Political structure Social and Economic Changes within the Sui, Tang and Song Dynasties China flourished as one of the world’s most cosmopolitan societies under the Sui, Tang and Song Dynasties. Officials governed effectively, economic development grew and farmers fed people, merchants and manufacturers prospered. Confucianism and Daoism was the government foundation, social structure and culture. Agriculture remained the foundation for the economy. Strong central government continued with powerful emperors and educated bureaucracy with the examination system.
Landowners were at the top of the social class as well as the educated bureaucrats and military leaders. The merchants and artisans had a great deal of wealth but were still considered lower class. Interaction with nomadic groups to the North continued to influence the politics, economy and social structure of China. The first Sui emperor, (Wendi. 2015) Yang Jian called Emperor Wendi previously had been a high official of the Zhou Dynasty. When the Zhou Dynasty reign dissolved he managed to seize the throne and take control of North China.
By the end of 580 he had won the West and South and ruled over a unified China ending the Period of Disunity. Emperor Wendi established institutions of government throughout the country with skilled administrators. He reestablished Confucian rituals last used by the Han Dynasty. Now that Daoism and Buddhism had found its way into China many wealthy people donated land and money for Buddhist monasteries and appointed Buddhist monks to key positions as political advisers. As a result of the reunification the society became stable and peaceful which encouraged economic and political development.
Sui Dynasty brought many improvements and innovations to include work on the crumbling Great Wall of China. Work resumed by extending the wall and shoring up sections to protect them from invaders. In addition, the political system became three departments and a six ministries system. The functions of the three departments resembled the political system of the United States today, the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers. This was a very influential political system in Chinese history that was officially established during the Sui Dynasty and improved during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
The second ruler of Sui Dynasty Emperor Yang returned the Civil Service Examination system that was based on the work of Confucius. This blocked many from attaining government post. He also ordered the construction of the Grand Canal, largest artificial river in the world today used for trade and transportation, linking northern and southern China. The canal provided water to the southern regions to grown food that could feed the people of the North region. In addition, granaries were built around the capitols to supply people with a cheap and nutritional food.
Also, the agricultural acreage increased greatly promoted the crop yield. Advances in shipbuilding technology help to prosper the developing economy. A series of policies for the equal division of land and also the tax system increased the fiscal revenue. At the end of the Sui Dynasty the young empire bankrupted itself from an ill planned invasion of the Korean Peninsula. Large amounts of money spent and soldiers killed or injured contributed to the Sui Dynasty’s demise. Emperor Yang’s former governor and general the Duke of Tang declared himself emperor and assumed Heaven’s Mandate resulting in the end of the Sui Dynasty.
With this seizure of power the Duke of Tang established the (Tang dynasty. 2015) Tang Dynasty that lasted almost 300 years from 618-907 CE. There were many discoveries and inventions in medicine, engineering and science to include the gas cylinder, air conditioning and porcelain. The Tang government, economy and culture began and advanced on the Sui Dynasty foundation. Li Shimin, the duke’s son and most capable leader assumed the throne from 626-649 and ruled as Emperor Taizong.
Just as the first Sui emperor, Emperor Taizong established a competent bureaucracy and used the same pattern of local administration. According to Pearson Education (2012), “China attained new heights in political stability, economics prosperity, military expansion, cultural sophistication and technological innovation” (p. 312). Because the state was bankrupt the administration was kept small and cheap. Land distribution system during the Sui Dynasty was adopted to give every taxable male a plot of land. Taxes from land allotment were a significate source of income to grow the economy.
The Tang Dynasty also adopted the same system of taxations as the Sui Dynasty by building mints that produced copper coins . In addition to inventing wood block printing and gun powder, magnetic compass was also invented that greatly improved shipping navigational ability which had a positive effect on social and economic life styles. Goods produced from farms and handcraft along with common trade goods such as salt, tea, medicine, gold, silver and textiles helped to establish strong trading which developed the Silk Road and led to marine trading as far as the Persian Gulf.
Irrigation systems were used on crops in arid areas also added to the success of the economy. For a brief period of time a female Tang leader emerged as the remarkable Wu Zhao an imperial consort that took the throne and declared herself the ruler of the Later Zhou Dynasty to be called Empress Wu. She reigned from 690-705 and Empress Wu remains the only woman to have ever ruled China. After her abdication at 80 years old the Tang Dynasty returned to power. Once again, trade flourished along the Silk Road to Japan, Korea and Vietnam.
However, the Tang people sowed the seeds of their own destruction, just to name a few reasons their government had internal corruption combined with a long drought affecting agriculture and the national economy. Those two main factors attributed to the demise of the Tang Dynasty. The final end came when border troubles with the northern nomadic people called Kirghiz defeated the weakened Tang government and over threw it in 907 when it collapsed into a scattering of independent kingdoms that withstood unification for more than 50 years.
Then in 959, a military inspector general named Zhao Kungyin of the Later Zhou Dynasty (last of the five dynasties) took power and defeated the independent kingdoms. He established the Song Dynasty 960-1279 (Song dynasty. 2015) known for its intricate bureaucracy and Confucius style of learning. The Song dynasty time period is almost evenly divided between the Northern song 960-1127 and the Southern song from 1127-1279 eras. Under Song rule China was the richest and most populated country in the world.
The Song dynasty was known for the development of cities for administrative purposes, but also as centers of trade, industry and maritime commerce. The mercantile class began to link the coastal provinces with the interior. Landholding and government employment were no longer the only means of gaining wealth and prestige. The development of paper money and unified tax system was the beginning of the Chinese industrial revolution. In 1078 China was producing 125,000 tons of iron per year; the iron was used to mass produce such things as plows, hammers, needles and pins.
Trade with the outside world also expanded greatly at this point. Chinese civil and artistic life flourished during the Song dynasty. Customs such as foot binding in childhood for a very small foot as adults was a status symbol for affluent men showing that their wives could not work. Also the Chinese architectural styles such as the up turned corners on tiled roofs became popular during this reign. The staples of Chinese life such as rice and tea became common only in the Song period. Combination of Confucian ideas and Buddhism characterized much of the philosophy and government for centuries afterward had originated with the Song.
The Song dynasty in China ruled from 960 to 1279, but that time period is almost evenly divided between the Northern Song (960 – 1127) and the Southern Song (1127 – 1279) eras. The break occurred when the Song Empire lost control of Northern China to the Jin dynasty, an ethnic Jurchen kingdom from what is now Manchuria. The Jin-Song Wars would continue from 1125 to 1234, and only ended when the Mongols conquered the Jin. Soon, in 1279, the Southern Song would also fall to the might of the Mongols under Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan. Kublai would establish the next great Chinese dynasty, the Yuan, in 1279.
Although the Song Dynasty was not one of the longest-ruling Chinese dynasties, it left a profound impact on China as we know it today. In summary, Buddhism beliefs and Confucius civil service government combined with the imperial bureaucracy China created a culture that was creative and complex that has withstood the test of time. The reign of the Sui, Tang and Song dynasties brought to China discoveries and advances in technology, engineering, science, metallurgy, shipbuilding, moveable type printing and medicine. All these discoveries and innovations revolutionized Chinese history.