Essay- Serena Posner

.......The decline of the Tang Dynasty began in 755, with the An Shi rebellion, which damaged the Dynasty in a way that it never fully recovered from. Their military began to abuse its power, and become careless. This was only worsened by the corruption of the emperors, along with the internal conflicts, such as the power struggles between the officials within the government. Then, in 859, the steadily declining dynasty suffered yet another blow, this time from a large-scale peasant uprising, and as a result, in 907, Emperor Ai (the last Tang Emperor) was forced to surrender the Empire, thereby ending the mighty Tang Dynasty( Tang Dynasty) All of these factors, which contributed to the ultimate demise of the Tang Dynasty, provide lessons that the modern world can learn from.

.......First, the decline of the Tang Dynasty illustrates an important lesson about the danger of giving too much power to the military. From 710, the power of the regional military governors (the “Jiedushi”) began to rise, and slowly came to challenge the power of the central government. After the An Shi rebellion, the power of the Jiedushi went beyond the control of the central government. The government began to rely solely on the Jiedushi to control any external forces that threatened to take arms against them. As payment for this protection, the Jiedushi were given special privileges by the government, such as the right to collect taxes, and to pass their titles on to their heirs. However, with the abolishment of the land allocation system (in which the rich could buy more land, and the poor were all indebted), the Jiedushi became too comfortable with their new tax collecting rights, and began to relax the protection that they provided for the government. With the central governments collapsing authority, and its new found vulnerability, bandits and river pirates and rebels were unleashed, and met with little resistance. This demonstrates to modern governments that it is not a good idea to give too much power to the military, or to rely on them so completely. For example, although the United States military is supporting and protecting Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if Israel were to let down their guard, the Palestinians would surely take advantage of their vulnerability.


.......Second, because the Tang Dynasty was ruled by one Emperor at a time, its fate relied on the Emperor’s competence. However, in many cases, such as with Emperor Xuanzong, the Emperor was not only incompetent, but corrupt. At first he was seen as a wise and fair Emperor, but when he fell in love with his daughter-in-law, Yang Yuhuan he slowly began to lose control of his reign. He became so obsessed with her, that he neglected his duties. Xuanzong appointed one of Yang Yuhuan’s relatives - Yang Guozhong- as the prime minister. She later filled the administration with members of her own family, who gained absolute control of the Empire.( Emperor Xuanzong)
Another example is Emperor Tang Muzong, the 12th emperor of the Tang dynasty.
After obtaining the throne, he spent his time drinking heavily, and throwing imperial parties, thereby also neglecting his duties as emperor. Because of this, he left his people defenseless when regional military governors began challenging the central Tang government (Emperor Tang Muzong).
In modern governments we still have this problem with corrupt or incompetent leaders. George W. Bush, who invaded Iraq under the unfounded pretenses of finding weapons of mass destruction, was a corrupt leader, whose actions have lead to conflict, not only in America, but all over the world. We can learn from the example of the collapse of the Tang Dynasty that if corrupt leaders continue to be elected, or otherwise put into positions of absolute power, then conflict will arise.

.......Last, when two major parties -motivated by self interest- engaged in conflict, it further accelerated Tang’s decline. Starting during the reign of Emperor Xianzong (762-779), and ending with the reign of Emperor Xuanzong (846-859), the appointed court officials slowly divided into two separate parties. Li Deyu was the leader of the Li Party, and Li Zongmin lead the Niu Party. The factions were at conflict with each other, both sides with only self interest in mind. Each side would undermine the others points and opinions, while boasting their own, and therefore, little progress was made. The “fair” decision was forgotten in favour of what would benefit each party. This corruption of political influence undermined the strength of the Tang’s political system, and accelerated its decline. The lesson that this teaches us is that we must put our own needs aside in order for society to function as a whole. We can learn that when important decisions need to be made, the needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few.

.......In conclusion, the many mistakes that lead to the fall of the Tang Dynasty, including, but not limited to, giving the military too much power, having corrupt or incompetent leaders, and having conflicting parties within a government, can be used as lessons for the world today. If we acknowledge mistakes that they made, then we are able to apply that knowledge as a preventative measure in order to ensure that our modern society doesn’t have its own fall.




(Citations on Bibliography Page)