Conquest dynasty

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A conquest dynasty in the history of imperial China refers to a dynasty established by non-Han peoples that ruled parts or all of the China proper, such as the Mongol Yuan dynasty and the Manchu Qing dynasty.

Conventional Chinese history mostly uses neat single dates for the beginnings and ends of dynasties, but it should be remembered that most conquest dynasties arrived and fell in protracted and violent wars. For example the Chinese Ming dynasty is normally dated as replacing the conquest Yuan dynasty in 1368, but there was a long revolt against the Yuan, and in the field of Chinese ceramics Jingdezhen porcelain is usually, but not always, described as "Ming" from 1352, when they lost Jingdezhen in the south.[1]


The term "conquest dynasty" was coined by the German-American sinologist Karl August Wittfogel in his 1949 revisionist history of the Liao dynasty (907–1125). He argued that the Liao, as well as the Jin (1115-1234), Yuan (1279–1368), and Qing (1662–1912) dynasties of China were not really "Chinese", and that the ruling families did not fully assimilate into Han Chinese culture. This view contradicts traditional Chinese historiography which regards "border people" such as the Khitans as essential parts of the Chinese people. The "conquest dynasty" idea was warmly received by mostly Japanese scholars such as Otagi Matsuo, who preferred to view these dynasties in the context of a "history of Asia" rather than a "history of China". Alternative views to the "conquest dynasty" from American sinologists include Owen Lattimore's idea of the steppe as a "reservoir", Wolfram Eberhard's concept of a "superstratification" of Chinese society with nomadic peoples, and Mary C. Wright's thesis of sinicization. Among historians, the idea of the Liao and Jin as being foreign or conquest dynasties is much more controversial than the same characterization of the Yuan and the Qing.[2]

Scope of China (Zhongguo)[edit]

In English language "Zhongguo ren" (中國人) is frequently confused and conflated with "Han ren" (漢人), meaning Han Chinese.[3]

Han Chinese dynasties only used Zhongguo (中國, lit. the Central Kingdom) to explicitly refer to Han areas of their empire.[4] The Ming dynasty only used Zhongguo to refer to explicitly only refer to Han areas of China, even excluding ethnic minority areas under Ming rule from being defined as Zhongguo.[5]

The Xianbei Northern Wei referred to itself as Zhongguo and referred to yogurt as a food of Zhongguo.[6] Similarly, the Jurchen Jin dynasty (1115–1234) referred to itself as Zhongguo.[7]

The Manchu referred to all subjects of the Qing Empire regardless of ethnicity as "Chinese" (中國之人), and used the term Zhongguo as a synonym for the entire Qing Empire while using "neidi" (内地) to refer only to the core area of the empire (or China proper), with the entire empire viewed as multi-ethnic.[8]

The Qing emperors governed frontier non-Han areas in a different, separate system under the Lifan Yuan and kept them separate from Han areas and administration. Rather, it was the Manchu Qing emperors who expanded the definition of Zhongguo and made it "flexible" by using that term to refer to the entire Empire and using that term to other countries in diplomatic correspondence. However, some Han Chinese subjects criticized their usage of the term and used Zhongguo only to refer to the seventeen provinces of China and three provinces of the east (Manchuria), excluding other frontier areas.[9] Ming loyalist Han literati held to defining the old Ming borders as China and using "foreigner" to describe minorities under Qing rule such as the Mongols, as part of their anti-Qing ideology.[10] Due to the Qing using treaties clarifying the international borders of the Qing state, it was able to inoculate in the Chinese people a sense that China included areas such as Mongolia and Tibet due to education reforms. Specifically, the educational reform in which geographic made it clear where the borders of the Qing state were even if they did not understand how the Chinese identity included Tibetans and Mongolians or understand what the connotations of being Chinese were.[11]

