Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
change was China's relationship with the outside world. In mid-Tang
times, prior to the An Lushan rebellion, China was preeminent in the
world and knew it. The Chinese had little reason to fear the outside
world and seemed to find it endlessly fascinating. By the middle of
the thirteenth century, this viewpoint had changed drastically. China
had been recognizing the Liao and Jin states and rulers as equals,
and the Mongol conquest of all China was rumbling on the horizon.
Thirteenth-century China had every reason to be fearful and dis-
trusting of the outside world, especially the barbarian warrior tribes
on its northern borders.
Relations between the emperor and the bureaucracy changed as
well. In mid-Tang times the emperor was primus inter pares,orfirst
among equals, and he debated policy matters with his government
ministers. By late Song times the emperor of a considerable weaker
dynasty was, ironically, quite a bit more powerful internally vis-` -vis
debated policy but listened to rival factions of officials at court debate
policy while remaining aloof from the fray. The emperor in late Song
times was the final arbiter, and no longer one of the principals, of pol-
icy debates. Ministers who came into the presence of the Song emper-
ors were much less relaxed than their Tang counterparts had been.
Most of the elite of Tang society were aristocrats, or people who
came from families who had served Chinese governments for centu-
ries. Being a member of the cultural and policy-making elite in Tang
China was, on balance, just as much a matter of who you were as what
you knew or how competent you were. Tang officialdom was largely
an aristocracy. By late Song times, on the other hand, a slight majority
of the elite came from families that had little or no heritage of
government service. The Song dynasty had expanded its civil service
examination system and had made official careers more available to
men of talent, regardless of their bloodlines. The Song government
did not want to be dominated by prominent aristocratic families and
their interests. This style was started by the founding Song emperor,
who wanted a class of officials more dependent on him for their posi-
tions than on any other segment of society. Song officialdom was, on
balance, more of a meritocracy than an aristocracy.
Taxation changed. In Tang China, prior to the An Lushan rebellion,
taxes were largely levied on people, not on land. Peasants farmed land
owned by the state, and the taxes they paid to the state were more or
less the rent for their land. By late Song times, on the other hand, pri-
vate ownership of land was recognized, and taxes were levied on the
land itself, according to how productive or fertile it was. Sources of
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