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  • Westen Chou-dynasty
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Western Chou (1100BC.-770 BC.)

The Chou came from the west of the great bend of the Yellow River. People in this time gave up cave-dwelling, built houses and city walls and began to live in cities which were administered by officials. The Chou king distributed provinces as fiefs (feudal estates) to the royal princes. These became his vassals and in duty bound to protect the court and to contribute troops to the king’s army in the time of war. The Chou is important for establishment of some of the most enduring Chinese political conception. Fore most is the “mandate of the Heaven” in which the Heaven gives wise and virtuous leaders a mandate to rule and removes it from those who are evil and corrupt. The concept of emperor as the “Son of the Heaven” originated at the time is that the highest god was the Heaven; the king, as the “Son the Heaven” was the mediator between the Heaven, the Earth and the people. He alone received the heavenly mandate to rule; he alone made the sacrifices. Human sacrifices in general were forbidden and consultation of the oracle bone was abandoned.

Although the Chou rulers eventually failed to keep the nation together, their era saw great advanced in every area of art and crafts. Silkworm cultivation and the weaving of silk have been demonstrated to be an important part of Chou culture trade with foreign states. The famous Silk Road, the caravan route to the Near East and, Black Sea, did not yet exist, but regional trade did and goods flowed between China and its western neighbors. Along China’ borders , there was great demand for products like metal and jade wears, salt, and above all, silk that issued from the shops of China’ artisans. In exchange for these, the Chou aristocracy prized the sturdy horses supplied by nomads who wandered the Central Asian steppes.

During the West Chou, agriculture production expanded and even breweries were set up. There appeared many poems and documents of high artistic value ranging in subjects matter from philosophy to politics and history.

The Western Chou was the heyday of the Bronze Age in China. Inscriptions on Chou bronze frequently end with the words “for eternal preservation by our descendents” This is clearly an example of hope for the handing down of the inscribed bronze from generation to generation. Beginning from 841 B.C. marked the beginning of conscious, systematic records in Chinese history.

Qin-dynasty (221 BC. - 206 BC.)

Qin Shi Huang Di(259BC.-210BC.) was only 13 years old when he inherited the throne, but he was already a man of iron will and ambition who spent the next quarter-century subjugating all of China. With clockwork precision his nearly invincible armies crushed rival feudal states. By 221BC. this remarkable tyrant had created what he believed would be an absolute and everlasting empire .In that year, accordingly, he took for himself the title of QIN SHI HUANG DI- first Emperor of QIN.
          A centralized bureaucratic type government replaced feudal authority. The empire was ruled by officials who were not entitled aristocrats, their positions were not hereditary. Other measures were taken to consolidate Chin rule. The written language was simplified and made uniform the whole country. Weights, measures and coinage were standardized throughout the empire. The old spade and knife coinage was abolished, and a new round coin became sole official means exchange .This coin had a square hole in the middle and became the standard for the Middle Kingdom for the next two thousand years.

Many administrative measures were taken to reinforce centralized control .A detailed census of the whole country was taken, recording the number of households, the heads of families, the names, ages and birthplace of individual citizens, Such a measure was necessary for the effective imposition of poll taxes corvee( forced labor) and military service. In the year AD 2 over millon households was registered in China, totaling some 59.5 million individuals. The Middle kingdom under Chin Shi Huang stretched from the foothills of the Mongolian Plateau to the Yangtze River basin, whence his armies pushed south to subjugate the northern regions of Vietnam and the coastal areas near Canton.

A satirical couplet given by Susa-ma Chien describes the emperor as a ‘man with a prominent nose, with large eyes, with the chest of bird of prey, with the face of jackal: without beneficence and with the heart of tiger or of a wolf’. The emperor, they say, was aloof and mysterious, living in carefully guarded secrecy obsessed by the fear of assassination. In his great palaces he moved from one apartment to another, and only a handful of eunuchs knew where he was to be found. But he worked indefatigably, handing daily 120 pounds of reports on bamboo strips, or wood. He also travelled about his realm a great deal, often incognito. He died in 210BC while journeying in the eastern provinces, and news was kept from all except a few ministers and eunuchs. As the cortege moved back across China the weather was hot and the body began to decompose. The ministers found it necessary to palace a cartload of rancid fish behind the imperial chariot to prevent the soldiers and attendants from suspecting.

