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.
The Tang Dynasty was a prominent dynasty in Chinese history that ruled from 618 to 907 AD. It is considered one of the most prosperous and culturally vibrant periods in China. The Tang Dynasty was founded by Emperor Gaozu, also known as Li Yuan, who established the dynasty’s capital in Chang’an (present-day Xi’an).
During the Tang Dynasty, China experienced a golden age of literature, art, and technological advancements. It was a period of great territorial expansion and international influence, with the empire extending its reach along the Silk Road and engaging in diplomatic relations with neighboring countries and regions.
The Tang Dynasty is known for its strong centralized government, efficient bureaucracy, and legal reforms. It implemented the civil service examination system to recruit government officials based on merit rather than aristocratic background. This system promoted social mobility and intellectual development, contributing to the dynasty’s cultural achievements.
The Tang Dynasty saw advancements in various fields, including poetry, painting, calligraphy, music, and ceramics. Some of the most renowned poets, such as Li Bai and Du Fu, emerged during this period, leaving a lasting impact on Chinese literature. Tang art and architecture, characterized by grand palaces, Buddhist cave temples, and exquisite tomb figurines, also flourished.
Despite its achievements, the Tang Dynasty faced challenges towards the end of its reign, including political instability, rebellions, and external threats. In 907 AD, the dynasty was overthrown by a military revolt, leading to the fragmentation of China and the beginning of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.
why was it called the Tang Dynasty?
The naming of the Tang Dynasty is associated with Li Yuan. Li Yuan was granted the title of Duke of Tang (唐国公, Táng Guógōng), and therefore, the dynasty was named “唐” (Tang) after his noble title. Historians widely agree that the choice of this name was due to Li Yuan’s title of Duke of Tang. Li Yuan received the title of Duke of Tang at the age of seven. Later, Li Yuan and his sons rebelled in Taiyuan, captured Chang’an, overthrew the Sui Dynasty, and established a new dynasty—the Tang Dynasty. As Li Yuan had inherited the title of Duke of Tang, it was only natural that, upon assuming the imperial title, the dynasty would be named “唐” (Tang).
In English translation, “唐朝” (Tang Dynasty) can be rendered as the “Tang Dynasty,” “唐国公” (Duke of Tang) as “Duke of Tang,” and “唐” (Tang) as “Tang.”
how was the Tang Dynasty founded?
In the late period of the Sui Dynasty, due to a series of policy mistakes by Emperor Yang of Sui, large-scale rebellions broke out across the country. In the 11th year of the Daye era (615), Emperor Yang appointed Li Yuan as the Ambassador to Shanxi and Hedong to appease the region. Soon after, he was appointed as the Garrison Commander of Taiyuan to defend against the Turks and suppress peasant uprisings in present-day Shanxi Province.
At that time, the Sui regime was on the verge of collapse, with the ruling class experiencing repeated divisions, and armed landlords and rebel armies scattered throughout the country. Li Yuan, who had ambitious aspirations, began contemplating the idea of seizing power after his transfer to Taiyuan. His advisors, Pei Ji, Liu Wenjing, and his second son, Li Shimin, all suggested that he rise up and seize the opportunity. In the 12th year of the Daye era (617 AD), the peasant uprisings gained the advantage nationwide, and the Sui Dynasty was no longer able to concentrate its forces effectively to combat the various armed groups. Li Yuan deemed the timing ripe and, in May of the following year, he killed Deputy Garrison Commander Wang Wei and Gao Junya in Taiyuan, officially announcing his rebellion.
In July, Li Yuan, along with his eldest son Jiancheng and second son Shimin, led their troops southward, capturing Huoyi (present-day Huo County, Shanxi) and crossing the Yellow River, advancing southwestward. At that time, Emperor Yang of Sui was far away in Jiangdu (present-day Yangzhou, Jiangsu), and the Sui forces in the Guannei region were weak, with the Wagang Army and Wang Shichong engaged in fierce battles and unable to turn their attention to the west. As a result, the Li family advanced rapidly, and in November, they breached Chang’an. Shortly after Li Yuan entered Chang’an, he proclaimed Emperor Yang of Sui as the Retired Emperor and enthroned Yang You, the grandson of Emperor Yang, as the new emperor, establishing the Yanping era, known as Emperor Gong of Sui. Li Yuan assumed the position of Grand Chancellor and was granted the title of Prince of Tang. In the 14th year of the Daye era (618 AD), Emperor Yang of Sui was killed in Jiangdu. In May, Li Yuan forced Emperor Gong to abdicate, proclaimed himself emperor, and established the Tang Dynasty with Chang’an as its capital. He changed the era name to Wude. Li Yuan and his son, Emperor Taizong, spent 10 years unifying the separatist forces across the country and unifying China. They then turned their attention to the north, defeating the power of the Turks and expanding their influence into Central Asia. This was the pinnacle period in Chinese history, known as the Tang Dynasty.
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 wasgun 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:
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.
Tang Dynasty system of government
The political system of the Tang Dynasty: the Three Departments and Six Ministries system. The distinctive feature of the Three Departments system in the Tang Dynasty was that it soon transitioned to the Two Departments and One Department system. In order to control the power of the chancellor, the emperor gradually involved officials with relatively lower qualifications in the government affairs, who actually exercised the power of the chancellor. However, due to the lack of a formal system for the chancellor, it was easier to control.
The positions of the Chancellor of the Imperial Secretariat, Palace Attendants, and Prefect of the Palace Secretariat became honorary titles, while the actual chancellor became a temporary position.
The highest-ranking officials in the Three Departments system, such as “Pingzhangshi” and “Tongzhongshu Menxia Sanpin,” were often held by officials from other positions, but granted the title of chancellor as an additional honor. (New Book of Tang, Volume 46, Records of Officials)
During the eighth year of the Zhenguan reign of Emperor Taizong, when the Palace Attendant Li Jing resigned from the position of chancellor due to illness, Emperor Taizong disagreed and requested him to “quickly recover and come to the Imperial Secretariat as Pingzhangshi every three or five days.” The title of “Pingzhangshi” originated from this. In the first year of Emperor Gaozong’s Yongchun reign, officials (such as Guo Daiju, the Yellow Gate Attendant, and Cen Changqian, the Minister of War) were granted the additional title of “Tongzhongshu Menxia Pingzhangshi” to become chancellors.
In the fourth year of the Changxing reign, due to naming taboo (related to the father’s name of Murong Yanzhao), the title was temporarily changed to “Tongzhongshu Menxia Erpin” since the position of Shangshu Pushe was a second-rank position.
In the 17th year of the Zhenguan reign, Xiao Yu and Li Ji were granted the title of “Tongzhongshu Menxia Sanpin” (the third rank of the Imperial Secretariat), as the positions of Shizhong and Zhongshu Ling were both of the third rank. The title of “Tongzhongshu Menxia Sanpin” originated from this. After Emperor Gaozong, it became a requirement for chancellors to hold the additional title of “Tongzhongshu Menxia Sanpin.” Without this title, even if one held the position of Zhongshu Ling, they could not be considered a chancellor, and the same applied to those of higher rank (excluding those with the titles of the Three Excellencies and Three Masters).
The Three Departments shared the same office space and handled discussions and administrative affairs. The functions of the Three Departments gradually merged and became more integrated.
To facilitate coordination among the Three Departments, the heads of the Three Departments regularly held meetings in the Zhengshi Hall of the Menxia Province. Starting from the Wude period, the Zhongshu and Menxia Departments convened their discussions in the Zhengshi Hall, which was located in the Menxia Province.
During the reign of Emperor Gaozong, “Pei Yan was promoted from Shizhong to Zhongshu Ling, and the Zhengshi Hall was moved to the Zhongshu Province.” This solidified the central position of the Zhongshu Province. In the 11th year of the Kaiyuan reign, Zhongshu Ling Zhang Shuo proposed changing the name of the Zhengshi Hall to Zhongshu Menxia, and the seal of the Zhengshi Hall was also changed to the seal of the Zhongshu Menxia. Subsequently, the departments of Personnel, Secretariat, Defense, Revenue, and Punishment-Ceremonial were established. From then on, the Zhongshu Menxia officially became the administrative agency for chancellors.
The Shangshu Province was temporarily renamed Wenchang Tai, Dutai, and Zhongtai during the Tang Dynasty but later reverted to its original name.
The Zhongshu Province was temporarily renamed Xitai, Fengge, and Ziwai Province but later reverted to its original name.
The Menxia Province was temporarily renamed Dongtai, Luantai, and Huangmen Province but later reverted to its original name.
tang dynasty economic system
The economy of the Tang Dynasty refers to the economic development in the regions of the Central Plains, Jiangnan, Sichuan, Lingnan, and other areas under the rule of the Tang Empire from the 7th century to the early 10th century. This period is generally considered a crucial transition from ancient to medieval China in terms of economic development.
The Tang Dynasty was a prosperous and powerful dynasty that witnessed significant economic growth and expansion. The turmoil at the end of the Sui Dynasty led to a large amount of unclaimed land, which allowed for the continued implementation of the equal-field system (known as “juntian zhi”). This system, which allocated land based on population, played a significant role in stabilizing agriculture. Additionally, the economy of the Jiangnan region, which had been steadily developing since the Six Dynasties period, demonstrated a trend of surpassing the Yellow River Basin. The Tang Dynasty’s control over both the northern and southern economies contributed to its economic strength. Even after the An Lushan Rebellion, despite the devastation in North China, the Tang government could rely on the economic resources of Jiangnan to sustain its recovery.
Since the beginning of the Sui and Tang Dynasties, China’s economy entered a higher stage of development.
The equal-field system, which originated during the Northern Wei Dynasty and continued until the middle period of the Tang Dynasty, was a land distribution system based on population. It allocated land to individuals for a certain number of years, after which the land would either remain with the user or be returned to the government upon their death. By the middle period of the Tang Dynasty, land consolidation became increasingly severe, making it impossible to carry out land redistribution. As a result, the equal-field system was completely dismantled during the reign of Emperor Dezong. The implementation of the equal-field system affirmed land ownership and possession, reduced disputes over land ownership, and facilitated the reclamation of abandoned land. It played a positive role in the recovery and development of agricultural production. Moreover, the equal-field system helped peasants break free from the control of powerful clans and gradually transformed them into state-controlled households, increasing the number of self-cultivating small farmers under government control. This ensured the source of taxes and further strengthened the centralized autocracy.
Tax and Labor Service System:
The tax and labor service system, known as the “zuyong diao zhi,” was another taxation system implemented during the Tang Dynasty. It primarily involved the collection of grains, cloth, or compulsory labor for the government and was based on the implementation of the equal-field system. The term “zuyong” referred to the annual grain tribute paid by adult males, “diao” referred to the payment of a specific amount of silk or cloth, and “yong” referred to the option of providing silk or cloth in place of labor service during the period of conscription. According to the regulations, all individuals under the equal-field system, regardless of the size of their land, were required to pay a fixed amount of taxes and perform specific labor duties. The tax and labor service system relied on the successful implementation of the equal-field system. However, as the population increased during the later period of the Tang Dynasty, coupled with widespread land consolidation, the government could no longer implement the equal-field system effectively. Many peasant households were unable to afford the fixed taxes and fled as a result. After the An Lushan Rebellion, the burden on the imperial court increased significantly, leading to the implementation of Yang Yan’s “liangshui” (double taxation) system, which primarily collected money and silver as taxes. This will be discussed in detail below.
Double Taxation System:
The “Double Taxation System,” also known as the “liangshui,” was a tax reform implemented during the reign of Emperor Dezong in the Tang Dynasty, suggested by the Chancellor Yang Yan. It consolidated various taxes, including the rent-in-kind, corvée labor, and miscellaneous levies, into a unified taxation system. It shifted the primary basis of taxation from the household-based system to one based on land and assets. Due to the collection being conducted in two seasons, summer and autumn, it became known as the Double Taxation System. This reform represented a comprehensive overhaul of the contemporary fiscal and labor system.
tang dynasty coins（Currency of Tang Dynasty）
During the Tang Dynasty, silver was not yet widely circulated as a currency, and silver notes had not yet appeared. Instead, people primarily used copper coins or silk and textiles as currency, a system known as “qianbei jianxing,” meaning the coexistence of coinage and fabric as mediums of exchange.
After the establishment of the Tang Dynasty, a coinage policy system was introduced. In the fourth year of the Wude era (621 AD), the “wuzhu” coins were abolished, and the “kaiyuan tongbao” coins were introduced. These coins had a diameter of eight fen and weighed 2.4 zhu, with ten coins equaling one wen and one thousand wen equaling six jin four liang. This solidified the legal tender status of the state’s coinage. Additionally, the Tang Dynasty inherited the tradition of using silk and textiles as currency from the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties, implementing a currency system known as “qianbei jianxing,” where “qian” referred to copper coins and “bei” encompassed various types of silk fabric, including brocade, embroidery, damask, satin, and other types. This system essentially constituted a diverse currency system that combined both commodity and metallic currencies.
The Tang Dynasty abolished the widely circulated “wuzhu” coins that had been in use since the time of Emperor Wu of Han and began using the “kaiyuan tongbao” coins. The inscription “kaiyuan tongbao” on the coins was written by the renowned calligrapher Ouyang Xun, featuring elegant and upright lettering. These coins were highly appreciated and sought after by collectors throughout history. As the Tang Dynasty represented a prosperous era in ancient China, the “kaiyuan tongbao” coins were imbued with the meaning of warding off evil and bringing fortune.
In addition to the “kaiyuan tongbao,” other coin types were issued during the Tang Dynasty, such as the “qianyuan zhongbao” coins during the reign of Emperor Suzong, the “dali yuanbao” coins during the reign of Emperor Daizong (although no historical records mention them, existing specimens do), as well as the “de yi yuanbao” and “shun tian yuanbao” coins minted by An Lushan.
The “qianyuan zhongbao” coins were first minted in the first year of the Qianyuan era (758 AD) during the reign of Emperor Suzong. One “qianyuan zhongbao” was equivalent to ten “kaiyuan tongbao” coins. The early coins had a distinct and robust design, while later ones became smaller and lighter. Among them, the copper prototype coins were the earliest known copper prototypes discovered to date and featured designs of stars, moons, auspicious clouds, and auspicious patterns on the reverse side.
The “dali yuanbao” coins were local mintings in the northwest region during the reign of Emperor Daizong (766-779 AD). They were crudely made with a dull copper color and inscribed in clerical script with the four characters “dali yuanbao.” There were two sizes, large and small.
During the Tang Dynasty, urban centers witnessed the emergence of “guifang” (money storage agencies) and “feiqian” (flying money). “Guifang” facilitated the deposit and transfer of money and goods, allowing customers to send payments using written vouchers (similar to checks). These developments demonstrate the prosperity of commerce during the mid-Tang period. However, towards the end of the Tang Dynasty, due to events such as the Huang Chao Rebellion and the rise of regional military governors, the population declined sharply, and the scale of socio-economic activity never reached the level of the prosperous Kaiyuan era.
With the further development of commerce, in the later period of the Tang Dynasty, “didian” (warehouses) widely appeared, providing storage and wholesale services for merchants, as well as “guifang” (money depositories), which undertook the management of merchants’ funds. Merchants could deposit their funds with the “guifang” by paying a certain cashier fee and then withdraw them using vouchers. Additionally, a form of credit certificate emerged in the later period of the Tang Dynasty, known as “bianhuan” or “feiqian” (flying money). Traveling merchants could pay money to relevant institutions and merchants in the capital, obtain semi-detached vouchers, and redeem them for cash upon returning to their respective regions. The emergence of flying money provided convenience for merchants engaged in long-distance trade to the capital. All these developments were closely tied to the growth of the commercial economy during the Tang Dynasty.
tribute system tang dynasty
The Tang Dynasty’s “centrality diplomacy” had become quite sophisticated. All countries that had diplomatic relations with the Tang Dynasty were incorporated into its diplomatic system.
In the Tang Dynasty’s diplomatic system, countries were ranked, and the corresponding reception and treatment were based on these ranks. The specialized diplomatic department in the Tang Dynasty was called the Honglu Si (Ministry of Rites), headed by the Honglu Qing (Minister of Rites) and assisted by the Shaoqing (Assistant Minister of Rites), who had diplomatic missions.
The enthronement of foreign political leaders was the prerogative of the Chinese emperor, and the officials such as the Honglu Qing were the executors who participated in the coronation ceremonies of foreign heads of state, expressing the political stance of the Chinese emperor. The Dianke Shu under the jurisdiction of the Honglu Si was responsible for receiving foreign guests. “For all tribute missions, banquets, escorting, and welcoming, their respective roles were assigned according to their ranks. As for tribal leaders who came to pay homage, they were accommodated and treated with appropriate rituals.” Rank was evidently a crucial factor. Specifically, “those ranked third or higher were assigned to the third category, those ranked fourth or fifth were assigned to the fourth category, and those ranked sixth or lower were assigned to the fifth category.” Foreign envoys visiting China for the first time might not have an official rank, but the Tang Dynasty made arrangements accordingly, with different levels of treatment based on their status. This was a characteristic of the hierarchical system of that era.
It was quite common for foreign leaders to receive official positions from the Tang Dynasty, which was a rule mutually observed by both sides. Taking Ashina Simo as an example, he was a Turkic leader holding the position of “Jiabitiqin” within the Eastern Turkic Khanate, without military authority. He visited the Tang Dynasty multiple times, and Emperor Taizong of Tang conferred upon him the title of “Huaihua Junwang” (Prince of Huaihua County).
In the fourth year of the Zhenguan reign (630 AD), Emperor Taizong appointed him as “Right Wuhou Grand General, Commander of Huazhou,” and in May, he was further enfeoffed as “Huaixia Junwang” (Prince of Huaixia County). The military rank of Wuhou was the third highest, while the noble rank of Junwang was the first. Many enfeoffments were carried out in a hereditary manner, such as the King of Silla being enfeoffed as the Prince of Lelang, the King of Baekje as the Prince of Daifang, and the King of Goguryeo as the Prince of Liaodong.
Most countries that had diplomatic relations with the Tang Dynasty were vassal states and paid tribute to the Tang Dynasty. Receiving an official position from the Tang Dynasty was likely one of the aspects of their diplomatic interactions. Historical records referred to these Tang Dynasty’s diplomatic partner countries as “foreign subjects.” Since the Tang Dynasty dominated diplomatic affairs and determined the conditions and treatment for countries engaging with China, the only possibility for these countries was to accept this arrangement. The notion of formal equality in diplomatic exchanges did not exist.
Ancient diplomacy adhered to the principle of power in a transparent and unapologetic manner. One can understand the fundamental inequality in international relations by examining the ancient Persian Empire’s enduring relief sculpture of “The Tribute Bearer.” In conflicts between evenly matched major powers, the choices for small countries became increasingly difficult, forcing them to navigate cautiously. The prolonged war between the Western Han Dynasty and the Xiongnu led many small countries to switch their allegiance between the two powers. The King of Loulan, for instance, appealed to Emperor Wu of Han, stating, “A small country caught between larger nations cannot survive without submitting to one of them.” This plea exemplifies the predicament faced by small countries. When engaging with major powers, small countries do not seek equal footing but rather pursue practical interests.
