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Han - Tang
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The Tang dynasty (618 CE - 907 CE) is regarded by historians
as the most prosperous time of Chinese civilization. Flourishing with art
and literature, this dynasty was a time of great growth both intellectually
and financially. One could not explore the Tang dynasty accurately without
recognizing the legendary emperors of its time. Li Yuan (556 CE - 635 CE)
was a member of a northern aristocratic family who had a long history of
government service. He was the initiator is restoring order once again to
Chine and establishing the Tang dynasty. Gaozu (618 CE - 626 CE) was the
dynasty's first ruler. He successfully established political, economic,
and military institutions that were the standard for the entire Tang reign.
Taizong (or Tai Tsung, 626 CE - 649 CE) followed shortly after Gaozu stepped
down from the throne. He was considered one of the greatest leaders of China.
"The ruler depends on the state, and the state depends on its people. Oppressing
the people to make them serve the ruler is like someone cutting off his
own flesh to fill his stomach. The stomach is filled but the body is injured
; the ruler is wealthy but the state is destroyed." This is a famous
quote that came from Taizong. He was a great scholar and calligrapher who
enjoyed the arts.
| Recognizing the importance of the written word, he implored
the official "Bureau of Historiography" where accurate records and texts
available to all. He sponsored state academies, tightened the educational
examination systems, and assigned ancestor workshops at the tombs to strengthen
literacy of the ruling family. He believed strongly in Confucius and in
living frugally. The belief systems Taizong lived by were vastly different
than most rulers of his time.
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Chinese military gained abundant amounts of territory during the Tang
Dynasty. Throughout Central Asia, China gained territorial control, which
encouraged growth both physically and financially.
brought more trade to China. Chang'an became the most metropolitan city
in the world. International integrations encouraged more tolerance to
different religions, adaptation to western style clothing and an international
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The most fascinating emperor of the Tang Dynasty was, in fact,
not an emperor at all, she was an empress. Her name was Wu Zetain (690AD-705AD)
and she began as a consort for emperor Gaozong (649AD-683AD). After suffering
from a stroke, Gaozong was weakened by partial blindness and paralization.
He looked to Wu Zetian to guide him in all of his decision-making. Once
Wu was installed as empress, she brutally murdered Gaozong's wife and his
other consort to help solidify her new position. She was an amazing woman
who commanded order from her people. She ran a smooth administration and
by properly managing the military operations, was able to expand China to
its furthest point ever. Under her reign, the Chinese military was able
to finally defeat Korea in 668AD.
In hindsight, Wu Zetain was one of the first activists
for woman's rights. She actively gave support to the Buddhist church, which,
unlike Confucians, recognized the importance of woman. A colossal image
of the Buddha Vairochana with attendants was constructed at the cave-temples
at Longmen during her reign. She also led a procession of women into the
most sacred of lands, Mount Tai. Additionally, she founded an institute
to make a "Collection of Biographies of Famous Women." These events were
astronomical in a period of time when men had the ultimate say.
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Around 750AD, Arabs attacked the Chinese boarders
and succeeded in conquering parts of Central Asia at Talas. This Arab victory
severed the Silk Route and all connections to India and the West. Henceforth,
the Muslims replaced China as the dominant influence for the Tarim Basin
and its surrounding areas. The Chinese became weakened by war and by the
750's AD, Tibetans took over the western horse pastures and repeatedly attacked
the capital, Chang'an.
The power of the throne was diminished by lack of money due to war,
eunuch interference and short-lived emperor rulings. Throughout the
last 150 years of the Tang Dynasty rule, China was weakened by frequent
rebellions against the empire. By 907AD, northern invaders finally
succeeded in terminating the Tang ruling.
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