Qin shi huang di declared that his great empire would live forever. The First Emperor apparently hoped to find immorality for himself as well. From China’s Pacific coast he sent out expeditions to search for a “Fountain of Youth” in the islands of the unknown. According to legend, some of these expeditions reached the Japanese islands and settled there. If there is any truth in the legend, this was one of the earliest direct contacts between the Chinese and Japanese people.

He wanted to protect his conquests against the raids of “barbarians” from Manchuria and Mongolia. With this purpose in mind, he launched one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by man. This was the building of the Great Wall along the northern frontier of China Proper. Many smaller barriers had been erected by feudal states during the Chou period. The goal of the First Emperor was to unite, strengthen, and extend these walls as a single massive fortification. TO carry out this gigantic enterprise, it is said that the government conscripted one million men as a labor force. These laborers built the Great Wall completely by hand. The wall stretched westward from the coast of northeast China for almost 1800 miles-the approximate distance. Work on the Great Wall did not end in Ch’in times. For some 1500 years repair work or new construction was done on the rambling structure.  

He sought to destroy sectionalism and any lingering support of the feudal houses, and to unify the “hundred schools of thought ’’. One occasion he had 460 members of the lettered class, mainly magicians or charlatans, put to death. The scholars whom he valued were unmolested, and he continued the office of Learned Doctor at the court.

His palace, completed in 212BC, was assuredly one of the wonders of the world. It measured 2500 feet from east to the west and 500 feet from south to the north and accommodated 10,000 people. Within a radius of some sixty miles there were 270 lesser imperial residence “connected by covered roads and roads and roads bordered with wall” and furnished with “tents, canopies, bells drums, and beautiful women”.

The First Empire put into practice for the first time the idea of unity for all the peoples “within the wall,” an idea never lost to sight even during the long periods of imperial breakdown the followed.

In spite of its absolutism, however, the empire could not wholly silence two groups-the theorist, who disliked the state whose groundwork they themselves had laid, and the descendants of the princely houses and the ministers of state for whom the empire had no place, Besides these, countless people must have suffered indescribably from the forced labor, the forced labor, the frontier military service, and the heavy taxation.

The removal of his iron hand and his inept son’s succession to power resulted in the overthrow of the empire by the various dissatisfied groups in 207 BC.

 

 Asoka and  Emperor Qin

 

The Buddhist emperor of India, Asoka Maurya( 291-232b.c.e) inherited a large, diverse kingdom and attempted-with some success-to use a “ law of piety” to hold it together. Asoka’s Chinese contemporary, Shi Huang di (259-210 b.c.e), on the other hand, created a Chinese empire by consciously rejecting the moral standards for the rulers prevalent in his day; he adopted the harsh practice of destroying all his enemies before they had a chance destroy him. Both men were hard-working and self-confident. Asoka’s empire crumbled within fifty years of his death, but he was remembered fondly by historians, especially Buddhist ones. Shi Huang Di , reviled by later Confucian historians, laid the foundations of an empire that lasted under various dynasties for over 2000 years.

Asoka’s empire was centered in the part of the northeastern India known as Magadha, but his power spread from the Kaul in the north-west as far east as modern Bangladesh and as far as the city of Madras. This Mauryan Empire provided the Indian subcontinent with great political unity than it was to have until modern times. It was founded by Asoka’s grandfather, Chandragupta( 322-299b.c.e) aided by his hard-nosed political advisor, Kautilya. Although Asoka came to the throne in 273b.c.e. after the death of his father, Bindusara, he was not formally crowned until 269. It took him that long to seize full power from his brothers. Buddhist sources claim he killed between the ages of six to ninety of them. The cultural, social, and economic vitality and diversity of the third-century India, when combined with the strong central government provided by the Mauryan rulers, made India one of very few strong civilizations at that time. In the West, only the empires of Cyrus the Great and Alexander the Great rivaled it.

