In 618, Li Yuan became emperor after the fall of the Sui Dynasty. He made Chang'an (now Xian) his capital and established the Tang Dynasty. In 627, the whole country was divided into 10 dao (provinces): Guannei, Henan, Hedong, Hebei, Shannan, Longyou, Huainan, Jiangnan, Jiannan and Lingnan. By 639, there were 358 prefectures administering 1,551 counties. The following year when the Tang conquered Gaochang (now Turpan in Xinjiang), two more prefectures with six counties were added. During 713-741 and 742-755, the number of prefectures and counties were the same as that in the Tai Zong’s reign. By 733, the number of provinces increased to 15. In areas near the capital, the Tang sent inspectors and military satraps to the frontier provinces of Anxi, Beiting, Hexi, Sufang, Hedong, Fanyang, Pinglu, Longyou, Jiannan and Lingnan. At its height, the Tang territory extended to Andong Prefecture (now Pyongyang in Korea) in the east, the Anxi Prefecture (now Kuche in Xinjiang) in the west, the Rinan Prefecture (now Qinghua in Vietnam) in the south and the Anbei Prefecture (now Halahelin in Inner Mongolia) in the north. After the Revolts of An Lushan and Shi Siming, Hexi and Longyou were conquered by the Tubo and not recovered until 860-874. After 874, the Tang Dynasty was plagued by turmoil and rebellion. In 904, Zhu Quanzhong removed capital to Luoyang. Four years later, Emperor Ai lost his throne to the Liang. The Tang thus came to an end after 290 years and 20 emperors (including 16 years when Wu Zetian replaced the Tang with the Zhou).
The Tang Dynasty was not only the most powerful dynasty in China's feudal society, but also of the most prosperous in the world of its day. It is well-known for its nationwide unity, vast territory, social stability and a high moral standard in society. The dynasty was noted for a highly developed economy, ideological diversification, major scientific progress, unprecedented flourishing of literature and arts and frequent cultural exchanges with the outside world.
Political System of Tang Dynasty
In the political facet, the government further consolidated its centralized power, adopted the administrative system of Sui Dynasty, which was three ministries and six departments. And implemented the land equalization system (to make sure that residents owned houses and farmers owned land), a land taxation system, a system of military service impetus to both agricultural development and the build-up of military strength.
In the ideological field, the government adopted the policy of allowing different schools of the thought to contend, opening to the outside world and making good use of whatever was beneficial. The government encouraged learning strong points from foreign cultures, and promoted without reference Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. These policies enlivened people’s thinking. Countless temples and monasteries were erected across the country. Buddhism reached its zenith during the Tang Dynasty, and there were three upsurges of Buddhist expansion.
Economic of Tang Dynasty
During the Tang Dynasty, the economy developed very quickly. Farming tools got improve. The crank-shaft plough was put into use. It was an advanced farming tool and easy for the farmer to operate, the appearance of it raises productivity. The output of crops got improve. Grains were plentiful enough to flow and rice white enough to shine, both the public and private barns were abundant in grains. The plenty of wilderness was reclaimed. Irrigation works built across the country sped up the development of agriculture. Mulberry and tea were grown very widely.
During the early years of the Tang Dynasty, saw ever rising agricultural production, increasingly fine handicrafts, a prosperous commodity economy, and vigorous urban life. Bridge building business, shipbuilding, silk textile, cotton textile, and mining about gold, silver, iron and copper, the tri-colored glazed pottery, porcelain making all reached new heights. In the late Tang, areas south of the Yangtze River developed further, which laid a foundation for the economics of the south to overtake the north.
Commerce was very flourish. In the Chang’an, the capital city of Tang, there were two markets, one was eastern market, which was demotic trade center, one was western market, which was international trade center. Business man came from different parts of China and the foreign countries. The population of Chang’an was about one million. About one percent was foreigners. Many roads were built. Chang’an was the center of land way, Guang Zhou and Yangzhou were the center of water way. The court of Tang set up a international trade department of the government in charge of international trade.
Science and Culture of Tang Dynasty
The peaceful and stable society condition and the economic prosperity stimulated scientific and cultural development. The rise of the Tang dynasty in power and strength provided ample subject matter for artistic expressions.
During the transition from the Sui to the Tang Dynasties at the beginning of the 7th century, the wood block printing invented in China. This marks China's another major contribution to the world’s civilization. In Tang Dynasty, many sutras, calendars, medical books were print by block printing. The earliest extant work from block printing in China is the JinGangJing (Diamond Sutra) printed in 868 during the Tang Dynasty.
