History >> Ancient China
The Sui Dynasty is most famous for unifying China under one rule after the Period of Disunion. The Sui Dynasty only ruled for a short time from 581 to 618 AD. It was replaced by the Tang Dynasty.
Since the fall of the great Han Dynasty in 220 AD, China had been divided. Different regions fought for control and there was constant war. In the early 500s, China was ruled by two major kingdoms known as the Northern and Southern Dynasties. In 581, a man named Yang Jian took control of the Northern Dynasty. He established the Sui Dynasty and became known as Emperor Wen.
After gaining control of northern China, Emperor Wen gathered a massive army and invaded the south. Eight years later, in 589, he conquered southern China and brought all of China under the rule of the Sui Dynasty.
Emperor Wen of Sui by Yan Li-pen
The Sui Dynasty didn't last long, however. It began to decline under the rule of Emperor Yang (son of Emperor Wen). Emperor Yang ruled China as a tyrant. He forced the peasants to work on massive projects such as the Grand Canal and rebuilding the Great Wall. Millions of peasants died under his rule. In 618, the people rebelled and the Sui Dynasty was overthrown. It was replaced by the Tang Dynasty.
Despite being a short-lived dynasty, the Sui had many accomplishments.
- Reunifying China under one rule
- Setting up a national government
- Building the Grand Canal which improved national transportation and trade
- Reconstructing the Great Wall
- Establishing grain reserves to feed people during times of famine
Emperor Wen set up a new central government for China. The government consisted of Three Departments and Six Ministries. The Three Departments were the Chancellery, the Secretariat, and the Department of State Affairs. The Six Ministries reported to the Department of State Affairs. The ministries included the following:
- Personnel - The Personnel Ministry appointed government officials including promotions and demotions. They were very powerful.
- Rites - The Ministry of Rites oversaw official ceremonies and managed the state religions of Taoism and Buddhism.
- Finance - This ministry collected taxes.
- Justice - The Justice Ministry oversaw the courts and judges.
- Civil Works - This ministry managed the many construction projects of the Sui including the rebuilding of the Great Wall and the digging of the Great Canal.
- War - The Ministry of War oversaw the Sui army and appointed the top generals.
The dominant religion during the Sui Dynasty was Buddhism. Emperor Wen established himself as a Buddhist leader and the religion became a unifying point in the culture for all of China. Poetry and painting were important art forms during the period.
Interesting Facts about the Sui Dynasty
- The Sui built the Zhaozhou Bridge across the Jiao River. It is known as the oldest surviving stone arched bridge in the world.
- Emperor Yang attempted to conquer Korea, but failed despite having a massive army of over 1 million soldiers. This loss contributed heavily to the fall of the Sui Dynasty.
- The Sui implemented civil service exams to determine the most qualified government officials.
- The Sui Dynasty is often compared to the Qin Dynasty. Both dynasties unified China, but were short-lived.
For more information on the civilization of Ancient China:
History >> Ancient China