Peasant War of 874-901

Peasant War of 874-901

 

in China, a major antifeudal popular uprising, caused by the increasing land-dispossession of the peasantry in the second half of the ninth century. The first hotbeds of rebellion appeared in northern China (the territory of the modern provinces of Honan, Hopeh, and Shantung). The nucleus around which the peasant masses united was a detachment led by Wang Hsien-chi. In 875 he was joined by Huang Ch’ao, who brought several thousand of his own followers. By late 876 the armies of Wang Hsien-chi and Huang Ch’ao numbered about 100,000 men, and the rebellion had spread to a number of provinces in central and eastern China.

In March 878, Wang Hsien-chi’s forces were routed by a government army. With the death of Wang Hsien-chi, leadership of all insurgent activity passed to Huang Ch’ao. After unsuccessful attempts to conquer the main centers of the T’ang empire— Ch’angan and Loyang—the peasant army, now numbering 500,-000 men, turned its campaign to the southeast. The peasants seized government-owned and monastery granaries, destroyed landowners’ manors, slew government officials, wealthy lords, and moneylenders, divided grain and other goods among them-selves, and burned official registers and account records. In the fall of 879 the rebels occupied Canton. In a manifesto made public after this event, Huang Ch’ao announced that his army would return north with the aim of overthrowing the T’ang dynasty and seizing power in the country. In late 880 the rebels seized Loyang, and on Jan. 10, 881, Ch’angan. Huang Ch’ao was proclaimed emperor.

The T’ang government called in detachments of foreigners (from the Shato and Tangut tribes) to fight the rebels. The struggle of the T’ang authorities against the rebels was facilitated by a crisis in the rebel camp after 881, caused by the gradual feudalization of the rebel elite. On May 20, 883, Huang Ch’ao’s troops left Ch’ang-an, retreating to the southeast. By 884 most of the rebel forces had been routed, and Hung Ch’ao committed suicide. From his death until 901, detachments that had survived the rout of the main insurgent forces or that had separated from them earlier continued to fight.

G. IA. SMOLIN

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