The Tang Dynastyby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Describe how the Tang Dynasty came into power, their contributions, and the "domino effect" that they had on the successive power.
The Tang dynasty, sometimes spelled T'ang, ruled China for almost 300 years from 618 to 907. Over this period of time, the advancements in foreign relations, a unified national culture, a more centralized government, and changes in fiscal policy helped make imperial China one of the wealthiest and most powerful regions in the world during that time. Founded by Li Shih-min, the leader of a coup, the Tang dynasty built on the accomplishments of the previous empire, the Sui dynasty. Because the Sui dynasty had reunified the northern and southern portions of China, the Tang Empire was able to create a strong centralized government and work towards unifying the political and cultural divisions between its people. Other accomplishments of the Sui dynasty, such as canals and granaries helped the Tang dynasty communicate throughout the empire and transport goods and people. Such preliminary accomplishments allowed for the Tang dynasty to dominate during its time.
The Tang emperors set up a strong centralized system of government, in which the emperor was the supreme authority and the state officials were selected on the bases of merit and education. Although most of the officials came from influential noble families, some officials were chosen through civil service examinations, which tested a person's knowledge of classical Confucian learning and literary composition. Many of these officials went on to dominate the more important political and scholarly offices, allowing the government to be run by the most qualified people. The ministries and their bureaus oversaw the workings of the whole government from the capital, and kept detailed accounts and records of what took place. With a staff of only 13,465 officials the Tang government was able to oversee a population of more then 50 million people. In order to make the government more efficient; the Tang dynasty developed of a uniform legal system that they updated regularly. The Tang code had more than five hundred articles that identified crimes and their punishments, such detailed laws were applied to everyone, and allowed the government to manage such a large population.
The Tang dynasty also implemented an equal allocation system in order to increase tax revenues, and production, while insuring the livelihood of the farming families. Under the system the government would distribute similar portions of farmland to all qualifying males until they reached the retirement age of sixty. In return for the land each man owed the government a set amount of grain and cloth, and could be called up to perform labor or military service for 20 days per year. The government also took a census every three years in order to keep up with the fluctuations in population, and tax the people accordingly. Due to new production tools and methods, such as early ripening varieties of rice and the rice field plow, agriculture flourished under the equal allocation system and the surplus of goods allowed for trade to develop. China's dominance over the surrounding regions and peace with the peoples along the Silk Road allowed for trade with India, Persia, and Byzantium in the west. Such trade led to uniform units of value for principal commodities, and made the Tang capital, Chang'an, the richest and most populous city in the world. Economic growth also brought about changes in Chinese society, such as the breaking down of class barriers and the increase of social mobility. The social changes brought about during the Tang dynasty will later bring about a new social and cultural order in China during the Song dynasty, and become a new component of China's history.
Continuing to build on the foundation of the Sui dynasty, the Tang Empire tried to create a unified national culture by including both the culture and social traditions of southern and northern China, which had been under separate rule for some time. The religious policy tolerated all faiths and encouraged the religious community to support the government and help integrate members into the new society. Many religions thrived during the Tang dynasty including Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and even Christianity.
The Nestorian faith had split from Orthodox Christianity around 428 A.D. over the nature of Christ’s deity. Persecutions drove them eastward through Syria and Persia until they reached Xinjiang of China between the 5th and the 6th century. The Chinese referred to the Nestorian faith as “Jiang Jiao”. Although Emperor Tai Zong (627 – 650 A.D.) had sent a monk (Tang Sanzhang) to India for Buddhist scriptures in 628, in 635 a Nestorian missionary from Syria named Olopen found favor with Emperor Tai Zong and translated New Testament scripture in the royal library. By 638, Olopen was granted construction of the Da Qin Temple (also known as “the Persian Temple” north of Changan at Yining Fang) where he acquired 21 monks and the Title “National Priest” of China under Emporer Gao Zong (650 – 684 A.D.). These Nestorian achievements are recorded on the Da Quin monument which Emperor De Zong had erected in 781. Gao Zong also imposed his religious influence following the defeats of the Turks in 657 and Korea from 660-663.
Although Christianity began to flourish under the promotion of the Emperors, it was persecuted under the Buddhist reign of Empress Wu. After her downfall, “Jiang Jiao” made a comeback under Emporer Xuan Zong who restored the Da Qin Temple with portraits of previous emporers who had honored the Christian faith even though most had also practiced Confucianism and Buddhism. [It would be a similar tolerant synergism of ancestor worship and Roman Catholicism that led to the demise of the Jesuites.].
The influence of Emperors on religion can not be understated. When the population of tax exempt Buddhist monks had become such a drain on resources, Emperor Tang Wu Zong (841 – 847 A.D.) destroyed their Buddhist temples in 845 which forced them to find productive labor. The next emperor, Tang Xuan Zong (847 – 860 A.D.), prohibited Christians from preaching in China. Despite these intolerant acts, the whole of the Tang dynasty is recognized for achievements in scholarship, literature, technology and art.
The Confucian elite flourished and Buddhist influenced art and sculpture became especially strong. The invention of printing and improvements in papermaking also led to advancements in the field of writing during the time. A whole set of Buddhist sutras, discourses of Buddha, was printed and scholars at court put together all of the Confucian learning from the past 500 years. Histories of the previous dynasties were also recorded and added to the expanding national library. Poetry became very popular during that time, and led to the development of the first free verse poetry by the end of the dynasty. By putting some of the poems to music the Chinese made the first steps in developing opera. The Tang dynasty also expanded and standardized the school systems in both of the capital provinces in order to maintain a government that operated according to universal rules and shared values.
Although unhappy peasants and great landlords eventually brought about the destruction of this great empire, the Tang dynasty made great advancements in the areas of government, technology, education, and culture. The Tang Empire marked the beginning of China's technological dominance over other civilizations, and their advancements would allow the Song dynasty to reach new heights in shipbuilding and firearms. Especially important was the development of printing during Tang period, which allowed for the histories and beliefs of the people to be recorded and preserved for future generations and dynasties. Thought peasant revolts and uprisings ruined much of central China, the Tang dynasty left behind a legacy of greatness on which the Song dynasty could build.
" Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2001
" Article at http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/core9/phalsall/texts/chinhist.html
Entitled: Chinese Cultural Studies: Concise Political History of China (Compiled from Compton's Living Encyclopedia on America Online (August 1995))
" An article at: http://emuseum.mnsu.edu/prehistory/china/classical_imperial_china/tang.html
Dynasties of Classical Imperial China: Tang Dynasty
Various pages from http://www.yutopian.com/religion/christian/Tang.html
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