In order to show that these diverse groups were all part of one family and part of the state, the Qing used the phrase "Zhongwai yijia" (中外一家, "interior and exterior as one family"), to convey this idea of "unification" of the different ethnic groups.[12] After conquering "China proper", the Manchus identified their state as "China" (中國, Zhōngguó; "Middle Kingdom"), and referred to it as Dulimbai Gurun in Manchu (Dulimbai means "central" or "middle," gurun means "nation" or "state"). The emperors labelled the lands of the Qing state (including present-day Northeast China, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Tibet and other areas) as "China" in both the Chinese and Manchu languages. This defined China as a multi-ethnic state, thereby rejecting the idea that "China" only meant Han areas. The Qing emperors proclaimed that both Han and non-Han ethnic groups were part of "China." They also used both "China" and "Qing" to refer to their state in official documents, international treaties (as the Qing was known internationally as "China"[13] or the "Chinese Empire"[14]) and foreign affairs. The "Chinese language" (Dulimbai gurun i bithe) included Chinese, Manchu, and Mongol languages while the "Chinese people" (中國之人 Zhōngguó zhī rén; Manchu: Dulimbai gurun i niyalma) were referred to as being subjects of the empire.[15]

In the Treaty of Nerchinsk the name "China" (Dulimbai Gurun, Zhongguo), was used to refer to the Qing territory in Manchuria in both the Manchu and Chinese language versions of the treaty. Additionally, the term "the wise Emperor of China" was also used within the text of the treaty in Manchu.[16]

The Qianlong Emperor rejected the earlier idea that only the Han people could be subjects of China and only Han land could be considered as part of China. Instead, he redefined China as being multi-ethnic, saying in 1755 that "there exists a view of China (zhongxia), according to which non-Han people cannot become China's subjects and their land cannot be integrated into the territory of China. This does not represent our dynasty's understanding of China, but is instead a view of the earlier Han, Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties."[4] The Manchu Qianlong Emperor rejected the views of Han officials who said Xinjiang was not part of China and that he should not conquer it, putting forth the view that China was multi-ethnic and did not just refer to Han.[17]

When the Qing conquered Dzungaria, they proclaimed that the new land which formerly belonged to the Dzungars, was now absorbed into "China" (Dulimbai Gurun) in a Manchu language memorial.[18][19][20]

According to Russian scholars S.V. Dmitriev and S.L. Kuzmin, despite usage of the term "China", these empires had their official names by the names of their dynasties. Non-Han people considered themselves as subjects of the Yuan and Qing states not equating them to China. This resulted from different ways of the Yuan and Qing legitimization for different peoples in these empires.[21][22] The Qing Emperor was referred to as Bogda Khan by the Mongols. According to Dmitriev and Kuzmin, Liao, Jin, Yuan and Qing were multi-national empires led by non-Chinese peoples, to whom the conquered China or its part was joined.[23]


Certain traits assigned by past scholars to "conquest dynasties" to distinguish them from "native" dynasties may not have been so distinguishing. An example is the "royal hunt," which, according to David M. Robinson, "originated in China in a complex legacy of venerable Central Plains polities of high antiquity."[24]

Parts of 'Northern China'[edit]

Sixteen Kingdoms Era[edit]


  • Liao (907–1125) founded by the Khitans
  • Later Tang (923–936) founded by the Shatuo Turks
  • Later Jin (936–947) founded by the Shatuo Turks. Later Jin founder Shi Jingtang claimed patrilineal Han Chinese ancestry.[25]
  • Later Han (947–951) founded by the Shatuo Turks. Sources conflict as to the origin of the Later Han and Northern Han Emperors, some indicate Shatuo ancestry while another claims that the Emperors claimed patrilineal Han Chinese ancestry.[26]
  • Northern Han in China (951–979) (founded by Shato) See above note on the Later Han's origins, Northern Han was founded by the same family as Later Han.
  • Jin (1115–1234) founded by the Jurchen
  • Western Xia (1038–1227) founded by the Tanguts

All of China[edit]

  1. Yuan (1279–1368) founded by the Mongols
  2. Qing (1662–1911) founded by the Manchus

Non-Han majority states[edit]

Coins with both Chinese and Karoshthi inscriptions have been found in the southern Tarim Basin.[28]

It was the An Lushan Rebellion and not the defeat at Talas that ended the Tang Chinese presence in Central Asia and forced them to withdraw from Xinjiang - the significance of Talas was overblown, because the Arabs did not proceed any further after the battle.[29] Because the Arabs did not proceed to Xinjiang at all, the battle was of no importance strategically, it was An Lushan's rebellion which ended up forcing the Tang Chinese out of Central Asia.[30] Despite the conversion of some Karluk Turks after the Battle of Talas, the majority of Karluks did not convert to Islam until the mid 10th century under Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan when they established the Kara-Khanid Khanate.[31][32][33][34][35][36] This was long after the Tang dynasty was gone from Central Asia.

