China's Golden Age (618-1279)
Standards: 7.3.1
Standards: 7.3.6
Historical Interpretation 2
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The Tang and Song Dynasties

Key Terms and People

Tang Taizong: a military leader who founded the Tang Dynasty

bureaucracy: a government with many departments and bureaus, all headed by appointed officials

Empress Wu: the only woman emperor in Chinese history

Li Bo: one of China's greatest writers (poet)

scholar-official: highly educated civil servants who entered government only after passing special examinations

merit system: a process for hiring and promoting people based on talent and skills, rather than on wealth or social status.

urbanization: the growth of cities


Section Notes

The Splendor of the Tang

  • After the Tang Dynasty unified China, their capital city became a rich center for trade and the arts flourished. The Tang ruled for nearly 300 years. Armies led by Taizong reunited, and brought stable government back to China. Another strong ruler, Empress Wu, was the only woman emperor in Chinese history. The Tang established their capital in Chang'an, the population was about 2 million, it was the largest city in the world. Chang'an was a site designed to impress visitors with the power and magnificence of the Tang government. People from all over Asia came to trade there. The Tang era was a golden age for Chinese art and literature. Popular forms of art and literature included fine paintings, ceramic pieces, Buddhist temples, statues, and poetry (Li Bo).

The Song the Era of Good Government

  • Eventually, the Tang dynasty collapsed and the Song Dynasty ruled China. The song Dynasty ruled China for more than 300 years, from 960-1279. The Song period was an era of good government. China's bureaucracy was run by a class of scholar-officials. Scholar officials who performed well moved up in the government bureaucracy. Over time, the scholar-official class became the highest ranking group in Chinese society. Good government lead to economic growth under the Song. By 1100, song China had several cities with a population of one million or more. Hangzhou, became the new capital city in 1127 it was located south of the Chang River.


Summary: Under the Tang Dynasty, China enjoyed political unity, strong government, and flourishing of the arts. The later song Dynasty, centered in southern China, relied on skilled civil servants.

Study Guide Questions

How did the capital at Chang'an reflect Tang power and success?

In what way was the Song era a period of good government?

Described three Tang achievements in architecture and the arts.

What might be the connection between the Tang bureaucracy and progress in arts?

Who ran the Song government?

How were the people who ran the Song government selected.

How did the Song bureaucracy increase the emperor's power?

Practice Test

Homework: Choose one
  1. Workbook Chapter 10, section 1 (Page 121)
  2. Answer three of the study guide questions using complete sentences.
  3. Draw a picture of something important from this section and summarize this section of the text (three sentences minimum).