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reitia

An-Lushan's revolt

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reitia

I would like to start a discussion about the Sogdian/Turkic general Rokhshan, called An-Lushan in Chinese. This remarkable warrior, who initially served the Tang Empire, finally rebelled against Emperor Xuanzong, who had trusted and sincerely esteemed him for years. An-Lushan's ingratitude and rebellion nearly brought about the collapse of the Tang Dynasty. An's story is amazing; it reads like a best-selling novel, and is studded with numerous fascinating figures such as the beautiful, tragic consort Yang Guifei. I would like to invite other members of the Chinese History Forum to discuss this theme with me.

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Angelina

Are you sure Sogdian means Turkish?

Rokhshan probably means enlightened, here is someone with a similar name: (they look more like titles less like given names)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pir_Roshan

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gato

Sogdian appears to be related to Iranians, based in the Tajikistan and Uzbekistan region.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sogdia

Sogdiana was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great (i. 16). Sogdiana is "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda created. This region is listed second after Airyanem Vaejah, "homeland of the Aryans", in the Zoroastrian book of Vendidad, indicating the importance of this region from ancient times.[1]

Sogdiana, at different times, included territories around Samarkand, Bukhara, Khujand, Panjikent and Shahrisabz in modern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The Sogdians spoke an Eastern Iranian language called Sogdian, closely related to Bactrian, another major language of the southern part of Central Asia in ancient times. Sogdian was written in a variety of scripts, all of them derived from the Aramaic alphabet.

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Angelina

and it means enlightened in East Iranian languages

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reitia

Dear Angelina,

 

I wrote Sogdian/Turkic to indicate that An Lushan was half Sogdian (on his father's side), half TURKIC (not Turkish fron Turkey, on his mother's side). His original name was ROKHSHAN, which in the ancient Sogdian language means SHINING. Alexander the Great's wife was also Sogdian, and she had the feminine equivalent of this name: ROKHSHANA, Roxana. Rokhshan, at any rate was a personal name, not a title.

 

An Lushan's mother was said to be a shamaness, possibly of the Turkic Ashina tribe.

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reitia

Dear gato,

 

Yes, the Sogdians were Eastern Iranians. They were brilliant artists, musicians, dancers and, above all, merchants. Thousands of them settled in various parts of Han andTang territory, especially in the capital city, Chang'an, where they had their own residential quarters, markets, and Zoroastrian fire temples.

 

An old tradition claims that the prophet of Mazdaism, Zoroaster, was born precisely in ancient Sogdia, which today corresponds roughly to Tajikistan.

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Angelina

Interesting, I might be a little bit Ancient Macedonian, might be a little bit Turkish, you can never know, people mix, we are all mixed.

What about the Roshanniya/Enlightment movement centuries later, can we find similarities between Pir Roshan and Rokhshan?

We know Pir Roshan was a title, what about Rokhshan (An Lushan)?

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reitia

Hello Angelina,

 

No, Rokhshan was definitely just a name. Many Sogdian boys were given this name. Its original meaning...SHINING, LUMINOUS...can be extended to mean "enlightened, illuminated" in a spiritual sense.

 

I know nothing about the Roshanniya movement. Please tell me about this; I'm eager to learn.

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Angelina

It was a rebellion against the Mughals, might be related to An Lushan's, but it happened centuries later.

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reitia

Hello Angelina,

 

Very strange, this notion about a New World Order. Seems linked to megalomanic ideas...But Pir Roshan would have had egalitarian, perhaps communistic ideas, isn't that so? I don't think that he had intentions to conquer the world...

 

An Lushan, on the other hand, was essentially a mercenary warlord who served the Tang Empire because it was in his interest to do so. He became extremely rich and powerful as a henchman of the Tang. Finally, his ambition became so overwhelming that he made up his mind to conquer the Empire for himself. And he very nearly succeeded...

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Angelina

It means An Lushan was megalomanic.

Don't read conspiracy theories!

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reitia

Dear Angelina,

 

Sneaky ungrateful conspirators like An Lushan are despicable...Emperor Xuanzong and the Imperial consort Yang Guifei were so kind to him; they showered him with honours and admiration; Lady Yang even adopted that scoundrel as her son, even though he was older than herself! But An Lushan had a dark, unfeeling heart, and cared nothing for the respect and kindness of his imperial patrons. An broke their hearts when he rebelled against them.

 

Have you read the lovely, sad story of Yang Guifei in Chinese? The most famous version was written by Bai Juyi; its called "Song of Everlasting Sorrow", and is a very delicate, poignant poem.

 

Do you live in China? Are you fluent in Chinese? I myself desire to learn both classical and modern Chinese. I'm in love with the Tang Dynasty: a marvellous Golden Age of culture! Wouldn't it have been fun to live in that era?

