Tang Dynasty
Qin - 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.
Military expansion 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 sports following.

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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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