Achievements: Following near 300 Years of Chaos and War, under the Sui Dynasty China was once more United. A Unity that would last throughout the succeeding Tang Dynasty and the year 907 AD. For this reason the Sui Dynasty Era is often seen as a Prelude to the Tang Dynasty Era. The Sui Dynasty Era's political, cultural and economic developments culminated into the Tang Dynasty.
Tang Dynasty 618 AD to 907 AD
During the Tang Dynasty, around 700 AD, Chang' An was the largest City on Earth, counting over
1 million citizens. This was larger than Parallel civilizations in the Indus Valley and the Americas.
The Tang Dynasty was established by General Li Yuan, who with help of his formidable Sons defeated the armies of the declining Sui Dynasty. The Li Family Clan would go on to Rule China for 290 Years with only 1 brief intercession.
Li Yuan had been the Garrison Commander of the City of TaiYuan (current day Capital of Shanxi Province) during the Rule of the Despised Emperor Yang. In the spring of the Year 617 AD Li Yuan raised an army consisting of his Garrison and Shanxi peasants at TaiYuan in bold defiance of Emperor Yang. A potent rebellion was born sweeping the countryside. By November of 617 AD the Capital City of the Sui Dynasty (581 AD - 618 AD) was already conquered. The Evil and Hated Emperor Yang was deposed and killed. However, still an officer of the Sui Empire (TangGuo Gong), subsequently, Li Yuan was forced to leave the Throne to a new Emperor, one Yang You.
Yang You was crowned Emperor of the Sui Dynasty in 618 AD, making him Emperor Sui Gong. In reward of his important efforts Li Yuan, a mere Vassal of the State made it to prime Minister (Da Chengxiang). Soon however Li Yuan was already proclaiming himself King of Tang (Tang Wang). It was clear Li Yuan had greater aspirations, and there were obvious tensions between the Ruling Elite supporting the Emperor, and Li Yuan and Sons, who were responsible for the military success that enabled the Rise of the new Emperor.
The Five Dynasties (and Ten Kingdoms) 907 AD to 960 AD
Great influence of Court Eunuchs. The Song Dynasty scholar Ouyang Xiu wrote an essay about the influence of eunuchs during the Five Dynasties. No additional information available.
Achievements: More information soon...
During the Tang Dynasty the first maritime silk road paths are established, using the Indian and Persian Coast-lines as well as the Arabian Peninsula and Oceanic Islands.
The Tang Dynasty Era Maritime Silk Road reached across the Indian Ocean as far as Egypt in North-Africa. Ships shuttle between Arabia and China establishing and narrowing cultural and trade ties.
The Tang Dynasty had a Very prosperous reign considered to be among China's classical golden ages. Many cultural and scientific achievements were made. The Tang Dynasty created the first legal code in China (624 AD) to survive to this day (earlier ones existed but have been lost).
Achievements: Many. The Tang Dynasty is regarded as a High-Period in Chinese History establishing first contacts with the outside world through the emerging overland Silk Road through Central-Asia to the European West. The Tang Dynasty built on the achievements of the earlier Han Dynasty, which conquered the Far Western Taklamakan Desert and established Chinese Influence in what is today's Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region.
China Report - Map o/t Taklamakan Desert & Tarim River Basin
A Satellite Image Map of the entire Taklamakan Desert and the Tarim River Basin in Xinjiang-Autonomous Region of Western China.
Map gives explanation and backgrounds to Local Geography, the Flow of the Tarim River from the Pamir Mountains in the West to Lop Nur (Dry) in the East, ancient Oasis Cities of the Tarim Basin and Taklamakan Desert, the North and South Routes of the Silk Road in this Area, Past and Current Climate and Historic Backgrounds.
Tang Taizhong (Li Shimin) ruled Tang Dynasty China from 626 AD to 649 AD, a long and stable Reign Period.
The Taizhong Emperor was both an able Politician and an intelligent and experienced Military Leader, due to the education received from his father and his own personal achievements. The Reign could also make use of the 1st Legal Code in China, compiled in 624 AD. During the Reign of Taizhong connections within the Empire had been re-established and the State pacified, providing for a booming in trade and the economy. As a result immediatly the population began to grow and expand.
The Reign of Emperor Tang Taizhong is considered to be the First Golden Age of the long and glorious Tang Dynasty Era.
The Taizong Era of the Tang Dynasty saw the Kingdom of the Koreans subjugated and made a Tributary State to Chinese Rule.
In and around 630 AD the Tang began a lenghty military campaign against the Turkic Nomadic Tribes of the West. Conquering strategic lands Lost after the fall of the Han Dynasty, the Tang expanded Chinese Borders to the West starting with the Ordos Desert (a western part of the Gobi Desert in current day Ningxia and Inner-Mongolia AR), then reconquering the Taklamakan Desert and the Tarim River Basin, and subsequently establishing Tang Dynasty Military Power and Borders to Lake Balkash in current day Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The Tang Military expeditions along the Silk Road path reached even further West, with military campaigns attacking and conquering the City of Askhabad (in current day Turkmenistan) on the Silk Road and the shores of the Caspian Sea.
The Western Conquests, by re-opening what would later be dubbed the Silk Road, brought a flourishing of international trade further extending the Post War economic boom. Influx of great wealth aquired through the Silk Road enabled the Tang Dynasty Court at Chang An and nobility throughout the Empire to spend widely on luxury items. Grand Palaces were built for important clans while Arts
The Next succession to The Tang Throne came at the Death of Emperor Taizhong in 649 AD and was equally noteworthy and even more unusual. In this Case, initially the deceased Emperor Taizhong was succeeded by his 9Th Son Li Zhi, Emperor Gaozhong. The new and Third Emperor Gaozhong however was a weak Ruler and personality who was dominated by his wife, one Wu Zetian. He further possesed an ill health leaving much room for his Empress Wu Zetian to plot her own plans for the State.
To complicate matters the weak Emperor died after only a short Reign, after which his young Son and child of Wu Zetian was promoted to Emperor. Two Sons (Li Xian & Li Dan) were made Emperor in succession. With the Mindstrong Empress Wu Zetian taking actual control over the Powers of the Throne, soon the new Emperors were reduced to mere Stooges (The Stooge Emperor is another mainstay of Chinese Dynastic Politics).
As a result, both the Third, Fourth and Fifth Tang Dynasty Reign Periods were full of political Intrigue.
The Fourth Emperor, Son of Gaozhong, ruled for only a brief period, enough for the Empress-Dowager Wu Zetian to secure her position. He was then discarded as Emperor altogether and replaced by none other his brother. Finally, when the ambitions of the former Empress grew too large on her, the Fifth Emperor was replaced by none other than Wu Zetian herself.
Although a prosperous Reign, the Xuanzong Reign of the Tang Dynasty was not a happy one entirely. This Period of the Tang Dynasty, the slow decline and later Fall of the Tang is less frequently discussed in sources.
The new Emperor Tang Xuanzong, although diligent at first, during his later Reign became a bitter man disinterested in Imperial Affairs. A Famous Tale of the Tang Dynasty depicts the Tang Emperor indulging himself in leisure and the fabled beauties of his voluptuous concubine Lady Yang Kuei-Fei (also: Yang Yuhuan or "Precious Consort" at the HuaXing Hot Springs of Lintung (East of Xi'An) where an Imperial Pleasure Palace and Garden were located. (Today the hot-springs are well visited Tourist Hot-spot of Xi'An and recently in 2005 a Luxury Hotel was established inside the Former Palace Halls). There, in the pleasant surroundings and seclusion of the Palace, the Emperor frolicked with his favorite lady thereby removing himself entirely from the scene of the Capital itself.
