Pax Sinica

Pax Sinica (Latin for "Chinese peace"; simplified Chinese: 中华治世; traditional Chinese: 中華治世; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Zhìshì) is a historiographical term referring to periods of peace in East Asia led by China. The multiple periods of Pax Sinica, when taken together, amounted to a length of approximately two thousand years.[1]

The first Pax Sinica of the Eastern world emerged during the rule of the Han dynasty and coincided with the Pax Romana of the Western world led by the Roman Empire.[2][3] It stimulated long-distance travel and trade in Eurasian history.[3] Both the first Pax Sinica and the Pax Romana eroded at circa AD 200.[3]

The first period of Pax Sinica came into being during the Han dynasty of China.[4] Domestically, the power of the emperor was consolidated following the devastation of the feudal system.[5] The Rule of Wen and Jing and the Rule of Ming and Zhang were periods of societal stability and economic prosperity. Externally, the Han dynasty neutralized the threat posed by the nomadic Xiongnu following a series of wars.[6] The boundaries of China was extended into what is modern-day western Xinjiang, South Korea (near Seoul), and Vietnam (around Huế).[7] The Silk Road emerged as a major route that connected the East and the West after the Han diplomat Zhang Qian established contact with the numerous Central Asian tribes, thus facilitating commerce and cultural exchanges.[8]

The Pax Sinica established by the Han dynasty is often compared to the Pax Romana of the Roman Empire.[4][9] The Pax Sinica of the Han dynasty ended following decades of internal turmoil that later led to the downfall of the Han dynasty and a period of fragmentation in Chinese history.

The Tang dynasty was one of the golden ages in Chinese history and presided over another period of Pax Sinica.[10] The Tang capital, Chang'an, was a major economic and cultural hub, and was the world's largest urban settlement at the time.[11] The Silk Road facilitated economic and cultural exchanges between China and the outside world, with Persians and Sogdians among those who benefited the most from such exchanges with China.[10] In the north, the First Turkic Khaganate was defeated and annexed;[12] in the west, the Tang dynasty extended its control as far as modern-day Afghanistan and the Aral Sea;[13][14] in the east, Tang control reached Sakhalin.[14] During its peak, the Tang dynasty maintained hegemony over 72 tributary states.[15] During this period, Chinese culture was revitalized and became more diverse and cosmopolitan.[10] The amount of interaction between China and Japan increased; Chinese influence on Japanese culture and politics became more prominent since the Tang dynasty.[16]

The Yuan dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China ruled by ethnic Mongol and was the main constituent part of the Mongol Empire. While the Yuan dynasty is often considered a legitimate Chinese dynasty that bore the Mandate of Heaven, historians usually classify this period of peace under the Pax Mongolica.[17]

The Ming dynasty of China presided over another period of Pax Sinica.[18] This period saw the formal institutionalization of the Chinese tributary system, illustrating the great political power of China at the time.[19] The seven maritime expeditions led by Zheng He projected the imperial power of the Ming dynasty across Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa.[20] During this period, China also exerted a great amount of influence on the culture and politics of Korea.[21][22]

The Qing dynasty of China heralded another period of Pax Sinica.[23] At its peak, it ruled over the fifth largest empire territorially, constituting 9.87 per cent of the world's total land area.[24] The High Qing era was a period of sustained peace, economic prosperity and territorial expansion.[25] The multicultural and multiethnic nature of the Qing dynasty was fundamental to the subsequent formation of the modern nationalist concept of Zhonghua minzu. As the rulers of the Qing dynasty were ethnic Manchu, this period of peace is also sometimes known as "Pax Manjurica".[26][27][28]