Plausibility Check: HRE-Style China

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by DanielXie, May 8, 2014.

  1. DanielXie Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Location:
    Toronto
    So in the most recent Dynasty Warriors game, in one of the endings Sun Quan restores the Emperor to power, but keeps all three kingdoms alive as dukedoms with their respective leaders in charge--essentially creating a Chinese Holy Roman Empire.

    However while this is a game it raises an intresting question. In that regard, how plausiable is a Chinese empire with the governing structure of the Holy Roman Empire? What would be the best POD for something like that to happen. Realistically, all "fantasy or ASB scenarios aside" who would be the best one to usher in this form of governance(please, no Sun Quan). And how long would it last?
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2014
  2. DanielXie Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Location:
    Toronto
    ?? Anyone have any ideas?
     
  3. SvoHljott جنگجو

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2013
    Location:
    ایران بزرگ
    Shouldn't the question be HRE-style China? :p

    On topic: I have no clue how to do this, but you'd need a POD going back to the Warring States period.
     
  4. Seleucus Queer lesbian trans scientist

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2013
    Location:
    West Coast of the U.S.
    The Zhou Dynasty is already considered to have had a feudal structure, so much that the Zhou kings eventually became completely ignored in the struggle for power between their 'vassals' (Warring States period and all that.) So that sort of counts already.
     
  5. Sirius Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2013
    So then I guess the resolution to the Warring States period that gets us where we want to be is an agreement between the princes to elect the Emperor (rather than one of them conquering the others and declaring a new dynasty.
     
  6. RousseauX Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2011
    This was basically the structure of the Spring and Autumn and then warring states period.

    The problem is that the geography of China favors large, centralized states which means that this structure is not very stable.
     
  7. dduff442 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2012
    Location:
    Ireland
    Why is this?
     
  8. WhatIsAUserName Professional Catatonic

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2006
    Location:
    San Joaquin County, CA
    The best way to have something like the HRE is to avoid the Qin unification (which requires maybe a 300 BCE point of divergence), and barring that, maybe greater disunity during the Early Han (200-100 BCE) period. I think another interesting possibility is greater success by nomadic invaders, which would add a demographic change to the midst. Three Kingdoms is much too late, especially since three large kingdoms, or just 2.5 if you consider the Han state in Sichuan to be a minor player, is already laying the groundwork for unification.
     
  9. Sirius Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2013
    That's the classic "geography is destiny" argument. China is a single, continuous land mass unbroken seas or mountain chains. Just like India.

    Wait...
     
  10. profxyz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Chinese feudalism in the form that Europe took actually has a long and storied history, and you can imagine that some innovative leader could actually carry that out.

    Fundamentally, Confucianism is an ideology that is in love with the idea of the 'Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors', in which the basic idea was that the local kings/chieftains 'abdicated' their throne to another person who had the 'love of the people'. So that by itself already creates a stronger ideological basis for an HRE-like government than Europe ever had.

    The Eastern Zhou Dynasty (i.e. Spring and Autumn period) had a sort-of analogy to this, in the idea of the 'Dominant Leader' or Bazhu, who basically was a Shogun who, through war or 'superior moral authority', was 'promoted' by the various feudal lords of the Zhou Dynasty to help keep the peace for the King of Zhou. There were five acknowledged Dominant Leaders during the Spring and Autumn period, although one can easily list a couple more who were recognized by a couple of regional powers. If that had developed further, you might see an elected Shogunate in China, with the Zhou King as a figurehead.

    With the fall of the Qin in 206 BC, Xiang Yu declared himself the 'Dominant King of the West Chu' and gave subsidiary titles to the nobility of the states that Qin Shi Huang destroyed - so there was a 'King of Zhao', 'King of Chu', 'King of Qi' etc, which indicates that Xiang Yu sort of saw himself as the primus inter pares of Chinese lords, rather than some sort of God-Emperor... which is reasonable, given that his revolt was supported by reactionaries/nationalists from Chu who wanted to return to the pre-Qin status quo. If Xiang Yu had defeated Liu Bang, and (likely given his nature) proven incompetent to rule, you could see a coalition of the other states gang up and force him to nominate a successor from the nobility of the other states, rather than his son... which would give you the precedent for an HRE-esque China.

    Liu Bang, although declaring himself Emperor of the Han, kept alive the idea of feudal government by giving land to so-called 'Different-Surnamed Kings', which he quickly reversed by killing off the lot of them and replacing them with his sons and relatives. By the time of his great-grandson Han Jingdi, these kings had grown powerful enough to rebel against their nominal liege, which was only put down with some difficulty. At any point until the quashing of the Rebellion, you could argue that had the local princes won rather than the central government, you would have had a new Emperor installed who very much owed his throne to the local princes - and this could have set off a wave of decentralization that ends up with an HRE-like situation.