The military victories of the Tang in the western regions and Central Asia have been offered as explanations as to why western peoples referred to China by the name "House of Tang" (Tangjia) and another theory was suggested that China was called "Han" because of the Han dynasty military victories against peoples in the north, and the Turkic word for China, "Tamghaj" has been possibly derived from Tangjia instead of Tabgatch (Tuoba).[37]

In the Chu valley in Central Asia, Tang dynasty era Chinese coins continued to be copied and minted after the Chinese left the area.[38]

An indelible impression was left on eastern Xinjiang's administration and culture in Turfan by the Chinese Tang rule which consisted of settlements, and military farms in addition to the spread of Chinese influence such as the sancai three-colour glaze in Central Asia and Western Eurasia; in Xinjiang there was continued circulation of Chinese coins.[39]

The Buddhist Khitan Qara Khitai conquered a large part of Central Asia from the Muslim Karluk Kara-Khanid Khanate in the 12th century. The Qara Khitans also reintroduced the Chinese system of imperial government, since China was still held in respect and esteem in the region among even the Muslim population,[40][41] and the Qara Khitans used Chinese as their main official language.[42] The Qara Khitai rulers were called "the Chinese" by the Muslims.[43]

Turkic Empires after the Tang gained prestige by connecting themselves with north Chinese states with the Qara-Khitay and Qara-Khanid khans using the title of "Chinese emperor", Khitay was used by the Qara-Khitay and Tabghach was used by the Qarakhanids.[44] The entry into the previously Indo-European Soghdian and Tokharian speaking Central Eurasia and Xinjiang of tribes of Turkic speaking origin and the started of Turkicisation originate in the 7th century with the disintegration of the Turkic Khaganate, resulting in Eurasia being populated by many peoples who consider themselves Turks.

Two different branches, the junior Bughra (bull camel) and the Arslan (lion) formed the Qarakhanid royal family. The title "Khan of China" (Tamghaj Khan, تمغاج خان) was used by the Qarakhanid rulers.[45] The Qarakhanids were the ones who are responsible for the modern Uyghur population being Muslim and the Qarakhanids were converted when Satuq Bughra Khan converted to Islam after contacts with the Muslim Samanids.

Bughra Khan was overthrown by his nephew Satuq when Satuq converted to Islam, the Arslan Khans were also toppled and Balasaghun taken by Satuq, with the conversion of the Qarakhanid Turk population to Islam following Satuq's accession to power and the spread of Islam among the Qarakhanid Turks led to the conquest of Transoxiana and the Samanids by the Qarakhanids and the Qarakhanids were the people who bequeathed the Islamic religion to the modern Uyghurs while the modern Uyghurs adopted the modern name of their ethnic group from the Uyghur Qocho Kingdom and Uyghur Empire.[46]

The Turkic Qarakhanid and Uyghur Qocho Kingdoms were both states founded by invaders while the native populations of the region were Iranic and Tocharian peoples along with some Chinese in Qocho and Indians, who married and mixed with the Turkic invaders, and prominent Qarakhanid people such as Mahmud Kashghari hold a high position among modern Uyghurs.[47]

Kashghari viewed the least Persian mixed Turkic dialects as the "purest" and "the most elegant".[48]

Persian, Arab and other western Asian writers called China by the name "Tamghaj".[49]

The Qarakhanid ruler of Kashgar was called Tamghaj Khan, while the Khitan ruler was called the Khan of Chīn, some Khitans migrated into western areas like the Qarakhanid state even before the establishment of the Qara Khitai state.[50]

During the Liao dynasty Han Chinese lived in Kedun, situated in present-day Mongolia.[51]

In 1124 the migration of the Khitan under Yelü Dashi included a big part of the Kedun population, which consisted of Han Chinese, Bohai, Jurchen, Mongol tribes, Khitan, in addition to the Xiao consort clan and the Yelü royal family on the march to establish the Qara-Khitan.[52]

The Kara-Khitai had among its court languages, the Chinese language.[53]