Cultural diversity in India was aided by the relatively “new” religious of Buddhism and Jainism. Both rejected the strict Hindu caste system which placed humans into four principle groups: priests, warriors, traders, and labors. There religious also rejected the ritual rules and the power of the Brahmins, or Hindu priests.  The Buddha (560-480b.c.e) accepted Hindu ideas of moral cause and effect (karma) and of rebirth but simplified Hinduism by arguing that suffering and pain were caused by desire, which itself was caused by ignorance of the spiritual truth. The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path (right or correct views, aspirations, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and meditation) would lead the believer beyond path of the duty or piety. We have also seen that Jaina followed the teachings of another sixth-century reformer, the Mahavira( 599-527b.c.e) who preached a stricter doctrine of the non-violence to all living things than did Buddhists. They also believed that salvation could be achieved by a life of strict self-denial that would free the soul from all attachment to the physical world.

After his conversion to Buddhism about the 10 years after his coronation, Asoka’s edicts preaching dharma to his people showed the influence of all three major India religious traditions.

Social and economic diversity in the Indian subcontinent in Asoka’s day was caused not only by the racial and linguistic variety that we still see in India, but also by the system of the castes and sub castes that existed throughout the empire.         Because of the caste system was an essential part of Hinduism, as the population grew, members of the caste of merchants and traders were subdivided into hundred of sub-categories, based upon place of residence, occupation, and family membership. People were not allowed to marry outside their caste. In short, there was a place for everyone and everyone was expected to stay in his or her place. After all, the reward for a good and stable life would be rebirth into higher caste. This traditional Brahmanism teaching was being challenged in this period by Buddhist and Jain teachers but also by the growing economic and political powers of the merchants. Mauryan businesses traded extensively with both Greek west and within the large empire. There was a thriving money economy, and merchant guilds often assumed political responsibilities. They raised groups of soldiers for self-protection, built public buildings, controlled wages and prices, and were received at court. Merchants brought taxes and wealth to the empire and were strongly supported by the Mauryan rulers.

This, then, was Asoka’s world, the one to which he addressed his famous short sermons on morality and “piety”. Those of Asoka’s famous “edicts” which remain are described by the surface on which they were carved: fourteen Rock Edicts were carved on rock along roadways, at least ten pillar Edicts were “written” on all tall pillars in population centers, and a few Cave Edicts were inscribed on the walls of the caves, primarily for the inspiration of Buddhist monks. In an age without libraries and electronic mass media, this was an effective way to communicate. Tradition tells us that the king, referred to in the edicts as “Beloved of the Gods”, was converted to Buddhism after a particularly bloody bottle against the Kalinga people in the southeastern part of his empire. In his battle, fought in 262 b.c.e. about one hundred thousand were slain and at least that many deported. While Asoka was a follower of Buddhism before the Kalinga War, this conflict inspired a change of the heart in the king. From this time until his death, Asoka actively preached Dharma to his people through edicts and tours throughout his lands, he never again engaged in a major military campaign.

King Asoka wished his subjects to be moral, but he allowed to define the details of his or her own morality. After midpoint of his reign, he genuinely believed that “all men are my children” and as such capable of being trained and persuaded to live a good life. This required hard work and Asoka set an example. He was “morning people”, rising early and engaging in prayers and meetings with his council of ministers and reports from his agents. Some agents were morality ministers who worked to see that poor were not mistreated and that the affairs of the various religious communities were handled correctly. Asoka also built rest stops for weary travelers, dug well, and kept roads in repair.

But if Asoka wished his people to be moral and reasonably comfortable, he also wanted to continue paying taxes. He may have been a missionary, but he was not naive. In one edict the beloved of the gods invited even the forest people, in the remote sections of his domains to adopt this way of life and this ideal. He remained them; however, he exercises the power to punish, despite his repentance, in order to induce them to desist from his crimes. Asoka’s Buddhist and Jain-inspired dislike of violence never resulted in lifting of the death penalty. His attempt to create a “national” or “imperial” morality, while a product of genuine conviction, was also shrewd way for the monarch to centralize imperial authority in a large, culturally diverse empire. Religious toleration can be virtuous; it can also be good politics when one’s empire contains dozens of different and competing sects.

