Read China's Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty by Mark Edward Lewis Online


The Tang dynasty is often called China's "golden age," a period of commercial, religious, and cultural connections from Korea and Japan to the Persian Gulf, and a time of unsurpassed literary creativity. Mark Lewis captures a dynamic era in which the empire reached its greatest geographical extent under Chinese rule, painting and ceramic arts flourished, women played a majThe Tang dynasty is often called China's "golden age," a period of commercial, religious, and cultural connections from Korea and Japan to the Persian Gulf, and a time of unsurpassed literary creativity. Mark Lewis captures a dynamic era in which the empire reached its greatest geographical extent under Chinese rule, painting and ceramic arts flourished, women played a major role both as rulers and in the economy, and China produced its finest lyric poets in Wang Wei, Li Bo, and Du Fu.The Chinese engaged in extensive trade on sea and land. Merchants from Inner Asia settled in the capital, while Chinese entrepreneurs set off for the wider world, the beginning of a global diaspora. The emergence of an economically and culturally dominant south that was controlled from a northern capital set a pattern for the rest of Chinese imperial history. Poems celebrated the glories of the capital, meditated on individual loneliness in its midst, and described heroic young men and beautiful women who filled city streets and bars.Despite the romantic aura attached to the Tang, it was not a time of unending peace. In 756, General An Lushan led a revolt that shook the country to its core, weakening the government to such a degree that by the early tenth century, regional warlordism gripped many areas, heralding the decline of the Great Tang....

Title : China's Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty
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ISBN : 9780674033061
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 356 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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China's Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty Reviews

  • Hadrian
    2019-05-09 17:34

    The Tang Dynasty, which began in 618 and ended in 907, is thought of as one of the great high points in Chinese history. This volume's title, 'cosmopolitan empire', alludes to the coexistence of multiple religions, ethnicities, and customs. The Tang Dynasty is famous for its architecture, poetry, literature, scientific advancements, and even a comparatively good status for women.Like he did in the previous two volumes in the series, Lewis gives only a brief overview of political events, and the rest of the book is organized in thematic chapters. There are some emperors who are held up as examples of efficiency and virtue, like Taizong and Xuanzong, and even the only female emperor in Chinese history, Wu Zetian. She was brutal in her seizure of power, but also an efficient and capable ruler.The government held on to many aspects of Confucian ritual, but the people grew to accept parts of Taoism, and Buddhism - the latter was once perceived as a foreign religion. These religions grew to interact with each other, and Buddhism in particular played a major role in the development of Confucianism for centuries afterwards. The Tang dynasty was also a period of economic transformation. The area south of the Yangtse River grew in population, and led to the development of large-scale rice cultivation, instead of the grains which grew more easily in the North China Plain. Cities grew in both number and size, leading to the development of a more advanced market economy which could sustain large-scale building projects, like the Grand Canal. Woodblock printing eased the spread of books. The state no longer attempted to control all aspects of economic activity, a shift away from the almost totalitarian ambitions which started in the Qin Dynasty. Speaking of ambitions, China saw a change in perspective in foreign policy. It was in the center of all of its neighbors, but it did not desire to conquer them all. The Chinese had an interest in conquering territory to the West, but in the east, the Korean kingdom of Silla put up so stubborn a resistance that it was not conquered entirely. Life in the Tang was not all peonies, poetry, and polo. The later decades of the empire were marked with political instability and massive rebellions. The empire had to deal with local rebellions, ethnic tensions, and the An Lushan rebellion which broke its back in the 8th century. However, Lewis holds a positive view of the Empire, as a transformational era where China shed its old institutions and began to hold a greater degree of influence on the world at large. But even if the empire collapses, other things live on. A recurring theme of these volumes (to say nothing of other volumes of Chinese history) is that China is not a massive unchanging entity. It has gone through periods of decline and rebirth, and this is one of the most luminous and compelling periods of study.

  • Mary Catelli
    2019-05-10 09:58

    From the geographical shifts of population and importance, the succession of emperors, the revisions of the legal code, the urban life, with its main roads forbidden to most by night, the beginning of the examination system (which might win you a prestigious marriage instead of a post), the importance of tribute bearers in their native costume to show how far its power reached, how Buddhism was still treated as foreign, the Buddha being denounced as mere ghost or ancestor, to honor only his own family, and accusations against foreign monks going so far to claim they were animals in disguise (one, it was declared, was revealed to be a camel), women who became Daoist or Buddhist nuns to escape marriage and more.Arranged by theme.