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Angelina

Yes, I live in China, in a beautiful area (Hangzhou), thanks to Bai Juyi and similar people who made my neighbourhood look nice.

I don't believe in Golden Eras, it is a dangerous concept. You should not be fascinated by the Tang Dynasty. You can love poetry, but sailing to Byzantium is not healthy. A Golden Age never existed, never will.

Maybe An Lushan believed he was trying to make a golden age happen.

I realized his name was common in East Iranian languages, the revolt had probably nothing to do with other political movements where their leaders had similar names. Not a title, just a very common name.

BTW

http://global.britannica.com/biography/Yang-Guifei

The daughter of a high official, she was one of the few obese women in Chinese history to have been considered beautiful. She became a concubine to Xuanzong’s son, but the 60-year-old emperor found the girl so desirable that he forced his son to relinquish her. Soon her two sisters were admitted into the imperial harem, and her brother Yang Guozhong became the first minister of the empire.

Through Yang’s influence, An Lushan, a cunning young general of Turkish origin, rose to great prominence. Yang adopted him as her legal son and is said to have made him her lover. With such powerful patronage, An Lushan came to control an army of 200,000. He was jealous of the power of Yang’s brother and soon turned against the emperor, leading a great uprising (the An Lushan rebellion) against him. When the capital was captured in 756, Xuanzong and his court were forced to flee to the south. On the road the imperial soldiers became enraged with members of the Yang family, whom they blamed for the debacle, and executed both Yang and her brother.

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skylee

Things start to get romantic when they have been filtered by poetry and the passing of time. They could get super romantic 1300 years later.

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reitia

Dear Skylee,

 

I am a romantic by nature. According to my viewpoint, sentiments are timeless and universal, shared by all human beings in all places and eras. The tears shed by Yang Guifei were indeed bitter; they were not invented by any dreamy poet, or amplified by any exagerated tale. Yang's tears, her pain, were as genuine as the sorrow which we can still feel today when we remember this heroine of so long ago.

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reitia

Hello Angelina,

 

In fact, An Lushan's rebellion had nothing to do with politics, or even with nationalism (he never presented himself as the champion of the Sogdian or Turkic people). An's raging ambition was intended for himself alone, and his descendants. He actually proclaimed himself emperor of China after his most stunning military victories, but was unable to hold onto his phantom throne: this man who desired so greatly to destroy the power of the Tang was ultimately assasinated, either by a servant or by one of his own sons (the historical accounts vary).

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Angelina

Definitely, some sentiments are timeless. This story is one of them.

I still think we should not glorify the past. Imagine you were living in your beloved pre-An Lushan Tang Dynasty, as a eunuch.

How much did An Lushan change? Was this really what caused the decline of the Tang? Was it because of Yang Guifei? A face that caused a thousand slaughters?

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Altair

I think the first detailed history of events in China that I read was about An Lushan's rebellion.  It fundamentally changed my understanding of Chinese history in many ways.

 

First, it made the characters three-dimensional, with personalities, loyalties, mistakes, loves, hesitations, and webs of relationships.  A specific scene that stuck in my mind was when the still loyal soldiers accompanying the fleeing emperor were nonetheless able to force this absolute monarch to have Yang Guei, the love of his life, killed.  All that I had read about how emperors or those who ruled from the shadows wielded power did not let me clearly understand how they had to guard the bases of their power and sometime tread lightly even with so-called unlimited power.

 

Second, I had not fully realized the multi-ethnic nature of Chinese history and how intimately the relationship between Han Chinese and the peoples to the west and north had evolved over the years.  In this particular rebellion, you can basically say that a "Persian" almost took over the Chinese Empire.  I had not thought of Persia, or rather Sogdia, as being so linked to China.  After reading up on the Roman Empire, I had similar revelations about what was really "Roman" or even "Italian" in those times.  The 1000th anniversary of Rome was celebrated by an Arab Roman Emperor.

 

Lastly, this story also made vividly clear issues of governance that I had not understood.  If everything is completely centralized, the ability of the provinces to defend and manage themselves is gravely weakened.  If everything is completely de-centralized, the provinces and provincials tend to spin off or, even worse, gather more power than the center and imperil overall unity.  The Tang had arisen from the Sui and a long period of disunity and exposure to outside threats.  What was the solution?  Appoint 节度使 to husband local resources and establish strong borders.  What did An Lushan do with his strength?  Try to overthrow the entire dynasty.

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Altair

I forgot to mention that I listen to The History of China podcast and that it is just finishing up with discussion the disintegration of the Sui Dynasty and beginning to talk about the Tang.  I am curious to hear how An Lushan's rebellion will be handled and also the reign of 武则天.

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