While the previously diligent Emperor played with his "precious consort", a woman who quite scandalously started her court career as the young bride of one of the Emperors' own sons, a political storm was slowly in the making. While political opponents were shocked and increasingly outraged, the Emperor, infatued with the unsurpassed beauty of Yang Kuei-Fei, turned away from the strains of State Affairs leaving room for his high courtiers to quickly seize more powers. It was basically at this point that the court started to see serious corruption and mismanagement of imperial affairs that would otherwise never have occurred.
His Reign a High Point for China with well over 50 million citizens by the year 742 AD, with the decline of the Reign of Tang Xuanzong, a long decline of the Tang Dynasty and Rule set in.
Powers of the Central Government in situated in the Capital Chang An were slowly eroded in favor of
First Golden Age of the Tang Dynasty - Reign 626/7 AD to 649 AD - Emperor Tang Taizong
The Eight Emperor of the Tang Dynasty was Tang Xuanzong (Reign 712 AD - 756 AD), a young and vibrant Man of diligence.
Building upon the considerable achievements of his predecessors the young Emperor saw his Empire further blooming. With the "Silk" Trading Route firmly established and stretching the entire continent to as far away as Syria and Egypt, trade was at an all time high making the State and Ruling families rich as never before. Traders and Diplomatic Delegations came to Chang 'An (Xi'An) from All over the World. The Tang Capital City reached the size of well over a million citizens creating the largest and most powerful City the World had ever seen.
The pay off of the earlier economic sucesses and the inclusion of conquered intelligentia by manner of the Imperial Examination System came in many shapes and forms. New Inventions were made and social development during the XuanZong Era was rapid. Influences from other world cultures pervaded China but the Chinese created new forms of their own distinctive Art. As the Tang Dynasty had adopted Buddhism - originating from India - as its State Religion, buddhist art and literature flourished leaving many famous treasures in world museums and museums in China today.
During the long Reign of Tang Xuanzong Indo-China (Annam and Siam) were added to the Chinese Empire. In the West Kashgar, once Chinese under the Han Emperors, was made into a Chinese Protectorate State and the Chinese Border lay as far as the Pamir Mountains and Plateaux in current day Tajikistan. Beyond were Tributary Kingdoms (Khanates) near the Aral Sea and the Valley of the River Syr (Syr Darya) and Amu (Amy Darya) respectively in current day Turkmenistan. Even the (united) Island Kingdoms of Japan were paying Tribute to the Han Chinese Court of Chang 'An.
The success of Emperor Tang Xuanzong earned him the honorary nickname "HuangMing", meaning "The Briliant Monarch". During this Reign Period, the Heyday of Kaiyuan, the Tang Dynasty reached its summit of prosperity.
The Brilliant Monarch - Reign 712 AD to 756 AD - Emperor Tang Xuanzong
Due among things to the long lasting stability of the Tang Reign, the many new influences in Tang Society, the well-to-do economy with a safe environment for abundant flocks of learned Feudal Aristocracy to practice the arts as a passtime and for eloquence, the 8Th Century in China rose to highpoint of Poetry and Literature. Especially the Reign of Tang Xuanzong is counted as the Classical period of Chinese and Tang Dynasty Literature. As Poetry was the primary literary form in China from earliest times (not epic or drama as in the West) every literate Person in Tang Society writes poetry Poetry is an essential element of social communication.
The 8Th Century in Tang Dynasty saw the Life's of the two Great Poets Li Bai and Du Fu.
First and foremost should be noted Li Bai also known as Li Po (+/- 700 AD – 762 AD). Li Bai was son to an aristrocratic Family and he had ample finances and love for the consumption of alcohol. Not untypical for the Tang Dynasty Era with its relatively open borders and tolerant and open policies, the Poet Li Bai was born from a Non-Han Family. Even in his youth Li Bai already traveled. First of all he was possibly born in Kyrgyzstan, however lived in Gansu near Lanzhou until the Age of 5. His Family then moved to Sichuan Province.
Beginning at Age 10, the Son of the well-to-do Family was then schooled in the Classics of Chinese Literature. Of the major branches of Philosphy in China, Taoism would influence him the Most. By the Age of 20 Li Bai was a young and eloquent gentleman, considered a genius by some.
The Fifth Emperor of the Tang Dynasty, rising to The Throne in the year 690 AD was a woman.
Wu Zetian was the First Woman to Supremely Rule China. Although during the Ching Dynasty, the Empress-Dowager Hsu-Tzi could claim almost equal powers, the Tang Dynasty Empress remains the only official Female Emperor in Chinese History. And there are more paralels in their stories. Both Ladies had no goodness of caracter whatsoever.
Machiavellian style plotting and Intrigue were their prefered mode of operations. Cixi was no kitten to handle without gloves, but the Empress Wu Zetian even went as far as to murder her own Son, just to blame it on her political rival and be able to Rise to The Throne.
Wu Zetian was able to gain power largely as a result of the hidden support of the Buddhist Church. They called her a reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Maitreya, a Buddhist Savior. Many many centuries later the Ching Empress-Dowager would copy the Role of Wu Zetian and receive similar honors. The Intrigues and powers of the new Empress were further supported by close relatives who had been helped to important administrative positions during her liasions as a Concubine to the two earlier Emperors. Since the Empress
The 8Th Century - Highpoint of Poetry and Literature in Chinese Culture
China Report - Map of the Ancient Silk Road during the Han Dynasty & Roman Age 2
A Schematic Map depicting the Full Length and main pathways of the Ancient Silk Road during the Han Dynasty Period (206 BC - 221 AD) and Roman Age (30 BC - 630 AD).
In 30 BC the Roman Empire started trading with India, which was already well known from the Conquest of Alexander the Great (+/- 330 BC). In the following 6 centuries the West would Trade with India and indirectly also with China through the Silk Road. The Silk Road only lost its Value after the European Age of Discovery and the Establishment of Maritime Trade Routes with India (16Th Century) and later China. The Yellow River is crossed at Lanzhou, after which Dunhuang is the Last Station in China.
Wu Zetian declared a new Dynasty named Zhou, the Wu Zetian Reign is sometimes counted as separate Dynasty, then named the Second Zhou Dynasty. Usually, however, it is included at part of the Tang Dynasty History. The Zhou Dynasty upset the social order considerably, and eventhough Wu Zetian had been a strong and respected Ruler, her Dynasty lasted only 15 Years. By then old and frail, she was deposed in Favor of a Younger Leader.
The Court Revolt that toppled Empress Wu Zetian set in motion a new round of infighting and a period of severe strife over the rights to succession to The Throne of China. The parties were split between two power-cliques, one belonging to one Son of the former Emperor Li Zhi aka Tang Gaozong. The other party favored the other Son of the same Emperor, and both had already been Emperor before being side-lined by the rising Empress Wu Zetian. Initially, Li Xian won out for the race to the Highest Seat. Li Xian thus returned in 705 AD as Emperor Zhongzong, the 6Th Emperor of the Tang Dynasty.
Unfortunately for Emperor Zhongzong, he kept himself a wife with dangerous aspirations.
Only a few years later, in 710 AD, in an attempt to copy the moves of earlier Empress Wu Zetian, Empress Wei used poison to assassinate her Husband the Emperor. The attempted murder was completely successful. However, the political plot was not. Making use of the Confucian and rising suspicions against the Empress at Court, the opposing power-clique (including Princess TaiPing) seized its opportunity and moved in with an army.
The murderous Empress herself was killed violently, after which the second Son of Tang Gaozong and the other ex-Emperor Li Dan took over the Reigns of Power. Li Dan was subsequently crowned
With the task of restoring and reopening the Canal and Roads done, the Tang could start to look outside their Empire. Among things, they would seek to restore the lucrative Trade Routes to the West, the Silk Road first opened and maintained by the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) but since lost to the Influence of the annoying Nomadic Tribes of the North and West, the Xiong-Nu.
