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Dynasty of Sui
From 581-618 AD, the Sui age lasted for a very short time (Judge & Langdon, 2015). The reunification of most regions of ancient China for the first critical time after the disintegration of the Han dynasty is credited to the Sui dynasty. The Confucian civil service re-emerged concurrently with its review systems from the leadership of the Sui dynasty. The revival of public works and building programs was also attributed to the leadership. These ventures included the establishment of the Grand Canal and the Great Wall, which were constructed largely by coerced labour. In Chang'an, which was known as Silk'an, the capital of the Sui dynasty was founded. Because of the reunification of the country, the Chinese society gained stability and remained peaceful, which fostered political and economic development during the Sui dynasty. Initially, the agricultural acreage rapidly increased leading to better crop yields. In addition, the skills industry also made significant developments in shipping technology. Moreover, commerce and trade in Luoyang were also relatively prosperous in increasing economic development. The Sui dynasty economy was developed through several policies such as the Juntian system that guaranteed equal subdivision of fields, as well as the Zutiao taxation regime (Judge & Langdon, 2015). These systems helped to regulate the distribution of land and the moderation of taxes, which facilitated the increase in fiscal revenue for the leadership.
To improve the mode of communication between the south and north regions, the Sui dynasty leadership ordered the dredging of the Grand Canal that connected the north and the south. During the era of the Sui dynasty, the Grand Canal was about 2.5 miles in length and served as the main mode of transportation between the south and the north (Duiker & Spielvogel, 2013). Apart from facilitating trading and economic activities, it also enhanced the exchange of cultural activities and practices between the south and the north. The primary social-cultural feature of the Sui dynasty was the nature of cultural fusion. Before the reign of the Sui dynasty, paintings and literature were often easy and moderate. However, after the emergence of the Sui dynasty, various aspects of northern nomadic tribes can also be witnessed most literal and painting works. Despite it achievements, the Sui dynasty lasted for a very short duration estimated at 40 years. The collapse of the dynasty was attributed to widespread rebellion from the peasant society.
The Tang dynasty came into existence after the collapse of the Sui dynasty (618-906 AD) and is often described as the emergence of the new Chinese golden age. In relation to political development, the emperors who ruled during the Tang dynasty managed to expand the Chinese territory to encompass vast regions of Mongolia, Korea, as well as Tibet. They are also credited for having expanded the extent to which Confucian bureaucracy and its meritocratic examination system was incorporated into state operations and activities. They continued to use Chang’an as their capital city that had increased its population to about 2 million residents, which was arguably the largest city in terms of population in the world during the time (Judge & Langdon, 2015). The Tang emperors are also credited for initiating the first census where they gained significant information that they used to enhance tax collection.
In terms of the economy, the Tang dynasty was characterized by significant innovation. This is the period when paper money and letters of credit came into existence, which had a tremendous contribution to the growth of trade along the silk and Indian Ocean roads and routes. The artisans who lived during the Tang era engaged in the production of porcelain and silk, which formed the bulk of exports. They also significantly advanced the length of the Grand Canal, which enhanced internal transportation of goods and people within the country. Socially, the Tang dynasty is credited with the sustenance and continuation of most aspects of traditional Chinese culture (Duiker & Spielvogel, 2013). They ensured that the society remained patriarchal and hierarchical, as well as adhered to Confucian ideology. However, significant changes included the lessening of patriarchy, especially among higher class women who were allowed to inherit property, as well as move with relatively few prohibitions outside the homestead.
Buddhism was also encouraged by the early emperors of the Tang dynasty, but Confucianism later took over. As a manifestation of prestige and wealth, the affluent class began to bind women’s feet while they were still young. This effectively limited the ability of rich women to engage in work and also increased the gender disparities between men and women. Only the affluent in society could afford not to work, which meant that only the rich could practice foot binding. Usually, men were placed at the highest point of the societal hierarchy, but because most women had club feet resulting from binding, only males could engage in productive work (Skaff, 2012). This gave them more control over women, and hence they had the power to control every aspect of their lives. The Tang dynasty declined and eventually collapsed due to peasant rebellions and internal conflict among the ruling class who demanded independence from the rule of the Tang emperors.
The Song dynasty came after the collapse of the Tang dynasty in 906 AD. After the Tang dynasty had collapsed, China was divided into several kingdoms, as well as some regions taken over by invaders. The Song dynasty came into existence during a period of turmoil and war, which lasted for more than 53 years. Vast regions of the north were conquered or captured by nomadic tribes. However, during 960 AD, a general from the northern kingdom of Zhou referred to as Zhao Kuangyin led a revolution against the King, which marked the beginning of the Song dynasty (Judge & Langdon, 2015). During his reign, the general was successful in defeating most of the divided kingdoms surrounding him to establish the Song dynasty.
The Song dynasty emphasized on southern trade, which formed a bulk of its economic activities. They also focused on the enhancement of infrastructures such as the development of large seaports like Guangzhou, Quanzhou, as well as Xiamen, which enhanced the development of the economy and the accumulation of wealth. Merchant ships owned by the Song dynasty ventured as far away as India and the Arabian coast. Shipping allowed the Song dynasty to increase its prosperity despite having lost a significant portion of their ancestral land. They developed naval vessels to escort and protect their shipping vessels. These naval vessels were instrumental in the defeat of invasions from the Jin Empire (Judge & Langdon, 2015).
Contrary to the Tang era, the Song dynasty was characterized by intensified patriarchy and Confucianism. During this period, foot binding among women also increased in popularity, especially among the elite class in society. It was also a period when Neo-Confucianism developed as a syncretic religion that encompassed various aspects of Buddhism, Confucianism, as well as Daoism. Moreover, the emperors who ruled during the Song dynasty also moved their capital city towards the south to a location referred to as Kaifeng, and later transferred it to Hangzhou because of the threats and constant aggression from northern nomadic tribes (Skaff, 2012). However, the Song dynasty finally collapse after being conquered by the Mongol nomadic tribe from the north.
Duiker, W. J., & Spielvogel, J. J. (2013). World history. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Judge, E. H., & Langdon, J. W. (2015). Connections: A world history. Boston: Pearson.
Skaff, J. K. (2012). Sui-Tang China and its Turko-Mongol neighbors: Culture, power and connections, 580-800. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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