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A journey through the 5000 years of history documented by one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations.

A journey through the 5000 years of history documented by one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations.
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Shanghai, China


A journey through the 5000 years of history documented by one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations.




#143 - Song 10: Inertia, Inaction, Insurrection

Emperor Renzong of Song continues to twiddle his thumbs. Confucianism get a much-needed adrenaline shot to the arm via Daoism. Zhuang superpatriot Nong Zhigao declares simultaneous war on China and Vietnam in the name of his people's liberation. Time Period Covered: 1043-1054 CE


# - Song 9: Dithering the War Away

Emperor Renzong of Song isn't exactly... into the whole "rule" thing. He'd much rather wile away his days talking about Confucian philosophy, writing calligraphy, and making love to his concubines. But he'll be forced to uneasily embody the might of Song China when the Tangut state of Western Xia declares its independence, triggering a massive conflict on the borderlands. Time Period Covered: 1033-1044 CE Major Historical Figures: Song: Emperor Renzong Chancellor Li Yijian Fan...


Promo: Introducing "American Innovations"

Today I’d like to introduce a new show by our friends over at Wondery, called “American Innovations” You can hear the first 3 episodes right now by searching for American Innovations on Apple Podcasts or go to


#141 -Song 8: Childless Mother of the World

When Emperor Renzong of Song takes the throne, he's just a boy of 12 and surely in need of his mother's guidance... but how long until Mom becomes more of a hinderance than a help? ... And what if she's not really his mother? Time Period Covered: 1022-1033 CE Important Historical Figures: Emperor Renzong of Song [Zhao] (r. 1022- Empress Dowager Liu (-1033) Lady Li (-1032) Chancellor Ding Wei Chancellor Wang Zeng Assistant Minister of the Palace Library, Lu "Fish-Head" Zongdao...


#140: Turn Of The Millennium Q&A

A Q&A like this only comes around once in a thousand years!


#139- Song 7: The Heavenly Text Affair

After feeling forced to sign the costly and humiliating Treaty of Chanyuan with the Liao Dynasty to end the Liao-Song War, Emperor Zhenzong needs a pick-me-up to make himself feel better. He thinks that a ritual that hasn't been performed in 3 centuries might be the way... and that's when the text messages from Heaven start popping up in his inbox... Time Period: 1004-1022 CE Major Historical Figures Emperor Zhenzong of Song (Zhao Heng)[r. 997 - 1022] Wang Qinruo, Minister of Grand...


#138 - Song 6: Peace In Our Time

The new Song Emperor, Zhenzong, sits uneasily on the Chinese throne after his father’s untimely death in 997. But court intrigues and attempted coups will only be the tip of the iceberg for this untested and unlikely sovereign, because the Liao Dynasty to the north has its eyes and hearts set on revenge for Chinese slights, and will send a massive force bent on crushing Song resistance to their will. Time Period Covered: 997-1005 CE


#137 - Song 5: A Song of Rice and Flour

"Rice is great if you're really hungry and want eat 2,000 of something." - Mitch Hedberg


Untitled Episode

To the Northwest of the Song Empire, a group of non-Chinese known as the Tanguts have long been subject to the whims and subjugations of their greater neighbors. But with the Chinese focused on their struggle against the Khitan Liao, and the Tibetans and Uighur states having collapsed to the far west, the Tanguts need to unite - in spite of their often fractious nature - if they're to seize the moment and carve out their place in history. Time Period Covered: ~735-1001 CE Major...


#135 - Song 3: A Lesser Empire

Song's second emperor, Taizong, wants to achieve the heights of Chinese glory, power, and territory just like the Tang and Han before him. But aspirations are easier than results, and he's going to have to contend with neighbor states on all sides far more powerful than his predecessors - and with his own position far weaker. Still it's either that or the utterly unthinkable: acknowledge that China is no longer the preeminent superpower of the East, but now just one state among...


#134 - Song 2:Golden Cupboard, Flickering Shadows

Zhao Kuangyin has seized the north and now aims to reunify China under his new Song Dynasty by smashing the south. And it’s super effective! But when a strange order of succession leaves question mark surrounding his legacy, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen next. Time period covered: 960-976 CE Major Historical Figures Emperor Taizu of Song (Zhao Kuangyin) [r. 960-976] Emperor Taizong of Song (Zhao Guangyi) [r. 976-997] Prince Zhao Dezhao [951-979] Chancellor Zhao Pu...


