The An Lushan Rebellion
Episode #3 of the course “Biggest wars in history”
Date: 16 December 755 – 17 February 763
Estimated casualties: 13,000,000 – 36,000,000
Where the military is extremely disciplined or organized, problems can arise. In fact, perhaps the reason that many forces in China were so disciplined was because of the An Lushan Rebellion. The rebellion occurred from 755 to 763 A.D. It was led by an unhappy general in the Tang Dynasty, and it brought about an unrest that spread through the country and lasted nearly a decade.
The Tang Dynasty ruled imperial China from 618 to 907 A.D. It’s considered a golden era in Chinese history because the arts and culture flourished due to a time of fairly stable politics. The Tang Dynasty also re-established trade along the Silk Road, making this era very prosperous. However, the An Lushan Rebellion threatened the end of the Tang Dynasty in the mid-700s.
The Tang Dynasty was involved in a number of surrounding wars, one of which caused serious damage through loss of troops and funds. The others were not overly successful, and the Tang court was running short on funds. The Xuanzong emperor appointed his favorite general, An Lushan, to be in charge of roughly 150,000 troops in an effort to regain some ground. However, Lushan mobilized the army to march against the emperor instead, beginning on December 16, 755. They captured the eastern capital, Luoyang, and An Lushan announced the beginning of a new empire, the Great Yan. He then moved toward the primary capital, picking up more soldiers and supplies along the way.
The Tang emperor hired Arab mercenaries to help defend the capital, and Tang troops blocked An Lushan’s progress. However, the military leader in Tang, Yang Guozhong, made a serious mistake and left the capital open to attack. The emperor had to flee and then stepped down so his son could take control. The new emperor hired additional troops and retook both capitals. An Lushan was actually murdered by his own son, leading to a breakdown within the rebel forces that ended the rebellion.
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