The term “tribute” may suggest subordinate states making offerings, creating a clear master-servant relationship in politics. However, recent research indicates that tribute should be viewed as economic relations, leading scholars to refer to it as “tribute trade.”
The Tang Dynasty had unique linguistic descriptions for this tribute trade. The offering party was referred to as the “donating side,” with specific “donations” such as prized horses, war elephants, and lions. The Tang Dynasty had specific regulations outlining the procedures and methods for receiving and handling these offerings. If the items were medicinal or food products, they would be inspected, packaged, and sealed by border counties upon entering Tang territory. They would then be handed over to the envoys, with a report sent to the Ministry of Rites. Once the Ministry of Rites confirmed the validity, the Ministry would inform the Ministry of Revenue and the market management department, dispatching officials to inspect the tribute goods and determine their value. Subsequently, a report would be submitted and forwarded to the imperial court, where decisions regarding introductions, banquets, and other matters were made according to the court’s instructions. When the envoys returned to their countries (referred to as “reversion to foreign lands”), they were rewarded (“gifts varied by rank”). The rewards took place in the court, with officials from the Bureau of Guests guiding the envoys in receiving the rewards and instructing them on proper ceremonial etiquette. The previous valuation of the tribute items played a causal role in the final reward stage, as the emperor’s rewards were based on the value of the donated goods. Although it was not labeled as a trade, it essentially functioned as such.
During the Tang Dynasty, the emperor’s bestowed gifts to foreign envoys were primarily textiles, which constituted the true meaning of “gifts.” However, these gifts were categorized as either “internal” or “external.” For court officials, the specific contents of the bestowed gifts, known as “ten segments,” were three pieces of silk (with one piece measuring four zhang), three lengths of cloth (with one length measuring five zhang), and four bundles of cotton (with one bundle weighing six liang). On the other hand, for “foreign guests receiving brocade and colorful silk,” the “ten segments” consisted of one piece of brocade, two pieces of damask, three pieces of gauze, and four bundles of cotton. It seems that the bestowed gifts prepared for foreign guests were more diverse and colorful.
While the Tang Dynasty engaged in border trade with residents beyond its borders, some items were prohibited from being traded. The Tang Dynasty’s “Regulations on Border Markets” stipulated that “brocade, damask, satin, gauze, embroidery, woven fabric, twill, silk, silk fabric, yak tail, pearls, gold, silver, and iron shall not be traded with various foreign regions or be taken into those regions.” Although both brocade and damask were included in the emperor’s bestowed gifts, they were not allowed to be traded, perhaps to showcase the uniqueness of imperial favor. Despite the essence of tribute trade being commerce, it inevitably bore profound political implications and was influenced by politics.
During the turmoil of the An Lushan Rebellion in the later period of the Tang Dynasty, the Uyghurs assisted the Tang Dynasty in suppressing the rebellion. As a reward, besides increasing bestowed gifts, the Tang Dynasty established a regulation to purchase Uyghur horses with silk. The annual limit was set at 100,000 pieces of silk, with 40 pieces of silk exchanged for one horse. This arrangement created long-term issues in the relationship between the two parties during the later period of the Tang Dynasty. The Uyghurs utilized the trade relationship to supply a large number of horses to the Tang Dynasty in exchange for silk and brought significant financial pressure to the empire.
Diplomatic activities carry the significance of energy exchange. The famous envoy Zhang Qian was sent to the Western Regions with the purpose of establishing an international united front to jointly resist the Xiongnu. Although he did not succeed in that objective, the opening of the Silk Road became a major transportation route between the cultural regions of the world at that time. Subsequently, Buddhism was introduced to China, and Chinese civilization spread to the West, all realized through this trade route. Cultural exchange is an important pathway for cultural development and often becomes part of diplomatic activities. The approximation of civilizations can promote mutual affinity, a phenomenon not exclusive to the present day. It was during Zhang Qian’s introduction that Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty learned about the distinction between “nomadic countries” and “walled states” in the Western Regions, realizing the cultural similarities between the latter and China. This sparked a strong interest in developing relations with the Western Regions. Ancient China, due to its firm pride in its own culture, actively embraced the inclusion of cultural factors in diplomatic activities.
art and architecture of the tang dynasty
The Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) was a peak period of economic and cultural development in feudal China, during which architectural technology and art also experienced significant advancements. The architectural style of the Tang Dynasty was characterized by grandeur, strictness, and openness. It had reached a mature stage of development, forming a complete architectural system. Tang architecture was grand in scale, magnificent in appearance, solemn and dignified, orderly yet not rigid, splendid without being delicate, and expansive without being ostentatious. It was both ancient and vibrant, a perfect reflection of the spirit of the time. From the Tang Dynasty onwards, spanning over a thousand years, including the famous “Foguang Temple,” there are still over a hundred surviving Tang Dynasty buildings in China, with the majority being brick and stone structures, while only four remaining wooden structures from the Tang Dynasty are all located in Shanxi Province.
The Tang Dynasty was a period of architectural maturity in ancient China. Building upon the achievements of the previous Han dynasties, it absorbed and assimilated foreign architectural influences, forming a complete architectural system. This system consisted of urban buildings, palace architecture, Buddhist architecture, and more.
City and Fortress:
Dual Capital System
Chang’an + Luoyang
The city of Tang Chang’an was 2.54 times larger than Han Chang’an, 1.45 times larger than Beijing during the Ming and Qing dynasties, 7.29 times larger than Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire during the same period, 2.87 times larger than Baghdad, built in 800 AD, and 6.39 times larger than Rome. The central axis of Tang Chang’an, Zhuque Street, was 150 meters wide, which is still exceptionally wide even by today’s standards. In the context of that time or ancient history, it should be considered the widest road. (The only regret is that such a wide street was actually an unpaved dirt road. It was inconvenient for officials to travel to court when it rained, unlike the description in Wang Xiaobo’s “Running to the Night with Red Hufu.”)
Tang Chang’an had 108 neighborhoods, which can be understood as 108 small cities. It is somewhat similar to modern communities with comprehensive facilities. Each neighborhood was enclosed by rammed earth walls (with a wall base thickness of about 2.5-3 meters, adjacent to various street ditches, and a wall height of about 2 meters). Ordinary residents could only enter or exit the neighborhood gates, while nobles and temples were allowed to open their gates to the main streets. Therefore, shops were located inside the neighborhoods. Each neighborhood had gates on all four sides, and the opening and closing of the gates were signaled by bells and drums at sunrise and sunset, giving rise to the saying “Morning bells and evening drums.” Once the gates were closed, people were not allowed to walk on the streets, except during the period around the 15th day of the first lunar month each year when the gates remained open. The city had nighttime curfews, and people were not allowed to wander around the main streets outside the neighborhoods at night. There were patrols by officials and soldiers. However, the facilities inside the neighborhoods were relatively well-equipped, especially in densely populated neighborhoods, where nightlife remained vibrant even after the gates were closed.
The overall layout of Tang Chang’an City maintained a symmetrical pattern with a central axis. The north-south Zhuque Street served as the central axis, with equally arranged markets and neighborhoods on the east and west sides. Streets and neighborhoods were neatly aligned side by side, forming a grid-like intersection of east-west and north-south streets. The outer city walls were divided into grid-like sections, with each grid representing a neighborhood. As described in Bai Juyi’s poem: “Countless families resemble a game of Go, twelve streets akin to vegetable plots.”
In fact, starting from the Cao Wei’s Ye City, there was a conscious effort to locate the palace district to the north of the city, greatly reducing the impact of the imperial palace on the common people. The functional zoning of Tang Chang’an City was even more explicit. It concentrated government offices within the imperial palace, separating them from the residential areas, ensuring that citizens wouldn’t accidentally wander into the official domains.
Archaeological findings indicate that the largest single structure built during the Tang Dynasty was the Mingtang Hall, constructed during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian. It was the largest Mingtang Hall ever recorded in history. The first floor was a square with a side length of 90 meters and a height of 86.4 meters, equivalent to over 20 stories of modern buildings. Remarkably, it was built in just 11 months, demonstrating the exquisite craftsmanship of the Tang Dynasty. Although this magnificent hall, the largest wooden structure in Chinese architectural history, was located in Luoyang, not Chang’an, it unfortunately perished in a fire during the Tang Dynasty.
The grandest imperial palace of the Tang Dynasty, the Daming Palace, situated in the northern part of Chang’an City, was once the largest complex of brick and wooden palaces in the world. Its area was equivalent to three Palace of Versailles, four Forbidden Cities, thirteen Louvre Museums, and fifteen Buckingham Palaces, illustrating the magnificence of the Tang Dynasty.
Front Court and Inner Court
The Daming Palace can be divided into the Front Court and Inner Court. The Front Court primarily served for imperial assemblies, while the Inner Court was used for residence and leisure activities. On the east and west sides outside the palace, garrisons were stationed, and within the northern gate, the command office of the garrison, known as the “North Office,” was established.
Central Axis Symmetry
The palace complex of the Daming Palace followed a central axis symmetrical layout. The Front Court consisted of the central axis line formed by the Danfeng Gate, Hanyuan Hall, Xuanzheng Hall, and Zichen Hall. The Inner Court, centered around the Taiye Pool, comprised dozens of halls and pavilions, including Linde Hall, Sanqing Hall, Dafu Hall, and Qingsi Hall. The entire Daming Palace covered a width of 1.5 kilometers from east to west and a length of 2.5 kilometers from north to south, with an area of approximately 3.2 square kilometers. It was the largest among the “Three Great Inner Palaces.”
Three Great Halls System
The three major halls of the Daming Palace were the Hanyuan Hall, Xuanzheng Hall, and Zichen Hall, with the Hanyuan Hall serving as the main hall. The Xuanzheng Hall had the Imperial Academy and the Secretariat on its left and right sides, as well as the Hongwen and Hongshi Halls. On the east and west sides of the central axis, there were longitudinal streets that pierced through the three parallel palace walls, creating side gates.
The number and scale of Buddhist temples constructed during the Tang Dynasty were astonishing. In the city of Chang’an alone, there were over ninety Buddhist temples, with some temples occupying an entire city block. The development of temples had a significant impact on the imperial treasury. During the reign of Emperor Wuzong of Tang in the fifth year of Huichang (845 AD) and Emperor Shizong of Later Zhou in the second year of Xiande (955 AD), two “anti-Buddhist” campaigns were carried out, resulting in the destruction of thousands of temples. Emperor Wuzong alone demolished forty thousand Buddhist temples. Although these campaigns were short-lived, temples quickly recovered. However, the destruction of Buddhist temples and pagodas during the Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties periods was catastrophic, resulting in the preservation of only three wooden Buddhist halls and several brick and stone pagodas from the Tang Dynasty. Based on this, we can abstract the characteristics of Tang Dynasty temples.
Magnificent Bracketing System: Large brackets were a fundamental feature of wooden architecture in the Tang Dynasty. The grandeur of the brackets created a sense of depth in the roof eaves.
Simple and Robust “Chiwen”: “Chiwen” refers to decorative elements at the ends of the roof ridge. In Tang Dynasty wooden architecture, the “chiwen” was typically in the shape of a bird’s beak or tail.
Tall Eaves: The eaves of Tang Dynasty wooden architecture were high and curved upwards, often divided into upper and lower layers.
Dark-Green Roof Tiles: The roof tiles of Tang Dynasty wooden architecture were typically of a dark-green color.
Thick Pillars: The pillars of Tang Dynasty wooden architecture were relatively thick, tapering from bottom to top, reflecting the aesthetic preference for a robust appearance.
Monochromatic Color Scheme: Tang Dynasty wooden architecture generally employed no more than two colors, often red and white or black and white.
Eighteen Imperial Tombs of Guanzhong
During the Tang Dynasty, including Emperor Wu Zetian, a total of 21 emperors were buried. Apart from Emperor Zhaozong (Li Ye) and Emperor Aidi (Li Zhu), the remaining 18 tombs of 19 emperors were arranged in a fan-shaped pattern, with the capital city of Chang’an as the center, extending from west to east. They stood majestically across the Guanzhong Plain, facing the Qin Mountains in the south.
Types of Imperial Tombs
The imperial tombs of the Tang Dynasty shared a common characteristic of facing north and south, with the terrain sloping from north to south. They can be categorized into two types:
a. “Mound-shaped Tombs”
These tombs were artificially constructed mounds with an inverted bowl shape, such as Xianling, Zhuangling, Duanling, and Jingling.
b. “Mountain-dependent Tombs”
These tombs utilized natural mountain slopes. Stone tunnels called “xiandao” were carved on the southern side of the mountains, and underground palaces were constructed at the base of the peaks. Examples include Zhaoling, Qianling, and Tailing, among the 14 tombs distributed along the Beishan Mountain Range.
Imperial Tomb Complexes
The imperial tombs of the Tang Dynasty were surrounded by tomb walls, forming vast tomb complexes together with the corresponding structures.
From Qianling onwards, the tomb complexes were divided into three sections, distinguished by three pairs of gate towers arranged from north to south.
The first section, located north of the first pair of gate towers, contained the burial mound and the Xian Dian (Hall of Worship), which constituted the main buildings of the tomb complex.
The second section, between the first and second pairs of gate towers, encompassed the Sacred Way of the tomb, adorned with various stone pillars, tablets, figures, and animals, symbolizing the imperial processions.
The third section, between the second and third pairs of gate towers, housed the tombs of meritorious officials and close relatives.
b. Main Structures
Xian Dian (Hall of Worship)
The Xian Dian is located within the inner city’s south gate, directly facing the burial mound. It serves as a place for conducting sacrificial ceremonies and paying respects to the relics of the deceased emperor.
Qingu (Imperial Underground Palace)
The Qingu, also known as the Lingxia Gong (Palace Beneath the Tomb), is situated southwest of the outer city within each tomb complex. It serves as the residence for the officials responsible for guarding the tomb and the daily attendants.
Tang Imperial Burial Accompanying Tombs
a. Burial Accompaniment and Secondary Burial System
Early Tang Dynasty
After the death of meritorious officials and close relatives, they were allowed to be buried alongside the imperial tombs and were granted burial plots and funeral accessories. Many of the founding heroes of the Tang Dynasty, such as Li Jing, Cheng Yaojin, and Yu Chigong, were honored with burial accompaniment at the Zhao Tomb (Zhaoling).
Mid-Late Tang Dynasty
a. In the mid-late Tang Dynasty, the number of accompanying tombs significantly decreased, and the practice was limited to members of the imperial family.
b. Representative Accompanying Tombs: Tomb of Crown Prince Yide and Tomb of Princess Yongtai
Both tombs were “mound-shaped tombs.” The layout of Princess Yongtai’s tomb complex is rectangular, with the burial mound in an inverted bowl shape. On the southern side of the burial mound, there are remnants of twin gate towers, along with stone lions, stone figures, and stone huabiao on both sides of the Sacred Way.
Both tombs consist of long inclined passageways leading to double-chamber brick tombs. They include a tomb passage, six passage openings, seven courtyards, eight niches, front and rear walkways, and front and rear chambers. Each rear chamber contains a pavilion-style stone coffin. Extensive murals are painted in the underground chambers.
The tomb of Crown Prince Yide yielded over 1,900 artifacts, including painted pottery figurines, as well as gold, jade, copper, and iron items. Eleven marble epitaph fragments filled with golden inscriptions were discovered, providing ample evidence of the hierarchical burial rituals akin to those of the imperial family.
c. Representative Accompanying Tomb: Tomb of Crown Prince Zhanghuai, Li Xian
The tomb consists of a double-chamber brick tomb with inclined passageways, passage openings, courtyards, niches, front and rear walkways, and front and rear chambers. The rear chamber contains a pavilion-style stone coffin.
The tomb passage, walkways, and chambers are adorned with colorful murals, including well-known depictions of horse polo, diplomatic envoys, and birds capturing cicadas.
The appearance of steles originated in the Tang Dynasty and was closely associated with the “Fotuo Zunsheng Tuoluoni Jing” (Buddha’s Summit Supreme Talismanic Sutra). The Tang Dynasty left behind numerous carved talismanic steles, serving as ample evidence for the wide dissemination of talismanic beliefs during that era.
Steles differ from pagodas. Although both are rooted in the history of Buddhist architecture and share certain stylistic similarities, they belong to different categories.
Chinese steles are mostly made of stone, with fewer iron castings. They come in various shapes, including cylindrical, hexagonal, and octagonal. They consist of three parts: the base, body, and top. The body is inscribed with talismanic scriptures, while the base and top are adorned with floral patterns, cloud motifs, Buddha, and Bodhisattva figures. Steles can have two, three, four, or six tiers, and they can be square, hexagonal, or octagonal in shape. Among them, the octagonal form is the most common. The body of the stele stands atop a three-tiered pedestal, separated by lotus seats and a canopy. The lower section of the pillar is inscribed with scriptures, while the upper section bears inscriptions or dedicatory texts. The pedestal and canopy feature carvings of heavenly beings, lions, arhats, and other figures.
Tang pagodas can be classified into several types based on their architectural forms, including tower-style pagodas, multiple-eave pagodas, single-story pagodas, Lamaist pagodas, and others. The diamond throne pagoda is also considered a type, but it did not appear in the Tang Dynasty, so it will not be discussed here.
Tower-style pagodas imitate traditional multi-story wooden structures and appeared early on. They were the most widely used type of pagoda throughout Chinese history. The periods of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, Tang Dynasty, and Song Dynasty marked the peak of tower-style pagodas, which were distributed throughout the country. The plan of these pagodas was square before the Tang Dynasty, and octagonal forms became more common from the Five Dynasties period onwards, with fewer hexagonal examples. Brick and stone were the main materials used in Tang pagoda construction.
Multiple-eave pagodas have a taller base and are crowned with 5 to 15 (odd number) eaves, most of which are not intended for climbing or sightseeing. Their significance differs from that of tower-style pagodas. Although some multiple-eave pagodas can be ascended, the small windows and enclosed spaces limit the viewing experience compared to tower-style pagodas. Brick and stone are commonly used in their construction.
The plan of these pagodas varies. The Songyue Temple Pagoda is the only example with a twelve-sided plan, while Tang pagodas are mostly square, and Liao and Jin Dynasty pagodas tend to be octagonal.
Single-story pagodas are often used as funerary or Buddha image enshrinement pagodas. In the Tang Dynasty, the exterior of such pagodas began to incorporate elements of traditional Chinese architecture, closely imitating wooden structures and featuring various components such as columns, brackets, and dougong.
These pagodas have square, circular, hexagonal, or octagonal plans.
Lamaist pagodas are mainly found in regions such as Tibet and Inner Mongolia, serving as the main pagodas of temples or tombs for monks.
Tang dynasty dance
The Tang Dynasty was considered a golden age in the development of ancient Chinese music and dance. The art of music and dance saw significant progress and flourished during this period. Two aspects can be highlighted: the prosperity of creative works in music and dance, and the prevalence of music and dance activities.
Prosperity of Creative Works in Music and Dance
Building upon the traditional music and dance arts of the Han and Wei dynasties and incorporating achievements from ethnic minority and exotic dance forms, the Tang Dynasty actively and passionately engaged in the creation of music and dance, leading to a notable increase in the variety and quantity of these art forms. This was evident in both courtly and folk music and dance.
