Learn more about Tang Dynasty
|History of China|
|3 Sovereigns & 5 Emperors|
|Spring & Autumn||Eastern Zhou|
The Tang Dynasty (Chinese: 唐朝; pinyin: Tángcháo) (June 18, 618–June 4, 907), lasting about three centuries, followed the Sui Dynasty and preceded the Song Dynasty and the [Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period]] in China. The dynasty was interrupted by the Second Zhou Dynasty (October 16, 690 – March 3, 705) when Empress Wu Zetian seized the throne. The dynasty was founded by the Li (李) family.
The Tang Dynasty, with its capital at Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), the most populous city in the world at the time, is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization — equal to or surpassing that of the Han Dynasty - as well as a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. Its territory, acquired through the military campaigns of its early rulers, was greater than that of the Han period, and rivaled that of the later Yuan Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. The dynasty featured two of Chinese history's major prosperity periods, the Zhengguan Prosperity (Tang Taizong) and Kaiyuan Prosperity (Tang Xuanzong's early rule).
Li Yuan, who was a former governor under the Sui dynasty rose in rebellion after being urged on by his second son (later Tang Taizong). Li Yuan installed a puppet child emperor of the Sui dynasty in 617 but he eventually removed the child emperor and established the Tang dynasty in 618. Li Yuan ruled until 626 before being deposed by his son, Li Shimin, known as "Tang Taizong" in history. Taizong then set out to solve internal problems within the government. Internal problems had constantly plagued past dynasties. The Emperor had three administrations (省, shěng), which were obliged to draft, review, and implement policies respectively. There were also six divisions (部, bù) under the administration that implemented policy, each of which was assigned different tasks.
It was during the Tang dynasty that the only female ruler of China, Empress Wu Zetian, made her mark. Her rule was one of only a handful of examples in which women seized power and ruled China, and was one of the only examples of a woman who ruled in her own right.
The 7th to the 8th century was generally considered the zenith point of the Tang dynasty. Emperor Tang Xuan Zong brought the Middle Kingdom to its golden age. Indochina in the south and central and western Asia in the west. China was the protector of Kashmir and master of the Pamirs.
Some of the major kingdoms paying tribute to the Tang Dynasty included Kashmir, Neparo (Nepal), Vietnam, Japan, Korea, over nine kingdoms located in Amu Darya and Syr Darya valley in south of mid-Asia. Nomadic kingdoms addressed the Emperor of Tang respectfully as Tian Kehan (Celestial Kaghan) (天可汗). Due to its prosperity, the Tang dynasty was also an era of development of a highly educated society. The Tang dynasty became synonymous to the birth of famous poems and literatures created by individuals such as Li Bai, Du Fu, Meng Haoran and many others. They wrote some of the most famous poems of their time which are still recited to this day.
 Tang Politics
Following the example from the Sui, the Tang did not centralize power, instead developing and developed a large civil service. To earn government posts one had to past difficult exams on the Confucian classics. Religion, namely Buddhism, also played a role in Tang politics. People bidding for office would have monks from Buddhist temples pray for them in public in return for cash donations or gifts if the person was to be elected. The center of the political power of the Tang was the capital city of Chang'an, where the emperor maintained his palace and entertained political emissaries.
 Trade in the Tang and the Spread of Culture
Through use of the Silk Road, Maritime Trade, and other methods of international trade, the Tang were able to gain many new technologies, cultural practices, and rare luxury and comtemporary items. From the Middle East the Tang were able to aquire a new taste in fashion, favoring pants over robes, new improvements on ceramics, and rare ingenious paintings.
 The Silk Road
Under this period of Pax Sinica, the Silk Road, the most important pre-modern trade route, reached its golden age, where Persian and Sogdian merchants benefitted from the commerce between the East and the West. At the same time, the Chinese empire welcomed foreign cultures, making the Tang capital the most cosmopolitan city in the world. Thousands of foreigners lived in the city, including Turks, Iranians, Indians and others from along the Silk Road, as well as Japanese, Koreans and Malay. This road was first reopened by the Tang in Zhengguan Year 13 or 639 AD when Huo Jun Ji conquered the West. This road would remain open for about 60 years. It would be closed out after the majority of vassals rebelled, blocking the road between the West and East. About 20 years later, during Xuanzong's period, the Silk Road would reopen when the Tang empire took over the Western Turk lands, once again reconnecting the West and the East for trade. Unfortuently, after the Battle of Talas, the Tang Empire would lose a lot of its outer western lands; therefore, once again closing the Silk Road.
