Battle of Talas (751)

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A Depiction of the Battle of Talas (751)
Duration:

July 27th, 751/July 30th, 751[1]
(1267 years, 6 months and 26 days ago)
Result:




  • Decisive Muslim Victory[2][3][4][5]
    —Chinese Expansion Ceases
    —Chinese Paper Secrets Revealed
    —Expansion of Golden Age
Belligerents:
Abbasidflag.jpg Abbasid Sultanate (Muslim)
Belligerents:
Tang Dynasty Flag (618-907).jpg Chinese Tang Dynasty (Buddhist)
Strength:
Abbasidflag.jpg 30,000—34,000 Abbasid[n. 1]
(at most; see below)




Strength:
Tang Dynasty Flag (618-907).jpg 55,000—91,000 Tang[n. 2]
(at most; see below)

Tang Dynasty Flag (618-907).jpg ??? Qarluq Turks[6][7]
(switched sides on day three of five[1])

Tang Dynasty Flag (618-907).jpg ??? Ferghanian Troops[8]
Casaulties:
Abbasidflag.jpg Unknown (Cavalry: Heavy[9])

Casaulties:
Tang Dynasty Flag (618-907).jpg 50,000 Killed[10][11]/Heavy[12][13]
Tang Dynasty Flag (618-907).jpg 20,000 Captured[10][11][14]

The Battle of Talas (also known as the "Battle of Atlakh") was a battle that occurred in 751, between the early Muslim Arab Abbasid Sultanate and the Chinese Tang Dynasty. It remains today the only battle in history where an Arab empire directly clashed with the Chinese in a war of supremacy for the control of Central Asia, the latter of which had grown rich with the coming of Arab settlers who had cultivated it's land and grown prosperous. Although the Chinese had had skirmishes with the Arabs several decades before (most notably in 715 and 717 whilst under the rule of the Umayyad Sultanate), Chinese soldiers did not actively participate or make up the rank and file of it's soldiers; indeed fighting with Turkish troops instead of Tang soldiers. The battle represented the furthermost conflict China had ever been involved with in the West at that point.

The battle was incredibly significant in the course of Islamic history as it helped advance the scientific and technological prowess of the Islamic world, chiefly as a result of information obtained from Chinese prisoners, who had been captured, and later forced to reveal the secret art of Chinese paper making. It was then manufactured on an industrial scale for export by processes developed by the Iranian-origin Soghdian Muslim merchants, who were already prevalent throughout Asia and had been operating for hundreds of years. Through their complex network of contacts, paper was to become immensely popularised throughout the Middle-east, Islamic Spain and eventually Europe. The production of paper became an industrialised art, and was hence credited with fuelling the Golden Age of Islam which was to last up until the Mongol Invasions in 1258, when scientific advancement was passed onto the surviving Umayyad's of Spain.

Another consequence of the battle was that Central Asia, which had been multi-religious in nature (although dominated by Buddhist powers such as the Tangut Tibetans and the various eclectic mixture of Turkish and Mongolian tribes), allowed Islam to solely dominate, although the Abbasids were less concerned with spreading Islam than benefiting economically. China was left unable to launch a counterattack after the battle and gave up attempting to subdue the West, whilst the Arabs did not even bother expanding East, even though they were perfectly capable of doing so. In the coming years the Abbasids and Tangs would form an alliance, respecting each others powers and staying out of each other's internal affairs, unless specifically asked. The Abbasids even sent 4,000 men to help subdue the "An-Lushan Rebellion" in China in 755—763.

History & Background

In the early 8th century, the Tang Dynasty (a mixed race Turkish/Chinese dynasty[15][16]) (618—907[17]) initiated a campaign to expand their territories westward into Central Asia,[18] which put them into conflict with two different groups; the first being the Buddhist/Shamanist[19] Turks of Mongolia, (Tujue Empire; 546—745[20]), and then the Tangut Buddhists (Tibetan Empire; 618–842[21]).[18] The former of these groups was first defeated at the hands of the Tang in 624[22]/630,[18] and then again in 657.[18] The Tangs eventually made peace with them in 722.[18] In 670, the Tanguts began conquering the Gansu region and the Tarim Basin;[18][22] and were subsequently viewed as a threat to Chinese interests, who thus defeated them as in 692.[18] Over the course of the 8th century however, the Tanguts fought sporadically with the Chinese, with each trying to contain the other.[18] In 736, the Tangs had managed to gain an upper hand, expanding into the Balkhash Lake area, whereas the Tanguts managed to conquer Kashgaria in the Western side of the Tarim Basin.[18] The Tang eventually uprooted them between 737 and 750.[18] However, it wouldn't be until 842 that Tibetan power would eventually collapse.[18][23] Until then and despite this, the success of the Chinese thus meant that by 744, they had extended their territories as far as the Issyk Kul Basin (north of Kashgaria) and were able to project their power as far as Samarkand, in modern day Uzbekistan.[18] Furthermore, under the leadership of the Korean general, Gao Xianzhi (also known as Kao Hsien-Chih[24]), by 751, the Tangs brought Pamirs, Kashmir, the Tarim Basin, and the South Oxus River under their total control.[25] This however placed them dangerously close to the Muslim Sultanates.
7th century map of Asia and Europe, showing the location of the Battle of Talas.
Attire of the Abbasid warriors of Khorassan.
As a result of the strong influence of the Chinese in both Ferghana and Tashkent, it is theorised that the conflict with the Arabs arose out a minor conflict between these respective cities.[25] For both the Arabs and the Chinese, Tashkent and Ferghana were important because they were integral cities amongst the web of others that made up the lucrative silk road trade route.[26][27] It is believed General Gao took to supporting Ferghana in its dispute with Tashkent, which lead the Chinese to march their army towards them and execute it's king.[25] The son of the Tashkent king was sent into grief over his fathers death, who then called upon his allies, the Arabs to come to his aid.[25] However a slightly different theory also exists, one which states that the Turkic king of Tashkent had originally capitulated to the Chinese, and decided to pay tribute to the Tangs in return for protection.[28] Between 743 and 749 this agreement kept things stable between the Chinese and it's Turkic vassal, who had loyally continuted to pay without problem.[28] However by 750, the Chinese accused him of "not fulfilling his obligations" and decided to rebuke their agreement, murder the king, and plunder his treasury, as well as kill his entire family.[28] This outrage lead Tashkent into an open rebellion, as the Chinese were now openly seen as enemies.[28] The kings son, had however managed to survive and fled to the Abbasid Sultanate (750—1517[29]), where he met with Abu Muslim (c. 718/727—755[30]) who sympathised with his cause.[28] Ziyad ibn Salih (????—????) was informed and lead the Abbasid forces to march towards the Tangs. In the meanwhile, the Chinese swelled their ranks with their newfound allies, the Qarlaq Turks.[9] Thus, the stage was set for the Battle of Talas 751.
However, in order to understand the far reaching consequences of the battle, it is first important to understand the significance of the area each respective army was fighting over. The Chinese became interested in the region after the first Muslims entered Central Asia in the middle of the 7th century.[31] The Arabs established the first permanent outpost in Merv (modern day Turkmenistan), moving some 50,000 settlers into the area, who were in search of better lives.[31] The majority of these settlers cultivated the land for food, growing different varieties of crops—namely wheat, grain, fruit, vegetables and sugar beet (the latter of which was initially imported from India), as well as cotton, flax and wool.[31] Eventually these farmers grew more economically prosperous and ventured into other professions.[31] Eventually lands adjacent to Merv were also settled, namely Bukhara—where the first mosque in Central Asia was established—Balkh, Samarkand, Khorezm and the Syr Darya River. Muslims further developed the region by introducing modern irrigation systems, developing the water wheel (moved by domesticated animals) and water mills in order to increase productivity.[31] The wealth that was eventually accumulated eventually lead to much of the population growing even richer, and allowed the flowering of both art and literature across the region, as well as in the development of its architecture.[31] As a result of the educational reforms brought in by scholars, literacy spread across the region, leading to even greater economic prosperity, and thus fuelling population growth.[31] However, by the 8th century, tensions between Muslims, Tibetans and the Tang Dynasty began bubbling.[31] These lands were so rich and well developed now that they became something to compete for.[31]
A map of Central Asia with Troop movements by the end of 1299.
7th century map of Asia and Europe, showing the location of the Battle of Talas.
In the early 8th century, the Tang Dynasty (a mixed race Turkish/Chinese dynasty[15][16]) (618—907[17]) initiated a campaign to expand their territories westward into Central Asia,[18] which put them into conflict with two different groups; the first being the Buddhist/Shamanist[19] Turks of Mongolia, (Tujue Empire; 546—745[20]), and then the Tangut Buddhists (Tibetan Empire; 618–842[21]).[18] The former of these groups was first defeated at the hands of the Tang in 624[22]/630,[18] and then again in 657.[18] The Tangs eventually made peace with them in 722.[18] In 670, the Tanguts began conquering the Gansu region and the Tarim Basin;[18][22] and were subsequently viewed as a threat to Chinese interests, who thus defeated them as in 692.[18] Over the course of the 8th century however, the Tanguts fought sporadically with the Chinese, with each trying to contain the other.[18] In 736, the Tangs had managed to gain an upper hand, expanding into the Balkhash Lake area, whereas the Tanguts managed to conquer Kashgaria in the Western side of the Tarim Basin.[18] The Tang eventually uprooted them between 737 and 750.[18] However, it wouldn't be until 842 that Tibetan power would eventually collapse.[18][23] Until then and despite this, the success of the Chinese thus meant that by 744, they had extended their territories as far as the Issyk Kul Basin (north of Kashgaria) and were able to project their power as far as Samarkand, in modern day Uzbekistan.[18] Furthermore, under the leadership of the Korean general, Gao Xianzhi (also known as Kao Hsien-Chih[24]), by 751, the Tangs brought Pamirs, Kashmir, the Tarim Basin, and the South Oxus River under their total control.[25] This however placed them dangerously close to the Muslim Sultanates.
Attire of the Abbasid warriors of Khorassan.
As a result of the strong influence of the Chinese in both Ferghana and Tashkent, it is theorised that the conflict with the Arabs arose out a minor conflict between these respective cities.[25] For both the Arabs and the Chinese, Tashkent and Ferghana were important because they were integral cities amongst the web of others that made up the lucrative silk road trade route.[26][27] It is believed General Gao took to supporting Ferghana in its dispute with Tashkent, which lead the Chinese to march their army towards them and execute it's king.[25] The son of the Tashkent king was sent into grief over his fathers death, who then called upon his allies, the Arabs to come to his aid.[25] However a slightly different theory also exists, one which states that the Turkic king of Tashkent had originally capitulated to the Chinese, and decided to pay tribute to the Tangs in return for protection.[28] Between 743 and 749 this agreement kept things stable between the Chinese and it's Turkic vassal, who had loyally continuted to pay without problem.[28] However by 750, the Chinese accused him of "not fulfilling his obligations" and decided to rebuke their agreement, murder the king, and plunder his treasury, as well as kill his entire family.[28] This outrage lead Tashkent into an open rebellion, as the Chinese were now openly seen as enemies.[28] The kings son, had however managed to survive and fled to the Abbasid Sultanate (750—1517[29]), where he met with Abu Muslim (c. 718/727—755[30]) who sympathised with his cause.[28] Ziyad ibn Salih (????—????) was informed and lead the Abbasid forces to march towards the Tangs. In the meanwhile, the Chinese swelled their ranks with their newfound allies, the Qarlaq Turks.[9] Thus, the stage was set for the Battle of Talas 751.
A map of Central Asia with Troop movements by the end of 1299.
However, in order to understand the far reaching consequences of the battle, it is first important to understand the significance of the area each respective army was fighting over. The Chinese became interested in the region after the first Muslims entered Central Asia in the middle of the 7th century.[31] The Arabs established the first permanent outpost in Merv (modern day Turkmenistan), moving some 50,000 settlers into the area, who were in search of better lives.[31] The majority of these settlers cultivated the land for food, growing different varieties of crops—namely wheat, grain, fruit, vegetables and sugar beet (the latter of which was initially imported from India), as well as cotton, flax and wool.[31] Eventually these farmers grew more economically prosperous and ventured into other professions.[31] Eventually lands adjacent to Merv were also settled, namely Bukhara—where the first mosque in Central Asia was established—Balkh, Samarkand, Khorezm and the Syr Darya River. Muslims further developed the region by introducing modern irrigation systems, developing the water wheel (moved by domesticated animals) and water mills in order to increase productivity.[31] The wealth that was eventually accumulated eventually lead to much of the population growing even richer, and allowed the flowering of both art and literature across the region, as well as in the development of its architecture.[31] As a result of the educational reforms brought in by scholars, literacy spread across the region, leading to even greater economic prosperity, and thus fuelling population growth.[31] However, by the 8th century, tensions between Muslims, Tibetans and the Tang Dynasty began bubbling.[31] These lands were so rich and well developed now that they became something to compete for.[31]

