Sui dynasty

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Sui

 

581–618
Capital Daxing (581–605), Luoyang (605–614)
Languages Middle Chinese
Religion Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion
Government Monarchy
Emperor
 -  581–604 Emperor Wen
 -  604–617 Emperor Yang
 -  617–618 Emperor Gong
History
 -  Ascension of Yang Jian 4 March 581
 -  Abolished by Li Yuan 23 May 618
Area
 -  612 est. 4,100,000 km² (1,583,019 sq mi)
Population
 -  609 est. est. 46,019,956a[›] 
Currency Chinese coin, Chinese cash
Today part of  China
 Vietnam
Sui dynasty
Chinese
History of China
History of China
ANCIENT
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
 Western Zhou
 Eastern Zhou
   Spring and Autumn
   Warring States
IMPERIAL
Qin dynasty 221–206 BC
Han dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD
  Western Han
  Xin dynasty
  Eastern Han
Three Kingdoms 220–280
  Wei, Shu and Wu
Jin dynasty 265–420
  Western Jin
  Eastern Jin 16 Kingdoms
Southern and Northern Dynasties
420–589
Sui dynasty 581–618
Tang dynasty 618–907
  (Second Zhou 690–705)
5 Dynasties and
10 Kingdoms

907–960
Liao dynasty
907–1125
Song dynasty
960–1279
  Northern Song W. Xia
  Southern Song Jin
Yuan dynasty 1271–1368
Ming dynasty 1368–1644
Qing dynasty 1644–1911
MODERN
Republic of China 1912–1949
People's Republic
of China

1949–present
Republic of
China on Taiwan

1949–present

The Sui dynasty (581–618 AD)[1] 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). Emperors Wen and Yang undertook various centralized reforms including the equal-field system, intended to reduce economic inequality and improve agricultural productivity; the institution of the Three Departments and Six Ministries system; and the standardization and re-unification of the coinage. They also spread and encouraged Buddhism throughout the empire and undertook monumental construction projects including expanding the Great Wall and digging the Grand Canal.[2]

After its costly and disastrous military campaigns against the Korean kingdom of Goguryeo ended in defeat by 614, the dynasty disintegrated under a series of popular revolts culminating in the assassination of Emperor Yang by his ministers in 618. The dynasty's short duration—only thirty seven years—is often attributed to its heavy demands on its subjects, including taxation and the compulsory labor demanded by its ambitious construction projects.

The dynasty is often compared to the earlier Qin dynasty, which also undertook wide-ranging reforms and construction projects yet lasted only a few decades.

History[edit]

Emperor Wen and the founding of Sui[edit]

Sui's China, and Sui divisions under Yangdi (western regions not depicted).
Sui dynasty Bodhisattva, sandstone, Tianlongshan Grottoes, Shanxi, 6th century.

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".[3] 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.[3] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

Emperor Yang and the reconquest of Vietnam[edit]

Main article: Emperor Yang of Sui
A Sui dynasty pilgrim flask made of stoneware.
A Sui dynasty stone statue of the Avalokitesvara Boddhisattva (Guanyin).

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).[3]

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.[3]

Goguryeo-Sui wars[edit]

Main article: Goguryeo-Sui Wars

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 km (250 mi) 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.

Fall[edit]

Chinese swords of the Sui dynasty, about 600, found near Luoyang. The P-shaped furniture of the bottom sword's scabbard is similar to and may have been derived from sword scabbards of the Sarmatians and Sassanians.[6]

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.[7] Men would deliberately break their limbs in order to avoid military conscription, calling the practice "propitious paws" and "fortunate feet."[7] 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.[7]

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 threatened 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.

Culture[edit]

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[edit]

Strolling About in Spring, by Zhan Ziqian, Sui era artist.

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".[3] Ultimately, this act was an imitation of the ancient Mauryan Emperor Ashoka of India.[3]

Poetry[edit]

Yang Guang depicted as Emperor of Sui.
Further information: Six Dynasties poetry and Tang poetry

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.[8] 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[edit]

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
Míngdì (明帝)
Yáng Guǎng (楊廣) 604-618[1] Dàyè (大業) 605-618
Gōngdì (恭帝) Yáng Yòu (楊侑) 617-618[1] Yìníng (義寧) 617-618
Gōngdì (恭帝) Yáng Tóng (楊侗) 618-619[1] Huángtài (皇泰) 618-619

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d 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.
  2. ^ CIHoCn, p.114 : « dug between 605 and 609 by means of enormous levies of conscripted labour ».
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Ebrey, Patricia; Walthall, Ann; Palais, James (2009). East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-547-00534-8. 
  4. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 176.
  5. ^ 'Book of Sui, vol. 1
  6. ^ Metropolitan Museum of Art permanent exhibit notice.
  7. ^ a b c Benn, 2.
  8. ^ *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.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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).

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Southern and Northern Dynasties
Dynasties in Chinese history
581–619
Succeeded by
Tang dynasty