Tang Dynasty: 618 AD – 907 AD

As soon as Li Yuan seized power, he started to build a powerful central government and his son, who ousted him, succeeded in reforming the power base so that by 628 China was united once more. He seized all land and then redistributed it according to farming ability. Although the idea was good, it didn’t work because pressure from the nobles forced him to give them their land back. The civil service exams were expanded although the majority of positions were still offered to the nobles and Confucianism rose. Shortly afterwards, Empress Wu (684-705) seized power. She was the first and only female ruler of the country and was ruthless but also a brilliant politician. She started as the Emperor’s mistress and by removing or killing any opposition finally reaching the top by deposing her own minor son. She was able, brilliant and a devout Buddhist. She greatly expanded the military and recruited her administrators from the exam candidates. After she was deposed, the empire declined again with intrigues in court which weakened the central government. It was downhill from there, except for the reign of Hsuan-tsung who reduced the number of officials and started restoration work on the Grand Canal. During his reign, the capital at Chang-an once again became a centre of Chinese culture. However, he was infatuated by a mistress and the Dynasty again declined.

There were military victories but they never entirely defeated any of the invaders so they kept returning. In 755 a semibarbarian Tang general successfully led a rebellion against Hsuan-tsung which transferred a lot of power to military governors in the provinces, something from which the dynasty didn’t recover. Eventually Chang-an was won back, but only with the help of the Turks who were allowed to pillage the city as the reward for their help. The population was devastated by the wars and rebellion and dropped from over 53 million to 17 million. The new government instituted new land reforms but there weren’t enough people to work the land. All through the 9th century the provinces fell away from the central government becoming autonomous kingdoms ruled by warlords who withheld their tax, thereby devastating the central economy. In 845 the Emperor began a fullscale persecution of the Buddhists, destroying thousands of monasteries and tens of thousands of temples and shrines. Finally Chang-an itself was sacked by one of the warlords and the remainder of the dynasty passed in chaos. In 907 the dynasty fell to northern invaders and a further 50 years of disunion started.

Despite its ignominious end, the Tang dynasty at its height was one of strength and brilliance coinciding with the Renaissance in Europe. The capital, Chang-an, was a centre of culture and religious toleration. Block printing was invented and the world’s first printed book was produced, as was paper money. Cotton was introduced alongside silk and beautiful porcelain was produced. Foreign trade blossomed – with Central Asia & the West on the Silk Road by caravan and from the Middle East and Africa by sea. Lyric poetry was at its best and painting and sculpting bloomed. The basic form of their reintroduced civil service exam was used until the 20th century and an elaborate code of administrative and penal laws were introduced.

A Time of Grandeur continues into the Tang Dynasty. The Emperor, devoted to calligraphy and painting, is concerned for his people’s welfare. Taxes are lowered and he manages to pit one barbarian tribe against another in the Tarim Basin which is where you are sent. You are magistrate of Nuja on the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert, a once thriving hamlet on the Silk Road, but now abandoned. A new strong Nuja is to be built; part of the irrigation system is intact but little else. Once successful, you go back east to Luoyang to create a new second capital where the lovely but scheming Empress Wu wants you, as Chief Municipal Officer, to revitalise the ancient town. You are to build a beautiful Temple Complex whilst obtaining exotic animals for her. In the main capital, Chang-an, a new Emperor has rid the court of Wu’s bitter intrigues. His government is humane and well liked. Chang-an has been neglected and, as Imperial Magistrate, you are to bring it back to its former glory and build him a Grand Palace. However scandal hits the palace and Emperor Xuanzong is infatuated with the wife of one of his sons who moves into the palace as a Daoist priestess. The Emperor loses interest in affairs of state which results in rebellion. Twenty years on, the empire has shrunk with the Tibetans moving into the west of the country. The rebels sacked Luoyang and Chang-an forcing the Royal Family to flee. They are terrorising the Silk Road and you are sent to rebuild Dunhuang as a military bastion to protect the western trade route. However your efforts are in vain as the rebellion had lasting effects and the Tang Dynasty never recovered.

There is a Multiplay game set during the Tang Dynasty. China is a great world power once again with much trade and many scholars and artists in the cities. However, on the borders there are barbarians waiting so whilst you build a large and beautiful city in this competitive game, you must not neglect its defenses. You will need to build Heavenly Compounds and meet a large population goal.

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