Battle & Strategy

By the time that the Muslims had managed to gather an army, word had spread to the Chinese that they intended to attack them.[8] Kao Hsien-Chih gathered his own army and marched West to meet them, adding with him Qarluq Turks and Ferghanian troops along the way.[8] They drew blood first, by attacking a Muslim position defended by Sa'd Hamid.[8] However, when they heard the approach of the Abbasid army, they retreated to the town of Atlakh, which was situated a few miles from the city of Talas.[8] A modern city exists, and can be found in Kirghiz, but the medieval city lies closer to the present day Dzhambul.[32] According to Chinese sources, the battle raged on for five days, whilst Arab sources did not note the duration conclusively.[32] Three days into the battle,[33] the Qarluqs turned on their Chinese allies and began massacring them from the rear.[9] According the Arab sources they had meticulously planned for the Qarluqs to turn on their allies when the time was right. Chinese sources mark this as a "flagrant act of betrayel" at the hands of the Turks which they cite as the main reason for their losing.[9] On the night prior to the defeat of the Chinese, Hsien-Chih's assistant general, Li Ssu-yeh advised his general not to pursue the fighting anymore, as by the morning they would total disaster, and may involve both of them being captured or dying as a result.[8] Hsien-Chih now made plans for a retreat, but unfortunately their only escape route was a narrow path which was blocked by retreating Ferghanian troops, camels and horses.[8] Li posed that they attack their own allies, and the Chinese proceeded with clubbing their own men to death.[8][34] Hsien-Chih managed to escape, but thousands of his own troops were captured, including paper making technicians.[8]
A Kazakh artists impression of the Battle of Talas.
A Kazakh artists impression of the Battle of Talas.
By the time that the Muslims had managed to gather an army, word had spread to the Chinese that they intended to attack them.[8] Kao Hsien-Chih gathered his own army and marched West to meet them, adding with him Qarluq Turks and Ferghanian troops along the way.[8] They drew blood first, by attacking a Muslim position defended by Sa'd Hamid.[8] However, when they heard the approach of the Abbasid army, they retreated to the town of Atlakh, which was situated a few miles from the city of Talas.[8] A modern city exists, and can be found in Kirghiz, but the medieval city lies closer to the present day Dzhambul.[32] According to Chinese sources, the battle raged on for five days, whilst Arab sources did not note the duration conclusively.[32] Three days into the battle,[33] the Qarluqs turned on their Chinese allies and began massacring them from the rear.[9] According the Arab sources they had meticulously planned for the Qarluqs to turn on their allies when the time was right. Chinese sources mark this as a "flagrant act of betrayel" at the hands of the Turks which they cite as the main reason for their losing.[9] On the night prior to the defeat of the Chinese, Hsien-Chih's assistant general, Li Ssu-yeh advised his general not to pursue the fighting anymore, as by the morning they would total disaster, and may involve both of them being captured or dying as a result.[8] Hsien-Chih now made plans for a retreat, but unfortunately their only escape route was a narrow path which was blocked by retreating Ferghanian troops, camels and horses.[8] Li posed that they attack their own allies, and the Chinese proceeded with clubbing their own men to death.[8][34] Hsien-Chih managed to escape, but thousands of his own troops were captured, including paper making technicians.[8]

Military & Weaponry

Abbasid Sultanate (c. 688 to c. 850)

