Tang Dynasty: 618 - 907 AD

Major Accomplishments: Confucianism returns to the Chinese government, Buddhism becomes a force in China, Tang cities grow

population: approx. 70 million

Tang Video:

Tang Dynasty Overview

The Tang Dynasty was founded in 618 by the Li family who took power after the assignation of the Sui dynasty emperor. The empire’s capital was located in the city of Chang’an. The Tang dynasty traded along the Silk Road and connected China to the cities of central Asia, the Middle East, the Abbasid Dynasty in Baghdad, and even the Roman Byzantine Dynasty in Constantinople. The Silk Road led to higher profits for merchants, better tax income for the empire, and a higher standard of living for the Chinese people. This brought more merchants to China where they had more protection for robbers. After they worked up their wealth they made a fierce, powerful army. The army led to expansion of the Tang. The newly acquired land made more area for agriculture and their control on trade grew. The Tang Dynasty had the first empress named Wu. 


Tang Inventions

Intellect was an important part of an empire and the Tang had many achievements in this area. The Tang Dynasty had many inventions that helped to make life easier for the upper class, that made the upper class have more time on their hands which led to foot bindings, this almost certainly helped the Confucian social hierarchy. The Tang Dynasty invented a lot of life enhancing inventions. They invented the printing press so scribes and writers would have an easier time writing and more books and poems were published. The Tang Dynasty invented the clock making people aware of when it will get dark and how long until an event. Finally gunpowder was invented. Gunpowder in the Tang was not used in bombs for the military; however they were used for fireworks for the rich to have celebrations. All these inventions give free time that people wouldn’t have without them, but this free time only goes to the upper class.


Foot Binding

As a sign of wealth, during the Tang dynasty some noble Chinese families started binding their daughter’s feet. When they were young the wife would squish their daughter’s feet into a ball and wrap it as tight as they could with linen or cloth. Since there is only mostly cartilage in the foot in this age the foot began to form in this smaller shape. When the daughter starts to age her feet grow into a little ball because of how their foot is wrapped. This put the rich females out of work putting even more of a burden onto the slaves and peasants. Only the rich could afford to be out of work, so only the rich people practiced foot binding. The foot bindings led to an even bigger gap between men and women in the Confucian social hierarchy. The men were always on top of this hierarchy, but since many women had club feet they were unable to work, thus making this gap bigger. The men had more control over the women because they got stronger when the women got weaker and unable to work. The woman couldn’t provide for herself so the male would have to do that job making the woman useless and defenseless.


Tang Politics

When it came to politics the Tang Dynasty ruled confidently and powerfully until the start of the empire’s slow decline in 763. Their religion, Confucianism, led their decisions in the government. The strong government led to a strong, fierce military force, this military led to the expansion of China and the reestablished safety on the Silk Road.  All government officials practiced and followed Confucianism. That means all government officials and teachers were men. All of the government officials took a civil service exam. A civil service exam tests to see how much they know about the Confucian study and the law. The higher they score the higher they place in the government. The government made a powerful military that couldn’t be stopped. They were strong because they were big in numbers. There armor and weapons were also advanced for their time. They also had advanced war strategies like hiding people behind other people. All these aspects led to the aspects of expansion and safety to China. They expanded their territory making it overlap the Silk Road trade route. This made it easier to protect from Mughals and robbers. As the Dynasty grew their safety and control over China grew.

Tang Dynasty 618-907 C.E

Second Classical Chinese Age

  • Very similar to the Han Dynasty
  • Confucianism returns in importance
  • Confucian Civil Service Exams very important
  • used to hire administrators for the Chinese government locally, regionally and nationally
  • Golden Age of foreign relations with other countries – conquered and/or strongly influenced the culture of Japan and Korea
  • Re-built the new capital at Chang’an

Empress Wu 625-705 AD

  • Only female ruler of China
  • Cruel but effective ruler
  • Had to fight the Confucian social belief that women should serve men
  • Encouraged women to be more vocal and demand better treatment from their family

Tang Expansion

  • Powerful military state
  • extended the boundaries of China through Siberia
  • Korea in the east
  • Vietnam in the South.
  • extended a corridor of control along the Silk Road well into modern-day Afghanistan

Tang Economy

  • Reestablished the safety of the Silk Road.
  • Silk Road trade with Middle East and Constantinople
  • New Inventions:
  • Printing press using moveable print
  • Porcelain used for dishes and decoratives
  • Gunpowder originally for fireworks but eventually for weapons
  • Mechanical clocks

Tang Religion/Philsophy

  • Liberal attitude towards all religions at first.
  • Spread of Buddhism in China
  • Later during the Tang, Confucianism becomes more aggressive in fighting Buddhist influence in China

Tang Social Life

  • More cosmopolitan culture.
  • Cities have a great social life with live music and drama
  • Loved poetry and landscape painting
  • Height of Chinese poetry


  • Tea comes into China from Southeast Asia.
  • Mothers bound their daughters’ feet.
  • Foot-Binding in Tang China
  • Broken toes by 3 years of age.
  • Foot-Binding in Tang China

Foot-Binding in Tang China

  • For upper-class girls, it became a new custom.
  • The Results of Foot-Binding
  • Tang Xuanzong (The Profound Emperor) and Consort Yang
  • Mistress Yang and the An Lushan Rebellion 755-763
  • Emperor fell in love with a young concubine named Yang Guifei,
  • The Emperor wasted money and time on Yang and neglected his duties making others jealous and harming China
  • Yang told the Emperor to hire her friends to rule which made situation worse
  • One of these was a general named An Lushan, who quickly accumulated power. 
  • An Lushan eventually decided that he would make a pretty good emperor, and launched a rebellion.
  • The emperor was forced to flee the capital, and on the way, the palace guard strangled Tang and threw her corpse in a ditch.
  • the rebellion pretty much shattered centralized Tang control, and for the remaining 150 years of the dynasty, the country slowly disintegrated

A Limerick

  • The Emperor Xuanzong
  • fell in love with a concubine named Yang
  • But she had a man on the side
  • To take over the empire – he tried
  • Which led to the next dynasty -  named Song

Transition Period between Tang and Song

  • 907 - 960 saw the fragmentation of China into five northern dynasties and ten southern kingdoms until Song unified all of China again
  • Scholar-gentry class dominates
  • abuses in civil service exam develop
  • Local rulers experiment with paper money
  • Arts & commerce
  • 11C Needle compass (3rd century - South pointer)
  • Tang Poetry