Civilization and Openness
When history stepped into the 7th century,China had become one of the most powerful and prosperous countries in the world.The Tang Dynasty,established in 6l8 and lasting 290 years,boasted 1,573 counties in its heyday.At its largest,Tang territories extended as far north as the Caspian Sea, to the Sea of Japan in the east and to the northern part of Vietnam in the South.The western boundary started from the grasslands of Kyrghyz and stretched along the Altay Mountains far into the Gobi. The Tang capital Chang'an,which was eight times as large as the Eastern Roman Empire's capital Byzantium built in the 5th century, was the largest city in the world then.
In 618 AD,Li Yuan,born of an aristocratic family,and his sons,established the Tang Dynasty.They reunited China and ended the north-south division that lasted for 400 years. The new empire manifested a high degree of civilization and openness right from the start. It set up an imperial examination system for selecting civil and military officials regardless of status. Anyone who was an intellectual or practiced martial arts could take the examination and gain positions to realize his political ambitions if he had performed well in the exams.The government lost no time in revising the laws and promulgating a code incorporating those laws.
In terms of administrative system,the Tang Court set up three principal organs of central government: the Secretariat(Zhongshusheng),the Chancellery(Menxiasheng)and the Department of State Affairs(Shangshusheng).The three departments were responsible for examining,drafting and issuing the emperor's decrees and supervising their implementation.Government affairs were administered by six ministries(Liubu),including the Ministry of Personnel,of Revenue,of Rites, of War,of Justice,and of Works,all of which enhanced the efficiency of central administration.The central government also established prefectures and counties in the local areas and ensured peace and harmony by granting autonomy to neighboring regions inhabited by ethnic groups in compact communities. Meanwhile, the Tang court forged friendly ties with foreign countries and sent envoys and scholars to visit other countries in order to promote economic and cultural contacts with them. The number of countries and regions that established relations with the Tang Empire amounted to over 300. Asian countries had more association with the tang Empire and neighboring Japan had the most frequent contact with it. According to works by Japanese scholars, Japanese people of the time “thirsted for Chinese culture” and “yearn for a life as splendid as that of the Han People.” Coastal countries along the Mediterranean Sea, including Persia, Arabia and ancient Rome, were also on intimate terms with the Tang Dynasty.