The Tang Dynasty

The Tang Dynasty ruled Ancient China from 618 to 907, a period of peace and prosperity that made China one of the most powerful nations in the world. This period is sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of Ancient China.

When the Sui Dynasty began to collapse in 618, an aristocrat named Li Yuan gathered an army and marched on the capital city. He helped to put a new child emperor on the throne, but Li Yuan really ruled the country as Prime Minister. When the old Emperor Yang was assassinated, Li Yuan declared himself emperor and established the Tang Dynasty.

The Tang Dynasty benefited from the hard work of the earlier Sui Dynasty, which finished the Grand Canal and rebuilt much of the Great Wall.

There were many advancements in engineering and technology. The most important was woodblock printing, to mass-produce books. Another major invention was gunpowder, mostly used in fireworks to scare off evil spirits. Other advancements were porcelain, mapmaking, gas cylinders for natural gas, and medicine.

The arts flourished. Poetry became an integral part of the Chinese culture. Poetry study was required to pass the civil service exams. Talented poets were well respected and recited their poetry as entertainment at parties. Many forms of literature were written including short stories, encyclopedias, and histories. Painting was popular. Drinking tea became a leisure activity.

The Tang Dynasty ruled over a wide area, from Korea to Northern Vietnam and as far west as Afghanistan. The Tang established a detailed code of laws and administrative functions to control all this territory. They taxed the people based on their land and required that farmers serve for some time in the army.

Government officials were assigned based on their scores on the civil service examinations. Examinations were open to men of the non-noble classes. Government-run schools educated more people.

At the start of the Tang Dynasty the emperors were tolerant of many religions, and Buddhism became popular. However, near the end of the dynasty, the rulers made Confucianism the national religion and banned all other religions. Many Buddhist monasteries and temples were shut down.

Over time, the Tang Dynasty weakened due to government corruption and high taxes. During a rebellion in 874, much of Chang'an was destroyed. The Tang halted the rebellion, but the government never fully recovered. In 907 a general named Zhu Wen removed the last Tang emperor and took power.

Source: The Tang Dynasty
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