Inner and Eastern Asia, 400–1200
I0. The Sui and Tang Empires, 581–755
A0. Reunification Under the Sui and Tang
10. The Sui Empire reunified China and established a government based on
Confucianism but heavily influenced by Buddhism. The Sui’s rapid decline and
fall may have been due to its having spent large amounts of resources on a
number of ambitious construction, canal, irrigation, and military projects.
20. The Tang Empire was established in 618. The Tang state carried out a program
of territorial expansion, avoided over-centralization, and combined Turkic
influence with Chinese Confucian traditions.
B0. Buddhism and the Tang Empire
10. The Tang emperors legitimized their control by using the Buddhist idea that
kings are spiritual agents who bring their subjects into a Buddhist realm.
Buddhist monasteries were important allies of the early Tang emperors; in return
for their assistance, they received tax exemptions, land, and gifts.
20. Mahayana Buddhism was the most important school of Buddhism in Central
Asia and East Asia. Mahayana beliefs were flexible, encouraged the adaptation
of local deities into a Mahayana pantheon, and encouraged the translation of
Buddhist texts into local languages.
30. Buddhism spread through Central and East Asia, following the trade routes that
converged on the Tang capital, Chang’an. These trade routes also brought other
peoples and cultural influences to Chang’an, making it a cosmopolitan city.
C0. To Chang’an by Land and Sea
10. Chang’an was the destination of ambassadors from other states sent to China
under the tributary system. The city of Chang’an itself had over a million
residents, most of them living outside the city walls.
20. Foreigners in Chang’an lived in special compounds, urban residents in walled,
gated residential quarters. Roads and canals, including the Grand Canal, brought
people and goods to the city. With Chinese control over South China firmly
established, Islamic and Jewish merchants from Western Asia came to China via
the Indian Ocean trade routes.
30. Large Chinese commercial ships plied the sea routes to Southeast Asia, carrying
large amounts of goods. Bubonic plague was also brought from West Asia to
China along the sea routes.
D0. Trade and Cultural Exchange
10. Tang China combined Central Asian influences with Chinese culture, bringing
polo, grape wine, tea, and spices. In trade, China lost its monopoly on silk, but
began to produce its own cotton, tea, and sugar.
20. Tang roads, river transport, and canals facilitated a tremendous growth in trade.
Tang China exported far more than it imported, with high quality silks and
porcelain being among its most desired products.
II0. Rivals for Power in Inner Asia and China, 600–907
A0. The Uigur and Tibetan Empires 10. In the mid-eighth century, a Turkic group, the Uigurs, built an empire in Central
Asia. The Uigurs were known as merchants and scribes, had strong ties to both
Islam and China, and developed their own script. The Uigur Empire lasted for
about fifty years.
20. Tibet was a large empire with access to Southeast Asia, China, South and Central
Asia. Tibet was thus open to Indian, Chinese, Islamic, and even (via Iran) Greek
30. In the early Tang, relations between China and Tibet were friendly. The Tibetan
king received a Chinese princess and Mahayana Buddhism was brought to Tibet
and combined with the local religion. But by the late 600s, friendly relations had
given way to military rivalry in which Tibet allied with the southwestern
kingdom of Nanchao against the Tang.
40. In the ninth century, a Tibetan king attempted to eliminate Buddhism, but failed.
Tibet then entered a long period of monastic rule and isolation.
B0. Upheavals and Repression, 750–879
10. In the late ninth century the Tang Empire broke the power of the Buddhist
monasteries and Confucian ideology was reasserted. The reason for the
crackdown was that Buddhism was seen as undermining the family system and
eroding the tax base by accumulating tax-free land and attracting hundreds of
thousands of people to become monks and nuns.
20. Buddhism also had been used to legitimize women’s participation in politics.
The most significant example of this is the career of Wu Zhao, who took control
of the government and made herself emperor with the ideological and material
support of Buddhism.
30. When Buddhism was repressed, Confucian scholars concocted accounts that
painted highly critical portraits of Wu Zhao and other influential women in
Chinese history. The crackdown on Buddhism also brought the destruction of
many Buddhist cultural artifacts.
C0. The End of the Tang Empire, 879–907
10. As its territory expanded and as it was faced with internal rebellions, the Tang
dynasty relied on powerful provincial military governors to maintain peace. In
907, the Tang state ended and regional military governors established their own
20. None of these smaller kingdoms was able to integrate territory on the scale of the
Tang. As a result, East Asia was cut off from communication with the Islamic
world and Europe.
III0. The Emergence of East Asia, to 1200
A0. The Liao and Jin Challenge
10. After the fall of the Tang a number of new states emerged in the former Tang
territory: the Liao, the Jin, and the Chinese Song. As the Liao and Jin cut the
Chinese off from Central Asia, the Song developed seafaring and strengthened
contacts with Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
20. The Liao state included nomads and settled agriculturalists. The Liao kings
presented themselves to their various subjects as Confucian rulers, Buddhist
monarchs, and nomadic leaders. The Liao rulers were of the Kitan ethnic group.
30. The Liao Empire lasted from 916–1121. The Liao had a strong military and
forced the Song to give them annual payments of cash and silk in return for
40. In order to rid themselves of the Liao, the Song helped the Jurchens of northeast
Asia to defeat the Liao. The Jurchens established their own Jin Empire, turned on the Song, and drove them out of north and central China in 1127. The Song