Wednesday, June 28, 2017

China under the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties

The Civilizations of East Asia
In Europe the Western Roman Empire never recovered after its collapse in the late 400s. In China the Han dynasty collapsed about the same time. However, the Hun and other nomadic invaders from Tibet and Mongolia eventually settled down, established kingdoms, and adopted Chinese customs. In the late 500s, a unified empire was re-established in China.

China under the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties. The short-lived Sui dynasty reunited China in 589. During their brief period in power, Sui rulers began building the Grand Canal, an engineering marvel that connected northern and southern China for the first time in history. When the Sui tried to conquer new territory in Manchuria and Korea, however, they were defeated by invading Turks. In 618 an uprising ended and the Sui dynasty and ushered in a new dynasty the Tang. Although also relatively shortlived, the Tang dynasty, like the Han dynasty, began a golden age of steady cultural development in Chinese history. The Tang dyanasty reached its height in about 750, and then gradually declined until it was overthrown in 907. In 960, the Song dynasty came to power.

Although numerous foreign invaders threatened northern China, eventually even forcing the Song to move their capital south to Hangzhou, trade, the arts, and technological development flourished. Hangzhou and Guangzhou became major bases for overseas commerce. Exports included gold, silver, copper, and “cash” strings of copper coins. Porcelain, a fine translucent pottery, became one of China’s most valuable exports. Song artisans perfected the art of making porcelain, while Song artists, partly inspired by the Daoist love of nature, produced beautiful landscape paintings.

The Song further improved the civil service system that produced administrators for the empire. In technology, they developed such innovations as moveable type, though it was nof widely used in China because of the number of characters in the Chinese language. The use of gunpowder as an explosive for war, appeared under the Song. Under both the Tang and the Song, technological improvements in agriculture, particularly extensive water control projects, as well as the introduction of new strains of quick-ripening rice from Southeast Asia, improved food supplies. Also, a new crop, tea, began to be cultivated.

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