 An Lushan Rebellion
The turning point came after the An Lushan rebellion, which destroyed the prosperity that took years to be established. It left the dynasty weakened, and during its remaining years the Tang never regained its glory days of the 7th and 8th century. The Tang were eventually driven out of Central Asia, and imperial China did not regain ground in that region until the Mongol led regime during the Yuan Dynasty. A legacy of the An Lushan rebellion were the gradual rise of regional military governors (jiedushi) which slowly came to challenge the power of the central government. The Tang government relied on these governors and their armies for protection and to suppress locals that would take up arms against the government. In return, the central government would acknowledge the rights of these governors to maintain their army, collect taxes and even to pass on their title hereditarily.
 Fall of the dynasty
Near the end of the Tang Dynasty, regional military governors took advantage of their increasing power and began to function more like independent regimes on their own right. At the same time, natural causes such as droughts and famine due to internal corruptions and incompetent emperors contributed to the rise of a series of rebellions. The Huang Chao rebellion of the 9th century, which resulted in the sacking of both Chang'an and Luoyang was the most destructive and took over 10 years to suppress. Although the rebellion was dismissed by the Tang, it never really recovered from that crucial blow, weakening it for the future military powers to take over. In 907, after almost 300 years in power, the dynasty was ended when one of the military governors, Zhu Wen, deposed the last emperor and took the throne for himself which thereby inaugurated the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period.
 Tang culture
The Tang period was the golden age of Chinese literature and art (see Tang Dynasty art). Tang poems in particular are still read today. 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. 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 Dynasty in 1911, scholar officials functioned often as intermediaries between the grassroots level and the government. Yulan magnolia flowers were regarded as a symbol of purity in the Tang Dynasty and it was planted in the grounds of the Emperor's palace.
Stimulated by contact with India and the Middle East, the Empire saw a flowering of creativity in many fields. Buddhism, originating in India around the time of Confucius, continued to flourish during the Tang period and was adopted by the imperial family, becoming thoroughly sinicized and a permanent part of Chinese traditional culture. However, the emperor feared the power of the Buddhist monasteries and began enforcing measures against them during the 10th century. Buddhism never returned to its former height in China. Block printing made the written word available to vastly greater audiences.
 20 Emperors of the Tang Dynasty
|Temple names||Chinese family name and first name||Reign||Era names and durations|
|Convention: "Tang" + temple name
Note: Wu Hou (武后 Wǔ Hòu) (Empress Wu) was a posthumous name.
|Gao Zu (高祖 Gāo Zǔ)||Li Yuan (李淵 Lǐ Yuān)||618-626||Wude (武德 Wǔ dé) 618-626
|Tai Zong (太宗 Tài Zōng)||Li Shimin (李世民 Lǐ Shì Mín)||626-649||Zhenguan (貞觀 Zhēn guān) 627-649
|Gao Zong (高宗 Gāo zōng)||Li Zhi (李治 Lǐ Zhì)||650-683||Yonghui (永徽 Yǒng huī) 650-655
Xianqing (顯慶 Xiǎn qìng) 656-661
|Zhong Zong (中宗 Zhōng zōng)
(dismissed by Wu Hou)
|Li Xian (李顯 Lǐ Xiǎn) or
Li Zhe (李哲 Lǐ Zhé)
|Sisheng (嗣聖 Sì shèng) 684
|Rui Zong (睿宗 Ruì zōng)
(dismissed by Wu Hou)
|Li Dan (李旦 Lǐ Dàn)||684
|Wenming (文明 Wén míng) 684
|Wu Hou (武后 Wǔ hòu)||Wu Zetian (武則天 Wǔ Zé Tiān)||684-705||Guangzhai (光宅 Guāng zhái) 684
|Zhou Dynasty (690 AD - 705 AD)|
|Continuation of Tang Dynasty|
|Zhong Zong (中宗 Zhōng zōng)
|Li Xian (李顯 Lǐ Xiǎn) or
Li Zhe (李哲 Lǐ Zhé)
|Shenlong (神龍 Shén lóng) 705-707
|Shang Di (殤帝 Shāng dì)
see note below table
|Li Chong Mao (李重茂 Lǐ Chóng Mào)||710||Tanglong (唐隆 Táng lóng) 710|