The Tang Dynasty was in place from 618 CE to 907 CE in China, and was established by Li Yuan’s rebel army. In 617, Li Yuan captured the capital city of the Sui Dyansty, Chang’an, and proclaimed Yang You as emperor of the new regime. Li Yuan became prime minister and Tang Wang was declared King of Tang. When Emperor Yang was killed, Li Yuan became emperor in 618 and changed the name of the new reign to Tang.
Unlike many dynasties in China, the Tang was free from political corruption in the court. The economy, culture, and the military flourished and the state was powerful. The borders of China were open to foreign entities and social development reached new heights. The building of the Grand Canal during the Sui Dynasty assisted the rulers of the Tang in expanding their trade with interior markets and establishing settlements along the canal route. In fact, trade during the Tang era reached as far as the tip of South East Asia.
The capital of Chang’an, present day Xi’an, was one of the most modern and heavily populated cities of its time. Many members of its aristocracy were foreigners, and many merchants from central Asia lived there and contributed to its stability and prosperity. One of the many accomplishments of the Tang was its ability to spread Chinese culture, while at the same time incorporating the cultures of surrounding civilizations. During the Tang period, Buddhism reached as far as Japan and Korea, yet Confucianism won out as the state doctrine.
The arts flourished during this period and many well-known artists practiced their craft during this era. The Tang Dynasty is known for its poets, including Du Fu, Li Bai, Meng Haoran, and Bai Juyi. Artists also prospered during this time and painters such as Han Gan, Wu Daozi, and Shan Ziqian added their talents during this period.
This dynasty was put on hold for several years as the second Zhou Dynasty seized power from 690 CE to 705 CE under the Empress Wu Zetian, the only female Chinese empress in Chinese history who ruled on her own. However, rebels seized the throne again and Emperor Ruizong continued the reign of the Tang Dynasty.
A more harmful uprising by An Lushan caused a weakening of the central government, which consequently lost its power after many years of decline. The Tang Dynasty came to an end in 907 and was followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.