Tang Dynasty has an inevitable role in making China more prosperous and this reign is known as the golden age of China. There was growth in different fields especially in military sector, political sector, economic sector and culture. This paper tries to penetrate into the history of China in order to unfold the prosperity of Tang Dynasty which led to the golden age of China. The paper presents the various subjects such as a brief history of Tang Dynasty in China, the growth of politics and administration, military and foreign policy, trade relations and tax system, culture, religion, literature and end of the dynasty.
A brief history of Tang Dynasty in China
The period of Tang Dynasty plays an important role in the history of China. This dynasty came to exist in the year 618 AD and it ended in 907 AD. The reign of Tang Dynasty made China more powerful and prosperous among other dynasties in the world at this time. There was development in every realm of life especially in politics, economy, culture and military during the period of this dynasty. Sui Dynasty which was prior to Tang dynasty came to perish due to the tyranny of Yang emperor and the problems raised by the peasants. Li-Yuan, who was the chief officer of Taiyuan, formed an army with a view to capture the reign from Yang. The emperor Yang was killed by the chancellor in 618 and the rule was captured by Li-Yuan who himself proclaimed as the emperor changing the name of the dynasty as Tang Dynasty. The period from 627 to 649 was the glorious period of China in which economy and commerce flourished. The Emperor Xuanzong led the dynasty to the second glorious period. At this time, the national economic growth, political and cultural change entered a new heyday. Because of the inefficiency of the subsequent emperors, corruption of wicked chancellors, rebellions from the peasants led to the deterioration of Tang Empire. The last emperor Ai was dethroned in 907 by Chancellor Zhu Qunzhong and he started to call the empire as Liang.
The growth of politics and administration
The politics of Tang Dynasty is intermingled with the religious views. Monks had a great place in politics, because they believed that the incantations of the monks would bring victory for the force and secure the nation. There are references on the incantations of monks to avert drought. Buddhism and Daoism were the main religions prevailed during the reign of Tang Dynasty. It tried to take census to count the population in the dynasty. The tax system was very effective and they reduced the tax rate for grain and cloth. Census in 609 estimated that there were around 50 million people and nine million households in the dynasty. A new legal system was formulated and it was followed by the subsequent dynasties and some of the neighboring nations such as Vietnam, Korea and Japan which are together known today as South East Asia. They formulated law and executed penalties and punishments like varying from ten blows to hundred blows by way of stick, exile and execution. They categorized the penalties according to the severity of the crime and they enacted law to control social and political corruption. For better administration, the dynasty formed three departments for the performance of draft, review and implementation of the policies. They categorized six ministries such as personnel administration, finance, rites, military, justice, and public works and the formulation of these ministries helped them to lead the nation more prosperous. Chang’an was the capital city of Tang Dynasty where the palace of Emperor was situated and the administrative and political discussions were held here. They formed a large civil service system in which bureaucrats were appointed as in-charge of local, provincial and central government. Graduates were appointed as bureaucrats and there were two types of exams for the selection of bureaucrats known as Jinshi and Mingjing.
Military and foreign policy
The emperor Xuanzong made some changes in the army. He changed the three year service to a longer service in the army. This led to economic benefit. He increased the number of troops. They fortified many of the places in order to escape from Turkish threats. They made trade relations with foreigners by sea and land means. “Of major importance for the richness of the Tang upper class was of course the “international” trade between China and the Inner Asian countries, the Southeast Asian kingdoms (including India) and Korea and Japan. Chinese economic articles are found in the Near Orient, having passed the trading routes of the Indian and Arab merchants along the Indian Ocean.” (Theobald). They made use of silk route to bring trade relations with other dynasties such as India, Persia, Mesopotamia etc. They continued trade relation through sea also and their presence was there in Indian Ocean, Gulf Sea, Persian sea and Red sea.
