Restoration of Empire-Tang Dynasty

Era Information
Time: 618-907
Location of Capital: Chang an, in Today's Xi'an City, Shanxi Province
Emperors: Li Yuan, Li Shimin, Sui Yangdi
Replaced by: Song Dynasty

Tang dynasty's map, map of Sui dynastyThe Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-907), with its capital at Chang'an , is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization--equal, or even superior, to the Han period.

Its territory, acquired through the military exploits of its early rulers, was greater than that of the Han. Stimulated by contact with India and the Middle East, the empire saw a flowering of creativity in many fields.

Tang dynasty's buddhism pictureBuddhism, originating in India around the time of Confucius, flourished during the Tang period, becoming thoroughly sanitized and a permanent part of Chinese traditional culture.

Block printing was invented, making the written word available to vastly greater audiences. The Tang period was the golden age of literature and art.

A government system supported by a large class of Confucian literati selected through civil service examinations was perfected under Tang rule. This competitive procedure was designed to draw the best talents into government.

Tang horse sculture But perhaps an even greater consideration for the Tang rulers, aware that imperial dependence on powerful aristocratic families and warlords would have destabilizing consequences, was to create a body of career officials having no autonomous territorial or functional power base.

As it turned out, these scholar-officials acquired status in their local communities, family ties, and shared values that connected them to the imperial court. From Tang times until the closing days of the Qing empire in 1911, scholar-officials functioned often as intermediaries between the grass-roots level and the government.

Tang dynasty's dancer scultureBy the middle of the eighth century A.D., Tang power had ebbed. Domestic economic instability and military defeat in 751 by Arabs at Talas, in Central Asia, marked the beginning of five centuries of steady military decline for the Chinese empire.

Misrule, court intrigues, economic exploitation, and popular rebellions weakened the empire, making it possible for northern invaders to terminate the dynasty in 907. The next half-century saw the fragmentation of China into five northern dynasties and ten southern kingdoms.