The Insight of the Dynasties

The Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan and the Koryo Dynasty

By: Kacie Reed

The Sui Dynasty

The Sui Dynasty lasted about 350 years over that period of time the leader Yang Jian, he found the new Sui dynasty and he became the first emperor. Yang Jian was working toward making the Sui dynasty a centralized government. He restored order, created a new legal code and reformed the bureaucracy. He created polices to provide all the men with land and to ensure the availability of grain. The biggest accomplishment that the Sui dynasty had over come was the Grand Canal. It was a 1,000 mile waterway going from the northern part to the southern part of China. They did this because they needed better access to the south because they had rice produced in the lower Chang Jiang valley. After Yang Jian died his son took over and he finished the Grand Canal. Yang Di had become emperor and made millions of peasants work on the Grand Canal and other projects. Hundreds of thousands of laborers died, leading to discontent and rebellion. There was a series of failed military campaigns worsened the situation. In 618 someone assassinated Yang Di. That is when the short lived Sui dynasty came to an end.

The Tang Dynasty

Right after the Sui dynasty ended the Tang dynasty started. This dynasty ruled china from 618-907 which was nearly 300 years. While China was under the Tang dynasty, China experienced a period of prosperity and cultural achievement. The Chineses influenced spread and the Tang government and other institutions served as models across East Asia. The Tang dynasty got a lot of their ideas from the Sui dynasty and they were going to finish what the Sui dynasty started. The Tang dynasty wants to have a strong government. They made one capital. It was called Chang'an. They also made the Sui capital and a second capital at Luoyang. Their government system was centralized and based on a bureaucracy of officials. In order for them to get the best officials the Tang expanded the civil service examination system. Now everyone that wants to be part of the officials they have to be able to pass written exams to work for the government. In addition Tang rulers created a flexible law code which became a model for law codes in Korea and Japan. The Tang dynasty significantly expanded China and its influence. They also force regains western lands in Central Asia and gained influences over Korea and the other neighboring states. Japanese scholars came to China to study the government and culture. Which then led to expansions and increasing contacts with other people. Most of the expansion occurred during the reign of Taizong he ruled from 6266-649. He was one of most admired emperors, Taizong relied on talented ministers to help him govern. Taizong had schools built to prepare students for the civil service exams. When Taizong died one of his sons took over and he became the new emperor and when he was weak and sickly he wife Wu Zhao gained power. Her husband died Wu continued to rule through her sons. Wanting full power, she became the emperor herself. She is the only woman to be able to hold the title in Chinese history. She was known as Empress Wu Zhao and she was over thrown in 705. The Tang dynasty then reached its height under Xuanzong who ruled from 712-756. While he was in power the empire prospered and culture flourished. The Tang dynasty wasn't always in its highest stage. It had a decline in the 750's. Even though the Tang put down a rebellion in 755 the government remained weak. At the same time the military defeats led to the loss of Tang lands in Central Asia and the north. When a powerful general killed the emperor in 907. The great Tang dynasty ended.

The Song Dynasty

Right after the Tang dynasty fell apart and China again split up it was not reunified until 960. The Song dynasty is the one who is again trying to put China back together. The Song lasted over 300 years, until 1279. The Song also made great achievements and prosperity. While China was under Song's rule, Chinese civilization became the most advanced in the world. The song established a capital at Kaifeng and restored centralized government control. The Song dynasty enlarged the government bureaucracy. They also reformed the civil service examination system which really helped ensure that talented people ran the government. The civil service exams were extremely difficult to pass and when someone did pass they were known as scholar-officials. They were elite, educated members of the government. They received a good salary and were respected. The civil service exams were more open to ordinary people, the exams became a pathway to gaining wealth and status.

In the southern part of Song even though they had many achievements, the Song rulers never regained the northern and western lands that the Tang Dynasty had lost. Nomads in these lands threatened the Song borders, they tried to buy peace with the nomads by sending them lavish gifts. Despite such efforts, in the 1120's a nomadic people called the Jurchen conquered northern China and founded the Jin empire. The Song continued to rule the south, however, as the Southern Song dynasty for 150 more years.

The Song and the Tang did a lot of the same things, they both wanted to make sure that everything was the right way, they made sure that you needed to be fit for the government jobs, their literature and art were the same as well. The Tang did the literature and art. The Tang dynasty has some of the greatest poets. They were Du Fu and Li Bo. Du Fu wrote poems that expressed Confucian ideals or the horrors of war. Li Bo wrote poems about friendship, the joy of life, nature, and solitude. Art was something that was really important as well. Wu Daozi painted murals that celebrated Buddhism and nature. His paintings were so lifelike that some people thought he had magical powers Song artists focused on nature and produced landscapes of great beauty, though many of the artist painted using just ink. The Tang was aslo really known for their pottery figurines many made to go in tomb. Tang figurines often depicted horses or entertainment such as girls dancing or people playing games like polo, popular among the Tang rich. They are also really known for something called porcelain, it a tpye of ceramic often known as china. Song porcelain was frequently covered in white, black, or pale green because of its fine quality. It was admired and it was sought after around the world.

