The emperor's generals, a study of the Sanya commanders inthe Northern Song (960-1126)
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe primary focus of this study is on the Sanya ("Three Headquarters Offices") commanders of the Northern Song, who commanded the three divisions of the Song imperial army, namely, the Infantry, Cavalry, and Palace Corps. The first three chapters examine the institutions pertaining to the selection and promotion of the Sanya commanders, concluding that the Northern Song selected and promoted for high army command ranks men whose loyalty to the throne had been tested and proven. It is further demonstrated that the Northern Song exercised effective control over its army commanders and had their powers scrutinized by civil officials, the majority being southern bureaucrats advanced through the civil service examinations. The two chapters that follow analyze the social and geographical backgrounds of the Sanya commanders, revealing that elite members of the Northern Song military in general enjoyed special ties to the emperors and the ruling house. Such imperial connections safeguarded their political and family fortunes from rapid downward sliding. The Northern Song elite, as such, was a self-perpetuating elite group, composed of predominantly northern military men who were closely associated with the dynasty's founding elite. The remaining chapter in the body text further sheds light on the super elite status of the Sanya commanders, attesting that they were among the highest paid office-holders in the Northern Song and were recipients of high political honors and privileges. This study calls into question the received view of the inferior status of the Northern Song military elite. I suggest that during the Northern Song period a unique and distinctive balance between aristocratic and bureaucratic forces was achieved whereby state power was split between the semi-hereditary northern military elite and the newly arisen professional, bureaucratic elite. The ruling class of Northern Song society was therefore neither thoroughly aristocratic nor thoroughly bureaucratic, contrary to the generally held assumptions about the nature of the Song elite. In my opinion, the rise of southern civil leadership in state and society around the mid-eleventh century challenged, for the first time in Chinese history, northern aristocratic monopoly of state power and eventually precipitated its demise by the Southern Song.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
East Asian Studies