Differences Between Byzantine Empire And Tang Dynasty

Locating in different regions of the world allows each empires to develop the unique history and characteristics. Byzantine empire and tang dynasty are both empires during the early medieval times that had their own unique characteristics such as population, culture, economy, and religion. Comparing two empires, they share similar concepts in economy and art. Not to mention the obvious differences between the two empires in population, culture, and religion.

Byzantine Empire and Tang Dynasty differed greatly in population. In the beginning of Tang dynasty, about 37 million people existed and as Tang dynasty reached the peak, the population was estimated around 65 million people (Lal). As it went downhill to a decline, the population was cut down to about 20 million people caused by revolutions and disputes (Lal). For Byzantine empire, the population wasn’t very stabilized because of the frequent wars and plague (Stathakopoulos). As the empire arrived at its decline, the population reduced to 50 thousands of people (Stathakopoulos). From the results, Tang Dynasty had a massive number of population compared to Byzantine Empire. Both of the empires had an immense reduction in the population during their fall.

Comparing the economy of these two empires, the basic sources of their economy is alike. Both relied on agriculture but mostly depended heavily on trade. During the Tang dynasty, there was a great advance in agriculture growing rice and tea(McLean). The new technologies in farming tools developed led to efficient farming. (“Science”) Also, new the irrigation system allowed water from far away to come in and make the farming land fertile. (“Science”) All of these improvements led to an increase in productive rate and provided enough food for the population. Like the Tang dynasty, Byzantine empire depended on agriculture for the basic staple sources (“Agriculture”).

As for trading, Byzantine Empire and Tang Dynasty used silk road to bring prosperity and economic stability. “Silk road was a network of trade routes connecting China and the Far East with the Middle East and Europe.” (“Silk Road”) Initially, the silk road was established during the Han Dynasty but Tang Dynasty reopened it(Mark, Joshua). This massive networks of trade routes allowed Tang Dynasty to have access and trade with many cities in the Middle East and Rome (Colburn). The most known product that Tang Dynasty provided to the world was silk (Colburn).

Not only Tang Dynasty traded silk but also, spices, porcelain, lacquerware, textile, paper, ship, and bronze because China had the techniques to produce these goods when Western civilizations couldn’t (McLean). Additionally, Tang Dynasty had established marine trade routes as the ship-building technologies advanced. Guangzhou and Quangzhou became the major port cities that were very active (McLean). The trade routes on land and water granted Tang Dynasty with numerous of new goods and new technologies that made China reach its peak in economy.

As same for the Byzantine Empire, the empire imported goods by the silk road and the ships from Black Sea. Grains, furs, leather, caviar, honey, gold, wax, and slaves were brought into the Byzantine Empire though trade routes (”The Rise of the Byzantine Empire-Overview”). “Over the land routes from Asia arrive precious stones, silk, perfumes, and spices.”(”The Rise of the Byzantine Empire-Overview”) Soon Constantinople became the center of market with vast trade routes around the empire. There was differences in what goods each empire produced, grew, and traded but the base of the economy worked on agriculture and trade.

The Byzantine empire lasted for almost 1000 years, losing their power in year 1453 where the Ottoman army conquered Constantine. (“Byzantine Empire”) Even before attacks from Ottoman, Byzantine Empire was running towards the fall. Byzantine empire had frequent conflicts with turks weakening the military and losing land (Cartwright, Mark. “1204: The Sack of Constantinople.”). Another reason is that the when the fourth crusaders came into the Byzantine empire, they slaughtered citizens, destroyed churches and buildings, and raiding the empire for three days (Cartwright, Mark. “1204: The Sack of Constantinople”).

These attacks before Ottoman made Byzantine empire weak and small which didn’t allowed them to win. The Tang Dynasty fell after the rebellion driven by Huang-Chao who used to work in government in 9th century. (Mark) The rebellion went on for a long time that it was too difficult for Tang dynasty to be stable after. (Mark) The confusion and instability was what caused Tang dynasty to fall. Both empires, when they fell, they both had became weaken by conflicts caused internal and external.

Both of the empires had diverse cultures and religions because they both were one of the biggest trading cities during the Medieval age. The theology of the religion influenced the artworks of the empires. The main religion in Byzantine empire was Christianity which was established by Constantine. To be more exact the belief was Eastern Orthodox. Christianity influenced the culture of the Byzantine empire and as the Byzantine empire continued, the architecture was influenced by the greek style. For example, Hagia Sophia was the biggest church filled with great artworks of the time.

Mosaics were one of forms of art that was shown in Byzantine empire. “They were extensively used to depict religious subjects on the interior of churches within the Empire.” (“Byzantine Mosaics”) During Byzantine empire, mosaics were not only used for religious reasons but for non-religious artworks. (“Byzantine Mosaics.”) Also there were new form of painting, icon painting (“Byzantine Art and Architecture Movement”). It was used to represent holy person to have people know who they are praying to (Cartwright, Mark. “Byzantine Icons”) Like Hagia Sophia and icon paintings, christianity was closely related to the arts and culture.

During the time of Tang Dynasty in China, the culture flourished. China at this time had many religions such as Taoism which is a native religion of China, Confucianism which is also a native religion of China, Buddhism which was rising in Tang Dynasty, and Christianity that was just being accepted (Mark). There were a lot of painting, sculpture, and temples that represent buddhism such as ‘A Gilt-Bronze Figure of The Bodhisattva Guanyin’ which is a sculpture of Amitabha Buddha (“Ancient Chinese Sculpture”). Also in northern China, there is dunhuang caves that contain cave wall paintings (Cartwright, Mark. “The Art of the Tang Dynasty”). “The cave wall paintings show scenes from the life of Buddha with many portraits of bodhisattvas and landscape scenes.”(Cartwright, Mark. “The Art of the Tang Dynasty”). The empires had different culture from having disparate religion but both empires had close relationship between culture and religion.

Comparing Byzantine empire and Tang dynasty during the early middle ages, the disparities are straightforward. Tang dynasty had booming population than Byzantine empire during the time of peak and decline but both empires lost a bountiful of population during the decline. Both empires’ foundation for economy was farming and commerce that used the silk road. Byzantine empire and Tang dynasty was unstable when the destructive conflicts came along and guided both empires to a decline. Byzantine Empire believed in Christianity while Buddhism flourished in Tang Dynasty. Their art and religion was not separable, resulting in many artworks and relating to their belief. Even though they were both civilizations in early middle ages, not only they share similarities but also they are differed through many ways.

18 March 2020
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