The Tang Dynasty

A New Era of Chinese Culture
 The Tang Dynasty:
 The second great Chinese empire characterized by its
territorial expansion, unprecedented size, efficient
central government, cosmopolitan city Chang’an,
urbanization of major cities, expansion of domestic
transportation, increasing interregional trade,
appearance of local specialization, openness to and
communication with the outside world, agricultural
and economic growth, affluence of society, brilliant
rulers, population boom, social pluralism, adoption
of the civil examinations, cultural advances…
 The
ruling house was of “barbarian” origin and the
dynasty underwent continuing transformation
despite an interception in the mid-eighth century:
• Increased cultural and economic dominance in the
• Maritime trade developed and new harbors
and entrepôt connected China with Southeast Asia,
India, and the Persian Gulf through sea-based trade
• spatial redefinition continued its effects, resulting in
further development of social mobility and allowing
southerners to take advantage of the civil service
examinations to obtain official posts.
The Unified China: Tang Dynasty
 Tang (618-906): A
unified empire after
the short-lived Sui
(581-618) dynasty,
whose founder, Li
Yuan, began to restore
the divided China after
the collapse of the Sui.
Li Yuan, founder of the Tang Dynasty
China’s Dominance in Asia
 China’s extraordinary
leadership from 581755 made the advance
of China a dominant
power in Asia
Wendi, Yangdi of the
Gaozu (r. 618-627),
Taizong (r.627-649),
Gaozong (r.649-683),
Emperor Wu (690-705),
and Xuanzong (712-755)
 Legacy of their rules:
Check-and-balance political system
Effective decision-making process and control of
• The best ordered state in the world
Cosmopolitan receptivity, social pluralism
Strong economy and wealthy state supported by the
Grand Canal
The civil service examinations
 Li Yuan was the founder, and his son Li Shimin
brought the empire into peace and stability.
 Li Shimin, or Emperor Taizong (r.627-649)
 Vanquished
the Eastern Turks, who, after being
defeated, accepted Tang leadership and recognized
Taizong as their Khagan (Qaghan, Khan)
 Established a sophisticated bureaucratic system that
linked imperial court and all regions under the empire
 Instituted the “Equal Field” system to consolidate tax
revenues and the fubing (regimental army) system
 Used officials steeped in Confucian learning; set up
school and examination systems
 Taizong’s rule is characterized by:
 Openness to civilian talents and foreigners
 Legitimization of the Li family
 Pragmatic diplomacy (to Tibet, Korean States, and
 Conquered
Eastern Turks and controlled
Western Turks
 Claimed
unchallenged mastery in Central
 Elevation
of Daoism
 Patronage of Buddhism
 Creation of a particular court style
 Cosmopolitanization of Tang capital
 Creation of an innovated Chinese World
Order of the Sinosphere
 Gaozong and Empress Wu
 Imperial expansion: central Asia, north Korea
• Conquered Koguryo in 688
• Dealt with Khitan and Tibetan
 Made
examinations a prestigious “fast-track” to
the higher offices
 Promoted
the Civil Service Examinations system,
particularly the Jinshi degree
 Reasserted and extended the Daoist
affiliation with the dynasty
Daoist magus Ye Fashan was called to court
 Wrote a preface to fascicles of Daoist canon
 Laozi (Lao-tzu) was awarded a deity’s name
Taishang xuanyuan huangdi, or Supreme
Emperor of the Mysterious
 Gaozong’s daughter, Princess Taiping, was given
Daoist ordination
 The Daode jing (Tao-te ching) was made a
compulsory subject in the civil service
Emperor Xuanzong
Most glorious epoch of the Tang (712-755)
– Most prosperous age
Most affluent families and society
Reformed equal-field system, increased agricultural
Prices of goods were stable
– Benevolent rule
Reduced the number of capital punishment
Multiplied tax exemptions
Expanded school system
Improved health care system
Xuanzong as a Talented Monarch
 A musician, poet,
Known for establishing the
Pear Garden Troupe—the
beginning of local opera
 Kept a troupe of dancing
 Honored the three
teachings, patronized
Tantric Buddhism
 Established a new
academy for poets
Rebellion and Restoration
 Causes: Xuanzong’s obsession with Yang Guifei
and trust in An Lushan; political struggle
between An Lushan and prime minister
 The An Lushan Rebellion
 Rebels
sacked and ruined the capital
 Emperor fled to Sichuan
• Yang Guifei was strangled, and the minister slain
north China laid waste
 Xianzong restored and rebuilt the empire (805-
Restoration and Rebellion
 Failing attempt to recover economy
 Suppression
of Buddhism and other foreign
• Manichaeanism, Zoroastrianism, and
Nestorian Christianity (Judaism, Islam)
 Large-scale rebellions in the south
 Foreign threat: Nanzhao, Tibet
 Huang Chao Rebellion
 Chang’an
ruined again
The Fall of the Tang
 Turks helped imperial forces to recover
Chang’an first but ruined it later
 Warrior Zhu Wen seized control of the capital,
reduced it to a wasteland
 Zhu Wen moved the capital to Luoyang,
forced the last emperor to abdicate, assumed
the throne, and founded his own dynasty—
beginning of the Five Dynasties
Manjusri of Mt. Wutai, Tang Dynasty
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