Courtly Music and Dance
Courtly music and dance in the Tang Dynasty consisted primarily of yaying (elegant music) and yanyue (banquet music). The system and functions of yaying inherited traditional practices, with the addition of compositions like “Qin Wang Po Zhen Yue” (Music for the Qin King Breaking the Enemy’s Formation), “Gong Cheng Qing Shan Yue” (Music for Celebrating Achievements and Virtuous Deeds), and “Shang Yuan Yue” (Music for the Lantern Festival). Comparatively, the creative works in yanyue flourished during the Tang Dynasty. The court initially inherited the nine departments of music from the Sui Dynasty and later underwent reforms and innovations.
In the 11th year of Emperor Taizong’s Zhenguan era, the “Li Bi” (ceremony completion) was abolished and “Yan Yue” was added, taking the lead among the nine departments of music. Subsequently, due to the unification of the Gaochang Kingdom, in the eleventh month of the sixteenth year of the Zhenguan era, during a banquet for the officials, “Gaochang Ji” (Gaochang tunes) were included. It was only then that the ten departments of music were fully developed, encompassing many music and dance compositions.
During the years from Emperor Taizong to Emperor Xuanzong, the Tang artists established the system of “Li Bu Ji” (standing performance) and “Zuo Bu Ji” (seated performance) based on the foundation of the initial nine and ten departments of music. “Li Bu Ji” referred to standing performances in the hall, while “Zuo Bu Ji” referred to seated performances in the hall. It is evident that the yanyue of the Tang Dynasty underwent significant development compared to previous periods, not only in terms of variety but also in terms of quantity.
Folk Music and Dance
Folk music and dance in the Tang Dynasty often portrayed the lives of the working people, and as such, it was characterized by its authenticity, simplicity, liveliness, and sincere emotions. There was significant development in the creation of folk music and dance during the Tang Dynasty, particularly in the rise of folk songs and the prevalence of folk storytelling and Buddhist narrative poetry. Folk songs emerged as a new form of song in the Sui and Tang Dynasties.
At that time, there was a widespread popularity of “Hu Yi Li Xiang Zhi Qu,” which referred to traditional Han melodies and tunes imported from the Western Regions and other areas. In the era when yanyue was prevalent, musicians and literati used these tunes to compose lyrics and songs, accompanied by musical instruments, giving rise to folk songs. The creation of folk songs gradually increased during the Tang Dynasty, and the Tang and Five Dynasties period saw the collection of over a thousand Tang folk song lyrics in the “Complete Compilation of Dunhuang Songs,” including famous works like “Wang Jiangnan.” Prominent poets such as Bai Juyi and Li Huang also composed lyrics for folk songs.
Folk storytelling and Buddhist narrative poetry emerged and became popular during the Tang Dynasty with the increasing influence of Buddhism and the growth of the urban middle class. The primary forms of folk storytelling were the “sujiang” (secular lectures) and “bianwen” (narrative poems related to Buddhism). Sujiang involved preaching Buddhist scriptures through chanting and singing and had its origins in the ancient qingshang melodies.
Sujiang performances were often held in temples, with renowned monks like Wenxu and Kuangyin serving as speakers. The audience consisted mainly of monks and a large number of Buddhist followers. The form of sujiang included reciting Buddhist names, chanting Sanskrit sounds, and delivering sermons.
Bianwen refers to the written scripts for sujiang performances. Bianwen employed accessible language accompanied by captivating music to narrate stories from Buddhist scriptures and sometimes historical events. Representative examples of bianwen include “Mulan Bianwen,” “Vimalakirti Sutra Bianwen,” “Subduing Demons Bianwen,” and “Tomb of King Bianwen.” The creative expressions of folk music and dance not only enriched the artistic and spiritual lives of ordinary people but also enriched the artistic treasury of the Chinese nation.
tang dynasty painting style
Reasons for the Prosperity of Painting in the Tang Dynasty:
Social Development and Painting in the Tang Dynasty
The flourishing literature of the Tang Dynasty had a close relationship with the social development of the era. After the establishment of the Tang Dynasty, the rapid recovery and development of the economy created a highly favorable social environment for the cultural development of the Tang Dynasty.
The open-mindedness and inclusiveness of the Tang people facilitated the fusion and development of foreign cultures, creating a conducive environment for cultural prosperity. The development of painting in the Tang Dynasty built upon the foundation laid by the art of the Sui Dynasty. Various art forms in the Tang Dynasty, including painting, calligraphy, sculpture, dance, and music, influenced and mutually reinforced each other’s development.
Painting Art and Religion in the Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty actively summarized the developmental experiences of previous cultural periods and pursued innovative developments based on this foundation, leading to an unprecedented flourishing of Tang culture. Buddhism, in particular, underwent sinicization during this period and gradually reached its peak. The first Chinese Buddhist sects formed during the Tang Dynasty, starting with the “Three Treatise School” established by Sui Jizang. Subsequently, influential sects such as Tiantai, Huayan, Chan (Zen), and Esoteric Buddhism emerged, linking human consciousness, nature, emotions, and cosmic views and proposing significant philosophical concepts that were inherited by Song Dynasty Neo-Confucian scholars.
In the later period of the Tang Dynasty, the Chan (Zen) sect, which emphasized sudden enlightenment and transcended reliance on written words, gained widespread popularity. Additionally, the Pure Land sect, which focused on the practice of chanting the Buddha’s name, exerted a significant influence on the lower social classes. With the high development and prosperity of Tang culture, the center of Buddhist dissemination shifted from India to China.
Taoism also experienced its heyday in the early Tang Dynasty, with the “Shangqing School” having the greatest influence. This Taoist school advocated gradual spiritual cultivation. In the later period of the Sui and Tang Dynasties, some foreign religions gradually entered China. Nestorian Christianity, originating from Syria, was one such example, and the “Monument of the Spread of the Religion of Light from Great Qin to China” unearthed in Xi’an provides evidence of the dissemination of Nestorianism during that time. The Buddhist art that emerged within the context of religious prosperity had a profound influence on Tang Dynasty painting, encompassing color schemes, lines, motifs, and artistic styles.
The Ritual and Educational Function of Tang Dynasty Painting
The rulers of the Tang Dynasty directly organized painting activities, such as creating portraits of meritorious officials, emperors, and kings, as political propaganda tools to “guide and assist people in observing social norms.”
In the early Tang Dynasty, figure painting pursued a style of “capturing the spirit through forms,” but its actual purpose was to fulfill its educational function. With the development of Tang society, economy, and the resulting national confidence due to intellectual openness, Tang figure painting exhibited artistic characteristics that emphasized subjectivity, social aspects, and the integration of aesthetics.
In terms of technique, Tang Dynasty painting expressed “intention” by capturing the aesthetic mood that harmonized with the Dao, combining stillness and movement to depict two levels of spiritual subjectivity. Through the application of such painting techniques, flourishing Tang figure painting achieved a state where form conveyed spirit, reaching a realm of combined imagery.
One of the representative works is Wu Daozi’s predominantly ink-wash painting, “Court Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk.” This painting depicts a scene from the 15th year of the Zhenguan era, featuring an encounter between Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty and Princess Wencheng, who was sent as a bride to the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. The painting highlights the expressions and details of the figures, conveying a sense of intimate emotional exchange between them.
The prevalence of Buddhism promoted the development of folk art education, particularly through collaborative mural painting as the primary method of transmission between masters and disciples. The art education system proposed the artistic principle of “learning from nature,” providing a favorable opportunity to focus on personal sensory experiences.
The Development of Tang Dynasty Painting Art
The development of painting in the Tang Dynasty went through three stages, driven by the flourishing feudal economy and the demands and preferences of the ruling class. The first stage was the early Tang period, during which painting art inherited and developed traditional techniques from the Central Plains while continuously incorporating influences from surrounding ethnic groups and foreign painting art. Tang painting art flourished and innovated during this stage.
The second stage was the heyday of the Tang Dynasty, characterized by significant advancements in figure painting. The development of religious painting was closely related to the development of figure painting. Wu Daozi and Yang Huizhi were major representatives in this field.
Wu Daozi’s religious murals, numbering over 300, formed a unique style known as “Wu’s mastery in the wind.” The Dunhuang murals, preserved in Dunhuang, stretch for a total of 25 kilometers. Their “illustrated sutras” (paintings that visually interpret the ideas of a Buddhist scripture) exhibit intricate compositions, magnificent lines, and highly valuable depictions of figures and animals.
Secular painting focused on reflecting aristocratic life, with Zhang Xuan being one of the representative painters. The painting style during this period deviated from the delicate and vivid style of the early Tang period and developed towards a bold and grand style, leaving a profound and extensive influence on the history of Chinese painting.
The third stage occurred after the An Lushan Rebellion. During this period, paintings of noblewomen became prevalent, characterized by profound, melancholic, and elegantly expressive aesthetics. Other common painting themes included aristocratic banquets, recreational activities, and the lives of literati and scholars. Painters such as Sun Wei and Zhou Fang excelled in portraying noblewomen with remarkable accuracy.
tang dynasty calligraphy
The Tang Dynasty was indeed the pinnacle of cultural and artistic development, and its achievements in calligraphy directly reflected the prosperity of the dynasty.
I. The Gradual Evolution of Calligraphy
In the early period of the Tang Dynasty, society gradually stabilized after the constant turmoil at the end of the Sui Dynasty. With the economy recovering and society experiencing stable development, literature and art began to flourish.
Emperor Taizong of Tang, Li Shimin, had a great passion for calligraphy. He advocated for the people across the country to study calligraphy and actively promoted the calligraphy of Wang Xizhi, which played a significant role in the development of calligraphy. During this period, the most representative figure in calligraphy was Ouyang Xun.
With the progress of society, the “Prosperous Era of Kaiyuan” and the “Good Governance of Zhenguan” emerged, bringing about significant changes in the style of calligraphy. The calligraphic style during this period gradually evolved from the vigorous and upright style of the early Tang Dynasty towards a more robust direction. The cursive script, in particular, broke free from the influence and constraints of Wang Xizhi, developing its own unique style that belonged to the era.
During this period, calligraphy masters such as Zhang Xu, Yan Zhenqing, and Liu Gongquan emerged. They achieved new heights in regular script and cursive script, although not surpassing the ancients, their achievements were still highly remarkable.
In the late Tang period, calligraphy flourished with even more diverse artistic expressions. Despite the gradual decline of the country, new ideas emerged in both regular and running scripts, and representative figures like Du Mu appeared.
II. Development of Calligraphic Theory
During the Tang Dynasty, the theoretical and systematic aspects of calligraphy gradually improved. Many renowned calligraphers of the time shared their insights, and even Emperor Taizong, Li Shimin, wrote four books to discuss the theoretical knowledge of calligraphy. He believed that writing should be accompanied by a deep understanding, where thoughts and actions should align harmoniously for success.
Ouyang Xun emphasized the proper handling of the brush and focused on concentrated contemplation. Sun Guoting approached calligraphy from a historical perspective, emphasizing emotions and resonance generated during the act of writing, earning him greater recognition from later generations. Zhang Huai’guan provided detailed explanations of calligraphy from different periods, offering meticulous introductions and evaluations of each script style’s origin and development.
III. The Artistic Spirit of Calligraphy
The calligraphy art of the Tang Dynasty emphasized adherence to artistic principles, encompassing a diverse range of approaches. The principles of art not only referred to technical requirements in writing but also placed importance on the artist’s character and moral cultivation. Yan Zhenqing, a calligrapher of the Tang Dynasty, was a model figure who emphasized adherence to principles.
Yan Zhenqing’s calligraphy possessed not only high aesthetic value but also expressed elevated moral standards. His calligraphy exemplified the Confucian spirit of loyalty and filial piety, giving it a vibrant and upward vitality.
Since the Wei and Jin dynasties, calligraphy gradually developed and embarked on a path of continuous self-renewal, witnessing an awakening of consciousness. During the Tang Dynasty, cultural fusion and development were underway, allowing calligraphy to absorb the essence of predecessors while incorporating elements of contemporary literature and art, resulting in calligraphy styles with distinct contemporary characteristics.
Simultaneously, as an inclusive era with fewer demands on the people, calligraphers began to pursue their individuality and liberate their nature. Romanticism emerged, and calligraphic styles began to align with the content being written.
During this period, the spirits of abstraction and realism coexisted. As calligraphy inherently represents various forms of Chinese characters, with the overall basis being the stroke of the characters, calligraphy falls between the concrete and the abstract. It cannot be overly specific or excessively abstract, which enhances the artistic quality of cursive script.
The Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) was the pinnacle of classical poetry development in China. Tang poetry is one of our country’s outstanding literary legacies and a brilliant gem in the world’s literary treasury. Despite being over a thousand years old, many poems are still widely circulated.
Tang poetry encompasses a wide variety of forms.
In terms of ancient-style poetry, there are mainly two forms: five-character (pentasyllabic) and seven-character (heptasyllabic) poems. There are also two forms of regulated verse: quatrains (jueju) and regulated verse (lvshi).
Quatrains and regulated verse are further divided into five and seven-character variations. Therefore, the basic forms of Tang poetry can be classified into six types: five-character ancient-style, seven-character ancient-style, five-character quatrains, seven-character quatrains, five-character regulated verse, and seven-character regulated verse.
Ancient-style poetry has more flexible requirements for rhyme and rhythm. The number of lines and the length of the poem can vary, and rhyme schemes can be changed. Regulated verse, on the other hand, has stricter requirements for rhyme and rhythm. The number of lines is fixed, with four lines for quatrains and eight lines for regulated verse. The syllable patterns in each line follow certain rules, and rhyme schemes cannot be altered. Regulated verse also requires the four middle lines to be parallel in structure.
Ancient-style poetry inherits the style of previous generations, hence its name “gu-feng” (ancient style). Regulated verse adheres to strict prosody rules, so some refer to it as “ge-lv-shi” (regulated verse).
tang dynasty eunuchs
In the early Tang Dynasty, the central government was strong, and the monarchs had absolute power, so eunuchs had little influence during this period. However, the emergence of eunuch power was laid during the An Lushan Rebellion, when most civil officials were weak and military commanders had achieved significant military accomplishments.
During the reigns of Emperor Suzong and Emperor Daizong, eunuch power was still in the developmental stage and did not pose significant harm. However, during the reign of Emperor Dezong, signs of irreversible eunuch dominance began to appear. This was because during this period, eunuchs gained control over the imperial guards of the Tang Dynasty, specifically the Shence Army. Under Emperor Xianzong, all the imperial guards except the Shence Army were abolished, and thus the eunuchs completely controlled the military force of the Tang Dynasty. Furthermore, during Emperor Xianzong’s reign, eunuchs were appointed as the heads of the Imperial Secretariat (Shumi Shishi), and this became a convention in the Tang Dynasty.
In summary, the issue of eunuch dominance plagued the emperors of the Tang Dynasty in the middle and late periods. The emperors were powerless to completely eradicate this nightmare. Even during the reign of Emperor Zhaozong in the late Tang Dynasty, eunuchs still held control over the court. It was not until Zhu Wen entered Chang’an and massacred the eunuchs that this political force finally exited the stage of history. When we carefully examine the history of the middle and late periods of the Tang Dynasty, we can see that the problem of eunuch dominance had a subtle but significant impact on the Tang Dynasty. So, what kind of harm did eunuch dominance in the middle and late Tang Dynasty bring to the empire?
Firstly, the most severe harm caused by eunuch dominance in the middle and late Tang Dynasty was the weakening of imperial power. In fact, since the reign of Emperor Suzong, successive Tang emperors were threatened by eunuch power. For instance, shortly after Emperor Daizong ascended the throne, he immediately honored the eunuch Li Fugu as “Shangfu” (Senior Father), which was the first such case in ancient history. Conversely, Emperor Xianzong, Li Chun, was assassinated by eunuchs. According to the historical record in the “Old Book of Tang,” it states, “He died in a violent manner, and all claimed that he was assassinated by the eunuch Chen Hongzhi, but the official history avoids mentioning it.” This demonstrates that eunuch power posed a significant threat to the emperor in the middle and late Tang Dynasty.
According to the “New Book of Tang,” it is recorded that “since Emperor Muzong, seven emperors out of eight in the Tang Dynasty were placed on the throne by eunuchs.” In other words, after Emperor Muzong, the Tang emperors were essentially installed by eunuchs. For example, Emperor Wuzong had five sons during his lifetime, but it was Emperor Xianzong’s thirteenth son, Crown Prince Guang, who succeeded him. This is intricately linked to the rise and fall of eunuch power. In terms of historical development, the eunuchs’ enthronement of emperors actually represented a loss of imperial power. The emperors could no longer decide their own successors, which further weakened their authority
Secondly, another harm caused by eunuch dominance was their influence over the politics of the Tang Dynasty. In historical times, when eunuchs meddled in political affairs, it sparked a century-long struggle between the civil official group and the eunuchs known as the “Nanya Beisi Zhizheng” (the Struggle between the South Study and the Northern Bureau). The most intense conflicts occurred during the reigns of Emperor Shunzong and Emperor Wenzong, which gave rise to two major historical events in the Tang Dynasty known as the “Er Wang Ba Sima Incident” and the “Ganlu Incident.” Upon reviewing these two conflicts between civil officials and eunuchs, it becomes evident that both concluded with the defeat of civil officials, consequently intensifying the eunuchs’ interference in court politics.
Especially during the “Ganlu Incident,” the officials in the court were thoroughly purged to the extent that during Emperor Wenzong’s reign, a situation emerged where “all matters in the realm were decided by the Northern Bureau, and the prime minister conducted official correspondence.” Since then, the civil official group no longer attempted to challenge the authority of the eunuchs. For instance, during Emperor Xuanzong’s reign, he once inquired the prime minister about how to eradicate the eunuchs, but the prime minister had no solution. Instead, he advised Emperor Xuanzong to gradually suppress and eliminate the eunuchs through natural means. It was not until Emperor Zhaozong’s reign that this struggle came to an end with both sides suffering mutual destruction.
The status of eunuchs in the Tang Dynasty was mainly reflected in the following aspects:
Eunuchs had a significant presence among government officials. In the early period of the Tang Dynasty, there were relatively fewer eunuchs. However, their numbers increased over time. By the late Tang Dynasty, eunuchs had formed the dominant bureaucratic class, appointing their own followers to various official positions, creating a system known as the “eunuch-dominated bureaucracy.”
Eunuchs accumulated substantial wealth. During the Tang Dynasty, eunuchs prospered in commercial activities and had their own businesses both inside and outside the palace. They used their wealth to support their power struggles with factions and also engaged in public works, disaster relief efforts, and other activities to some extent, thereby safeguarding the interests of the farmers.
Eunuchs held a highly esteemed position within the palace. Since the Sui Dynasty, eunuchs gradually entered the imperial court and began assisting the emperor in managing state affairs. In the Tang Dynasty, the power of eunuchs grew even stronger. They directly controlled the imperial palace and held authority over the emperor’s decisions, becoming a true “faction” with an increasing influence on imperial governance.
