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The Sui, Sang, Tang Dynasties

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The Sui Dynasty, started from 581 and ended in 618, the Sui Dynasty lasted for only 38 years and had only three emperors. With a tyrannical second emperor – Emperor Yang, this dynasty was often compared to the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 206 BC). However, the whole nation was reunified and certain economic and political advances were achieved in the period. At the end of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386 – 589), the whole nation had undergone a long period of division. People who had endured sufferings of war were longing for the unification but neither the Northern Dynasties nor Southern Dynasties realized this goal. In Northern Zhou (557 – 581), Yang Jian, who was born to the noble class and was the Chengxiang (Prime Minister) of the last emperor, monopolized the political and military power and suppressed the separatist forces as well as some other royal forces. In 581, Yang Jian replaced Northern Zhou with Sui and proclaimed himself Emperor Wen. Thus Sui was founded, with Chang’an (currently Xian) the capital and Luoyang the auxiliary capital. In 589, the Sui Court defeated the last of the Southern Dynasties, Chen, and unified the whole nation. At reunification the society become more economically stable and thus societal functions became a more nature everyday thing.

Ship building was incorporated in the skills industry and several other farming techniques were also established. Commerce was fairly prosperous at this time and a form of tax moderation was implemented. Tax moderation equally distributed the farm land and moderated the tax rate while increasing and building the revenue on a fiscal basis for the whole dynasty. Three departments and six ministries were established as a political system, the first time in Chinese history. Under this system, the royal power was enhanced and the work division in the court became detailed. Since this period, the method of selecting talent was thoroughly overhauled. This political plan proved to be very effective in organizing the dynasty. A ranking system was established for each official by an imperial examination system, to determine their ranks in the hierarchy. The influence this political system had was profound and worked extremely well. The decline of the Sui Dynasty started from the second monarch, Emperor Yang, who was a typical tyrant. His reputation was that of a son who lacked respect for his parents, committed patricide and usurped the throne. Yang led a life of nothing but, indulgence and corruption during his only 1 year reign on the throne.

Having laborers by the million to building ships and temples in his honor, he was the first of the rulers to initiate a war with another country. Craving greatness he waged war on Gaoli. Both burdensome military service and heavy corvee labor forced peasants to leave their farmland. Later, famine was common and caused by the resulting desolation leaving all the countryside in extreme misery. As a result, the Sui regime became rather unstable and in 618, when Emperor Yang was strangled by one of his subordinates, it completely collapsed. Viewing the Chinese history record, you will find the Tang Dynasty was the most glistening historic period in China’s history. Founded in 618 and ending in 907, the state, under the ruling of the Tang Emperors, became the most powerful and prosperous country in the world. Particularly, in this glorious period, the economy, politics, culture and military strength reached an unparalleled advanced level. At the end of Sui Dynasty, the whole country fell into chaos due to the tyranny of Emperor Yang; rebellions roused by peasants were everywhere. Resenting Emperor Yang’s ruling, the chief officer of Taiyuan – Li Yuan, who was also known as Tangguo Gong raised an army in Taiyuan from May 617.

In November of the same year, Li Yuan’s army captured the capital city Chang’an and put a new monarch, Yang You, on the throne as Emperor Gong. Meanwhile, Li Yuan proclaimed himself Da Chengxiang. In 618 after Emperor Yang was killed by his chancellor, Yuwen Huaji, Li Yuan seized the chance to proclaim himself emperor and changed the state title into Tang, still with Chang’an as the capital city. The first glorious period was from 627 to 649 when the Tang Dynasty was just set up and its national strength was recovering from the previous weak condition. Under The first glorious period was from 627 to 649 when the Tang Dynasty was just set up and its national strength was recovering from the previous weak condition. Under Emperor Taizhong Li Shim in’s wise governing, the national strength and social development reached an unparalleled prosperity – economy and commerce flourished, the social order was stable, corruption never existed in the court and the national boundaries were even open to foreign countries.mperor Taizhong Li Shim in’s wise governing, the national strength and social development reached an unparalleled prosperity – economy and commerce flourished, the social order was stable, corruption never existed in the court and the national boundaries were even open to foreign countries. The second glorious period was during Emperor Xuanzong’s reign.

In 712, Emperor Ruizong abdicated and Li Longji was enthroned as Emperor Xuanzong. Under his ruling, the national economy, politics and culture all developed rapidly and the social development entered a new heyday. In that period, Chang’an City was the largest and the most prosperous metropolis in the world. Since the title of Xuanzong’s reign was Kaiyuan, that period was called the Heyday of Kaiyuan, in which the dynasty reached its summit of prosperity. The dynasty comfortable in their affairs, which is leading to the decline and end of this great campaign, corruption ensues in the political system and emperor Xuanzong takes the indulgence of his concubine and the other pleasures of life. In 755, An Lushan aligned with Shi Siming and launched a rebellion, called the An Shi Rebellion which lasted for eight years and heavily knocked the Tang regime. This attack was capitalizing on the apathy of the Tang, therefore catching the emperor and the rest of his empire off guard. Leading to generation after generation of steady decline, in 859, a large-scale peasant uprising launched by Huang Chao again severely attacked the Tang regime. In 907, the last Tang emperor, Emperor Ai was forced to abdicate by Chancellor Zhu Quanzhong, who afterwards changed the state title into Liang, finally putting the ever powerful and mighty dynasty to an end.

