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The World of the Heavenly Khan. Neighbors. Map of the Tang in 748 AD. Unlike China’s neighbors during the Northern and Southern Dynasties, new neighbors were states that patterned major elements of their governments on China Even Tibet borrowed major political features from China. Neighbors.

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The World of

the Heavenly Khan


Map of the Tang in 748 AD


Unlike China’s neighbors during the Northern and Southern Dynasties, new neighbors were states that patterned major elements of their governments on China

  • Even Tibet borrowed major political features from China
  • Northwest: Turks
  • North: Uighurs
    • Allied with Tang, 756-757
    • Sacked Luoyang in 762
    • Captured Chang’an in 765
    • Allied with Tang again in 784
    • Tang depended on it for more than half a century

West: Tibet

    • Rose after 640s and became a major military power after 650s
    • In 641, Emperor Taizong married Wencheng Princess off to the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo
    • Began to encroach on Central Asia and, from 670, into the western edges of China
    • Between 670 and 680, took several key strategic citadels around the Tarim Basin

In 695, defeated a large Chinese army to the west of Chang’an

  • In 763, occupied modern Qinghai and Gansu, pushed into Shannxi and pillaged Chang’an
    • Between 637 and 753, Tang sent more than fifty diplomatic missions to northern India in search of both trade and allies against Tibet
  • in 765, captured Chang’an again (with Uighurs)

In 783, Tang recognized Tibet’s conquests of the west of China

  • In 790, Tibet defeated the combined Tang and Uighur forces, occupied northwestern China, and ended China’s control of this area for almost a millennium
  • In 821, Tang and Tibet signed a treaty that recognized the current boundaries and that defined relations between “two fully sovereign states”

Southwest: Nanzhao

    • Became militarily strong after 650s
    • Played Tang China against Tibet
    • In829invadedSichuanandreachedtheoutskirtofthecapital,Chengdu
    • In859,attackedtheAnnanprotectorate-generalrepeatedlyandtookcontrolofJiaozhi(Hanoi)until863.

Bureaucracy and examination system patterned on the Tang, some customs incorporated elements of Tibetan practice

    • Converted to Buddhism, adopted Chinese writing system
  • Northeast: Khitans
    • Occupied northeastern China (Hebei) in 690s.
    • Threatened Tang after rising again before 756
    • Remained a threat to China until Northern Song.
outer world
Outer World
  • Southeast: Vietnam
    • Jiaozhou declared independent in 541
    • Taken by the Sui but became independent again after the Sui fell in 617
    • The Tang reconquered most of modern Vietnam
    • In 679, became one of Tang’s “protectorates”
    • Through out most of the Tang, Jiaozhou remained an orderly region

Its capital, Jiaozhi (Hanoi), lost its role in international trade to Panyu (番禺 pān yú, modern Guanzhou) of the Tang

      • PersianandArabmerchantsstoppedatJiaozhiearlier
      • NowwentdirectlytoPanyu
  • In 938, Ngo Quyen (Wu Quan 吳權),establishedanindependentstatethateventuallybecameVietnam
  • ContinuedtoemployTangscript,weights,measures,andcoinage.ConfucianismandBuddhismcontinuedtoflourish.


    • ThreekingdomsduringtheTang:Koguryo,Silla,andPaekche
    • TheSuipaidapricetolaunchunsuccessfulcampaignsagainstthem
    • AllthreesenttributetotheTang
    • RecognizedasindependentstatesbyTangin622


  • In645,647,and648,TaizongledexpeditionsagainstKoguryotoavengedeathofitsprincewhohadstudiedinChang’anandwaskilledandmutilatedbyhisminister after returning to Koguryo;theseexpeditionswereunsuccessful


  • In688,TangoccupiedKoguryo.
  • In670s,SillaunitedmostofKorea,whichremained anominalTangvassalinstitutionallymodeledontheTang.


  • DominatedmaritimetradewithChinainthenortheast
east japan
  • Japan began to send embassy to China in the beginning of the 7th century; 4 times during the Sui
    • Prince Shōtoku dispatched this official embassy in 607. Dozens of Buddhist monks came along with this mission
Startedfrom630 AD,100 to 650 officials, students, and monks joined each mission.
  • Studied Chinese political and rituals systems, school and the civil service examination systems, calendar, law, customs, arts, writing system, calligraphy, painting, sculpture, music, dance…

Prince Shotoku (16 years old), Kamakura Period, 14th Century

Kentōshi(QianTangshi 遣唐使): official embassy sent to China 12 times (plus 7 failing missions) during the Tang

Prince Shōtoku’s “Seventeen Article Constitution” (604) begins with a quotation from the Confucian Analects, which says “Harmony is to be valued”


Famous monks included Gembō, Kukai, Saichō, Ennin, Enchin
    • Buddhism spread in Japan and the Tiantai (Jpn. Tendai) School of Buddhism became the most prominent school.

In649,theJapanesecourtlaunchedaseriesofmajorpoliticalreformstoestablishacentralizedmonarchymodeledontheTangsystem(TaikaReform, 大化の改新,TaikanoKaishin)

    • Legalcode,militarysystem,landholdingpatterns,taxation,Chinesewritingandelementsofelitecultureincludingcostume,poetry,music,painting,calligraphy,Confucianism,Buddhism...
    • Othersincludedcustoms,foodstuff,agriculturaltools,architecture,imagemaking…
foreigners in tang china
Foreigners in Tang China
  • Three keys to the vitality of the Tang
    • Eclecticism
    • Cosmopolitanism
    • internationalization
  • Foreigners according to their social status:
    • Envoys, merchants, performers, soldiers, clerics
Foreigners according to their origins:
    • East: Koreans, Japanese
    • West: Arabs, Persians, Sogdians, Central Asians
    • North: Turks, Uighurs,
    • Southwest: Tibetans
    • Southeast: Vietnamese
  • Religions came with them:
    • West: Islam, Judaism, Manichaeanism, Nestorian Christianity,
    • India, Central Asia and Tibet: Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism (Vajrayana Buddhism)
Goods they brought to the Tang:
    • West: silvers, jewels, musical instruments, textiles
    • Southeast: rice, spices, rhinoceros horns, elephants tusks, pearls
  • Other things:
    • wild animals, furs, feathers, rare plants, tropical wood, exotic foods, perfumes, drugs, textiles, dyes, jewels, metals, diverse curios (sacred and secular), books, maps…
  • People they brought:
    • Slaves, dwarves, entertainers, mercenary soldiers
Foreigners and their cultures:
    • Indians and Central Asians—Buddhism, camels, music, astronomy, astrology, mathematics,
    • Tibetans—Tantric Buddhism
    • Turkish—language and clothes, horses, Islam
Foreign traders in China
    • Uighurs dominated the money-lending profession in Chang’an
    • Sogdians ran wine ships
    • Central Asians provided female entertainers, music and dance
  • Examples of artifacts unearthed in China

Probably from Central Asia

Unearthed, 1987

Famen Temple

Probably from

Byzantine Empire,

3rd-5th C or East

of the Mediterranean

Sea, 8th-9th C

Unearthed 1987, Famen


Gold Coin,

Justin II

AD 565-578

East Roman Empire

Unearthed, 1988

Xianyang Airport

Construction site


Bronze Vase

Origin unclear

Unearthed 1985,

Shanxi, Qingshan

Temple site