Sui, Song, and Tang Dynasties
After the Period of Disunion, China was reunited by the ruler Wendi. He would be the first emperor under the Sui Dynasty. Besides this, he would recreate China's centralized government and bureaucracy, and restore order by creating a new set of laws. He also ensured that every man could own land and have access to grain.
While these are all impressive feats, the greatest achievement of this dynasty was the building of the Grand Canal. This thousand mile-long waterway connected northern and southern China, allowing northerners access to the rice that was plenty in the south. Here is a video talking more about the Grand Canal and its importance today.
The building of the canal would not be a glorious feat for everyone, however. Many people were forced to work in its construction, and there were frequent casualties. This angered the peasants, and they rose in rebellion. After the assassination of Yang Di, a general would rise up as the next emperor, seizing power under the new Tang Dynasty. Under this dynasty, China would experience achievement both in wealth and culture. So much so that it began to rub off on other countries, as the Tang government would begin to influence foreign institutions. This government was based in two capitals. One was Chang'an, the former Sui capital, and the other was Luoyang. Their method of recruiting talented officials was making people take civil service exams. This would be adopted by neighboring countries, as well as their loose system of laws. They would also adopt Buddhism, as the Age of Buddhism occurred during Tang dynasty. This was a time of utter support of Buddhism in China by Tang emperors.
This was also a time of great achievement. The creation of woodblock printing was the most notable. During this time, people in Europe were still handwriting books. This made books hard to come by, and so few were able to use them. This innovation would allow far more people to have access to books.
Under emperor Taizong, China would greatly expand both its borders and influence. This in turn would aid the economy by increasing trade. Taizong was a highly beloved emperor for his wisdom in leadership and helping the people pass civil service exams. His reign wouldn't last long, however, and his son would take his place. When found too sick to rule, his mother would take power. Her name was Wu Zhou, the only woman to hold title of emperor in Chinese history. (Pictured above)
Did you know that Empress Wu is better known as Wu Zetian? Or that she served as a nun?
The Tang Dynasty would fall due to military defeat when their last great general was killed. After another period of disunion, China would unite again under the Song Dynasty. The capital was made in Kaifeng, pictured above. They would keep the bureaucratic government system used before, as well as the civil service exams. One difference was that those who passed became known as scholar-officials and the exams themselves were opened to more people. Many citizens used this to achieve wealth. Another thing they changed was the Tang's method of printing. They invented the movable type, which was faster but not as common. This was because of the amount of Chinese characters. This type of printing required pre-carved blocks. The equivalent would be us trying to make a block for every word in the English language. However, in Europe where the Latin alphabet was used, this type of printing would become very popular.
Things would also change in religion when a new form of Confucianism, called Neo-Confucianism, surfaced. Neo-Confucianism would uphold the ethics of its parent while implementing spirituality as well.
There wasn't a lot of room to practice this new religion, because the Song never reclaimed the lands lost by their predecessors. They would even lose northern territory to the Jurchen, a nomadic people. And so the Song dynasty would be confined to the southern area of China, becoming the Southern Song.
Here is a video expanding on what we know about the Song dynasty.