The Sui Dynasty

2017-04-28 11:55:07 , Source : The Government Website of Shaanxi Province

Unlike most founding emperors in Chinese history, Emperor Wendi (namely Yang Jian) founded the Sui Dynasty without blood shedding because Emperor Xuandi of the Northern Zhou Dynasty proclaimed to abdicate his throne to Yang Jian in 581AD. Thus the Sui Dynasty was established. Since then, people of the Han nationality and the Confucianism resumed their domination role. At that time, people had a strong desire for reunification after years of war and chaos. The Han nationality in the north of China showed strong momentum and morale after integrating with other ethnic groups in the vast northern region. In 598AD, based in Shaanxi, Emperor Wendi of the Sui Dynasty sent troops to the south of China and overthrew the Chen Dynasty. He reunified China after 400 years of split since the last days of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Among the great achievements made by Emperor Wendi, the extinction of the Chen Dynasty and the reunification of China are the most outstanding ones. The unification of China created favorable conditions for social and economic development as well as cultural exchange between the south and the north. Moreover, after the founding of the Sui Dynasty, Emperor Wendi carried out several reforms and innovations in the area of policy-making, economy, culture and military in a top-down manner, which made the Sui Dynasty a powerful and prosperous country with solid regime, stable society, plentiful resources, powerful army and advanced weapons. As the reign title of Emperor Wendi is “Kaihuang” and he made a great success in governing China, people at that time called his reign as “the Reign of Kaihuang” in comparison with another prosperous period “the Reign of Zhenguan” of the Tang Dynasty.

Though the Sui Dynasty is an ephemeral dynasty, it had a far-reaching influence on the following dynasties. First, the emperor of the Sui Dynasty reformed the mechanism of the central government. The system of Three Top Instructors, Three Councilors of States and Nine Ministers were abolished after a long period of practice. The Three Departments and Six Ministries System was established. In this way, the state power was centralized. Three Departments, the top administration organs refer to the Secretariat, the Chancellery (also translated as “Edict Examination Bureau”) and the Department of State Affairs. The Department of State Affairs had six subordinate institutions, like the institutions for human resource, revenue, rites, national defense, justice and construction. The officials in charge of the three departments contained each other, so that the emperor could easily coordinate their work. This kind of bureaucratic apparatus was also adopted by the following dynasties.

Xianyou Temple

In the Sui Dynasty, the method of selecting talents was thoroughly changed. Since the Wei and Jin dynasties, most officials were chosen from noble and rich families regardless of their characters and competence. Before the Sui Dynasty, those who were born in poor families and had exceptional talent could not be appointed as officials in the central or local government because of their low social status. In order to change the situation, Emperor Wendi established the imperial examination system called Ke Ju, a subject-based examination to select officials. Then Emperor Yangdi established Jin Shi Ke, a new subject of imperial examination which evaluated the candidates by judging his view on current affairs at that time. The officials would be selected according to their scores after the examination. This marks the establishment of the imperial examination system. This system broke the bound between scholar officials and common people. From then on, competence became the new selection criterion instead of family background, which offered an opportunity for common people to have an official career. This system has a history of more than 1,300 years. It had been in use from 605AD to 1905AD. Though it was officially abolished in the Late Qin Dynasty, the approach to hold examination for selecting talents is still adopted by China and many other countries in the world. American sinologist Wales Williams said that the imperial examination system is an incomparable and successful system practiced in all the big countries from ancient time till now. It has a far-reaching influence on the selection of talents in Chinese history.

Besides institutional innovation, the construction of Daxing City makes a far-reaching influence on the following dynasties. In 582AD, Emperor Wendi found that the city was in a dilapidated condition after it experienced 800 years of devastations and destructions since the Western Han Dynasty. The drinking water was so bitter that people in the city did not want to take it any longer. After careful thinking, Emperor Wendi appointed Yuwen Kai as the chief designer to make a new blueprint for the capital city on Longshouyuan Tableland. After 9 years of construction, a magnificent capital city Daxing came out. The new capital was named Daxing because Emperor Wendi was once called “Duke of Daxing” and “Daxing” in Chinese means mightiness and prosperity. Daxing City presents an amazing high level of city planning and construction in ancient China, and it also reflects the economic strength and scientific and technological level of the Sui Dynasty. It was “the World No.1 Capital City” at that time and laid a foundation for the construction of Chang’an City, the capital of the Tang Dynasty. What is more, its conception about the design and layout for a capital city has a profound impact on all the dynasties later on. Yuwen Kai’s understanding about city planning also influenced the construction of the capital city in Japan and Korea.

Tailing Mausoleum of Emperor Wendi of the Sui Dynasty

In his book, The 100: A Rating of the Most Influential Persons in History, American scholar Michael·H·Hart selected 100 great men all over the world. He made comments on their merits and demerits, and than worked out a rating. There are seven Chinese listed in the book, including Confucius, Cai Lun, Emperor Qin Shihuang, Mao Zedong, Lao-tzu, Mencius and Emperor Wendi of the Sui Dynasty (namely Yang Jian). Emperor Wendi ranks the 82nd because of his achievements of reunifying China after hundreds of years of disunity and establishing the imperial examination system to select capable candidates for official posts. However, his result is somehow bleak in comparison with his great contribution and influence. His death is an unexposed mystery in history. Now, many people do not know where his tomb is. Even if someone knows, they always confuse it with Han Yangling Mausoleum of Emperor Jingdi of the Han Dynasty. The mausoleum of Emperor Wendi is called Tailing Mausoleum. It is located in today’s Yangling Agricultural Hi-Tech Industries Demonstration Zone in Shaanxi Province. Because Emperor Wendi’s surname is Yang, his mausoleum is also called Yangling Mausoleum. As the name of a district, Yangling got its name from the mausoleum of Emperor Wendi. After over a thousand years, buildings and historical relics in the mausoleum are all gone. Only a quadrilateral pyramidal mausoleum remained there which is 27.4m high. In front of the mausoleum is a stone tablet engraved with the characters “Tailing Mausoleum of Emperor Wendi of the Sui Dynasty”. It was erected in the Qing Dynasty.

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