrian to Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 117-80). In regard to early T’ang’s basic principle in handling interethnic affairs, certain Western scholars hold views more critical than what has been presented in this section. Let us analyze what is the actual meaning of the much-quoted Turkish inscription of Kocho-Tsaidam, which H. J. Wechsler thinks “eloquently relates the fate suffered by the conquered Turks.” The sons of the Turkish nobles became slaves to the Chinese people, and their innocent daughters were reduced to serfdom. The nobles, discarding their Turkish titles, accepted those of China, and made submission to the Chinese Qaghan, devoting their labour and their strength for fifty years. For him, both toward the rising sun and westward to the Iron Gates, they launched their expeditions. But to the Chinese Qaghan they surrendered their empire and their institutions. (Cited and commented on in Wechsler 1979, 223) I have read six other Turkish inscriptions available in Chinese translation (Lin 1988, 241-86), but the passage quoted above should enable us to get at the truth. When we realize that this inscription represents basically the nomad’s nostalgia about the “freedom” of his mode of life on the vast expanse of the Eurasian steppe with the blessing of the lord of the boundless blue sky (Tengri), then such expressions as “slaves” and “serfdom” are merely metaphorical. What the inscription says about “the nobles, discarding their Turkish titles,” accepting “those of China” is true because these Turkish nobles did receive at least comparable ranks and ample material rewards from the “Heavenly Khan.” What is more important is the fact that T’ang T’ai-tsung’s success in playing the game of divide and rule was primarily due to great-khan Hsieh-Ii’s cruelty and tyranny to his own people and also accidentally to unusually severe snowstorms that hit the steppe in the winter of 629-30. To do justice to T’ang T’ai-tsung, he prevailed over conservative opinion and decided to resettle some one hundred thousand surrendered Turks in the Ordos area without changing their tribal mode of living and commissioned more than a hundred Turkish nobles as officers of higher and middle ranks, several as generals. It was said that in the year 630 the total of Turkish officers at the T’ang court almost matched that of similarly ranked Chinese civil officials. Consequently, before long nearly ten thousand households of Turks came to reside in the metropolitan Ch’ang-an area (Tzu-chih t’ung-chien, “T’ang-chi,” ch. 193, p. 907). In the spring of 630 when the great khan Hsieh-Ii was brought to T’ang T’aitsung as a war captive, the emperor, after reprimanding him for his acts of atrocity, not only spared his life but ordered that he be well taken care of by the director of the bureau of imperial stud horses for the remainder of his life. In 658, the Turkish general A-shih-na Ho-Iu, having turned traitor in plotting the great Turkish rebellion, was captured and offered to be executed at T’ang T’ai-tsung’s mausoleum as a redemption for his ingratitude; the emperor Kao-tsung was so moved that he spared Ho-Iu’s life and later decided to bury him beside the grave of his original supreme ruler, Hsieh-Ii great khan (Lin 1988, 115). These anecdotes and many others go far to testify to the fact that early T’ang rulers treated alien subjects fairly, without discrimination but with feeling. As pointed out above, such genuine feeling for alien subjects found its expression even in the design of T’ang T’ai-tsung’s mausoleum. By way of summing up, the Han period initiated the policy of letting large non Chinese ethnic groups live along and within the northern and northwestern boundaries of the empire, a policy which in the long run familiarized them with the Chinese mode of sedentary rural life. It also brought about a surprisingly high degree of sinicization, at least in terms of knowledge of Chinese classics and history and acceptance of Confucian values and norms, of members of the ethnic aristocracy-a factor which might have mitigated the cultural shock of the Chinese during the fourth century A.D., when interethnic mingling and blending was intense and persistent amidst severe decimation of Chinese population. This century and the following fifth and sixth centuries A.D. seem to constitute a special chapter in which the blending of various streams of ethnicity in the bodies of the “Chinese” of entire North China may have reached an extent never equaled in subsequent Chinese history. While the ratio of non-Chinese ethnics to the entire Chinese population at the height of T’ang prosperity in the early eighth century may not be as high as that during the fourth century, the acculturation between the various ethnic and religious groups and the Chinese went on at an accelerated pace because of the peace in the Eurasian steppe ensured by the system of Heavenly Khan and of the prevailing spirit of cosmopolitanism in the nation at large. Instead of reasserting the superiority of the Chinese political and cultural tradition as a force of forced assimilation of the aliens, the T’ang Chinese watched with amusement the adoption of certain steppe ways and customs by the playful aristocrats and commoners. They resigned themselves to the fate of “barbarization” of the northeast after the An Lu-shan rebellion, but welcomed with open arms the introduction of Central and Western Asian music, dance, food, drinks and games, as well as ancient and rising religions. It is through T’ang China’s attitude towards religions that we can best understand that it is the open-mindedness and the large-heartedness that account substantially for sinicization’s innate strength.”

Read p 137 onwards for more on the border regimes and why they became sinicized —  tired of being menaced by the many serial maurading tribes coming and going, and gone was the cosmopolitanism spirit of the Tang era, the border populations now grew weary of the nomads and xenophobic and identified themselves with the Han people and empire.

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