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Sui, Tang and the Five Dynasties Period 581-880 A.D

  The Horyuji (法隆寺) Temple near Nara (奈良市), Japan: Big Goose Pagoda, In Former Temple Of Great Maternal Grace, Built In Tang Dynasty, Xi'An, China
Under the Tang dynasty, architects designed even fancier Buddhist pagodas, with eight sides. One famous eight-sided stone pagoda is the White Pagoda at Chengde.    
Architecture of the Tang Dynasty

The Tang dynasty (618-907) was an age of social, economic and cultural prosperity in China's feudal society. It was also a time of growth for architecture and the arts. The architecture of this period is grand with integral layouts.

The Tang capital city of Changan (today's Xian) and the east capital Luoyang both have huge palaces, gardens, and government offices with well-organized layouts. Changan was the grandest city of the world at that time, and its layout was also the most formatted of all the ancient Chinese capitals. The Daminggong of the emperor palace in Changan, for instance, was very majestic. Its site occupied an area more than three times that of the Forbidden City of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

The Tang timberwork unified art and structural formation. Dugongs (a system of brackets in Chinese building, wooden square blocks inserted between the top of a column and a crossbeam), pillars and girders combined perfectly for strength and aesthetics. They looked simple, but grand with concise bright colors. The main hall of the Feguangsi Buddhist Temple on the Wutai Mountain in Northern China's Shanxi province is a typical example of this construction.

Brick and stone buildings were also further developed during this time. Most Buddhist Towers were made of these materials, including the Dayanta and Xiaoyanta Tower in Xian, and the Qianlixun Tower in Dali.
Architecture of the Sui, Tang and the Five Dynasties Period (By Wang Guixiang)

Historical Context of the Sui, Tang and the Five Dynasties Period

In 581 A.D, Yang Jian, the father-in-law of Zhou Xuan Di, the last emperor of Northern Zhou had seized the throne from his son-in-law and established the Sui Dynasty. At the beginning of his reign, Sui Wen Di had established the new capital Daxing City. In 589 A.D. Sui eliminated the Southern Chen and unified the whole country. In 604 A.D.,Sui Wen Di was confined to bed and his son Yang Guang patricided the father and usurped the throne. He was Sui Yang Di.

The cost of Sui Yang Di's continued crusades and tours resulted in the deprival of the mass of their last means to live and the great peasant uprising broke out. Liyuan and his sons seized the chance to raise troops and established the Tang Dynasty in 618 A.D. Thus the most glorious and splendid page of ancient China was opened.

The Tang Dynasty could approximately divide into four phases: the first phase is the early Tang dynasty, during which Gao Zu Li Yuan, Tai Zong Li Shiming, Gao Zong Li Zhi and Queen Wu Zetian were in power successively. The second phase refers to the Tianbao and Kaiyuan (both imperial Year title) reign by Xuan Zong Li Longji viz. the High Tang period. In the end of Tianbao, the An-Shi Rebellion broke out and after the rebellion, Fanzhen (the military command prefecture system formed in extermination of the rebellions) rose and the sovereignty of the Tang Dynasty had passed its glorious zenith and entered the middle and late Tang dynasty Period. It was when Zhu Quanzhong established Later Liang in 907 A.D. that the Tang Dynasty ended at last and the Five Dynasties started.

The 327-year lapse from the establishment of the Sui Dynasty to the end of the Tang dynasty was called “the Sui-Tang Period” in history. It was the most glorious and grandiose stage of Chinese history. In this period, the economy had made great leaps, the strength of the empire had reached an unprecedented level and the scientific and cultural causes had also seen considerable advancement.

The Sui-Tang culture, especially the glorious achievement of the Tang culture has been very astonishing in many aspects even in the light of the modern standards. The poems, sculptures, calligraphic arts as well as the religions and religious cultures in full bloom, all had their particularly significant positions.

The powerful Tang Empire conducted trades with the surrounding countries and maintained closer and frequenter communications with them. Many contemporary nations learned from the Tang Empire and followed it as their model and created a cultural ring with the Tang Empire as its center. Japan, the Korean peninsula, Linyi, Zhenla and so on all belong to this ring.

The enforcement of a series of measures accounts for the prosperity of the Tang Dynasty. The establishment of the hereditary mighty clans (Shizu Menfa) which had been rising ever from the Han Dynasty was whittled away in the early Tang Dynasty. Meanwhile the imperial examination system were launched which had opened a way for the landlords of the medium and small sized properties to ascend the upper class. The promotion of the imperial examinations and the restraint on the mighty clans had greatly changed the social orientation and boosted the development of literature, arts and education.

The Tang Dynasty developed the equal-field System and the compliant tax system of Zu Yong Tiao Act (Zu: Rental grains for fields, Yong: textile substitute for exemption of labor per capita [adult able male], Tiao: textile tax for each household). The two-tax system(Liang Shui Fa) and recruited troops system (Mu Bing Zhi) turned out. The realization of the two-tax system was the turning point of the feudal society from the first half to the second half. From then on, the personal dependence of the peasants to the landlords began to slacken and the commercial economy started further development. The social life began to undergo great shifts.

Meanwhile,the scientific and technology of the Sui-Tang Period had also underwent great advancement. For example, the Anji Bridge of prefecture Zhao built by Sui artisan Li Chun has a span of 37 m. It was built in the form of Open Shoulder Arch Stone Bridge (Changjian Gong¹). With rational and scientific pressure distribution and very pretty plastic it has become a typical illustration for the engineering technology of this period and it was also the earliest Big Open Shoulder Arch Stone Bridge.

The city construction and architectural technology of the cities in the Tang dynasty had reached a considerable height.

The war at the end of the Tang Dynasty had ruined Chang’an, and Luoyang had also suffered a lot. The center of the empire began to move from the west to the east. In the following more than 50 years, Liang, Tang, Jin, Han, Zhou, the five dynasties had sited their capitals at Luoyang or Bianliang and thus started the Five Dynasties Period in history. In the Later Zhou period, the north had attained a preliminary stability and unification. The succeeding Northern Song Dynasty finally realized the unification of the central plain and the south.
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