Yingzheng, the man who created a Chinese empire out seven warring states in 221 B.C despite his great achievement; King Zheng remains an awesome, controversial, somewhat mysterious figure. The history of his reign by historian Sima Qian, who wrote at the beginning of the first century B.C. describe this king of Qin as having “ a waspish nose, eyes like slits, a chicken breast, and voice like a jackal. He is merciless, with the heart to a tiger or wolf” .The sovereign Emperor was clearly a man to be reckoned with. Both friend and foe found him formidable-and that was the way he liked it.

After coming to the throne of Qin in 246 at the age of thirteen, it took King Zheng twenty-five years to conquer the other six kingdoms in the Yellow River valley and unify the China. King Zheng (then Shi Huangdi, or First Emperor) ruled over the unified Chinese empire for only eleven years until his death in 210, but his impact was so profound that some still arguer about the wisdom of his policies and at the nature of his contribution to Chinese history. Chinese folktales lament the suffering caused by the building of the Great wall and other imperial projects. It understands that a man strong enough to create an empire out of the feudal disorder that had plagued China for centuries might make a few enemies in the process. Yet this man can also be considered the father of his country. He laid those foundations for the later accomplishments of the Han dynasty. Nonetheless, Shi Huang di is almost universally condemned by Chinese historians. This animosity stems in part from that fact they were Confucians and he was not. That he executed 460 Confucian scholars and sent others into exile after ordering all their texts burned may have also contributed to their dislike.

The roots of his conflicts go back several centuries and require some review of philosophy of Confucians. Confucius, a great master of ethical philosophy, emphasized a moral code based on Li (propriety) and Ren (humanity). By observing proper rituals and showing respect for parents and ancestors, one demonstrated self-control and self-respect. Confucius believed in authority, but he stressed the importance of virtuous behavior on the part of the ruler. If a leader practiced charity and good faith in dealing with the virtues of Li and Ren, the result would be order and obedience in the land. A later Confucians thinker, Men Tzu , went further and argued that rulers should feed and clothe their people, avoid war altogether, and trust in the natural goodness of people to follow “ the path of righteousness’.

Education, especially one which stressed the values of the past and loyalty to the family, was important to these men. Scholarship was a path to virtue. Though this view of politics and morality would have been congenial to Asoka, it was alien to the rulers of the state of Qin, a “barbarian” frontier land. Barbarian or not, however, the rulers of Qin during the fourth century were quicker than their more civilized Chinese neighbors to end feudalism and create a strong central government, backed by a system of taxation and a powerful army. Without the family and feudal outbursts that kept other states in a condition of near-constant civil war, the Qin rulers are able to defeat the armies of the states of Han dynasty, Zhao, Wei, Yan, and Qi during the late forth and early third centuries B.C. By the time King Zheng became leader of Qin in 246 B.C, his state was already the most powerful in the yellow river valley. It had not reached his point by following the teachings of the very different philosophy of Legalism.

The Legalists, following the ideas advanced by Han Feizi, were represented at the Qin court by Lisi, chief advisor to King Zheng and guiding force behind many of his policies. They believed that harsh laws, speedily enforced, were more useful than moral examination in securing obedience from the subjects. They also suggested that troops were more effective than tedious Confucian rituals and etiquette. “Talent and wisdom” wrote Han Fei “are not sufficient to subdue the masses, but power and position are able to subject even men of talent” Legalists advocated what we would today call a strong, secular, amoral state. You can win by doing the things that your enemy would be ashamed to do, one legalist text advised. Legalist philosophy and Qin ambition were made for each other. Li si got a job and a chance to be a powerful man. The Qin ruler found someone who would tell him that killing several hundred soldiers after they surrendered was not really all that bad. Li Si advised his king to bribe the feudal lords of other states, as for those who were unwilling, they were to be stabbed with sharp swords and the army sent to finish the job.

Despite his Legalist disdain for morality, Shi Huang di’ specific and lasting achievements were impressive. He turned China from a patchwork of squabbling Kingdoms into a state governed from a central capital-and sold their land. He also organized his realm into provinces and prefectures, or counties. The former were originally military districts, while the latter were administrative ones and used for purposes of tax collection.  Eventually, civil and military leaders were placed in each province. Since these officials were not members of the emperor’s family or high noble rank ( as they might have been under the old system), there was less chance they would try to challenge their emperor. Besides, placing a number of major officials in each of his thirty-six provinces almost guaranteed that they would quarrel with each other; this left final authority in the hands of the emperor.