Even though the Umayyad's were overthrown, they survived in Islamic Spain
The Umayyad Sultante (661—750) was overthrown in 750, and so it is reasonable to assume that the Abbasids who took over did not significantly change their tactics or units on field. The Umayyad cavalry was typically divided into armoured and unarmoured units, with the armoured units forming a small group of elite shock-troops.[35] The other troops were however used to destroy what was left of a broken enemy infantry.[35] By the 8th century, Marwan II (688—750) had brought in reforms to the structure of the military command, and made it compulsory for the cavalry to be armoured, with unarmoured horsemen used as reconnaissance troops.[35] These two forces were further sub-divided into seperate smaller units, each consisting of heavy infantry, bowmen and heavy cavalry.[35] The role of the last of these units was to make rapid, selective and repeated charges from behind it's own infantry units, the latter who's job it was to prevent the enemy cavalry from making charges.[35] It is thus so, that the horsemen were used as shock troops. During this time, horse armour became readily available, constructed from Bard felt, which prevented their horses from being struck by arrows.[35] The Arabs used horse armour so extensively that they were known to be heavier than the enemy Turkish troops they found in Transoxania, and hence held considerable advantage over.[35] The horsemen carried lances, maces and two swords (one of which was a khanjar dagger).[35] Bows were also used, but were not preferred and "often laid aside".[35] Unlike most cavalries however, the Umayyad and Abbasid were readily prepared to dismount mid-battle and fight.[35] This continued to the 9th century where it was recorded that military leaders "w[ere] still advising that cavalry also be trained to fight on foot".[35]
The most well known of the Abbasid forces were the "abna" cavalry (or the, "abna' al-dawla"[36]—or even "ayyaran"—literally "sons of the dynasty"[36]), who were the backbone[37] of the Abbasid army (dominating it's military until at least 850[38][39]) who had been recruited to Khurassan in the middle of the 8th century.[40] They had originally settled in Baghdad after the unit was founded, and virtually became identified with it.[40] They were a very adaptable force, talented in fighting both as infantrymen and cavalrymen, although they were famed for the former rather than the latter.[40] They were distinct from conventional infantries in that they were highly skilled, small in number and most of all professionally trained.[40] They were however not well paid (although other historians have said that they were part of the "elite" of society[41]),[42] and would have used infantry weapons typical of their time, being armed with swords, battle axes and shields.[40] The abna would later be overtaken by the use of Turkish troops in the 9th century.[42] Despite this, during their time, they were known to have been excellent lancers, able to fight exceptionally in urban settings such as street to street combat and prisons but also in trenches and defiles (narrow passes or gorges between mountains or hills).[42] The origins of the abna have been a point of debate; either descended from the Abbasid royalty themselves or their clients, or from the native Khurasanis, who helped the Abbasids overthrow the Umayyad's.[41] Other theories claim that they are the descendants of the horsemen of the Sassanid Empire (224–651[43]).[41] The abna also feature in the strategy game, "Medieval II: Total War" (2006), where they are described as "the most prestigious of the Abbasid Infantry Corps".[44]
The world in the 8th century; note the proximity of the Tang.
Abbasid frontier troops. The Abbasids fielded small, but highly skilled armies in battle.
The size of the Abbasid army across their entire Sultanate was between 100,000—150,000 troops.[45][46] Assessing the number has been considered difficult, although not entirely impossible.[46] One thing is common however, is that the Abbasids were small in number whenever they fought.[46] For example compared to their Umayyad enemies, they fielded militaries several times smaller.[46] This is understandable given that the Abbasids arose out of a portion of the Umayyad Sultanate during the rebellion and hence would have had less troops to field.[46] For example, during one major battle against the Umayyads, 20,000 Abbasids fought against a force of 50,000 men.[46] At the "Battle of Tell Kushaf" (750)—or the "Battle of the Zab" (750)—between 10,000—30,000 Abbasids fought against a force of up to 150,000.[46][47] Clearly the Abbasids were a highly skilled force that favoured quality over quantity. Across their empire they stationed 30,000 troops in Rayy (modern day Iran), and 40,000 troops in Ifriqiya (modern day Tunisia).[46] Adding in local garisons would give an additional 25,000, giving a grand total of some 100,000 men.[46] Much smaller forces also existed in provincial cities, such as 2,000 troops stationed at Mawsil (modern day Mosul, in Iraq), 4,000 at Ahwaz (modern day Khuzestan, Iran), and 600 in Basra (modern day Iraq).[46] All of them were full time.[46] It is important to note that the Abbasids did not rely on conscripts.[46] Although Arab sources clearly did not document how many of their troops fought at Talas in 751 it is reasonable to assume it was somewhere in the region of 34,000 (given Iran's proximity). Chinese sources claim the Arabs numbered 200,000,[48][9] (an obvious exaggeration as this was more than the entire empires supply). As time passed, they did grow larger, but this was mainly in the West.[46]
Even though the Umayyad's were overthrown, they survived in Islamic Spain
The Umayyad Sultante (661—750) was overthrown in 750, and so it is reasonable to assume that the Abbasids who took over did not significantly change their tactics or units on field. The Umayyad cavalry was typically divided into armoured and unarmoured units, with the armoured units forming a small group of elite shock-troops.[35] The other troops were however used to destroy what was left of a broken enemy infantry.[35] By the 8th century, Marwan II (688—750) had brought in reforms to the structure of the military command, and made it compulsory for the cavalry to be armoured, with unarmoured horsemen used as reconnaissance troops.[35] These two forces were further sub-divided into seperate smaller units, each consisting of heavy infantry, bowmen and heavy cavalry.[35] The role of the last of these units was to make rapid, selective and repeated charges from behind it's own infantry units, the latter who's job it was to prevent the enemy cavalry from making charges.[35] It is thus so, that the horsemen were used as shock troops. During this time, horse armour became readily available, constructed from Bard felt, which prevented their horses from being struck by arrows.[35] The Arabs used horse armour so extensively that they were known to be heavier than the enemy Turkish troops they found in Transoxania, and hence held considerable advantage over.[35] The horsemen carried lances, maces and two swords (one of which was a khanjar dagger).[35] Bows were also used, but were not preferred and "often laid aside".[35] Unlike most cavalries however, the Umayyad and Abbasid were readily prepared to dismount mid-battle and fight.[35] This continued to the 9th century where it was recorded that military leaders "w[ere] still advising that cavalry also be trained to fight on foot".[35]
The world in the 8th century; note the proximity of the Tang.
The most well known of the Abbasid forces were the "abna" cavalry (or the, "abna' al-dawla"[36]—or even "ayyaran"—literally "sons of the dynasty"[36]), who were the backbone[37] of the Abbasid army (dominating it's military until at least 850[38][39]) who had been recruited to Khurassan in the middle of the 8th century.[40] They had originally settled in Baghdad after the unit was founded, and virtually became identified with it.[40] They were a very adaptable force, talented in fighting both as infantrymen and cavalrymen, although they were famed for the former rather than the latter.[40] They were distinct from conventional infantries in that they were highly skilled, small in number and most of all professionally trained.[40] They were however not well paid (although other historians have said that they were part of the "elite" of society[41]),[42] and would have used infantry weapons typical of their time, being armed with swords, battle axes and shields.[40] The abna would later be overtaken by the use of Turkish troops in the 9th century.[42] Despite this, during their time, they were known to have been excellent lancers, able to fight exceptionally in urban settings such as street to street combat and prisons but also in trenches and defiles (narrow passes or gorges between mountains or hills).[42] The origins of the abna have been a point of debate; either descended from the Abbasid royalty themselves or their clients, or from the native Khurasanis, who helped the Abbasids overthrow the Umayyad's.[41] Other theories claim that they are the descendants of the horsemen of the Sassanid Empire (224–651[43]).[41] The abna also feature in the strategy game, "Medieval II: Total War" (2006), where they are described as "the most prestigious of the Abbasid Infantry Corps".[44]
Abbasid frontier troops. The Abbasids fielded small, but highly skilled armies in battle.
The size of the Abbasid army across their entire Sultanate was between 100,000—150,000 troops.[45][46] Assessing the number has been considered difficult, although not entirely impossible.[46] One thing is common however, is that the Abbasids were small in number whenever they fought.[46] For example compared to their Umayyad enemies, they fielded militaries several times smaller.[46] This is understandable given that the Abbasids arose out of a portion of the Umayyad Sultanate during the rebellion and hence would have had less troops to field.[46] For example, during one major battle against the Umayyads, 20,000 Abbasids fought against a force of 50,000 men.[46] At the "Battle of Tell Kushaf" (750)—or the "Battle of the Zab" (750)—between 10,000—30,000 Abbasids fought against a force of up to 150,000.[46][47] Clearly the Abbasids were a highly skilled force that favoured quality over quantity. Across their empire they stationed 30,000 troops in Rayy (modern day Iran), and 40,000 troops in Ifriqiya (modern day Tunisia).[46] Adding in local garisons would give an additional 25,000, giving a grand total of some 100,000 men.[46] Much smaller forces also existed in provincial cities, such as 2,000 troops stationed at Mawsil (modern day Mosul, in Iraq), 4,000 at Ahwaz (modern day Khuzestan, Iran), and 600 in Basra (modern day Iraq).[46] All of them were full time.[46] It is important to note that the Abbasids did not rely on conscripts.[46] Although Arab sources clearly did not document how many of their troops fought at Talas in 751 it is reasonable to assume it was somewhere in the region of 34,000 (given Iran's proximity). Chinese sources claim the Arabs numbered 200,000,[48][9] (an obvious exaggeration as this was more than the entire empires supply). As time passed, they did grow larger, but this was mainly in the West.[46]

Tang Dynasty (c. 680 to c. 755)

