The Tang Dynasty experienced one of the most devastating rebellions in their history when the An Lushan Rebellion occurred in the period between the years 755-763. This rebellion also known as the An-Shi Rebellion greatly affected the dynasty affecting over three emperors during its course before it was finally ended. This war was started by one general An Lushan who declared himself the emperor of Nothern China thus leading to a series of wars with the Tang Dynasty. He created a rival Dynasty the, Yan Dynasty which faced off with the original Tang Dynasty until it was finally crushed on 17th February 763. At the end of this war the effects were very severe with a lot of deaths experienced and very serious political consequences resulting from it.
Who was General An Lushan?
General An Lushan’s background was not properly known with very little information about his birth and early childhood. Little is known on where he grew up or his parents though it was alleged that he was adopted by a Turkish father and a Sogdian mother. However from a mysterious background he was able to grow into a more respected man who went on to join the army of the day led by the emperor of China at that time. After some time he was able to gain favor from the Emperor of China as at that time that was impressed by him and elevated him to greater positions over the years. From a junior soldier in the army he grew to become a General trusted by the Emperor Xuanzong to lead his troops during the several cases of war the Tang Dynasty was experiencing. The emperor really liked him and considered him a favorite over many other Generals and this led to him receiving several rewards from the Emperor Xuanzong. These awards were given to him as a way of ensuring he remained loyal to the throne. He was rewarded with a luxurious house that was sanctioned by Emperor. The Emperor also granted him some property in the year 751 which was located in Chang’an as a show of appreciation for his services.
As the Emperor Xuanzong continued with his trust to him he was given the command of Fanyang, Hedong and Pinglu. The trust also led to him being appointed commander of the 3 north garrisons and a few other regions in the Yellow River. The Emperor Xuanzong granted him so much responsibility as well as power mainly due to his hard work and loyalty to him. The idea of mounting a rebellion on his master started during this period and in the years to follow he started planning on how he will eventually carry out this rebellion. After arming himself with 164,000 strong garrisons he saw the time was right to start the revolution he had been planning all along.
General Lushan would plan his covert tactics within a period of eight or nine years before he could unleash it. From his hard work and continued show of loyalty to the emperor he was able to gain more trust from him and he did not disappoint as he always tried his best to ensure the emperor was satisfied with his services in every way possible. He always treaded carefully by avoiding suspicion from the people around him thus gaining more position and regard in the Emperor’s eyes. This led to him even calling himself the emperor’s adopted son in an effort to make the emperor believe him even further. It was these clever schemes that were able to protect him from criticisms and from the Chief Minister Yang Guozhong who was fighting for him to be removed from his positions.
The Beginning of the An Lushan Rebellion
It was a surprise that An Lushan’s rebellion was able to go on for almost a decade surviving the rule of 3 Tang emperors in the process before it was finally brought to an end. This revolution began in 755 when General Lushan marshalled his troops to against his employer with the excuse of the insults that had been thrown at him by the Chief Minister Yang Guozhong. He would mount a challenge to the existence of the Tang Dynasty for almost a decade before the rebellion was finally defeated. They marched from the present day Beijing moving along the Grand Canal until they captured the city of Luoyang. After capturing this city General An Lushan then declared himself as the Emperor of the new Great Yan dynasty making the people of this area his subjects. This capture was just the beginning of General Lushan’s desire to gain control of the whole empire as in the years to follow he was involved in a deadly battle with the central government trying to capture several cities along the way. He had a clever strategy of treating his captured officials with respect and rewarding them with responsibility thus making him gainj trust from his troops and in the process gains even more of them. After successfully gaining control of this city of Luoyang they set their sights to the next city which was the western capital city of Chang’an, Tang. From here he would encounter several roadblocks along his way for example when he tried to capture Yongqiu where he was defeated. These roadblocks along the way greatly affected his army due to the many fights along the way thus reducing the size of his army before he would reach his target. These wars delayed their main objective of attacking the Western capital city of Chang’an.
