Confucianism, the Literati, and Chinese Imperial Traditions

History and Sources

How was the Tang Dynasty important in the history of Confucianism/CIT?

The Tang (617-907 C.E.) was the sixth-to-last Chinese dynasty. It is well known because the period saw great achievements in government and business as well as in letters and the arts. Considered a golden age of Chinese civilization, the Tang was also an age of great expansion. At its height, the empire stretched from Turkmenistan in the west to Korea (which was a vassal state) in the east, and from Manchuria to northern India. One historian called the Tang “the consummate Chinese dynasty … formidable, influential, and innovative.” One of the Tang’s innovations was the balance of administrative power. Government was separated into three main branches: the Imperial Secretariat (which organized the emperor’s directives into policies), the Imperial Chancellery (which reviewed the policies and monitored the bureaucracy), and the Department of States and Affairs (which carried out the policies through the administration of six ministries). One of the most forward-thinking developments of the Tang dynasty was the growth of a civil service. Candidates for public service were trained in the Confucian principles before they took an examination that would qualify them for official duty.


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