Famous eunuchs of the Tang Dynasty
Gao Lishi was the most cunning eunuch with great political power in the Tang Dynasty. He started as a wandering youth and was castrated to serve Empress Wu Zetian. Having witnessed the treacherous and cruel aspects of the imperial palace, he gradually developed a set of extraordinary tactics. During the “Divine Dragon Revolution,” he adapted to the situation and chose his master wisely, aligning himself with Li Longji and bringing down Empress Wu Zetian. He later schemed and aided Li Longji in eliminating Empress Wei and Princess Taiping, becoming the most loyal confidant of Emperor Tang Minghuang. Gao Lishi contributed significantly to the creation of the prosperous era known as the “Kaiyuan Reign” of the Tang Dynasty. Among all the eunuchs in Chinese history, he stands out as an exceptional figure.
Gao Lishi’s most remarkable performance on the historical stage was his matchmaking between Yang Yuhuan and Emperor Xuanzong, leading to their extraordinary love affair. He played a crucial role in the rise of Yang Guifei, but he also orchestrated her execution at the Mausoleum of the Weaving Maiden. Gao Lishi’s achievements were his downfall. Truly, a smile from a beautiful woman can enchant through the ages, while leaving behind everlasting sorrow.
Li Fuguo – The Master of Intrigue Among Eunuchs in Power
Throughout the five thousand years of Chinese history, there were thousands of eunuchs in the imperial palace of each dynasty. Whether discussing their morality, loyalty, or treachery, few of them left a lasting impact in Chinese history. Figures like Li Fuguo, along with Zhao Gao, are unparalleled.
Most ambitious and ruthless leaders possess extraordinary tactics beyond ordinary people, and Li Fuguo was a master of this art. He excelled at flattery, sycophancy, and obsequiousness without formal education. He could manipulate situations and turn the tides without hesitation. He did not hesitate to harm his own kind or massacre adversaries. Li Fuguo’s hands were never weak. Whether dealing with princes, prime ministers, empresses, or emperors, when they were useful, he would be their loyal servant, and when they were no longer useful, he would swiftly eliminate them. Li Fuguo led a busy life, consolidating power, seizing opportunities, and accumulating immense wealth for himself. In the end, he met his demise, with his body abandoned in a desolate wilderness.
Yu Chao’en – A Eunuch with a Military Background
Yu Chao’en was a eunuch who wielded significant power during the Tang Dynasty. He hailed from Luchuan, Luzhou (now Luxian County, Sichuan). During the An Lushan Rebellion, he accompanied Emperor Xuanzong in his escape and served Prince Li Heng, gaining considerable trust. He held positions such as Chief Inspector of the Three Palaces, Left Guard General, and was in charge of the Imperial Household Department, commanding the Shence Army. He was eventually framed and strangled to death by the Prime Minister Yuan Zai. Yu Chao’en’s appearance greatly strengthened the power of eunuchs and laid the groundwork for the dominance of eunuchs during the middle and late periods of the Tang Dynasty.
Qiu Shiliang (781-843), courtesy name Kuangmei, was born in Xingning, Xunzhou (present-day Xingning, Guangdong), and served as a eunuch in the Tang Dynasty. During the reigns of Emperor Xianzong and Emperor Wenzong, he held positions such as the supervisor of the Five Wards (both internal and external), and later rose to the rank of Left Guard General and Left Street Merit Official. After the Ganlu Incident, he was promoted to the rank of Special Advanced General and Right Valiant Guard General. Taking advantage of the emperor’s incompetence and the internal party conflicts, he manipulated political power and steadily climbed the ranks. Starting as a eunuch serving a prince as an attendant, he successively held important positions such as the supervisor of the military, the supervisor of the Five Wards (both internal and external), Left Guard General, Valiant Guard General, Observer of Military Appearance overseeing the left and right armies, and the head of the Imperial Household Department. He was conferred the title of Duke of Chu State and was posthumously honored as the Grand Commander of Yangzhou. There exists the “Divine Stele of Qiu Shiliang, Duke of Chu State and Supervisor of the Imperial Household Department,” which records that he was once granted the rank of Senior Minister and was awarded the title of Founder of Nan’an County with a fief of three hundred households. However, the following year, he was accused of concealing weapons in his home, and an edict was issued to strip him of his official rank and confiscate his family’s property.
what was the role of the eunuch bureaucracy in the Tang dynasty
The eunuchs in the Tang Dynasty had two main roles: assisting the emperor in managing state affairs and suppressing and controlling other factions.
Assisting the Emperor in Managing State Affairs:
The political influence of eunuchs in the Tang Dynasty can be traced back to the reign of Emperor Taizong. During the early years of Emperor Taizong’s rule, there were divisions among different factions within the court, such as the Mingjing School, the Xin Xue School, and the Dao Xue School. Eunuchs successfully transformed their role and were recognized by the emperor as important state officials, akin to “prime ministers” within the inner court. Eunuchs during Emperor Taizong’s reign held positions as “trusted confidants of the emperor, attendants to the empress, protectors of the princes, royal sacrificial officials, and managers of financial resources.” These positions held high status and significant responsibilities. Eunuchs, due to their close proximity to the emperor, could act on behalf of the emperor in handling various affairs. They expanded the emperor’s authority into different domains, enabling more effective governance of the country under the emperor’s direct guidance.
Controlling Other Factions:
During the Tang Dynasty, various factions, including remnants of previous dynasties and influential eunuch families, existed within the imperial court. Eunuchs chose to defend imperial power and engage in power struggles with these factions. Through their control over imperial edicts and court documents, eunuchs examined the appointment and evaluation of officials, expelled and reinstated nobles, determined tax policies and financial routes, and employed various other means to uphold imperial authority. In the process, eunuchs also obtained substantial benefits for themselves.
Overall, the eunuchs in the Tang Dynasty played a significant role in assisting the emperor in governance and exerting control over other factions to protect imperial power and advance their own interests.
Tributary state of the Tang Dynasty
According to historical records, during the Tang Dynasty, there were over 300 countries that had diplomatic exchanges with China, and more than 70 countries established formal diplomatic relations. This included China’s vassal states at that time, such as Korea, Japan, Ryukyu (Okinawa), Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim, Laos, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and others.
The Tang Dynasty grew increasingly powerful following the prosperous era of Emperor Taizong’s Zhenguan reign. During the reign of Emperor Gaozong, the dynasty carried forward the spirit of Zhenguan and initiated the Yonghui era of governance. The Tang Dynasty reached its peak during the prosperous period leading up to the An Lushan Rebellion, which marked a turning point from prosperity to decline.
tang dynasty Administrative System
The administrative division and local governance system of the Tang Dynasty marked an important turning point in the historical evolution of administrative divisions in China.
During a significant period, the Tang Dynasty employed a three-tier system of “Dao, Zhou, Xian” . However, the actual authority of the “Dao” varied greatly among regions, and there were frequent changes and transformations. Often, the foundation of these changes was the expansion of power by military governors (Jiedushi). Therefore, the system of “Dao” as a supervisory district was often referred to as a “virtual division.”
Furthermore, the territorial boundaries of the Tang Dynasty underwent remarkable expansion, reached its zenith, and later experienced contraction. In the later period, it gradually moved towards a state of fragmentation with powerful regional military governors (Fanzhen) asserting their autonomy. As a result, the records of administrative divisions became increasingly incomplete. Nevertheless, the concept of “Dao” as an initial supervisory district established in the Tang Dynasty continued to influence the subsequent Song Dynasty and became the prototype of the “Lu” system.
what was the social structure of the Tang Dynasty?
The social structure of the Tang Dynasty consisted of a declining aristocratic gentry class, known as the shizhu menfa, and a rising dominant class of scholar-officials who emerged through the civil service examination system. These two groups shared power in governing the empire. The old aristocracy emphasized the study of Confucian classics, while the new landowning elite focused on poetry and literature. However, during the decades of warfare in the late Tang period, both classes of nobility suffered severe blows. When Huang Chao captured Chang’an, he “slaughtered the imperial family without sparing any.” Many high-ranking officials and nobles perished in this turmoil, as depicted in Wei Zhuang’s poem “Yin of the Qin Woman,” which describes how “the imperial treasury was burned to become ashes of brocade, and the bones of officials and ministers were trampled upon in the streets.”
The social structure of the Tang Dynasty was highly stratified and had a negative impact on the lower classes of society. The system can be divided into eight parts: the emperor and his family, the nobility, the bureaucracy, eunuchs/imperial servants, clergy, farmers, and finally, artisans.
In 618 AD, Li Yuan established the Tang Dynasty with the reign title of Wu De and made Chang’an its capital. He is historically known as Emperor Gaozu. Xue Renjiao defeated Li Shimin, incorporating Longxi into the Tang Dynasty.
In 619 AD, Wang Shichong deposed Emperor Yang Tong and declared himself emperor, establishing the state of Zheng with Luoyang as its capital. Liu Wuzhou defeated Prince Qi, Li Yuanji, and occupied Bingzhou.
In 620 AD, Wang Shichong was besieged in Luoyang by the Tang army and sought help from Dou Jiande. Li Shimin defeated Dou Jiande at Wulao Pass.
In 621 AD, Wang Shichong surrendered to the Tang Dynasty.
In 626 AD, during the Xuanwu Gate Incident, Li Shimin shot and killed Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji, and ascended to the throne, known as Emperor Taizong.
The history of the Tang Dynasty is commonly divided into two major periods, with the An Lushan Rebellion during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong serving as the dividing line. Additionally, the Tang Dynasty can be further categorized into four distinct periods:
Early Tang: This refers to the period from the founding of the Tang Dynasty to the first year of Emperor Xuanzong’s reign (from Wu De to Kaiyuan), covering approximately 618 AD to 712 AD.
High Tang: It encompasses the reigns from Emperor Xuanzong’s first year to Emperor Daizong’s first year, spanning about fifty years, from 713 AD to 766 AD.
Mid Tang: This period includes the years from the beginning of Emperor Daizong’s reign to the end of Emperor Wenzong’s reign, covering a span of sixty-four years, from 767 AD to 835 AD.
Late Tang: It begins with Emperor Wenzong’s first year and extends until the downfall of the Tang Dynasty in 907 AD. The Tang Dynasty entered the Late Tang era during this period.
What religion was the Tang Dynasty?
In the early period of the Tang Dynasty, the religious policy was relatively tolerant, allowing for significant development of the two major traditional Chinese religions, Buddhism and Taoism. During the Tang Dynasty’s early years, the renowned monk Xuanzang embarked on a journey to India, known as the “Pilgrimage to the West,” to obtain Buddhist scriptures. In commemoration of this event, the Tang Dynasty constructed the Great Wild Goose Pagoda to house these Buddhist scriptures. The extensive translation of Buddhist scriptures and the gradual maturation of Chinese Buddhist thought during this period led to an unprecedented development of Chinese Buddhism, with most major Buddhist sects forming or maturing during this time.
Other religions, such as Islam, Nestorian Christianity (known as Jingjiao), and Zoroastrianism (known as Zoroastrianism), were introduced to China through international exchanges. However, during the reign of Emperor Wu Zong, there was a harsh suppression of Buddhism known as the Huichang Persecution, which resulted in a decline of most Buddhist sects except for the Chan (Zen) school.
Zoroastrianism, Nestorian Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam primarily circulated among the Hu merchants in the Western Regions, with limited followers among the Tang people. The predominant religions in the Tang Dynasty remained Taoism and Buddhism, with Buddhism having the greatest influence and deepest impact.
Taoism revered Laozi as its founder. Since the emperors of the Tang Dynasty had the surname Li, they claimed descent from the descendants of Laozi and actively promoted Taoism, attempting to consolidate imperial power through religious authority. In 666 (the first year of Qianfeng reign), Emperor Gaozong declared Laozi as the Grand Supreme Emperor of Profound Origins. Emperor Xuanzong further elevated Laozi’s status to that of the Great Sage Ancestor, and ordered the distribution of Laozi’s portraits throughout the empire. The emperor also designated disciples to study the works of Laozi and Zhuangzi, and bestowed titles such as “True Man of Southern Florescence” upon Zhuangzi and “True Man of Profound Mystery” upon Wenzi, as well as “True Man of Primordial Void” upon Liezi, thereby strengthening the influence of Taoism.
Emperor Xuanzong also dispatched people to search for Taoist scriptures and compiled the Daozang, a collection of Taoist texts comprising 3,744 volumes. During that time, temples dedicated to the Grand Supreme Emperor of Profound Origins were built in both the capital and provincial capitals, and numerous Taoist temples were established. According to statistics, by the year 884 (the fourth year of Zhonghe reign), there were over 1,900 Taoist temples nationwide, with more than 15,000 Taoist priests.
Buddhism also witnessed new developments during the Tang Dynasty. With the continuous introduction of new Buddhist scriptures and varying interpretations of Buddhist doctrines since the Southern and Northern Dynasties, numerous Buddhist sects gradually emerged during the Tang Dynasty.
Although these sects had their differences, they shared a common underlying spirit. They advocated beliefs in the immortality of the soul, karmic retribution, and the cycle of reincarnation, guiding people to accept their current circumstances and endure hardships. Therefore, they enjoyed support from the feudal rulers. Among the various sects, the Tiantai School represented by Zhiyi, the Faxiang School represented by Xuanzang, the Huayan School represented by Fazang, and the Chan School represented by Huineng had the greatest influence.
During the Tang Dynasty, the rulers actively promoted various religions to strengthen their spiritual control over the people. With the development of foreign relations, many foreign religions spread in China.
Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and Nestorian Christianity (also known as the Church of the East) were introduced from Persia. Zoroastrianism, also known as the Worship of Fire, was once the state religion of the Sassanian Empire in Persia. Zoroastrian temples, known as “Zoroastrian Shrines,” were established in Chang’an, Luoyang, Wuwei, Dunhuang, and other cities of the Tang Dynasty. The Tang government had a dedicated institution called the Sabaofu that was responsible for managing Zoroastrianism.
In 694 (the first year of Yanzai reign), a Persian named Faduodan brought the Manichaean scripture “The Two Main Teachings” to the Tang court, marking the beginning of the spread of Manichaeism in China. During the suppression of the Anshi Rebellion, the Uyghurs helped restore peace in the Tang Dynasty and brought back four Manichaean teachers from Luoyang to their homeland, where Manichaeism became the state religion of the Uyghurs. In 768 (the third year of Dali reign), Emperor Daizong of Tang permitted the Uyghurs to build a Manichaean temple in Chang’an, known as the “Da Yun Guang Ming Temple.” In 771, the Uyghurs also requested to build Da Yun Guang Ming Temples in Jingzhou, Yangzhou, Hongzhou, and Yuezhou, indicating the spread of Manichaeism in southern China as well.
Nestorian Christianity, a branch of Christianity, was introduced to China. In 638, Emperor Taizong issued an edict permitting the Persian Nestorian monk Alopen to preach in China. Alopen established a temple in the Yining Fang of Chang’an and ordained twenty-one monks. During the reign of Emperor Gaozong, the construction of Nestorian Christian temples was allowed in various provinces.
The original name of the Nestorian Christian temple was the Persian Temple, but during the Tianbao period, Emperor Xuanzong renamed it as the Great Qin Temple. The famous “Monument of the Spread of the Great Qin Nestorianism in China,” housed in the Shaanxi Provincial Museum, was unearthed from the site of the Great Qin Temple in the Tang Dynasty. The inscription on the monument describes the spread of Nestorianism during the Tang Dynasty and includes the names of seventy-two Nestorian monks in both Syriac and Chinese scripts.
Additionally, during the Tang Dynasty, there were many Arab merchants in cities such as Chang’an, Guangzhou, and Yangzhou. The Islamic faith they followed also spread in these areas, and it is said that a mosque was built in Chang’an at that time.
Please note that the translation provided is a general interpretation of the text and may not capture the nuanced meaning of certain terms.
Tang Dynasty Taoism
After undergoing a series of successful transformations during the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties, Taoism entered a prosperous period during the Tang and Song Dynasties. In order to strengthen their rule, Tang emperors claimed that Laozi, the founder of Taoism, was an ancestor of the Li surname and elevated Taoism to the status of the Li family’s religion. Tang Gaozu (Emperor Gao) stipulated that Taoism should be ranked above Confucianism and Buddhism. Tang Gaozong (Emperor Gaozong) posthumously honored Laozi as the “Supreme Mysterious Emperor.”
Tang Xuanzong (Emperor Xuanzong) established the Chongxuan Institute and appointed Chongxuan Scholars. In the imperial examinations, he added the subjects of Laozi, Zhuangzi, Wenzi, and Liezi, and required scholars and commoners to have a copy of the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching) in their homes. He not only bestowed a series of titles upon Laozi, such as the “Great Holy Ancestor Supreme Mysterious Emperor,” but also honored Zhuangzi, Wenzi, Liezi, and Gengsangzi as the “Four Realized Beings.”
With the rulers’ patronage, the philosophy of Laozi and Zhuangzi was continuously elevated. Additionally, in order to counter the more systematically developed Buddhism, Taoism in the Tang Dynasty made significant progress in terms of doctrine and ritual ceremonies. Many Taoist priests wrote books and used Confucian and Buddhist doctrines to interpret Laozi and Zhuangzi from the perspective of Taoism, promoting the development of Taoist theory. Works such as Wang Xuanlan’s “Xuanzhu Lu,” Wu Yun’s “Xuangang Lun,” Du Guangting’s “Daode Zhenjing Guangshengyi,” Sima Yongzhen’s “Zuowangzi” and “Tianyinzi” played a significant role in advancing Taoist doctrine.
Du Guangting also integrated the fasting and ritual ceremonies of various Taoist sects, compiling them into the “Complete Collection of Taoist Rituals and Ceremonies” in 87 volumes, which is still in use today. With the flourishing of Taoism during the Tang Dynasty, Taoist scriptures increased in number. Emperor Xuanzong of Tang collected numerous Taoist texts, which were compiled into the first Taoist canon in history, the “Kaiyuan Daozang” (Open Origin Taoist Canon). Emperor Xuanzong himself wrote the catalog of the Daozang, titled “Qiong Gang Jing Mu,” which recorded 3,744 volumes of Taoist texts.
Tang Dynasty Buddhism
The development of Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty is closely intertwined with its political context.
Historical Background of Buddhism in China
Buddhism originated in India and was introduced to the Central Plains during the Eastern Han Dynasty, gradually spreading and developing extensively in China. The Tang Dynasty marked the pinnacle of Buddhist development, and Buddhism had a profound impact on various aspects of Tang society, including politics, economy, ideology, ethnic relations, culture, art, and daily life.
During the Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties, Buddhism gained acceptance among the Chinese population. The transient nature of dynasties and the influence of warfare led many people to embrace the concepts of reincarnation and karmic retribution propagated in Buddhism. Buddhism received wider development during the Northern and Southern Dynasties, thanks to the favor of ruling emperors. With imperial support, Buddhism expanded its reach and grew rapidly.
During this period, Buddhist temples were scattered throughout China, as depicted in the verses of Tang poet Du Mu: “Four hundred and eighty temples in the Southern Dynasties, how many towers and pavilions lost in the mist and rain.” This highlights the flourishing state of Buddhism. The development of Buddhism during the Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties laid the foundation for its prosperity in the Tang Dynasty.
