The Glorious Tang

Tang Dynasty was the time where many claimed this dynasty to be the peak of China. It certainly was the highest China would ever go when it came to the expansion of their territories.

China at the hands of this dynasty would not only be powerful but also extravagant. But it wasn’t the best

But it isn’t fully so. The Song beat it in terms of trade and economy. The Han was more stable politically. The Ming had created a system of governance that didn’t really need the Emperor. The Tang from the time it began, had been marred by rebellion after rebellion. Mostly because the Imperial Family liked to settle their family disputes in a bloody fashion. 

The family had a tendency to usurp the throne

It was a time where the founding Emperor had seized it with the failure of the Sui and proclaimed himself Emperor. It was the time where it’s second Emperor, Emperor Taizong of Time personally killed two of his brothers (and his sons) and forced his father into retirement. Gaozong had killed his own siblings. To the time where Wu Zetian had usurped the throne from her elder sons and possibly killed only to lose it to her son in her final year. Where her daughter Princess Taiping would rebel against her own brother. You get the idea that their familial relationships had not been the warmest.

And this was a time where China had a powerful military. Because they were assigning powers to powerful generals which formed the base for much of the wars it had fought. But after a while, the same sort of power had backlashes. 
The Tang was a time of great ups and downs. There were times where the dynasty was pushed to a high but it also fell rapidly. Less than two centuries, it would decline. This decline came during the reign of Tang Xuanzong with the An Lushan rebellion. Something that the Tang dynasty will never recover from and it will just stagnate until the collapse in 907. 

Tang dynasty was an aristocratic society.

Wu Zetian wasn’t just some impoverished girl, she was also the daughter of a newly made aristocratic and a descendant of the family which founded the Sui Dynasty. (Which had only fallen for only a couple of decades and her mother was pretty old when she married.)

It was a society which had a system that was ingrained in it. And from something I read, the thing that moved China towards civil society was not the introduction of imperial exams but rather the Five Kingdoms and Ten Dynasties. The name itself feels like it’s something which would topple the status quo for anyone who emerged at the end. In which the Song would simply follow the trend.

And their powerful generals often came from a couple of families. And gave a good suggestion that a lot of inbreeding happened in this time. To the degree that eventually the dynasty would pass a law that said the best families shouldn’t really remarry. It was more of curbing of power, but in some level, I have the feeling they doubted that in the long term was good.  And this happened with the Han dynasty too. (Emperor Wu of Han had been married to his paternal cousin, which was childless and by all means a highly unequal marriage.) 

Contrary to what many people thought. People who rose to power by merit alone was Wu Zetian’s time. Mainly because no aristocrat actually wanted her to rule. She had to find a power base which she did by boosting commoners who had showed talents and thus would be loyal to her as they would have been unlikely to land lucrative positions in the government if it was not for her.

The Fall Of Tang Dynasty

And with this, you can roughly guess that with an aristocratic society. It didn’t bode well in the long term. As eventually the country’s military was reduced to nothing more than a lightweight by the time we got to the late Tang. But is for another post as China has legitimate reasons to not hand over a ton of troops and power to princes or people. And that most of them had been focused on carving a piece of Tang as it slowly fell. With eunuchs sometimes gaining enough power to even depose and crown an emperor. Which paved the way for the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms. 

The Tang isn’t just a glorious dynasty. It was one who rose pretty high and then stagnated before eventually becoming ineffectual due to internal problems. And they would leave the Song one lesson: Don’t give military power to anyone, and make sure that it is just for defence. Which on hindsight was pretty terrible advice when the Mongols came, but who would predict that a nomadic tribe would have a conqueror that would be able to unite the tribes all together