|Capital||Daxing (581–605), Luoyang (605–614）|
|Religion||Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion|
|-||Ascension of Yang Jian||4 March 581|
|-||Abolished by Li Yuan||23 May 618|
|-||612 est.||4,100,000 km² (1,583,019 sq mi)|
|-||609 est.||est. 46,019,956a[›]|
|Currency||Chinese coin, Chinese cash|
|History of China|
|Neolithic c. 8500–c. 2100 BC|
|Xia dynasty c. 2100–c. 1600 BC|
|Shang dynasty c. 1600–c. 1046 BC|
|Zhou dynasty c. 1045–256 BC|
|Spring and Autumn|
|Qin dynasty 221–206 BC|
|Han dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD|
|Three Kingdoms 220–280|
|Wei, Shu and Wu|
|Jin dynasty 265–420|
|Eastern Jin||16 Kingdoms|
|Southern and Northern Dynasties
|Sui dynasty 581–618|
|Tang dynasty 618–907|
|(Second Zhou 690–705)|
|5 Dynasties and
|Northern Song||W. Xia|
|Yuan dynasty 1271–1368|
|Ming dynasty 1368–1644|
|Qing dynasty 1644–1911|
|Republic of China 1912–1949|
The Sui dynasty (581–618 AD) was a short-lived Imperial Chinese dynasty. Preceded by the Southern and Northern Dynasties, it unified China for the first time after over a century of north-south division. It was followed by the Tang dynasty.
Founded by Emperor Wen of Sui, the Sui dynasty capital was Chang'an (which was renamed Daxing, 581–605) and the later at Luoyang (605–614). His reign saw the reunification of Southern and Northern China and the construction of the Grand Canal. Emperors Wen and Yang undertook various reforms including the Equal-field system, which was initiated to reduce the rich-poor social gap that resulted in enhanced agricultural productivity, as well as government centralisation and reforms, creating a new model of governance after centuries of division. The Three Departments and Six Ministries system was officially instituted, coinage was standardized and re-unified, defense was improved and the Great Wall expanded. Buddhism was also spread and encouraged throughout the empire, uniting the varied peoples and cultures of China.
This dynasty has often been compared to the earlier Qin dynasty in tenor and in the ruthlessness of its accomplishments. The 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 by 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. Weakened by costly and disastrous military campaigns against Goguryeo (in modern day Korea) which ended with the defeat of Sui in the early seventh century, the dynasty disintegrated through a combination of popular revolts, disloyalty, and the assassination of Emperor Yang.
Emperor Wen and the founding of Sui
Northern Zhou's defeat of Northern Qi in 577 AD was the culminating moment in the struggle between north and south China. The southern dynasties had lost hope in conquering the north, and the situation of conquest from north-to-south was only delayed in 523 with civil war.
The Sui dynasty began when Emperor Wen's daughter became the Empress Dowager of Northern Zhou, with her stepson as the new emperor. After crushing an army in the eastern provinces as the prime minister of Zhou, Emperor Wen took the throne by force and proclaimed himself emperor. In a bloody purge, he had fifty-nine princes of the Zhou royal family eliminated, yet nevertheless became known as the "Cultured Emperor". Emperor Wen abolished the anti-Han policies of Zhou and reclaimed his Han surname of Yang. Having won the support of Confucian scholars who held power in previous Han dynasties (abandoning the nepotism and corruption of the nine-rank system), Emperor Wen initiated a series of reforms aimed at strengthening his empire for the wars that would reunify China.
In his campaign for southern conquest, Emperor Wen assembled thousands of boats to confront the naval forces of the Chen dynasty on the Yangtze River. The largest of these ships were very tall, having five layered decks and the capacity for 800 non-crew personnel. They were outfitted with six 50-foot-long booms that were used to swing and damage enemy ships, or to pin them down so that Sui marine troops could use act-and-board techniques. Besides employing Xianbei and other Chinese ethnic groups for the fight against Chen, Emperor Wen also employed the service of people from southeastern Sichuan, which Sui had recently conquered.
In 588, the Sui had amassed 518,000 troops along the northern bank of the Yangtze River, stretching from Sichuan to the East China Sea. The Chen dynasty could not withstand such an assault. By 589, Sui troops entered Jiankang (Nanjing) and the last emperor of Chen surrendered. The city was razed to the ground, while Sui troops escorted Chen nobles back north, where the northern aristocrats became fascinated with everything the south had to provide culturally and intellectually.
Although Emperor Wen was famous for bankrupting the state treasury with warfare and construction projects, he made many improvements to infrastructure during his early reign. He established granaries as sources of food and as a means to regulate market prices from the taxation of crops, much like the earlier Han dynasty.
