Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Tang Dynasty: The Liberal Dynasty


  • Please log in to reply
12 replies to this topic

#1 TheAznValedictorian

TheAznValedictorian

    State Undersecretary (Shangshu Lang 尚书郎)

  • Supreme Scholar (Jinshi)
  • 551 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Southern California
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    none

Posted 30 January 2011 - 12:42 PM

This is pretty straightfoward. Was Tang Dynasty the most liberal of any Chinese dynasties that came before and after it?
By liberal, I meant things like women's rights, open mindedness towards other cultures and free trade.

And how did it become so liberal? From what I have gathered, this seemed quite out-of-place for the Chinese at the time.

Edited by TheAznValedictorian, 30 January 2011 - 12:52 PM.

"I do not fear death, in view of the fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." - Mark Twain


"What is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."- Christopher Hitchens

#2 mohistManiac

mohistManiac

    Emperor (Huangdi 皇帝)

  • Master Scholar (Juren)
  • 3,576 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese Mythology
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    none

Posted 30 January 2011 - 01:08 PM

Was it the whole time period? I'm thinking Wuzetian and her short reign may have something to do with it but before it women had less rights. The other thing might be that land reforms were stabilizing since the Sui and more people were prosperous and had land and therefore members of society probably felt satisfied with the government.
I have the fortune of living in the part of the world which has use for toilet paper, but not douches.

#3 TheAznValedictorian

TheAznValedictorian

    State Undersecretary (Shangshu Lang 尚书郎)

  • Supreme Scholar (Jinshi)
  • 551 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Southern California
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    none

Posted 30 January 2011 - 01:19 PM

Was it the whole time period? I'm thinking Wuzetian and her short reign may have something to do with it but before it women had less rights. The other thing might be that land reforms were stabilizing since the Sui and more people were prosperous and had land and therefore members of society probably felt satisfied with the government.


Good question. Yes, I think this applies for the whole time period. I mean, there were still some prominent court women even after Wuzetian.

East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History by Walthall Ebrey (pg.99)

As for the society being satisfied with the government, I don't think this leads to the dynasty being liberal.

Edited by TheAznValedictorian, 31 January 2011 - 12:37 AM.

"I do not fear death, in view of the fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." - Mark Twain


"What is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."- Christopher Hitchens

#4 JohnD

JohnD

    Grand Mentor (Taishi 太师)

  • Supreme Scholar (Jinshi)
  • 538 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Taiwan
  • Languages spoken:English, Mandarin
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese Literature
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Tang dynasty, Xia/Wuxia literature

Posted 30 January 2011 - 10:13 PM

It was certainly the most cosmopolitan empire. Clothing, music, dancers, basically anything foreign was popular. As far as women go, I don't know if they necessarily had more rights, but they were more forward. More women wore pants, rode horses, etc. Probably it was the aristocrats this applied to. But, for example, if a woman's husband died, his property would go to his son, not to his wife, so I don't think women really had more rights. Could be wrong, though.

#5 William O'Chee

William O'Chee

    Emperor (Huangdi 皇帝)

  • CHF Columnist
  • 2,264 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Brisbane, Australia
  • Interests:History; political philosophy; rowing; bobsled and skeleton; going to extraordinary places.
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Han dynasty, Neo-Confucianism

Posted 31 January 2011 - 02:15 AM

I don't know enough about personal rights in Tang China to make much of a comment on women's rights, our cultural openness. Mind you, the religious tolerance that saw Nestorian Christianity flourish during the Tang was also reversed two centuries later by the same dynasty.

One point I would make, however, is that there are many measures of liberality. What should be considered is the degree to which the Tang might be considered politically liberal. In particular, I wonder if the liberality evidenced by the Court Conferences in the Han dynasty was apparent in the Tang. Any thoughts?

#6 mariusj

mariusj

    Emperor (Huangdi 皇帝)

  • Master Scholar (Juren)
  • 2,061 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History

Posted 31 January 2011 - 05:14 AM

Why would you say woman before Tang have less rights? And I suppose we are using 'rights' in a rather liberal fashion.

I am guessing we are talking about sexuality, property ownership, remarriage?

#7 LuMing

LuMing

    County Magistrate (Xianling 县令)

  • CHF Rookie Member
  • 6 posts
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Any chinese-related stuff
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    None

Posted 31 January 2011 - 05:53 AM

I don't know about women's rights, but it is a well known fact that (at least in the first period of their history), the Tang did much to stabilise the political and religious power in China, especially concerning the acceptance of Buddhism, which in past dynasties had been seen as a "foreign" religion, and on some occasions even persecuted (not for long, fortunately).
I think that the Tang were surely more liberal than the preceding dynasties.

#8 mariusj

mariusj

    Emperor (Huangdi 皇帝)

  • Master Scholar (Juren)
  • 2,061 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History

Posted 31 January 2011 - 06:30 AM

I don't know about women's rights, but it is a well known fact that (at least in the first period of their history), the Tang did much to stabilise the political and religious power in China, especially concerning the acceptance of Buddhism, which in past dynasties had been seen as a "foreign" religion, and on some occasions even persecuted (not for long, fortunately).
I think that the Tang were surely more liberal than the preceding dynasties.

Again, why?

