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next   Where the Sui Dynasty brought stability to warring China, the T’ang brought imperial unity. Past institutions of nobility and soldiery, legal code and state-owned land, and sponsorship of Buddhism and Taoism were handed to T’ang rulers who fashioned them anew.
Shang (1523-1027 BC)  
Chou (1027-221 BC)  
Ch'in (221-206 BC)   Almost immediately the bureaucracy set about re-styling Sui’s ponderous legal code, reducing its 1,735 articles to 502. Advanced for its day, the code’s influence stretched four hundred years and affected the surrounding kingdoms of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.
Han (206 BC-AD 220)  
Three Kingdoms (220-581)  
Sui (581-618)  
Sung (907-1279)   T’ang’s second emperor, T’ai-tsung, was a firm administrator, frugal at court but who invested in state-wide internal improvements. Under his rule T’ang spread, revenues were up, and China enjoyed its greatest reach with tribute states extending as much as five thousand miles west from its capital, Loyang.
Yüan (1279-1368)  
Ming (1368-1644)  
Ch'ing (1644-1912)  
Opening the Door (1844-1911)  
The Period of Revolution (1912-1949)   But as was so often the case, what could be done, could be undone. T’ai-tsung’s successor, Emperor Kao, was weak, dominated by his wife, the Empress Wu Chao. Empress Wu ensured her son would be the next emperor. She later had him banished and installed his brother, who then abdicated the throne. Seizing the moment, Wu declared herself China’s first female emperor and embarked on a long and corrupt reign. She emptied the treasury on lavish ceremony and ill-considered foreign adventures, traded lovers openly, and executed those who displeased her. When she died in 705 at age 82, the country was in economic and political chaos, and the bureaucracy swelled with the addition of one thousand eunuchs.
Mao's Dynasty (1949-1976)  
Raising the Bamboo Curtain (1972-1979)  
Into the Next Millennium (1979-  

Five years later her banished son, Hsüan-tsung, returned to begin the most influential reign of the T’ang emperors. A man of many talents, including loyalty and wisdom, Emperor Hsüan-tsung, restored frugality to the palace, created a fair tax code, and restyled the military. In Western terms a Renaissance Man, the Emperor opened his court to scholars, artists, foreigners, and various religions. He surrounded himself with few, but brilliant, advisors and banished the eunuchs.

Under his rule China flourished, but with the passing years the Emperor lost interest in governing, instead turning his interests to Taoism. His indifference opened the door to rebellion, and for seven years the country suffered war waged by a governor named An Lu-shan. Though put down, a frail state was left in its wake. The eunuchs returned, choosing each emperor to the last of T’ang. The institutions that defined the dynasty were strained and twisted almost beyond recognition. Its last days were marked by battles over the tax code and Buddhist church, foreign threats, gangsterism, floods, and droughts. Wracked by purges and financial collapse, Heaven’s Mandate was revoked and T’ang fell.

619 - 907
T' ang Period
22 3/4 in. x 20 1/2 in. x 7 7/8 in

Courtesy The University of Michgan Art Museum