The Tang dynasty is among the first imperial dynasties of China. It was established by the Li family after the fall of the Sui dynasty. It reigned from 618-907 with a brief interruption by the Wu Zhou dynasty that took over from 690-705. Its capital was Changian which is now known as Xi’an.
The dynasty started with a population of 50 million people and it grew to 80 million by the end of its reign. At that time its capital was the most populated in the world. The tang dynasty was considered a great era in which many great things happened.
What Is the Tang Dynasty Most Known For?
The Tang dynasty is considered to have been the greatest imperial dynasty know in Ancient Chinese history. Their reputation surpassed them internationally and went beyond their cities to almost all of Asia. The dynasty was famous for many things, starting from its palaces, cities, and territorial expansions. It is also considered a great era when Chinese culture, literature, art, religion, and foreign trade flourished. Around the dynasty’s reign was when China was considered one of the most powerful countries in the world.
Famous for its government, the Tang Dynasty was ruled by great emperors whose rule made the dynasty the great era it was. They lay down the groundwork for the policies that are still used in China today. They reformed the military and government by having direct control over the armies, labor, and grain control. This dynasty had the only female ruler known in Chinese history. She laid the foundation that led to China being the most prosperous country in the world at the time.
This dynasty is also known for its great advancements in technology and innovation. This included advancements in medicine, architecture, science, and literature. Its most famous invention was woodblock printing, which allowed the mass production of books, hence improving literature. Another great invention was gun powder, which was perfected over the years but mostly used for fireworks at the time. Other great advancements were gas stoves and air conditioning.
The Tang dynasty is also famous for its flourishing literature and culture. It was the time when poetry was included in Chinese culture. People were encouraged to express their creativity. Thanks to woodblock printing, a lot of poems, short stories, and other literary works and encyclopedias were made. This improved the literacy of the people. Some of the most famous poets and painters came from this time.
Other than that, the dynasty was known for the popularity of Buddhism due to its widespread practice at the time. Its popularity however decreased towards the end of the dynasty’s reign. Around the time when China went into chaos.
List of Emperors of Tang Dynasty.
As mentioned, the Tang dynasty was established by the Li family. Its reign was overseen by great emperors, with the four notable ones in particular. Taizong, the second emperor when the dynasty was established, his successor Gaozong, Gaozong’s wife Wu Zetian, and Xuanzong, the last emperor of the dynasty. The following is the full list of emperors that ruled during the 1st and 2nd reign of the Tang dynasty:
- Gaozu (Li Yuan) – the first emperor of the Tang Dynasty. He reigned from June 18, 618-September 4, 626.
- Taizong (Li Shimin) – the second emperor famed for his reformation of the government, military, education, and religion. He reigned from September 4, 626-July 10, 649.
- Gaozong (Li Zhi) – ruled alongside his wife Empress Consort Wu Zetian who acted as a regent. His rule was from July 15, 649-December 27, 683. The wife continued to rule as a regent until 705.
- Zhongzong (Li Xian/Zhe) – son of Gaozong and Wu Zetian. Ruled for less than two months, January 3, and 684-February 26, 684, before he was dismissed by his mother. He came back into power on February 23, 705-July 3, 710. This was after tang had won back power from the Wu Zhou dynasty, and her mother was no longer a regent.
- Ruizong (Li Dan) – another son of Gaozong and Wu Zetian. He had a long rule of six years, February 27, 684-October 8, 690, before he was also dismissed by his mother. He also came back into power on July 25, 710-September 8, 712, after the overthrowing of the Wu Zhou.
- Shang (Li Chongmao) – reigned in between the second reign of the two brothers Ruizong and Zhongzong. His rule lasted between July 8, 710-July 25, 710.
- Xuanzong (Li Longji) – considered to be one of the greatest rulers before the fall of the dynasty. He ruled between September 8, 712-August 8, 756.
The other emperors who ruled after Xuanzong are as follows:
- Suzong (Li Heng) – from August 12, 756-May 16, 762.
- Daizong (Li Yu) – from May18, 762-May23, 779.
- Dezong (Li Kuo) – June 12, 79-February 25, 805.
- Shunzong (Li Song) – February 28, 805-August 31, 805.
- Xianzong (Li Chun) – September 5, 805-February 14, 820.
- Muzong (Li Heng) – February 20, 820-February 25, 824.
- Jingzong (Li Zhan) – February 29, 824-January 9, 827.
- Wenzong (Li Ang) – January 13, 827-February 10, 840.
- Wuzong (Li Yan) – February 20, 840-April 22, 846.
- Xuanzong (Li Chen) – April 25, 846-September 7, 859.
- Yizong (Li Chui) – September 13, 859-August 15, 873.
- Xizong (Li Xuan) – August 16, 873-April 20, 888.
- Zhaozong (Li Ye) – first reign April 20, 888-December 1, 900. Second reign January 24, 901-September 22, 904.
- Zhaxuan (Li Zhu) – September 26, 904-May 12, 907
When Did the Tang Dynasty Start and End?
The beginning of the Tang Dynasty was a result of the rebellion against the Sui Dynasty that came before it. The last two kings, Wen and his son Yang led the government to bankruptcy and immense debt. The Sui dynasty finally fell when Yan was assassinated by Yuwen Huaji, his chancellor, and Li-Yuan, a popular general of the army. Li Yuan was at the time the Duke of Tang. He rose in rebellion to take control and become the emperor Gaozu in 618 CE, thereby establishing the Tang Dynasty. Under the reign of the Tang dynasty, great rulers like Taizong, Wu Zetian, and Xuanzong, led China to become one of the most prosperous countries at the time.
