T'ang (Chinese dynasty)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

T'ang (Chinese dynasty)

T'ang (täng), dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907. It was founded by Li Yuan and his son Li Shih-min, with the aid of Turkish allies. The early strength of the T'ang was built directly upon the excellent system of communications and administration established by the Sui. At first the neighboring peoples, nomadic and civilized, were held in check, and by the mid-7th cent. the T'ang occupied or controlled large portions of Manchuria, Mongolia, Tibet, and Turkistan. During the T'ang China was open to foreign ideas and developed trade with neighboring countries and Central Asia. While the introduction of foreign music and dances enriched the T'ang culture, the Chinese Confucian culture and administrative system had profound influence in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Sculpture flourished (T'ang horses are especially noted) and the painting (of which few examples have survived) is considered superior. In literature poetry was the most highly developed form; Li Po (701–62), Tu Fu (712–70), and Po Chu-I (772–846) were the most distinguished poets. The classics of Confucianism were closely studied and provided the basis for the civil-service examinations that were to assume great importance later (see Chinese examination system). Although religious toleration was usually practiced, foreign cults were sometimes proscribed; Buddhism was suppressed in the Hu-chiang period, and many Buddhist monasteries were dissolved, at great profit to the state treasury. The high-water mark of territorial expansion and political unity was reached during the reign of Emperor Hsuan Tsung (712–56). Defeat by the Arabs at the Talas River in W Turkistan (751) checked T'ang ambitions in the west, and the costly struggle against the An Lu-shan rebellion (755–63) finally exhausted the empire. Warlord governors turned many provinces into autonomous personal domains. The vigor of the early T'ang administration quickly declined, and control over border regions was lost, especially to the Uigurs, who became dominant in Mongolia. In the 9th cent. local maladministration became widespread, and revolts broke out in the south and in Tibet. After the T'ang collapse there was great disorder until the establishment of the Sung dynasty in 960.

See E. G. Pulleyblank, The Background of the Rebellion of An Lu-shan (1955); E. O. Reischauer, Ennin's Travels in T'ang China (1955); A. F. Wright and P. C. Twitchett, ed., Perspectives on the T'ang (1973); D. Twitchett, The Cambridge History of China (Vol. 3, 1979); H. J. Wechsler, Offerings of Jade and Silk: Ritual and Symbol in the Legitimation of the T'ang Dynasty (1985); C. Hartman, Han Yu and the T'ang Search for Unity (1986).

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