The Khitan Qara-Khitai empire in Central Asia kept Chinese characteristics in their state since the Chinese characteristics appealed to the Muslim Central Asians and helped validate Qara Khita rule over them, despite the fact that Han Chinese were to be found among the population of the Qara Khitan because it was comparatively small so it is clear that the Chinese characteristics were not kept to appease them, the Mongols later moved more Han Chinese into Besh Baliq, Almaliq and Samarqand in Central Asia to work as aristans and farmers.[54]

The Qara Khitai used the "image of China" to legitimize their ruler to the Central Asian Muslims since China had a good reputation at the time among Central Asian Muslims before the Mongol invasions, it was viewed as extremely civilized, known for its unique script, its expert artisans were well known, justice and religious tolerance were among the virtues attributed to Chinese despite their idol worship and the Turk, Arab, Byzantium, Indian rulers, and the Chinese emperor were known as the world's "five great kings", the memory of Tang China was engraved into the Muslim perception so their continued to view China through the lens of the Tang dynasty and anachronisms appeared in Muslim writings due to this even after the end of the Tang, China was known as chīn (چين) in Persian and as ṣīn (صين) in Arabic while the Tang dynasty capital Changan was known as Ḥumdān (حمدان).[55]

Muslim Muslim writers like Marwazī and Mahmud Kashghārī had more up to date information about China in their writings, Kashgari viewed Kashgar as part of China. Ṣīn [i.e., China] is originally three fold; Upper, in the east which is called Tawjāch; middle which is Khitāy, lower which is Barkhān in the vicinity of Kashgar. But know Tawjāch is known as Maṣīn and Khitai as Ṣīn" China was called after the Toba rulers of the Northern Wei by the Turks, pronounced by them as Tamghāj, Tabghāj, Tafghāj or Tawjāch. India introduced the name Maha Chin (greater China) which caused the two different names for China in Persian as chīn and māchīn (چين ماچين) and Arabic ṣīn and māṣīn (صين ماصين), Southern China at Canton was known as Chin while Northern China's Changan was known as Machin, but the definition switched and the south was referred to as Machin and the north as Chin after the Tang dynasty, Tang China had controlled Kashgar since of the Tang's Anxi protectorate's "Four Garrisons" seats, Kashgar was among them, and this was what led writers like Kashghārī to place Kashgar within the definition of China, Ṣīn, whose emperor was titled as Tafghāj or Tamghāj, Yugur (yellow Uighurs or Western Yugur) and Khitai or Qitai were all classified as "China" by Marwazī while he wrote that Ṣīnwas bordered by places like SNQU and Maṣīn.[56] Machin, Mahachin, Chin, and Sin were all names of China.[57]

Muslim writers like Marwazī wrote that Transoxania was a former part of China, retaining the legacy of Tang Chinese rule over Transoxania in Muslim writings, In ancient times all the districts of Transoxania had belonged to the kingdom of China [Ṣīn], with the district of Samarqand as its centre. When Islam appeared and God delivered the said district to the Muslims, the Chinese migrated to their [original] centers, but there remained in Samarqand, as a vestige of them, the art of making paper of high quality. And when they migrated to Eastern parts their lands became disjoined and their provinces divided, and there was a king in China and a king in Qitai and a king in Yugur., Muslim writers viewed the Khitai, the Gansu Uighur Kingdom and Kashgar as all part of "China" culturally and geographically with the Muslim Central Asians retaining the legacy of Chinese rule in Central Asia by using titles such as "Khan of China" (تمغاج خان) (Tamghaj Khan or Tawgach) in Turkic and "the King of the East and China" (ملك المشرق (أو الشرق) والصين) (malik al-mashriq (or al-sharq) wa'l-ṣīn) in Arabic which were titles of the Muslim Qarakhanid rulers and their Qarluq ancestors.[58][59]

