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Unformatted text preview: One was the ideal of a mass, conscript army, with all adult males of the farming population trained to arms and capable of serving the state as soldiers whenever necessary. A second was the ideal of imperial unity, with strict central control over all the armed forces of the realm. Another was the ideal of civilian supremacy, with subordination of the military command structure to the civil bureaucracy (headed by a ruler whose duties did not include military leadership in the field). Closely linked to this was the ideal of the scholar-general, capable of exercising military command on the basis of his mastery of texts rather than any practical miltary experience or skill at arms. These ideals and preferences underlay the military institutions of the Western Han dynasty (202 BC-AD 9), but they were the product of an age when wars were fought mainly between Chinese states. The rise of a strong nomadic power, the Xiongnu, on the steppe north of China at the beginning of the second century BC posed a new sort of military challenge and tended to undermine the arrangements that had emerged from the Warring States period. his sort of administrative routine was part of Han's inheritance from the kingdoms of the Warring States period, but the presence of strong garrisons at remote frontier locations such as Edsen-gol suggests an important difference between the unified empire and its predynastic predecessors. Although states such as Qin and Zhao did take steps to protect their northern frontiers against nomadic incursions, Zhao was much more concerned with the threat from Qin than with that from the nomadic Xiongnu people. The primary concern of all of the warring states was to triumph (or at least survive) in the armed competition with their Chinese rivals, and all of the classical military treatises assume that one's opponent will be a fellow member of the Chinese cultural community. The position of the Chinese vis-à-vis the inhabitants of the steppes took a sharp turn for the worse in 209 BC, when the Xiongnu were brought together in a powerful confederacy under a new leader named Maodun. Within a decade, the reorganized nomads had surrounded a very large army led in person by the first Han emperor, Liu Bang, who was forced to agree to a humiliating peace. There is some disagreement as to the underlying causes of the sudden emergence of the Xiongnu as a major power. One school of thought holds that it was the unification of China in 221 BC that prompted the nomads to coalesce in order to strengthen their own bargaining position in relation to the Chinese empire. The Xiongnu sought grain, silk, and other products of China's sedentary economy, and used the threat of violence (raiding) to persuade the Chinese to make these things available to them....
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