The Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties are the families that ruled China between 500 AD and 1300 AD respectively. The three regimes represent the period that China as a nation underwent radical changes in its political, economic and social life. Each of the three dynasties is unique in a way yet somehow has similarities to the other regimes. The changes would go on to spread to the rest of the world and influence the political, social and economic systems of the rest of the world. Famous Chinese inventions such as the gunpowder and the compass were developed during the period. Below are some of the significant changes in the political, social and economic life during the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties.
The Sui dynasty first came into power in 581 AD by replacing the Northern Zao Dynasty through a man known as Yang Jian. Yang Jian conquered the four Kingdoms of the Northern and Southern dynasties and renamed the new empire to Sui Dynasty. He also adopted the title, Emperor Wen (Kelly, 2018).
One of the earliest political changes that were introduced during the Sui dynasty was the unification of China under Emperor Wen. According to Kelly (2018), the Emperor sent half a million troops across Yangtze River to conquer the Southern empire called Chen. A victory in that conquest ensured that China became a single empire for the first time in more than 369 years.
The Emperor also placed some Confucian literati as part of his administration. Before the rise of the Sui dynasty, the Confucian bureaucrats were in charge of the Eastern Han Empire. However, their power did not extend to the Northern Zhou State. When Emperor Wen ascended to power, he used the political strategy of the Western Han Empire and recruited the officials using the imperial examination system (Kelly, 2018).
Emperor Wen was an avid supporter of Buddhism. The emperor passed laws that allowed people to freely practice Bhudhism and seek enlightenment through Mahayana Buddhism for the 23 years that he was in charge. His son, Emperor Yang, continued with these policies and allowed Bhudhism to flourish in China during his reign.
The Sui dynasty was well known for undertaking ambitious construction projects. Emperor Yang in particular almost bankrupted the kingdom due to his large constructions projects. One of the construction projects that Sui dynasty took was the construction of the Grand Canal. The Grand Canal ran from Hangzhou to Beijing.
Also, the Sui dynasty began the reconstruction of the Great Wall of China especially the Northern section that leads into Mongolia. Additionally, the Sui dynasty built the new capital of Luoyang. These ambitious projects impoverished the Sui dynasty causing a revolt among the locals that led to the overthrowing of Emperor Yang after being in power for only 14 years.
The Tang dynasty came into power after the fall of the Sui dynasty. The Tang Dynasty ruled China from 618 AD to 906 AD. Li Yuan who was a cousin to the first Sui emperor emerged during the period of mass rebellion and managed to clinch the throne away from the Sui dynasty (History.com Editors, 2018). Like the Sui dynasty, the Tang dynasty introduced several changes into China. Most of the changes reinforced those brought about by their cousins, the Sui dynasty.
Some of the significant political changes during the Tang dynasty was the expansion of the Chinese empire to the North by snatching a portion of Mongolia away from the Turks. The Tang dynasty was famed for using Turkish soldiers in the invasion of Kaitan hence earning Taizong the title, the "Great Khan."
Furthermore, Taizong used aggressive techniques to identify confusion scholars and use them as heads of the civil service. The emperor also sanctioned the state version of The Five Classics that allowed the gifted scholars to move up in government regardless of whether they have family connections (History.com Editors, 2018).
The Tang dynasty was similar to its predecessor in that it also supported the Buddhist religion within the Chinese empire. Monasteries became very influential in normal Chinese lifestyle. They were in charge of schools, places of gatherings and even lodgings for travelers. Also, monasteries became huge landowners that provided them with the financial power to become moneylenders, pawnbrokers and run businesses such as mills.
The Tang dynasty was also a period of growth in poetry. Emperor Xuangzong even established an academy of poets that helped to preserve works from over 2000 poets during the era (History.com Editors, 2018). The Chinese also began holding Buddhist festivals.
The period also witnessed social amalgamation resulting from the recruitment of people from the South. Additionally, the official examination system introduced by Emperor Taizong created a shift in power as the educated social elite soon replaced the old aristocracy who depended on family connections for top government jobs.
The Tang dynasty witnessed the development of woodblock printing as early as 650 AD. The development of woodblock printing allowed commercial printing. Commercial books were being printed by 762 AD. The Tang dynasty also expanded along the Silk Road, which caused a boost in trade as merchants from India, Persia, and Arabia found a safe route to travel.
The Song Dynasty
The Song dynasty ruled China in a period that scholars refer to as the high middle ages. According to historians, China witnessed a great deal of innovation and growth during the Song dynasties. Famous explorer and writer Marco Polo referred to it as the most advanced place in the world at the time. The Song dynasty ruled China in the period between 960 AD and 1279 AD (Khan Academy, n.d.). Discoveries in the field of science, art, and curiosity of the world caused a great deal of social, political and economic changes in China.
The Song dynasties maintained the previous government examinations as a way to select qualified scholars to fill top-level government positions. As a result, the top levels of the Song dynasties was made up of highly skilled officials. The song dynasty also preferred appeasement policy especially when it came to dealing its Northern neighbors, the Mongols.
The emperor also depended on the literati on the day-to-day running of the government hence causing the central government to withdraw from the daily running of the government. Additionally, the appointed scholars in the provincial and county levels depended on the scholars for supervision, services, and sponsorship.
The Song dynasty expanded rice cultivation and agricultural techniques that caused early rice ripening and created increased food production. Advances in science and technology fostered bridge building and hydraulic engineering that allowed the government to establish trade routes to remote regions and boost trade.
The advancements in shipbuilding encouraged overseas trade. The invention also enabled the Chinese to invest in several sailing vessels, which guaranteed them income due to the active business at the time. However, the most notable economic development during the Song dynasty was the establishment of the world's first printed paper money that was backed by silver or gold.
On the social front, the Chinese society witnessed a decline in Buddhism, which had been gaining ground in China for the past 500 years. The Song administration sought to purge most Buddhist doctrines in favor of traditional Chinese Confucianism. The period witnessed the rise of a pure form of Confucianism known as Neo-Confucianism (Khan Academy, n.d.). Neo-Confucianism used the ideas of the past and integrated them with new ideas from the present. It taught people the Chinese views and answers to the big questions such as those of the cosmos.
In the field of art, the Song dynasty explored new painting techniques that caused a sizeable grand landscape painting that examine the world in fine details. This new techniques and art philosophies exposed ordinary people to the field of art.
The Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties mark crucial periods in Chinese history and world civilization. They represent the start of globalization and the spread of ideology such as trade, innovation and art flourished. These aspects caused a shift in the economic, political and social aspects of the Chinese community. Even at the time of their end, most of the changes are still present to date and influence everyone's daily life.
History.com Editors. (2018, August 21). Tang Dynasty. (A&E Networks) Retrieved from History: https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-china/tang-dynasty
Kelly. (2018, September 11). The Sui Dynasty - a Short but Significant Dynasty. Retrieved from China Highlights: https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/china-history/the-sui-dynasty.htm
Khan Academy. (n.d.). An Introduction to the Song dynasty (960-1279). Retrieved from Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/imperial-china/song-dynasty/a/an-introduction-to-the-song-dynasty-9601279
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World Civilizations: The Sui, Tang, and Song Dynasties Essay Example. (2022, Nov 21). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/world-civilizations-the-sui-tang-and-song-dynasties-essay-example
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