East Asian Studies 210: Early Nomadic Civilizations.
In-class essays for first mid-term.
First essay. Grade received: A
During the period from 742 to 1250, the Uighurs had a great military and cultural importance to Mongolia and Central Asia.
While the Turkish Empire was intact (from mid sixth century until about 750 AD) the Uighurs served as weapon makers, and as the empire began to decline they saw opportunity. Shortly before 750 AD the Turks began to weaken, and, as had been the case in previous confederations, the weapon makers assumed control. While in power over much of what was once the eastern regions of the empire, the Uighurs established a new form of script which was used on paper for great amounts of literature, rather than only on tombstones, as the previous Orkhon script had been used. In later periods of their tenure they became much more sedentary than other steppe peoples and religion flourished amongst them.
At about the same time as they moved into power in what would later be Mongolia, the Tang dynasty was experiencing inner turmoil and asked the Uighurs for assistance. After crushing the rebellion, the Uighur armies decided to hang around China, and soon began adopting much of the Chinese sedentary lifestyle. Needless to say, their Chinese hosts weren't too happy about having foreign troops in their lands (as can be seen in Chinese portrayals of Uighurs as hairy, barefooted brutes), and the Uighurs quickly wore out their welcome. As a result, in 840 when the Kirghiz, a people living to the north of the Uighur, attacked their now-defenseless homeland, the Chinese flatly denied aid to the Uighurs. Pressed from the north, unwelcome to the south and with a sea to the east, the Uighurs moved west to Xinjiang. Here they flourished, becoming a farming and city people, as opposed to the herding and nomadic people they had been in Turkish Empire times. They profited from the growth of cotton and their seat on the Silk Road. Moreover, in 1206, when Chingis Khan formed his empire, they were still flourishing and a model for all civilizations in the area. Their script was adopted by Chingis (although turned 90 degrees), and had already been in use by many tribes even before this.
With heightened intellectuality, military might, and a tendency to over-stay their welcome, the Uighurs left a definite mark on Mongolia and Central Asia.
Second essay. Grade received: B+
Although Buddhism was left behind with the Mongolian Empire in the thirteenth century, it returned to Mongolia in the sixteenth century with a vengeance.
If a date must be put to the revival of Buddhism (specifically, Lamaism), it would have to be in 1577, with the Kokonor Pact. This was a pact between the Tibetans and a southern Mongol Khan, allowing Tibetan monks to enter his domain in exchange for Tibetan promotion of him towards the ruler of all Mongolia. Although he never got control of Mongolia, the Lamaists surely got their share. Lamaism quickly spread throughout Mongolia and established itself as it never had in the past.
Although directed from Tibet, much of the reason for the force of Buddhism's returned was because of influence of Buddhist Manchu China. As the church grew strong in Mongolia, the Manchus began to fear a smiliar situation as theocratic Tibet. Wanting to remain in control of Mongolia, they satiated the monestaries with money, land, and most importantly people. Mongolian princes and khans were already giving one of their sons to become a lama (totally about a third of the male population), but the Manchus also gave whole communities, about another third, as shabar, or slaves. This resulted in a huge loss of manpower for the Khans, and as a result a loss of money. They were forced to sell their lands to the highest bidder, usually Chinese merchants. The commoners on this land were forced to either try to continue herding on the Chinese land, change to farming, or, as usually the case, move north onto other Mongols' land, where they often became bandits. Because of the problems caused by Lamaism, most people were not that happy when the Russians pushed the lamas out.
After growing from the sixteenth centruy, Lamaism outgrew itself until unwanted by the Mongolian peoples it intended to serve.