The Song Dynasty, was an era of Chinese greatness and started in the year 960 and went on until the year 1279. Two distinct periods divide the Song, the northern period and the southern period. The southern Song controlled most of inner China, and was consider the aggressor of the empire. The northern Song however at one time in turmoil, was far from being in ruin and eventually rebuilt for glory. In 960, a military general of the Latter Zhou Dynasty (951 – 960) named Zhao Kuangyin launched a mutiny in Chania County. After forcing the last emperor of the Latter Zhou to yield the throne, he established the Northern Song in Kaifeng. Zhao Kuangyin became Emperor Taizu, the first emperor of the Song Dynasty. In the first two decades, Emperor Taizu and his brother Emperor Taizhong put down the chaos of the ten states and unified most of the territory of China. Taizu’s rise to the throne was as much a public relations campaign as it was a military one. Influential allies helped mold public opinion, creating the impression that Taizu had been unwillingly thrust into the position of leadership, and that popular demand left him no option but to take the throne. Then, to preempt any further possible coups on the part of these same allies, Taizu offered them large prosperous estates, hereditary titles and generous pensions in exchange for their retirement from their respective martial offices.

Taizu then replaced these career military men with civil servants, so that the ranks of commanders, generals and other high-ranking military positions were filled by bureaucrats totally inexperienced with military service. Furthermore, the holders of these posts were frequently rotated, so no single commander was given the opportunity to develop an independent power base from which to launch a revolt. Once his new cabinet was established, Taizu engaged in a reunification plan composed of a mixture of warfare and diplomacy, often winning over rivals with extremely generous rewards for defection, and thus avoiding battle altogether. Using this strategy, the reunification of China was complete by 978 with surprisingly little loss of life and destruction of property. After Taizu’s death in 976, his brother took the throne as Emperor Taizhong. Taizhong made it a high priority to win back territories in northern China now controlled by the Liao dynasty, founded by the once-nomadic Khitan. Taizhong’s failed campaign against the Khitan generated disastrous results, since the Khitan attacked in reprisal, coming within a few days march of the Song capital. After this demonstration of the limitations of their own military strength, the Song court came to rely a policy of appeasement, inaugurating a tribute system in which massive annual payments were offered to the Khitan, promised for perpetuity, in return for peace.

The same policy would later be used to pacify the Jurchen (founders of the Jin dynasty, 1115-1234 CE), the Tanguts and Mongols. A healthy economy made such policies of appeasement practical, and the stable political environment that resulted initially led to even more thriving domestic and international trade, higher agricultural yields, and a number of impressive technological advances. Yet for the most part, international trade bloomed and prospered during the Song period. Trade unions and professional guilds were formed, systems of banking were developed, and paper money was used throughout the empire. In terms of arts, the Song dynasty was a golden age of sorts for both painting and ceramics, and in many ways the creation of porcelain reached its apex (both technically and aesthetically) in the practice of Song-era ceramicists. Song ceramics were a voluble commodity throughout Asia, and improvements in ocean navigation (including the invention of a south-pointing compass) expanded their market to include Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

In fact, Song-era ceramic shards have been found as far away as the east coast of Africa, and though it is possible that these goods were transported by middle-men, this fact demonstrates the breadth of the international sea-trade networks in which Song tradesmen participated. Other Song-era technological developments include the use of steel in agricultural tools, chains for suspension bridges, drill bits for sinking wells, and steel arrow heads capable of penetrating conventional armor. Gunpowder was also regularly used in warfare, as well as in mining. Yet at the same time, Song China relied less on overland trade from the Silk Road, and the resulting decrease in contact with Central and Western Asian countries (and through them, India and the Middle East). This is not to say they did not value the cultural and intellectual achievements of the lands to the west; for example, Emperor Taizu appointed an astronomer, Ma Yize (910?-1005), whose job was to observe and interpret the heavens using methods developed in the Islamic world Ma Yize traced his ancestry to an area near modern northeastern Yemen.

Direct exposure to nations and cultures to the west, however, was at a low-point during the Song period, a phenomenon which generated stronger feelings of geographical and cultural isolation from the rest of continental Asia. This may also have led to an increase in ethnocentrism, which may also explain the decline in interest in Buddhism, a foreign faith as a state-sponsored religion, though it still flourished as a popular religion. In fact, it was during the Song period that a number of Buddhist deities were transformed on the popular level into more distinctly Chinese manifestations. The male bodhisattva Avalokitesvara turned into the distinctly matronly Guanyin, and Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, became the hemp-garbed, laughing, large-bellied Milofo. The Song court’s policy of appeasement worked well for a while, yet it proved to be short-sighted one. It failed the Song on two occasions, each time with dramatic results. The first occasion was in 1127, when the Jurchen seized the northern capital and forced the Song court to relocate to south China. The second time was in 1279, when the Mongols, deciding they preferred to rule Song territory themselves rather than simply extort its riches, attacked the Song and absorbed southern China into their already immense empire. Bibliography 1. Harrell, Steven. M. (2005).

Elements in History.

2. Walker, Jones, P. (2010). Ancient Times in our World.

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