  • Laura
    2019-04-29 09:54

    Well, it took me almost a year to read this book start to finish, and although I learned a great deal from it, I feel that this book held too much information and did not explain it very well. Often times it was boring and dull, which made the words swim and the mind grow weary. Although I enjoy reading about this era, I found it difficult to really grasp the information being presented to me. It was definitely cut into appropriate sections, they still seemed disjointed. Also this book primarily focuses on the imperial and elite lives, and often overlooks the common man, or lumps that social class into one large group, when it was extremely diverse. Again, this could be just from the amount of textual evidence left, but it was frustrating that this group of people seemed to be left behind in this book.

  • Ryan Campbell
    2019-05-23 13:41

    A well written introduction to the Tang Dynasty. I really enjoyed Lewis’ overview of the period and how transformative it really was. I will certainly read the rest of the series.

  • Jonathan
    2019-05-09 16:43

    618-907 CE was the span of the Tang dynasty, and this era is considered by many Chinese as a sort of golden age, not least in the quality of its poetry and other literary accomplishments, but also in the geographic expansion of China to its greatest extent for almost a millennium. The Tang was also an era of expanding urbanization, of the growth and expansion of the Chinese empire south of the Yangtze, and of increased trade and cultural contacts between China and the outer world. In this the third volume of the series on the history of Imperial China, Professor Lewis delves into the various aspects of daily life, culture and the economics of this dynamic period in Chinese history. And in a very readable fashion. Certainly worth reading by anyone with an interest in "medieval' China.

  • Christopher
    2019-05-02 12:34

    Mark Edward Lewis has competently written a well-researched overview of the Tang Dynasty in China. Each Chinese dynasty is interesting and worthy of further study in their own right, but I remember particularly enjoying lessons on the Tang dynasty when I was in high school. There is an extensive list of Chinese and non-Chinese sources that the author draws from as he breaks down certain elements of the times into specific chapters (ex., religion, rural society, etc.). I enjoyed the sections on urban life, foreign relations, and the role of women in society the most.

  • Tom
    2019-05-13 11:29

    A good, solid historical overview of the Tang Dynasty, which at the time was the most populous and power empire on earth. Particularly impressive is Lewis's first chapter, which incorporates much recent research on environmental history. The chapter on writing relies too heavily on Stephen Owen's four volumes on Tang literary history, but in doing so, Lewis is merely reflecting the trends of English-language scholarship. Recommended for anyone interested in world history.

  • Julian Haigh
    2019-05-14 11:52

    I jumped right into Chinese history and this book was a bit dry for such an endeavour. The book is excellent at detailing many different facets and essential developments through the course of history with whole chapters devoted to religion, writing, rural and urban society. One fact I found most fun: in 765 a buddhist Tibetan army ransacked Chang'an, the capital of the Tang Empire, facilitating its downfall.

  • AskHistorians
    2019-05-16 17:44

    Divided between sections on history, geography, the economy, society, and culture, this book is comprehensive without being overloaded--whether your interests are agriculture, the status of women, or the nature of the poet in society you will find information here. It also does well at torpedoing national mythology.

  • Dangermousie
    2019-04-30 15:56

    I am very much in love with the series of books on various Chinese Dynasties (I've only read this and Qin/Han so far, but plan to get to the rest).I found it entertaining, encompassing, and accessible to a non-specialist without being written 'down' to its audience (disclaimer - I was a history major in college but do not work in the field). Very worth a read.

  • tinebeest
    2019-05-17 15:30

    Read this for the graduate seminar I taught, we had a good discussion about what would be a good history book (or use of this book) for teaching grads and undergrads. Quick read, but we settled on the idea of assigning single chapters would be the best way to use this as teaching material.

  • Ayu
    2019-05-12 14:43

    I didn't know anything about the Tang Dynasty, so this book served as an introduction to me. All the names frankly went over my head, but I like that I now have a sense of what life was like during the Tang Dynasty.

  • Margaret Sankey
    2019-04-29 14:50

    Well-written assessment of the T'ang Dynasty, notable for an even-handed reconstruction of the reign of Empress Wu, demonized by later Confucian and Neo-Confucian scholars as a usurping female ruler.