In 581 A.D, China was reunified by the short-lived Sui dynasty, which lasted 37 years until 618 A.D., when Yang Guang, the successor of Emperor Sui Wen Di, was hanged. Sui dynasty’s early demise was attributed to the government’s tyrannical demands on the people, who bore the crushing burden of taxes and compulsory labor. These resources were overstrained in the completion of the Grand Canal (a monumental engineering feat) and in the undertaking of other construction projects, including the reconstruction of the Great Wall. Yang Jian, the founder of the dynasty, made some contributions to abolish cruel penalties and establish new ways to select court officials.
From its establishment in 618 to its downfall in 907, the Tang Dynasty lasted 289 years and remains as the most prosperous dynasty in Chinese history. The Tang can be divided into two periods: the early period and the late period, with the eight-year An Lushan-Shi Siming Rebellion as its turning point. The early period was a Golden Age, while the latter was a period of decline. After Emperor Gaozu established the Tang Dynasty, Li Shimin and Emperor Taizong, finally collectively unified China in 10 years. During his reign, Emperor Taizong invested all of his efforts in consolidating his regime. The period was known as Zhen Guan Zhi Zhi (the reigning years of Zhen Guan) and was the world leader in politics, economy and culture. The golden age a peaceful period called Kai Yuan Sheng Shi (the flourishing age of Kaiyuan), continued until the reign of Emperor Xuanzong. In the late years of Emperor Xuanzong’s reign, the An Lushan-Shi Simin Rebellion seriously hurt the Tang Empire, marking its decline.
During the Sui and Tang Dynasty, institutions and regulations were largely established in fields such as taxation and national examination for official selection. Furthermore, it inserted great influence over following dynasties. The governments assumed an open policy in diplomacy. Cultural and economic exchanges with other countries were frequent. Tang poetry was he most remarkable in Chinese history. Great poets like Chen Ziang, Libai, Du Fu, Bai Juyi, Yuan Zhen, Li Shangyin and Du Mu appeared and led the trend. Han Yu and Liu Zongyuan advocated a movement in reviving ancient prose and largely influenced the literature style thereafter. The handwritings of Yan Zhenqing, paintings of Yan Liben, Wu Daozi, Li Sixun, Wang Wei, not to mention the magnificent court dance of “Rainbow and Feather Garments Dance” and famous grotto art all belonged to this period and were passed on to the later ages.
The late-Tang period fell into a political turmoil, with strife between the Niu Faction and Li Faction and eunuch monopoly. Continuous peasant uprisings culminated in Huang Chao’s uprising where Commander Zhu Wen turned his back on Huang and joined the Tang side. Later, Zhu deposed the Tang emperor and proclaimed himself emperor of the later Liang Dynasty, which ushered in the period of the Five Dynasties and Ten States.