The organisational structure of the Tang military underwent several drastic changes which can be split into three distinct periods.[49] The first period covers the initial 60 years of the dynasty, where the fubing system was used.[49] This consisted of using part-time soldiers organised into territorially based units, and which made up the "backbone of the Tang military".[49] The second period covers c. 680 to c. 755, when the system was superseded by the use of long-term professional soldiers, who served as permanent units for the frontier.[49] The third period covers the garrisoning of these units after the An-Lushan Rebellion (755—763[50]) broke out.[49] However, it is precisely in the second period where the Tangs military might is of particular notability since it was used in the Battle of Talas in 751.[49] The reorganisation of the Tang military came about as a result of the emergence of their powerful adversaries in the West, namely the Tibetan Empire and the Eastern Turkish Qaghanate (as has been mentioned above).[49] The Chinese army, though enormous in size, which although victorious in battles, was unable to inflict decisive defeats on their enemies.[49] When the Chinese were defeated in battle, their enemies were also capable of threatening their exposed border prefectures.[49] As a result, the Chinese armies had to settle permanently.[49] By the 8th century, they were organised into ten frontier commands, nine of them being lead by officials with the title of "jiedushi" (governor).[49] The five largest of the frontier commands consisted of 55,000—91,000 men.[49] Thus the Arab claims of 100,000 Chinese fighting at Talas does not seem far-fetched,[10] even though both Western and Chinese historians claim the number to have been greatly exaggerated by the Arabs.[9][51]
Uiygar warriors, one of many factional opponents in Central Asia.
The Central Asian Turkic people invented the Sabre sword, which the Tangs also used.
In the course of Chinese history the Tang period was not one of military innovation, with them using older weapons designs.[52] Innovation was discouraged in favour of investment in scholarly arts such as science and poetry.[52] The succeeding dynasty, the Song (960—1280) however, took a more pragmatic approach, and invested significantly in weapons development.[52] This being said, the Tangs were by no means weak or disadvantaged (indeed they fielded more than 1,000,000 men at their peak).[49] Furthermore, this period is still viewed in the eyes of many Chinese as the peak of their civilisation (especially in regards to poetry and sculpture, and for being the most hospitable to foreigners),[53][54] where this period in Chinese history is immortalised in the word "China Town", where, in the Chinese language ("Tong Yun Fow") translates to "Town of the Tang".[55] In battle, the Tangs fielded typical Chinese weaponry of the time, which included the crossbow and armoured infantrymen who were trained in the Central Asian way of horsemanship and the use of iron stirrups.[16] The Tangs also made extensive use of the saber swords, which they called the "pei dao" ("sabre worn on the waist") or "heng dao" ("horizontal sabre").[56] This was a standard military ware for the Chinese armies, more specifically of the infantry and cavalry.[56] Interestingly, the earliest surviving sabre blades are currently held in China and Japan, however the sabre was invented by Central Asian Turkic people and the earliest depiction of them is found in a painting currently held in Tehran from the Ghaznavid era (986—1186).[57][58][n. 3] It may have been used as a secondary weapon, after the bow and spear, which were more common.[56] The Chinese also used shields, called "dun".[56]
There has been considerable disagreement amongst Western, Chinese and Arab historians over the size of the Chinese army, ranging from as low as 10,000 to as high as 100,000. Western and Chinese historians tend to band together and claim the Chinese numbered at most 10,000 men.[10] However, the problem with this theory is that this number seems unusually low, and relies on a Chinese source three centuries removed from 751; especially low given the context of how lucrative the spoils of war would have been, and the fact that the Chinese were already historically known to field very large armies elsewhere.[n. 4][n. 5] For example, during the Han Dynasty (202 BC—220 AD[59]), they fielded some 100,000 soldiers to fight the Dayuan Greeks (4th Century BC—2nd Century BC[60]) in Central Asia during the War of the Heavenly Horses (104—101 BC[61]).[62] Crucially, this was at a time when the Chinese did not have any permanent bases on the frontiers like the Tangs later did. At least 40,000 troops died, with the rest winning against the Greeks; having won 3,000 prized Ferghana horses as spoils.[62] Furthermore, given that the Tang period had ten permanent frontier garrisons, with five of them having at least between 55,000—91,000 soldiers between them,[49] the Chinese number of 10,000 again seems unusually low; especially given that that there was a four way power struggle[63][64] happening at the time between the Turks, Tibetans, Arabs and Chinese.[31] In all likelihood the number of Chinese probably did number close to 100,000, which is corroborated well with Arab sources,[10] and the Tang accounts of how large their manpower was on the frontier.[49] Given also that the Chinese did not re-challenge the Arab hegemony, strongly suggests that the Chinese did not have sufficient manpower after the battle to mount a serious counter-attack.
The Tang Dynasty was rich, powerful and fielded very large armies.
Uiygar warriors, one of many factional opponents in Central Asia.
The organisational structure of the Tang military underwent several drastic changes which can be split into three distinct periods.[49] The first period covers the initial 60 years of the dynasty, where the fubing system was used.[49] This consisted of using part-time soldiers organised into territorially based units, and which made up the "backbone of the Tang military".[49] The second period covers c. 680 to c. 755, when the system was superseded by the use of long-term professional soldiers, who served as permanent units for the frontier.[49] The third period covers the garrisoning of these units after the An-Lushan Rebellion (755—763[50]) broke out.[49] However, it is precisely in the second period where the Tangs military might is of particular notability since it was used in the Battle of Talas in 751.[49] The reorganisation of the Tang military came about as a result of the emergence of their powerful adversaries in the West, namely the Tibetan Empire and the Eastern Turkish Qaghanate (as has been mentioned above).[49] The Chinese army, though enormous in size, which although victorious in battles, was unable to inflict decisive defeats on their enemies.[49] When the Chinese were defeated in battle, their enemies were also capable of threatening their exposed border prefectures.[49] As a result, the Chinese armies had to settle permanently.[49] By the 8th century, they were organised into ten frontier commands, nine of them being lead by officials with the title of "jiedushi" (governor).[49] The five largest of the frontier commands consisted of 55,000—91,000 men.[49] Thus the Arab claims of 100,000 Chinese fighting at Talas does not seem far-fetched,[10] even though both Western and Chinese historians claim the number to have been greatly exaggerated by the Arabs.[9][51]
The Central Asian Turkic people invented the Sabre sword, which the Tangs also used.
In the course of Chinese history the Tang period was not one of military innovation, with them using older weapons designs.[52] Innovation was discouraged in favour of investment in scholarly arts such as science and poetry.[52] The succeeding dynasty, the Song (960—1280) however, took a more pragmatic approach, and invested significantly in weapons development.[52] This being said, the Tangs were by no means weak or disadvantaged (indeed they fielded more than 1,000,000 men at their peak).[49] Furthermore, this period is still viewed in the eyes of many Chinese as the peak of their civilisation (especially in regards to poetry and sculpture, and for being the most hospitable to foreigners),[53][54] where this period in Chinese history is immortalised in the word "China Town", where, in the Chinese language ("Tong Yun Fow") translates to "Town of the Tang".[55] In battle, the Tangs fielded typical Chinese weaponry of the time, which included the crossbow and armoured infantrymen who were trained in the Central Asian way of horsemanship and the use of iron stirrups.[16] The Tangs also made extensive use of the saber swords, which they called the "pei dao" ("sabre worn on the waist") or "heng dao" ("horizontal sabre").[56] This was a standard military ware for the Chinese armies, more specifically of the infantry and cavalry.[56] Interestingly, the earliest surviving sabre blades are currently held in China and Japan, however the sabre was invented by Central Asian Turkic people and the earliest depiction of them is found in a painting currently held in Tehran from the Ghaznavid era (986—1186).[57][65][n. 6] It may have been used as a secondary weapon, after the bow and spear, which were more common.[56] The Chinese also used shields, called "dun".[56]
The Tang Dynasty was rich, powerful and fielded very large armies.
There has been considerable disagreement amongst Western, Chinese and Arab historians over the size of the Chinese army, ranging from as low as 10,000 to as high as 100,000. Western and Chinese historians tend to band together and claim the Chinese numbered at most 10,000 men.[10] However, the problem with this theory is that this number seems unusually low, and relies on a Chinese source three centuries removed from 751; especially low given the context of how lucrative the spoils of war would have been, and the fact that the Chinese were already historically known to field very large armies elsewhere.[n. 7][n. 8] For example, during the Han Dynasty (202 BC—220 AD[59]), they fielded some 100,000 soldiers to fight the Dayuan Greeks (4th Century BC—2nd Century BC[60]) in Central Asia during the War of the Heavenly Horses (104—101 BC[61]).[62] Crucially, this was at a time when the Chinese did not have any permanent bases on the frontiers like the Tangs later did. At least 40,000 troops died, with the rest winning against the Greeks; having won 3,000 prized Ferghana horses as spoils.[62] Furthermore, given that the Tang period had ten permanent frontier garrisons, with five of them having at least between 55,000—91,000 soldiers between them,[49] the Chinese number of 10,000 again seems unusually low; especially given that that there was a four way power struggle[63][64] happening at the time between the Turks, Tibetans, Arabs and Chinese.[31] In all likelihood the number of Chinese probably did number close to 100,000, which is corroborated well with Arab sources,[10] and the Tang accounts of how large their manpower was on the frontier.[49] Given also that the Chinese did not re-challenge the Arab hegemony, strongly suggests that the Chinese did not have sufficient manpower after the battle to mount a serious counter-attack.

