The complete disappearance by the tenth century of the medieval Chinese aristocracy, the “great clans” that had dominated China for centuries, has long perplexed historians. In this book, Nicolas Tackett resolves the enigma of their disappearance by using new, digital methodologies to analyze a dazzling array of sources. He systematically exploits the thousands of funerary biographies excavated in recent decades—most of them never before examined by scholars—while taking full advantage of the explanatory power of Geographic Information System (GIS) and social network analysis. Tackett supplements these analyses with an extensive use of anecdotes culled from epitaphs, prose literature, and poetry, bringing to life the women and men of a millennium ago.
The Destruction of the Medieval Chinese Aristocracy demonstrates that the great Tang aristocratic families were far more successful than previously believed in adapting to the social, economic, and institutional transformations of the seventh and eighth centuries. Their political influence collapsed only after a large proportion of them were physically eliminated during the three decades of extreme violence that followed Huang Chao’s sack of the capital cities in 880 CE.