In the years between 618 and 1279 CE China had transformed into a sparkling cosmopolitan culture from the effects of its development of new tools/craft techniques that improved its economy along with the rise of Buddhism. However no matter what changed in China, Confucian still had a powerful role in its society influencing moral codes and education while supporting the steadfast patriarchal society. The changes and continuities that occurred in China’s culture and labor system can be traced to social relations, economy, politics, and rebellion in the Tang and Song dynasties.
The first major change that occurred in this time period was the shift from the Sui to the Tang Empire beginning with the rebellion of Lin Yuan who seized Changan and became the first emperor of the new Tang dynasty. Later on Lin Yuan transferred his role to his son, Tang Taizhong, who due to his energy and ambitious policies created an era of unity and prosperity. Another major change was in the growing importance of the examination system in which state officials were educated in Confucian classics in order to improve moral principles and efficiency in government. Also, the bureaucracy established the Ministry of Rites, a series of administrative exams, which encouraged the advancement of education in the Tang/Song empires. Furthermore, as academics advanced so did agricultural production as the equal-field system was established guaranteeing equal distribution of land and evading the concentration of landed property. In addition, China became somewhat of a middle ground between foreign territories as it tried to establish stable and diplomatic relationships with other areas; the Tang Empire institutionalizing distant relationships exchanging culture and trade. Unfortunately the flourishing of the Tang period was interrupted by the incompetence of its empire in 755 CE who neglected the dynasty in favor of earthly pleasures, his poor leadership and rebellion causing the decline of the empire. Soon following Tang’s decline was the beginning of the Song dynasty; an empire focused more on civil administration, industry, education, and art than military. Like its processer the Song dynasty benefited from an economic surge from new productive techniques in agriculture, i.e. fast-ripening rice. Also, Chinese cultivators improved agriculture by adopting new techniques, such as the use of iron plows and artificial irrigation. With increased agricultural production came a rapid expansion in population, also increasing urbanization and economic development. Along with the commercial success the Tang/Song dynasties experienced a Golden Age allowing China to flourish with intellectual sophistication and new inventions: gunpowder, printing, and naval tools. Another change was in Chinese’s faiths where Buddhism had its height of popularity attracting converts with its high standards of mortality, promise of salvation, and link with Daoism. As this new faith was established it also received some negative receptions introducing Buddhist backlash from angry Confucians. Later in the Song dynasty some of this conflict was resolved as Neo-Confucism was created, a fusion of Buddhist themes and Confucism values. All these changes were not contained in one area; the social, economic, and cultural influences of the Tang/Song dynasties spread over East Asia traveling to Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.
While China was shifting into a new state from the numerous changes it was experiencing it still maintained a link with its past culture, these concepts reflecting and influencing the Tang and Song dynasties. One example of continuity was seen in the Tang/Song’s society where China remained a patriarchal world; filial relationships existed between men and women, the women often being the mother/ homemaker depending on the husband, the breadwinner. Double standard remained clear as was seen that women could not have premarital sex, have infidelity, or remarry after the death of their spouses while men took these freedoms without scandal. Another continuity that remained was the belief system where Daoism and Confucian remained two of China’s major religions despite the rise in Buddhism. The influence that Confucism still had on the society was in the Examination system where government officials were trained in Confucian classics in order to teach the importance of moral values and education. Also, Confucian was still the basis of social relationships between men and women as seen in Neo-Confucian where male dominance was stressed. Continuity was also seen in the Tang/ Song’s Golden Age as China enjoyed a time of prosperity, industrial invention, and artistic creativity. Several achievements in academics were shown in the invention of the printing press, naval systems, gunpowder, et cetera, poetry, skillful Confucism painting and writing; it was even seen beyond central China’s boarders as noticed in Heian Japan.
The changes and continuities that took place from the rise of the Tang to the fall of the Song dynasty have allowed China to develop into a culturally rich and unique civilization that spread to other parts of East Asia. Following through the Tang and Song were the inventions of printing, naval equipment, agricultural techniques, etc that established Asia as a central organization that was academically and economically complex. However through its changes much continuity continued to exit from its past dynasty, ex. Confucian, Daoism, and a patriarchal hierarchy. China as a result was established to as a combination of social concepts from and past and presently evolving cultures, i.e. Neo Confucian, a fusion of Buddhism and Confucian. This area of Asia had been influenced from the changes in its religion, economy, education, and politics and turned into a progressive imperial government imprinted by the main concepts of its original society, spreading its influence over East Asia.