Imperial China. The Tang Dynasty

Chang’an City is the capital of the Tang Dynasty. The Tang Dynasty is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization that equals or even surpassing the earlier Han Dynasty. It is also considered the golden age of cosmopolitan culture. It was developed during the Sui Dynasty circa AD 581 to AD 618. From BC 202 to AD 220 during the end of the Han Dynasty, China was divided for more than 300 years. Sui Dynasty founder Yang Jian reunited China. And the Han Dynasty that followed had the first capital city old Chang’an (Li Xin, 2007).

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The farmers serve as laborers for the court as an institution of feudal society during the Sui Dynasty. Kind and just emperors require farmers to work after the harvest in autumn and between 10 days to a month. In return, the emperors took to protect the farmers against aggression and rescue them during calamities or disasters. Yang Guang, the second emperor of the Sui Dynasty forced farmers to excavate the Great Canal while Daxing City was under construction (Li Xin, 2007).

The Daxing City was being built in a good location but the Sui Dynasty failed to flourish for the people did not support it. After a few years, the Sui Dynasty ended and was succeeded by the Tang Dynasty (Li Xin, 2007). Tang did not demolish the capital city of the former dynasty and instead changed the name to Chang’an, meaning long peace and harmony.

Under the just rule of Li Shimin, the second Tang emperor, the real founder and considered as the wisest emperor with great virtue in Chinese history, Chang’an and the Dynasty flourished. As Emperor Taizong, he set out to solve internal problems within the government plagued by problems of past dynasties. He built upon the Sui legal code and issued a new legal code that subsequent Chinese dynasties would model upon (Ebrey et al, 2006).

During that time, Chang’an City developed greatly and the population increased as people flooded to Chang’an from all over the world. Chang’an City has considered a synthesis of the physical and spiritual aspects of civilization as the design of the city reflected the meaning of myths. In Chinese history, there never was any special city planner or urban designer (Li Xin, 2007).

The structures, city planning, and layout were designed with religious meanings implied in them. The fifth level means “there are flying dragons in the sky.” The Palace City, the second level means “reunite the world in harmony and compassion without war, (using) plentiful virtue to enlighten people,” (Li Xin, 2007). The third level of the city means “men of honor are diligent all day long and maintain caution about their actions and work even at night,” and it was planned as the Royal City, the courtyard serving as office space for all governmental officials (Li Xin, 2007).

The first level which meant “cannot build” according to the Book of Changes was the Emperor’s private garden. The fourth level that meant “change follow opportunities, spring forward to make progress” was for two marketplaces. Then, the sixth level that meant “haughty dragon feels regret” was the royal park and open to the public. City residents of all class standing would come to relax and walk in the park during holidays. According to Li Xin (2007), the rest of the areas were residential.

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Chang’an City may not be planned according to modern theories of city planning but land use was logical as the temples and markets were conveniently located for all the residents. The Royal City was south of the Palace City with the officials delivering documents to emperors without disturbing the civilians while everyone else had the right and the opportunity to enjoy the urban and natural scenery even though the high tower in the park (Li Xin, 2007).

The Tang Dynasty was tolerant and open to foreign cultures and religions that include Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism from India, and other religions from Persia and it was considered the terminal of the Silk Road. In fact, liu Xin (2007) wrote that the western market in Chang’an was the international trade center of the world. Li Xin quoted the Tang Six Authority to have claimed more than 300 nations and regions had business relationships with Chang’an. About 10,000 families that lived in the city are foreign western countries with foreign inns staffed by foreign serving women. The celebrated poet in Chinese history, Li Bai was said to have wandered frequently with beautiful foreign women while foreign food, dresses, music were the fashion in Chang’an City (Li Xin, 2007).

The people also adhered to the theory of the Yin-Yang, requiring the male should charge of exterior issues while the female takes charge of interior issues for a harmonious relationship of yin or female and yang or male in families (Li Xin, 2007). While the people of the Tang Dynasty followed this rule, they had open doctrines with females able to attend to social functions such as banquets and excursions riding on horses (Li Xin, 2007).

Confucianism proposes that the female virtue consists of softness, goodness, courtliness, prudence, and courtesy. Empress Zhangsun, the wife of Li Shimin wife was known for her virtues and often wisely advised Li Shimin to consider the advice of his ministers (Li Xin, 2007). In fact, women went as far as having Wu Zetian, Li Shimin’s imperial concubine, become the only female emperor in Chinese history renowned for her achievements. She also appointed a few talented female ministers (Li Xin, 2007).

Emperor Li Longji, the grandson of Wu Zetian, reduced palace expenditures and appointed able and virtuous ministers to make China very rich with the population of the Tang Empire increased to 48.91 million. This has been considered as the peak and golden era of the Tang Dynasty (Li Xin, 2007).


Li Xin (2007) “Acts Upon a Stage: A Look at Chinese Divine Culture through the History of Chang’an City.” Pure Insight. Web.

Ebrey, Patricia Buckley and Anne Walthall, James B. Palais. (2006). East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

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