The Sui Emperors were from the northwest military aristocracy, and emphasized that their patrilineal ancestry was ethnic Han, claiming descent from the Han official Yang Zhen.
Emperor Yang and the reconquest of Vietnam
Emperor Yang of Sui (569–618) ascended the throne after his father's death, possibly by murder. He further extended the empire, but unlike his father, did not seek to gain support from the nomads. Instead, he restored Confucian education and the Confucian examination system for bureaucrats. By supporting educational reforms, he lost the support of the nomads. He also started many expensive construction projects such as the Grand Canal of China, and became embroiled in several costly wars. Between these policies, invasions into China from Turkic nomads, and his growing life of decadent luxury at the expense of the peasantry, he lost public support and was eventually assassinated by his own ministers.
Both Emperors Wen and Yang sent military expeditions into Vietnam as Annam in northern Vietnam had been incorporated into the Chinese empire over 600 years earlier during the Han dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD). However the Kingdom of Champa in central Vietnam became a major counterpart to Chinese invasions to its north. According to Ebrey, Walthall, and Palais, these invasions became known as the Linyi-Champa Campaign (602–605).
The Hanoi area formerly held by the Han and Jin dynasties was easily recovered from the local ruler in 602. A few years later the Sui army pushed farther south and was attacked by troops on war elephants from Champa in southern Vietnam. The Sui army feigned retreat and dug pits to trap the elephants, lured the Champan troops to attack then used crossbows against the elephants causing them to turn around and trample their own soldiers. Although Sui troops were victorious many succumbed to disease as northern soldiers did not have immunity to tropical diseases such as malaria.
The biggest factor that led to the downfall of Sui dynasty was a series of massive expeditions into the Korean Peninsula to invade Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Emperor Yang conscripted many soldiers for the campaign. This army was so enormous it recorded in historical texts that it took 30 days for all the armies to exit their last rallying point near Shanhaiguan before invading Korea. In one instance the soldiers—both conscripted and paid—listed over 3000 warships, up to 1.15 million infantry, 50,000 cavalry, 5000 artillery, and more. There were as many supporting laborers and an exorbitant military budget that included mounds of equipment and rations (most of which never reached the Chinese vanguard, as they were captured by Goguryeo armies already). The army stretched to 1000 li or about 410 kilometers across rivers and valleys, over mountains and hills.
In all four main campaigns, the military conquest ended in failure. Many Sui soldiers were defeated by the prominent army leader Eulji Mundeok of Goguryeo - in prominent battles such as The Battle of Salsu River. According to the Old Book of Tang, of the 305,000 Chinese troops, only 2,700 returned to China (although the Tang was known to have exaggerated the failures of their predecessors to justify their own rule).
One of the major work projects undertaken by the Sui was construction activities along the Great Wall of China; but this, along with other large projects, strained the economy and angered the resentful workforce employed. During the last few years of the Sui dynasty, the rebellion that rose against it took many of China's able-bodied men from rural farms and other occupations, which in turn damaged the agricultural base and the economy further. Men would deliberately break their limbs in order to avoid military conscription, calling the practice "propitious paws" and "fortunate feet." Later, after the fall of Sui, in the year 642, Emperor Taizong of Tang made an effort to eradicate this practice by issuing a decree of a stiffer punishment for those who were found to deliberately injure and heal themselves.
Although the Sui dynasty was relatively short (581-618 AD), much was accomplished during its tenure. The Grand Canal was one of the main accomplishments. It was extended north from the Hangzhou region across the Yangzi to Yangzhou and then northwest to the region of Luoyang. Again, like the Great Wall works, the massive conscription of labor and allocation of resources for the Grand Canal project resulted in challenges for Sui dynastic continuity. The eventual fall of the Sui dynasty was also due to the many losses in Southern Manchuria and North Korea military campaigns. It was after these defeats and losses that the country was left in ruins and rebels soon took control of the government. Emperor Yang was assassinated in 618. He had gone South after the capital being threaten by various rebel groups and was killed by his advisors (Yuwen Clan). Meanwhile, in the North, the aristocrat Li Yuan (李淵) held an uprising after which he ended up ascending the throne to become Emperor Gaozu of Tang. This was the start of the Tang dynasty, one of the most-noted dynasties in Chinese history.
Although the Sui dynasty was relatively short-lived, in terms of culture, it represents a transition from the preceding ages, and many cultural developments which can be seen to be incipient during the Sui dynasty later were expanded and consolidated during the ensuing Tang dynasty, and later ages. This includes not only the major public works initiated, such as the Great Wall and the Great Canal, but also the political system developed by Sui, which was adopted by Tang with little initial change other than at the top of the political hierarchy. Other cultural developments of the Sui dynasty included religion and literature, particular examples being Buddhism and poetry.
