Li Shimin of Tang Dynasty
The Chinese prides in being associated with some ancient dynasties, such that some delights in beings addresses using the names of these dynasties. It is common for a Chinese to call himself or herself a “Tangren” or simply a “Tang person” when either in overseas countries or at home. Even some oversees towns inhabited the Chinese majority are sometimes called “Tangren Jie” or the streets or neighborhood inhabited by the Tang people. This is because Tang is the name of one of Chinese dynasties that symbolized the epitome of Chinese ancient civilization. The prosperity and fame associated with Tang dynasty was enhanced by Li Shimin, the second emperor of this dynasty.
Tang dynasty was established in 18th June 618 and ended on 1st June 907. The dynasty was preceded by Sui dynasty and was annexed by five dynasties. This dynasty was founded by the Li family who took advantage of the decline of Sui Empire and seized power to establish the dynasty. Tang dynasty was disrupted by the rule of Empress Wu Zetia between 690 and 705. The dynasty was headquartered in Chang’an between 618 and 904 and Luoyang between 904 and 907. By the end of the 9th century, the empire had a population of about 80 million people speaking middle Chinese (Twitchett and Fairbank 589). The dynasty flourished greatly during the time of Li Shimin. It was considered as the most glistering kingdom because of its power and prosperity (Jianying par. 3). Li Shimin guided this kingdom to unparalleled heights of economic, cultural, political, and military strength.
Emperor Taizong, whose personal name was Li Shimin, was born on 23rd January 559 at the palace in Wugong, Sui in China. His father was Gaozu Tang, the founder of the Tang emperor and his mother was Duchess Dou. His military prowess and royal lineage earned him the position as the second emperor of Tang dynasty. He ruled the dynasty between 626 and 649. Li Shimin took the name Taizong when he became the emperor (Twitchett and Fairbank 590). His period of reign is described as the golden period because of its unparalleled political, social, economic, and military development.
Establishment of Excellent Administration over Foreign and Ethnic Affairs
Li Shimin dealt excellently with both foreign and ethnic issues. Prior to his rule, there existed discrimination between the Chinese and the foreigners, whereby Chinese was considered a superior race whereas other races were considered inferior. Li Shimin abolished this trend and claimed that all people were one and he loved them all. He opened doors for foreigners to trade with China. He implemented a principle of integration and absorption whereby everyone was accepted in his empire, such that his dynasty was of the whole world rather than for the Chinese.
Establishment of Unparallel Open, Efficient and Honesty Administration as a Wise Monarch
Li Shimin’s wisdom and intelligence were depicted in the way he dealt with his staff. He required his staff to be competent and honest irrespective of their ethnic or social status. The Tang Dynasty’s government best known advisor was Wei Zheng and in his course of work, he had interacted with a brother of Li called Li jiancheng who was an imperial’s power arch- rival. His advice to Li jiacheng led to his defeat, as well as his death. Li Shimin asked Wei why he brought enmity between him and his brother by advising him to do away with all rebels. Wei reply was that Li jiachieng never followed his instructions and that is why he was defeated. Since Li Shimin was aware of Wei’s expertise as a consultant, he appreciated and appointed him to a key position. This impressed Wei very much and he wrote 200 reports and more during his time in the government leadership (Jianying par. 6). These reports gave advice to the emperor and his staff more insights on administrative ideas.
Li Shimin provided a channel for officials to offer a straight forward advice to other officials. For instance, one day, when they were quarreling, Li Shimin argued that Wei Zheng was too stubborn and one day he would do away with him. The emperor was congratulated for this statement by the Empress Zhangsun who said that the emperor was wise and this calmed him down. Li Shimin allowed officials channel to offer advice openly and in a straightforward manner. He however advised that they should not slander others as this would be a crime calling for severe punishment. During, the Chinese golden period that started in 626, Li Shemin’s administration was reputed for its integrity, wisdom, openness, and diligence exemplified by the leader (Twitchett and Fairbank 900). Valuing the subjects and departing feudal system through the analogy of unsinkable boat
For about 1,000 years, China used to be a feudal society, and this was before Li Shimin was in power. Therefore, there was a good experience accumulation in state leadership and the monarchs of dynasties that preceded Tang valued it very much. Li Shimin appreciated the wisdom gained from the experiences of the past. However the Zhenguan Governance that he had created was installed with a brilliance that separated it from the governments that had passed. The most significant difference in Li Shimin’s strategy was that he never regarded the emperor as God’s son because he believed that the success of an imperial rule dependent on the assistance from the masses (Ministry of Culture P. R. China par. 9). He compared the monarch to a boat and the subjects as water. His argument was a boat is carried by water which can capsize it. He believed that the monarch represents and cares for the interests of the masses because this is the importance of governance. This made him to implement several policies when he ascended into the throne. He did this to correct the mistakes that lead to the failure of the Sui Empire and he sought to satisfy the masses’ interests (Twitchett and Fairbank 901).
Some of Li Shimin’s policies entailed slapping a ban on extravagance, cultivating frugality, lowering taxes, supporting agriculture, funning population increase, and building of projects to conserve water. Li Shimin’s administration was a strict, especially to the local leaders. He closely monitored their performance and he punished the failures and promoted the hardworking administrators (Jianying par. 9).
Li Shimin is undoubtedly one of the greatest historical icons in the Chinese history. His reign during the Tang Dynasty propelled Chinese territory to greater heights economically, socially, politically, and intelligence-wise. In this paper, some of his achievements have been highlighted. In the first place, he dealt excellently with both foreign and ethnic issues, such that his empire became an integration of foreign and ethnic minorities with the locals. Li Shimin also established an unparalleled open, efficient and honest administration that valued the masses.
Jianying, Huo. "The Tang Dynasty ( 618 - 907 BC )." 2001. China Today. 14 June 2013 <http://www.chinavoc.com/history/tang/recollection.htm>.
Ministry of Culture P. R. China. "Tang Taizong." 2003. Chinadaily.com.cn. 14 June 2013 <http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_aboutchina/2003-09/24/content_22874.htm>.
Twitchett, Denis and John Fairbank. Denis The Cambridge History of China, Vol. 3, Sui and T'ang China, 589–906. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.