The Struggle with the Nomadic Tribes for dominance and control over the West, and in fact the Chinese Heartlands as well, started in earnest during the Han Dynasty and would span well over a 1000 years before the Han Chinese gained Final Victory during the Qing Dynasty.
The Grand Canal during the Tang Dynasty
As it had only recently been created as one continuos waterway during the previous years of the Fallen Sui Dynasty, the Grand Canal of the Tang Dynasty roughly equates to the path of the original Sui Dynasty Canal.
After the pacification of the Empire, during the Tang Dynasty some stretches of the Canal were changed creating short-cuts and reducing traveling Time along the Canal. The Grand Canal of the Tang Dynasty thus connected 4 vital Provincial Areas, which are in current day Zhejiang Province, Jiangsu Province, Shandong Province and finally Hebei Province. Beijing the ancient seat of Yan at the time was not yet an important Capital. In Fact, the there was no City of Beijing at the Time, and the Beijing Area of what is now Hebei was sparsely populated and of lesser importance. Hence, the Beijing Area was not connected to the Grand Canal during the Tang Era.
Great Wall of China during the Tang Dynasty
After conquering the West, naturally the Tang tried to consolidate their new found positions. Construction on the Great Wall had started in the 5Th Century BC, even before the Glorious Han Dynasty and by the advent of Tang Dynasty many miles of Protective Wall were already in existence in the Northern and Western Territories of China. The Sui Dynasty (581 AD - 618 AD), that preceded the Tang equaled the Han achievements and repaired the Wall.
The Tang Dynasty, having re-conquered the West from the Nomadic Tribes, extended its very own Great Wall even further, connecting from Yu Men Pass West of Dunhuang through into Xinjiang AR, where the Tang Great Wall of China ends at Lop Nur, the now dried Lake and Salt Flats.
By contrast the Ming Dynasty Great Wall only reached as far West as JiaYuGuan Fortress, at JiaYuGuan, 300+ kilometers east from Dunhuang in current day Gansu Province. Thus, both the Han Dynasty and Tang Dynasty Great Walls, although less formidable, extended further West than the Ming Dynasty Wall. Total Length of the Sui Dynasty (589 A.D. - 618 A.D.) Great Wall was around 10.000 Kilometers.
The Great Goose Pagoda, Da Cien Si, of Xi'An in Shaanxi Province. This Holiest of Buddhist Temples was established during the Tang Dynasty in honor of the Monk Xuan Zhang.
Emperor Tang Ruizong. Hence Li Dan was both the Fifth and the 7Th Emperor of the Tang Dynasty.
The Ruizong Reign Period lasted for only two years, after which Li Dan, Emperor Ruizong, abdicated in Favor of a brother Li Xian, the 4Th and 8Th Tang Emperor, now named Tang Xuanzong.
The Jade Gates ancient Toll House dating to the Tang Dynasty Era of the Silk Road. The Jade Gate was first and final Gate on the North Route of the Silk Road out of Dunhuang Oasis, heading into the Taklaman Desert along the Route of the Tarim River (Photo November 2007 AD).
Finally, in 906 AD and 907 AD, a mutinous General led his armies to an impoverished and powerless City of Chang 'An, to put a final end to the Tang Dynasty. By the helping hand of his own Chancellor Zhu Quanzhong the last Tang emperor, Emperor Ai, was forced to abdicate. The Title of the Dynasty was changed to Liang, officially ending the long and prosperous Tang Dynasty Era.
With the Fall of Tang Dynasty, the Han Chinese Empire disintegrated into separate fiercely competing fiefdoms, leading to half a century of warring Kingdoms. The Kingdoms were ruled by Feudal Clan Families who survived the Empires' Demise and often helped in its ending in order to start out as Sovereigns for themselves. This was the so called Five Dynasty Period (or 10 Kingdoms).
Famous Monk Xuan Zang, bringer of Buddhist scriptures to Tang China.
Mural depiction of Xuan Zhang, National Relic of the Great Goose Pagoda (Da Cien Si) in Xi'An, Shaanxi Province.
Map of the Gobi Desert & Yellow River Flow
Satellite Image Map of the Gobi Desert Region. Map overviews North-West Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Mongolia, Inner Mongolia and North and North-Eastern China giving a Full Overview of the Gobi Deserts and Yellow River Basin. Map includes location of LuoYang in Henan and other Cities (clearly visible).
The TianBao Rebellion lasted for eight years in total until 763 AD and send the Empire into formidable turmoil. It was grandiose Civil War and was nearly successful in toppling the Tang Dynasty. Afterwards, more Rebellions and Attacks by separatist forces in local areas continued to be frequent.
Hollowed out by internal strife, the factual boundaries of the Tang Empire began to shrink as control over outlying area's fell away. Loss of Territory and increased vulnerability of trade routes in turn meant a decrease in trade and tax revenues. To make matters worse, Tax Revenues were generated and leveled at county and provincial level, leaving this money to be usurped by local Rulers (Military Governors) who would used it to keep their armies and fiefdoms at strength against possible rivaling neighbors eroding and endangering central authority.
In 762 AD already, the Emperor Suzong abdicated in favor of his Heir apparent Prince Li Yu, Emperor Dai Zong (Reign 762 AD -779 AD). However, this time eunuchs would provide the intrigue and infighting surrounding the true powers of The Throne. In 766 AD, four years after crowning the New Emperor Dai Zong was placed under house-arrest by his Eunuch Chancillor, Li Fuguo, attempting to usurp the Throne. Li failed however and payed with his life. As did countless other
The Xuanzong Emperor died in that year, having his Son Li Heng succeed as Emperor Tang SuZong. Suzong inherited an Empire with powerful Fiefdoms and large armies allowed for by his Father the Xuanzhong Emperor.
This problem lay at the root of the current rebellion but would later proof a key factor in the undoing of the Tang Dynasty.
Meanwhile, at LuoYang at the Yellow River in Henan, the mutinous General An Luan finally revealed his true intend by declared himself Emperor of the Yang Dynasty, newly founded by himself and his Clan of followers. Having established a firm and impressive power-base, the new Great Yan Emperor now ambitiously prepared to move on the Tang Capital City of Chang 'An and the heartland of Tang Powers. He however miscalculated badly in his estimates.
The Battle for Southern and Central China did not go as planned.
Although in control of a powerful army, the new Yan Emperor failed to conquer key strategic
area's beyond LuoYang, preventing a further march on South China and a quick Victory over the Tang. The Struggle for the SuiYang District lasted for a full 2 years, after which the element of surprise in any move on South China had long passed. The only reason for the eventual Victory and Capture of the SuiYang District lay in the strategic error of the Imperial Minister of War to order the Tang Armies to abandon the mountain passes protecting the District and fight the Yan Troops on Open Ground. Naturally, they were then routed by the more numerous Yan Attackers.
The more the civil war was prolonged, the more the Rebellion started to run out steam and optimism.
No other options remained but to try and conquer the Capital of Chang 'An directly and make a head-on assault on the Tang Forces. The Tang were awaiting and ready.
The Tang Dynasty Wall was intended not only to protect the core Chinese Heartlands in the Central Provinces and the North China Plains, it further served to protect travelers along the vital economic artery, the Silk Road as far West as was plausible at the Time. Hence the Tang Dynasty Great Wall of China extended further, as far as the ever shifting sands of the Taklamakan Desert, which were held in check by the Tarim River and the extensive Lop Nur with its swamps during this Age. The Situation would change around a 1000 AD, after which the Oases, The River Tarim and thus Lop Nur suffered drought and began to shrink in size.
