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The Making of the Shatuo: Military Leadership and Border Unrest in North China's Daibei (808–880)

Maddalena Barenghi

Pages 39 - 70


This paper explores the stages of the Shatuo's growth in the late Tang period
(ninth century CE) from retainers to an enlarged military force. It shows how
“Shatuo” was used both for a specific military formation, the Daibei
expeditionary troops and for the troops affiliated to the Zhuxie-Li clan. The
latter were able to take advantage of the relative mobility that characterised
the Tang military ranks, quickly progressing through the ranks of the army and
taking over civilian positions as well. The Shatuo also benefited greatly from
the general shortage in manpower in the aftermath of the Uyghur refugee crisis
and the various mutinies that took place in the Hedong provincial armies during
this period. In both senses, different ethnic elements are to be found under the
catch-all term “Shatuo.” This paper shows how ethnicity played little to no role
in the internal dynamics of military affiliation. Belonging to the Shatuo was
more of a military, political, and constitutional matter. The emphasis on
biological and cultural ties among the Shatuo may only be the product of later
periods, as a means of expressing political loyalty.




Università Ca' Foscari Venezia / University of Venice

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