Military by Culture: The Origin of China“s Precocious Political System

2020-08-02 04:28:15 0 Comment 282 views

Wei Zhou/Wen European missionaries who came to China in the late Ming Dynasty often marveled at a special system in China-"the rule of culture". In al

Military by Culture: The Origin of China“s Precocious Political System

(Image source: Panorama Vision)

Wei Zhou/wen

The European missionaries who came to China in the late Ming Dynasty often marveled at a special system in China-"the rule of culture." In all parts of the world at that time, no country relied solely on the civil service system to govern the country like China. Military aristocrats, princes, and generals either did not exist or obeyed the instructions of the literati and gentry selected through the imperial examination system. This greatly eliminated the possibility of internal wars, reduced the frequency of wars, and made this central kingdom a peaceful state. Although it later succumbed to external forces, as Wakeman pointed out in "Hong Ye", the conquerors had to be affected by this tradition.Conquer: "During the foundation-laying process of the Qing dynasty, there was a seemingly paradoxical phenomenon. This is the banner generals of the Manchu, Mongolian and Han army from the Northeast who helped rebuild the power of civil officials in China."

From a modern point of view, this set of institutional design is quite premature, because in the process of modernization, any country will more or less eventually follow a similar path: military power must be subordinated to the civil government. However, administrative practices such as civil service examinations, unified taxation system, and regular census, which are common in China, were extremely rare in the West before the 18th century: the first written examination of civil service examinations in Europe appeared in Berlin in 1693. Sinologist Gu Liya believes that “this Inspiration came from China", France began in 1791, and the United Kingdom was as late as after 1855-ironically, the reason it fell behind was precisely because the British thought that this system came from China, a country they looked down upon.Not only that, China has reached a fairly thorough level of "using cultural weapons" very early. Military generals in the Song Dynasty were only in charge of operations, and the power to command and dispatch the army belonged to the Privy Council; but the Secretary of Defense of the United States has always been a civilian in the administrative system. It has no military power and has nothing to do with commanding the movement of the army, and has a very clear boundary with the military.

As Fang Zhenhua said in the book "Power Structure and Cultural Identity: The Relationship Between Civil and Military Affairs in the Tang and Song Dynasties (875-1063)", "The relationship between civil and military affairs is an important difference between Chinese culture and other civilizations in the world. One of the characteristics", at least had a profound impact on the social life of China in the late imperial system for a thousand years. It not only brought long-term social stability, made the imperial examination system deeply rooted in the hearts of the people, but also overpowered the martial arts tradition. During this period, China was defeated by foreign forces more than once, and this cannot but be partially blamed. However, as long as any system can be implemented, it must have its deep internal logicWithout understanding this, it is difficult for us to understand Chinese society.

Response to the crisis

The rapid increase in the power and status of literati in the early years of the Northern Song Dynasty. In general, it was the structure of Chinese society’s response to the overall national crisis since the middle and late Tang Dynasty. Sexual response. From the outbreak of the Anshi Rebellion in 755 to the end of Song Renzong’s reign in 1063, civilian officials overwhelmed their military colleagues in all fields of administration and military. In these three hundred years, the ruling elites are undoubtedly facing the same problem, that is, how to rebuild order. Restoring the unification of the world, and ultimately "to peace". When tracing the evolution over such a long period of time, it is necessary to break the division of dynasties, because, as Wang Gungwu once pointed out, many major topics in Chinese history are often obscured by the traditional research methods based on dynasties. "The relationship between civil and military forces in the Tang and Song Dynasties" is the most obvious manifestation of this kind of elite power adjustment, from which we can see the changes within the political structure., So that we can understand the rule of civil service as a political arrangement, once it takes shape, how can it be so long.

Fang Zhenhua comprehensively sorted out the changes in the relationship between civil and military in the past hundreds of years: the early Tang Dynasty admired the "combination of civil and military" and "communicating the generals", but since the times of Wu Zetian and Tang Xuanzong, different occupation The specialization of demand, the separation of civil and military forces began. After the Anshi Rebellion, the literati and the military have formed two groups that are hostile to each other; the Huang Chao Uprising in 875 destroyed the authority of the Tang Dynasty, and the power of the military has greatly expanded. Of". Even so, the cultural rule tradition of the Central Plains was not destroyed, because warriors also needed literati to perform administrative affairs, and more importantly, they could not find other ideologies outside the Confucian tradition to legitimize their power. In the end, these military families went through a rapid process of literatiization. After the establishment of Zhou in 951, with the monarch’s admiration of the rule of culture andWith the reinvigoration of the central power, the power of civil servants expanded, which lasted until the beginning of the Northern Song Dynasty. In the end, with the end of the Song-Liao war after the Chanyuan Alliance, it marked the basic resolution of the overall crisis since the Mid-Tang Dynasty. The focus of governance has shifted from responding to external military threats to internal stability, and "a regime completely dominated by literati" emerged. Up.

The first thing that should be clear is: Fang Zhenhua divides "wen" and "wu" as two different professional categories. This in itself is an emerging concept, but Chinese society has always lacked a professional class. , There is even a tendency of anti-professionalism (Levinson language), even if it is a widely respected literati, "wen" does not mean a special profession, but a general education that everyone should have. In fact, even in the case of the "combination of civil and military" in the early Tang Dynasty, I am afraid that it is not the balanced development of two professional skills as it seems on the surface.After all, the former is the foundation of his life. This was more obvious in the early Spring and Autumn Period: At that time, "shi" referred to "warriors" rather than "scribes", and the so-called "equity between civil and military" was actually based on martial arts. The status of military aristocracy does not come from culture, but from descent and military merit, which runs counter to the principles of the imperial examination system.

