600 CE-900 CE
Ancient China for Kids
Around 600 CE, the T'ang Dynasty took over leadership of China. This dynasty managed to end the Age of Division, and all the squabbling. They pulled China together again as one country. (The Qin Dynasty pulled it together first.)
Golden Age of China: This was China's golden age. People were happy. The wars were over. There was a gaiety in China in Tang times. Many new things were introduced like bananas. Tea drinking became popular.
The Tang Dynasty is famous for it's encouragement of literature, dancing, music, scroll painting, and art. Craftsmen worked with bronze and silver and gold and copper. Scroll painting became popular during Tang times. Pottery was painted with ornate scenes of daily life, and of carriages, and bridges, and signs of the zodiac. People came from as far away as India and Korea to study the arts in China. There were special rooms in the imperial palace for training. You had to have talent, but the opportunity was there.
The Job Market: Things changed in government, as well. Under Tang leadership, you did not have to be a noble to get a good job. You did, however, have to pass an examination. Examination Day was a big deal. It was everyone's chance to move up in the world. The roadways were crowded with carriages arriving at the examination hall. People came on foot. Everyone wanted to take the exam. Those who passed were assigned a job in the capital or in one of the many smaller towns in the countryside.
Under Tang leadership, only boys could go to school. They did not have to go, but school was free, and strongly encouraged. Girls were taught at home. When a girl married, she left home and lived with her husband's family.
Religion: Even religion changed. People still worshipped their ancestors. Buddhism had been introduced during Han times, but it really became important during Tang times. This was the time period of the three doctrines, or the three teachings - Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. People in Tang times believed and followed all three teachings at the same time. Plus, they worshiped their ancestors. Between all four of these things, there were many festivals and holidays.
City Life: Although many people were farmers during Tang times, the capital city of Ch'ang-an was home to over one million people. The city was arranged in blocks. There were 110 blocks. Each block was its own village. Some homes were huge, built of brick and wood. There were apartment houses, temples, a marketplace and lots of little shops like tea shops, cake shops, pottery shops, gem and jewelry shops, shoe shops, produce shops, and meat shops, and noodle shops, and pawnbrokers, and other businesses. There were street acrobats and storytellers and colorful banners and street bazaars. All of this activity occurred in each block. Blocks were divided by broad wide streets and little side streets. You were not stuck in your block. You were free to move about and visit any block you wanted. There were street gangs, though. You had to be a little careful. Like any city, some blocks were beautiful and some blocks were pretty rough.
In the city, the rich had a lot of fun with their homes. They had baths and mirrors. The pagoda roof became popular. You'd see pagoda roofs on temples and also homes. The rich were waited on by servants or slaves. They had golden goblets and ceramic spoons. The harp was played during dinner. It was incredible.
The rich were not the only people who enjoyed entertainment. Everyone attended musical and art performances. They were free. You could wander into a concert in the park, listen for a while, and then leave. Some of the concerts were huge, with 700 musicians playing together. Others were the concerts of nature. One of the most popular was the bird concert. This was a place where people gathered with their morning drink, to quietly sit and listen to the wild birds chirp and sing. The men enjoyed hunting, fishing, polo, and a kind of football. Everyone enjoyed the celebrations and festivals.
They had fun with hair style and make up. Women wore little hats that had dangling bells on them that rang softly. They carried little make up boxes that held a mirror, rouge, and a lipstick. Men wore topknots; they shaved their heads except for the hair right in the center. They wrapped that hair up in a knot. They used hairpins to keep it wrapped up.
Shoes were really important. They were a status symbol. Peasants wore straw sandals. Nobles wore cloth slippers. Much of the clothing was made of silk. They wore jade belts and fancy hats. It was very colorful clothing.
Country Life: Most people in Tang times were farmers. Out in the countryside, homes were made of bamboo and sun dried brick. They were simple, one room homes. The people wore simple clothes. They ate very well, mostly because they owned their own farms!
The early Tangs took land from the nobles and gave each peasant approximately 15 acres. Some families worked together to grow crops more efficiently. But it was up to each family to decide how to farm their land. This system broke down as time went on. Nobles took back their land. Things were not as good for the peasants after that.
The Nomads: There was one group in the Tang Empire that did not farm and did not live in the city. These people were nomads. Their homes were huts on wagons that could be moved from place to place. They kept herds of goats and sheep and cattle. They ate meat and milk, and vegetables when they traded for them or gathered them. Their clothes were made of animal skins. They were traders. They traded along the Silk Road.