Buddhism entered China through the ancient Silk Road, maritime routes, and overland routes in southwestern regions. As a foreign religion, Buddhism needed to undergo extensive translation work to be accepted by the Chinese people. During the Han Dynasty, Buddhism was in the stage of direct translation. Buddhist scholars from the Western Regions translated Buddhist scriptures, leading to the emergence of two major schools.
The first was the An School, represented by An Shigao. An Shigao translated works such as the “Anban Shouyi,” “One Hundred and Sixty Treatises,” and “Yinchiru Jing.” He was the first renowned translator of Buddhist scriptures in ancient China, focusing mainly on Zen and numerical analysis. An Shigao’s translations had a profound impact on Chinese Buddhism, particularly in the development of Zen Buddhism during the Northern and Southern Dynasties.
The second was the Zhi School, also known as the “Zhi Chen” school. Zhi Chen arrived in Luoyang during the Eastern Han Dynasty to translate Buddhist scriptures, primarily focusing on Mahayana sutras. In contrast to An Shigao, Zhi Chen’s translations were relatively limited in number, but they had a significant influence on the development of Chinese Buddhism, particularly in shaping the profound impact of the concept of “Prajna” (transcendental wisdom) and establishing the ideological foundation for the study of Prajna during the Northern and Southern Dynasties.
Initially, Buddhism spread among the ruling elites and aristocracy, but gradually it reached the lower classes and gained popularity. For instance, during the Eastern Han Dynasty, Liu Ying became the first royal family member in Chinese history to embrace Buddhism. According to the records in the “Book of Later Han,” Liu Ying associated with “Yipusai” and “Sangmen” Buddhist practitioners, treating them with the utmost respect. This demonstrates Liu Ying’s deep faith in Buddhism.
Subsequently, Buddhism spread among the common people, and large-scale Buddhist temples were constructed as places of spiritual solace. However, the imperial court issued policies prohibiting Han Chinese from becoming ordained monks. At that time, the dissemination of Buddhism only involved teaching the precepts and regulations, without the spread of the complete Vinaya (monastic rules). Therefore, even if someone became a monk, it was merely a formality.
During the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties, Buddhism experienced rapid and widespread development. The translation of Buddhist scriptures became more systematic and scientific, with an increasing number of translators, laying the foundation for the extensive dissemination of Buddhism. As Buddhism touched upon various aspects of politics, economy, and culture, among others, emperors of the Northern and Southern Dynasties employed various means to support Buddhism, leading to its significant expansion. This period also set the stage for the flourishing of Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty. With the impetus and support of imperial power and politics during this historical period, Buddhism experienced rapid growth.
Chinese Buddhism also underwent a process of sinicization, incorporating elements that made it more acceptable to the Chinese people. For example, Buddhist teachings and regulations were combined with the Confucian system of rituals and etiquette. With Confucianism having a history of several thousand years in China, Buddhism assimilated elements of Confucian and Daoist culture. This fusion of Buddhism with indigenous Chinese traditions not only facilitated its acceptance but also served the stability and development of the feudal order. Consequently, the development of the Buddhist tradition received substantial support from the ruling class, leading to the integration of Buddhism and politics.
The performance of Buddhism in the heyday of Tang Dynasty
During the Tang Dynasty, Chinese Buddhism reached its peak, experiencing prosperity and flourishing. This can be seen through the widespread presence of monks and nuns across the country, as well as the continuous growth in their numbers during the Tang Dynasty. Additionally, Buddhist teachings and scholarship thrived, and the economy of Buddhist monasteries was strong. With the support of rulers, Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty became the most prosperous period in its development.
The prosperous economy and stable political environment of the Tang Dynasty provided favorable conditions for the development of Buddhism. Particularly during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian, Buddhism was elevated to the status of “state religion” in China. The flourishing of Buddhism was primarily manifested through the proliferation of temples and the increasing number of monks and nuns. From the early reign of Emperor Taizong to Emperor Wuzong, the number of monks and nuns continued to grow, and the number of temples increased from initially over three thousand to more than forty thousand.
In the early years of the Tang Dynasty, Emperor Taizong did not particularly promote or suppress Buddhism. However, due to the deep-rooted beliefs in karma, retribution, and the cycle of life and death, Buddhism had already permeated various social strata in the Central Plains region. In the late Sui Dynasty, which was marked by numerous conflicts and casualties, Emperor Taizong constructed temples on every battlefield to pray for the souls of the fallen soldiers. This phenomenon indicates Emperor Taizong’s belief in the concepts of karma and the cycle of life and death in Buddhism.
In the fifth year of the Zhenguan era (631 AD), Emperor Taizong built the Hongfu Temple for his deceased mother, Empress Dowager Mu. When Xuanzang returned from India with a collection of Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, Emperor Taizong sent Fang Xuanling to welcome him and provided a dedicated place for Xuanzang to recite and translate the scriptures. During the later years of Emperor Taizong’s reign, he personally listened to Xuanzang’s teachings on Buddhism. These events suggest that Emperor Taizong, Li Shimin, did not oppose Buddhism.
Several of Emperor Taizong’s sons also respected Buddhism. Emperor Gaozong, Li Zhi, built the Great Ci’en Temple for his mother, Empress Zhangsun. According to historical records, Emperor Gaozong welcomed the arrival of Buddhist relics at Famen Temple, with grandeur and auspicious signs, symbolizing the prosperity and peace of the Tang Dynasty.
The prosperity of Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty was also evident in Buddhist cave temples, such as the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang. Historical records indicate that Empress Wu Zetian funded the excavation of the Longmen Grottoes by donating a significant amount of silver. Furthermore, she demanded monetary contributions from monks and nuns across the country for the casting of Buddhist statues.
Even before becoming the emperor, Empress Wu Zetian showed great reverence for Buddhism. According to historical records, she maintained close relationships with eminent monks and treated them with utmost respect, even performing the ritual of “kneeling in person” before them. She also established dedicated places for monks to study and practice Buddhism, known as “feeding grounds for enlightenment,” to ensure constant pursuit of the Dharma.
Once Empress Wu Zetian ascended the throne, she actively supported Buddhism. Due to her unprecedented emphasis on Buddhism, even officials had to show reverence and respect to temples and monks. From an official perspective, Buddhism gained an incredibly esteemed position. Under the influence of Empress Wu Zetian’s deep admiration for Buddhism, others naturally dared not show any negligence. This ruler’s “policy of embracing Buddhism” led to the widespread presence
Reasons why Buddhism flourished in the Tang Dynasty
The flourishing of Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty and its establishment as the de facto state religion can be attributed to several factors. During the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties period, Confucianism, which had been the dominant ideology, suffered significant setbacks. Seizing this opportunity, Buddhism entered the Central Plains. The Tang Dynasty, succeeding the chaotic period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, was a unified empire. Particularly, the ascension of Empress Wu Zetian played a crucial role in promoting Buddhism and propelling it to its zenith.
Influenced by the prevailing social beliefs, Confucianism remained the mainstream ideology at that time, emphasizing benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and trust. However, with the decline of Confucianism during the Wei and Jin periods, rulers began to question its efficacy. In this context, Buddhism filled the void in religious beliefs across various social strata. Furthermore, the concepts of karma, retribution, and the cycle of life and death in Buddhism attracted more adherents.
The role of Empress Wu Zetian was instrumental in the flourishing of Buddhism. After the establishment of the Tang Dynasty, it went through periods of “Zhenguan Reforms” and “Kaiyuan Prosperity.” After several generations of development, the Tang Dynasty had accumulated abundant material resources and a strong economy. In order to secure her reign, Empress Wu Zetian utilized Buddhist mythology and claimed to be guided by the “Buddhist mandate.” She inherited the throne and had intricate connections with Buddhism, which explains her admiration and promotion of the faith.
The offering of Buddhist relics by ruling figures. From Emperor Taizong onward, there were accounts of welcoming “Buddhist relics.” These large-scale religious activities not only served to unite people and consolidate political power but also contributed to social stability. Such grand religious and cultural events showcased the strength of the nation, fostered public support, and facilitated cultural exchanges across different regions, further solidifying political authority.
Standardization of regulations for Buddhist monks in the Tang Dynasty. The Tang Dynasty established a series of management systems for Buddhist monks, gradually improving and refining them. These regulations covered various aspects such as legal status, monastic administration, and temple management. This standardization played a significant role in promoting the development of Buddhism during that time.
An overview and influence of Buddhism on the legal system of the Tang Dynasty
Laws are an expression of the rulers’ will, and with the widespread dissemination of Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty, specific Buddhist codes of law were officially enacted when Buddhism became the “state religion.” These laws were formulated to regulate the behavior of monks and nuns. The foundation of the Tang Dynasty’s Buddhist code of law can be traced back to the Sui Dynasty’s “Zhongjing Fashi” (Canonical Regulations for the Assembly), while the Tang Dynasty later established the religious code of law known as the “Daosengge.” Some inadequately managed monastic disciples greatly disrupted the governance and social order within Buddhism.
Therefore, the “Daosengge” was enacted as a specialized set of regulations to standardize the conduct of monks and nuns. It can be seen as a product of combining Tang Dynasty laws with Buddhist precepts, inheriting and innovating upon the “Zhongjing Fashi.” Subsequently, the “Tang Lü Shuyi” policy was introduced, which inherited relevant laws from the Sui Dynasty.
The influence of Buddhism on the legal system of the Tang Dynasty was multifaceted. For example, the practice of “Duan Tu Diao” in the Tang Dynasty reflected the rulers’ efforts to strengthen national consciousness. On specific dates, the slaughter of animals and fishing were prohibited, serving as compulsory reminders against indulging in meat consumption. Such specific regulations were protected by law and directly impacted the daily lives and dietary habits of the populace.
The Tang Dynasty also legislated to regulate the act of renunciation, as detailed in the “Tang Lü Shuyi.” It provided specific legal provisions regarding unauthorized renunciation by monks and nuns. Official recognition was required for one’s ordination, and appropriate punishments were imposed for unauthorized renunciations based on the circumstances.
Furthermore, regulations were imposed on Buddhist statues in monasteries, and laws were enacted to address theft and damage to temple property. The law stipulated corresponding punishments for those who engaged in theft or vandalism of Buddha images, based on the identity of the offender. There were also regulations regarding the attire and dressing of monks and nuns. Monks were prohibited from wearing secular clothing, and failure to comply would result in appropriate penalties. These fundamental legal institutions provided solid institutional guarantees for the flourishing of Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty.
The influence of Buddhism on the legal system of the Tang Dynasty was multifaceted. The profound impact of Buddhist ideology on people is particularly notable. Concepts such as “karma” and “cycle of life and death” had a deep influence. According to Buddhist belief, life and death are an endless cycle, and individuals may have been animals in past lives. Therefore, there is no fundamental difference between animals and humans. Buddhism advocates non-killing, and this idea is also reflected in certain national laws and regulations. In some special festivals, prohibitions on killing living beings were incorporated into the country’s legal framework.
Tang Wuzong Destroys Buddha
In the year 845, a major anti-Buddhist movement, known as the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution, occurred in the Tang Dynasty, marking a departure from the previous policy of reverence for Buddhism. Under the advice of officials such as Li Deyu and Taoist priests Zhao Guizhen and Liu Xuanqing, Emperor Wuzong of Tang, Li Yan, implemented a policy to eradicate Buddhism. Temples were demolished, monks were forced to return to secular life, and confiscated farmlands were reclaimed.
According to historical records, more than 4,600 temples were demolished during this persecution, along with over 40,000 privately-built temples. The number of monks who returned to secular life exceeded 260,000, and millions of acres of reclaimed farmland were retrieved. Additionally, around 150,000 people who were originally slaves or servants in Buddhist temples were assigned as taxable households.
The eradication of Buddhism by Emperor Wuzong of Tang refers to a large-scale campaign launched by him during the Huichang era. During the late Tang Dynasty, Buddhist temples enjoyed exemption from taxation and monks were exempt from corvée labor. However, the excessive expansion of Buddhist temple economies began to erode state revenue, leading to conflicts with ordinary landowners. Emperor Wuzong, who revered Taoism and despised Buddhism, heeded the instigation of Taoist priest Zhao Guizhen and received support from Li Deyu. Starting from the second year of Huichang (842), the anti-Buddhist measures gradually escalated and reached their climax in the fifth year of Huichang (845). The persecution came to an end after Emperor Wuzong’s death in the sixth year of Huichang (846). In addition to Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity and Zoroastrianism were also affected by this persecution. However, due to the fragmentation of local powers and regional control during that period, the central orders of the Tang Dynasty were not fully implemented. For example, the three garrison towns in Hebei did not execute the orders, and the scale of destruction of Buddhism varied across different regions. Buddhists referred to this anti-Buddhist movement as the “Huichang Buddhist Persecution.” Emperor Xuānzong, who succeeded to the throne, reinstated Buddhism and issued decrees to restore Buddhist temples.
Confucianism in the Tang Dynasty
During the Tang Dynasty, Confucianism was the dominant ideology. However, the rulers of the Tang Dynasty maintained an open attitude towards Buddhism and Taoism. While the Confucian scholars and the Confucianism they advocated emphasized their own values and sought to restrict religions in the public sphere, they also had close personal relationships with Buddhist and Taoist practitioners in their private lives.
The characteristic of Confucianism in the Tang Dynasty is closely related to the rulers’ political needs. The rulers, for political reasons, embraced Taoism and revered Laozi as their ancestor, as well as, in the case of Empress Wu Zetian, embraced Buddhism. The preferences of the highest rulers often influenced the codes of conduct for Confucian literati and officials in the Tang Dynasty.
We can see that Han Yu, the advocate of the Tang Dynasty’s ancient prose movement and regarded as the foremost figure among the “Eight Great Masters of Tang and Song,” initially wrote against Buddhism but later in his life began studying Buddhism.
Although the Tang Dynasty saw significant development in Confucianism with notable figures such as Lu Deming, Kong Yingda, and Han Yu, the foundation of Confucianism in the Tang Dynasty was largely based on the teachings of the Han and Wei periods.
Nonetheless, regardless of the circumstances, the Confucianism of the Tang Dynasty accomplished a remarkable feat. It unified the fragmented Confucianism that existed during the Southern and Northern Dynasties, which the Sui Dynasty failed to achieve. Confucianism once again formed a cohesive whole, ending the division between the north and the south.
In summary, the Confucianism and Confucian scholars of the Tang Dynasty maintained their own values while being influenced by the rulers’ preferences for Taoism and Buddhism. Confucianism in the Tang Dynasty achieved a unification that had been lacking in previous periods and became an integrated system once again.
Tang Dynasty famous characters
The Tang Dynasty was known for its many famous and influential figures. Here are some notable characters from the Tang Dynasty:
Emperor Taizong (Li Shimin): He was the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty and is widely regarded as one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history. Emperor Taizong expanded the empire, implemented effective governance, and promoted cultural and economic prosperity.
Empress Wu Zetian: Wu Zetian was the only female emperor in Chinese history. She rose to power during the Tang Dynasty and ruled as the empress regnant from 690 to 705. Empress Wu implemented various political and social reforms and played a significant role in promoting Buddhism.
Li Bai: Li Bai was one of the most famous poets of the Tang Dynasty. His poetry, characterized by its romanticism and natural imagery, has had a lasting impact on Chinese literature.
Du Fu: Du Fu was another prominent poet of the Tang Dynasty and is often regarded as China’s greatest poet. His poetry reflects the social and political upheavals of his time and expresses themes of human suffering and resilience.
Xuanzang: Xuanzang was a Buddhist monk and scholar who embarked on a journey to India in search of Buddhist scriptures. His travels and the texts he brought back greatly contributed to the development and spread of Buddhism in China.
Yang Guifei: Yang Guifei, also known as Yang Yuhuan, was one of the Four Beauties of ancient China. She was a beloved consort of Emperor Xuanzong and is famous for her beauty and influence over the emperor.
Wei Zheng: Wei Zheng was a statesman and chancellor during the early Tang Dynasty. He played a key role in establishing and implementing the system of government known as the “Equal Fields System” and was known for his integrity and commitment to good governance.
These are just a few examples of the many notable figures who lived during the Tang Dynasty. The era was known for its rich cultural and intellectual achievements, and it produced numerous influential poets, scholars, politicians, and military leaders.
What Are the Achievements of the Tang Dynasty?
The Tang Dynasty (618-907) was a golden age in Chinese history, known for its remarkable achievements in various fields. Here are some of the notable achievements of the Tang Dynasty:
Political Stability and Administrative Reforms: The Tang Dynasty established a strong central government and implemented effective administrative reforms. The imperial examination system was expanded, allowing talented individuals from different social classes to serve as government officials based on merit rather than birthright.
Economic Prosperity and Trade: The Tang Dynasty experienced significant economic growth, with prosperous agriculture, advancements in irrigation techniques, and the development of a vast network of roads and canals. International trade flourished along the Silk Road, connecting China with various regions of Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
Cultural Flourishing: The Tang Dynasty was a time of great cultural and artistic achievements. Poetry reached its peak with renowned poets such as Li Bai and Du Fu. Literature, calligraphy, painting, and music also thrived, leaving a lasting impact on Chinese culture.
Technological Advancements: The Tang Dynasty witnessed remarkable advancements in technology. Inventions like woodblock printing, the compass, and gunpowder significantly influenced global development. The Tang Dynasty also introduced new agricultural techniques, including the widespread cultivation of tea, which became a major industry.
Urbanization and Architectural Marvels: The Tang Dynasty witnessed the growth of vibrant cities, such as Chang’an (modern-day Xi’an), which was one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan cities at the time. The era saw the construction of magnificent buildings, including the Grand Canal, the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, and the Tang Dynasty Palace complex.
Buddhist Influence and Religious Tolerance: Buddhism flourished during the Tang Dynasty and had a profound impact on Chinese society and culture. Buddhist art and architecture, including cave temples such as the Longmen Grottoes and Dunhuang Mogao Caves, are renowned for their beauty and spiritual significance. The Tang Dynasty also practiced religious tolerance, accommodating Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, and various other beliefs.
Diplomatic and Military Strength: The Tang Dynasty expanded its territory, establishing a vast empire that encompassed present-day China, parts of Central Asia, and regions as far as the Korean Peninsula and the Tarim Basin. The dynasty maintained diplomatic relations with neighboring countries and facilitated cultural exchanges, notably with the powerful Tibetan Empire.
These achievements contributed to the Tang Dynasty’s reputation as a prosperous and culturally rich period in Chinese history, often regarded as a model for subsequent dynasties.
What Is the Era Following the Tang Dynasty Known As?
After the fall of the Tang Dynasty, the Central Plains of China saw the emergence of five dynasties and over a dozen regional powers that fragmented the region. This period is collectively known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms.
The Five Dynasties were the Later Liang, Later Tang, Later Jin, Later Han, and Later Zhou. Apart from a brief period when Later Liang ruled from Luoyang, most of the dynasties, including Later Liang, had their capitals in Kaifeng. The Five Dynasties lasted for a total of 54 years and had eight emperors from various clans. The rulers of Later Liang and Later Zhou were of Han ethnicity, while those of Later Tang, Later Jin, and Later Han were of Shatuo ethnicity. They all established their regimes in the northern region of China, with Later Liang having the smallest territory and Later Tang the largest.
