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Court and Region in Medieval China: The Case of Tang Bianzhou

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Although Bianzhou (modern Kaifeng) is well known as the imperial capital of the Northern Song dynasty, its history prior to the tenth century reveals much about the political fortunes of the Tang dynasty, especially after the An Lushan rebellion. A careful analysis of the backgrounds of the Military Commissioners appointed to govern the region indicates that following an initial period of instability, the Tang court was able to maintain control over this strategically vital transportation hub late into the ninth century and to repeatedly appoint commissioners who had passed the civil-service examinations. This experience helps explain the continuing optimism of Tang elites about the dynasty’s prospects and made Bianzhou itself an important example for the educated elite of why civil values were essential to good government and the survival of the Tang dynasty.
Si Bianzhou (actuel Kaifeng) est bien connu comme capitale impériale des Song du Nord, son histoire avant le Xe siècle nous en apprend beaucoup sur le destin politique des Tang, particulièrement après la rébellion de An Lushan. L’analyse minutieuse du parcours des commissaires militaires successivement nommés à la tête de la région révèle qu’après une période initiale d’instabilité, la cour des Tang a été en mesure jusque tard dans le IXe siècle de maintenir son contrôle sur ce qui était un nœud stratégique de communications et d’y poster l’un après l’autre des commissaires passés par la voie des examens civils. L’expérience contribue à expliquer l’optimisme persistant des élites des Tang concernant l’avenir du régime, le cas de Bianzhou étant à leurs yeux un exemple important des raisons pour lesquelles les valeurs civiles demeuraient essentielles à la qualité du gouvernement et à la survie de la dynastie.

Affiliations: 1: University at Albany


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