Link: Satellite Image with Schematic of the Location and path of the Great Wall of China during the Ming Dynasty. Passes on the Great Wall, including those of the Han & Tang Dynasty Era are depicted.
West of the Jade Gate 60 kilometers of eroded Tang Dynasty Wall extend into the graveled wasteland.
Currently, due to changing climate conditions and continuous desertification of the Tarim River Basin and the former Lop Nur marshes, more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) of the Han and Tang Dynasty Wall in Gansu province near the Yu Men Gate may disappear within the next 20 years, due to erosion from sandstorms. In places, the height of the wall has been reduced from more than five meters (16.4 ft) to less than two meters. Other parts around JiaYuGuan City are threatened by development. The same sands that Threaten the Tang Dynasty Wall are also encroaching on the Han and Tang
The western section of the Tang Dynasty Great Wall was made out of rammed earth, reinforced internally with layers of straw and twigs copying the building method of the earlier Han Dynasty who's Great Wall consisted of layers of bundles of twigs, six to twelve inches thick, alternated with thinner layers of coarse clay or gravel. Maintaining the Wall was a continuous process. Other more central sections with a better supply of building materials consisted of Earth or Taipa, stones, and wood, materials better able to withstand the harsh climates that reign along the length of China's Great Wall.
In 859 AD, in the aftermath of giant flooding's of the Grand Canal in the North China Plain, drowning 10s of thousands and causing wide-spread famine and disease, there was another large-scale uprising. This mainly peasant rebellion launched under Leadership of one Huang Chao again severely weakened the Tang regime.
Traditionally it was held that natural disasters such as devastating earthquakes, giant floods, famines or a combination of them were Bad Omens for the Reigning Imperial Dynasty. It seemed the Mandate of Heaven was slipping from the Tang regime. The Central Government was now clearly collapsing in various regions, pirates and bandits were no longer under control and other woes shook the Empire.
With the Grand Canal partly ruined by the earlier floods, the system of Granaries along the Canal destroyed and pirates on the Rivers and Bandits on roads, distribution of grain and rice among the various stricken provinces was no longer viable.
In 873 AD, the books record another wide-spread Famine, causing economic collapse within the Tang Empire.
Due to the inability of the Tang Administration to transport food and relief famine, Grain and Food prices soared in the stricken North, sending the local economies into chaos and setting local sentiments further against the Ruling Court. Again many perished from hunger and disease.
Starting just before the beginning of the 8Th Century, the Tang Rule made something resembling a come-back. Between the years 806 and 819, the Emperor Xianzong Reign 805 AD - 820 AD), supported by his Divine Strategy Imperial Army out of Chang 'An conducted no less than seven major military campaigns against rebellious provinces that had claimed autonomy from central authority, managing to subdue all but two of these and restoring unity and order to large parts of the Lands.
The Come Back Kid - Reign 805 AD to 820 AD - Emperor Tang Xianzong
Unfortunatly the revival of the Tang Dynasty culminating in the Peace achieved by XianZhong was shortlived. With his demise, the steady decline of morals at the Court continued and succeeding Emperors were more interested in such joys as hunting, drinking tea, rendering poems and the pursuit of the Ladies of the Court. The earlier tendency to leave the day to day powers of Court to the Eunuchs and the Imperial Officials and their factual strives left the door once again wide open for intrigue, plotting, mutiny, rebellion, corruption and the Like. And it so happened. The next Emperor, Tang Jinzong (Reign 820 AD - 824 AD), was murdered by his own Eunuchs.
Naturally, during the following Reign, that of Emperor Tang Wenzong (Reign 824 AD - 840 AD), matters came to head between the Imperial Family and the now powerful Court Eunuchs. The Wenzong Emperor only ascended the throne after his elder brother, Emperor Jingzong was murdered by a corrupt Court Eunuch
Tang Dynasty architecture of Chang 'An at the Great Goose Pagoda (Da Cien Si) in Xi'An, Shaanxi Province (November 2004 AD).
Scenes from the Life of the Sakayamuni Buddha at the Great Goose Pagoda (Da Cien Si) in Xi'An, Shaanxi Province (November 2004 AD).
named Wang Shoucheng. Having to Face up to this Dire Crisis and the obvious cracking of the core fabric of the United Empire, the new Emperor decided to strongly handle the Remaining Batch of Eunuchs. With the help of trusted Aides a Plot was hatched to capture and then possibly kill all in one bold stroke. At the very least the Eunuchs were to be stripped of their considerable powers. The plot advised by trusted officials Li Xun and Zheng Ju was to ambush and kill all suspected Eunuchs while they were gathering together. It would be a great way to get rid of the entire miserable and corrupt lot. Unfortunately, the Eunuchs, through their thorough infiltration of Court Channels got wind of the assassination plot and Wenzong himself was captured as a hostage. With the Emperor under their control, the cooperating Eunuchs then had the Officials Li Xun and Zheng Ju executed instead. In the following Period until his death in 840 AD, the Emperor would remain under House Arrest, and the Empire was in fact run by the Courts' Eunuchs.
Traditional Tang Dynasty Dress, Music and Dance of the imitation Tang Court of Chang 'An at the world-famous Tang Dynasty Restaurant & Show in Xi'An.
local fiefdoms led by the local nobility or military. Meanwhile, the advancing Muslim Conquest of Persia hampered the Silk Road Trade and even put and end to exports of Chinese Silks through land routes through to the Western Nations beyond the Mediterranean Sea. This alone dealt a heavy economic blow to the Tang Empire.
As has been repeated through history eversince, after an economic, social and cultural highpoint come the burdens of corruption, taxation, misrule and disaster. In the Final Year of the Golden Reign of Tang Xuanzong a Rebellion announced troubles on the horizon for the Tang Rule. On December 16Th in midwinter, An Lushan aligned with Shi Siming and launched a rebellion. The Rebellion is known as the TianBao Rebellion or also called the An Shi Rebellion or for its Main Leader the An Luan Rebellion.
General An Luan was a Tang Dynasty General of born out of conquered lands of the Silk Road in the former Sogdian Kingdom. He was therefor part of the Turkic / Turcmenic Ethnic group and Non-Han. Rising to Power under the Han Emperor Tang Taizhong, An Luan was appointed Commander in Chief of no less than than 3 Garrisons guarding and protecting in the North against the recurring attacks of the Northern Nomadic Tribes. In this position, the General was the de facto Military Ruler of all Territories North and beyond the Lower Flows of the Yellow River, a strategic and powerful position he would come to abuse when the Time was right. In 755 AD the time was near perfect. Taking advantage of the absence of the Imperial Guard, protectors of the Imperial Palace at Chang 'An, and of discontent within the Empire in the aftermath of recent Natural Disaster, Luan Decided it was Time to make his moves. Under the pretence of punishing a political Rival, General An Luan commanded his troops to move south in an open attack and uprising against all other Tang Dynasty Troops. Due to the strategy and the considerable political discontent after the decline and corruption the Taizong Reign, the Rebellion was quite succesful and moved rapidly South from its base area in current day Hebei province (Fanyang City), along the economically vital Grand Canal, to reach LuoYang, Capital of Henan Province within the Year. This was a serious situation indeed.
The Statue at Huaqing Palace of Lintung of Concubine Lady Yang Kuei-Fei.
7Th Century Tang Dynasty Era Green Color Glazed Ceramic Pillow with Flower Motif. Changsha Ware. In The Collection o/t Palace Museum, Beijing.
Tang Dynasty Era 3 Color Glazed Statue, at the Palace Museum, Beijing, China.
Tang War Horse.
