Sui Dynasty — Transient Empire with Inaugurator of Prosperity

Restored Main Building Complex of the Ziwei Palace

Restored Main Building Complex of the Ziwei Palace Constructed in the Sui, Photo from Official site of Luoyang.

 

What Is Sui Dynasty?

 

Sui Dynasty (581 — 618) was a short-lived but important dynasty, which put an end to the chaotic and separate Northern and Southern Dynasties (420 — 589), and set an advanced political structure that influenced the next millennium of the ancient history of China.

 

In the 37 years of Sui's reign period, 2 emperors ruled the empire.

Unearthed Blue Glass Bottle of the Sui Dynasty

Blue Glass Bottle of Sui — Dingzhou Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

 

Facts About the Sui Dynasty

 

  • There were two emperors who ruled the Sui Empire.

 

  • The first emperor Yang Jian was one of the most extraordinary sovereigns, and the second Yang Guang was one of the most controversial ones in the history of China.  

 

  • The second emperor Yang Guang established many huge projects, such as the building of the big city Luo Yang and the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, while having initiated many large-scale wars. 

 

Emperor Yang Guang was an excellent poet too. 

13-Block Golden Jade Belt (Die Xie Jin Yu Dai) Unearthed From Mausoleum of Yang Guang, the Highest Format of Jade Belt for Emperor

13-Block Golden Jade Belt (Die Xie Jin Yu Dai) Unearthed From Mausoleum of Yang Guang, the Highest Format of Jade Belt for Emperor — Yangzhou Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

  • The Imperial Examination System was invented to select some civil services in the Sui Empire, which allowed talented people to get involved in politics. Ability triumphed family origin again.  

 

But this system also weakened strong clans that had obtained power in the Three Kingdoms, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties (220 — 589).

 

  • Many big granaries were established in big cities, to adjust the prices of food and deal with famine.

 

This then became an important system that all dynasties implemented. 

Unearthed Granaries of the Sui Dynasty

Unearthed Granaries of the Sui Empire

 

Brief History of the Rise and Fall of the Sui Dynasty

 

Establishment of Sui by Emperor Yang Jian and Queen Dugu

An eight-year-old king ascended to the throne of a big kingdom named the Northern Zhou Dynasty. His powerful regent named Yang Jian, one year later, forced this young king to abdicate the throne and renamed the new kingdom Sui. 

 

In the next 8 years, the Sui Empire defeated the Turkic Khaganate in the north, and the Kingdom Chen in southern China.

 

Finally, in the year 589, with Sui's unifying China, the chaotic, separate Three Kingdoms, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties (220 — 589) came to an end.

 

Yang Jian, respected as Emperor Wen of Sui, together with his beloved Queen Dugu, implemented a series of innovative, advanced political and economic systems that brought their people wealth and peace. 

Unearthed Artifacts from Mausoleum of Great Granddaughter of Emperor Yang Jian — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Innovations and Large Scale Constructions of Emperor Yang of Sui

 

Yang Guang was the second son of Emperor Yang Jian and Queen Dugu. He drew the most powerful officials to his side and deceived his smart parents.

Through years of conspiracies, Yang Guang was nominated as the legit heir, while his big brother, the former crown prince, was dethroned and then forced to suicide. 

 

After Yang Guang, one of the most controversial monarchs in the history of China ascended to the throne, he started his radical governance and became the sovereign with outstanding achievements and destruction

He migrated Sui's capital city from Daxing to Luoyang and implemented many other grand construction projects, including the 2700 km long Great Canal, large-scale royal road, and lengthening of the Great Wall.

In the meantime, many big wars were initiated, as well as some aggressive reforms. 

Stone Lion Unearthed from the Ruins of Palace in City Luoyang of the Sui Dynasty

Stone Lion Unearthed from the Ruins of Palace in City Luoyang of Sui — Luoyang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Ending of the Short-Lived Empire

 

Consequently, Emperor Yang Guang’s excessive consumption of resources and radical reforms resulted in many uprisings and rebellions nationwide, though some of his ideologies were quite advanced. 

 

In the year 618, this controversial emperor was assassinated in chaos and poorly buried, and his empire was officially ended. 

 

Among the large numbers of uprising armies, one of them was led by Emperor Yang Guang’s cousin Li Yuan from northern China. 

 

This army defeated other forces and established a new, unified empire, the Tang Dynasty.

Ink Stone Unearthed from Mausoleum of Emperor Yang of Sui   — Capital Museum

Ink Stone Unearthed from Mausoleum of Emperor Yang of Sui — Capital Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

 

Political Structure and Social Systems of the Sui Dynasty

 

Population

 

There was over 50 million population during the prime times of the Sui Empire.

 

Political System: Three Departments and Six Ministries 

 

Three Departments were independent of each other and all would report to the Sui emperors: 

 

  • Department of Imperial Secretariats: Draft and Publish Decrees

 

  • Department of Chancellors: Review of Decrees by Imperial Censors

 

  • Department of Imperial Affairs: Supreme State Administration that Executive Decrees

Subordinate to the Department of Imperial Affairs is the Six Ministries:

 

  • Ministry of Personnel: Appointment, Assessment, and Removal of Officers 

  • Ministry of Revenue: Household Registration, Finance, and Tax

  • Ministry of Rites: Ceremony and Education

  • Ministry of National Defense: Military Affairs 

  • Ministry of Justice: Law, Judiciary and Punishment

  • Ministry of Constructions: Design and Implementation of National Constructions

Unearthed Copper Mirror of the Sui Dynasty

Copper Mirror of Sui — Shaoxing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

 Official Selection System

 

Imperial Examination, which allows talented men to be selected as civil services and enter the ruling class based on their talents, instead of class origin. 

Unearthed Gilding Handle of the Sui Dynasty — Shaanxi Archeology Institute

Gilding Handle of Sui — Shaanxi Archeology Institute (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Tax

 

Peasants who got farmlands from the nation should pay certain amounts of products as taxes; men from 21 to 50 should do labor service 20 days each year. 

 

Military Service

Soldiers and their families were given farmland too. They didn't need to pay any type of taxes, but they should provide weapons and food for themselves. 

 

They cultivated their land when they were free, and fought on the battlefield when there was war. During peace periods, they still needed to perform a month's military service each year. 

 

Land System

 

People were given certain amounts of farmlands, based on their social status when they turned 18 years old.

 

They could cultivate the land while paying a certain amount of taxes and labor services. Then they should give the lands back after they were 58 years old. 

Unearthed Glasswares of Sui (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Unearthed Silver Lotus Glass Bottle of the Sui Dynasty

Silver Lotus Glass Bottle  — Dingzhou Museum 

Unearthed Green Glass Bottle of the Sui Dynasty

Green Glass Bottle — Shaanxi History Museum

 

Scientific Achievements and Artifacts of the Sui Dynasty

  • Construction of the Grand Canal, the most ancient and longest artificial great canal in the world. It improved the capacity of transportation and further connected north and south China.

  • Appearing of integral block printing.

 

  • The earliest case of diabetes and related symptoms was described and documented.

  • Construction of the earliest stone arch bridge in the world, the Zhao Zhou Qiao.

Zhao Zhou Qiao of the Sui Dynasty, the Earliest Stone Arch Bridge in the World

Zhao Zhou Qiao Constructed in Sui