Islam vs Tang Essay

Submitted By jaywatson22
Words: 583
Pages: 3

The eighth century was a time of new empires, expansion, and the laying of foundations for modern religions and cultures. The two powerhouses of this time were the Tang Empire and the Islamic Empire, and their interactions at the time as well as retrospective comparisons are essential to understanding their characteristics. While they expanded their borders in similar militaristic ways and each became the dominant forces in their region, the Tang Empire built its bureaucracy on education while Islam’s foundation was religious; each was effected by the other and this, along with cultural and geographical influences, made them the powerful empires history remembers.
The greatest similarity between these empires was their method of expansion. With such massive territories to defend and with the lofty expansion goals each possessed, colossal armies were needed. Each turned to the nomadic pastoralists of Inner Eurasian steppe lands for soldiers, creating fearsome, skillful armies who eventually met at the Battle of Talas in 751. The Abbasids won, ending the westward expansion of the Tang Dynasty. The Muslims took advantage of the significant power vacuum left by the Roman and Persian Empires, while the Tang were forced into relative isolation, especially after invading Tibetans and Sogdians, and the defeat at the Battle of Talas. This proves two points: first, that one of the major factors that shaped the Tang Dynasty was the influence of and interaction with Islamic empires, and vice versa; and second, that the Tang’s eventual relative isolation, compared to the vast Islamic expansion and diversity, is possibly the most distinct difference between the two nations.
Within the empires, another major contrast in the building of their power was the role of education versus religion. In Tang China, education was the structure upon which government and society were built. Confucian teachings, memorization of the classics, and understanding of history were required to pass the civil service examinations and become a government official. These exams and their prestige are evidenced in Wang Dingbao’s first-hand account of the anticipation and nerves that surrounded the results, and he conveyed how integral these exams were, not just to the government, but to citizens. This meritocratic ideal was foundational in the formation of the Tang Dynasty, and certainly contributed to its power, success, and reputation.
Tang’s meritocracy, however, contrasts with the focus of the…