Du Fu in turn was a destitude Poet with no financial reserves whatsoever. His father ranked as only a minor scholar of the Imperial Administration. An equally ardent traveler as his colleague Li Bai, Du Fu was forced to travel out of bare necessity or when captured in War Time. Especially in the last 15 years of his life, during the turmoil of the Civil War, he was constantly on the move or under duress from some outside force. Most of his Life however played out in and around the City of LuoYang (Capital
The Young Gentleman was however somewhat recalcitrant. In the end, Li Bai would not take the Imperial Examinations, but instead took off on travel around the country enjoying life, leisure, and his beloved alcohol, as was not un-common for "Confucian Gentlemen" of the Age. Although Li Bai later married an settled somewhat, his affluence would leave him ample opportunity to travel the provinces in pursuit of his art. Always in contact with the better members of society, governors, princes and even the Emperor (Xuanzong himself) Li Bai never knew financial or social crisis. Li Bai was offered many opportunities for a career in the Imperial Administration. Although he did at one Time become a member of the honored Hanlin Academy of Scholarly advisors to The Throne, his alcoholism and sometimes rudeness prevented his career from truly taking off. The results were ridiculous incidents such as a drunken appearance before the Emperor and his beloved Concubine Yang Gufei, many beautiful poems, extravagant visions and a life of Bliss.
Li Bai is the most important and therefor well-known Poet of the Tang Dynasty Era. His
Poetry is extravagant, and filled with the supernatural and colorful images of the Taoist Faith. In Honor of his gracious poetry Li Bai was named as one of the "Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup" in a Poem by Fellow Poet and Artist Du Fu. Li Bai is often regarded, along with Du Fu (722 AD – 770 AD), as one of the two greatest poets in China's literary history. Entirely in Line with his self-created image, Li Bai is said to have drowned in the mighty Yangtse River, after attempting to hug the moon in a drunken, poetic stupor. His last Poem however makes clear it was a suicide.
In the Time of the Tang Dynasty Era, laws and morality were the backbone of the organization of the Empire. The written philosophical ideas of both Taoism and Confucianism had always placed great emphasis on these, but in 624 AD, during the early Tang Dynasty, these Philosophies had produced a firm and fair first Legal Code. The Legal Code would provide the solid basis needed to run and administer such a vast and prosperous trading Empire. A Moral Society helped create order, order led to Harmony, which in turn would yield the highest achievable social bliss. Or so it was held at the Time. Thus, order was greatly appreciated, and order was based on a deep sense of morality of which especially the Du Fu Poems give great examples. Both the Du Fu and Li Bai Poems resonate and mirror the vibrations of this organized Tang society. In fact, it is said that the Tang Dynasty Poems can not be accurately interpreted without a proper knowledge of the Tang Dynasty Era and its ethical society.
Li Bai and Du Fu met in the autumn of the year 744 AD, and again one time in the next year. These were the only two occasions on which the Grand Poet Scholar-Immortals met. Their friendship however remained. The meetings and befriending over the wine cup were particularly important for Du Fu, who created at least 15 Poems speaking of the Grand Master Li Bai in elated words.
Due in large part to his lower social status, the works of Du Fu were lesser known during his lifetime, but in the following Centuries would come to widely influence Asian Society through Poetry and Literature. He is often nicknamed the Poet Historian. Today both Du Fu and Li Bai are among the Classics of Literature in China and Japan. Around 1100 Poems by Li Bai survive, whereas there are some 1500 Poems ascribed to Du Fu.
Although the An Lushan Rebellion which started in the last year of the "Brilliant" Tang Xuanzong Reign eroded the economy, caused widespread displacement of peoples and lives and considerably weakened the power and authority of the Central Court at Chang 'An, the restored Tang Imperial Administration and Government functioned for another century and a half, providing stability for lasting cultural and artistic development within the Empire and Culture.
of Henan province), and in or on the way back to the war-threatened Tang Capital of Chang 'An (Xi'An). Although having aspired to become of High Civil Servant and his lifes wish to help advance Society and Government in his Age, he never managed to pass the Imperial Examinations, possibly due to a lack of political connections. Instead Du Fu would find his place in History as one of two Greatest and Most Poetic Souls of the Tang Empire. His Poems are mainly about morality and history and more Confucian in theme.
A Three Color Glazed Military Figurine from the early Tang Dynasty Era. From the Collection o/t Palace Museum, Beijing.
XiaoYan Ta', the Small Wild Goose Pagoda of Xi'An's South District, a 15 story stone pagoda dating to the years 707 through 709 AD, during the Zhongzong Reign of the Tang Dynasty.
eunuchs and offcials.
The Reign of Empress Wu Zetian lasted until 704 AD, during which time the Imperial Examination System along Confucian Lines (an invention of the Sui) was revised and installed as a National Instrument of teaching, testing and recruiting of Government Workers (the Imperial Officials). The installment of this system would make China the first true writing bureaucracy in the World, the only one of its Era to base promotions on literary skills and learning, rather than family ties, military achievements and corruption or bribes. Henceforth, intelligent Men without important Family Ties were enabled to enter the Imperial Ranks of Government Officials greatly increasing the diligence and efficiency of the Imperial Apparatus. It was tremendous change in Social Thinking with great Political and Future implications. Powers at Court shifted from the traditional Feudal Elite, to the new order of Officials. New Powerful Families were made, others lost out and wealth and influence were slowly redistributed throughout the enlarged Empire. The inclusion of skilled and educated Men from the newly conquered area's, especial the South, greatly enhanced social stability to the further benefit of all within the Empire. The economy, trade, culture and the Arts flourished as never before. Through the works and minds of the new Gentlemen Scholars, who loved to show off their eloquence through the rendering of a poem, Tang Dynasty Poetry reached a high-point which's fruits are still regularly appreciated today.
However clever and strong a ruler, shortly before her death in the next year, in 704 AD Wu Zetian was deposed, to make way for Emperor Tang Xuanzong.
The Years following the Rule of Tang Xuanzong saw the recurrence of intrusions by Nomadic Tribes from the North (the 1000 year struggle with the Xiong-Nu, Huns or Mongolian Tribes). The Tang Army was weakened by the Civil War and distracted from its tasks by the TianBao Rebellion, leaving new opportunities for the ever present , active and vengeful Nomads of the North.
Stimulated by contact with India and the Middle East, the empire saw a flowering of creativity in many fields. Among the influences carried from India on the Silk Road, eversince the 1st to 4Th Century was the new Religion of Buddhism. Abundant in the arts and cultural relics of the Han Era and already adopted as State Religion during the 4Th and 5Th Century T(u)oba Nomadic Reign of the Wei Dynasty (386 - 584 AD) buddhism further penetrated into State Politics and Han Chinese Culture. The Tang Dynasty would build on this and create a vast Legacy of Buddhist Art equalling and even surpassing the Golden Han Dynasty and Wei Dynasty.
Among Famous lasting Monuments and examples of timeless buddhist art rank the Famed Silk Road Statues of Datong (Wei, Sui and Tang Dynasty) in Shanxi Province, the 1000s of Buddhas of the Longmen Caves at LuoYang in Henan Province (Southern Wei, Sui and Tang Dynasties) among which the Grand Statue of Empress Wu Zetian as the benevolent Matreya Buddha,and the Silk Road Statues of Bingling Si, on the Yellow River Banks outside of Lanzhou in Gansu Province (Sui and Tang Dynasties).
In the transition period from its entry into China during the Han Dynasty, further through the Wei Dynasty and into the Sui and Tang Era, the art associated with buddhism in China changes from having fresh and pure Indian caracteristics in the Han period, to becoming Chinese during the Wei. The Tang Dynasties artists completed the process and finished what would become its very own Tang Dynasty Style of Buddhist Art, a pure Chinese Interpretation of the Originally Indian shapes and forms. Buddhism had been included in the Chinese Culture for Ages to come, and through the Tang Trade contacts would reach Korea and Japan, where it would turn into Zen Buddhism.
Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty and 8Th Century in China
The (Sui and) Tang Dynasty Era saw the Chinese improve upon wood block-printing techniques in use since the Han Dynasty. The improvements however were not directly related to the introduction of the Imperial Examination System, nor with the First Law Code, both inventions that transformed the Empire and created the first writing bureacracy. The spread of the new technique was greatly enhanced by the spread of Buddhism, which had created a great hunger for copies of the Buddhist Suttra's.
Historic sources first record the use of the woodblock to print Buddhist scriptures during the Zhenguan years (Taizong Reign) of the early Tang Dynasty (627 AD - 649 AD), which was during its first Golden Age.
The oldest known Chinese surviving printed work is a wood block-printed Buddhist scripture creating the Reign of Empress Wu Zetian period (684 AD - 705 AD) which was discovered in Turpan the Silk Road Oasis in the Taklamakan Deserts of Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China in 1906 AD.
Again radiating from the powerful, culturally and technologically advanced China, the printing techniques rapidly spread along with Buddhism beyond to Korea and Japan.
Last but certainly not least, the world's earliest printed book dated to the year 868 AD of the late and declining Tang Dynasty is a Chinese scroll about sixteen feet long, containing the text of the Diamond Sutra. This treasured cultural heritage piece originated from the now famous Library Cave at the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, Gansu Province. To great detriment to Chinese Historians and Buddhist Art Lovers, even today, the piece was "stolen" or cheated away from the Cave Keeper Monk by the "archaeologist" treasure hunter Marcus Aurel Stein in 1907 AD and carted off to Europe. It is currently on display at the British Museum in London. Other Suttras landed in Berlin, the United States and later Japan.
The first printed book found at Dunhuang displays a great maturity of design and layout and speaks of a considerable ancestry for woodblock printing.
As Buddhism swept the nation through the 7Th Century and became almost as important as the age old philosphies of Confucianism and Daoism, the Tang Rulers erected Grand Monuments of Buddhist Art throughout the Empire. Buddhist Temples grew numerous and more and more buddhist caves were filled and statues erected along the above mentioned Silk Road sites of LuoYang, Lanzhou and Dunhuang.
Statue of Monk Xuan Zhang (602 - 654 AD) in front of the Great Goose Pagoda and Da Cien Temple in Xi'An, Shaanxi Province.
In reality there were many obstacles as well. For instance, the poor Monk took as long as two years to travel from Dunhuang, the blazing beacon, to Turpan the Oasis, which
The Reign of Empress Wu Zetian (690 AD - 704 AD) saw the further rise of Buddhism, especially as a Political Power. The Empress, coming to Power through a cuning Coup D'Etat played the powers of the Buddhist Faith and following against the earlier and established powers of the Feudal Aristrocratic Families and the newly emerged Imperial Confucian Literati. Hence Buddhism became a true political power established at Court Level and near equalling the importance of the Main Ruling Groups.
The result is an abundance of massive Statues of the Buddha dotting historical sites of the Tang Dynasty. Much of the State Coffers was expended on creating such monumental stone carvings at the Buddha of Leshan (714 AD) near Chengdu in Sichuan Province. Maintaining Temples with their flocks of Monks became a lasting burden on the State Finances as well.
A Famous and popular star and real legend of the Period is the Monk Xuanzang (or Táng-sānzàng or Xuan Zhang), who traveled to India during the earliest period of the Tang Dynasty. During his lifetime between the years 602 and 664 AD, he made a daring seventeen year overland trip through the Silk Road and the West to end up in North India.
It was a daring trip since there was still a war raging in the West and the Emperor had decreed no soul leave the Empire. Regardless however, Xuanzang went ahead with his plan, and slipped out of the famous Jade Gate (Yu Men) at Dunhuang to face the Perils of the Western barbaric lands. The Journey is the inspiration for the famous Chinese Ming Dynasty Era Literary Classic, "A Journey to The West". In this imaginary buddhist story, the Monk faces many challenges to finally reach nirvana and become an enlightened one
Ceramic Three Color Glazed War Horse, dated to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), in the collection of The Palace Museum of Beijing.
today is still well within the Chinese Borders. Many other challenges, such as the Bedal Pass from Kashgar (Xinjiang AR) into modern Kyrgyzstan still lay ahead.
Xuanzang survived the Journey, saw the two large Bamyan Buddhas of Afghanistan and stayed in North India for a prolonged period to study the teachings of the Buddha. He had left Yu Men in 622 AD and arrived in Jalalabad India in 630 AD.
On his return from India through mountainous Nepal to China the he brought back a giant collection of Buddhist scriptures, heralding in a new period of cultural interaction between India and China. It was a great source of inspiration to all. Xuanzangs massive library contained no less than 657 volumes and scrolls of the Mahayana form of Buddhism, all of which had to be translated from Sanskrit into the Chinese Language(s).
With the Emperor Xuanzong's (712 AD - 756 AD) support, Xuanzang was set up with his follower monks in a large translation bureau in Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), drawing students and collaborators from all over East Asia. Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean Monks were especially
With the forceful removal of Empress Wu Zetian, Buddhism in China had suffered its first setback. From 704 AD onwards the prominent status of Buddhism in Government Affairs was steadily reduced. Although pervading Chinese culture, buddhism began to decline especially after the Golden Reign of Xuanzong. The dynasty and central government declined during the late 8th century to 9th century. During succeeding Reign Periods Buddhist convents and temples that were exempt from state taxes beforehand were targeted by the state for taxation. Still a Century later in 845 AD Emperor Wuzong of Tang finally took the drastic decision to shut down 4,600 Buddhist monasteries along with
40,000 smaller temples and shrines, forcing a staggering number of 260,000 Buddhist monks and nuns to return to secular life. It can be said that Buddhism briefly was the One State Religion of the Nation. At the same time however, through the success of the Imperial Examination System, Confucianism again rose as a semi-religious instrument of State Administration and in the end Confucianism won out over Buddhism as a state doctrine.
involved. Thus Mahayana, first introduced in China in about the 4Th Century during the Wei Dynasty would further spread from India through the Silk Routes of Central Asia to China where Mahayana was Sinicized. This Sinicized Mahayana, in which the journey of Xuanzang was an epic event, would be passed on to Korea, Vietnam and finally to Japan in 538 AD.
Thus the Buddhist form favored by Xuanzang himself, the Yogācāra or Consciousness-only movement of Mahayana was perpetuated in the East. The translation bureau became a school of Buddhism for the Empire and was upgraded in 649 AD with a Temple famous as the Da Cien Si - Great Goose Pagoda of Xian in Shaanxi Province. The Temple is Still an important pilgrimage destination for Buddhists. Xuanzang is honored in several ways at this Tang Dynasty Era Temple.
Xuanzang was known for his extensive but careful translations of Indian Buddhist texts to Chinese, and subsequent recoveries of lost Indian Buddhist texts from translated Chinese copies. Credited with writing or compiling the Cheng Weishi Lun as a commentary on these texts Xuanzang is still a famous Monk known under various names in Vietnam, Korea and Japan today. As a Teacher Xuanzang founded the short-lived but influential Faxiang school of Buddhism. Additionally, he was known for recording the events of the reign of the northern Indian emperor, Harsha.
Out of Pure Necessity the First years of the Tang Dynasty, under Rule of Tang Gaozu, had to be spent consolidating the new Empire and mopping up remaining political opponents and subduing rebellious area's. Li Yuan, now Emperor Tang Gaozu, successfully restored order with the help of his earlier mentioned group of Sons among which a favored Son named Li Shimin. Law and Order were to be kept through a new Law Code, the T'Ang Code, which was the first Chinese Law Code to survive until this day.
Li Shimin was not the Crown Prince, but aspired to this important Title regardless.
