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Reviewed by:
  • Son of Heaven and Heavenly Qaghan: Sui-Tang China and Its Neighbors
  • Victor Cunrui Xiong (bio)
Pan Yihong . Son of Heaven and Heavenly Qaghan: Sui-Tang China and Its Neighbors. Bellingham, Washington: Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington University, 1997. xviii, 428 pp. Paperback $35.00, ISBN 0-914584-20-0.

Like the Xiongnu in Han times and the Jurchen in Southern Song times, the Tujue (Turks) in the sixth to the eighth centuries dominated Sino-foreign relations. Emerging from relative obscurity in the mid-sixth century, the Tujue rose on the vast Eurasian steppes to become the mightiest military force between the Aral Sea and Manchuria. The belligerent Chinese regimes of Northern Qi and Northern Zhou vied against each other to curry favor with the Tujue, supplying their qaghan with Chinese royal brides and generous tribute. The tributary relations finally came to an end with the advent of a unifying power in China proper, the Sui dynasty, and a new era of Sino-foreign relations was ushered in.

That new era is the central theme of Pan Yihong's study. It examines Sino-foreign relations in Early Imperial China with a focus on the Tujue during the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907). The groundwork for the studies of early Sino Turkish relations was laid at the turn of the twentieth century with the publication of the now-classic seminal work by Edouard Chavannes, Documents sur les Tou-kiue [Turcs] occidentaux (Paris: A. Maisonneuve, 1903), which was later translated into Chinese by Feng Chengjun as Xi Tujue shiliao. Inspired by Feng's translation, Cen Zhongmian , a great twentieth-century scholar of Sui-Tang China, published his Tujue jishi (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju), in two volumes in 1958, which deals not only with the Western Tujue but also the Eastern (Northern) Tujue. In the same year, Liu Mau-tsai published his Die Chinesischen Nachrichten zur Geschichte der Ost-Türken (T'u-küe) (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz), also in two volumes, on the Eastern Tujue. These earlier studies, published in three different languages, are similar in their approach: They are essentially collections of primary source materials accompanied by detailed annotations. This approach is still valid today, especially in a field [End Page 511] as demanding and poorly understood as Sino-Turkish relations. What distinguishes Pan's volume is the endeavor to make sense of these oftentimes confusing but always fascinating relations in a synthetic monographic study. Although Pan devotes most of her attention to Sui-Tang China's interactions with the Tujue, she extends her research to include China's relations with other powers.

Son of Heaven and Heavenly Qaghan opens with a wide-ranging survey of China's foreign policy before the Sui, from antiquity to the end of the Northern Dynasties. Both the Qin and the Han dynasties were challenged by the nomadic people to the north, especially the Xiongnu. As China descended into the chaotic period of the Six Dynasties, more and more nomadic ethnic groups appeared on the northern frontier: the Wuhuan , Xianbei , Rouran , and eventually the Tujue themselves. Over time, the successive Chinese governments developed a whole array of strategies in dealing with them, from territorial aggrandizement, building up frontier defenses, Heiratspolitik, and appeasement to the resettlement of "barbarians" within Chinese areas. With the rise of the Sui dynasty in 581, its founder Wendi abandoned the customary appeasement frontier policy under the last of the Northern Dynasties in favor of a much more confrontational stand toward the Tujue. Under the advisement of seasoned court officials such as Zhangsun Sheng , Wendi managed to keep the Tujue at bay by fostering rivalry between the Eastern and Western Tujue, and by supporting the pro-Sui Tujue leader, Qimin qaghan . Influenced by the Metternichian strategist Pei Ju , Wendi's successor Yangdi pursued a much more expansionist policy toward his neighbors, subjugating the Tuyuhun and inadvertently alienating the Tujue. Yangdi's three Liaodong campaigns against Koguryo set off a series of rebellions that finally brought down the Sui empire.

Amidst the end-of-dynasty chaos, Li Yuan (Tang Gaozu), an ex-Sui high court official, emerged as the winner with the founding of the Tang dynasty in 618...


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