The Ten Kingdoms were the Former Shu, Later Shu, Wu, Southern Tang, Wuyue, Min, Chu, Southern Han, Nanping (Jingnan), and Beihan. Beihan was located in the western part of Shanxi province, while the other nine kingdoms were situated in the southern regions. The Ten Kingdoms coexisted with the Five Dynasties, but the duration of each kingdom varied. For example, Wuyue emerged before the fall of the Tang Dynasty and survived until the end of the Five Dynasties, when it was eventually conquered by the Northern Song Dynasty. Among the ten kingdoms, Nanping had the smallest territory, while Southern Tang had the largest.
Later, the Song Dynasty unified the country.
why did the Tang Dynasty last so long?
The Tang Dynasty lasted for nearly 300 years, from 618 to 907, making it one of the longest-lasting and most prosperous dynasties in Chinese history. Several factors contributed to its longevity:
Strong Centralized Government: The Tang Dynasty established a strong and centralized government system that effectively governed a vast territory. It implemented a well-organized bureaucracy with a merit-based civil service examination system, which allowed talented individuals from all social classes to enter the government. This system helped maintain stability and efficiency in governance.
Military Strength: The Tang Dynasty possessed a powerful military that successfully defended its borders and expanded its territory. It had a well-trained and disciplined army, which allowed the dynasty to suppress internal rebellions and defend against external threats. The Tang military also conducted successful military campaigns, such as the conquest of the Western Regions and the Korean Peninsula, which contributed to its longevity.
Economic Prosperity: The Tang Dynasty experienced a period of remarkable economic growth and prosperity. It implemented policies that promoted agricultural development, improved irrigation systems, and encouraged trade and commerce. The Grand Canal, connecting the Yellow River and Yangtze River, facilitated transportation and stimulated economic exchanges. The flourishing economy contributed to social stability and increased the dynasty’s resilience.
Cultural and Intellectual Achievements: The Tang Dynasty was known as a golden age of culture and arts. It was a time of great artistic and intellectual achievements, with advancements in poetry, calligraphy, painting, literature, music, and science. The flourishing cultural scene helped foster a sense of national identity and social cohesion, contributing to the dynasty’s stability.
Cosmopolitanism and Openness: The Tang Dynasty was characterized by its cosmopolitan nature and open attitude towards foreign cultures. It maintained extensive diplomatic and trade relations with neighboring regions and countries, such as the Silk Road trade with Central Asia and cultural exchanges with Korea and Japan. This openness and inclusiveness helped the dynasty attract talent, resources, and diverse influences, contributing to its longevity.
Effective Governance and Reforms: The Tang Dynasty implemented various reforms and policies that aimed to strengthen governance, promote social harmony, and improve the lives of its people. This included land reforms, taxation reforms, and the equal-field system, which aimed to alleviate social disparities and ensure fair distribution of resources. These measures helped to maintain social stability and public support for the dynasty.
Overall, the combination of strong governance, military strength, economic prosperity, cultural achievements, openness to foreign influences, and effective reforms contributed to the Tang Dynasty’s long-lasting rule.
Inventions of the Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was a period of great technological advancements and inventions. Here are some notable inventions and technological achievements of the Tang Dynasty:
Printing Technology: The Tang Dynasty witnessed significant developments in printing technology. The invention of woodblock printing allowed for the mass production of books, leading to the spread of knowledge and literacy. The Diamond Sutra, printed in 868, is the world’s oldest dated printed text.
Gunpowder: The Tang Dynasty is credited with the discovery and early use of gunpowder, which revolutionized warfare and had a profound impact on the world. Initially, gunpowder was used for medicinal and alchemical purposes, but its military applications, such as flamethrowers and explosives, soon emerged.
Mechanical Clocks: The Tang Dynasty is known for the invention of mechanical clocks. These clocks were powered by water and featured intricate mechanisms with moving figurines. The most famous of these clocks was the water-driven celestial clock tower constructed by astronomer-engineer Su Song in 1088.
Porcelain: The Tang Dynasty saw advancements in ceramic technology, leading to the production of high-quality porcelain. Tang porcelain was renowned for its exquisite craftsmanship, vibrant colors, and distinctive glazes.
Advanced Iron and Steel Production: The Tang Dynasty developed advanced techniques for iron and steel production. The use of blast furnaces and the introduction of new alloys, such as steel, improved the quality and quantity of metal production.
Tea Culture: The Tang Dynasty played a crucial role in the development and popularization of tea culture. Tea became an integral part of daily life and social customs during this period.
Tri-color Glazed Pottery: The Tang Dynasty is renowned for its distinctive tri-color (sancai) glazed pottery. These ceramics featured a beautiful blend of green, yellow, and white glazes, often depicting human figures, animals, and mythical creatures.
Compass: Although the compass existed before the Tang Dynasty, it was during this period that its use became more widespread and refined. The compass greatly aided navigation and contributed to the expansion of trade and exploration.
These inventions and technological advancements of the Tang Dynasty had a profound impact on various aspects of society, including warfare, culture, trade, and daily life. They exemplify the innovative spirit and the flourishing of science and technology during this period.
tang dynasty paper money
Feiqian, which translates to “flying money,” was a product of the Tang Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Xianzong over 1,200 years ago. Historical records describe Feiqian as follows: “At that time, merchants and traders arrived in the capital and entrusted their money to various agencies in the Imperial Court, the military, and government officials’ wealthy families. They would then receive a voucher to facilitate their travels to different regions. This practice was called Feiqian, meaning ‘flying money’.”
This means that when merchants came to the capital city to conduct business and earned money, they intended to use it for purchasing goods in various locations. However, during the Tang Dynasty, there was a shortage of currency circulation in the capital city, and there were regulations that prohibited taking money out of the city. Consequently, merchants would hand over their cash to local agencies or wealthy merchants in the capital city, receiving a voucher as proof of their deposit. Upon returning to their respective regions, they could redeem their money by presenting the voucher. This process was known as Feiqian, as they could obtain money by simply presenting a piece of paper. Does this process sound familiar? It is indeed similar to the modern procedures of depositing money in a bank, writing checks, and withdrawing funds.
However, it is essential to note that these vouchers were not considered genuine paper currency. This is because, during the time of currency shortage, before silver could be widely used as a medium of exchange, the Feiqian system emerged to facilitate large-scale cross-regional transactions. The Feiqian vouchers were used for one-way exchanges and did not involve direct “money-goods” transactions. They could not be used for payment or general circulation but could only be redeemed at specific locations. Thus, they served as a form of certification. Although they did not fully develop into paper currency, they can be seen as precursors to paper money.
Tang dynasty paper descendants to Arabia
The discovery of seventh-century documents in the Astana Tombs of Turpan, Xinjiang, China, indicates the presence of papermakers and paper mills in the Western Regions during that time. The documents mention a papermaker named “Kuitou Liunu” and refer to the existence of paper mills in the region. However, eighth-century Sogdian documents unearthed in the Mug Mountain of Penjikent, western Tajikistan, were still written on parchment and wooden tablets, suggesting that papermaking had not yet reached Central Asia at that time.
In the year 751, Tang Dynasty soldiers fought against Arab forces in the Battle of Talas near the Hengros (Jambul, in present-day southern Kazakhstan) and suffered a defeat. According to Arab accounts, among the Tang soldiers captured by the Arabs were papermakers. These papermakers established the first paper mill in the Muslim world in Samarkand.
In 794, the Caliph ordered the governor of Khurasan to establish the first paper mill in western Asia in Baghdad, following the model of the Samarkand mill. From then on, paper mills spread throughout the Arab world. Numerous paper factories appeared along the Red Sea coast of the Arabian Peninsula and the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, particularly in the Levant region. Damascus paper was particularly renowned and remained a major supplier of paper to Europe for several centuries.
The introduction of papermaking to the Arab world led to the emergence of scribes and copyists who preserved classical European civilization, laying the foundation for the European Renaissance.
Around the ninth century, papermaking reached Egypt, as evidenced by discovered documents. From the early eighth century to the early ninth century, documents were mostly written on papyrus. However, during the ninth to tenth centuries, most documents were written on both papyrus and paper, and from the tenth century onward, the majority of documents were written on paper.
tang dynasty compass
The invention of the compass was a result of gradual improvements over a long period of time, and different forms of compasses appeared in different periods. During the Tang Dynasty, feng shui practitioners were quite active, and they began to emphasize the importance of direction and the search for a more convenient directional indicator than the magnetic spoon. As a result, the south-pointing fish or tadpole-shaped iron indicators and water-floating magnetic needles came into existence.
Qiu Yanhan, a feng shui practitioner from Shanxi active during the Tang Kaiyuan era (713-741 AD), is revered by later feng shui practitioners as the originator of the earliest true needle method among the three needles of feng shui (the true needle, the sewing needle, and the central needle). Zhu Quan, the Prince of Ning, known for his interest in technology during the Ming Dynasty, stated in his book “Secrets of the Divine Machine”: “There is no ancient record of needle method, it was first established by Xuan Zhen.” Xuan Zhen refers to Zhang Zhihe, a Daoist from Jinhua, Zhejiang, during the Tang Dynasty (around 730-810 AD). He was known as Xuan Zhenzi and authored the book “Xuan Zhenzi” in twelve volumes, of which only three volumes remain. From these surviving volumes, it is known that he had a keen interest in physics, but there is no direct record found related to the compass or needle method. However, the title Xuan Zhenzi brings to mind the commentary in Cui Bao’s “Ancient and Modern Annotations” that refers to the tadpole as “Xuan Zhen,” stating: “The tadpole, also called Xuan Zhen, Xuan Yu, is round in shape with a large tail. When the tail is shed, the feet grow.” In the tenth century, Ma Gao’s “Annotations on Ancient and Modern China” also contains a similar record. This record seems to link the invention and application of the magnetic needle and the south-pointing fish together in terms of shape and performance.
With the development of craftsmanship, the measurement accuracy of the compass underwent a qualitative change during the Tang Dynasty.
During the reign of Emperor Xizong of Tang, the National Preceptor Yang Junsong combined the two major positioning systems of the Eight Trigrams and the Twelve Earthly Branches into one. He incorporated all ten celestial stems (jia, yi, bing, ding, wu, ji, geng, xin, ren, gui) into the horizontal positioning system, except for the two stems, wu and ji, which represented the central palace position. These stems were used to represent directions.
As a result, the celestial sphere was divided into 24 equal parts, known as the “Twenty-Four Mountains,” with each mountain occupying 15 degrees. Three mountains formed one hexagram, and each hexagram occupied 45 degrees.
tang dynasty printing
Before the Tang Dynasty, China was the only country in the world with paper and was also the country that invented woodblock printing, the earliest form of printing.
Woodblock printing was the earliest form of printing and was invented by the ancient Chinese laboring people through long-term practice and research.
Around the Sui Dynasty, around 600 AD, people were inspired by seals and invented the earliest woodblock printing. However, the woodblock printing technique at that time was very rudimentary and generally only used for small, single-page prints.
During the Tang Dynasty, the number of Buddhist monks increased dramatically, and in order to replicate scriptures and Buddha images in large quantities, the level of woodblock printing greatly improved, and large-scale prints emerged. In terms of layout, the format of prints continued to be improved as the printing technique advanced.
Early single-page prints had an irregular layout, with images on the top and text below, forming a rectangular format. Later prints, although entire books or volumes of Buddhist scriptures, still used scroll binding.
By the late Tang Dynasty, with the emergence of techniques such as whirlwind binding, folded binding, and codex format, the format of prints became standardized, and woodblock printing gradually matured.
The earliest surviving woodblock print with a clearly documented date is the complete scroll of the “Diamond Sutra” discovered in the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang. It is also the world’s first printed book with illustrations.
Tang Dynasty gunpowder
Gunpowder is a significant invention of ancient China, and our country is the earliest country in the world to invent gunpowder, playing a pivotal role in the course of world history.
As early as the Qin and Han Dynasties, “Shennong Bencao Jing” listed saltpeter as a superior substance for refining elixirs using charcoal, providing the material basis for the invention of gunpowder.
During the Eastern Han Dynasty, Wei Boyang recorded in his book “Cantong Qi” the intense reaction that occurs when saltpeter and other minerals are burned together during alchemical processes. Subsequent books such as the “Huainanzi” and “Shuijingzhu” also documented the use of gunpowder.
However, the accurate documentation of the manufacturing method of gunpowder and its military use appeared during the Tang Dynasty. Detailed explanations can be found in the work “Zhenyuan Miaodao Yaolue” written by Zheng Siyuan during the mid-Tang period.
After the late Tang Dynasty, gunpowder was formed into spherical “fire arrows” for city siege purposes. This marked the transition from the era of cold weapons to firearms, ushering in the era of hot weapons. From then on, gunpowder and firearms experienced rapid development, leading to the transformation of weapon systems and military science.
The astronomical calendar of the Tang Dynasty was also highly advanced, and the prominent monk, Seng Yi Xing, was an outstanding astronomer during the Tang Esoteric Buddhism period.
Originally named Zhang Sui, Seng Yi Xing had a wide range of knowledge from an early age, with a particular interest in calendars, yin and yang, and the five elements. He had profound knowledge in these areas. As an adult, he studied Buddhist scriptures and teachings under the guidance of the eminent monk Puji on Mount Song, while also delving into astronomy, geography, yin and yang, mathematics, and other subjects.
Through his observations, Seng Yi Xing discovered in 724 the phenomenon of stellar motion, which was nearly 1,000 years earlier than the English astronomer Halley’s proposition of stellar proper motion in 1718.
In the same year, he organized and led large-scale astronomical and geodetic measurements. They conducted the first-ever measurement of the length of the meridian line. In 727, Seng Yi Xing compiled a new calendar named the “Dayan Calendar,” which was meticulously designed and structurally sound. It was the most advanced calendar of its time, and subsequent calendar makers based their works on its structure. It had a profound and far-reaching influence, only undergoing significant changes after the Ming Dynasty when Western calendars were assimilated.
In addition, the Dunhuang star map from the Tang Dynasty is one of the earliest surviving star maps in the world and contains abundant content.
The map depicts a total of 1,367 stars, starting from December and dividing the constellations near the celestial equator into 12 sections based on the sun’s position each month. The map also includes explanatory texts, which drew from materials found in the “Li Ji: Yue Ling” (Records of Rites: Monthly Ordinances) and the “Han Shu: Tian Wen Zhi” (Book of Han: Treatise on Astronomy).
what colors represent the Tang Dynasty?
The Tang Dynasty embraced the concept of “soil and virtue” and originally revered the color yellow. However, since yellow was exclusively reserved for the imperial family, the alternative choice was red.
what is Tang Dynasty script?
The Kaishu (Regular Script) of the Tang Dynasty, much like the prosperous state of the dynasty, was truly unprecedented. With a mature style and numerous accomplished calligraphers, the Kaishu of the Tang Dynasty produced renowned masters such as Yu Shinan, Ouyang Xun, Chu Suiliang in the early Tang, Yan Zhenqing in the mid-Tang, and Liu Gongquan in the late Tang. Their works in Kaishu are highly regarded and considered exemplary for future calligraphers.
In ancient times, there was a saying regarding the study of calligraphy: “To learn calligraphy, one must start with the Kaifa (Regular Script), and when writing characters, one must first practice writing big characters. The standard for big characters is based on Yan Zhenqing’s style, for the Kaifa (Regular Script) is based on Ouyang Xun’s style. When the Kaifa (Regular Script) becomes proficient, then it can be condensed into Xiaokai (Small Regular Script), which follows the style of Zhong Yao and Wang Xizhi.”
However, based on years of experimental research, it has been found that when initially learning to write characters, it is not advisable to start with excessively large characters, and the Kaifa (Regular Script) is more suitable.
what is Tang Dynasty clothing?
Characteristics of Tang Dynasty Clothing
Bright and Diverse Colors
During the Tang Dynasty, clothing was characterized by vibrant colors, with red, purple, yellow, green, and other shades as the primary tones. Contrasting color combinations were often used to highlight the luxurious and grandeur of the garments. Particularly for officials, the range of colors was even more extensive, and different colors were assigned based on their ranks. For example, the Prime Minister’s attire was purple, the Imperial Censor wore blue, the Palace Attendant dressed in white, the Deputy Attendant wore red, the Gentleman Attendant wore green, the Imperial Academy Compiler wore yellow, and the National University Prefect wore black, and so on.
Rich Variety of Fabrics and Textures
Tang Dynasty clothing employed a wide range of fabrics, including cloud brocade, silk damask, brocade, silk, and woolen textiles. The quality and texture of the fabrics were meticulously chosen, ranging from soft and smooth silk to stiff and resilient damask. Furthermore, to accentuate the splendor and noble status of the attire, precious materials such as gold and silver threads, gemstones, and pearls were used for embellishment.
Exquisite and Varied Patterns
Tang Dynasty clothing featured an abundance of intricate and colorful patterns. Common motifs included flowers, birds, insects, auspicious creatures, dragons, and phoenixes. Animal patterns, such as dragons, tigers, cranes, qilins, and phoenixes, were especially prevalent. In addition, military-themed garments incorporated patterns of soldiers, musical instruments, chariots, and weapons, such as border jackets, robes, armor, and helmets. These patterns were skillfully executed through embroidery, brocade weaving, and decorative stitching, resulting in refined craftsmanship with smooth lines and lifelike imagery.
Unique and Versatile Styles
Tang Dynasty clothing exhibited distinctive styles, comprising two main parts: the upper garment and lower trousers or skirts. The upper garment could be further categorized into robes, shirts, and skirts. Robes had long sleeves and a hemline that curved and often trailed on the ground. Shirts had shorter sleeves and were frequently worn in combination with short jackets. Skirts, known as “cháng” in Chinese, were a type of skirt worn underneath the outer garment and had a fishtail-shaped hemline. They could also be worn independently. The lower garments included long trousers, short pants, and skirts, each with different lengths and shapes. Additionally, there were special garments such as fur robes, horse jackets, and sheepskin coats, which were worn by specific groups of people.
what kind of food did the Tang Dynasty eat?
Tang Dynasty’s culinary culture, like its clothing, had diverse and distinct characteristics.
There were influences from Central Asia, South Asia, and northern nomadic ethnic groups. For example, lamb was a prominent ingredient, surpassing chicken and pork, while beef was also commonly used, although it faced some resistance from certain individuals. Dairy products also had a significant market, and the popularity of grape wine, pepper, and sugarcane gradually increased.
There were influences from the southern regions as well. For instance, the consumption of tea became popular during the middle period of the Tang Dynasty, and rice became one of the staple foods for people in the northern regions.
Preserved and pickled foods held an important place in the diet of common people.
In terms of dietary habits, northern people in the Tang Dynasty mainly consumed lamb. During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, the northern regions, influenced by ethnic minorities, had a high proportion of lamb consumption. People from the southern regions often mocked their northern counterparts by using the term “xiāng shān” (meaning “fishy and gamey”) to refer to their dietary habits. As the Tang Dynasty was influenced by the northern regions, lamb became especially favored. However, the Tang people did not view pork favorably, as consuming it in large quantities was believed to lead to conditions such as hypertension.
