The Tang Dynasty
618 AD - 907 AD
The Tang dynasty was a dynasty that was characterized by such strength and brilliance that it is unprecidented by any other. The civil service examination was so refined, that the test's basic form was used in the 20th century. The role of the the imperial and local government was amplified so that it centralized administration and enacted an elaborate code of administrative and penal laws. The Tang dynasty was vast, with its control ranging from Korea, southern Manchuria, and Northen Vietnam. In the west, the Tang influence was felt as far away as present-day Afghanistan.
Tha Tang's strength came from a system of equal land allotments to the male population. A tax on the allotments was the Tang's greatest source of income. In addition to that, periodic miltary service from all males was the basis of the Tang's military. This system worked for a while, but when the population increased, the land allotments to the males decreased in size. The government's income did not change, but the peasants' did. This caused many to flee; not only did the income for the government decrease, but the military base did as well.
The early Tang monarchs were good rulers overall. But, one emperor, Hsuan Tsung, fell in love with a woman and negelected his duties. This allowed the woman to place friends and family in government positions. One general that was placed in such a position, An Li-shan, had a quarrel with the woman's brother, causing a war to break out. Fighting went on for eight years, and was stopped due to alliances made with the Centeral Asian tribes. After this rebellion, the centeral government was never the same. The Tang could no longer control the generals along the border. These generals withheld tax money and eventually created kingdoms from the land they were to protect.
During the Tang dynasty, many great poets emerged. Li, Po, Tu Fu, and Po Chu-i and prose master Han Yu appeared when the political decline had begun. The printing of books and sharing of ideas promoted cultural unity.
During the Tang dynasty, Buddhism declined, and Confucianism became more popular. Even though Buddhism was at its peak during the early Tang dynasty, many of the Tang officials were of the Confucian discipline and regarded Buddhism as a disruptive force in China. So, in 845, the Tang emperor started a full-scale persecution of Buddhists. More than 4600 monestaries and 40,000 temples and shrines were destroyed. Other religious groups were also brought under government control.
Social and economic growth kept the Tang dynasty together during the years of disunion. Handicraft guilds and the use of paper money all started in the late Tang dynasty. The period of disunion was known as the Five Dynasties period (907-960). Not only did five short-lived dynasties form during this period, but ten independent states were also formed, primarily in Southern China.