Shi Huang di effort to centralize took forms as well. He standardized weights and measures, the character used to write the Chinese language (to allow officials to communicate with those who spoke dialects), and even the length of cart axles so that all carts could use the same tracks. The First Emperor also creates the taxes they helped collect. There were no private armies during the Shihuangdi’s reign, and the laws of the land were public, if very harsh. Finally, the new emperor built many roads, several hundred new palaces, and elaborates defensive fortification in the north, known later as the Great wall.

Shi Huang di’s building projects, however, illustrate his extravagance. His Great Wall, which connected and strengthened existing fortification, was needed to protect China from the nomadic tribes of Huns that periodically attacked and devastated Chinese cities. Whether China needed a gigantic wall with numerous watchtowers is debatable. The nearly 1 million men who labored and died building it over twelve years would have probably disagreed. Nearly as many men, seven hundred and thousand, spent thirty years building an elaborate tomb for the emperor at Mountain Li near Xian and the yellow river. Part of the tomb consisted life-sized, individualized statues of an army of eight thousand men and horses, including full-scale bronze chariots and charioteers and images of all members of emperor’s family and household staff. While Shi Hang di was not the first to construct an elaborate grave site, the magnitude of Shi Hang di’s effort helps us understand why some called him a megalomaniac.

He also built 270 palaces near his capital, some of them replicas of those of his conquered enemies. These were justified for security reasons, since they allowed him to sleep in a different place every night. One precise and telling example of the emperor’s arrogance is found in Sima Qian’s history. On one occasion, a “great gale” prevented the ruler’s ship from the crossing the Yangzi River near the temple of Mount Xiang. “The emperor in his rage made three thousand convicts cut down all the trees on Mountain Xiang, leaving the mountain bare” Clearly, this man took himself very seriously. He believed himself to be the first of a line of ten thousand emperors. Shi Huangdi’s inscriptions did not urge men to live morally; they bragged that “his influence knows no end, his will is obeyed and his orders will remain through eternity.”

Of course, Shi Hangdi’s enemies and their ideas did outlive him. By the end the Qin dynasty (206 B.C) the philosophy of Legalism was thoroughly discredited by the excesses of Shi Huangdi and his son. Both Han Feizi and Li Si died violent deaths. It was fitting that the first of the rebellions that broke out after ShiHangdi’s death was held by two farmers who were late in reporting for forced labor on one of the imperial projects. Since the penalty for being was immediate execution, they decided their chances of survival would be better if they started a revolt. It was the first of many that led to the collapse of the Qin empire. Had the law been less stringent, this revolt may not have started.  

This point was quickly made by Confucian historians; beginning with the famous essay on “The Fault of Qin”, written by Han dynasty poet and statesman Jia Yi( 201-169b.c.e). He remarked on the military skill of Qin general but then asked why such a feared dynasty could be overthrown with such relative ease. Jia’s answer has echoed through twenty centuries of Chinese history: because it failed to rule with humanity and righteousness and to realize that the power to attack and the power to retain what one has won are not same. The general verdict was that Shihung di and his dynasty got what they deserved.

Perhaps the moral of this history, if there is one, is that both honey and vinegar are necessary. Once historian of China has written that although “force can never give a permanent unity…its use may be necessary to establish this unity in the beginning.” The accomplishments of the Han period would have been impossible without the achievement of the preceding Qin Empire. Asoka was both realistic and pious. He received better treatment from the historians than did Shuhuangdi, but his empire survived him by only a few decades.

Western Han-dynasty (206 BC. - 24 AD.)

IF the Chou is the classical age of China, the Han is the imperial. This period has no fired their imagination and flattered their ego that the Chinese often called themselves “ men of Han” Institutions may have had their start under the Chou and Qin emperors, but they attained their greatest height under the Han. There were new developments, enriched by intrusion from outside, in science, art, literature,music,industry, and sport. A great deal of exact knowledge of the era is available not only through a large amount of historical and other writing that has survived but also from the recent discoveries in China or near the borders( Korea, Japan ,Indo-China, Mongolia, central Asia) and beyond. All indicate a new atmosphere and the great expansion of Han dynasty.