New advances were made in astronomy and calendar. In early-Tang Wang Xiaotong wrote Collection of Mathematical Classics, in which he provided methods to work out cubic equation fo the first time. Shuyan Calendar and Linde Calendar were used in Tang Dynasty successively and later Emperor ordered Monk Yixing to take charge of calendar improvement, who compiled Dayan Calendar, establishing patterns for later calendars. Yixing and Liang Lingzan together invented an Ecliptic Movement Instrument and discovered the movement of stars for the first time in the world, which was 1000 years earlier than Halley's discovery. Monk Yixing also made a waterborne armillary sphere, which employed water as power. It could display celestial phenomena such as the movement of the sun, the moon, the star and so on, and was able to tell time, so that it was in fact the first astronomical clock in the world. In 724, the monk Yixing launched and directed a giant project of measuring the meridian through field surveys. They selected the site of survey. By calculating the measurement results he found that for a degree of the height of the North Star (latitude) the corresponding distance on the ground was 129.22km, 18.02km longer than the preset- day value of 111.2km, which is the length of one degree of arc of the meridian. This was a pioneer work in the history of astronomy, which was 90 years earlier than what ancient Arab astronomers did in the Euphrates valley.
The medical achievement of Tang manifested in the development of pharmacological disciplines, such as internal medicine, external medicine, pediatrics, five sense organs (ears, nose, eye, mouth and throat), diagnosis and massage, which had been in existence then, Sun Simiao (581-682) was the greatest doctor in the Tang dynasty. Famous medical works at that time Tang Bencao first pharmacopoeia wrote by the order of the emperor. Sun Simiao (581-682) was the greatest doctor Jin the Tang Dynasty. He wrote tow books, Qian Jin Yao Fang (Golden Prescriptions) and Qian Jin Yi Fang (Supplement to Golden Prescriptions). These two books contained 6500 prescriptions and covered the aspects of life cultivation, acupuncture, moxibustion, medicines and other related fields. In Qian Jin Yao Tang, he put the part about prevention and treatment of women diseases during pregnancy and nursing of the newborn at the beginning of the first volume. Such an arrangement may indicate that Sun Simiao respected women or advocated the concept of protecting and caring life from birth.
Tang poems were a grand wonder in Chinese literature history, which made China of Tang a country of poems. A lot of distinguished poets came forth in the golden Age of Tang. Among them Meng Haoran and Wang wei were expert in combinations and romantic ideals. Li Bai and Du Fu, known as poet-immortal and sage poet respectively, pushed the poetic arts to the pinnacle and were outstanding representatives of Chinese classic poems. In Tang Dynasty, Classical Prose Movement was initiated by Chen ziang, Han Yu, Liu Zongyuan, they set up new style of writing, which could rival the beauty of poems. It advocated the recovery of these fine traditions and opposed the rhythmical prose style, marked by parallelism and ornateness. In Tang literature, legendaries were also contending in bizarreness and beauty. Many official history works were written.
Prosperity of economy and cultural communication among various nationalities and countries made the Tang arts colorful and magnificent. During this period, Tartar Music was very poprlar. Among the ten kinds of music Yan Music, Qingshang Music, Kang States Music, Western Liang Music, Indian Music, Korean Music，Qirci Music, Sule Music, Gaochang Music, except that Yan Music and Qingshang Music belonged to Han Music, the others were all Tartar Music.
In the Tang Dynasty, many famous calligraphers, such as Yu Shinan, Ouyang Xun, Chu Suiliang made a lot of achievements respectively. Zhang Xu, Huai Su were known for grass and highly cursive scrot respectively, while Yan Zhenqing and others won fame for their regular script, which demonstrated the great Tang’s features from two aspects.
The paintings of Tang enjoyed a unique style. Yan Lide and Yan Liben portraits were most famous. Their paintings were vigorous and succinct in the style of drawing and presented the people in a vivid way. Wu Daozi was good at drawing Buddhist and Taoist images. With his portraits exceeding that of two Yan of early Tang, Wu Daozi was respectfully called Portrait Sage.
Grotto arts were most representative of Tang's society. In Mogao Grottoes, works of Sui-Tang covered two-third. The Tang grottoes were magnificent in its scale. The four walls of Eastern Grotto were full of brilliant pictures of Buddhist and worldly stories.
Its advanced civilisation made the Tang Empire the envy of Asia, Europe and Africa, who frequently sent envoys and merchants. The Tang Empire thus became a centre of economic and cultural communication. Of the three main cultural centres in the world at that time - India, Arabia, and China - the latter was the most important one.
The Tang was the greatest dynasty after the Han for its prosperous economy, vigorous culture, powerful strength, and high international status. Developments in the late Tang served as a forerunner for future events that profoundly influenced China. In a word, the full flowering of Chinese culture and thought took place during the Tang Dynasty.