The Yuan Dynasty

In 1260 Kublai Khan became the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, but in reality he only held power of the Khanate of the Great Khan. He wanted to complete the conquest of China, which he had begun in 1235. Although the Mongols ruled northern China, the Southern Song dynasty still ruled in the south. The Song resisted the Mongol invaders for many years. In 1279 though the last Song ruler was defeated. Kublai Khan created the new Yuan dynasty and declared himself as the emperor, for the first time, foreigners ruled all of China. While Kublai was emperor he tried to gain loyalty of his Chinese subjects. Many of the Chinese thought the Mongols were rude and uncivilized, and resented them as rulers. In order for them to see the Mongols as "nice" Kublai wasn't going to force the Chinese to live the Mongol life. He even gave his dynasty a Chinese name. Kublai moved the capital from Mongolia to a new city in China. The new capital was located near was is now the city of Beijing, which is the modern capital of China. Since Kublai had a new place for his capital he built a walled city in the Chinese style as well as a lavish palace. In this palace he adopted many Chinese court ceremonies and tried to rule as a Chinese emperor. At the same time he took care to see that the Mongols were not absorbed into Chinese culture, they lived apart from the Chinese. There were to not be any relationship between the Mongols and the Chinese. They were forbidden to marry the Chinese. They had different laws and taxes for the Chinese and did not let them own weapons or serve in the military.

Kublai left as much of China's government in place he distrusted the Chinese and limited their power. Only the ones that were not Chinese were able to hold a higher rank in the government. The Mongols did not live in the same area as the Chinese, but they were still going to be part of their government system. The Mongols made the Chinese have heavy taxes, a large part of which went to support public workers projects. They used the Chinese laborers to build new roads and extended the Grand Canal to the capital city. These made shipping rice and other goods from southern China to northern China easier and more reliable.

While Kublai Khan was ruler foreign trade increased. The Pax Mongolia had made travel across land so much easier and a lot safer. Kublai had enormous ships built to improve trade from across the seas. When welcoming foreign merchants to China's ports and offering some traders special privileges, Kublai promoted foreign trade. The people that came were mostly from Southwest Asia and India, but some of them would come from Europe as well. One of the most famous person that would come and trade was Marco Polo.

There was one time when Marco Polo came with his father and he was to do all of these missions for 17 years he did that. In 1295 Marco Polo and his father returned home to Venice. Not to long after Marco was captured during the battle and imprisoned. While in prison, he would talk to the other prisons about his adventures in China. The prisoners would write them down and then they published them. The books were a huge success. When telling his stories he would talk about the grand palace of the Great Khan, where the walls were covered in silver and gold. He made the postal system seem really good and how they marveled over the use of paper money. He also liked the size and splendor of China's cities. Some people did not believe him and they thought that he was just telling stories based on what he heard while traveling. They said that he failed to mention common Chinese customes of the day such as tea drinking and foot binding, which would likely have made his readers wants to read more.

The Yuan Dynasty soon came to an end. It began to weaken during the last part of Kublai Khan's reign. One of the reason was because of the military defeats. He tried to expand his empire so he sent several invading forces into Southeast Asia. All of the invasions seemed to fail and the Mongol armies suffered huge losses. Kublai also was trying to conquer the islands of Japan. He tried twice to invade Japan and every time he failed. In the first attempt a fleet of some 900 Mongol ships attacked Japan. Although they Mongols won a brief land battle, a storm destroyed their fleet. More then 10,000 people died. Then Kublai tried one more time and sent an even larger battle fleet. For more then 50 days the Japanese held off the Mongol invasion. Then a severe storm once again struck and wiped out the Mongol fleet. They never attempted Japan again. The huge military losses weakened the Mongol forces that controlled and protected China. There were also the public-workers projects weakened the economy. There was so much weakness and with the Chinese resentment of the Mongols, left the empire ripe for rebellion.

Kublai Khan died in 1294, several power struggles erupted over who would have the throne. These struggles weakened the Yuan rule. And no one could measure up to Kublai Khan's talent for leadership. There were floods and rising taxes further increased discontent in China. In the 1300's many Chinese fractions rebelled against the Yuan dynasty, and in 1368 a rebel army defeated the Mongols. The mongols went to Manchuria which then ended the foreign rule in China.

Koryo Dynasty

Well after the Silla Kingdom ended around 935. The Koryo dynasty was founded. The Koryo dynasty got its name from Korea and it lasted until 1392. Koyro's ruler continued to adopt Chinese ideas but worked to maintain distinct Korean features. One of the rulers declared "We have always had a deep adoration for Tang-style culture.... But our country is a separate land, and our people's character is different." What they are basically saying is that they were like the Tang dynasty, but they are not going to copy them and they were going to make themselves. They were two different parts of the land and they were not going to make the same mistakes at the Tang dynasty. The Koryo adopted a civil service examination system similar to China;s: in Korea, though only nobles were able to take the test and government positions were inherited. Therefore their society was divided between a powerful nobility and the rest of the people.

During this time Korean culture thrived. Korean artisans created pottery covered with a blue-green glaze which was called celadon. This pottery rivaled Song porcelain in beauty and was highly prized. They also used the Chinese methods of printing and cared some 80,000 wooded blocks to print Buddhist texts. They later were able to get something better which was movable type. In the 1200's the Mongols of Yuan China invaded and occupied Korea. They forced Koryo's rulers to pay immense tributes and enslaved many Koreans. They took men and forced them to be a part of the Yuan military. When the Yuan dynasty finally weakened Koreans rebelled. In 1392 a Korean general founded a new dynasty which lasted untl 1910.

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