Casualties & Aftermath

Relationship Between Abbasid & Tang

One important thing to note here is that the Arabs—in the form of the Umayyad Sultanate—and Chinese—in the form of the Tang—had indirectly clashed before, at least twice; once in December 715 and then once again at the "Battle of Aksu" in 717. The first clash involved an alliance of Arab and Tibetan soldiers, who installed Alutar as the King of Fergana, angering the Chinese emperor Xuanzong (685—762), who then sent a small force of 10,000 men (composed mainly of central Asian troops[66]), lead by Zhang Xiosong, who sought to restore the previous king, Ikhshid, back to power; which he was successful in doing.[67] It is said "[f]rom midmorning to late afternoon he slaughtered the inhabitants of the three cities, and captured or decapitated over a thousand people...Alutar fled with some riders into the mountain valleys...[and] thus did the Tang armies end Arab-Tibetan rule in Ferghana".[66] Then on August 15th, 717, an alliance of Arabs, Tibetans and Turgis Turks (the latter leading)[68], clashed with the Tang (who's army exclusively comprised of Turkish soldiers).[69] The Chinese-led contingent were once again victorious. Thus, the Chinese had seemingly never actually directly clashed with the Arabs. In 715 especially, neither empire had fully appreciated what had just occurred.[66] The clash represented the converging of three aggressively expansionist empires in Central Asia, and yet neither the Tangs, Umayyads or the Tibetans had fully given this any iota of significant thought.[66] For the Chinese, the Arabs were still as of yet a far away nation.[66] For the Arabs, they just realised that they had arrived at the borders of the Tang, and for the Tibetans, not much is known as their historical accounts remain fragmented.[66]
Umayyad soldiers.
The locations of Yangzhou and Guangzhou.
Although the Chinese lost the battle, they did not not record their dead. However Arab sources mention 50,000 Chinese dead, and 20,000 enslaved, leaving at least 30,000 soldiers fleeing the field.[70] Unfortunately figures for the amount of Muslim dead remain unknown. Despite this crushing victory, the Tangs took this defeat with grace and dignity. For example, a curious outcome of the battle was that trade relations between the Abbasids and the Tang somewhat grew.[70] This was probably as a result of the Chinese recognising and respecting the strength of the Arab Muslim forces. Had they remained hostile, as one author notes, "the [Chinese] could have fallen under Abbasid dominance like other parts of Asia, Southern Europe and West Africa".[70] However, the Abbasids decided to pursue a more cooperative relationship, having made peace with the Chinese.[70] The Tang leadership even opened up their immigration controls, and allowed Arab Muslims into their territory to trade, welcoming them and encouraging them to inter-mingle with Chinese society.[70] The relationship grew so significant that when the An-Lushan Rebellion broke out in 755 and lasted until 763, the Chinese requested the help of the Muslims to help suppress multiple revolts, to which the Abbasids gladly intervened.[70] At least 4,000 Muslims were known to have taken part in helping to defeat the usurper.[70] Su-Tsung (711–762[71]), the rightful emperor awarded these Arabs permission to settle down permanently within the empire as a marker of his gratitude.[70] More than 1,000 years later China conquered the East Turkmenistan regions, and since then they have remained in possession of it and occupied it (today it is known Xinjiang and is heavily suppressed by the Chinese communist party[72]).[70]
Trade and commerce relations between the two empires overall however remained static, with only a few embassies sent here and there.[73][n. 9] However a mere nine years after the clash, a massacre called the "Yangzhou Massacre" of 760 occurred;[74] which saw the deaths of thousands of foreigners.[75] Unsurprisingly, it took place during the An-Lushan Rebellion, and was caused by the Tang general Tian Shengong, who entered Yangzhou with the specific aim of liquidating minorities.[74][76] They were also killed because they had accumulated vast amounts of wealth, and as such were ripe for pillaging. Prior to this, in 758, Persian and Arab merchants had also attacked the Chinese and sacked Guangzhou.[74] A similar massacre took place in 879 (and is also known as the "Canton Massacre"/"Guangzhou Massacre").[77] Again foreigners became a specific target, including tens of thousands of Muslims, but also Jews, Zoroastrians and Christians, this time caused by another rebel leader Huang Chao.[77] It is perhaps curious that state sanctioned terror was also instigated by the Tangs against religious minorities in 845, which specifically targeted Buddhism,[78] Zoroastrianism,[79] Nestorian Christianity[80] and Manichaeism,[81] but not Islam. It is believed that the latter was left out as the Chinese government did not believe Islam to be a threat or a corrupting influence upon the Chinese.[82][n. 10] The Arabs and Persian Muslims who went to China had for centuries kept a low profile by not involving themselves in matters of religion amongst the Chinese, never proselytizing, which probably explains why the Chinese were so lax with Muslims officially, as the edict which specifically targeted the other religions never once mentioned Islam.[n. 11]
Guangzho Massacre (878–879), where tens of thousands of Muslims died.
Umayyad soldiers.
One important thing to note here is that the Arabs—in the form of the Umayyad Sultanate—and Chinese—in the form of the Tang—had indirectly clashed before, at least twice; once in December 715 and then once again at the "Battle of Aksu" in 717. The first clash involved an alliance of Arab and Tibetan soldiers, who installed Alutar as the King of Fergana, angering the Chinese emperor Xuanzong (685—762), who then sent a small force of 10,000 men (composed mainly of central Asian troops[66]), lead by Zhang Xiosong, who sought to restore the previous king, Ikhshid, back to power; which he was successful in doing.[67] It is said "[f]rom midmorning to late afternoon he slaughtered the inhabitants of the three cities, and captured or decapitated over a thousand people...Alutar fled with some riders into the mountain valleys...[and] thus did the Tang armies end Arab-Tibetan rule in Ferghana".[66] Then on August 15th, 717, an alliance of Arabs, Tibetans and Turgis Turks (the latter leading)[68], clashed with the Tang (who's army exclusively comprised of Turkish soldiers).[69] The Chinese-led contingent were once again victorious. Thus, the Chinese had seemingly never actually directly clashed with the Arabs. In 715 especially, neither empire had fully appreciated what had just occurred.[66] The clash represented the converging of three aggressively expansionist empires in Central Asia, and yet neither the Tangs, Umayyads or the Tibetans had fully given this any iota of significant thought.[66] For the Chinese, the Arabs were still as of yet a far away nation.[66] For the Arabs, they just realised that they had arrived at the borders of the Tang, and for the Tibetans, not much is known as their historical accounts remain fragmented.[66]
The locations of Yangzhou and Guangzhou.
Although the Chinese lost the battle, they did not not record their dead. However Arab sources mention 50,000 Chinese dead, and 20,000 enslaved, leaving at least 30,000 soldiers fleeing the field.[70] Unfortunately figures for the amount of Muslim dead remain unknown. Despite this crushing victory, the Tangs took this defeat with grace and dignity. For example, a curious outcome of the battle was that trade relations between the Abbasids and the Tang somewhat grew.[70] This was probably as a result of the Chinese recognising and respecting the strength of the Arab Muslim forces. Had they remained hostile, as one author notes, "the [Chinese] could have fallen under Abbasid dominance like other parts of Asia, Southern Europe and West Africa".[70] However, the Abbasids decided to pursue a more cooperative relationship, having made peace with the Chinese.[70] The Tang leadership even opened up their immigration controls, and allowed Arab Muslims into their territory to trade, welcoming them and encouraging them to inter-mingle with Chinese society.[70] The relationship grew so significant that when the An-Lushan Rebellion broke out in 755 and lasted until 763, the Chinese requested the help of the Muslims to help suppress multiple revolts, to which the Abbasids gladly intervened.[70] At least 4,000 Muslims were known to have taken part in helping to defeat the usurper.[70] Su-Tsung (711–762[71]), the rightful emperor awarded these Arabs permission to settle down permanently within the empire as a marker of his gratitude.[70] More than 1,000 years later China conquered the East Turkmenistan regions, and since then they have remained in possession of it and occupied it (today it is known Xinjiang and is heavily suppressed by the Chinese communist party[72]).[70]
Guangzho Massacre (878–879), where tens of thousands of Muslims died.
Trade and commerce relations between the two empires overall however remained static, with only a few embassies sent here and there.[73][n. 12] However a mere nine years after the clash, a massacre called the "Yangzhou Massacre" of 760 occurred;[74] which saw the deaths of thousands of foreigners.[75] Unsurprisingly, it took place during the An-Lushan Rebellion, and was caused by the Tang general Tian Shengong, who entered Yangzhou with the specific aim of liquidating minorities.[74][76] They were also killed because they had accumulated vast amounts of wealth, and as such were ripe for pillaging. Prior to this, in 758, Persian and Arab merchants had also attacked the Chinese and sacked Guangzhou.[74] A similar massacre took place in 879 (and is also known as the "Canton Massacre"/"Guangzhou Massacre").[77] Again foreigners became a specific target, including tens of thousands of Muslims, but also Jews, Zoroastrians and Christians, this time caused by another rebel leader Huang Chao.[77] It is perhaps curious that state sanctioned terror was also instigated by the Tangs against religious minorities in 845, which specifically targeted Buddhism,[78] Zoroastrianism,[79] Nestorian Christianity[80] and Manichaeism,[81] but not Islam. It is believed that the latter was left out as the Chinese government did not believe Islam to be a threat or a corrupting influence upon the Chinese.[82][n. 13] The Arabs and Persian Muslims who went to China had for centuries kept a low profile by not involving themselves in matters of religion amongst the Chinese, never proselytizing, which probably explains why the Chinese were so lax with Muslims officially, as the edict which specifically targeted the other religions never once mentioned Islam.[n. 14]