The dietary habits of southern people in the Tang Dynasty mainly revolved around fish consumption. Consequently, people from the northern regions derisively referred to their habit by saying, “Netting fish, filtering turtles, chewing water chestnuts, picking chicken heads, frog soup, and shellfish delicacies, all regarded as shameful meals.” According to the “Tang Huiyao” (Essentials of the Tang Dynasty), the provinces in Jiangnan (southern regions) heavily relied on fish as a staple, while the states in the Hexi region (northern regions) primarily focused on meat as their main food during fasting periods. Huaisu’s “Appetite Poem” mentions that when he was in Changsha, he consumed fish; however, upon arriving in Chang’an (capital of the Tang Dynasty), he ate more meat. It is worth noting that during the Tang Dynasty, some monks consumed meat and fish, as long as they did not personally kill the animals.
Folk cuisine included various dishes such as soups, roasted dishes, porridge, sliced and marinated meats, meatballs, dried fruits, puddings, dumplings, cakes, pastries, buns, rice dumplings, mixed fruit candies, and dumplings. For example, “kuài” referred to finely sliced raw meat, which is similar to the concept of sashimi in Japan. Soups and broths were also popular during the Tang Dynasty and served as an important criterion for evaluating a chef’s skills. The term “guǒzi” used for pastries and snacks during that era also influenced Japan, as they still refer to pastries as “guǒzi” today.
what weapons did the Tang Dynasty use?
The military equipment during the Tang Dynasty was diverse and fully functional, mainly falling into two categories: protective gear and weapons. Protective gear included helmets, armor for the torso, arm guards, battle clothing, war boots, and chainmail. Weapons included spears, clubs, bows, arrows, knives, swords, polearms, spiked maces, chain whips, and axes.
The helmets used by the Tang Dynasty army were made of leather and metal, with iron helmets being the most common. Compared to previous dynasties, there was a noticeable change in the Tang helmets, with the appearance of upturned ear guards on both sides. This style of helmet with upturned ear guards set the precedent for the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.
However, not all soldiers were able to wear this type of helmet. Regular soldiers still wore helmets with hanging edges that covered both ears, while infantry helmets had an additional neck guard to protect the vulnerable neck area.
The armor for the torso was referred to as “yijia.” The Tang Dynasty army primarily equipped iron and leather armor. Compared to the Wei-Jin and Northern and Southern Dynasties, the rate of wearing armor in the Tang Dynasty significantly increased. Six out of ten soldiers in a Tang Dynasty army unit could receive armor, and approximately 60% of the soldiers in a force of 12,500 could wear armor. Within a force of 7,500 soldiers, 60% were equipped with armor, while the remaining 40% wore battle robes. Thus, the rate of armor usage among soldiers reached 60%.
Notably, in the Tang Dynasty, long weapons such as halberds, spears, and polearms, which were popular in previous dynasties, gradually fell out of use and were replaced by spears. There were four types of standardized Tang spears: lacquered spears, wooden spears, white pole spears, and round-head spears.
This shift occurred mainly because spearheads were easier to forge and could be mass-produced for widespread use in the military. Moreover, spear-type weapons were more suitable for attacking cavalry, particularly in combat situations. Consequently, Tang Dynasty armies using spears held a certain military advantage when confronting nomadic ethnic groups.
The term “Tang sword” refers to the four types of military swords used in the Sui and Tang dynasties, including the Yidao (ritual sword), Zhangdao (obstacle sword), Hengdao (horizontal sword), and Modao (Mo sword). “Tang sword” specifically refers to the swords of the Tang Dynasty, with early styles closely resembling those of the Sui Dynasty, often referring to the Hengdao. From a decorative perspective, Tang swords were not exclusively of the Central Plains style. The prosperous culture of West Asia and Arabia had a significant influence on Tang swords. Japanese swords did not influence the development of Tang swords; rather, Tang swords had a tremendous impact on the development of Japanese swords.
In addition, it is worth noting the use of the Modao (Mo sword) by the Tang Dynasty military. The Modao of the Tang Dynasty was derived from the Han Dynasty’s Zhanma Jian (horse-beheading sword). Although the long-handled sword did not exist during the Han Dynasty, the form of the Tang Modao likely inherited from the Han Dynasty and further developed into a new form. In the Tang Dynasty, the Modao was also referred to as the Duanma Jian (horse-severing sword).
The Tang Liuding states, “It is an ancient horse-severing sword.” The horse-severing sword originated from the horse-beheading sword of the Han Dynasty. From its name, it is evident that this weapon was extremely sharp and capable of severing horses. The blade was very sharp, resulting in strong killing power.
The Modao and Changqiang (long spear) became the two most commonly used weapons in the Tang Dynasty army. Their use greatly enhanced the army’s combat capabilities, especially for infantry. When facing cavalry, they formed dense spear formations for defense, and during attacks, soldiers wielding Modao formed lines of assault, effectively blocking enemy cavalry.
It is evident that the Tang Dynasty army had a wide range of military equipment with good defensive and protective functions, thanks to the advanced military weapon manufacturing technology of the Tang Dynasty.
Tang Dynasty and silk road
The Silk Road in the Tang Dynasty basically continued the previous routes, spanning across the Eurasian continent. The Tang Dynasty expanded the Silk Road by reopening the segments that had been disrupted due to wars since the Northern and Southern Dynasties, and it also opened a section of the northern route through the Tianshan Mountains. The Tang Dynasty’s Silk Road started from Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), passed through the Hexi Corridor in Gansu (with parallel routes in Qinghai and Ningxia), reached Xinjiang, crossed the Tianshan Mountains into Central Asia, extended further to the Middle East, and branched out to Europe. There was also a route that went to India after crossing the Tianshan Mountains.
tang dynasty vs abbasid caliphate
The Tang Dynasty and the Abbasid Caliphate were two significant empires that existed during roughly the same time period, but in different regions of the world. Here are some key points of comparison between the two:
Geographical Location: The Tang Dynasty was located in East Asia, with its capital in Chang’an (present-day Xi’an, China). On the other hand, the Abbasid Caliphate was situated in the Middle East, with its capital in Baghdad (present-day Iraq).
Political Structure: The Tang Dynasty was ruled by a centralized imperial government, with an emperor at the top and a bureaucratic system supporting the administration. The Abbasid Caliphate, on the other hand, was an Islamic caliphate with a caliph as the political and religious leader, following the succession of the Prophet Muhammad.
Religion: The Tang Dynasty practiced a form of Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, with Buddhism playing a prominent role. In contrast, the Abbasid Caliphate was an Islamic empire, with Sunni Islam as the dominant religion. It became a center of Islamic learning and scholarship.
Trade and Economy: Both empires were major centers of trade and economic prosperity. The Tang Dynasty established and expanded the Silk Road, facilitating extensive trade connections with Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The Abbasid Caliphate controlled important trade routes, including the Silk Road and maritime trade in the Indian Ocean, fostering cultural and economic exchanges.
Cultural Achievements: The Tang Dynasty is renowned for its cultural achievements, including advancements in poetry, literature, painting, calligraphy, and technology. It was a golden age of Chinese arts and sciences. The Abbasid Caliphate experienced a flourishing of Islamic culture and scholarship, known as the Islamic Golden Age, making significant contributions to mathematics, astronomy, medicine, philosophy, and literature.
Military Power: The Tang Dynasty had a powerful military that expanded its territory through military campaigns, establishing control over large parts of Central Asia and Korea. The Abbasid Caliphate initially had a strong military but later faced challenges and territorial fragmentation due to internal conflicts and external invasions.
Decline and Legacy: The Tang Dynasty began to decline due to various factors, including internal rebellions, corruption, economic challenges, and nomadic incursions. The Abbasid Caliphate also experienced internal conflicts and external invasions, leading to its gradual decline and the rise of regional powers. Despite their decline, both empires left a lasting impact on their respective regions, influencing subsequent dynasties and cultures.
It’s important to note that these are general points of comparison, and there are more specific details and complexities within each empire’s history.
The Tang Dynasty and the Arab War
In the year 751 CE, during the tenth year of the Tianbao era in the Tang Dynasty, a five-day battle took place near the city of Talas in Central Asia between the Tang Dynasty and the Abbasid Caliphate. The Tang Dynasty’s Anxi Army suffered a disastrous defeat, and the Abbasid Caliphate also incurred significant casualties. This battle is known as the Battle of Talas. Due to the limited historical records from both sides, the details of this battle have remained elusive throughout history. For over a thousand years, there has been controversy and differing opinions regarding the scale and impact of this conflict.
Tang Dynasty vs roman empire
The Tang Dynasty and the Roman Empire existed in different time periods and geographical regions, so there was no direct conflict or interaction between them. The Roman Empire, which encompassed a significant part of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, existed from 27 BCE to 476 CE. On the other hand, the Tang Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that ruled from 618 to 907 CE and was primarily centered in East Asia.
While the Tang Dynasty and the Roman Empire were both powerful and influential in their respective regions, their historical developments, cultural traditions, and political systems were distinct. The Roman Empire was known for its sophisticated legal system, engineering achievements, and the spread of Christianity, while the Tang Dynasty was renowned for its economic prosperity, cultural achievements, and the flourishing of Buddhism.
It is worth noting that during the Tang Dynasty, there were indirect contacts and trade relations between China and the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire), which was the continuation of the Roman Empire in the East. These interactions mainly occurred through the Silk Road trade network, facilitating the exchange of goods, ideas, and technologies between the two civilizations.
In summary, the Tang Dynasty and the Roman Empire were significant powers in their respective regions, but due to their temporal and geographical differences, they did not directly engage in any conflicts or have substantial interactions.
Tang Dynasty vs goguryeo
During the Tang Dynasty, the relationship between China and Goguryeo was characterized by periods of both cooperation and conflict. The Tang Dynasty sought to exert its influence over the Korean Peninsula and engaged in multiple military campaigns against Goguryeo in an attempt to bring it under Chinese control. These campaigns, known as the Goguryeo-Tang Wars, lasted for several decades and resulted in a series of victories and defeats for both sides.
Goguryeo, however, successfully defended its territory against the Tang Dynasty’s advances and even launched counteroffensives into Chinese-held regions. Despite the military conflicts, there were also instances of diplomatic relations and cultural exchanges between the two powers. Goguryeo adopted some elements of Chinese culture, including Buddhism and Confucianism, and engaged in trade and diplomatic exchanges with the Tang Dynasty.
The ultimate fate of Goguryeo was sealed in 668 CE when it was conquered by a joint military force of the Tang Dynasty and its Korean allies, leading to the establishment of the Unified Silla Kingdom in the Korean Peninsula.
In summary, the Tang Dynasty and Goguryeo had a complex relationship characterized by both conflict and cultural exchange. While the Tang Dynasty sought to exert control over Goguryeo, the Korean kingdom managed to maintain its independence for a considerable period before eventually being conquered.
tang dynasty vs turkic
The Tang Dynasty’s wars with the Turkic Khaganates (620-657) were a series of conflicts that took place in the early years of the Tang Dynasty (7th century) against the Eastern Turkic Khaganate and the Western Turkic Khaganate. The major battles and events during this period include the Battle of Five Ridges (624), the Battle of Jingyang and the Treaty of Wei River (626), the Battle of Dingxiang (629), the Battle of Yinshan (630), the Battle of Tingzhou (651), and the Tang Dynasty’s conquest of the Western Turkic Khaganate (657).
During these wars, the Tang Dynasty shifted from initial appeasement and defense to offensive operations. The internal divisions and conflicts within the Turkic Khaganates, combined with Tang military advancements, led to decisive victories for the Tang forces. In 630 and 657, the Tang Dynasty defeated the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganates respectively, capturing the Eastern Turkic Khagan Jiali Khan and the Western Turkic Khagan Ashina Helu, which resulted in the collapse and demise of the Turkic Khaganates.
Following the victories, the Tang Dynasty established regional military administrations known as “Dudu” and “Duhufu” in the former territories of the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganates respectively, to maintain control and governance.
Overall, the wars between the Tang Dynasty and the Turkic Khaganates marked a significant phase in the Tang Dynasty’s expansion and consolidation of power in Central Asia. The victories against the Turkic Khaganates contributed to the Tang Dynasty’s control over the region and the establishment of its dominance in the area.
tang dynasty vs han dynasty
The Tang Dynasty and the Han Dynasty were two significant periods in Chinese history, but they did not directly engage in military conflicts with each other since they were separated by several centuries. However, it is possible to compare and contrast various aspects of these two dynasties.
Han Dynasty: The Han Dynasty ruled China from 206 BC to 220 AD, divided into the Western Han (206 BC-9 AD) and the Eastern Han (25-220 AD).
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty governed China from 618 AD to 907 AD.
Political Stability and Centralized Rule:
Han Dynasty: The Han Dynasty achieved a long period of stability and centralized rule, emphasizing Confucian ideology.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty also experienced a period of political stability and effective governance, promoting a blend of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism.
Han Dynasty: The Han Dynasty expanded China’s borders to include parts of present-day Vietnam, Korea, and Central Asia.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty further expanded China’s territory, reaching its height of power and influence. It extended control over Central Asia, including parts of present-day Xinjiang, Tibet, and Vietnam.
Han Dynasty: The Han Dynasty witnessed significant cultural achievements, including advancements in literature, art, philosophy, and the development of the civil service system.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty is often regarded as a golden age of Chinese civilization. It saw remarkable achievements in poetry, painting, calligraphy, music, and the flourishing of the imperial examination system.
Foreign Relations and Trade:
Han Dynasty: The Han Dynasty established the Silk Road, facilitating extensive trade and cultural exchanges with the Western regions, including the Roman Empire.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty further expanded trade along the Silk Road and had extensive diplomatic and cultural interactions with various countries, including the Abbasid Caliphate and the Korean kingdoms.
While the Tang Dynasty built upon the foundations laid by the Han Dynasty and shared certain similarities, they were distinct dynasties separated by time and unique historical contexts. The Tang Dynasty’s territorial expansion and cultural achievements represented a continuation and further development of the foundations established during the Han Dynasty.
tang dynasty vs song dynasty
The Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty were two major dynasties in Chinese history that followed each other chronologically. Here are some key points of comparison between the two:
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty ruled from 618 to 907 AD.
Song Dynasty: The Song Dynasty was divided into two periods: the Northern Song (960-1127 AD) and the Southern Song (1127-1279 AD).
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty had a more centralized government with a strong emperor and a well-established bureaucracy.
Song Dynasty: The Song Dynasty also had a centralized government, but it faced challenges from powerful military officials and the rise of regional warlords.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty controlled a vast territory, including present-day China, parts of Central Asia, and the Korean Peninsula.
Song Dynasty: The Song Dynasty lost control of the northern territories to the Khitan Liao Dynasty and ruled only over southern China.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty experienced significant economic growth, supported by a prosperous agricultural sector, extensive trade along the Silk Road, and the introduction of new technologies.
Song Dynasty: The Song Dynasty focused more on agricultural development, leading to innovations in rice cultivation and the growth of urban centers and commercialization.
Cultural and Intellectual Achievements:
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty is considered a period of great cultural and artistic flourishing, known for its poetry, painting, calligraphy, and advancements in literature and philosophy.
Song Dynasty: The Song Dynasty also had notable cultural achievements, particularly in the fields of poetry, painting, and ceramics. Neo-Confucianism emerged as a dominant intellectual and philosophical doctrine during this time.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty faced military challenges from external forces, including conflicts with nomadic tribes such as the Tibetans and the Uighurs.
Song Dynasty: The Song Dynasty faced military threats from the Khitan, Jurchen, and Mongol tribes, leading to the eventual downfall of the Northern Song and the establishment of the Southern Song.
It’s important to note that both dynasties made significant contributions to Chinese history and culture, but they differed in terms of territorial control, political structure, and the specific challenges they faced. The Tang Dynasty is often regarded as a period of political stability and cultural brilliance, while the Song Dynasty is known for its economic prosperity and intellectual achievements.
tang dynasty vs qing dynasty
The Tang Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty were two major dynasties in Chinese history that were separated by several centuries. Here are some key points of comparison between the two:
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty ruled from 618 to 907 AD.
Qing Dynasty: The Qing Dynasty ruled from 1644 to 1912 AD.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty was dominated by the Han Chinese ethnic group, although there were also significant minority populations.
Qing Dynasty: The Qing Dynasty was established by the Manchu people, an ethnic minority from northeastern China.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty had a centralized imperial government with a powerful emperor and a well-developed bureaucracy.
Qing Dynasty: The Qing Dynasty also had a centralized government with an emperor, but it incorporated certain elements of Manchu culture and administration.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty expanded its territory to include parts of Central Asia, the Korean Peninsula, and northern Vietnam.
Qing Dynasty: The Qing Dynasty was the last imperial dynasty in China and had the largest territorial extent, ruling over a vast empire that included present-day China, Mongolia, Tibet, and Taiwan.
Cultural and Social Influence:
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty is considered a golden age of Chinese poetry, literature, and art. It was known for its cosmopolitanism and openness to foreign cultures.
Qing Dynasty: The Qing Dynasty adopted certain aspects of Manchu culture and imposed the “Manchu way” on Chinese society. It also saw the development of distinctive styles in art, literature, and architecture.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty had extensive interactions with neighboring states, including diplomatic relations and cultural exchanges with Central Asia, the Korean kingdoms, and Japan.
Qing Dynasty: The Qing Dynasty faced challenges from Western powers, including the Opium Wars and unequal treaties, which resulted in territorial losses and foreign influence in China.
End of Dynasties:
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty declined due to internal rebellions, military conflicts, and economic difficulties, leading to its eventual collapse.
Qing Dynasty: The Qing Dynasty faced a series of internal and external challenges, including the Taiping Rebellion, Boxer Rebellion, and pressures for modernization, which eventually led to its downfall and the establishment of the Republic of China.
It’s important to note that the Tang Dynasty and Qing Dynasty represent distinct periods in Chinese history with their own unique characteristics and contributions. The Tang Dynasty is known for its cultural achievements and expansive influence, while the Qing Dynasty marked a period of Manchu rule and faced significant challenges from both internal and external forces.
Tang Dynasty vs Japan
The Tang Dynasty and Japan had significant interactions during their respective histories. Here are some key points of comparison between the two:
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty ruled China from 618 to 907 AD.
Japan: Japan’s history during this period is often referred to as the Nara Period (710-794) and the Heian Period (794-1185).
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty had a profound cultural impact on Japan. Japanese emissaries and scholars traveled to China to study Tang culture, including Buddhism, Confucianism, government administration, art, and literature. Tang aesthetics, poetry, and clothing styles influenced Japanese culture.
Japan: Japan adopted many elements of Tang culture, including Buddhism, Confucianism, and Chinese writing systems. Japanese art, architecture, and court ceremonies were heavily influenced by Tang aesthetics.
Diplomatic Relations and Trade:
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty maintained diplomatic relations and conducted trade with Japan. Tang China sent missions to Japan and established official diplomatic ties. Trade between the two countries flourished, with goods such as silk, tea, ceramics, and Buddhist scriptures being exchanged.
Japan: The Japanese court actively engaged in diplomatic exchanges with Tang China, sending missions to establish political and cultural connections. The capital city of Nara was modeled after Chang’an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty.