#3 - Tang 33: In the Rearview

We take a sweeping look back at all 289 years of the Tang one more time before pressing into the 5 Dynasties and beyond, and also take a look at some of the aspects of 9th centuryChinese society that are more frequently overlooked... like women's fashion, regional cuisine, playing cards, and toilet paper.


#122 - Special: End of Dynasty Q&A

We've made it to the end of the Tang and questions abound! From portrayals of Han Emperors, to my favorite Emperor, and the best Dynasty EVER, to battle tactics and armor, to grat Chinese kung fu movies and how much a protsitute would have been worth... we've had a whole host of excellent questions that I do my very best to answer! Cheers!


#121 - Tang 32: Tang of the Dead

Take the army, go to the capital, kill the imperial clan, exterminate the eunuchs, usurp the throne, have a nice cold pint and wait for all this to blow over. How’s that for a slice of fried gold? Time period covered: 888-907 CE Major Historical Figures: Emperor Zhaozong of Tang [r. 887-905] Prince Li Yu [d. 905] Prince Li Zuo (Emperor Ai) [r. 905-908] Han Jian, Governor of Hezhong Li “the One-Eyed Dragon” Keyong, Commander of the Shatuo Turks Li Maozhen, Governor of...


#120 - Tang 32: A Thousand Cuts

The rebel-general and usurper-emperor Huang Chao will wear out his welcome in Chang’an, and meet his doom in the Valley of Tigers and Wolves… but his reign of terror over the capital will only be the first act of its terrible, drawn out fate – a fate that will mirror the Tang Dynasty’s as a whole. Emperor Xizong, already put to flight once, will return to the capital – only to swiftly find himself on the run yet again as China’s general and governors alike realize that they are no longer...


#112 - Tang 24: Make Tang Great Again!

Young Emperor Xianzong has a plan to restore China's supremacy in the 9th century world... and - surprisingly enough - it involves precisely zero walls being built. Time Period Covered: 805-820 CE


#111 - Special: Strange Tales

Today, we veer off our main narrative and into several seasonal tales which celebrate the spooky season in Chinese fashion. We feature a ghostly gathering, a bewitched battle, injurious jests, and lethal looks. Author: Pu Songling [1640-1715 CE] Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio Featuring: The Golden Goblets (begins: 2:15) The Necromancer (begins: 13:30) The Killing Joke (begins: 21:15) The Painted Skin (begins:


#110 - Tang 23: Where the Wangs Went Wrong

We take a look at the final years of Emperor Dezong's reign, his political successes and failures, and the strange, mysterious,short-lived Wang Party that would seize control over government for about 5 minutes before being kicked out by Dezong's grandson Xianzong. Also, we have a paralyzed, mute emperor, so there's that, too! Time Period Covered: ca. 790-806 CE Major Historical Figures: Tang Dynasty: Li Kuo, Emperor Dezong of Tang [r. 780-805] Li Song, Emperor Shunzong of Tang [r. 805] Li...


#109 - Tang 22: Innie or Outie?

Dezong has had it up to here with his mumbling, bumbling, stumbling courtiers and their inability to solve the empire’s problems. So he’s going to give them 3 last shots to prove the worth of the bureaucracy, and when they strike out, he’ll turn toward his private inner count to make the Tang Empire great again. Time Period 786-795 CE Major Historical Figures: Emperor Dezong of Tang [r. 779-805] Chancellor Cui Zao (term of office: 785-787, exiled and d. 787) Chancellor Li Mi [term:...


#108 - Tang 21: General Disaster

The echoes of the An Lushan Rebellion still reverberate destructively through Tang China even three decades after its conclusion. As the new emperor, Dezong, attempts to revitalize the glory days of old, he’ll kick off an new round of wars with the governor-warlords of Hebei who don’t want to have to listen to him anymore. Time Period Covered: 781-785 CE Major Historical Figures: Emperor Dezong of Tang (Li Kuo) [r. 779-805] Li Zhengji, Governor-General of Pinglu [d. 781] Zhu Tao, King of...