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The Terrible Disease in China – 1330 to 1350

Most Americans and Europeans have heard of the Black Death which swept across Europe starting in 1347. However, most people have not heard that something very similar struck down millions in China during the same time period. The first half of the 1300s were a terrible time in China’s history. The Mongol conquest of China (finalized with the conquest of capital of the Song Dynasty in 1276) resulted in decades of mis-rule, brutal repression of popular discontent, famines, and civil unrest which ultimately resulted in a civil war that last for more than a decade. This terrible time finally ended with the victory of the Ming government over all its rivals and the establishment of a unified, and highly functional national government. Part of the reason for the popular unrest…

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Japan’s Invasion of Korea – 1592-1598

"A Dragon's Head and a Serpent's Tail" by Kenneth Swope (2009) at Korea historically has been uninterested in waging war on its neighbors. The country has an easily defined northern border (mountains in the center, the Yalu river to the northwest, and the Tumen river to the northeast; in all other directions Korea is surrounded by the sea. When Korea unified under the Silla Kingdom around 670, the natural borders gradually solidified in people’s minds, though the northern border was rarely peaceful.  After the Joseon Dynasty took control of Korea in 1394, the country experienced nearly uninterrupted peace for the next ~200 years - and then Japan invaded.  Japan’s invasion of Korea in 1592 is a very strange event in world history. Never before had Japan launched an invasion…

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Games I Play – MORPGs

This is a large topic and one that I will return to later. MORPGs (multi-player online role-playing-games, also known as MMORPGs) have been developed over the last 25 years as computers become more powerful and game companies attempted to bring many players together at the same time in virtual worlds. The first MORPG I played was Diablo, by Blizzard North, in 1996. While not really a MORPG by some standards, you could play with other people, across the country, and you could role-play your character, a little. The next game I played which was a real MORPG was Ultima Online, from Origin Systems. I played Ultima Online for two years before switching to EverQuest, from Verant Interactive. From EverQuest I tried many games, include Asheron's Call, and Dark Ages of…

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The Manchu Military and Government

Here is an eye-opening essay on the Qing Dynasty military from the Cambridge Journal of Chinese History - Qing Military Institutions by Yingcong Dai. I have been gradually changing my mind about the Manchu government of China, at least up to the year the Qianlong Emperor resigned his office (in 1797). I used to be highly dismissive of the Manchu rule but the more recent scholarship I have read in over the last decade has changed my mind. I now believe the Manchu ruled China wisely and well. They made a few but significant improvements over the Ming Dynasty, most in the area of military organization, and in other places as well. The Qing paid laborers, they kept taxes low, and they maintained the prestige of the army. Even the…

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The Battle of Talas

The Wikipedia has a good article (as of mid-2019) about the Battle of Talas. This was a battle fought by a Tang Dynasty army operating in the far west (modern day Kazakhstan) in the year 751 A.D. They were fighting against an army from the newly formed Abbasid Caliphate. The Tang army was defeated and the Tang did not return to this part of central Asia, because of the massive disruption caused by the An Lushan revolt which began four years later. For a thousand years, the Chinese stayed east of Transoxiana (as the region is called). Eventually, the Chinese reasserted their power against the Khans of this region, starting with the campaigns of the Kangzi Emperor against the Dzungar Khanate (in 1687). The Dzungar were eventually annihilated by the…

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