Tang Dynasty(T'ang Dynasty), China Culture

The 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. Buddhism, originating in India around the time of Confucius, flourished during the Tang period, becoming thoroughly sinicized 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. 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, China

Courtiers of Li Xian, 771 ADYang Ti, the last ruler of the Sui Dynasty, was killed in 618 AD by his generals, who blamed him for the disastrous defeat of the Chinese army in Korea. One of the generals, Li Shih-min, took over ruling the empire, putting his father, Li Yuan, on the throne as emperor. By 626, Li Shih-min made his father abdicate (retire) and took over being emperor himself, taking the new name T'ai Tsung. He made his capital at Chang'an. It became one of the biggest cities in the world at this time.

China Culture

T'ai Tsung had a long reign and was a strong emperor. He continued the Han Dynasty way of choosing governors and judges on the basis of the great examinations, to see who was the smartest and the best educated. And he also continued the Sui Dynasty way of giving each man a grant of land and collecting taxes equally from everyone. T'ai Tsung also took a census every three years to make sure that everyone paid the right amount of taxes. Under his rule, trade and cities began to become more important to China.


Wu Chao was one of T'ai Tsung's girlfriends. After he died, she became his son's girlfriend too! His name was Gaozong. She used Gaozong's love for her to get rid of all his other girlfriends (some she had killed) and eventually he married her, so she became the empress. As empress, Wu Chao (woo-CHOW) was very active in politics. When Gaozong had a stroke in 660 AD and was too sick to rule, Wu Chao took over the government of China. In 684 AD, Gaozong died, and Wu Chao became the regent for her young son. In 690, when she was 64 years old, Wu Chao forced her son out altogether and made herself Empress of China, ruling on her own. Wu Chao was a devout Buddhist, but also promoted Taoism. She was a great ruler, and China was very successful both militarily and economically under her rule.


But in 705 AD, Wu Chao (now 79 years old!) was forced out of power. Nobody could agree about who would come after her, and so there was a long civil war.


In 712 AD, Hsuan Tsung became the ninth T'ang emperor of China. Hsuan Tsung was a great emperor who ruled a long time, and he managed to greatly expand the borders of China, so that by 750 he ruled all the way to Tibet and Central Asia in the west, and north to Mongolia and Manchuria, and south to Vietnam, and even controlled Korea as the Sui emperors had wanted. In 751, the Chinese army fought the Arabs in a great battle at Talas (Samarkand) in Uzbekistan. They lost the battle, but they succeeded in stopping the Arabs from invading China.


But in the last years of his life, Hsuan Tsung turned to art and philosophy, and lost interest in running his empire. Some people say that he was more interested in his girlfriend, Yang Kuei-fei. His generals took over instead. One of these generals, An Lu-shan, controlled the troops of north-west China. In 755 AD, An Lu-shan led a rebellion against Hsuan Tsung. Hsuan Tsung ran away to Szechwan with a small part of his army. Soon his army rebelled too, and made Hsuan Tsung abdicate (quit) and let his son be emperor.


The son raised a new army, and by 757 AD he was able to get An Lu-shan assassinated. Still there was more civil war until 763. These wars wrecked China and killed millions of people. He never did really get command of China again. The generals of the armies in each province had more real power than the emperor did. There were also several revolts of the poor people in the countryside. In 881 AD a revolt under Huang Ch'ao ruined much of central China and destroyed the capital at Chang'an. The T'ang emperors had to move their capital east to Luoyang. They never became strong again.


Kings / Kingdoms

Events In China

Comments / Worldwide Events

Tang Dynasty (618 907 A.D.)


Tang Gao Zu Li Yuan

(618 627 A.D.)

Li Yuan made Changan the capital.

Bantu Africans crossed River Limpopo, taking iron Age south. Arabs conquered Tunis. Ghanians expelled Berber overlords and brought empire under black rule. The Moche civilization developed. (700 A.D.)

Muslims ruled great empire from Spain in west to countries bordering China in east. Invasion of Moors from North Africa (710 A.D.)

Arabs learnt secret of paper making from Chinese. Toltecs, warlike people, built empire in Mexican highlands. (750 A.D.)

Franks introduced Feudalism. Trans-Sahara trade between West and North Africa (800 A.D.

Citadel built at Zimbabwe. The Maya emigrated to Yucatan (850 A.D.)

Tang Tai Zong

(627 650 A.D.)

Sent monk Tang Sanzhang to India to fetch the Buddhist scripture (628 A.D.). Catholic (Nestorian) monk Olopen came to China.

Tang Gao Zong

(650 684 A.D.)

Defeated the Turkish (657 A.D.). Defeated Korea and Japans assist to Korea (660-663 A.D.)

Tang Zhong Zong

(684 685 A.D.)

Empress Wu removed Zhong Zong from power and replaced him with his brother, Dan.

Tang Juan Zong

(685 690 A.D.)

Empress Wu exiled Zhong Zong to Fang Zhou (685 A.D.).

Tang Empress Wu

(690 713 A.D.)

First female emperor in Chinese history, Empress Wu changed the dynasty to Zhou (690 A.D.). Zhong Zong regained power and changed the dynasty back to Tang (705 A.D.). Empress Wei assassinated Zhong Zong and put Juan Zong in power (710 A.D.) Li Bei- A famous poet (701-762 A.D.)

Tang Xuan Zong

(713 756 A.D.)

Xuan Zongs reign marked the height of Tangs art. Divided the country into 15 sections (733 A.D.). An LuShan rebelled against Tang Dynasty (755 A.D.). Du Pu- A famous poet (712-770 A.D.)

Tang Xiao Zong

(756 763 A.D.)

Xuang Zong fled to Shu (756 A.D.)

An LuShan killed (757 A.D.)

Tang Dai Zong

(763 780 A.D.)

Tibetans invaded China and raided Changan (763 A.D.)

Tang De Zong

(780 805 A.D.)

Established Tax system, taxing in Summer and Autumn (780 A.D.)

Tang Sun Zong

(805 806 A.D.)


Tang Xian Zong

(806 821 A.D.)


Tang Mu Zong

(821 825 A.D.)

Demoting Li Zhongwen, the Ming rebellion started (821 A.D.)

Tang Jin Zong

(825 827 A.D.)


Tang Wen Zong

(827 841 A.D.)

Prime Minister Niu Zengyu laid down the rules for Chinese Chess (or Xiangqi)

Tang Wu Zong

(841 847 A.D.)

Destroyed all Buddhist temples, forcing monks and nuns to go home (845 A.D.).

Tang Xuan Zong

(847 860 A.D.)

Christians forbidden to preach in China. Guo Shiyan the Weiqi administrator played a game of Go against a Japanese prince.

Tang Yi Zong

(860 874 A.D.)


Tang She Zong

(874 889 A.D.)

Huang Chaos rebelled against Tang. Li Ke Yong suppressed Huang Chao and recovered Chang An.

Tang Zhao Zong

(889 907 A.D.)

By 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.

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