Father Li, soon faced the worst kind of intrigue from his own family. After only 8 years of Tang Dynasty Rule Li Shimin revolted against The Throne by fabricating a murder plot against himself, implicating the Crown Prince and favored Son Li Jiancheng. It was the clever, although unsophisticated prelude to a Coup D'Etat.
Soon after, in 826 AD, Li Shimin had his brothers assassinated at the Main Gate to the Tang Imperial Palace at Chang 'An, the Xuanwu Men, after which he proceeded with his Powergrab. Outmaneuvered by Li Shimin, and at the loss of his Loyal Sons and advisors, the Old Emperor was forced to abdicate, now in favor of Li Shimin. Hence, the 2nd Tang Emperor Li Shimin had usurped the Throne from his Father, becoming Emperor Tang Taizong.
Luck was with Li Yuan. When soon after his rise to Power the Emperor was attacked and assassinated by his
Councilor, one Yuwen HaiJi, the TaiYuan General saw his Chance.
In powerful control of the Military, the one force now sustaining the dying Dynasty, Li Yuan was able to proclaim himself Emperor of China. Changing the Dynastic Title from Sui to Tang, he then founded the Tang Dynasty becoming Emperor Tang Gaozu.
During the Tang Dynasty Chang An' (current day Xian, Capital of Shaanxi Province) would remain the Capital of Han Chinese Culture and Empire.
The Tang Dynasty saw the Reign of the First and Only Female Emperor of China, the largest extend of Han Chinese Empire until that Time and the introduction of the Imperial Examination System which lasted through all successive Dynasties until 1905 AD.
Son of Gaozu, Li Shimin a.k.a. Emperor Tang TaiZong.
The Silk Road during the Tang Dynasty
By the Time of the second half of 7Th Century the Tang Empire had expanded greatly, not only in Eastern and Northernly direction into Manchuria, Korea and current day parts of Russia north of the Amur River (Sakhalin) it had expanded even further to the West following the path of the Trade Routes into Central Asia, later dubbed the Silk Road (20Th Century).
As mentioned previously, the Tang Dynasty conquest started out with the capturing of the Ordos Desert (a western part of the Gobi Desert in current day Ningxia and Inner-Mongolia AR). The Ordos Desert and the Loess Plateux around Lanzhou in Gansu were a crucial strategic area due East of the Tibet-Qinghai Plateaux, lying at the eastern end of a long high plateux descending from the Taklamakan desert in the West and tunneling between two mountain ranges to reach the Yellow River Basin. As impenetrable as the Mountains and Desert of the North and West are, in history the Nomadic Tribes of Central Asia had prefered this route, the Hexi Corridor, to descend on the Han Chinese heartland through Lanzhou. From the Yellow River Crossing it was only a short step to the Tang Capital at Chang 'An.
Hence, this dangerously exposed gap in the mountainous and sandy defenses had to be plugged first. This crucial area of the Ordos was already secured under the Reign of the First Emperor Tang Gaozu.
As recorded, in the year 620 AD in earliest Years of the Dynasty, battles were still raging in the West however the Jade Gate, North-West of Dunhuang had already been secured. The Tang Dynasty could guarantee traders safety as far West as Dunhuang, where the Silk Road splits into a Southern Route and a Northern Route following the contours of the Central Sands of the Taklamakan Desert. At the Time however, by Imperial Decree All Souls were forbidden to leave and venture further West. One eager-to-travel Monk however managed to slip out regardless.
Map 1 of the Silk Road during the early Tang Dynasty Era. Clearly depicts the North & South Routes West of Dunhuang as well as the lost civilizations of Loulan and Hotan.
Under the 2nd Emperor Tang Taizong the Military Campaign to open the West for Trade dearly missed since the Prosperous Han Dynasty (and Close the East from Invasion), was taken further into the Taklamakan Desert and the Tarim River Basin. In the following few years Kashgar, earlier part of the Han Dynasty Empire, was retaken and so were the Pamir Mountains and gateway to Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. Chinese Soldiers stood guard on the Bedal Pass, the famous Iron Gates onto the Pamir High Plateux. The Route from Chang'An to beyond Kashgar had been pacified and was (relatively) safe for traveling traders. It was the year 639 AD, the Silk Road had been opened.
During subsequent Reign Periods the Battle of Central Asia and the Silk Road raged on along the Silk Road path establishing Tang Dynasty Military Power and Borders to Lake Balkash in current day Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
As a result of this the Chinese Han Culture came into close contact with new Cultures and Empires, among them the rising Islamic Empire of the Khalifate of the Arabian Peninsula and Persia. Thus, the year 651 AD saw the first
Asia Report - Map of Asia Entire . All Countries, Borders & Capitals
Full Geographical Overview Map of Asia Entire with Zoom & Scroll Functions, Relief Feautures, Oceans, Main Rivers and Capital Cities.
This Map of Asia includes all Asian Countries with Names and Borders, Disputed Border Regions in Asia, Capital Cities of all Asian Countries and Main Rivers and Mountain Ranges.
After taking and holding the Bedal Pass, the Tang went on to invade and subdue the Peoples of current day Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with the renowned Silk Road Cities of Samarkand and the Buchara. The Eastern Shores of the Caspian Seas were occupied and under Tang Dynasty Military Control. This added the important and rich City of Askhabad (in current day Turkmenistan), a center of Trade, Literacy and a Military stronghold along the Silk Road to the Tang Military and Administrative Empire. Here however, possibilities ended. In this far Western Territory, thousands of miles of its population base the Tang would remain under continuous competition and often out-right hostility from the Arabian and Persian Rulers in current day Iran and parts of Turkmenistan that remained under Khanate Rule and Persian sway. In fact the West was exposed.
The Tang Military Missions on the Silk Road were not exclusivily reserved to this path of the Silk Road, however. Apart from this main and northern route, there were several other connections. In fact, trade routes lay as a web across Central Asia connecting the various cities through multiple parallel pathways.
Hence. the Tang set to work on securing and controlling these as well.
Around 634 AD, South Gansu Province, the Qinghai Eastern Part of the Tibetan Plateux (including Gansu and current day Qinghai Province) was subdued. Next in the line of the rolling Tang Miltary Machine were the Peoples of Tibet who had only recently been unified under the Rule of Songtsan Gampo.
The Tibetans were no match for the Tang Military and highly powerful crossbow. Although the Himalayan Mountains provided a good defense, in the long run victory was far from assured. The Tibetan King Gampo (Qizonglongzan in Tang Dynasty Records), hearing of the favored treatment for cooperating Tang subjects and
The Reign of Empress Wu Zetian (690 AD - December 704 AD)
Next up, adding more trade road and therefor taxation rights to Tang Control were the Tribal States of Bhutan,Sikim and what today is Nepal. This pacified nearly the entire Himalayan Mountains Area (except for Yunnan !), laying the Tang Borders and Defenses at the very outer passes, points easily defended against further invasion. Within flourished a booming Trade in both directions and many new ethnicities, cultures, beliefs and religions were included in this vast Empire.
In the same expansion South new area's in North Afghanistan including the Trading Cities of Balkh (Mazar-I-Sharif), Termez (named Thermos under Alexander the Great) and Kabul (today the Capital of war-torn Afghanistan) had been taken. Furthermore, in North Pakistan and on the North Border of Bangladesh further Tribal Area's and Kingdoms had been subdued, becoming part of the giant Tang Realm. This was no small feat as this includes the Karakoram Pass, one of the highest mountain passes in the world. At the other side of the Mountains the City of Peshawar (today inside the so called 'Tribal Regions' of Pakistan), on the way into India came under Tang Military Rule. Notably, only Bhurmese Territory and the current day Province of Yunnan the home of annoying and fiercely fighting Tribal Peoples and a rugged high mountainous area had not been conquered. Not yet ! Yunnan would be added to to China by the Mongol Yuan Dynasty.