Paper-Making & The Islamic Golden Age

See List of Inventions and Discoveries in Medicine During the Islamic Golden Age
Samarkand Paper was used to make other things such as these puppets.
After the Battle of Talas, the Abbasids were in possession of a significant number of Chinese prisoners; at least 20,000 had been captured and represented a significant pool of human resources.[83] These prisoners were held in Samarkand, modern day Uzbekistan.[6] One unforeseen circumstance of keeping these prisoners was that some of them were allowed their freedom in exchange for teaching at Muslims any new knowledge that they possessed.[84][85][86] Some of these prisoners went on to reveal the secret art of Chinese paper-making;[86] showing their captors how the cheaper,[87][88] and more cost efficient,[89] method of paper was made. Prior to this Muslims had been using very expensive material, including parchment (which is made from animal skin[90]), papyrus (an Egyptian invention made from the papyrus plant[91]) and even silk (produced by silk producing organisms[92]). The latter was especially expensive.[93][94] With the advent of this knowledge, the Abbasids—who were great patrons of the sciences anyway,[95] and lead the Muslims into the Islamic Golden Age (750—1258[96][97])—set up large scale paper manufacturing centres within the space of a year, starting in Samarkand in 751 (the lost art of making Samarkand paper was re-discovered in 2001[98]).[99][n. 15] The technology spread further West with the aid of rich Soghdian (Iranian) merchants from Samarkhand,[100] who shipped significant loads of product throughout the Islamic world. By 1150,[101] it was being produced in Muslim Spain (711—1492[102]), and exported to Europe and the East.[103] Prior to this, China was exporting paper to Central Asia, and even as far as Sassanid Persia (224—651[104]).[105] However this paper were expensive, and more of a luxury.[105]
One important group to mention which helped spread the manufacturing of paper across the Muslim world were Sogdhian merchants, who were a sovreign Iranian people living between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, but lacked a state of their own.[106] They were merchants originally from Iran, but did not actually live there. Evidence exists that they were operating in China since at least the 11 BC,[106] and followed the Zoroastrian faith. Knowledge of the Sogdhians was enhanced when an abandoned mailbag was found near the Great Wall (constructed between 221—206 BC[107]), which contained a series of letters written by Sogdhian merchants (dated between 307—311).[108] They were also important in spreading music, cuisine, religions (such as Macnichaeism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Christianity), as well as other belief systems to the Muslim Central Asians.[109] Although many Soghdians died during the Muslim conquests, the Soghdians would eventually convert to Islam out of their own volition.[106] By 750, they were almost all exclusively Muslim.[110] They were essentially "middle-men" who also helped transfer scientific knowledge throughout their existence, and had their own independent language (which has since gone extinct[111]).[109] One of their contributions was during the 6th century, where the Soghdians introduced the Turkic nomadic people of the Steppes to their first alphabet, and to their first administrative system.[109] But more importantly, after the Battle of Talas, they innovatively helped optimize paper manufacturing, after talking to the Chinese prisoners that the Abbasids had captured.[109] The Soghdian paper making process eventually lead to the the creation of the world's largest library, the "Bayt al-Hikma" (or the "Dar al-Hikma"), better known as the "House of Wisdom", in Baghdad, Iraq.[109]
The Soghdians, converts to Islam from at least 750, innovatively manufactured a paper process which helped spread the use of paper throughout the Muslim world.
The advent of paper saw an explosive growth in scientific advancement across the Muslim world.
With the advent of paper came the Islamic Golden Age, considered the pinnacle of Islamic civilisation. However, by no means was paper the only factor; indeed there were several, including religion (where Muhammad stated that "The scholar’s ink is more sacred than the blood of martyrs",[112], and "[f]or every disease, Allah has given a cure"[113]), the unification of vast geographic areas, Arabic becoming the lingua franca, the establishment of libraries in Cairo, Aleppo, Baghdad, Iran, Central Asia and Islamic Spain, the spread of bookshops, and the establishment of the worlds first universities (the "University of Al Quaraouiyine", founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri; c. 800—c. 880).[114] Notable work in particular was done in the field of medicine, with outstanding individuals being Yuhanna Massuwayh (who was the first to discover the existence of food allergies[115]), Rhazes (who discovered smallpox, measles,[116][n. 16] allergies causing diseases,[117] the laryngeal branch of the recurrent nerve,[118] mercurial ointments,[119][120][121][122] and introduced the first hot moist compresses in surgery[123]) Abulcasis (who advanced tracheotomy[124] and lithotomy, introduced the use of cotton[125][n. 17] and catgut into medicine,[126] discovered extra-uterine pregnancy,[127] cancer of the kidney,[128][n. 18] ectopic pregnancy,[129][n. 19] and haemophilia[130][n. 20]), Avicenna (who discovered the guinea worm,[131][n. 21] meningitis,[132] anthrax[133][n. 22] the contagious nature of pulmonary tuberculosis,[134][n. 23] cerebellar vermis, caudate nucleas,[135][n. 24] and introduced urethral drug instillation[114]) Avenzoar (who discovered pericarditis,[136][137] otitis media,[137] mediastinitis,[138] paralysis of the pharynx,[139]) and Ibn-Nafis (who discovered pulmonary circulation).[140] This ended with the Mongol (1206—1368[141]).
Samarkand Paper was used to make other things such as these puppets.
After the Battle of Talas, the Abbasids were in possession of a significant number of Chinese prisoners; at least 20,000 had been captured and represented a significant pool of human resources.[83] These prisoners were held in Samarkand, modern day Uzbekistan.[6] One unforeseen circumstance of keeping these prisoners was that some of them were allowed their freedom in exchange for teaching at Muslims any new knowledge that they possessed.[84][85][86] Some of these prisoners went on to reveal the secret art of Chinese paper-making;[86] showing their captors how the cheaper,[87][88] and more cost efficient,[89] method of paper was made. Prior to this Muslims had been using very expensive material, including parchment (which is made from animal skin[90]), papyrus (an Egyptian invention made from the papyrus plant[91]) and even silk (produced by silk producing organisms[92]). The latter was especially expensive.[93][94] With the advent of this knowledge, the Abbasids—who were great patrons of the sciences anyway,[95] and lead the Muslims into the Islamic Golden Age (750—1258[96][97])—set up large scale paper manufacturing centres within the space of a year, starting in Samarkand in 751 (the lost art of making Samarkand paper was re-discovered in 2001[98]).[99][n. 25] The technology spread further West with the aid of rich Soghdian (Iranian) merchants from Samarkhand,[100] who shipped significant loads of product throughout the Islamic world. By 1150,[101] it was being produced in Muslim Spain (711—1492[102]), and exported to Europe and the East.[103] Prior to this, China was exporting paper to Central Asia, and even as far as Sassanid Persia (224—651[104]).[105] However this paper were expensive, and more of a luxury.[105]
The Soghdians, converts to Islam from at least 750, innovatively manufactured a paper process which helped spread the use of paper throughout the Muslim world.
One important group to mention which helped spread the manufacturing of paper across the Muslim world were Sogdhian merchants, who were a sovreign Iranian people living between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, but lacked a state of their own.[106] They were merchants originally from Iran, but did not actually live there. Evidence exists that they were operating in China since at least the 11 BC,[106] and followed the Zoroastrian faith. Knowledge of the Sogdhians was enhanced when an abandoned mailbag was found near the Great Wall (constructed between 221—206 BC[107]), which contained a series of letters written by Sogdhian merchants (dated between 307—311).[108] They were also important in spreading music, cuisine, religions (such as Macnichaeism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Christianity), as well as other belief systems to the Muslim Central Asians.[109] Although many Soghdians died during the Muslim conquests, the Soghdians would eventually convert to Islam out of their own volition.[106] By 750, they were almost all exclusively Muslim.[110] They were essentially "middle-men" who also helped transfer scientific knowledge throughout their existence, and had their own independent language (which has since gone extinct[111]).[109] One of their contributions was during the 6th century, where the Soghdians introduced the Turkic nomadic people of the Steppes to their first alphabet, and to their first administrative system.[109] But more importantly, after the Battle of Talas, they innovatively helped optimize paper manufacturing, after talking to the Chinese prisoners that the Abbasids had captured.[109] The Soghdian paper making process eventually lead to the the creation of the world's largest library, the "Bayt al-Hikma" (or the "Dar al-Hikma"), better known as the "House of Wisdom", in Baghdad, Iraq.[109]
The advent of paper saw an explosive growth in scientific advancement across the Muslim world.
With the advent of paper came the Islamic Golden Age, considered the pinnacle of Islamic civilisation. However, by no means was paper the only factor; indeed there were several, including religion (where Muhammad stated that "The scholar’s ink is more sacred than the blood of martyrs",[112], and "[f]or every disease, Allah has given a cure"[113]), the unification of vast geographic areas, Arabic becoming the lingua franca, the establishment of libraries in Cairo, Aleppo, Baghdad, Iran, Central Asia and Islamic Spain, the spread of bookshops, and the establishment of the worlds first universities (the "University of Al Quaraouiyine", founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri; c. 800—c. 880).[114] Notable work in particular was done in the field of medicine, with outstanding individuals being Yuhanna Massuwayh (who was the first to discover the existence of food allergies[142]), Rhazes (who discovered smallpox, measles,[116][n. 26] allergies causing diseases,[117] the laryngeal branch of the recurrent nerve,[118] mercurial ointments,[119][120][143][122] and introduced the first hot moist compresses in surgery[123]) Abulcasis (who advanced tracheotomy[124] and lithotomy, introduced the use of cotton[125][n. 27] and catgut into medicine,[126] discovered extra-uterine pregnancy,[144] cancer of the kidney,[128][n. 28] ectopic pregnancy,[129][n. 29] and haemophilia[130][n. 30]), Avicenna (who discovered the guinea worm,[145][n. 31] meningitis,[132] anthrax[146][n. 32] the contagious nature of pulmonary tuberculosis,[134][n. 33] cerebellar vermis, caudate nucleas,[135][n. 34] and introduced urethral drug instillation[114]) Avenzoar (who discovered pericarditis,[136][137] otitis media,[137] mediastinitis,[147] paralysis of the pharynx,[139]) and Ibn-Nafis (who discovered pulmonary circulation).[140] This ended with the Mongol (1206—1368[141]).

