Hanchin is a term used for the provincial organization that existed from the Tang Dynasty to the Northern Song Dynasty. With setsudoshi (jiedushi, military governor) and kansatsushi (guanchashi, governor) at the top, the organization had a powerful reign over the provinces with semi-autonomous characteristics. It often refers to setsudoshi itself.
Until the An Shi Rebellion
The Tang Dynasty greatly expanded its territory during the period of Taizong (Tang). It maintained its territory through protectorate, tributary and divisional militia systems. However, these systems began to collapse between the reign of Wu Zeitian and Xuanzong (Tang).
The main reason for the collapse was the rapid decrease in the number of shuko (families registered in the family registry) that sustained the equal-field system and the divisional militia system. These families could no longer bear the burden of taxes and fled (fleeing families). In many cases, families settled down in areas away from their places of family registry, and they began to farm. Those who left their places of family registry were called kyakko (visiting families). A divisional militia system was one in which conscription was based on the family registry. Therefore, an increase in the number of visiting families meant a decrease in the number of people available for the conscripted army.
This resulted in a difficulty in ensuring the number of soldiers who could be put on rotation for military service. The military duty that was supposed to last for one year began to drag on to 3 or 4 years. Also, the Tang Dynasty expanded its territory too much. Therefore, military service at the frontier meant having to go to a place that was extremely far away. These factors caused people to refuse to go into military service, just like the old man described in Juyi BAI's "Shinpo Seppio" (old man with a broken arm in Shinpo), who broke his own arm in order to avoid his military service. Therefore, it became even more difficult to gain enough soldiers.
With the loosening of the Tang Dynasty's reign, various ethnic groups, such as Tokketsu, Toban and Khitan in the neighboring regions actively began their movements to rise. The protectorates were forced to make an extensive retreat.
Xuanzong came up with various policies for countermeasures.
There were paths under local government for the purpose of inspection (to prevent ambiguity). In 733, he increased the number of these paths from 10 to 15, and he also placed a saihoshochishi responsible for each path. Saihoshochishi was a government officer who placed an administrative office in a province within the territory, and additionally, he served as governor of the province. He assessed the various government officials under him and reported to the central government. This job was limited to inspection only, and he was forbidden from interfering with the politics in the provinces. In 758, the name saihoshochishi was changed to kansatsu shochishi (kansatsushi for short).
On the military aspect in the meanwhile, 10 setsudoshi were installed, starting with the placement of setsudoshi in Hexi in 710. Soldiers who were stationed under them were not gathered through fuheisei, which was conscription, but through chosei kondeisei (selection of healthy, talented men for military service over an extended distance), which was a voluntary enlistment instead. Soldiers under this system settled semi-permanently at the frontier, and they farmed the land and served as soldiers when necessary. They were provided with clothing from the government as their stipend.
Setsudoshi were divided into those stationed in regions outside the Great Wall of China, such as Anxi, Beiting and Pinglu, and all others who were stationed in areas on the inside of the Great Wall. The policy at the beginning was to assign warriors and bansho (non-Han generals) as setsudoshi stationed in the regions outside of the Great Wall, and to place civil officers sent from the central government as setsudoshi stationed in the areas on the inside of the Great Wall. Setsudoshi was an elite career track to become a chancellor. However, Chancellor of China Linfu LIN, who was highly trusted by Xuanzong, made it possible even for non-Han generals to be assigned as setsudoshi stationed in the areas inside of the Great Wall. Fearing the appearance of political enemy, Linfu LIN enabled non-Han generals, who were not allowed to become chancellors, to become setsudoshi. Lushan AN also won the favor of Xuanzong through Linfu LIN. In 742, Lushan AN became the setsudoshi of Pinglu, and furthermore, Fanyang and Hedong were additionally placed under his control.
The An Shi Rebellion
The total military force of Lushan AN, who was appointed to the setsudoshi of 3 regions combined, amounted to about 180,000 men. On the other hand, the Left and the Right Urin (bodyguard) armies that guarded the capital of Changan had less than 60,000 men. Lushan AN's military power was overwhelming. Lushan AN competed against Guozhong YANG to win Xuanzong's favor, but Guozhong YANG had an advantage in this war because he was always by Xuanzong's side. Out of fear of losing his status, Lushan AN finally started a rebellion in 755.
