Tang Dynasty

The year 618 A.D. saw the emergence of what is considered by many to be one of the great empires of China. The Tang Dynasty came after the short-lived dynasty of Sui. The Sui Dynasty was able to unite China. However, Emperor Yang, the last emperor of Sui Dynasty had made a mess out of his empire. He was spending so much for his projects that the country's economy began to fall. This started the many rebellions which resulted to the fall of his dynasty.

The Tang Dynasty was founded by the Li family. An aristocratic official named Li Yuan, stationed in Taiyan, saw that Emperor Yang of the Sui was starting to lose grip of his empire. After assuming control of the Chang'an, now known as Xian City, Li Yuan announced the retirement of Emperor Yang who he declared will be replaced by the Emperor's own son, Emperor Gong in 617 A.D.

Li Yuan wasn't really keen on making a great emperor out of Yang's son. His hidden agenda later showed when after Emperor Yang was assassinated, Li Yuan disposed his ?puppet emperor? and declared himself as the first ruler of the Tang Dynasty in 618 A.D. He became known as Emperor Gao Zu.

Within ten years time, Emperor Gao Zu and his son, Li Shimin did all they could to eliminate all their rivals to secure their empire. Li Shimin replaced his father and ruled Tang Dynasty in 626 A.D. He was named, Emperor Tai Zong.

The new emperor was set in solving the internal problems of his empire. This wasn't a new concern though since this has been the problem of the previous dynasties, which ruled China. Emperor Tai Zong created three administrations under his government namely; Military affairs, Censorate, and Council of State?each having its own function.

Emperor Tai Zong was restless. He was in constant battle with his enemies. He fought the Tartars of the Northern provinces and the Turkish tribes who occupied a portion of the Great Wall. Tai Zong's efforts weren?t futile because after he defeated his enemies, China started to open to its neighboring lands and later on to the world.

The following years saw the empire being busy with creating trade routes. The number of caravans carrying China's goods to be sold to other lands increased. One of the these routes was popularly known as the, ?Silk Road.? This was not only opened for the purpose of trading silk but also to other commodities like gold, ivory, exotic animals, and plants.

The move to open China to the world brought riches to the Tang Dynasty. The empire was entering its ?golden age? and there was no stopping. Chang'an which was the capital of Tang Dynasty became known in the first half of the eighth century as world's largest city. Merchants from all over the world wanted to get a glimpse of China and become part of its growing economy.

The City of Chang'an became a mixture of Chinese and foreigners. Emperor Shimin encouraged its people to open up to other religions just like what they do when they accepted to do business with the Persians, Japanese, Jews, Indians, and many others.

But Tang Dynasty wasn't only about trade revolution. It was also a period of flourishing literature and art. The economic growth and political stability provided China with more rooms to improve and explore its culture. Tang poetry was one of the most remarkable achievements of this dynasty.

Here's one example of a Tang poem entitled, ?At Parting?.

I dismount from my horse and I offer you wine, And I ask you where you are going and why. And you answer: "I am discontent And would rest at the foot of the southern mountain. So give me leave and ask me no questions. White clouds pass there without end."

The Sui Dynasty's practice of giving civil service examination was also adopted by the Tang Dynasty. But this time, they perfected it. They wanted to get the best people to serve the empire. Getting people from the aristocratic families was too risky for them because they learned from the experiences of the previous dynasties, which were mostly torn down by dominating aristocratic families who were given power to participate in state affairs.

The Tang Dynasty became very popular to the world. Its influence spread as far as Europe and Africa. China became a center of cultural exchange. Everyone seemed to want one thing, and that is to establish ties with the great empire.

But as the saying goes, ?All good must come to an end.? The Tang Dynasty was not free of flaws. It also encountered rebellions and uprisings. One famous rebellion was the one staged by a military commander named, An Lushan. He started what many historians refer as the two division of the Tang Dynasty--the ?golden age? and the period of decline.

Towards the end of the Tang Dynasty, regional military governors dominated the empire. They were in fact starting to build their own small regimes and were just waiting for the right time to overthrow the existing dynasty. This was finally realized when Zhu Wen, also a military governor, defeated the last emperor. Zhu Wen took the throne and crowned himself as the next emperor and started the period, which became known as, ?The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms.?