According to wikipedia the An Shi Rebellion in 8th century China had the highest death toll of any war except the 2nd World War. The lowest estimate is given as 33,000,000. Is this accurate and how is it possible to tell with any amount of accuracy how many people died during the rebellion?
I’ll try casting this one out once more.
I didn’t reply earlier to your thread, because really the sources I have on my shelves don’t speak to numerical casualties, but more to the political and cultural fallout.
But in general the numbers are apparently derived from census figures which give very disparate numbers for China before and after the rebellion ( i.e. in 754 vs. 764 ). In the wikipedia discussion of the event the note under “sources” discusses this. Like the person who posted there I am a bit sceptical.
The contraction of the T’ang state might account for some of that ( abandonment of Central Asia ), but the areas withdrawn from would have been far less populous than the core areas. More likely would have been general political causing a lapse in the ability to adequately census the population - China in 764 was by no means stable.
Another potential source of error is the difference between censused “population” vs. “households”. Sometimes both numbers show up in Chinese history, sometimes just one or the other. If the number in 754 of 50-odd million was of the actual population and the number in 764 of 15-odd million was that of censused households, it would explain the discrepancy fairly neatly.
Finally there is the population may have actually declined that much from famine, disease and other assorted disruptions. Possible. But the scale seems unlikely, even for China. IMHO. But I’m no expert and apparently some scholars accept those numbers.
If you have JSTOR access ( I don’t ), maybe this article would be illuminating: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0032-4728(196003)13%3A3<209%3ATPSOCA>2.0.CO%3B2-B
I do have jstor access in college. Thanks, I’ll have a look at that the next day I’m there.
That number seems absurdly high. Although the Chinese over the ages have a pretty good rep as record-keepers, I’d treat any casualty figures from so long ago with a grain or three of salt.