Sources

Footnotes

  1. ^ Across their empire they stationed 30,000 troops in Rayy (modern day Iran), and 40,000 troops in Ifriqiya (modern day Tunisia). Adding in local garisons would give an additional 25,000, giving a grand total of some 100,000 men. Much smaller forces also existed in provincial cities, such as 2,000 troops stationed at Mawsil (modern day Mosul, in Iraq), 4,000 at Ahwaz (modern day Khuzestan, Iran), and 600 in Basra (modern day Iraq). All of these soldiers were full time. It is important to note that the Abbasids did not rely on conscripts. Although Arab sources clearly did not document how many of their troops fought at Talas in 751 it is reasonable to assume it was somewhere in the region of 34,000 (given Iran's proximity). Chinese sources claim the Arabs numbered 200,000, (an obvious exaggeration as this was more than the entire empires supply). As time passed, they did grow larger, but this was mainly in the West.
    1. Hugh Kennedy (17 June 2013). The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State. Routledge. pp. 96–99. ISBN 978-1-134-53113-4.
    2. Dale Albert Johnson (9 December 2017). Stages of Consciousness. Lulu.com. pp. 170. ISBN 978-1-387-43081-9.
  2. ^ As a result, the Chinese armies had to settle permanently. By the 8th century, they were organised into ten frontier commands, nine of them being lead by officials with the title of "jiedushi" (governor). The five largest of the frontier commands consisted of 55,000—91,000 men. Thus the Arab claims of 100,000 Chinese fighting at Talas does not seem far-fetched, even though both Western and Chinese historians claim the number to have been greatly exaggerated by the Arabs.
    1. Graff, David A. (2017). THE REACH OF THE MILITARY: TANG. Journal of Chinese History. 1 (02): 243–268. doi:10.1017/jch.2016.35. ISSN 2059-1632.
    2. Muhamad Olimat (2013). China and the Middle East: From Silk Road to Arab Spring. Routledge. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-85743-631-0.
  3. ^ Quote: "The sabre with a slightly curved blade seems to have its origin with the old Turkic nomadic tribes of the Innter Asian Steppes. An example of a slightly curved sabre from the tenth century of Mongolian origin may provide good evidence of this,,,The earliest depiction of a sabre is kept in the National Museum in Tehran and is originally from Nishapur. It is dated to the tenth or possibly the 11th century. The depiction is from a mural painting, presumably from the time of the Ghaznavids (977-1186), and shows a horseman".
    1. The Diez Albums: Contexts and Contents. BRILL. 22 December 2016. p. 341. ISBN 978-90-04-32348-3.
  4. ^ Quote: "During the Sui and Tang, Chinese armies, based on the Fubing system invented during the era of division, won military successes that restored the empire of the Han Dynasty and reasserted Chinese power. The Tang created large contingents of powerful heavy infantry. A key component of the success of Sui and Tang Armies just like the earlier Qin and Han armies, was the adoption of the large elements of cavalry. These powerful horsemen, combined with the superior firepower of the Chinese infantry (powerful missile weapons such as recurve crossbows), made Chinese armies powerful".
    1. Dr R K Sahay (24 May 2016). History of China's Military. Vij Books India Pvt Ltd. p. 104. ISBN 978-93-86019-90-5.
  5. ^ The Chinese also took with them tens of thousands of food and horses with them when they also went into battle. For example, during the War of the Heavenly Horses, the second military contigent consisted of over 100,000 oxen.
    Quote: ""...a vast army of 60,000 men, 100,000 oxen and more than 30,000 horses was assembled and marched to Ershi".
    1. Jonathan Tucker (28 February 2015). The Silk Road - China and the Karakorum Highway: A Travel Companion. I.B.Tauris. pp. 21. ISBN 978-1-78076-356-9.
  6. ^ Quote: "The sabre with a slightly curved blade seems to have its origin with the old Turkic nomadic tribes of the Innter Asian Steppes. An example of a slightly curved sabre from the tenth century of Mongolian origin may provide good evidence of this,,,The earliest depiction of a sabre is kept in the National Museum in Tehran and is originally from Nishapur. It is dated to the tenth or possibly the 11th century. The depiction is from a mural painting, presumably from the time of the Ghaznavids (977-1186), and shows a horseman".
    1. The Diez Albums: Contexts and Contents. BRILL. 22 December 2016. p. 341. ISBN 978-90-04-32348-3.
  7. ^ Quote: "During the Sui and Tang, Chinese armies, based on the Fubing system invented during the era of division, won military successes that restored the empire of the Han Dynasty and reasserted Chinese power. The Tang created large contingents of powerful heavy infantry. A key component of the success of Sui and Tang Armies just like the earlier Qin and Han armies, was the adoption of the large elements of cavalry. These powerful horsemen, combined with the superior firepower of the Chinese infantry (powerful missile weapons such as recurve crossbows), made Chinese armies powerful".
    1. Dr R K Sahay (24 May 2016). History of China's Military. Vij Books India Pvt Ltd. p. 104. ISBN 978-93-86019-90-5.
  8. ^ The Chinese also took with them tens of thousands of food and horses with them when they also went into battle. For example, during the War of the Heavenly Horses, the second military contigent consisted of over 100,000 oxen.
    Quote: ""...a vast army of 60,000 men, 100,000 oxen and more than 30,000 horses was assembled and marched to Ershi".
    1. Jonathan Tucker (28 February 2015). The Silk Road - China and the Karakorum Highway: A Travel Companion. I.B.Tauris. pp. 21. ISBN 978-1-78076-356-9.
  9. ^ Quote: "The Abbasid Caliphs sent no fewer than twenty embassies to the Tang between 751 and 798, while recently discovered tomb stele indicates that the Tang sent at least one mission to the Abbasids. We also have the revealing account by one Du Huan, a member of Gao Xianzhi's army who was captured by the Arabs at Talas and returned to China on a merchant ship to Guangzhou in 761. In his account of Kufa (the initial capital of the Abbasids) and Abbasid society he describes Chinese painters, silk weavers and gold and silver craftsmen living and working there. The presence of Arab merchants and Muslims in Tang China is more difficult to document, even though there is no doubt that both were there.".
    1. John W. Chaffee (2018-05-31). The Muslim Merchants of Premodern China: The History of a Maritime Asian Trade Diaspora, 750–1400. Cambridge University Press. p. 17-18. ISBN 978-1-108-64009-1.
  10. ^ "...but from 879, the date of the Canton massacre, for more than three centuries to follow, we hear nothing of the Mahometans and their religion. They were not mentioned in the edict of 845, which proved such a blow to Buddhism and Nestorian Christianity – perhaps because they were less obtrusive in the propagation of their religion, a policy aided by the absence of anything like a commercial spirit in religious matters".
    1. Herbert Allen Giles. Confucianism and Its Rivals. Forgotten Books. p. 138-139. ISBN 978-1-60680-248-9.
  11. ^ "...but from 879, the date of the Canton massacre, for more than three centuries to follow, we hear nothing of the Mahometans and their religion. They were not mentioned in the edict of 845, which proved such a blow to Buddhism and Nestorian Christianity – perhaps because they were less obtrusive in the propagation of their religion, a policy aided by the absence of anything like a commercial spirit in religious matters".
    1. Herbert Allen Giles. Confucianism and Its Rivals. Forgotten Books. p. 138-139. ISBN 978-1-60680-248-9.
  12. ^ Quote: "The Abbasid Caliphs sent no fewer than twenty embassies to the Tang between 751 and 798, while recently discovered tomb stele indicates that the Tang sent at least one mission to the Abbasids. We also have the revealing account by one Du Huan, a member of Gao Xianzhi's army who was captured by the Arabs at Talas and returned to China on a merchant ship to Guangzhou in 761. In his account of Kufa (the initial capital of the Abbasids) and Abbasid society he describes Chinese painters, silk weavers and gold and silver craftsmen living and working there. The presence of Arab merchants and Muslims in Tang China is more difficult to document, even though there is no doubt that both were there.".
