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Step Back in Time to Tang Dynasty China

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Why the Tang Dynasty is a fascinating time period to read about

Red Panda Warrior, Jade Mountain is set during the early years of the Tang Dynasty. As one of many dynasties in China's long history, what makes the Tang Dynasty special?

A New Golden Age

China had just come out of nearly four centuries of instability and war, followed by about forty years of unification under the Sui Dynasty. Sui rule came to an abrupt end as the people rebelled against heavy taxes and forced labour. The Tang Dynasty brought a new era of peace and freedom.

Tang China had a very different shape, with a long arm extending westward along the Silk Road.

It was the only Chinese dynasty with a female Empress, founded with the help of a princess! Princess Pinyang helped her father, Li Yuan, march on Chang'an, establishing the Tang Dynasty and becoming its first emperor when he took the title Emperor Gaozu. (More on her in future posts.)

Emperor Gaozu was the first of twenty Tang emperors and one Empress, Wu Zeitan.

Wu Zeitan rose from being the concubine of Emperor Gaozong to his empress consort, to regent for his heir and at last to the status of Empress. She came to power in 690, a few decades after the events of Red Panda Warrior took place.

As the Tang Dynasty began, the people looked back fondly to the Han Dyansty, a long and glorious time of prosperity when merchants travelled far to the West on the Silk Road.

Emperor Gaozu sought to restore the glory of the great Han era, but the next Tang emperors did much more than that, bringing China to greater heights than ever before as the empire expanded and a new golden age began.


Rich Multicultural Influences

During the Tang Dynasty, the Silk Road was restored. Chang'an, the capital city in the early Han period, became capital once more, as well as the starting point for the Silk Road, which opened the way for new ideas and influences.

Envoys brought tribute from the Turkic tribes, Uighurs, Tocharians, Sogdians and Iranians. Sogdian was an eastern Iranian dialect spoken by merchants from Samarkand, Meymaneh, Kish and Bukhara as well as the principal language of Central Asia.

Thousands of merchants and artisans from foreign lands took up residence in Chang'an, bringing with them a vibrant array of trade goods. A wide variety of faiths were tolerated: Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Manichaesim, Buddhism, Nestorianism and Islam. The Tang court even donated funds to build temples, churches and mosques.

The Tang Dynasty grew till it extended all the way to the Byzantine empire, known to the Chinese as Fulin. For the coronation of Emperor Taizong, a Byzantine delegation brought gifts of red glass and gold dust. Three more diplomatic visits from the Byzantines sought aid for wars with the Arabs.

Education and the arts were valued more highly. Buddhism was brought from India and allowed to flourish, causing China to become an important centre of Buddhist teachings. Buddhist clerics, students and pilgrims were able to travel safely from the surrounding lands to study at the many Buddhist temples. Buddhist texts were translated from Sanskrit as Chinese became the main language for transmitting the teachings.

Some Buddhist monks visited China from Japan, and the most famous of these was called Gembo. He visited Buddhist holy sites at Chang'an, Luoyang and Tientaishan and returned after eighteen years with an assortment of relics and five thousand Chinese Buddhist texts.

When the Sassanid empire fell to Arab armies, a tide of refugees came to Tang China. The most notable of them was Prince Firuz, who escaped through Turkestan to Chang'an in 674.

The Tang Emperor welcomed him, honouring him as the king of Persia though his father the king had been killed. He was tolerant of Zoroastrian religion, allowing Persian refugees to build temples to Zoroaster where they worshipped for many years after. Prince Firuz joined the Imperial Guard, became a general, and fathered a son who remained in Chang'an long after he died.


New multicultural influences led to a flourishing of the arts and greater freedom for women which I will explore in the next post...

You can immerse yourself in the Tang Dynasty and gain and understanding of what this era was like by reading Red Panda Warrior, Jade Mountain, for sale at Barnes and Nobles, Kobo, Gumroad and more.

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