Tang Dynasty Emperors of China

Although stirrups had been used in China for several hundred years, this horse's saddle lacks them.
This beautiful ceramic horse from the Tang Dynasty in China (618-907) does not have stirrups on its saddle, even though the technology obviously was known in China at that time. Casbr on Flickr.com

The Tang Dynasty's reign was one of the golden eras in the long history of China. It lasted almost three hundred years, from 618 to 907 CE, and is considered an apex point of Chinese culture.  The Tang capital at Chang'an (now Xi'an) was the largest city in the world.

During Tang times, trade flourished along the Silk Road to the west.  To the east and south, important neighboring countries paid tribute to the Tang court, including Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

  Raids by Central Asian nomadic groups to the north and west of China were an ever-present threat, but for much of its reign, the Tang government was wealthy enough to overpower the raiders.

One glitch in the Tang story occurred in 690, when an imperial consort named Wu Zetian seized the throne and declared herself the founding ruler of the Later Zhou Dynasty.  Empress Wu remains the only woman to have ever ruled China in her own right, rather than as a regent for a young male emperor.  Her bold attempt to start a very different chapter in Chinese history ended after just 15 years, however, and the Tang returned to power.

In 751, the Tang ran up against a new foe - the Abbasid caliphate's army.  At the Battle of Talas River, near the border between what is now Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the two huge empires engaged in a seemingly minor clash that would set the boundary between the Muslim Central Asia and Chinese territories.

A major disruption to the generally peaceable Tang era was the An Lushan Rebellion, which lasted from 755 to 763 and resulted in tens or even hundreds of thousands of casualties.  The rebellion did not succeed in overthrowing the Tang rulers, but it did significantly weaken them. 

Some of the cultural developments and innovations of the Tang period include the invention of printing, the accidental creation of the first gunpowder, and the popularization of Buddhism in China.

 

After a long, slow decline, helped along by changing weather patterns that brought drought and famine, the Tang Dynasty fell in 907 CE.

The emperors are listed by their given names and reign names.

Tang Dynasty Emperors of China

 

  • Li Yuan, Wude Emperor, reign 618-626
  • Li Shimin, Zhenguan Emperor, r. 626-649
  • Li Zhi, Yonghui Emperor, r. 650-683
  • Li Xian, Sisheng Emperor, r. 684 and 705-710
  • Li Dan, Wenming Emperor, r. 684-690 and Jingyun Emperor, 710-712
  • Li Chong Mao, Tanglong Emperor, r. 710
  • Li Long Ji, Xiantian Emperor, r. 712-756
  • Li Heng, Zhide Emperor, r. 756-762
  • Li Yu, Baoying Emperor, r. 762-779
  • Li Kuo, Jianzhong Emperor, r. 780-805
  • Li Song, Yongzhen Emperor, r. 805
  • Li Chun, Yuanhe Emperor, r. 806-820
  • Li Heng, Changqing Emperor, r. 821-824
  • Li Zhan, Baoli Emperor, r. 824-826
  • Li Ang, Dahe Emperor, r. 826-840
  • Li Yan, Huichang Emperor, r. 840-846
  • Li Chen, Dachong Emperor, r. 846-859
  • Li Cui, Xiantong Emperor, r. 859-873
  • Li Xuan, Qianfu Emperor, r. 873-888
  • Li Ye, Longji Emperor, r. 888-904
  • Li Zhu, Tianyou Emperor, r. 904-907

 

For more information, see the complete List of Chinese Dynasties.