(The An Shi Rebellion)
Xuanzong fled to Shu, Crown Prince Heng sought help from the setsudoshi of Shuofang, and the reign of Suzong (Tang) began. Later, there was a series of unrest, such as the internal rift within the rebel army, struggle by the imperial army represented by Shinkei GAN and Kokei GAN, as well as reinforcement troops sent from the Uighurs. The Tang Dynasty managed somewhat to quell the rebellion in 763. However, the Tang Dynasty did not eliminate the rebel forces. In Hebei, which was the base for the An Shi army, generals who defected from the An Shi army, such as Chengsi TIAN of Weibo (Tenyu army), Kaisen RI of You Prefecture (Lulong army) and Baochen LI of Koki (Chengde army), were directly assigned as setsudoshi.
Furthermore, during the war, hanchin was set up one after another in the internal regions that did not have them until then. The total number of hanchin amounted to more than 50, and all the districts except for the areas around the capital Changan and the sub-capital Luoyang were placed under hanchin's control. The power of hanchin that had control of both the military and the civil government was enormous, and the majority of the hanchin had a tendency to be independent. In particular, the three generals of the former An Shi army had a very strong tendency to be so, and they were called Kasaku Sanchin.
These hanchin operated both as setsudoshi (or danrenshi, bogyoshi and keiryakushi), which was a military post, and as kansatsushi, which was an administrative post. They effectively controlled the domain, independent of the command from the central government. When the hanshi, the head of the organization, died his son or a powerful person under him succeeded. In most cases the imperial court was forced to accept this.
As it can be seen in Wu (Ten Kingdoms) that continued to respect Tang's calendar even after the fall of the Tang Dynasty, the Jiangnan area, which supported the overall economy of Tang, was relatively obedient to the imperial court. On the other hand, Hebei was the base of the former An Shi army, and it was rebellious to Tang. Taxes that should have been paid were never paid, and it used them as its own income instead. These anti-Tang hanchin were called hansoku hanchin.
Period of Daizong and Dezong
The court of Daizong finally managed to quell the rebellion. However, he had greatly expended the nation's resources, and he was in no condition to confront hanchin.
Dezong, who succeeded Daizong, aimed to bring hanchin under control. In 781, Baochen LI of Chengde passed away, and the son, Weiyu LI, requested a hereditary succession. However, Dezong denied the request. Chongyi LIANG from Chengde, Tenyu, Pinglu and Shannan East (eastern part of Shaanxi) who was dissatisfied with this treatment formed an alliance and started a rebellion. Daizong mobilized the kingun (army guarding an emperor) and hanchin's armies starting with the Lulong army to suppress the rebels. He destroyed Chongyi LIANG and captured Weiyu LI.
It seemed that Daizong's hanchin suppression would succeed. However, the cost of military spending for mobilizing a large number of soldiers increased the financial pressure. The tax increase that was put in place to remedy it greatly upset the citizens. In addition, rest of the hanchin who saw Daizong's unyielding attitude became afraid of losing their own positions. Armies like the Lulong army that used to side with the imperial army switched sides and allied themselves with the rebels. Furthermore, because too much effort was put into suppression, the protection around Changan became extremely diluted.
Taking advantage of this void, soldiers rose in rebellion in 783 and occupied Chang'an, supporting a former setsudoshi named Zhu Ci as their leader. Panic-stricken Daizong fled to Fengtian (west of Changan. Not Shenyang).
Daizong, in order to control the situation, offered to guarantee the positions of the hanchin on the rebel side and pardoned them of their crimes. The war-stricken hanchin accepted the offer. Daizong managed to defeat Lulong and Huaixi, who refused to accept the terms, along with Zhu Ci, who occupied Chang'an, by 786.
Xianqi CHEN, who had became setsudoshi of Waisei because of his accomplishment in killing Xilie LI in Waisei, was defeated by Shaocheng WU. However, Shaocheng WU started another rebellion in 799. At the end of fighting a war that lasted just over a year, the situation was brought under control with an offer for an amnesty for all crimes. Many soldiers and money were lost because of the long war, but in the end, it is difficult to say that the goal of bringing hanchin under control was accomplished.
Period of Xianzong
Shunzong (Tang), who succeeded Dezong, died after 6 month of his reign, and he was succeeded by Xianzong (Tang).
