The Early Tang Empire: 618-755 The reunification of China after centuries of division was under the Sui dynasty. After 34 years in power, the Sui collapsed, which led to the long-lasting Tang Dynasty.
In 618, the Li family took advantage of Sui disorder to make an empire of similar scale and ambition, and adopted the name Tang; their emperor would be Li Shimin (ruled 627-649). Him and succeeding Tang rulers retained many Sui practices, avoiding centralization allowing nobles, gentry, officials, and religious establishments to exercise power.
Tang emperors and nobility descended from Turkic elites from North China.
They continued Confucian system of examining aspiring candidates for bureaucratic office on the classic Confucian texts, a practice reinstated by the Sui.
Some of the most impressive works of Tang sculpture include large pottery figurines of the horses and two humped camels used along the Silk Road.
In warfare, the Tang combined Chinese weapons with Inner Asian expertise in horsemanship and the use of iron stirrups. At their peak, the Tang military was a formidable force.
Tang rulers followed Inner Asian precedents in their political use of Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism predominated in China, which permitted the absorption of local gods(esses) into Mahayana sainthood, which made conversion more attractive to commoners.
Early Tang princes competing for political influence, enlisted monastic leaders to pray for them, preach on their behalf, counsel aristocrats to support them, and contribute monastic wealth to their war chests.
As the Tan empire expanded westward contacts with Central Asia and India increased and so did the Buddhist influence throughout China.
Chang’an became the center of a continent wide system of communication. Thus the Mahayana network connecting Inner Asia and China intersected a vigorous commercial world in which material goods and cultural influences mixed.
Regional cultures and identities remained strong, just a regional commitments to Tibetan, Uighur, and other languages and writing systems coexisted with the widespread use of written Chinese.
Chang’an was named in honor of the old Han capital nearby the Wei River Valley (Modern Shaanxi province.)
Roads and water transport connected Chang’an to coastal towns, most importantly Canton.
The Grand Canal, though it did not reach Chang’an, was a key component of this transportation network. The Grand Canal had its own army patrols, boat design, canal towns, and maintenance budget. It conveyed vital supplies and contributed to the economic and cultural development of Eastern China.
Chang’an became the center of the tributary system by which independent countries acknowledged the Chinese emperor’s supremacy.
Most people in Chang’an lived in the suburbs that extended beyond the main gates. Others dwelt in separate outlying towns that had special responsibilities. Foreigners resided in special compounds in Chang’an and other entrepots.
Chinese mariners/shipwrights excelled in compass design and the construction of very large oceangoing vessels. The government took direct responsibility for outfitting grain transport vessels for the Chinese coastal cities and the Grand Canal. Commercial ships, built to sail from Southern China to the Philippines and South Asia, carried 2 times as much as contemporary vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.
The sea route linking the Red Sea and Persian Gulf with Canton also brought East Asia the “plague of Justinian” aka the bubonic plague. As in certain other parts of the world, the plague bacillus became endemic among rodent populations in SW China and thus lingered long after its disappearance in West Asia and Europe. The disease followed trade and embassy routes to Korea, Japan, and Tibet, where initial outbreaks followed the establishment of diplomatic ties in the 7th century.
Influences from Central Asia and Islamic world brought new motifs to ceramics, painting, and silk