Culture in Tang dynasty
Buddhism was the main religion of Tang dynasty. This religion was highly promoted during this time. Emperors in this time took all steps to promote Buddhism. ”During the 6th century Chinese Buddhism was consolidated and standardized. Great schools were founded that boasted thousands of disciples. Schools with royal patrons built huge monasteries. Between A.D. 476 and 540 the number of temples rose from 6,500 to 30,900 and the number of monks and nuns grew from 80,000 to 200,000 (out of a population of 50 million).” (Hays). Chinese were highly interested to understand more about Buddhism. The journey of Buddhist monk Hsuan Tsang helped Chinese to get vast information about Buddhism. With providing knowledge on Buddhism, Hsuan Tsang’s visits to different places were very helpful to people for getting information about different countries. Hsuan Tsang was most important scholar in Tang dynasty. Even though Buddhism got great prominence, it began to be replaced by Taoism with the end of Tang dynasty.
Art and literature
Different kinds of art and literature got great importance in Tang Dynasty. “The Tang Dynasty was a golden age for the Chinese arts. Landscape painting and bronze sculpture (Tang horses) were perfected and famous poets wrote verse. Chinese acrobatics and dance also took off.” (Hays).
The art of painting had a great time during Tang Dynasty. Rulers encouraged the artists in many ways. Many schools were established this time to promote painters. During this time, this art got great opportunity to derive new techniques. Different coloring materials began to be used in this time.
Like poems and paintings, Chinese dance also was having a wonderful time. Chinese dances were influenced by different dance forms in different parts of the world and vice versa. We can see great influence of Chinese dance in dance styles of Japanese and Koreans.
Different sculptures made in this time in China were most beautiful works ever in this field. Different kinds of horses made with clay and bronze in this time is great example for the perfection they gained in this area.
In Tang Dynasty, people were very interested in different kinds of sports and entertainments. Some entertainments and sports had western influence over them. Chinese had great passion towards horses. Horses were considered as the symbol of power. Horses were the main subjects for poets, painters and sculptures. They sold large amount of silks for getting horses from other countries. Horses had great role in most of their sports. Polo is a great example for this. “Along with horses, a western sport was introduced to China during Tang. Polo came to China in the early 7th century and became very popular sport (Fig. left). A combination of soccer and croquet played on horseback, the game was introduced from Persia.” (The Exoticism in Tang (618-907)). But these kinds of sports mainly belonged to upper classes. There were many other activities like hunting, cock fighting, archery etc. for others.
End of Tang dynasty
There were a number of reasons for the end of Tang Dynasty. One of the main reasons was corruption and inability of rulers which caused people acting against them. Failure in the battle of Tala which closed all the Chinese expectation in central Asia is another major reason for the end of this tenure. Severe drought that happened following the climate change also was a reason for end of this tenure.
In Tang dynasty China was open to all foreign cultures and religious beliefs. Even though Buddhism was the main religion, no other religions were hurt in the country.
China achieved tremendous development in military, economy and politics. The efficiency shown by the rulers in this time could not be followed by the successors. This tenure witnessed wide spreading of Buddhism among Chinese community. Historic journey of Hsuan Tsang was one of the main reasons for getting vast knowledge about Buddha. Strength of poems made in tang shows the excellence of poets lived in the tenure. Story tellers also got great importance during the tenure. Story telling was a major part of the entertainment of common people in this dynasty. Development in the area of sculptures and painting is incredible. Many well known paintings of that tenure still exist as masterpieces. Use of horses and sports items like polo etc. is the example for the acceptance that got for different kinds of culture from different parts of the world. A lot of reasons were there for the end of this golden tenure. It is sure that incompetence of the leaders had a great role for bringing this tenure to an end. Climate change is also shown as another reason. It is said that the country was undergoing severe drought and people began to hunt enormously. Rulers almost failed to tackle the situation and gradually it led to the rebelling of people.
Hays, Jeffrey. Tang Dynasty (A.D. 690-907) and Song Dynasty (960-1279). Facts and Details, 2008. Web.
The Exoticism in Tang (618-907). Silkroad Foundation, 2000.
Theobald, Ulrich. Chinese History-Tang Dynasty (618-907): Economy. China Knowledge- A Universal Guide for China Studies, 2000.