Category: tang dynasty

Tang Dynasty China had a great name for their capital city. It is transliterated as Chang’an. But can you guess what it meant in Mandarin?

The Tuyuhun were a nomadic people who created a powerful kingdom in the northern part of the Himalayan plateau. The Tuyuhun were unsurprisingly interested in their rich neighbor to the east, and invaded the Tang Dynasty in 623 CE. The Tuyuhun regularly raided Chinese settlements along the western Tang frontier. This was just another of a long line of incursions by nomads into China. So in 623, the Tuyuhun departed from their homeland, and invaded Gansu, in northwest China. The Tang general Chai Shao was dispatched to defeat them. The problem for him was the Tuyuhun army controlled the high ground, having arrived at a strong position and refused to abandon it. Their archers easily held off any approach by the Tang army, so why should they move? All pretty standard so far.

Chai Shao was an unorthodox man, though, and he thought of an unorthodox solution: erotic dancers. He sent two dancing girls and a group of musicians to a small hill near the Tuyuhun camp. The girls performed an erotic dance, accompanied by the musicians, just where they could be seen by the Tuyuhun army. Discipline fell apart completely as soldiers rushed to get a better view of the dancing.

Meanwhile, Chai Shao and the Tang cavalry snuck around behind the Tuyuhun, while everyone was distracted by the ladies. When they attacked, the Tuyuhun were completely defeated: they lost over 500 men, and were forced to retreat out of Gansu. Hostilities continued, but now the Tang were attacking the Tuyuhun, instead of fending off invasion


THE art of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) began to explore new possibilities in materials and styles with landscape painting and ceramics, in particular, coming to the fore. New techniques, a wider range of colours and an increase in connoisseurship and literature on art are all typical of the period.

Not only produced by local artists, many fine works were created by foreigners from across East Asia and the increasing contact between China and the wider world led to new ideas and motifs being adopted and adapted. The Tang dynasty was one of the golden eras of Chinese history and the brash confidence and wealth of the day are reflected in the bright and innovative art it produced.

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PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: Wuzong of Tang (Emperor of China) 

WUZONG of Tang (also Wu-Tsung, formerly Li Yan) reigned as emperor of China from 840 to 846 CE. He is best remembered today for his persecution of Buddhists, the worst such attack in all of China’s history, and his early death by insanity from drug abuse. Wuzong, nevertheless, did manage to steer the Tang Dynasty clear of the excessive political in-fighting and eunuch dominance which had plagued the courts of his predecessors.

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PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: Gaozu of Tang (Founder of the Tang Dynasty) 

EMPEROR Gaozu (also Kao-tsu, formerly Li Yuan, r. 618-626 CE) was a Sui military commander who led a rebellion against his former masters, seized control of the state, and founded the Tang Dynasty(618-906 CE). Overshadowed in the ancient history books by his son Taizong, who succeeded him as emperor, Gaozu was, nevertheless, responsible for unifying China and laying the political, social, and economic foundations for one of the golden eras of Chinese history.

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Did you know Tibet once controlled an empire? It ruled the Himalayan highlands, Bengal, and

the modern Chinese provinces of Gansu and Yunnan from 618 CE to about 840 CE. Between the first and third emperor, their territory expanded eventually to the height shown in the map above. But difficulty of transportation and communication, and religious tensions due to the introduction of Buddhism in the early 700s CE, led to infighting which pitted the royal family against ancient noble families and supporters of the new religion.

The last two emperors were assassinated, one by pro-native religionists, one by a Buddhist hermit. Yes, a Buddhist assassinated an emperor. After the death of the tenth emperor, the Tibetan Empire disintegrated into civil war.

cris-yi: We call it “Tubo”

This comment made me go a little deeper, and you are right! The Chinese chroniclers called their western neighbor “Tubo.” This is often mispronounced as Turfan, which westerners may recognize. The Chinese had to call the new Tibetan state something, because the Tibetans established diplomatic relations with the Tang Dynasty, which was in power at the time.

The Tibetans themselves called their empire “Bod.” The Chinese heard this, and somehow derived a more-pronounceable-in-Chinese name, Tubo.

The first toothbrushes, as we would recognize them today with a handle and attached bristles, was invented in China during the Tang Dynasty. Bone or bamboo was used for the handle. Hog’s hair was used for the bristles. Specifically, imported hog’s hair from northern China or Siberia was used, because the colder temperatures made the hog’s hair firmer.