Excellent book – China between Empires: The Northern and Southern Dynasties

This excellent 2nd volume of the 6- volume History of Imperial China is a wonderful history of the period from the fall of the Han dynasty to the founding of the Tang dynasty.

In this period, we have the Three Kingdoms era, the Jin dynasty whereby China was reunited for 30 years, the split again to the Northern and Southern dynasties before been reunited again under the Sui dynasty. The period covered is thus from 196 to 618 AD.

This period has a profound impact on China. Buddhism was introduced into China from India. Taoism as a belief also grew though it had existed since the Warring States period. The population which was mainly based in the Yellow river basin during the Han dynasty began migrating southwards in greater numbers to the Yangtze basin.

Lewis’ research of the original sources is very impressive. I find myself ordering 3 books cited by him.

The book begins with an excellent overview of the differences between the geography of north and south China. Lewis then narrates the fight for supremacy among the three states in the Three Kingdoms era. The three states were Wei, Shu, and Wu. Wei was ruled by Cao Cao. Shu by Liu Bei and Wu by Sun Quan.

Sichuan is a remote region in western China ringed by mountains. It serves as a sanctuary for Liu Bei in the Three Kingdoms era and later as a sanctuary for the Tang emperor during the An Lushan rebellion. {p 13}. Chiang Kai Shek during the Japanese invasion of World War Two also sought refuge in Sichuan. Where?

The topics covered by this book are the rise of the great families, rural life, writing, Daoism and Buddhism, etc. In this period were built the great Buddhists caves monuments of Longmen and Yungang. China between Empires was a period of growth in cultural and spiritual life.

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