Tang Dynasty

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The Tang Dynasty (唐朝 Hanyu Pinyin tng cho; 618-907) followed the Sui Dynasty and preceded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period in China. The dynasty was interrupted by the Second Zhou Dynasty (690-705) when Empress Wu Zetian seized the throne.

The Tang Dynasty, with its capital at Chang'an (modern day suburb of Xi'an), the most populous city in the world at the time, is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization — equal, or even superior, to the Han period. Its territory, acquired through the military exploits of its early rulers, was greater than that of the Han. Stimulated by contact with India and the Middle East, the Empire saw a flowering of creativity in many fields. Buddhism, originating in India around the time of Confucius, continued to flourish during the Tang period and was adopted by the imperial family, becoming thoroughly sinicized and a permanent part of Chinese traditional culture. Block printing made the written word available to vastly greater audiences.

Missing image
Westerner on a camel, Tang dynasty, Shanghai Museum.

The Tang period was the golden age of Chinese literature and art (see Tang Dynasty art). A government system supported by a large class of Confucian literati selected through civil service examinations was perfected under Tang rule. This competitive procedure was designed to draw the best talents into government. But perhaps an even greater consideration for the Tang rulers, aware that imperial dependence on powerful aristocratic families and warlords would have destabilizing consequences, was to create a body of career officials having no autonomous territorial or functional power base. As it turned out, these scholar-officials acquired status in their local communities, family ties, and shared values that connected them to the imperial court. From Tang times until the closing days of the Qing Empire in 1911, scholar officials functioned often as intermediaries between the grassroots level and the government.

Li Yuan founded the Tang Dynasty but only ruled for a few years before being deposed by his son, Li Shimin, later known as "Tang Taizong". Taizong then set out to solve internal problems within the government. Internal problems have constantly plagued past dynasties. The Emperor had three administrations (省, Shěng): Military Affairs, Censorate, and Council of State. Each administration had its own job. It was also during the Tang dynasty that the only female ruler of China Empress Wu Zetian made her mark. Her rule would be only a handful of examples where women seized power and ruled China and the only one in Chinese history to rule in her own right.

The early decades of the eighth century was ultimately considered the zenith point of the Tang dynasty if not the whole Chinese civilization. Emperor Tang Xuan Zong brought China to its golden age and Tang influences reached all the way to Japan and Korea in the east, Vietnam in the south and central and western Asia in the west. The turning point came in 755 during the closing years of Xuanzong's reign, where the An Lushan rebellion all but destroyed the Tang dynasty and the prosperity that took years to buildup. It left the dynasty weakened and for the remaining 150 years the Tang never regained its glory days of the 7th and 8th century.

Near the end of the Tang Dynasty, regional military governors (jiedushi) became increasingly powerful, and began to function more like independent regimes on their own right. The dynasty was ended when one of the military governors, Zhu Wen, deposed the last emperor and took the throne for himself, thereby beginning the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period.

Rulers of the Tang Dynasty

Temple names Chinese family names and first names Reigns Era names and their according durations
Convention: "Tang" + temple name
Note: Wu Hou (武后 Wǔ Hu) (Empress Wu) was posthumous name.
Gao Zu (高祖 Gāo Zǔ) Li Yuan (李淵 Lǐ Yuān) 618-626 Wude (武德 Wǔ d) 618-626
Tai Zong (太宗 Ti Zōng) Li Shimin (李世民 Lǐ Sh Mn) 626-649 Zhenguan (貞觀 Zhēn guān) 627-649
Gao Zong (高宗 Gāo zōng) Li Zhi (李治 Lǐ Zh) 650-683 Yonghui (永徽 Yǒng huī) 650-655

Xianqing (顯慶 Xiǎn qng) 656-661
Longshuo (龍朔 Lng shu) 661-663
Linde (麟德 Ln d) 664-665
Qianfeng (乾封 Qan fēng) 666-668
Zongzhang (總章 Zǒng zhāng) 668-670
Xianheng (咸亨 Xin hēng) 670-674
Shangyuan (上元 Shng yun) 674-676
Yifeng (儀鳳 Y fng) 676-679
Tiaolu (調露 Tio l) 679-680
Yonglong (永隆 Yǒng lng) 680-681
Kaiyao (開耀 Kāi yo) 681-682
Yongchun (永淳 Yǒng chn) 682-683
Hongdao (弘道 Hng do) 683

Zhong Zong (中宗 Zhōng zōng), dismissed by Wu Hou Li Xian (李顯 Lǐ Xiǎn) or Li Zhe (李哲 Lǐ Zh) 684, (also 705-710) Sisheng (嗣聖 S shng) 684
Rui Zong (睿宗 Ru zōng), dismissed by Wu Hou Li Dan (李旦 Lǐ Dn) 684, (also 710-712) Wenming (文明 Wn mng) 684
Wu Hou (武后 Wǔ hu) Wu Zetian (武則天 Wǔ Z Tiān) 684-705 Guangzhai (光宅 Guāng zhi) 684

Chuigong (垂拱 Chu gǒng) 685-688
Yongchang (永昌 Yǒng chāng) 689
Zaichu (載初 Zi chū) 690

