Changes in China During the Sui, Tang, and Song Dynasties

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China’s development had started at a very early point in human history and continued to grow through millennium until the collapse of the Han Dynasty in 221. When China reunified it experienced political, social, and economical changes over a period of 700 years and 3 dynasties. Those dynasties were the Sui, Tang, and Song. The Sui Dynasty, founded by Yang Jian in 581, was responsible for unifying China for the first time in 400 years. The capital was re-established at Chang’an . Yang Jian turned Chinese religion from Confucianism to Buddhism and Daoism.

The strength of both belief systems were evident as monasteries for both were built in the capital and Buddhist monks were appointed as key advisers in the government. A major accomplishment of the Sui Dynasty was the construction of the Grand Canal. The Canal linked the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers and provided for political, social, and economic uses. Politically, the Canal was used as an imperial highway for the emperor to inspect the kingdom and used as a means to rapidly deploy troops to the various provinces.

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The Canal was used socially for quick communications throughout the country. It also facilitated shipments of grains, rice, and other needed commodities from rural south China to the over-populated northern region. The Sui Dynasty came to an end in 618 after Emperor Sui Yangdi’s murder. Li Yuan, a general under the Sui, took control of the empire during the instability that followed the murder and established the Tang Dynasty. The Tang Dynasty began in 618 and continued to build on the accomplishments of the Sui.

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The main feature of the Tang was the expansion of the Chinese empire. The Dynasty expanded their influence over the area south of the Yangtze River and took control of Tibet. The Xinjiang province was established in the northwestern section of the empire. Significant diplomatic and economic relations began between China and other country-states in Southeast Asia. Chang’an had been restored to its former self as the population numbered 2,000,000 and goods from all over the world were bountiful. The Tang reintroduced civil service exams to the empire.

The candidates for civil service were all male and came from the rural gentry class. Those who successfully completed the exam were referred to as scholar-gentry. Buddhism’s influence rose even more during the Tang and helped China reached a pinnacle for poetry and sculpture. Silk Road trade increased dramatically under the Tang, although maritime trade still played a critical role in the empire’s economy. Even through all of these accomplishments, the Tang created their own demise. Various problems arose from inside the central government and eventually lead to a revolt.

The revolution was suppressed but China never fully recovered. The government control of the landlords had significantly weakened and the nomads north of China saw their opportunity to invade. These factors along with a speculated drought lead to the end of the Tang Dynasty in 907. China entered a period of turmoil after the end of the Tang Dynasty, similar to the period that occurred in between the Han and Sui Dynasties. The only difference is that the period after the Tang did not last as long.

In 960, Song Taizu managed to sign the majority of the military commanders that brought an end to the Tang into a cooperative agreement. The commanders in the northwestern region and in Tibet did not take part in the cooperative. China lost its control over Tibet as a result. Song Taizu decided to move the capital to Kaifeng to decrease the risk of a hostile takeover of the capital. The Khitan people from the north were unable to be contained which lead to Song Taizu moving the capital again, this time further south to Hangzhou.

Civil service exams initiated during the Tang came to full fruition under the Song. Buddhism lost its power and influence to give rise to State Confucianism. Private commerce was a major aspect of the Song Dynasty and allowed for greater economic expansion and prosperity. All was well until the Jurchen from Manchuria forced the Song Dynasty to pay tributes. As a means of protection and retaliation against the Jurchen, the Song formed an alliance with the nomadic people from the Gobi Desert, the Mongols.

After the Mongols defeated the Jurchen they turned their attention towards and conquered the Song Dynasty in 1279. The Sui, Tang, and Song Dynasties built on top of each other for a better version of traditional China. They also each single-handedly made a contribution to the development of the country as a whole. The Sui had the Great Canal, the Tang developed the diplomatic relations, and the Song expanded economically. All of three dynasties and their accomplishments helped lay the ground for today’s China.

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Changes in China During the Sui, Tang, and Song Dynasties. (2017, Feb 12). Retrieved from

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