    The last real PoD comes to the end of the Three Kingdoms, and it's ironic that you imply what Sun Quan did was strange, because in essence Jin Wudi OTL basically did the same thing, re-establishing autonomous princedoms everywhere in his Empire and trying to weaken the central government (in reaction to the fact that the Jin basically took over Cao Wei by taking over the central government). This ended in tears because Jin Wudi's successor was mentally ill and the princes basically fought savagely against each other and destroyed the Empire in the process. But if Emperor Wu had a relatively incompetent Emperor instead, you could imagine that you could have local princes draining away the power of the central government again, which could have led to another HRE-scenario.

    As an addendum, the early Ming also did what the Jin Dynasty did by giving land to the sons of Zhu Yuanzhang, but by that time I think the Confucian attitude was too deeply entrenched to accomodate an HRE situation, not to mention the fact that within 10 years of Zhu Yuanzhang's death his son basically revolted against his nephew and usurped the throne, becoming the Emperor Yongle.
     
  11. Rich Rostrom Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Location:
    The heights of glory, the depths of despair
    The later HRE (post 1378 or so)?

    Not at all. Because the late HRE is a historical freak of the first magnitude. That such an arrangement should arise anywhere, even once, was extremely weird. A second such instance is beyond weird.

    Really. Where, anywhere else in human history, has there been a political structure like the HRE? A nominally sovereign overlord, subordinate lords that are de facto sovereign, and a set of laws that somehow protect most of those lords from invasions or conquests, even those (the ecclesiastical states and Imperial cities) which have no armies. And these conditions last for half a millenium, nearly - despite numerous wars in the region.

    Look at the maps - the bits and pieces of land held in distant areas, or in intricate patterns of enclaves and exclaves, which persist for centuries.

    The intense legalism which maintained this situation was, AFAIK, unique to western and central Europe, and the bizarre equilibrium which obtained in the HRE was also unique.

    I don't see any plausible way to reproduce it anywhere or when else.
     
  12. WhatIsAUserName Professional Catatonic

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2006
    Location:
    San Joaquin County, CA
    Actually, that basic part of nominal sovereign overlord and functionally subordinate subordinates is basically 750-250 BCE in China, with the Zhou kings as nominal heads and their feudal subordinates (maybe a few hundred in 750, just seven in 250). There's no part about religious communities, land ownership didn't get as intricate, and nobody got legal protection from invasion, but the rest is mostly similar.

    It's also a lot like Japan's Sengoku period, but that lasted just a bit over 100 years as opposed to 500 years.
     
  13. Sharunaku Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2013
    That's actually common practice back then, Zhou kept Song from Shang, Qin kept Wey from Zhou, Han kept Qin.

    1. Unlike the HRE, these two resulted in massive wars and turbo annexation between the states.
    2. They were mostly isolated from the rest of the world at their times, were they part of a bigger world, I don't think people would shy from calling them independent countries unlike the member states of he HRE.
    3. They didn't last even without foreign intervention. While Eastern Zhou did last half a millennium, its size and the lack of technology (bronze age) have to be accounted for.
     
  14. Strategos' Risk Oriental Orientalist

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Location:
    Homeline
    There's alternate history endings to Dynasty Warriors games? What other endings are there?
     
  15. eliphas8 Frankentrotsky

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The Sewers.
    The warlord period actually resembles this quite a bit.
     
  16. Zmflavius Pelor Vult

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Location:
    TRAVELLER RETURNING
    Most of them, from the Spring and Autumn Period to the 20th century one, do to some extent.
     
  17. chornedsnorkack Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2008
    What would happen if the warlord period of late Tang had been extended?
     
  18. Sharunaku Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2013
    We would have Khitans on steroids, Manchu or even Mongol level.
     
  19. PhilippeO Banned

    Joined:
    May 20, 2011
    The Geography is destiny argument is not entirely wrong. The flat North China Plain did help enormously in uniting China.

    And while India is divided. most of the time the independent part of India is in Middle and South India. While Indus and Ganges Plain is unified repeatedly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_China_Plain


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus-Gangetic_Plain

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Trunk_Road
     
  20. chornedsnorkack Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2008
    Don´t Shatuo Turks count?

    Later Tang managed to conquer Shu. Something which neither Liao nor Jin ever accomplished.

    If you compare OTL Five Dynasties China, 907 to 960, with the previous half-century, later Tang from about 850 to 907, which of these was less stable and more vulnerable to external invasions?