Article

Middle Period China

John Chaffee

in Chinese Studies

ISBN: 9780199920082
Published online April 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0003
Middle Period China

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The Middle period (c. 100–1500 ce) occupies a special position in the history of China. Coming neither at the formative beginning of the imperial period nor at the end, when the imperial structures collapsed from stresses within and without the country, the Middle period was framed by the reunification of the empire in the 580s and the final chapter of the Mongol conquest in the 1270s and can lay claim both to one of the most expansive and brilliant of Chinese dynasties—the Tang—and the period of perhaps the greatest intellectual and socioeconomic dynamism and creativity—the Song. The modern study of the history of this period had its origins with Japanese scholars in the early 20th century—most notably Naito Kōnan (b. 1866–d. 1934)—who argued that the changes that occurred from the Tang to the Song dynasties were among the most fundamental in all of Chinese history and who pioneered in studies of the political, economic, and social structures of the period. Following World War II, many Euro-American and Taiwan scholars joined the Japanese in turning their attention to the period, attracted by the political successes and multicultural brilliance of the Tang and by the profound social, economic, and intellectual changes of the Song. To this mix has been added a host of historians in China, who, once they were liberated from a Marxist insistence on focusing on peasant uprisings, class struggles, and the like, proceeded with wide-ranging research and large-scale bibliographical and digitizing projects that have significantly increased the number and kinds of sources available to historians. The result of these activities has been to establish China’s Middle period as critically important in Chinese history, one that shaped many elements of the Late Imperial period intellectually, institutionally, and socially, and as a period of increasing interest to world historians.

Article.  16100 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Studies ; Asian History ; East Asian Philosophy ; East Asian Religions

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