During the early Western Han dynasty, agriculture and the handicraft industry developed significantly. Iron implements and ploughs drawn by oxen were used everywhere to farm, and farming techniques were improved. Large numbers of irrigation projects were constructed, at the same time advances were made in iron smelting and silk weaving. Commerce flourished and brisk trade was carried on with foreign countries. There was a variety of notable achievements in culture and science, including Siam QIan’s Records of the Historian, China’s first comprehensive historical book, and the seismograph invented by Zhang Heng. In addition, the invention of paper, perhaps China’s greatest contribution to world culture, was also a product of this period. Chinese written language was standardized and all the five different styles of writing were developed. In the meantime, physicians mastered acupuncture and the prescription of herbal medicines. Craftsman produced exquisite wool, cotton, and silk fabrics.

During the Han dynasty, the Chinese empire reached a high point of development, rivaling in brilliance the contemporary Roman Empire in the West. Wu Di the 5th Han emperor came to power in 147BC. and his far-flung military campaigns expanded the empire’s boundaries furthest.

Emperor Wu Di(156-87BC.) decreed that the knowledge of Confucian texts and teachings be a prerequisite for appointment to government positions. A university was set up in the capital to teach Confucianism, and examinations in the Confucian Classics were instituted. Confucianism became the basis of education and admission to the Chinese civil service for the next 2000 years.

Tang-dynasty (618AD. - 907AD.)

Tang dynasty was the largest and probably the most populous state in the world at that time. This was the age of Charlemagne in Europe and Alfred the Great in England. It became the centre of economic and cultural intercourse for the Asian peoples, with the capital Chang an (Xi’an) rising as cosmopolitan city. The population of the city and suburbs at the height of its prosperity rose to nearly two million people. It was the eastern terminus of the great trans-Asian caravan route.

Chang an covered a rectangular area some five miles by six (Xi’an, the town on the same site today, covers an area of two miles by three).Chang an comprised three parts- the palace, the imperial city and the outer city, separated from each other by walls of rammed earth. In the outer city, all cities were divided up like a chessboard by streets crossing at right angle, lived the ordinary people. This part of city had eastern and western markets, with a great central thoroughfare leading to the imperial city and beyond that to the palace city. Rows of e elms and locust trees lined the ditches beside the main highway, providing shade for the vermilion horse drawn carriages of the great official and nobles. Zhuque street ,the main trunk in the city, was as wide as 155 meters, in comprison the widest street in Rome was only 12 meters at that time.

Alley divided the two markets each into nine squares, or wards, the central one of which was the administrative center, with manager supervisors, secretaries and scribes. Each sections of the market contained booths and warehouses of merchants and artisans engaged in the same trade. The wards were surrounded by moats and ramparts and they could be entered only a high official was permitted to have a gate opening directly onto the street. Drums were beaten to signal the curfew, for the wards were closed at night.

Store, workshop and booths of more than hundred trades lined the streets: they provide silks and garments, saddles and harnesses, ornaments, fruits and provisions. Excavations have unearthed a great variety of articles as well as many coins from Tang dynasty and Persia, gold coins from the Eastern Roman empire. According to the records merchants from central and western Asia owned wine and jeweler shops in the western market.

In Chang an was a large state academy where Chinese students and students from various parts of Asia studied together. These foreign students played role in the propagation of Tang dynasty. Japanese students braved the hazards of the sea to come to study in Chang an. The advanced Tang culture they took back exerted great influence on their own culture. Much of Tang custom and music is still preserved in Japan.

LI shi min(599AD.-649AD.) was the first of several outstanding Tang rulers .He was an able general, a scholar and a successful administrator. Learning one lesson from the downfall of earlier dynasties, he said: “The emperor likes to have a palace built, but the people do not like building it. The emperor craves the flesh pot, but the people hate doing labor service. It is dangerous to burden the people with excessive labor service” Also: “An emperor collecting too heavy taxes is like a man eating his own flesh .When the flesh is all gone, the man dies.” And he enacted that each death sentence should be reviewed on three separate days, and that the magistrate concerned should abstain from meat, music and entertainment during this period, so that he would be conscious of the serious nature of his responsibility all this time. He is very kindhearted emperor in the Chinese history. He also was a hybrid of Han and Xianbei nationalities. He adopted an all-embracing attitude to foreign cultures. He respected Chinese orthodoxy, but at same time did not exclude and reject foreign things. It was just due to the exchange and integration of different national cultures that traditional Chinese culture developed to its bright climax. So the ZOROASTRIAN, the NESTORIANS and MANICHEANS set up their churches and temples in Chang’ an.

