Tang Dynasty | Definition, Dates, & Facts

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From 618 until 907, the Tang Dynasty ruled over Ancient China. China was one of the most powerful countries in the world at the height of the Tang dynasty’s peace and prosperity. The Golden Age of Ancient China is a term that has been used to describe this time period.

Establishment of the Dynasty

Aristocrat Li Yuan, who lived in the north, amassed an army and marched to Chang’an, the Sui Dynasty’s capital, when it started to fall apart in 618. Although he assisted in the ascension of a new child emperor to the throne, Li Yuan was the one in charge as Prime Minister. Following the murder of the previous emperor Yang, Li Yuan proclaimed himself emperor and founded the Tang Dynasty.

Innovations and Technology

The Tang Dynasty saw significant progress in both engineering and technology. Perhaps most significantly, woodblock printing was created. Books could be printed in large quantities thanks to woodblock printing. This promoted literacy and the dissemination of information across the empire. The Diamond Sutra was printed for the first time in its entirety in 868.

Gunpowder was a significant invention at the time. During the Tang Dynasty, gunpowder was primarily employed for fireworks, despite the fact that it would continue to be improved for hundreds of years. Fireworks were thought to have the power to frighten away evil spirits. Other inventions included the porcelain ceramic, improvements in mapmaking, natural gas cylinders, medical discoveries, and clockmaking innovations.


The Tang Dynasty saw a flourishing of the arts. Poetry started to become ingrained in Chinese culture at this time. For individuals who wanted to pass the civil service tests, studying poetry was essential. Talented poets were esteemed and frequently entertained guests during parties by reciting their works. This period saw the emergence of some of China’s greatest poets, including Li Bai, Du Fu, Li Po, and Wang Wei.

The Tang Dynasty is best known for its poetry, but other forms of art also gained popularity at this period. There were numerous literary genres written, including as chronicles, encyclopedias, and short stories. Painting was also highly common, and this period gave rise to well-known painters like Wu Daozi, Wang Wei (also a well-known poet), and Zhou Fang.


From Korea to Northern Vietnam, the Tang Dynasty had control over a wide region. Even Afghanistan in the west was affected. To rule over all of this region, a government had to be exceptionally well-organized. The Tang established a comprehensive set of laws and governing procedures. Farmers had to serve in the army for a certain amount of time and were subject to land-based taxes.

Chang’an served as both the Tang Empire’s administrative and capital cities. This is Xi’an as it is in the present day. The emperor governed over his huge realm from this location where he also resided. Based on how well candidates performed on the civil service exams, government personnel were assigned. Exams were more accessible to non-noble class individuals than in previous dynasties in an effort to recruit the greatest talent for the government. To help more individuals get an education, there were even government-run schools.


The emperors were accepting of several religions at the beginning of the Tang Dynasty. In China, Buddhism grew to be a very popular religion. The emperors, however, declared Confucianism the sole official religion and outlawed all other faiths toward the end of the reign. There were many Buddhist temples and monasteries that were closed.

Decline and Fall

Due to heavy taxes and governmental corruption, the Tang Dynasty started to deteriorate over time. In 874, the overtaxed populace staged an uprising that resulted in the destruction of a large portion of Chang’an. Although the Tang were able to put an end to the uprising, the government never entirely recovered. When a commander by the name of Zhu Wen deposed the final Tang emperor and assumed power in 907, the dynasty came to an end.

Facts worth knowing about the Tang Dynasty

The Grand Canal was completed and much of the Great Wall was reconstructed under the preceding Sui Dynasty, which benefitted the Tang Dynasty.

Tea drinking first gained popularity as a pastime in the Tang Dynasty, and the Classic of Tea, written by Lu Yu, is a description of the art of tea drinking.

This is the period when toilet paper was created.

According to an official census conducted in 609, China had a population of about 50 million people.

At the time, Chang’an’s capital was the biggest metropolis in the entire world. The population of the city and the surrounding region was reportedly close to 2 million people.

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