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The Tang Dynasty (June 18, 618-June 4, 907) was an imperial dynasty of China.  It was founded by the LI family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire.  The dynasty was interrupted briefly by the second Zhou Dynasty (October 16, 690-March 3, 705) when Empress Wu Zetian seized the throne, becoming the first and only Chinese empress regnant, ruling in her own right.


The Tang Dynasty, with its capital at Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), the most populous city in the world at the time, is generally regarded as a high point in Chinese civilization-equal to, or surpassing that of, the earlier Han Dynasty-a golden age of cosmopolitan culture.  Its territory, acquired through the military campaigns of its early rulers, was greater than that of the Han period, and it rivaled that of the later Yuan Dynasty and Qing Dynasty.  In two censuses of the 7th and 8th centuries, the Tang records estimated the population by number of registered households at about 50 million people.  Yet, even when the central government was breaking down and unable to compile an accurate census of the population in the 9th century, it is estimated that the population had grown by then to about 80 million people.  With its large population base, he dynasty was able to raise professional and conscripted armies of hundreds of thousands of troops to contend with nomadic powers in dominating Inner Asia and the lucrative trade routes along the Silk Road.  Various kingdoms and states paid tribute to the Tang court, while the Tang also conquered or subdued several regions which it indirectly controlled through a protectorate system.  Besides political hegemony, the Tang also exerted a powerful cultural influence over neighboring states such as those in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.  Such was the dynasty’s influence that even today, the Chinese term for Chinatown bears the dynastic title (Tangrenjie, or The Tang People’s Street).

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