A THUMBNAIL VIEW
• As in the previous chapter, this time period witnessed a tremendous growth in long-distance trade due to improvements in technology. Trade through the Silk Road, the Indian Ocean, the trans-Saharan trade route, and the Mediterranean Sea led to the spread of ideas, religions, and technology. During the period known as Pax Mongolia, when peace and order were established in Eurasia due to the vast Mongol Empire, trade and cultural interaction were at their height.
• Major technological developments such as the compass, improved shipbuilding technology, and gunpowder shaped the development of the world.
AP EXPERT TIP When you are reading about a given situation, try to visualize where in the world those developments are taking place. Alternatively, reproduce a blank world map and take notes in the proper geographic region as you read.
• The movement of people greatly altered our world. Nomadic groups such as the Turks, Mongols, and Vikings, for instance, interacted with settled people—often because of their technology—leading to further change and development. One of the worst epidemic diseases in history, the bubonic plague (or Black Death), spread during this period due to the movement of people and their increased interaction.
• Religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism promoted the equality of all believers in the eyes of God. And though patriarchal values continued to dominate, the monastic life available in Buddhism and Christianity offered an alternative path for women.
• The spread of religion aided by the increase in trade often acted as a unifying force, though it sometimes caused conflict. Christianity and the Church served as the centralizing force in Western Europe, and throughout East Asia, the spread of Confucianism and Buddhism solidified a cultural identity. The new religion of Islam created cultural world known as dar-al Islam, which transcended political boundaries.
• The political structures of many areas adapted and changed in response to the new conditions of the world. Centralized empires like the Byzantine, the Arab Caliphates, and the Tang and Song dynasties built on the successful models of the past, while decentralized areas (Western Europe and Japan) developed political organizations that more effectively dealt with their specific conditions. The movements of the Mongols altered much of Asia’s political structure for a time, and recovery from that Mongol period introduced political structures that defined many areas for centuries to follow.
Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 CE)
Following the fall of the Han dynasty, China returned to rule by regional small kingdoms for the next 400 years. It was not until 581 CE that the Sui dynasty emerged, using Buddhism and the Confucian civil service system to establish legitimacy. The Sui dynasty started the construction of the Grand Canal and launched numerous campaigns to expand the empire. Rebellions overthrew the Sui in 618. The Tang dynasty that followed was more focused on scholars than on soldiers. It did, however, expand its territory beyond China proper to Tibet and Korea. It also completed the Grand Canal and offered support to Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. The capital, Changan, was a major political center, which foreign diplomats visited from the Byzantine and Arab worlds. In the middle of the eighth century CE, Tang power declined as higher taxes created tension within the population. Peasant rebellions led to more independent regional rule and to the abdication of the emperor. After this, there was a period of rule by regional warlords for the next 50 years.
The dynasty established military garrisons, which allowed for the protection and security of Silk Road trade. An equal field system was established in which all peasants were given land in return for tax in grain and...