Fact Checked

What is Tang Dynasty?

Licia Morrow
Licia Morrow

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.

A map of China.
A map of China.

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.

Confucianism won out as the state doctrine in the Tang Dynasty.
Confucianism won out as the state doctrine in the Tang Dynasty.

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.

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Discussion Comments


@wander - Xi'an is fantastic place to visit, and if I were you I would keep the Shanxi History Museum at the top of your list if you are interested in the long history of the area. You can see a Tang Dynasty horse sculpted to perfection and even Tang Dynasty money on display. It is really something else.

If you are really short on time, and don't mind doing something overly touristy, you can see The Tang Dynasty show that is put on in the city. It offers a dinner theatre with lots of great dancing and music to keep you entertained. While I found that it was a bit showy, the costumes are lovely and you'll have a fun time sampling a bit of the past. Even if it is just there to entertain visitors. Oh, and the dumplings are delicious.


I am currently planning a trip to Xi'an in China and have heard that the best things to see are Tang Dynasty pottery, especially the Tang Dynasty porcelain. Has anyone ever been to the Shanxi History Museum?

I have read that they recreated it to look just like a building from the Tang Dynasty, and that it holds a pretty amazing collection of artifacts from that time period. Since I will only be in Xi'an for a few days before moving on to Beijing, do you think I should try and fit the museum into my schedule, or should I pass it up for something better?

I must admit I am quite interested in the Tang-dynasty tomb wall paintings.


Can we say that the Tang Dynasty started an enlightenment period for China?

I'm comparing it to the much later European enlightenment because in the European enlightenment, literary works became much more common spread and people valued the arts, thinking, writing and philosophy much more. This also impacted governance and society in various ways.

It sounds like the same kind of change took place in the Tang Chinese Dynasty, except, of course much earlier in history. During the Tang Dynasty, reading became more widespread thanks to technological advancements at the time. There was a lot more innovation and importance was given to scientists and engineers. The Emperor also promoted the sharing of new ideas through trade with neighboring lands. This sounds to me like an enlightenment period to me.


I'm studying architecture and in one of my classes, my Professor showed us examples of Tang Dynasty art and architecture because some of the largest and well known buildings, palaces and gardens were built during the Tang Dynasty.

I love the palaces and parks especially because it is almost always surrounded by water. Clearly the view from the home and various office buildings were very important.

Also, kudos to the Chinese government because they've renovated and maintained the architecture from this period really well. Architecture left from the Tang Dynasty is more than one thousand years old, but still looks great. I would love to see them in-person if I ever have the opportunity to visit Xi'an.


What I'm most surprised to learn about the Chinese Tang Dynasty is that many foreigners freely lived and worked in its borders and even became aristocracy.

I've even heard theories that the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, is a descendant of aristocrats who lived in China during the Tang Dynasty. Her descendency is said to go back to the British and European aristocrats of the Dynasty.

I don't know how much of this has been proven, but it's really interesting to see these kind of ties and lineage between the East and West. Before learning about the Tang Dynasty, I had the assumption that the West was generally disliked by Chinese Emperors and the rule of the Dynasties were exclusive to the Chinese.

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    • A map of China.
      By: pavalena
      A map of China.
    • Confucianism won out as the state doctrine in the Tang Dynasty.
      By: philipus
      Confucianism won out as the state doctrine in the Tang Dynasty.