In 806, soon after he was enthroned, setsudoshi of Xichuan (western Sichuan) Pi LIU attacked Dongchuan (eastern Sichuan) with the intention to expand his forces. Xianzong suppressed, captured, and punished Pi LIU by slaying him with his sword. With this as a start, he suppressed the setsudoshi of Xiasui, Huilin YANG, and Ki RI, the setsudoshi of Zhenhai Army in Zhejiang West. Furthermore, he tried to suppress Kasaku Sanchin also, but this attempt ended in a failure. However, Xianzong was not discouraged by this, and he destroyed Yuanji WU of Huaixi.
Startled by Xianzong's behavior, hanchin began to take a more submissive attitude toward the imperial court. Shidao LI of Pinglu and Chengzong WANG of Chengde gave back parts of their own territories. Chengquan, the military leader of Henghai army, surrendered all his territories in two prefectures, thereby voluntarily putting an end to the history of his domain. However, Xianzong was not satisfied with this accomplishment. The surrender of the territories from Pinglu was delayed, and he used this as an excuse, and he attacked and destroyed Pinglu.
Pinglu had a long history and power as a hansoku hanchin, and the destruction of Pinglu greatly shocked the rest of the hanchin. Hongzheng TIAN of Weibo surrendered his territory and entered the imperial court. Xianzong was murdered by a eunuch in 820. However, after his death, Chengde and Lulong also surrendered their territories, and thus pacification of Kasaku Sanchin was accomplished.
Until the Huang Chao Rebellion
This condition, however, soon became unstable. The former generals of Sanchin regained power over their domains. They used forceful persuasion to acknowledge them as hanshi, and the imperial court yielded to their request. As if in response, a movement started in other hanchin to become independent. The imperial court, however, confronted them with a firm attitude and did not allow this.
Until this time, the majority of hanshi positions were given to those with a military background. However, from this point on, it became possible for civil officials to become hanshi. Also, hanchin's power was reduced, allowing prefectures and their governors that had been placed under its control to regain their previous status as entities directly controlled by the central government. The imperial court of Tang saved face as the central government.
However, appointing civil officials to hanchin created dissatisfaction among the soldiers under them. By force, high-ranking soldiers got rid of the hanshi they did not like, and they set up the ones they supported as their hanshi, and they made the imperial court accept it. Such soldiers were called kyohei. Kyohei did not even fight in a battle if they were not adequately compensated. Hanshi struggled to accommodate kyohei's demands.
Furthermore, as a result of paring down hanchin's power, there was a decrease in the number of soldiers hanchin held. The personnel who were absorbed into the army began to crowd society. Many of the men who enlisted in the military service were kyakko who did not have their own land. When they were released from army they did not have jobs, and many of them became bandits.
In addition, the imperial court was controlled by eunuchs, moral corruption was rampant and signs of disturbance were soon found everywhere in society.
The result of this was manifested in the Huang Chao Rebellion
From the fall of Tang to the Five Dynasties
The Tang Dynasty got a fatal wound from the Huang Chao Rebellion, and even though it still had the outward appearance of being in power, it had, in reality, already fallen. Authority of the imperial court weakened, and the country entered a period of fighting between the hanchin forces of Quanzhong ZHU and Keyong LI.
An orderly succession by Quanzhong ZHU took place in 907, Tang fell completely, and the period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms began.
Even under the Five Dynasties the tendency to defend the local authority of hanchin did not change. Except for the Later Liang and Later Tang Dynasties, which were hostile to each other, the transition in all of the Five Dynasties occurred by those who were setsudoshi under the former dynasty overthrowing the emperor of the former dynasty and enthroning themselves as emperors.
Taizu Zhao Kuangyin of Northern Song also was a setsudoshi of Song prefecture during the Later Zhou Dynasty. He received a peaceful transfer of power from the Emperor of the Later Zhou Dynasty and established his kingdom. However, in order not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors, Zhao Kuangyin, as he drank wine at a banquet, persuaded the setsudoshi, who were his subordinates, to retire. Furthermore, he installed the position of tsuhan (an official supporting a chishu, governor), transferred the administrative responsibilities of setsudoshi to it. In the end, he succeeded in making setsudoshi into an honorary post. After this, no military power arose during the Song Dynasty until the war with the Jin (Dynasty) and the Mongolian Empire.