In 589 AD China was re-unified by the Sui dynasty. Applying ruthless tactics as the Qin dynasty had, the Sui gained control by destroying all opposition. The Sui dynasty collapsed very soon due to its unfair and tyrannical demands on the people. Taxes rose to a point where the peasants were starving. Huge undertakings in public projects including the construction of the Grand Canal--an enormous feat of engineering--and the reconstruction of the Great Wall--which had been weakened by the ongoing war with Korea--further drained the nation's resources. The dynasty fell apart in the early seventh century because of an outbreak of uprisings, assassinations, and disloyalty.
The fall of the Sui gave rise to a new power, one which revolutionized the social and empirical structure. The Tang dynasty proved to be the high point of Chinese civilization. It was founded by Li Yuan and the capital established in Chang'an. It flourished in part due to new economic and trading ties with India and the Middle East. The ties with India brought Buddhism to China and gave it a permanent place in Chinese culture. Buddhists worshiped Buddha as a pure being. A Chinese porcelain statue of Buddha appears on the right. The invention of the block print encouraged the further spread of literacy, by making writing available to more people. The Tang gave rise to an amazing amount of literature and art, which became representative of all Chinese arts in future years.
The political greatness of the Tang was due in majority to the group of Confucian scholars that advised the Emperor. These were chosen through an indiscriminate civil service examination. The test was a competition meant to bring the most talented people into the government. This was a major step. Tang rulers finally realized that the instability of past dynasties was due to their reliance on various aristocratic families and warlords. In order to avoid this, reoccuring the newly established public service system proved much more reliable. A new class of career officials emerged which had no power base or large land holdings that would detract from their civil service. As a result these people gained status in their communities and were the link between the grass-roots peasant class and the Imperial court.
The Tang created a method of administration that was fair, but nonetheless in time it failed. The system was based on equal land allotments made to the male population . From their share, they were to pay an agricultural tax (which accounted for the majority of the Empire's income). The military service that was required from time to time was the basis of Tang military power. Problems started as the Empire honored tax-free lands and made larger allotments to people it favored. As population grew the land inheritance grew smaller while taxes remained the same. Peasants left their their land reducing government income and armed forces.
Due to economic instability and military defeat in 751 by Arabs at Talas, Tang power declined. This marked the beginning of five hundred years of slow painful military decline for the Tang. Corruption, intrigue, and multiple rebellions due to unfair taxation further weakened the Empire, thus making it possible for northern invaders to terminate the dynasty in 907. In the next fifty years China divided into five northern dynasties and ten southern kingdoms.