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China, a History

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Bee Cha
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« Reply #135 on: December 08, 2007, 05:17:12 pm »

Taizong set out to solve internal problems within the government which had constantly plagued past dynasties. Building upon the Sui legal code, he issued a new legal code that subsequent Chinese dynasties would model theirs upon, as well as neighboring polities in Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. The earliest law code to survive though was the one established in the year 653, which was divided into 500 articles specifying different crimes and penalties ranging from ten blows with a light stick, one hundred blows with a heavy rod, exile, penal servitude, or execution. The legal code clearly distinguished different levels of severity in meted punishments when different members of the social and political hierarchy committed the same crime. For example, the severity of punishment was different when a servant or nephew killed a master or an uncle than when a master or uncle killed a servant or nephew. Although the Tang legal code was largely retained by subsequent Chinese dynasties, there were several revisions in later times, such as improved property rights for women during the Song Dynasty (9601279).

Emperor Taizong had three administrations (省, shěng), which were obliged to draft, review, and implement policies respectively. There were also six divisions (部, b) under the administration that implemented policy, each of which was assigned different tasks. These divisional state bureaus included the personnel administation, finance, rites, military, justice, and public works an administrative model which would last until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in the early 20th century. Although the founders of the Tang related to the glory of the earlier Han Dynasty, the basis for much of their administrative organization was very similar to the previous Southern and Northern Dynasties. The Northern Zhou divisional militia (fubing) was continued by the Tang governments, along with farmer-soldiers serving in rotation from the capital or frontier in order to receive appropriated farmland. The equal-field system of the Northern Wei Dynasty was also kept, although there were a few modifications.

Although the central and local governments kept an enormous amount of records about land property in order to assess taxes, it became common practice in the Tang for literate and affluent people to create their own private documents and signed contracts. These had their own signature and that of a witness and scribe in order to prove in court (if necessary) that their claim to property was legitimate. The prototype of this actually existed since the ancient Han Dynasty, while contractual language became even more common and embedded into Chinese literary culture in later dynasties.

The center of the political power of the Tang was the capital city of Chang'an (modern Xi'an), where the emperor maintained his large palace quarters, and entertained political emissaries with music, sports, acrobatic stunts, poetry, paintings, and dramatic theater performances (see Pear Garden acting troupe). The capital was also filled with incredible amounts of riches and resources to spare. When the Chinese prefectural government officials traveled to the capital in the year 643 to give the annual report of the affairs in their districts, Emperor Taizong discovered that many had no proper quarters to rest in, and were renting rooms with merchants. Therefore, Emperor Taizong ordered the government agencies in charge of municipal construction to build every visiting official his own private mansion in the capital
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