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Influence of Tang China

The name Munggoo, from which we receive the term Mongolia, is a comparatively modern one,—the "wandering kingdom" being known by many and changing names in Chinese history. The first name was the uncomplimentary one of "Oweifang," - "Demon-quarter"; doubtless from the double reason that the land was in the north, whither all demons fled on departure from the body, and because the people were wholly uncivilised. The Mongols were, however, always even nominally free — or, as the Chinese historians modestly phrase it, in a state of rebellion — until the Tang dynasty conquered the Too-kne, or Turks, situated south and south-west of Gobi.

From 629 to 648, a reunited China -- under the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-906) -- destroyed the power of the Eastern Türk north of the Gobi; established suzerainty over the Kitan, a semi-nomadic Mongol people who lived in areas that became the modern Chinese provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin; and formed an alliance with the Uighurs, who inhabited the region between the Altai Mountains and Lake Balkash. Between 641 and 648, the Tang conquered the Western Türk, reestablishing Chinese sovereignty over Xinjiang and exacting tribute from west of the Pamir Mountains. The Türk empire finally ended in 744.

Two cities were then built in this desert of the sandy sea,—this Han-hai, which was specially created by Heaven to divide the "Middle Flowery Kingdom" from the rest of the world; these cities being intended to command the conquered district. For more than a century, the Tang retained control of central and eastern Mongolia and parts of Inner Asia. During this century, the Tang expanded Chinese control into the Oxus Valley. At the same time, their allies and nominal vassals, the Uighurs, conquered much of western and northern Mongolia until, by the middle of the eighth century, the Uighur seminomadic empire extended from Lake Balkash to Lake Baykal.

It was at about this time that the Arab-led tide of Islam reached Inner Asia. After a bitter struggle, the Chinese were ejected from the Oxus Valley, but with Uighur assistance they defeated Muslim efforts to penetrate into Xinjiang. The earliest Mongol links with Tibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism, also may have been established in this period. During this time, the Kitan of western Manchuria took advantage of the situation to throw off Chinese control, and they began to raid northern China.

Despite these crippling losses, the Tang recovered and, with considerable Uighur assistance, held their frontiers. Tang dependence upon their northern allies was apparently a source of embarrassment to the Chinese, who surreptitiously encouraged the Kirghiz and the Karluks to attack the Uighurs, driving them south into the Tarim Basin. As a result of the Kirghiz action, the Uighur empire collapsed in 846. Some of the Uighurs emigrated to Chinese Turkestan (the Turpan region), where they established a flourishing kingdom that freely submitted to Chinggis Khan several centuries later. Ironically, this weakening of the Uighurs undoubtedly hastened the decline and fall of the Tang Dynasty over the next fifty years.

The subject Mongols were not long in asserting their freedom, which they retained till the Niijun predecessors of the Manchus— the Liao and Kin dynasties—established several earthen walled cities in the south-east of Mongolia, ruling over the peoples then called the Doong Si and the Si Si, but they did not attach the regions north of the Yellow river. In order to have control over the communications between their newly-acquired territory and their original home in northern Manchuria, it was necessary for them to establish and occupy these military posts. The Liao dynasty was overturned by its cousin the Kin, which in its turn fell before the Mongols, at a time when they were the most powerful people in Asia.

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Page last modified: 17-07-2013 18:57:16 ZULU