“With a bronze mirror, one can see whether he is properly attired; with history as a mirror, one can understand the rise and fall of a nation; with men as a mirror, one can see whether he is right or wrong.“

Emperor Taizong of Tang

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our last blog in the History Around the Globe Series – Italy!

By: Kristina Dong

Next stop – China! As one of the four known ancient civilizations that are still prosperous in today’s world, China is definitely a country rich in history.

Ancient China fell under an empirical system. With a total of 83 dynasties, China’s historical timeline is long-spanning with sophisticated culture and affluent socio-political systems.

The Great Wall of China | Photo by Tom Fisk on

Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.)

Of the known dynasties, the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), had a thriving culture rich in poetry and arts and is considered as a period of golden age within China.

Historical Figures

One of the most remembered poets in China today, Li Bai, was born in this period. His poem ‘Quiet Night Thought’ is as famous as it is memorable.

            Before my bed tonight the moon shone down

I took it instead for frost upon the ground

I lift my head watching the mountain moon

I lower my head missing my northern home

Thought on a Quiet Night By Li Bai, Translated by A.Z. Foreman
*An interesting note is that the language spoken in ancient China is different to today’s ‘Mandarin’. Strictly speaking ‘Ya Yan’ (雅言) is used nowadays to refer to the language spoken by people in the time of the Tang Dynasty.


You might’ve heard of the popular folktale Journey to the West. But did you know the central character, Tang Sanzang, was modelled after a real historical Buddhist monk chased back to the Tang Dynasty?

Xuanzang Journey to the West painting in Dunhuang cave | Photo from

Buddhism was definitely one of the religions commonly pursued during the time, but contrary to popular belief, Buddhism was not the most pursued religion in the time of the Tang Dynasty.

Daoism (also referred to as Taoism) was the ‘national’ religion at the time, and the founder of the Tang Dynasty and the preceding emperors following his reign, all revered Daoism and were Daoist followers.

Daoism practices self-cultivation through meditation, rituals, and martial arts. With inaction, simplicity and living in harmony with nature, being the fundamental principles.

Daoist Xiantian Bagua | Photo from

Traditional Clothing

Hanfu, traditional clothing panning across Chinese history, was also worn by people of the Tang Dynasty. The design is often brightly coloured, with floral pattern and embroidery of mystical beasts being common features of this type of clothing.

The material used included silk, cotton linen and wool, silk being most exquisite due to its soft and light-weight texture and was commonly worn by nobles and wealthy merchants at the time.

Hanfu from the Tang Dynasty |

Do you want to know more about life in the Tang Dynasty? Look no further. From the life of the female empress Wu Zetian to the rise and fall of heroes at the time, there have been numerous remakes of the stories and historical tales centred around the Tang Dynasty.

Our recommendation is the Romance of Sui and Tang Dynasties novel by Chu Renhuo. The novel romanticises the historical events leading up to the fall of the Sui Dynasty and the rise of the Tang Dynasty and has been recaptured in films in recent times.

Heroes in Sui and Tang Dynasties (2013) TV Series

Keen to go on exchange to China?

Want to know more about the history of China and its other countless dynasties by applying for exchange to a Chinese partner university? Check out UNSW’s list of partner universities spanning across China!

Check out our interviews with China exchange returnees for more interesting experiences around the region!

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