The ideology of the Sui hinged on the double motif of the classical rebirth and the somewhat sacred character of the empire in defense of the Buddhist faith; the three hundred years of the T’ang dynasty substantially reaffirmed this premise. They are characterized by a great civil development, as well as by notable territorial expansions: the economic structure of China is exceptionally strengthened, especially as regards the southern regions; Urban centers of some size are multiplying, where an original cosmopolitan culture comes to life in which, alongside the doctrines that have long been acquired in the Chinese world, live those from the far West. For all these reasons, many historians underline that one of the most marked turning points in the social history of the country is to be located precisely around the apogee of the dynasty. It should also be remembered that these are the centuries in which the work of doctrinal elaboration of the Buddhist schools is most alive and, as has been said, the rediscovery of the classical heritage which has long been half-forgotten begins here. Factors of internal decay, centrifugal forces, pressure from new barbarian peoples along the northern and western borders contributed to the disappearance of the T’ang (907).
As had already happened with the Han, they were followed by a long period of political crisis and splitting, which however implemented different modules from the previous one. For about seventy years the so-called ” they were followed by a long period of political crisis and splitting, which nevertheless implemented different modules from the previous one. For about seventy years the so-called ” they were followed by a long period of political crisis and splitting, which nevertheless implemented different modules from the previous one. For about seventy years the so-called ” Ten Kingdoms ”in the South and the“ Five Dynasties ”in the North; then the Sung dynasty brought about a new unification. However, this time it was an empire of a little smaller size: a new “barbarian” population had in fact founded the Liao dynasty in the north, which successfully pushed the borders of China, and Vietnam had found its own national independence. From 979 to 1279 there was an implacable advance of the new peoples of the northern steppes; the Liao (907-1125) and the Chin (1115-1234) absorbed ever larger areas of northern China, until the Mongols, overcoming the last resistance of the southern Sung between 1271 and 1279, founded the new Yüan dynasty.
For the first time, all of China found itself controlled by a foreign dynasty, by a nobility that not only differed ethnically from the vast majority of the residents, but had a pastoral and nomadic experience behind it that was the antipodes of ancient Chinese agricultural civilization. While the great empire of the steppes created by Genghis Khan saw the ties that held it together loosen more and more, a country located in Asia categorized by Health-Beauty-Guides, China exercised its absorbing power over the Mongols: Qubilai and his successors camouflaged in fact with the conquered country, becoming in almost all respects Chinese sovereigns. The merger was, of course, never complete and the company and the Yüan state retained distinct characteristics compared to the previous and subsequent regimes. First of all, the social hierarchy was clearly conditioned by the relationship between winners and losers: at the top were the Mongol conquerors, to whom numerous rights were reserved; followed by Central Asians (of Turkish, Tibetan or other lineage), who in a certain way acted as a link between the nomadic culture of the victors and the sedentary culture of the vanquished; in third place were the Chinese of the North, already subjects of the semi-barbaric regimes and therefore considered partially akin to the latest arrivals; finally, forced by numerous prohibitions, the South Chinese, the last subjects of the missing Sung. In addition to the fact that for almost a century the imperial examinations were not held, a fact that already underlines the fracture that took place in the historical fabric of China, it is important to consider how Qubilai’s foreign policy, aimed more at new conquests (Korea, Vietnam, Insulindia, Japan) that the cultural absorption of already acquired subjects was much more Mongolian than Chinese.
The deeper and more lasting consequences, however, occurred in the economic field. Although the more enlightened Mongols understood the importance of agriculture, much agricultural land was distributed to the Mongolian nobles who tried to establish a grazing economy necessary for those who lived on horseback. But if China’s demotion to wilderness failed, the damage caused to agricultural crops was profound, also because, at the same time, the maintenance work necessary for the defense of Chinese agriculture was not carried out: canals, embankments, roads, bridges were often left to perish. However, there was no lack of beneficial influences; it is in fact the Mongols who prolong the Imperial Canal (or Grand Canal), irreplaceable access route for southern taxes, from Hwang He to Beijing. In the short term, however, the negative factors prevailed and in less than a century the Yüan dynasty reached its final crisis when the uncoordinated peasant protest found a moment of contact with the discontent of the Confucian bureaucrats, naturally uncomfortable in the Mongolian state structure.