The title Malik al-Mashriq wa'l-Ṣīn was bestowed by the 'Abbāsid Caliph upon the Tamghaj Khan, the Samarqand Khaqan Yūsuf b. Ḥasan and after that coins and literature had the title Tamghaj Khan appear on them and were continued to be used by the Qarakhanids and the Transoxania-based Western Qarakhanids and some Eastern Qarakhanid monarchs, so therefore the Qara Khitai (Western Liao)'s usage of Chinese things such as Chinese coins, the Chinese writing system, tablets, seals, Chinese art products like porcelein, mirrors, jade and other Chinese customs were designed to appearl to the local Central Asian Muslim population since the Muslims in the area regarded Central Asia as former Chinese territories and viewed links with China as prestigious and Western Liao's rule over Muslim Central Asia caused the view that Central Asia was a Chinese territory to reinforce upon the Muslims; "Turkestan" and Chīn (China) were identified with each other by Fakhr al-Dīn Mubārak Shāh with China being identified as the country where the cities of Balāsāghūn and Kashghar were located.[60]

The Liao Chinese traditions and the Qara Khitai's clinging helped the Qara Khitai avoid Islamization and conversion to Islam, the Qara Khitai used Chinese and Inner Asian features in their administrative system.[60]

Muslim writers wrote that "Tamghājī silver coins" (sawmhā-yi ṭamghājī) were present in Balkh while tafghājī was used by the writer Ḥabībī, the Qarakhānid leader Böri Tigin (Ibrāhīm Tamghāj Khān) was possibly the one who minted the coins.[61]

The relationship to China was used by the Qara-Khanids to enhace their standing since Central Asian Muslims associated prestige and grandeur with China so the Arabic title "the king of the East and China" (malek al-mašreq wa’l-Ṣin) and the Turkic title "Khan of China" Ṭamḡāj Khan was extensively employed by Khans of the Qara-khanids.[62]

Although in modern Urdu Chin means China, Chin referred to Central Asia in Muhammad Iqbal's time, which is why Iqbal wrote that "Chin is ours" (referring to the Muslims) in his song Tarana-e-Milli.[63]

Aladdin, an Arabic Islamic story which is set in China, may have been referring to Central Asia.[64]

In the Persian epic Shahnameh the Chin and Turkestan are regarded as the eame, the Khan of Turkestan is called the Khan of Chin.[65][66][67]

The Tang Chinese reign over Qocho and Turfan and the Buddhist religion left a lasting legacy upon the Buddhist Uyghur Kingdom of Qocho with the Tang presented names remaining on the more than 50 Buddhist temples with Emperor Tang Taizong's edicts stored in the "Imperial Writings Tower " and Chinese dictionaries like Jingyun, Yuian, Tang yun, and da zang jing (Buddhist scriptures) stored inside the Buddhist temples and Persian monks also maintained a Manichaean temple in the Kingdom., the Persian Hudud al-'Alam uses the name "Chinese town" to called Qocho, the capital of the Uyghur kingdom.[68]

The Turfan Buddhist Uighurs of the Kingdom of Qocho continued to produce the Chinese Qieyun rime dictionary and developed their own pronunciations of Chinese characters, left over from the Tang influence over the area.[69]

The modern Uyghur linguist Abdurishid Yakup pointed out that the Turfan Uyghur Buddhists studied the Chinese language and used Chinese books like Qianziwen (the thousand character classic) and Qieyun *(a rime dictionary) and it was written that "In Qocho city were more than fifty monasteries, all titles of which are granted by the emperors of the Tang dynasty, which keep many Buddhist exts as Tripitaka, Tangyun, Yupuan, Jingyin etc." [70]

In Central Asia the Uighurs viewed the Chinese script as "very prestigious" so when they developed the Old Uyghur alphabet, based on the Syriac script, they deliberately switched it to vertical like Chinese writing from its original horizontal position in Syriac.[71]

Chinese, India, Iranian, and Tokharians lived with the "conquest élites" in the Qarakhanid state and the Uyghur Kingdom of Qocho.[72]

There were Chinese, Iranian, Tangut, Mongolian, Turkic, and Khitan among the Khitan leader Yelü Dashi's army when he established the Qara-Khitai with its "conquest élite".[73]

Tibetan, Uyghur, Han Chinese, and Tangut served as officials in Western Xia.[74]

The practice of Tantric Buddhism in Western Xia led to the spread of some sexually related customs. Before they could get married to men of their own ethnicity when they reached 30 years old, Uighur women in Shanxi in the 12th century had children after having sex with multiple Han Chinese men, with her desirability as a wife corresponding to if she had been with a large number of men.[75][76][77]

See also[edit]



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