Zhou Dynasty (690 AD - 705 AD)
Continuation of Tang Dynasty
Zhong Zong (中宗 Zhōng zōng), retake the throne Li Xian (李顯 Lǐ Xiǎn) or Li Zhe (李哲 Lǐ Zh) (also 684), 705-710 Shenlong (神龍 Shn lng) 705-707

Jinglong (景龍 Jǐng lng) 707-710

Shao Di (少帝 Sho d), see note below the table Li Chong Mao (李重茂 Lǐ Chng Mo) 710 Tanglong (唐隆 Tng lng) 710
Rui Zong (睿宗 Ru zōng), retake the throne Li Dan (李旦 Lǐ Dn) (also 684), 710-712 Jingyun (景雲 Jǐng yn) 710-711

Taiji (太極 Ti j) 712
Yanhe (延和 Yn h) 712

Xuan Zong (玄宗 Xun zōng) Li Long Ji (李隆基 Lǐ Lng Jī) 712-756 Xiantian (先天 Xiān tiān) 712-713

Kaiyuan (開元 Kāi yun) 713-741
Tianbao (天寶 Tiān bǎo) 742-756

Su Zong (肅宗 S zōng) Li Heng (李亨 Lǐ Hēng) 756-762 Zhide (至德 Zh d) 756-758

Qianyuan (乾元 Qin yun) 758-760
Shangyuan (上元 Shng yun) 760-761

Dai Zong (代宗 Di zōng) Li Yu (李豫 Lǐ Y) 762-779 Baoying (寶應 Bǎo yng) 762-763

Guangde (廣德 Guǎng d) 763-764
Yongtai (永泰 Yǒng ti) 765-766
Dali (大曆 D l) 766-779

De Zong (德宗 D zōng) Li Kuo (李适 Lǐ Ku) 780-805 Jianzhong (建中 Jin zhōng) 780-783

Xingyuan (興元 Xīng yun) 784
Zhenyuan (貞元 Zhēn yun) 785-805

Shun Zong (順宗 Shn zōng) Li Song (李誦 Lǐ Sng) 805 Yongzhen (永貞 Yǒng zhēn) 805
Xian Zong (憲宗 Xin zōng) Li Chun (李純 Lǐ Chn) 806-820 Yuanhe (元和 Yun h) 806-820
Mu Zong (穆宗 M zōng) Li Heng (李恆 Lǐ Hng) 821-824 Changqing (長慶 Chng qng) 821-824
Jing Zong (敬宗 Jng zōng) Li Zhan (李湛 Lǐ Zhn) 824-826 Baoli (寶曆 Bǎo l) 824-826
Wen Zong (文宗 Wn zōng) Li Ang (李昂 Lǐ ng) 826-840 Baoli (寶曆 Bǎo l) 826

Dahe (大和 D h) or Taihe (Ti h 太和) 827-835
Kaicheng (開成 Kāi chng) 836-840

Wu Zong (武宗 Wǔ zōng) Li Yan (李炎 Lǐ Yn) 840-846 Huichang (會昌 Hu chāng) 841-846
Xuan Zong (宣宗 Xuān zōng) Li Chen (李忱 Lǐ Chn) 846-859 Dachong (大中 D chōng) 847-859
Yi Zong (懿宗 Y zōng) Li Cui (李漼 Lǐ Cuǐ) 859-873 Dachong (大中 D chōng) 859

Xiantong (咸通 Xin tōng) 860-873

Xi Zong (僖宗 Xī zōng) Li Xuan (李儇 Lǐ Xuān) 873-888 Xiantong (咸通 Xin tōng) 873-874

Qianfu (乾符 Qin f) 874-879
Guangming (廣明 Guǎng mng) 880-881
Zhonghe (中和 Zhōng h) 881-885
Guangqi (光啟 Guāng qǐ) 885-888
Wende (文德 Wn d) 888

Zhao Zong (昭宗 Zhāo zōng) Li Ye (李曄 Lǐ Y) 888-904 Longji (龍紀 Lng j) 889

Dashun (大順 D shn) 890-891
Jingfu (景福 Jǐng f) 892-893
Qianning (乾寧 Qin nng) 894-898
Guanghua (光化 Guāng hu) 898-901
Tianfu (天復 Tiān f) 901-904
Tianyou (天佑 Tiān yu) 904

Ai di (哀帝 Aī d) or Zhaoxuan di (昭宣帝 Zhāo xuān d) Li Zhu (李柷 Lǐ Zh) 904-907 Tianyou (天佑 Tiān yu) 904-907


  • Benn, Charles. 2002. China's Golden Age: Everyday Life in the Tang Dynasty. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-517665-0.
  • Schafer, Edward H. 1963. The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A study of T’ang Exotics. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles. 1st paperback edition: 1985. ISBN 0520054628.
  • Schafer, Edward H. 1967. The Vermilion Bird: T’ang Images of the South. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles.

See also


es:Dinasta Tang eo:Tang dinastio fr:Dynastie Tang ko:당나라 it:Dinastia Tang nl:Tang-dynastie ja:唐 ru:Династия Тан fi:Tang-dynastia zh:唐朝


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