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Chinese History. The SUI Dynasty the Tang Dynasty the Song Dynasty, Term Paper Example

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The Sui, the Tang, and the Song transition periods are important in many aspects of Chinese social, political, and economic history. While the Sui and the early Tang city was controlled and highly disciplined with restricted commercial activity that recalls the capital cities of the Six Dynasties period, the late Northern Song city established a new paradigm that the open city filled with multifunctional streets active round the clock. The centuries of reestablished unity under the Sui and Tang dynasties ushered in a reintegration of the vastly changed northern and southern territories. These reflected the respective societies that gave rise to them, one rooted in a strong economic power with a highly hierarchical social structure, and the other shaped by a diverse mercantile society managed by pragmatic professional bureaucrats. The emergence of new urban paradigm towards the end of eleventh century is one of the dramatic and important changes in Chinese urban history.

The Sui founder, Wendi (r. 581-604), an able administrator, combined a skillful blending of the Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions with superior military strength to subdue the southern states by the end of the 580s (Duiker & Spielvogel, 2010, p. 237). He reconnected north and south, not only through a new infrastructure, but also by connecting intellectuals who represented families that regionalized in the previous centuries of division. Wendi rebuilt a rudimentary canal network to link the capital in Chang’an with the Yellow River, and he improved transportation and irrigation systems throughout the kingdom. This included the beginning of a project to link the Yellow and Yangzi Rivers by what previously known as the Grand Canal, a new political connection between the regions (Duiker & Spielvogel, 2010, p. 238). It also allowed the thriving wealth of the south shared more readily with the north through expanded trade networks.

Under Li Shimin’s vigorous leadership, the Tang launched a program of internal renewal and external expansion (Duiker & Spielvogel, 2010, p. 238). The Tang founders inherited Sui’s centralizing achievements, and quickly moved to solidify the state and display their military strength to the always-problematic north. In both geographic expanse and cultural achievements, the Tang dynasty regarded as the height of imperial China and a lasting model for later periods. From its capital in Chang’an, one of the richest cities the world would see for many centuries, the Tang slowly solidified a bureaucratic structure that would persist throughout the imperial period and began to expand its military influence in all directions, into Vietnam, Korea, and much of Central Asia (Heng, 1999, p. 205).

In a break with the policies of previous dynastic founders, The Song founder, Zhao Kuangyin (r. 960-976), provided his own military supporters with ‘retirement plans’, and thus weakened the possibility of resentment, mutiny, and rebellion (Heng, 1999, p. 206). He replaced regional officials, whose loyalties were not always reliable in times of discord, with officials under his own supervision, and worked to solidify the infrastructure and create a more central process of collecting taxes and administering local government. The Song dynasty enjoyed internal peace and prosperity during the 11th century, and one can observe growth on several levels. To begin, the population reached, by some estimates, 100 million by 1100 (Heng, 1999, p. 207). New agricultural methods introduced, and a much more sophisticated set of commercial links characterized the growing communication between north and south. A complex system of examinations that led to official positions became the primary vehicle of social mobility and profoundly shaped an increasingly fluid set of class lines. Earlier examination systems in China had benefited land-owning families. Finally, the development of printing would have enormous consequences in Chinese history (Heng, 1999, p. 208).

The Sui and Tang established the idea of the integrity of China as the territory of a single unified empire. They also established an outer zone of territory in which Chinese military and political influence would remain paramount, and perhaps more importantly a quite separate zone of independent states dominated by Chinese culture, Chinese systems of thought, literature, art, law, and political institutions, and using the Chinese written language. Eleventh-century China was immensely prosperous. Despite its political and military weaknesses, the dynasty nevertheless ruled during a period of economic expansion, prosperity, and cultural achievement considered among the more successful Chinese dynasties.

 

 

References

Duiker, William J., & Spielvogel, Jackson J. (2010). The Essential World History, Volume 1: to 1800. Boston: Cengage Learning.

Heng, Chye Kiang. (1999). Cities of Aristocrats and Bureaucrats: The development of medieval Chinese cityscapes. Singapore: Singapore Universities Press.

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