    1. John W. Chaffee (2018-05-31). The Muslim Merchants of Premodern China: The History of a Maritime Asian Trade Diaspora, 750–1400. Cambridge University Press. p. 17-18. ISBN 978-1-108-64009-1.
  13. ^ "...but from 879, the date of the Canton massacre, for more than three centuries to follow, we hear nothing of the Mahometans and their religion. They were not mentioned in the edict of 845, which proved such a blow to Buddhism and Nestorian Christianity – perhaps because they were less obtrusive in the propagation of their religion, a policy aided by the absence of anything like a commercial spirit in religious matters".
    1. Herbert Allen Giles. Confucianism and Its Rivals. Forgotten Books. p. 138-139. ISBN 978-1-60680-248-9.
  14. ^ "...but from 879, the date of the Canton massacre, for more than three centuries to follow, we hear nothing of the Mahometans and their religion. They were not mentioned in the edict of 845, which proved such a blow to Buddhism and Nestorian Christianity – perhaps because they were less obtrusive in the propagation of their religion, a policy aided by the absence of anything like a commercial spirit in religious matters".
    1. Herbert Allen Giles. Confucianism and Its Rivals. Forgotten Books. p. 138-139. ISBN 978-1-60680-248-9.
  15. ^ Paper making started out in Samarkand largely because of the availability of the raw materials that were available for producing it.
    Quote: "...led to the establishment of paper-making in Samarkand (where local hemp and flax and the abundant water from the karez provided raw materials in abundance".
    1. Frances Wood (September 2004). Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia. University of California Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-520-24340-8.
  16. ^ Quote: "Al Razi was the first to describe smallpox and measles. He was accurate to such a degree that nothing has been added since then."
    1. Joseph E. Pizzorno (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 435. ISBN 1-4377-2333-0.
  17. ^ Quote: "Al-Zahrawi was also the first surgeon in history to use cotton, which is an Arabic word, as surgical dressings for the control of haemorrhage."
    1. Joseph E. Pizzorno (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 435. ISBN 1-4377-2333-0.
  18. ^ Quote: "Arab and Muslim physicians identified several cancer types, including eye, nasal, tongue, stomach (gastric), liver, the urinary system, kidney, testis, and breast cancer, as well as spleen and nerve tumor. For instance, kidney's cancer was mentioned clearly, for the first time, by Al Zahrawi (Abulcasis 936 - 1013 AC) who had distinguished between kidney acute inflammation and kidney cancer".
    1. Zaid, Hilal; Rayan, Anwar; Said, Omar; Saad, Bashar (2010). Cancer Treatment by Greco-Arab and Islamic Herbal Medicine. The Open Nutraceuticals Journal. 3 (1): 203–212. doi:10.2174/18763960010030100203. WayBackMachine Link. ISSN 1876-3960.
  19. ^ Quote: "The first known reference to ectopic pregnancy appears in the writings of the famous Arabic physician Abulcasis (936-1013)".
    1. Samuel Lurie (1992). The history of the diagnosis and treatment of ectopic pregnancy: a medical adventure. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecufogy and Reproductive Biology. Vol. 43. p. l-7. [WayBackMachine Link]. Retrieved December 11th, 2018.
  20. ^ Quote: "The Arab surgeon, Al-Zahrawi, was the first to describe hemophilia."
    1. Joseph E. Pizzorno (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 435. ISBN 1-4377-2333-0.
  21. ^ Quote: "Avicenna was the first to describe the guinea worm (Dracunculus medinensis) and anthrax (Persian Fire)".
    1. The Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-19-262950-0.
  22. ^ Quote: "Avicenna was the first to describe the guinea worm (Dracunculus medinensis) and anthrax (Persian Fire)".
    1. The Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-19-262950-0.
  23. ^ Also, Avicenna first discovered the correlation between diabetes and tuberculosis.
    Quote: "The association of diabetes mellitus and pulmonary tuberculosis was first observed by Avicenna".
    1. Fatema Jawad, A .Samad Shera, Rasheed Memon, Ghazala Ansari (September 1995). Glucose Intolerance in Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Journal of Pakistan Medical Association. Vol. 45. Issue. No. 9. p. 237-238. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved December 11th, 2018.
  24. ^ Quote: "Avicenna also discovered the cerebellar vermis and the caudate nucleas".
    1. Dhavendra Kumar (11 May 2012). Genomics and Health in the Developing World. Oxford University Press. p. 720. ISBN 978-0-19-970547-4.
  25. ^ Paper making started out in Samarkand largely because of the availability of the raw materials that were available for producing it.
    Quote: "...led to the establishment of paper-making in Samarkand (where local hemp and flax and the abundant water from the karez provided raw materials in abundance".
    1. Frances Wood (September 2004). Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia. University of California Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-520-24340-8.
  26. ^ Quote: "Al Razi was the first to describe smallpox and measles. He was accurate to such a degree that nothing has been added since then."
    1. Joseph E. Pizzorno (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 435. ISBN 1-4377-2333-0.
  27. ^ Quote: "Al-Zahrawi was also the first surgeon in history to use cotton, which is an Arabic word, as surgical dressings for the control of haemorrhage."
    1. Joseph E. Pizzorno (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 435. ISBN 1-4377-2333-0.
  28. ^ Quote: "Arab and Muslim physicians identified several cancer types, including eye, nasal, tongue, stomach (gastric), liver, the urinary system, kidney, testis, and breast cancer, as well as spleen and nerve tumor. For instance, kidney's cancer was mentioned clearly, for the first time, by Al Zahrawi (Abulcasis 936 - 1013 AC) who had distinguished between kidney acute inflammation and kidney cancer".
    1. Zaid, Hilal; Rayan, Anwar; Said, Omar; Saad, Bashar (2010). Cancer Treatment by Greco-Arab and Islamic Herbal Medicine. The Open Nutraceuticals Journal. 3 (1): 203–212. doi:10.2174/18763960010030100203. WayBackMachine Link. ISSN 1876-3960.
  29. ^ Quote: "The first known reference to ectopic pregnancy appears in the writings of the famous Arabic physician Abulcasis (936-1013)".
    1. Samuel Lurie (1992). The history of the diagnosis and treatment of ectopic pregnancy: a medical adventure. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecufogy and Reproductive Biology. Vol. 43. p. l-7. [WayBackMachine Link]. Retrieved December 11th, 2018.
  30. ^ Quote: "The Arab surgeon, Al-Zahrawi, was the first to describe hemophilia."
    1. Joseph E. Pizzorno (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 435. ISBN 1-4377-2333-0.
  31. ^ Quote: "Avicenna was the first to describe the guinea worm (Dracunculus medinensis) and anthrax (Persian Fire)".
    1. The Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-19-262950-0.
  32. ^ Quote: "Avicenna was the first to describe the guinea worm (Dracunculus medinensis) and anthrax (Persian Fire)".
    1. The Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-19-262950-0.
  33. ^ Also, Avicenna first discovered the correlation between diabetes and tuberculosis.
    Quote: "The association of diabetes mellitus and pulmonary tuberculosis was first observed by Avicenna".
    1. Fatema Jawad, A .Samad Shera, Rasheed Memon, Ghazala Ansari (September 1995). Glucose Intolerance in Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Journal of Pakistan Medical Association. Vol. 45. Issue. No. 9. p. 237-238. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved December 11th, 2018.
  34. ^ Quote: "Avicenna also discovered the cerebellar vermis and the caudate nucleas".
    1. Dhavendra Kumar (11 May 2012). Genomics and Health in the Developing World. Oxford University Press. p. 720. ISBN 978-0-19-970547-4.

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