You used the persecution of Buddhism as an religion as an example of how Tang was more liberal, but almost every dynasty in China except for a specific period of Song [and even that is doubtful] was due more to economic and taxation reason then it is a religious reason.
To say that allowing religious institution to have huge amounts of land without need to pay for taxation, while at the same time attempt to maintain the same expenditure, is stabilizing the political and religious power is simply wrong. In order to maintain all the expenses, government simply levy the taxes that the temples and churches did not pay on smaller land owners. I fail to see how the acceptance of Buddhism is a good argument that Tang was more liberal, and I can assure, majority of Tang emperor have far less interest in Buddhism then previous dynasties.

Also, like most dynasties, the earlier part of any dynastic reign usually see a stabilizing period of peace and prosperity, in fact that can be said throughout most nations in this world. What nation's founding period is plagued with destabilizing political base? The very idea of founding a new nation is one political base eliminating another political base, thus stabilizing by elimination.

#9 LuMing

LuMing

    County Magistrate (Xianling 县令)

  • CHF Rookie Member
  • 6 posts
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Any chinese-related stuff
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    None

Posted 31 January 2011 - 07:33 AM

I am well aware that the persecution of Buddhism was principally economic in nature, the stabilising I'm talking about is of an ideological nature. The Tang were the first who displayed an active interest in this religion (some emperors, at least). I may be wrong, but I think that the Tang dynasty was more open-minded than its predecessors. Of course, I'm no expert, so don't take my word on it. Just a personal impression.

#10 mariusj

mariusj

    Emperor (Huangdi 皇帝)

  • Master Scholar (Juren)
  • 2,061 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History

Posted 31 January 2011 - 06:05 PM

I am well aware that the persecution of Buddhism was principally economic in nature, the stabilising I'm talking about is of an ideological nature. The Tang were the first who displayed an active interest in this religion (some emperors, at least). I may be wrong, but I think that the Tang dynasty was more open-minded than its predecessors. Of course, I'm no expert, so don't take my word on it. Just a personal impression.

In essence, you are saying, 'hey this is my opinion, I can't really explain it, so don't take my word for it, just saying' right?

#11 LuMing

LuMing

    County Magistrate (Xianling 县令)

  • CHF Rookie Member
  • 6 posts
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Any chinese-related stuff
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    None

Posted 01 February 2011 - 09:38 AM

Yeah essentially. :P
From what I know of Chinese History, the Tang Dinasty strikes me as decidedly more open-minded than most of the others that preceded it. Of course, I wouldn't be a beginner in this forum if I were an expert in Chinese history, so I can't really argue with people who are better than me at it. :)

#12 SuZheYu

SuZheYu

    County Magistrate (Xianling 县令)

  • CHF Rookie Member
  • 5 posts
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese Literature
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Chinese translations in English.

Posted 05 September 2011 - 08:59 AM

In 845 the Tang clamped down on Buddhism because it had destroyed the economy of the dynasty - tax exemptions led to an economy of mostly tax-free monasteries owning everything.

If you want to talk of liberality though, you must remember this is also a crazy time in Chinese history for superstitution and esoteric religions. It is also a time period of aristocratic dominance in social affairs, and political instability almost throughout.

If you want to say liberal, I would say, maybe just more open about sexuality - for most people, daily life was what it always was in China, hard backbreaking labour to fill large banquet tables for the aristocracy to indulge in. Education was limited to the upper classes, even the so called exams were pretty much limited to them, being the only ones with basic literature.

Likewise, the court life as seen in poetry would tend to be interpreted as both violent and unstable - likewise, the country was at war for much of the period, and civil war pretty much cuts the dynasty in half from a "golden age" and a dark age.

Freedom is an interesting word - perhaps the Emperor was more free to take as many concubines openly in public, and to not deal with any of that ritual garbage the later Ming and Qing emperors insisted on, but in the end a great handful of them died the same way the first emperor did, locked in their own superstitious worlds, while another portion died in the fashion of Eastern Han emperors.

Religion was free at the beginning, but that does not make a population free - the Buddhist monastery did some violent enslaving until they were finally beat down. As for sexual freedom - men were more free to openly discuss sexuality - that didn't stop men up until the cultural revolution and to some extent today to maintaining the same privilege in private - one need only to go see the bureaucrats in Beijing or the Hong Kong Businessmen today to see how that sexual culture has not really left, just been hushed up by Ming and Qing morals of sexuality.

#13 indonesia_han

indonesia_han

    Commissioner (Shi Chijie 使持节)

  • Master Scholar (Juren)
  • 54 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Interests:Chinese History, Religion, Geography, and Culture.
  • Languages spoken:Indonesian, English, Little bit Mandarin.
  • Ethnic Groups or Race:漢人
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    None

Posted 03 March 2014 - 08:27 AM

I think it has something to do with adoption of Buddhism as state religion. I also think that liberal doesn't mean as sex liberal or something like that, but more like woman are more liberal. Because before Tang Dynasty, Confucianism heavily dominate the politics, daily life etc especially in Han Dynasty. With Buddhism flourishing in Tang Dynasty, I think for some period Confucianism domination declined in Tang. 

Because Confucianism lost its influence in Tang, I think woman have more freedom to do what they like, they were allowed to do something that doesn't allowed when Confucianism was dominating in predecessor Dynasties.

That's why historian called that Tang was the most liberal Dynasty in China.

 

CMIIW


Edited by indonesia_han, 03 March 2014 - 08:28 AM.





2 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 2 guests, 0 anonymous users