Buddhism was popular during the Six Dynasties period that preceded the Sui dynasty, spreading from India through Kushan Afghanistan into China during the Late Han period. Buddhism gained prominence during the period when central political control was limited. Buddhism created a unifying cultural force that uplifted the people out of war and into the Sui dynasty. In many ways, Buddhism was responsible for the rebirth of culture in China under the Sui dynasty.
Emperor Wen and his empress had converted to Buddhism to legitimize imperial authority over China and the conquest of Chen. The emperor presented himself as a Cakravartin king, a Buddhist monarch who would use military force to defend the Buddhist faith. In the year 601 AD, Emperor Wen had relics of the Buddha distributed to temples throughout China, with edicts that expressed his goals, "all the people within the Four Seas may, without exception, develop enlightenment and together cultivate fortunate karma, bringing it to pass that present existences will lead to happy future lives, that the sustained creation of good causation will carry us one and all up to wondrous enlightenment". Ultimately, this act was an imitation of the ancient Mauryan Emperor Ashoka of India.
Although poetry continued to be written, and certain poets rose in prominence while others disappeared from the landscape, the brief Sui dynasty, in terms of the development of Chinese poetry, lacks distinction, though it nonetheless represents a continuity between the Six Dynasties and the poetry of Tang. Sui dynasty poets include Yang Guang (580-618), who was the last Sui emperor (and a sort of poetry critic); and also, the Lady Hou, one of his consorts.
Rulers of the Sui dynasty
|Posthumous Name (Shi Hao 諡號)
Convention: "Sui" + name
|Birth Name||Period of Reign||Era Names (Nian Hao 年號) and their according range of years|
|Wéndì (文帝)||Yáng Jiān (楊堅)||581-604||Kāihuáng (開皇) 581-600
Rénshòu (仁壽) 601-604
|Yángdì (煬帝) or
|Yáng Guǎng (楊廣)||604-618||Dàyè (大業) 605-618|
|Gōngdì (恭帝)||Yáng Yòu (楊侑)||617-618||Yìníng (義寧) 617-618|
|Gōngdì (恭帝)||Yáng Tóng (楊侗)||618-619||Huángtài (皇泰) 618-619|
- Chinese sovereign
- Extreme weather events of 535–536
- Grand Canal of China
- History of China
- List of tributaries of Imperial China
- List of ancient Chinese
- In 617, the rebel general Li Yuan (the later Emperor Gaozu of Tang) declared Emperor Yang's grandson Yang You emperor (as Emperor Gong) and "honored" Emperor Yang as Taishang Huang (retired emperor) at the western capital Daxing (Chang'an), but only the commanderies under Li's control recognized this change; for the other commanderies under Sui control, Emperor Yang was still regarded as emperor, not as retired emperor. After news of Emperor Yang's death in 618 reached Daxing and the eastern capital Luoyang, Li Yuan deposed Emperor Gong and took the throne himself, establishing the Tang dynasty, but the Sui officials at Luoyang declared Emperor Gong's brother Yang Tong (later also known as Emperor Gong during the brief reign of Wang Shichong over the region as the emperor of a brief Zheng (鄭) state) emperor. Meanwhile, Yuwen Huaji, the general under whose leadership the plot to kill Emperor Yang was carried out, declared Emperor Wen's grandson Yang Hao emperor but killed Yang Hao later in 618 and declared himself emperor of a brief Xu (許) state. As Yang Hao was completely under Yuwen's control and only "reigned" briefly, he is not usually regarded as a legitimate emperor of Sui, while Yang Tong's legitimacy is more recognized by historians but still disputed.
- CIHoCn, p.114 : « dug between 605 and 609 by means of enormous levies of conscripted labour ».
- Ebrey, Patricia; Walthall, Ann; Palais, James (2009). East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-547-00534-8.
- Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 176.
- 'Book of Sui, vol. 1
- Metropolitan Museum of Art permanent exhibit notice.
- Benn, 2.
- *Watson, Burton (1971). CHINESE LYRICISM: Shih Poetry from the Second to the Twelfth Century. (New York: Columbia University Press). ISBN 0-231-03464-4, p. 109.
- Bingham, Woodbridge. 1941. The Founding of the T'ang The Sui dynasty: The Unification of China. A.D. 581-617. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. ISBN 0-394-49187-4 ; 0-394-32332-7 (pbk).
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Southern and Northern Dynasties
|Dynasties in Chinese history