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Chinese History - Sui Empire Government, Administration, and Law

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The political system of the Tang Dynasty stood in the tradition of a central bureaucracy that was already created during the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). The effectiveness of the Tang governmental and administrational system was copied by the Korean kingdoms Paekche, Silla and Koguryo and a reformist group at the Asuka court of Japan. But unlike the Han system, the Tang administration did not bestow semi-independent kingdoms (wangguo 王國) to the imperial princes.
The central government was located in the capital of Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an/Shaanxi 西安; Luoyang 洛陽/Henan was the auxiliary Eastern Capital Dongdu 東都) was lead by the Department of State Affairs (Shangshusheng 尚書省) with its Six Ministries (Liubu 六部) for Personnel (Libu 吏部), Revenue (hubu 戶部), Rites (Libu 禮部), War (Bingbu 兵部), Justice (Xingbu 刑部) and Works (Gongbu 工部). Two other Departments handled the huge flow of governmental documents: the Palace Secretariat (Zhongshusheng 中書省) and the Chancellery (menxiasheng 門下省) with their respective directors, called "Grand Counsellors" (zaixiang 宰相). These three institutions are also called the Three Departments (Sansheng 三省) The Three Preceptors (Sanshi 三師) and Three Dukes (Sangong 三公) were the nominal heads of the government, but their posts were often left vacant. As an independent surveillance of the officialdom, the Censorate (Yushitai 御史臺) was established and headed by a Censor-in-Chief (Yushi Dafu 御史大夫). The local bureaus of the censorate were called chayuan 察院, headed by a local censor (jiancha yushi 監察御史) inspecting the local officialdom and their work. Agencies for special services like sacrifices, entertainment, national granaries and the imperial treasuries, the Nine Courts (Jiusi 九寺), mainly employed to maintain the private imperial affairs, and the Five Directorates (Wujian 五監), charged with the task of imperial manufactories, palace buildings, waterways, and so on, were also responsible for recruiting academicians to the official ranks. The recruitment system was not yet as developed as in later times, but already during Tang times, a graduated scholar (jinshi 進士) was able to be given a post after passing an examination. The state examination was guided by the emperor himself and included mainly tests on the interpreting of Confucian classics. The studied academicians of the officialdom were located in the Hanlin Academy (Hanlinyuan 翰林院), other officials had graduated in the Imperial University (Taixue 太學). This literate bureaucracy was seen as a counterpart to the court eunuchs, the clans of the empresses and to the traditional aristocracy families. In the later half of Tang, the palace eunuchs (huanguan 宦官, neishi 內侍), organized in the Palace Domestic Service (neishisheng 內侍省) and the Palace Secretariat (shumiyuan 樞密院) gained more and more influence on political affairs and controlled the capital guards.
The local administration was patterned like a small copy of the central government. The prefecture (zhou 州) was governed by a prefect (cishi 刺史), the district (xian 縣) was administered by a magistrate (ling 令). In regions of critical military importance, a prefecture was called "area command" (dudufu 都督府) and was headed by a commander (dudu cishi 都督刺史). All units were grouped to inspection circuits (dao 道). Of special importance were the protectorates (duhufu 都護府), mostly populated by Non-Chinese tribes at the borders of Tang China. At the northern frontier, but later throughout the empire, a special administrative unit was created, the defense command (fanzhen 藩鎮) under the command of a military commissioner (jiedushi 節度使). To implement the policies of the central government, investigating commissioners (anchashi 安察使) had to travel around and to control the local governors. There were even commissioners who had to look for a special task, like the salt monopoly.
The legal system based upon a new law codex, the Tanglü Shuyi 唐律疏義 with its two parts, the penal codex ( 律) and the administrative codex (ling 令).
Traditionally, the military of the Northern Dynasties was marked by an aristocratic cavalry that led a privileged group of garrison militia (fubing 府兵). From the Sui Dynasty on, the infantry was staffed by recruited peasants. During peacetime, these peasants worked the fields, during times of warfare, they served in the military. Defending their own piece of land at the frontiers, this kind of peasant soldiers was far more motivated than payed militia-men. But the offensive war strategy of China was mainly based upon horse mounted troops. After the central government had lost its grip on Inner Asia, it became more and more complicated to build up an effective cavalry because horses were mainly bought from the west and not raised in central China.
Although there were capable emperors under every dynasty, there was no real need for a strong emperor in the Chinese bureaucracy. Court politics were made by consort clans, eunuchs and scholarly bureaucrats, and imperial politics were decided by the effective central administration.

2000 ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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