Economic and Political Choices of Tang and Song Dynasties Compared to the Ming Dynasty
The Tang dynasty ruled for two hundred and eighty nine years, from 618 to 907 C. E. The empire extended into the west to parts of Tibet, the Red River Valley to the south, and Manchuria to the north. The second emperor, Tai-tsung, forced his father to abdicate the throne to him after murdering his brothers in 626 C. E. He made the government smaller, which saved money in case of famine and to provide farmers economic relief in case of droughts or floods. Civil service exams were established once again, resulting in smarter court officials.
Tai-tsung’s army defeated the Turks in 657 C. E and they gained territory in Korea and central Asia. During this period, trade flourished along the Silk Road and woodblock printing, along with gunpowder was invented. From 843 to 845 C. E. a new emperor Wu-tsung tried to eliminate Buddhism from Chinese culture. These attempts only lasted a short time but the religion never recovered in China, and this led to conflicts with foreign traders. After 836 C. E. foreigners were no longer welcome in China and trade came to an abrupt halt that practically destroyed the economy.
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In the 9th century, divisions within the central government began feuding which led to political plots, scandals, and assassinations. After several collapses around 880 C. E. the Tang dynasty was destroyed. After the fall of the Tang dynasty, a military commander named Zhao Kuangyn started the Song dynasty in 960 C. E. It ruled for 3 centuries and was destroyed in the 1279 C. E. by the Mongols. The emperor established imperial policies to avoid the mistakes of the Tang, and because of this the Song never matched them in political or military strength.
Only civil officials who had passed the service exams could be governors, and the rulers promoted Confucian thinking. Libraries and schools for teaching Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism were built also. At the start of the 10th century, a confusion scholar tried to correct the defects of the imperial order, but after the Shenzong emperor he had been relying on died in 1085 the neo-Confucians took over once again, causing banditry and rebellion from the people. In 1115 C. E. , the Jurchins from the north overtook the Song territory and claimed it as their own, starting the Qin dynasty.
The Ming dynasty was started in 1368, and it lasted until 1644 C. E. The first emperor, Ming Taizu adopted capitalism, and his form of government was totalitarian. During the first decades the dynasty, the Mongols were driven out of China to the north, while trying to expand the Ming dynasty to the south in Vietnam. This was unsuccessful because the guerrilla resistance forced them back. After a while, Taizu became suspicious of everyone and in 1382, he assembled a secret police that spied, tortured, and killed without trial.
He wouldn’t let women or eunuchs participate in political affairs, and recruited hundreds of eunuchs from the uneducated class, and finally died in 1398. The next ruler was his grandson, Ming Huizong. He ruled from 1399 to 1402 after his grandfather died and was overthrown by his uncle who then became the next emperor. Ming Chengzu ruled for 21 years, from 1403 to 1424. He was the fourth son of Ming Taizu and deposed of his nephew for the throne. It is said that his reign was the most prosperous in the Ming dynasty because he secured the city of Beijing, and made it the capitol city.
He was a forceful leader who re-established order in the affairs of the state and restored the Grand Canal for the transport of grains to the North. During this time, agriculture exceeded the food output and production of the Song and Tang era, and handcrafted works came into style. Some of the commodities sold in the market were silk, alcohol, porcelain, tobacco, crops, vegetables, and fruits. Metropolises such as Nanjing, Yangzhou, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Xian, and Chengdu were established in this era also.
This great dynasty had 16 emperors by the end of its reign in 1644. The rulers in the final years of the Ming dynasty were incompetent. They let their power slip into the hands of the eunuchs, and the bureaucrats occupied large expanses of land that left farmers poor and starving, along with taxes and natural disasters. This eventually led to a revolt in 1627 C. E. that spread throughout the country. The last emperor, Chongzen, hung himself in Beijing as an army was taking over the city.