Sui Dynasty

The Sui Dynasty is most famous for unifying China under one rule after the Period of Disunion. The Sui Dynasty only ruled for a short time from 581 to 618 AD.

Since the fall of the great Han Dynasty in 220 AD, China had been divided. Different regions fought for control and there was constant war. In the early 500s, China was ruled by two major kingdoms known as the Northern and Southern Dynasties. In 581, a man named Yang Jian took control of the Northern Dynasty. He established the Sui Dynasty and became known as Emperor Wen. After gaining control of northern China, Emperor Wen gathered a massive army and conquered southern China. He brought all of China under the rule of the Sui Dynasty.

Emperor Wen was a strong leader. He made many changes, including organizing the government of China, establishing fair taxes, giving land to the poor, and building up grain reserves. The Sui Dynasty began to decline under the rule of Emperor Yang, son of Emperor Wen. Emperor Yang ruled China as a tyrant. He forced the peasants to work on massive projects such as the Grand Canal and rebuilding the Great Wall. Millions of peasants died under his rule. The people rebelled, and the Sui Dynasty was overthrown.

The Sui had many accomplishments: reunifying China under one rule, setting up a national government, building the Grand Canal to improve national transportation and trade, reconstructing the Great Wall, and establishing grain reserves to feed people during times of famine.

Emperor Wen set up a new central government for China, implementing civil service exams to determine the most qualified government officials. The government consisted of Three Departments (Chancellery, Secretariat, and Department of State Affairs) and Six Ministries:

  • The Personnel Ministry appointed government officials including promotions and demotions.
  • The Ministry of Rites oversaw official ceremonies and managed the state religions of Taoism and Buddhism.
  • The Finance Ministry collected taxes.
  • The Justice Ministry oversaw the courts and judges.
  • The Civil Works Ministry managed the many construction projects.
  • The Ministry of War oversaw the Sui army and appointed the top generals.

The dominant religion during the Sui Dynasty was Buddhism. Emperor Wen established himself as a Buddhist leader and the religion became a unifying point in the culture for all of China. Poetry and painting were important art forms.

Emperor Yang attempted to conquer Korea but failed. This loss contributed heavily to the fall of the Sui Dynasty.

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