When China was between empires

This is my notes/micro essay after reading part of Mark Edward Lewis “China Between Two Empires”. It’s not a definitive essay. I am just trying to re-cap what I have learned. I hope it is useful.

This is the period of history between the collapse of the Han empire and the rise of the Tang. It is roughly the period from 300-700 AD and corresponds with the collapse of the Roman Empire and the dark ages in Europe. According to Lewis imperial authority never completely disappeared in China like it did in the Western Roman Empire. It served the powerful families to have the prestige of emperorship to hold onto.

This period of chaos and instability was notable for the spread of Buddhist ideas and the creation of hundreds of Buddhist monasteries. The Empire split along north/south lines with the refined elite fleeing south and semi barbarian hordes overtaking the north. China was not fully re-united until the first Tang emperor.

The period was marked by instability and warlordism but also high culture and poetic refinement which were seen as hall marks of power amongst those who sought to rule.

In this period China also traded more with surrounding regions. As well as goods it imported the aforementioned Buddhist ideas from India and spread them to Korea and Japan.


China Between Empires – Mark Edward Lewis

China A History – John Keay

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