These wars continued until it was the year 756 when Lushan would finally take hold of the city of Chang’an. However before Lushan would capture Chang’an, Emperor Xuangzong and the rest of his court ran away to Sichuan when they moved through the Qin Mountains. The son of Emperor Xuangzong, Li Heng then ascended to the throne of emperor in Lingwu changing his name to Emperor Suzong. He would then form an army and launch an attack on Lushan’s troops leading to a bloody showdown between the two factions. After General An Lushan had captured the western capital city of Chang’an he led his men into a series of looting and brutality on the people of Chang’an leading to several deaths with most of the treasures taken by Lushan’s garrison members. The city would then experience great fatalities and an economic plunge due to the instability brought about by the war. The new Emperor after keenly watching the turn of events decided to form a new Imperial army to take on the rebels. He acquired help from Turkish tribes and other mercenaries who joined him in the fight to subdue the rebels who were wreaking havoc in the empire. From his onslaught on the rebels he was able to recapture the lost cities of Luoyang and Chang’an in 757 after a series of wars with these rebels.
The End of the Rebellion
In the year 757 General An Lushan was eventually killed by his son An Qingxu who thought that his paranoia was interfering with the rebellion. After killing his father he would then assume thye leadership of this rebellion posing a similar threat to the emperor just like his father. Things would get worse for the Tang Empire when the emperor’s son An Qingxu was then assassinated by General Shi Siming, a childhood friend to the dead Lushan. Though the Emperor Suzong was technically the reigning emperor at this time, his son had been continuing with his legacy as a result of the illness that had affected him in from762. From here the imperial army and allies led a serious attack on these rebels eventually reclaiming dynasty that was overwhelmed by the rebellion of An Lushan and his armies. Most of the generals who were with Shi Chaoyi after sensing an imminent defeat decided to join the Tang Dynasty making it even easier to end the rebellion. They would then be rewarded for their actions to join the Emperor’s troops to fight against the rebels. Tang’s troops continued with their onslaught against the few remaining rebels until 17th February 763 when Shi Chaoyi saw that his capture was nearing and decided to take his own life fearing what the Tang troops would do to him if the caught him alive. This rebellion led by An Lushan marked the end of destruction and the beginning of the reconstruction of the Tang dynasty. In the end not only the emperor and his court was affected but the entire Empire but the people as well were affected due to this rebellion. It would take years before the people would get over the effects of this war.
The Effects of the War
After years of bloody fighting between the Tang Dynasty and the rebels without end the Tang Dynasty then decided to employ a strategy that would see them pardon the many rebels who were captured and those who surrendered. They even awarded some of these rebels with their own garrisons to control leading to a decentralized form of government greatly reducing the powers of the emperor. The effects of the An Lushan rebellion were so severe to the dynasty that the empire lost its former glory that it had in the eyes of its neighbors. It was even more susceptible to attacks by its neighbors such as the Barbarians who would take advantage of the situation and start raiding the Tang settlements again. The decentralization of the government led to a weakened central government leading to regional army commanders gaining independence from the emperor’s courts. Many other rebels were pardoned by the central government and given regions to govern in an effort of ensuring peace in the empire.
However this strategy did not work well as these regional commanders would not pay any taxes to the central government and also employed their own officials rendering those employed by the central government jobless. This led to the central government loosing most of its tax base thus weakening it financially. This rebellion acted as a turning point in Tang Dynasty’s history making it never to regain its former glory. The weakened authority by the central government made it easier to carry out trade in the empire thus stimulating economic growth. More markets would spring up with new trade centers being built due to the little or no supervision by the Tang government. Though it survived the rebellion the effects of this war were was catastrophic with over half of the population lost in the war and the economy brought down to its knees. Despite the many deaths and the adverse effects of the war the Tang dynasty would experience a period of economic growth thereafter though with a weakened central government.
For the central government to survive after this period of turmoil they had to come up with ways that would enable them to collect more revenue since they were no longer in control of the whole empire. They decided to monopolize the supply of salt thus replacing the tax they used to collect from land with the revenue from the salt. They also had some control in a few provinces where they would collect revenue and this helped ensure the empire doesn’t collapse after the An Lushan rebellion. In the years to follow the Tang Dynasty would experience a rapid economic growth leading to more development in the dynasty. The government also decided to take a hands-off approach on the economy thus making trade easy to carry out thus developing the economy further. With shortage of copper coins being experienced the traders decided to accept the silver bullions and notes as modes of payments thus enhancing the process of trade. After some time the south of china developed more than the north leading to migration of most people to the south due to its prosperity. Most cities in the south were more developed and more trade was being conducted in these cities than in the north. The Tang Dynasty had risen up back again and was able to heal fully from the wounds that had been inflicted by the An Lushan rebellion.
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