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China, a History

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Bee Cha
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« Reply #135 on: December 08, 2007, 05:08:44 pm »

Tang Dynasty

The Tang Dynasty (Chinese: 唐朝; pinyin: Táng Cháo; Middle Chinese: dhng) (18 June 618–4 June 907) was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li (李) family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire. The dynasty was interrupted briefly by the Second Zhou Dynasty (16 October 690–3 March 705) when Empress Wu Zetian seized the throne, becoming the first and only Chinese empress regent, ruling in her own right.

The Tang Dynasty, with its capital at Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), the most populous city in the world at the time, is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization — equal to or surpassing that of the earlier Han Dynasty — as well as a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. Its territory, acquired through the military campaigns of its early rulers, was greater than that of the Han period, and rivaled that of the later Yuan Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. The enormous Grand Canal of China, built during the previous Sui Dynasty, facilitated the rise of new urban settlements along its route, as well as increased trade between mainland Chinese markets. The canal is to this day the longest in the world. In two censuses of the 7th and 8th centuries, the Tang records stated that the population (by number of registered households) was about 50 million people.a[›] However, even when the central government was breaking down and unable to exact an accurate census of the population in the 9th century, it is estimated that the population in that century had grown to the size of about 80 million people.

In Chinese history, the Tang Dynasty was largely a period of progress and stability, except during the An Shi Rebellion and the decline of central authority in the latter half of the dynasty. Like the previous Sui Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty maintained a civil service system by drafting officials through standardized examinations and recommendations to office. This civil order was undermined by the rise of regional military governors known as jiedushi during the 9th century. Chinese culture flourished and further matured during the Tang era; it is considered the greatest age for Chinese poetry. Two of China's most famous historical poets, Du Fu and Li Bai, belonged to this age, as well as the poets Meng Haoran and Bai Juyi. Many famous visual artists lived during this era, such as the renowned painters Han Gan, Wu Daozi, and Zhan Ziqian. The religious and philosophical ideology of Buddhism became a major aspect of Chinese culture, with native Chinese sects becoming the most prominent. However, Buddhism would eventually be persecuted by the state and would decline in influence. Although the dynasty and central government were in decline by the 9th century, art and culture continued to flourish. The weakened central government largely withdrew from managing the economy, but the country's mercantile affairs stayed intact and commercial trade continued to thrive regardless.

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