China 750 CE
China is now united under the great Tang dynasty, which presides over one of the most brilliant periods in Chinese history.
What is happening in China in 750CE
After centuries of division, China was reunified by the Sui dynasty in 589. This dynasty did not last long, but in their brief time in power they constructed the Grand Canal, which would unify China’s economy; and they restored the examination system for recruiting government officials. This had been first instituted under the Han, but then abandoned.
After a brief civil war the Tang dynasty came to power in 618. This was able to build on the foundations laid by the Sui to become one of the most brilliant dynasty’s in China’s long history.
The Tang emperors brought stability and good government to China, as well as pushing out the frontiers of the Chinese empire further than ever before. The great Taizong (624-49), who set the dynasty on strong foundations, was succeeded by less capable emperors, but this allowed one of the most remarkable personalities in all Chinese history to exercise power, the empress Wu (649-705, first as concubine of the emperor, then as wife, and finally, after 690, in her own right). She expanded the examination system so that more non-aristocratic officials came to hold the most senior positions in government.
Under her son, the emperor Xuanzong (712-56), the Tang empire has reached a peak of power. Culturally, Xuanzong’s reign is later seen as a golden age in Chinese civilization, particularly in the field of poetry.
However, there are causes for concern. Over-powerful generals now control the frontiers, and the elderly emperor is increasingly withdrawing from affairs of state, under the spell of a beautiful concubine. This situation will very soon lead to one of the most terrible rebellions in China’s history, bringing disaster for the Tang dynasty and for the whole of China.