The commodities regularly traded and exchanged through the so called "Silk Road" were not merely silk, but involved a great variety of other valuable goods. First and Foremost there were the necessities of agriculture and new varieties of fruit, vegetables, herbal medicine and produce were eagerly exchanged. New Strains with higher yield or better resistance to local climate were thus spread along the path of the Trading Routes. One of the new foods discovered by the Han was the rice and its nutritious grains. Rice was hard to cultivate but would during the Tang Ruling Era drastically change the traditional Chinese Diet and provide a fuel for the hungry mouths of the exploding populations of the newly subdued souther regions beyond the Yangtze River.
Other agricultural examples of trade items were grapes (and seeds), alfalfa, onion, cotton, pomegranate, walnut, fig trees and cucumbers, silkworms' eggs, various spices, wine, tea, paper and ink.
Luxury items traded on the Silk Road were many as well. First of all, naturally there was Silk, but Chinese Porcelains and laquerware equally found eager buyers along the Path of the Silk Road to the West. Jewelry was traded bot ways, pearls and jade being most popular with the Tang Culture. Precious stones from India and Tibet, silver goods arrived from the Persian Lands (Sogdania, Persia), The Byzantines produced fine clothing, Ivory trade and ambergris derived more exclusively from the emerging Maritime Trade Routes.
Other commodoties included Slaves, African and Arabic Ceramics, and Horses for transport and mainly the Military.
Along with the Trade of Agricultural Goods, Silk and Valuables came the Trade of Scientific knowledge. Another passenger, born from the newly incorporated Tribes, Regions, peoples, Cities and Clans and their close contact with the Han, came beliefs, Folk Tales, Music and Dance and finally Religion.
The Far West and Center would be influenced by Islam pervading from Persia (, Sogdania), Arabia and Syria. In the South another new Religious influence was incorporated within. Already introduced in China in the 1st Century AD and popular during the Han Dynasty, Buddhism would continue its Rise among the Han Chinese, and by them through Tibet, Mongolia, Han China and Manchuria was carried to Korea and Japan.
diplomatic contact between the militarily powerful Khalifate and the Tang Empire. In the event, which took place after the Khalifate had defeated the Byzantines, the Western Roman Empire and subdued Persia, the warlike followers a Muhammad, the Muslims, made the unnervingly self-confident "request" for the Tang to submit to their Faith. In recognition of the economic and military importance of this new Nation the Tang Court decided to handle affairs carefully and allow minimal rights to the arriving Muslim Traders among which the establishment of the first Mosque in China in Guangzhou (Canton) in today' Guangdong Province. The Mosque is a reminder of the importance of the emerging maritime silk road. From the year 651 AD Islam would play a repeated role in Chinese History.
At the height of the Tang Empire in the 8Th Century borders were even further expanded including a list of Central Asian Territories, Cities and Countries. Summarized Territories under Tang Military Control were the South-Eastern Parts of current day Kazakhstan ranging 100's of Miles North and around Lake Balkash, then
The Chinese Empire of the Tang Dynasty around the Year 700 AD.
Restoring connections within the Empire in Turn meant restoring Transport and Traffic and thus reviving vital Trade and the Economy within Tang China. A Central Role in this case was played by the Grand Canal of China, which had long been planned, but only finally completed during the previous Dynasty, The Sui (589 AD - 618 AD). The gargantuan Grand Canal connected from Hangzhou (in current day Zhejiang Province), South-West of Shanghai to the City of Beijing in the North.
This new and easy and rapid Internal Transportation System drastically reduced cost and ease of transport, replacing inland Caravan Routes and Roads by a smooth waterway conveyor belt. Not surprisingly as soon as the Canal was restored to its full function, the Tang Economy took off.
Although Chang An at the Time was the largest City in the World, and the Political and Cultural Center of China, the City of Yangzhou (in current day Jiangsu Province) would become the Economic Capital of the Nation and Empire. Not only was it located along the Central Canal, the number one North-South transport road, it was also the Center of another ages old and vital economic practice, the Salt Trade. The Monopoly on the Salt Trade was in the hands of the Imperial Officials and the Empire.
Map Great Wall China - Layers of Dynasties and Era's
A Schematic Map of China and East-Asia, with a super-imposed schematic of the various layers of the Great Wall of China.
Features Pre-Qin Dynasty Wall, Qin Dynasty Wall, Western Han Great Wall of China, the (Northern) Jin Dynasty Great Wall and finally the Ming Dynasty Great Wall as mainly remains today.
Main Features are Names and locations location of Passes on the Great Wall of China, outer layer and inner layer. Includes Shanhai Pass, Huangya Guan (Yellow Cliff) Pass, JiYunGuan Pass, Ningwu Guan Pass, Pingxin Guan, YaMen Guan Pass, Pian Guan Pass, JiaYuGuan pass, YuMen Guan Pass (Jade Gate) and Yang Guan Pass.
Further included for reference are City names, geographical features of landscape and main mountain ranges. Updates occur several times a year adding new pass locations and photo-virtual tours of Passes throughout China.
and Literature flourished once more in peace time. For reasons of the above, the Reign of Tai Zhong is also known as the "Flourishing Age" of the Tang Dynasty.
Schematic Map of the Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD) Empire at its High Point during the 7Th Century AD. This ChineseMap, produced in 1948 AD clearly shows Tibet as a separate Territory, which is in a Tributary Relation to the Tang Empire (after 641 AD). This relation had been reversed in 763 AD & afterwards only briefly reoccurred.
how they were able to marry Tang Princesses, decided to opt for the easy way out. In an offer of virtual surrender and subtle diplomacy the King requested to marry a Tang princes.
Earlier in 624 AD, however Gampo had subdued the Domi people who had been subjected by to the Tang Throne just beforehand. Furthermore,
but, before making his smooth diplomatic offer, Gampo had moved 200.000 Men in position to threaten the Tang Dynasty City of Songzhou.These acts were not easily dismissed by such a strong Military Man as Emperor Taizong and Gampo was initially turned down by the Tang Emperor.
Oddly, after the Tibetan Army had carried out its threats and attacked Songzhou but was repelled by the Tang, the Chinese Emperor went ahead and granted the wish to surrender. But only after Gampo had groveled and utterly humiliated himself in apologies for the whole affair. Or so the Chinese version of events goes. At any rate the Tibetans would throw off the Han Joke about a century later.
In the first instance, Songtsan Gampo, the Tibetan King would go on to conquer and unite more of Tibet and a part of current day Sichuan Province under auspices of the Tang Emperor. When he finally died in 649 AD, he was a valued Tang Asset in the Region and thus received a condolence letter from the Tang Emperor himself (650 AD).
The Tibetan heartlands were accessible through steep mountain passes from the South Route of the Silk Road out of the Taklamakan Desert, as well as from the newly conquered territories of Gansu and Eastern parts of current Qinghai Province. The Tibetan Territories held valuable Jade Sources and the Salts derived from the Tibetan Salt Lakes in the Qaidam basin were a commodity of basic importance. Even more importantly the Valleys of Southern and Eastern Tibet held vital grazing lands needed for the many War Horses of the ever advancing and growing Tang Dynastic Armies.
Hence, the Tibetan Peoples were to be included into the Tang Dynasty Empire by brute force.
This eventually opened up a new arm of the Silk Road, a Trade Route passing directly over and across the Himalayan Mountains through Tibet and Nepal to link up with North-India. This southern arm of the Silk Road would become a valuable source of Jades and other precious stones so loved by the Tang Culture. (Tibet however would be lost to the Tang and have its own Dynasty in 763 AD, however the Tang would regain control in 851 AD.)