The Three Chinese Dynasties

By Kaeffer_L

Sui Dynasty

There was a period in time after 220 CE that we now call the "Period of Disunion" as the Han dynasty had fell with multiple generals splitting China into rival kingdoms. After over 350 years, a northern rule named Wendi had unified China, making the Sui Dynasty. Lead by Wendi then Yang Di the Sui dynasty in 589 built the Grand Canal and even made a new legal code that included supplying all adult men with grain. The legal code being one of the Sui dynasty's greatest achievements, it was made by Wendi based off of the previous Chinese dynasties like the Shang, Zhou and Qin dynasties. The Law Code being so great it was reused by numerous empires after the Sui Dynasty, including the Tang, Japan and even Korea used the law code, granted there were some changes in it that personalized the code to each respective empire. The Grand Canal, The Sui Empire's greatest achievement, allowed trade to flourish.

However, Yang Di was not quite as nice a ruler as Wendi, forcing millions of peasants to work on the Grand Canal among other projects, this caused great discontent and rebellion. With multiple failed military campaigns, the Sui Dynasty fell in 618, just 29 years after it started.

Tang Dynasty

After the Sui Dynasty had fallen, a Sui general seized power and made the Tang empire. This empire was grand in that it lasted almost 300 years, starting in 618, and came up with multiple inventions including gunpowder, the magnetic compass, porcelain, paper money, and woodblock printing. Not only this, but the empire was the empire that supported Buddhism, up until the Buddhists became powerful enough to threaten a Tang ruler, who then proceeded to almost destroy Buddhism in China altogether.

Taizong was a revered emperor in this dynasty as he increased Chinese territory militarily and built schools to prepare the Chinese to take the civil service exam implemented in the Tang Dynasty. However, the Taizong eventually died, and one of his sons became emperor, but he was sickly so his wife, Wu Zhao, eventually took over after her sons became emperor. Wu Zhao, the only empress in China, was cruel, albeit effective, ruler. Xuanzong led the empire to it's peak. From 400 to 845 in China, the Age of Buddhism had been active in China, in which, the the Chinese spread Buddhism to other Asian lands, all the emperors of the Tang had supported Buddhism or were even Buddhist themselves, until Buddhism got to a point where one emperor thought it to be too powerful, so he had Buddhism almost destroyed.

The Tang were a very intelligent civilization, making numerous inventions. Including the magnetic compass was a clever invention, albeit an advancement on a Han invention, not an entirely new one like the others, the magnetic compass was very useful as it allowed sailors and explorers to find north without much calculation, merely pointing the compass in the right direction, where the needle was, was enough. Gunpowder revolutionized the way wars were fought, although in the Tang Dynasty, gunpowder was mainly used for more practical uses like fireworks or signals. Paper money was made simply because coins got too bulky as Tang merchants became richer, so they made a lighter, although less durable, currency. Porcelain was a major contributor to the Tang's wealth, as porcelain was very delicate and was a very well kept secret, giving the Tang a monopoly on the very fragile, beautiful art medium. Woodblock printing was a faster way to make multiple copies of pages and books than hand-copying them over, as the woodblock could stamp a page, be re-coated, then stamp another page. The Silk Roads were made during this dynasty, which connected China to Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia.

The Tang declined around 750 CE with rebellions, military defeats, a weak government, nomadic invasions and loss of Tang lands, the Tang eventually was ended by a powerful general killing the emperor in 907.

Song Dynasty

After the Tang Dynasty fell, Chins split apart like it had when the Han dynasty fell, but not for nearly as long, for after exactly 53 years after the Tang fell, a new dynasty had reunified China, the Song. The Song dynasty made a capital at Kaifeng to restore centralized government control, something the older dynasties had also done at a different place. In addition, the Song reformed the civil service exam system implemented in the Tang dynasty to test students' knowledge and perception of Confucianism and related ideas. Although, under the Song, new form of Confucianism called Neo-Confucianism had formed, which had emphasized Confucian ethics and spiritual matters. The newly reformed civil service exams were very hard, so those who passed gained the title of scholar-officials, who were the elite, educated officials. Due to their intelligence, they were given a good salary and were well respected.

Although the Song were very powerful, almost like the Tang, they could not regain northern nor eastern lands they lost in the Tang dynasty. Rather, the Song tried to buy peace from nomads in their lost lands, which didn't work when the Jurchen nomads conquered the north portion of the lost lands and made the Jin empire without interfering with the Song empire.

Most of the achievements the Song made were cultural and technological advancements with mastery of porcelain, the Indian-influenced pagoda, the spread of gunpowder which, in China, wasn't used for weaponry, unlike a great deal of other empires it spread to. Another invention of the Song was the movable type, an advancement of the woodblock printing as it featured multiple, smaller blocks that each represented a character, which could be moved around at will to make different pages, along with it got rid of the necessity to carve every page into a wooden block to be copied, with only needing to put the little blocks in the order you want, making printing much faster, but this wasn't a great invention for the Chinese with thousands of different characters for thousands of different words, unlike a handful of characters for other languages like English, French or Spanish. Also, the paper money, which wasn't invented by the Song, was popular with the Song as they had to use bulky coins for money, and paper money was lighter and easier to use with larger amounts of money that the Song traders had as they got richer.

The key to the Song empire's wealth was their agriculture, which was revolutionized with fast-ripening variation of rice, tripling rice crops, new irrigation techniques that increased the amount of land that the Song could farm and tea had become popular during this dynasty, which was due to tea and cotton's crop production increase into important crops. The massive amount of food acquired allowed the Song population to swell into nearly 100,000,000 (100 million) people in China. Increases in trade were in the Song dynasty with new and improved roads and canals which made it possible to let rural farmers bring their goods to town.Sea trade became necessary in this dynasty with the lost northern lands. With all this trade and agriculture advances, it made the Song last many years.

Chinese society underwent many changes with the gentry, which were scholar-officials and landowners. Women declined in social status along with the desire for small feet, which lead to footbinding, which involved wrapping cloth around a little girl's feet and keeping them there, preventing her feet from growing, this lead to multiple problems with walking among other foot-related tasks.

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