Tang Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty had intermittent conflicts with Japan, particularly during the late 7th and early 8th centuries. These conflicts were centered around control over the Korean Peninsula, and both sides sought to assert influence and control over the region.
Japan: The Japanese forces, led by Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito, launched military campaigns against the Korean kingdom of Silla, which was allied with the Tang Dynasty. Japan sought to establish dominance in the region but ultimately faced setbacks.
Cultural Exchange and Influence:
Tang Dynasty: Tang culture had a lasting impact on Japan’s court culture, literature, art, and Buddhism. Japanese aristocrats adopted Tang-style clothing, hairstyles, and customs. Many Japanese literary works, such as “The Tale of Genji,” were influenced by Tang literary traditions.
Japan: The Japanese adopted and adapted Tang cultural elements, integrating them into their own artistic and literary traditions. Tang-inspired Buddhist temples and pagodas were constructed, and Tang-style painting techniques were adopted by Japanese artists.
It’s important to note that the interactions between the Tang Dynasty and Japan were complex and multifaceted. While there were diplomatic, cultural, and trade exchanges that fostered mutual influence and admiration, there were also occasional conflicts driven by geopolitical interests in the Korean Peninsula. Overall, the Tang Dynasty played a significant role in shaping Japanese culture and society during this period.
The “QianTangShi” refers to the Japanese envoys dispatched to the Tang Dynasty in China. The practice of sending envoys to Tang Dynasty began in the fourth year of the Tang Zhenguan era (630 AD), when the first envoy, Inukai-no-Tamashige, was sent to Tang. The practice continued until the first year of the Tang Qianyuan era (894 AD), when it was discontinued. In total, there were nineteen official missions sent (including one mission to welcome Tang envoys and three missions to send Japanese envoys to Tang), with approximately thirteen of them successfully reaching the Tang Dynasty.
The envoy group consisted of the ambassador, deputy ambassador, chief judge, scribes, interpreters, physicians, shipmasters, sailors, and other staff members. Additionally, there were a large number of Japanese students and Buddhist monks who traveled to Tang for studies. At times, the total number of personnel reached over six hundred individuals. The envoy fleet typically consisted of two to four ships.
There were generally two main routes taken by the Japanese envoys. The northern route started from the capital, Tsukushi (present-day Fukuoka), and passed through the Tsushima Strait, crossed the Yellow Sea to Incheon, or followed the western coast of the Korean Peninsula and the eastern coast of the Liaodong Peninsula to reach the mouth of the Bohai Sea, then landed on the Shandong Peninsula. The southern route started from the western coast of Tsukushi and headed south, crossing the East China Sea to reach the mouth of the Yangtze River, or directly crossing the East China Sea from Tsukushi’s vicinity, near the Goto Islands (including the Five Islands and Hirado Island).
Tang Dynasty vs Korea
The Tang Dynasty and Korea had a complex relationship characterized by a mixture of political alliances, cultural exchanges, and occasional conflicts. Here are some key points about their interactions:
Political Alliances: The Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) sought to maintain a friendly relationship with Korea, known as Goguryeo at that time. The Tang Dynasty provided military support to Goguryeo in its conflicts against the neighboring Silla Dynasty and Baekje Dynasty.
Cultural Exchanges: The Tang Dynasty played a significant role in influencing Korean culture. Korean scholars, artisans, and monks traveled to the Tang Dynasty to study its advanced administration, Confucianism, Buddhism, and arts. The Tang Dynasty’s influence can be seen in various aspects of Korean culture, including architecture, art, literature, and clothing.
Conflicts: Despite their alliances, there were also instances of conflict between the Tang Dynasty and Korea. In the late 7th century, Tang launched a military campaign against Goguryeo. The Tang forces initially achieved success but faced significant challenges and eventually withdrew. This conflict led to the downfall of Goguryeo and the rise of the Unified Silla Dynasty in the Korean Peninsula.
Unified Silla Dynasty: The Tang Dynasty maintained close relations with the Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935 AD), which unified the Korean Peninsula. The two dynasties exchanged envoys, engaged in trade, and shared cultural practices. The Unified Silla Dynasty recognized Tang as its suzerain and often sent tributary missions to the Tang court.
It’s important to note that the relationship between the Tang Dynasty and Korea was not solely characterized by conflicts or alliances. There were numerous instances of cultural exchange and diplomatic interactions, leaving a lasting impact on Korean history and culture.
how did the Tang Dynasty fall?
The “安史之乱” (An Shi Rebellion) greatly weakened the vitality of the Tang Dynasty, leading to its decline. The system of equal-field land distribution (均田制) gradually disintegrated, and the phenomenon of land consolidation became increasingly severe. The rent and corvée system (租庸调制) could no longer be effectively implemented. The situation of regional military governors gaining autonomy had already taken shape. After this period, the Tang Dynasty faced external threats from the Tibetan Empire, the Uyghur Khaganate, and the Nanzhao Kingdom, while internally, eunuchs wielded power and even determined the enthronement of emperors.
In 859, a peasant uprising erupted, and through the impact of Huang Chao’s rebellion, the foundation of the Tang Dynasty was shattered, and its political authority became nominal. In the process of suppressing the peasant uprising, a new group of military governors known as “jiedushi” emerged, and intense wars of consolidation broke out between the new and old regional powers. Among them, the most influential powers in the Yellow River basin were Li Keyong, the military governor of Hedong, Zhu Quanzhong (later known as Emperor Taizu of Later Liang), the military governor of Bian (Kaifeng), and Li Maozhen, the military governor of Fengxiang.
In 889, Zhu Quanzhong forced Emperor Zhaozong of Tang to relocate the capital to Luoyang, compelling the officials of the court to accompany the move eastward. After their departure, he ordered the destruction of the palaces, government offices, and civilian houses in Chang’an.
In 905, Zhu Quanzhong carried out mass demotions and exiles of court officials, and subsequently killed more than 30 exiled officials, including Cui Shu, at the Bai Ma Yi station, throwing their bodies into the river. This event became known as the “Bai Ma Yi Incident.” With all political resistance eliminated, Zhu Quanzhong forced Emperor Ai of Tang to abdicate in 907, proclaimed himself Emperor Taizu of Later Liang, and established the era name Kaiping with the capital in Kaifeng. Thus, the Tang Dynasty came to an end.
who helped overthrow the Tang Dynasty?
The overthrow of the Tang Dynasty involved various factors and multiple forces. However, one of the key figures who played a significant role in the downfall of the Tang Dynasty was Zhu Quanzhong, also known as Zhu Wen. He was a military governor (jiedushi) of the Later Liang state, which was one of the many regional powers that emerged during the period of disintegration of central authority in the late Tang Dynasty.
Zhu Quanzhong led a successful military campaign against the Tang Dynasty and its remnants, taking advantage of the political and military chaos that plagued the empire. He gradually gained control over key regions, including the strategic capital city of Chang’an. In 907, he forced Emperor Ai of Tang to abdicate, marking the end of the Tang Dynasty. Zhu Quanzhong then established the Later Liang Dynasty, becoming its first emperor, known as Emperor Taizu.
It’s important to note that Zhu Quanzhong was not the sole factor in the downfall of the Tang Dynasty. The An Shi Rebellion, internal power struggles, regional military governors, and various external threats also contributed to the weakening and eventual collapse of the dynasty.
Why Is the Tang Dynasty Dynasty Important?
The Tang Dynasty is considered one of the most significant periods in Chinese history due to its numerous contributions and achievements. Here are several reasons why the Tang Dynasty is important:
Golden Age of Chinese Culture: The Tang Dynasty is often referred to as the “Golden Age” of Chinese culture. It was a period of remarkable artistic, literary, and intellectual achievements. Tang poetry, with renowned poets such as Li Bai and Du Fu, reached its peak and has had a lasting impact on Chinese literature. The dynasty also saw advancements in painting, calligraphy, music, and dance, with the emergence of new art forms and styles.
Cosmopolitanism and Cultural Exchange: The Tang Dynasty was a cosmopolitan empire that attracted foreign merchants, diplomats, scholars, and travelers from various regions, including Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The capital city, Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), was a vibrant cultural and commercial center, fostering cross-cultural exchanges and the spread of ideas, religions (such as Buddhism and Nestorian Christianity), and technologies.
Stable Governance and Administrative Reforms: The Tang Dynasty implemented various administrative reforms that enhanced governance and promoted social stability. The equal-field land distribution system (均田制) aimed to reduce the concentration of landownership, while the civil service examination system was expanded, allowing people from different social backgrounds to enter government service based on merit. The dynasty’s emphasis on efficient administration contributed to its longevity and prosperity.
Economic Prosperity and Trade: The Tang Dynasty experienced significant economic growth and was an important center of trade and commerce. It had an extensive network of trade routes, including the famous Silk Road, which facilitated the exchange of goods, technologies, and ideas between East Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. The flourishing economy supported urbanization, a monetized economy, and the development of industry and agriculture.
Military Expansion and Diplomatic Relations: The Tang Dynasty expanded its territory through military campaigns, incorporating vast regions into its empire. It established diplomatic relations with neighboring states and formed alliances, such as with the Tibetan Empire and various Central Asian powers. These diplomatic ties and military achievements contributed to regional stability and cultural exchanges.
Legal and Social Reforms: The Tang Dynasty enacted legal reforms that aimed to ensure fairness and justice, such as the codification of laws in the Tang Code. It also implemented social reforms, including efforts to improve women’s rights, land redistribution, and relief measures for peasants.
Overall, the Tang Dynasty’s accomplishments in culture, governance, economy, and diplomacy have had a profound and lasting impact on Chinese history and civilization. It laid the foundation for subsequent dynasties and influenced neighboring countries and regions.
how did the tang dynasty benefit from the accomplishments of the sui
The Tang Dynasty benefited from the accomplishments of the preceding Sui Dynasty in several ways:
Reunification of China: The Sui Dynasty successfully reunited China after centuries of division and fragmentation during the Northern and Southern Dynasties period. This reunification provided the Tang Dynasty with a stable and unified foundation upon which to build its empire.
Grand Canal: One of the most significant achievements of the Sui Dynasty was the construction of the Grand Canal, a massive waterway system connecting the Yellow River and Yangtze River. This canal facilitated transportation, trade, and communication between northern and southern China, benefiting the Tang Dynasty by enhancing economic integration and cultural exchange.
Administrative Reforms: The Sui Dynasty implemented administrative reforms that laid the groundwork for the efficient governance and centralized rule later seen in the Tang Dynasty. These reforms included the establishment of a standardized legal code, land and tax reforms, and the implementation of a civil service examination system. The Tang Dynasty further built upon these reforms, refining and expanding them to strengthen its administration.
Military Success: The Sui Dynasty undertook military campaigns to reunify China, which resulted in the conquest of various territories and the suppression of rebellions. This military success created a more stable and secure environment for the Tang Dynasty, allowing it to focus on further expansion and development.
Infrastructure Development: The Sui Dynasty invested heavily in infrastructure projects, including the construction of palaces, cities, walls, canals, and roads. The Tang Dynasty inherited and improved upon this infrastructure, which facilitated communication, transportation, and trade, contributing to the empire’s economic growth and prosperity.
Cultural Influence: The Sui Dynasty played a role in fostering cultural exchange and assimilation between different regions of China. Its cultural achievements, such as art, literature, and architecture, influenced and enriched the cultural landscape inherited by the Tang Dynasty. This cultural continuity provided a foundation for the Tang Dynasty’s own cultural blossoming and artistic achievements.
Overall, the accomplishments of the Sui Dynasty laid the groundwork for the subsequent successes of the Tang Dynasty. The reunification of China, infrastructure development, administrative reforms, military victories, and cultural influence all contributed to the stability, growth, and prosperity of the Tang Dynasty.
The prosperity of the Tang Dynasty is largely attributed to the accomplishments of the preceding Sui Dynasty. Here are the reasons why it is said that the Tang Dynasty’s success can be credited to the Sui Dynasty:
Inherited Political System: The Tang Dynasty inherited the political system established by the Sui Dynasty. Emperor Yang Jian (Sui Wendi), the founder of the Sui Dynasty, was a capable ruler who implemented significant reforms in politics, economy, culture, military, and diplomacy. The Tang Dynasty continued many of these reforms, including the adoption of the civil service examination system, which allowed talented individuals from all social classes to serve in the government.
Administrative Reforms: The Sui Dynasty introduced administrative reforms that were further developed by the Tang Dynasty. These reforms included the reorganization of the government structure by replacing the “Nine-Rank System” with the civil service examination system, the establishment of a two-tier system of provinces and counties to reduce the power of local authorities and strengthen centralized rule, and the implementation of lenient criminal laws to ensure stability and win popular support.
Economic Policies: The Sui Dynasty implemented economic policies that laid the foundation for the Tang Dynasty’s economic prosperity. These policies emphasized agricultural development, land reform, and promotion of trade and commerce. The Tang Dynasty continued to build upon these economic policies, leading to further growth and prosperity.
Legal System: The Tang Dynasty inherited and refined the legal system established by the Sui Dynasty. The Tang Code, based on the principles of the Sui Code, provided a comprehensive set of laws that promoted fairness and justice. The stability and predictability of the legal system contributed to social order and economic growth.
Learning from Mistakes: The Tang Dynasty learned from the mistakes of the Sui Dynasty and implemented appropriate governance policies. They emphasized open dialogue and the acceptance of criticism, ensuring the selection of capable officials through the imperial examination system. This focus on talent and good governance contributed to the stability and success of the early Tang Dynasty.
The prosperous and powerful Tang Dynasty fully inherited the economic foundation of the Sui Dynasty and created a new era.
The Sui Dynasty followed the “equal-field system” implemented during the Northern Wei Dynasty, emphasizing agricultural production and reducing burdens on the peasants, leading to social stability and prosperity. During the reign of Emperor Yang (Sui Yangdi), the Sui Dynasty also constructed the Grand Canal, a waterway system spanning over 2,000 kilometers, connecting major rivers and facilitating the exchange of goods between northern and southern China. This greatly promoted economic development and enhanced the connection between regions. The Sui Dynasty also implemented currency reforms, abolishing outdated currencies and further standardizing weights and measures. These measures freed up productivity, resulted in abundant resources, and led to a surplus of food stored in state granaries, amounting to millions of metric tons, which could sustain the country’s expenses for 60 years. Despite the destruction caused by warfare towards the end of the Sui Dynasty, there was still surplus remaining until the eleventh year of the Zhenguan era in the Tang Dynasty, indicating the immense prosperity of the Sui Dynasty.
The economic system and material foundation established during the Sui Dynasty were further developed and expanded under the astute utilization of Emperor Taizong (Li Shimin) of the Tang Dynasty. This laid the foundation for a period of political clarity and economic prosperity during the early Tang Dynasty. This era, along with the subsequent rule of Empress Wu Zetian and the prosperous reign of Emperor Xuanzong known as the “Heyday of the Kaiyuan Era,” was built upon the strong economic foundation established during this period.
The Tang Dynasty inherited the cultural prosperity of the Sui Dynasty.
After the establishment of the Sui Dynasty, Emperor Wen (Sui Wendi) attached great importance to “civilization” and vigorously promoted education and culture. Recognizing the severe loss and dispersal of official documents during previous dynasties’ periods of warfare, Emperor Wen issued decrees to collect over 30,000 books from all over the country, enriching cultural resources. Particularly during the reign of Emperor Yang (Sui Yangdi), books were organized and classified into four categories: A, B, C, and D, which later became the basis for the “Classics, History, Philosophy, and Literature,” forming the foundation for the preservation of cultural heritage. The Sui Dynasty also adopted an open policy, absorbing foreign cultures and integrating them with Chinese culture. This led to the simultaneous development of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, resulting in a diverse cultural landscape. Many cultural figures, such as Wang Tong (known as “Wen Zhongzi”), emerged during this period and exerted significant influence on future generations.
Building upon the rich cultural heritage of the Sui Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty further expanded freedom of speech, reduced censorship, and fostered a culturally liberal environment. Achievements in epic poetry, calligraphy, prose, novels, music, dance, and other artistic forms surpassed those of the Sui Dynasty. Literature and art flourished with a myriad of styles, particularly reaching its pinnacle with “Tang poetry,” which has been passed down through the ages as an unparalleled achievement in poetic expression.
The Tang Dynasty inherited the military and diplomatic strategies of the Sui Dynasty.
Militarily, the Sui Dynasty adopted the military system of the Northern Zhou Dynasty, establishing a central command organization known as the “Twelve Guards” under the direct control of the emperor. Four major military districts, namely the East, West, South, and North, were established nationwide to safeguard key areas and defend against external threats. The Tang Dynasty expanded the “Twelve Guards” to the “Sixteen Guards” and reformed the military system based on the “equal-field system,” integrating the military with agriculture. This system combined military service with farming, ensuring a steady supply of soldiers while reducing military expenditure. This system continued to be utilized until the middle and later periods of the Tang Dynasty.
Building upon the military structure inherited from the Sui Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty established the “Central Army” and “Regional Garrison Army.” During the reign of Emperor Xuanzong, nine military commissioners were appointed, commanding a total force of over one million soldiers. This formidable military capability provided the Tang Dynasty with significant offensive power. However, it also created conditions for regional garrisons to wield their own military strength and disregard imperial orders, leading to uprisings. The An Lushan Rebellion during the later period of Emperor Xuanzong is a typical example of this.
In terms of diplomacy, the Sui Dynasty followed the concept of using virtue to win over people and maintained peaceful coexistence with vassal states. While warfare was occasionally employed, it was aimed at submission rather than complete annihilation, resulting in most bordering countries surrendering to the Sui Dynasty. With the opening of the Silk Road, the Sui Dynasty’s trade and cultural exchanges extended to Europe, fostering increasingly friendly relations. Foreign countries also sent envoys to the Sui capital, creating a grand scene of “myriad nations paying homage” and reaching the pinnacle of diplomatic affairs.
The Tang Dynasty made even greater breakthroughs and developments in diplomacy based on the foundation laid by the Sui Dynasty. Emperor Taizong married Princess Wencheng to the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo, stabilizing relations with neighboring ethnic groups. Furthermore, the eminent monk Xuanzang was dispatched to India to retrieve Buddhist scriptures, introducing Buddhism to China and strengthening cultural exchanges between China and foreign lands. The Tang Dynasty’s diplomatic reach extended to Arabia and other regions, attracting a large number of foreign students who came to the Tang capital to study and engage in cultural exchanges. As a result, the Tang Dynasty became the most powerful empire in the world, with nations from all corners of the globe paying tribute.
In summary, after unifying China, the Sui Dynasty, through Emperor Wen’s bold reforms, became the most developed country of its time, earning the saying “no wealth can compare to the Sui.” The Tang Dynasty, building upon the comprehensive inheritance of the Sui Dynasty’s political, economic, cultural, diplomatic, and military systems, and benefiting from outstanding rulers like Emperor Taizong, Empress Wu Zetian, and Emperor Xuanzong, experienced significant development in national strength. It reached its peak during the periods of “Zhenguan’s governance” and the “Prosperous Era of Kaiyuan,” enjoying a nearly three-hundred-year reign. The Tang Dynasty became the most powerful feudal empire in Chinese history.
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