TANG DYNASTY 2

Tang Dynasty is one of the most powerful and prosperous kingdom in the history of China. Central plains of China and the Western regions entered into a grand unification. In the first 100 years of Tang Dynasty its prosperity allowed it to reach an unprecedented height in the exchange and communication with the outside world. Contemporary historian both in China and abroad call Tang Dynasty “an open empire” and Chang an a capital of the world”. Traders of Persia, priests of Rome, sailors of Arabia, and students of Japan, as well as Buddhist and Islamic scholars, all of them gathered in China. Because of rapid development of its economy, China’s trade exchange with he Western Regions and beyond increased a great deal during the period. A golden era in the history of the Silk Road started with the arrival of Tang Dynasty.

Chang an of Tang Dynasty was a masterpiece of ancient Chinese architecture. The tied roofs were beginning to be tilted up at the edge like wings, allowing the maxim winter sun, and providing shade during the summer time. The end tiles at the eaves were splendidly decorated.

The Da min palace stood high on the mountain to the north of the city. Lofty Hany uan Hall was the place, where the emperor interviewed foreign diplomatic envoys. The layout of the city was nest and balanced.

Silk Road in Different Dynasties

From the second century BC to the end of the fourteenth century AD, a great trade route originated from Chang an (now Xian) in the east and ended at the Mediterranean in the west, linking China with the Roman Empire. Because silk was the major trade product which traveled on this road, it was named the Silk Road in 1877 by Ferdinand von Richthofen – a well-known German geographer. This ancient route not only circulated goods, but also exchanged the splendid cultures of China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greek and Rome.

  The Silk Road was opened up by Zhang Qian in the Western Han Dynasty and the routes were gradually formed throughout the Han Dynasty. This trade road spent its childhood and gradually grew up in this dynasty. With the establishment of the Tang Dynasty, which saw rapid development of economy and society, this famous trade road reached its most prosperous stage in history. During the reign of Yuan Dynasty, it experienced its last flourishing period.

Silk Road in Western Han Dynasty (206 BC–24 AD)
From 139 BC to 129 BC, Zhang Qian set out on his journey to the Western Regions twice, pioneering the world-famous Silk Road. Several successful wars against the Huns were commanded by Wei Qing and Huo Qubing (famous generals in Han Dynasty), which removed obstacles along this trade road. In 60 BC, Han Dynasty established the Protectorate of the Western Regions in Wulei (near now Luntai) to supervise this northwest area, which greatly protected the trade along this time-honored route.

Silk Road in Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220)
Ban Chao and Ban Yong conducted several expeditions to the Western Regions to suppress rebellions and re-established the Protectorate of the Western Regions, ensuring peace and trade along this important Silk Road.

Silk Road in Tang Dynasty (618–907)

With the establishment of the Tang Dynasty and great prosperity during this time, the Silk Road rose to its most flourishing period in history. Before the Anshi Rebellion (755–762) in the Tang Dynasty, this world-famous road experienced its "Golden Age" of development.

Over the Silk Road flowed goods and cultural influences between two great empires-Han China and the Roman Empire, then at its height. Merchants who followed this route brought precious Chinese silks to the Asian provinces of the Roman Empire. From these outposts, traders then carried the silk to many other parts of this empire of the West. The silks were so famous that the Romans called the “silk country” or Serica. (The Chinese gave the name Ta Ch’in-meaning “Great Ch’in”-to the part of the Roman Empire that they knew about.) In return for the silks, the Chinese received glass, horses, precious stones, ivory, and woolen and linen cloth. Along with the goods that were exchanged by means of the Silk Road, ideas and influences traveled back and forth between East and West.

 
 

 

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