The fall of the Tang Dynasty began during the An Lushan rebellion that was caused due to Xuanzong’s gradual neglect of duty. Even after that rebellion was ended and respect restored to the throne, the dynasty never went back to its original glory. The final blow was the Huan Chao rebellion which completely weakened the dynasty. Its reign finally came to an end with the assassination of the last Tang emperor Ai, by Zhe Wen in 907.
Tang Dynasty Achievements Timeline.
The Tang Dynasty was among the greatest imperial dynasties in Ancient China. It, therefore, had many notable milestones throughout its reign. The following is a summary of the Tang Dynasty timeline and some of its most notable events:
- 618 – Gaozu rises to power establishing Tang Dynasty as the first emperor.
- 626-649 – the reign of one of the greatest Tang emperors, Taizong, and the development of woodblock printing.
- 649 – beginning of the reign of Gaozong and his wife Wu Zetian.
- 667 – Tang dynasty army is successful in taking over the Goguryeo, Pyongyang’s capital in North Korea.
- 668 – Fall of the Goguryeo kingdom after the attack by the Tang Dynasty.
- 675 – carving of the Buddhist cave at Longmen Grottoes in China.
- 683-704 – the reign of the first and only female ruler, Wu Zetian after the husband’s reign.
- 712-756 – the 7th Tang emperor Xuanzong makes Taoism an official religion of China.
- 755 – the occurrence of the An Lushan rebellion against Xuanzong.
- 762-779 – the reign of emperor Daizong who put an end to the An Lushan rebellion.
- 806-820 – the reign of Xianzong who restored respect to the Tang Dynasty throne.
- 842-845 – the persecution of the Buddhist monks and the monasteries in China.
- 859-873 – China suffers a severe drought and famine period.
- 873-888 – the rise of the Huang Chao rebellion that topples and weakens the Tang Dynasty.
- 904 – the assassination of emperor Zhaozong by warlord Zhe Wen.
- 907 – the assassination of Ai, the last emperor of the Tang Dynasty, by Zhe Wen. marking the end of the Tang Dynasty.
Why Tang Dynasty Was Golden Age.
The Tang Dynasty was considered a golden age due to its successful ruling that led to the flourishing of China, expanding its influence to different parts of inner Asia. The impressive government and administration led China to be an educated and wealthy realm by the standards of that age.
To begin with, Chinese culture flourished most during the reign of the Tang dynasty. The dynasty was even said to have had a great cultural influence over neighboring East Asian countries like Korea and Japan. It was also said to be the greatest age of Chinese poetry, producing two of the most famous Chinese poets in history, Du Fu and Li Bai. Famous painters like Zhang Fang and Zhou Xuan also came from this era.
Additionally, during the tang dynasty’s reign, there were notable innovations like woodblock printing. The Tang dynasty is a famed era known for many achievements. Its successful reformation and advancements that led to the flowering of Chinese art and culture, is what made this dynasty’s reign the best era of that time.
How Did the Tang Dynasty Reunify China?
After the fall of the Western Jin Dynasty in 316, China was divided for centuries. Even when the Tang Dynasty rose to power in 618, it initially only ruled over Guanzhong. The central, northeast, and south plain were still being controlled by warlords who commanded hundreds of thousands of troops at the time.
To enforce order, the Tang Dynasty set up 43 regional military commands spread out across China but concentrated around capitals. The 43 commands consisted of 600 militia units each having 800-1200 men aged 21-60 years. Adding to that, the dynasty also had a central army made up of princely guards who were sons of elite families. The army was located in the capital and used for single campaigns, that delivered a rapid force ensuring victory. It wasn’t until the five-year campaign by Tang princes Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin (Taizong), that China was finally reunified.
Why Did the Tang Dynasty End?
The beginning of the Tang Dynasty was characterized by success and reformation that restored the glory of China. This was under the great leadership of the like of Taizong, Wu Zetian, and Xuanzong. Their success was based on the control they had on the military, labor, and grain control. Additionally, they were fair leaders, who appointed people on merit and took their responsibilities seriously.
Under Xuanzong’s rule, however, the dynasty began to fall when he began neglecting his duties as emperor and promoting people without any merit. This led to the An Lushan Rebellion, arranged by a general named An Lushan. Xuanzong fled and later abdicated the throne for his son Suzong, who was unable to stop the rebellion. His son, Daizong was the one who managed to end the rebellion. It was, however, his great-grandson Xianzong who managed to restore respect to the throne.
Still, the Tang dynasty was never the same after the An Lushan rebellion, with one ineffective leader after another taking the throne. The great dynasty finally came to an end when a warlord named Zhe Wen assassinated the last Tang emperor Ai at 15 years, end. This left China divided where warlords and their families claimed territories leading to the period of the five dynasties and ten kingdoms in 907. That is until the rise of the Song dynasty in 960.
The Tang Dynasty was among the greatest imperial dynasties ever known in the history of Ancient China. Still, like many other dynasties before and after it, its fall was a result of tyrants and ineffective leaders who neglected their duty to their people.