In the political situation of the Middle and Late Tang Dynasty, what really matters is not the "division of civil and military", but the principle of political order based on "feudal" or "county". In the early Tang Dynasty, as the military aristocracy gradually weakened and the military system collapsed, imperial examination bureaucrats and professional soldiers took their place. The new soldiers were mostly from marginalized groups (frontiers, vagrants, criminals), and lacked cultural literacy. With loyalty and professionalism, it is easier for generals who have been given military command power for a long time to develop a close asylum-follow relationship with their subordinates. This virtually creates a new semi-independent private power base. They ordered the imperial courtViolation, or even non-compliance with the decree, frequent armed rebellion brings constant war. This naturally caused people at the time to blame the warriors for various problems, and the proposal to restrain the generals was generally consistent with the opposition to the feudal system.

In this way, as long as China moves toward reunification, the power of civil servants will inevitably rise as the central authority is restored. Although the scholars in the late Tang dynasty often turned shamelessly, their cowardice and dependence were their advantages from the perspective of rule, because they did not have the independence to challenge the court like the warriors. In this long-term game between civil and military elites, although there are only two forces on the stage, it is the third force behind the scenes that determines their fate: the monarchy. When the civil servants won an overwhelming advantage, it was the emperor who really won. He relied on a much less threatening literati elite to eliminate the potential independence of the military, and finally consolidated his power and rebuilt a unified order.

The cost of a unified empire

The changes in China during the Tang and Song dynasties are very special. You can compare the Roman Empire and the Arab Empire to see: these great empires bid farewell to the primitive militarization of the empire. After the society, they gradually relied on professional soldiers, and eventually the barbarian soldiers even took over and dominated the empire. The historian Ibn Khaldun even believes that the historical cycle is that the ruling groups are increasingly addicted to hedonic luxury, and the monarch sooner or later discovers that they must rely on mercenaries, the country has become the prey of the emerging nomadic groups, and the culture may be lifeless.

Generally speaking, in terms of specific practices, European countries do not completely overwhelm the martial arts with civilian officials like China, but gradually weaken the independence and autonomy of the military aristocracy, making them dependent on the royal power. This means that the nobles themselves are still retained, but now they have to turn to serve the king/country, and obtain honors awarded by the country based on their merits. This is most obvious in Prussia, the mostSome members of the officer regiment were in fact nobles; in Russia, Peter the Great did not abolish the old nobles, but he created a new hierarchy to instill a new desire in the lords: in addition to birth, they must also rely on merit. Different from ordinary people, they finally get an orderly promotion through serving the country. In this process, the original military aristocracy was not replaced or completely overwhelmed, but was incorporated into the new institutional system.

More importantly, China has already experienced a more serious and lasting civil strife in the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period. It has gained immunity through this "pox": Confucianism believes that facing such social anomie Crisis has no other way except to rebuild the social order, and this order is inevitably based on hierarchy and authority, the so-called "fixed in one." Yu Rui has clearly described the path of this political thought in "Envisioning the Eternal Empire": by weakening the privileges of hereditary aristocrats and selecting talentsThe ability to restrict world officials and select officials from a wider social class greatly enhances the country’s political stability, because unlike feudal aristocrats, “the scholars do not have independent power resources, nor the ability to systematically challenge the rule of the monarch.” As the "great unification" is regarded as the only way to end the chaos, with the gradual stability of the situation, the scale and number of wars have been greatly reduced, which in turn reduces the chance of promotion through military merit, and the passage of civilians to the elite by force Gradually narrowing, the intellectual class finally chose to actively depend on the country.

Looking back at this scene, the changes in the relationship between civil and military in the Tang and Song dynasties are surprisingly similar. If there is any difference, it is that the nobles and families in the Tang and Song dynasties were further attacked, and the method of selecting talents from the common people developed into a more mature and strict imperial examination system. More importantly, since the creation of the Shence Army and Privy Council in the late Tang Dynasty, the emperor’s military power was an extension of the imperial power.The power was completely returned to the central government, and the “private soldiers” were replaced by the “national soldiers”. Since then, it has been difficult for any place in the country outside of Gyeonggi to have an army stronger than the guards, and it has completely realized “centering on the outside”. ". In the Five Dynasties, the killing of Guo Chongtao triggered a mutiny, and the Forbidden Army repeatedly elected a new emperor for their own interests. Such things could not be reproduced after the Northern Song Dynasty "Baijiu releases the power of the soldiers". Even if it caused a little riot, it was not so much the growth of civil servants as it was that the imperial power had completely tamed the army.

Actually, after the establishment of civil rule in the Northern Song Dynasty, the period of strong militarization was either a troubled time (such as the late Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China) or an uneasy frontier—for example, Guangxi had only a civil official establishment in the early Qing Dynasty. 436 people, relying more on feudal kings and chieftains. This may mean that the evolution of Chinese history shows that people can’t find a way out and can make places that retain relatively independent power freelyGovernance is compatible with limited monarchy. The self-employed vassal is actually the only barrier to restrict the monarchy, and the natural alliance between the civil servants and the monarchy means that the Chinese are more afraid of the tyranny of a group of warlords than the monarchy. As a result, the stability of Chinese society is always accompanied by a uniform order of power from top to bottom. In exchange for "stability", "freedom" is sacrificed, and local vitality and autonomy are also suffocated. Every time this tights is out of shape, contradictions burst out, and people in troubled times get a chance to breathe in their thoughts, but they will soon end up with a stronger tightening. The so-called “death at once, let go at once, let go at chaos, and close at chaos” is not just in the economic field. This means that Chinese society has never found the coexistence of “orderly” and “vitality”. Way.