Tang Dynasty; Confucian To A Fault?

1631 words - 7 pages

Tang dynasty China was a dynasty having been extant 618 to 907, markedly longer than its predecessor the Sui dynasty. The Tang era was characterized as an age "... Not just of cultural openness but of political strength." (Hansen, p 191). An analysis of the Tang era document, Taizong's effective government, reveals this statement to be a reality, as does the document outlining Tang era legal codes. Analyzing these documents within the Tang era context, as well as comparing and contrasting them with today's modern understanding of such matters elucidates them as not only a paradigm of Confucian ideals of a great leader and a method to avoid past failures (such as is presented in Taizong's effective government), but also as an example of a legal code and system that tried to tie in with those Confucian ideals.The document is one that canvasses Tang's second emperor, Taizong's interpretation of what qualities demonstrate his understanding of what an effective government is, but perhaps more overtly embodies his ideas of what a good and just emperor is. This particular document is advantageous to analyze first, as it is useful in helping understand his justification and reasoning for the ideas presented in the latter. As an overview, Taizong's effective government text was to be used as a means to inform his heir on how to rule and in what roles a government must fulfil to be "effective" (112). Among the categories outlined are subtitles such as "How a ruler should act", "Establishing Relatives", "Evaluating Officials", "Welcoming Advice", "Discouraging Slander", "Avoiding Extravagance", "Maintaining Military forces", and finally "Esteeming Culture" (112-115). Beyond poetic words, it seems that there is not much actual content. For example, on its face, something like "A ruler... comforts his relations with benevolence, treats his officials with courtesy, honours his ancestors with filial respect, and receives his subordinates with thoughtfulness." (112) seems to be a rather superficial set of beliefs about how a ruler should act. However, it is actually well in line with Confucian ideals that were important to him and countless others at the time, such as filial piety. Confucius, for example, had a very concise view of the familial unit (Hansen, p. 71). Furthermore, in the section subtitled "Establishing relatives", Taizong speaks at length about issues inherent with detaching ones self from relatives. He says "With no relatives to rely on, the (Qin) dynasty fell after two generations. Isn't this all because of the fact that if a tree has a mass of branches and leaves, it is difficult to root up, but if the limbs are disabled, the trunk has nothing to depend on?" (113). This passage exemplifies Taizong's ideals regarding the familial unit, particularly its importance in regards to a good governmental rule. Even so, it is important to note that Taizong, in the same breath says that in the same way, "...a branch can get so heavy that it breaks the...

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