Sui dynasty was founded by Yang Jian who was prime minister in Northern Zhou. He gained a lot of power over aristocracy and army what gave him chance to capture Changan and overthrow Zhou Dynasty. Yang Jian declared himself as Wen Emperor of Sui in 581. After that he continued conquest of Chen dynasty what ended by capturing Jiankang in 589. With fall of Chen China was reunified under throne of Sui dynasty. Is one of dynasties that were shortest on Chinese imperial throne. But it was one of most significant dynasties since it reunified China after centuries of clashes between kingdoms. Sui dynasty is often compared to Qin dynasty since both unified China after centuries of instability and division and both got too much exhausted by wars and resetting order what led to their decline. This dynasty like Qin was famous for great constructional projects which required slave workers. Rule of this dynasty was harsh with pointing on strict law enforcement. Emperor Wen strengthened Confucian norms in state institutions, engaged large number of labor in construction projects and imposed high taxes. Legitimacy of Sui was based on Emperors Wen claim that his family is descendant of Han dynasty. He imposed taxation on products and trade and therefore order which existed during Han dynasty was restoring. Within state there was stability and peace and prosperity was returning. Trade, rise of population and arts were developing. Emperor Wen built new parts of Great Wall on West and Northwest in order to provide defense from Turkic tribes of Turkic Khanate.
Emperor Wen was succeeded by his son in 605 who became Emperor Yang. Emperor Yang reinstalled deeper Confucian reforms in the system what non-Chinese elites didn’t like. Emperor Yang continued construction projects on Grand Canal and Great Wall. Emperor forced millions of workers to build new sections of the Great Wall in order to strengthen defense of China. Great Wall was now extended into todays Inner Mongolia( Nei Mongol). He fought several wars against Turkic tribes. Also he wanted to return territories that were part of China during Han dynasty such as parts of Vietnam and Korea. Emperor Yang sent large troops to capture Hanoi and continued further to the south to fight against Vietnamese Champa Kingdom. They took some parts of Champa Kingdom but further progress was prevented by malaria since Chinese troops were not immune on tropical diseases.
As claiming legitimacy of territories that Han dynasty had Emperor Yang sent 1.5mln soldiers and 3000 warships to capture Gogureyo Kingdom ( one of 3 Korean Kingdoms). All 4 campaigns between 598 and 614 that he initiated ended in failure. This defeat is considered as main reason of fall of Sui dynasty since Emperors Yang power and popularity drastically dropped. Emperor Yang became were unpopular because of luxurious lifestyle, high taxes, forced labor and economic crisis that occurred because of unsuccessful wars. Rebellions started to spread over country and emperor was losing support of close advisors. During war storages of money were attacked by peasants and were distributed among them and given to poorest families. Li Yuan one of closest imperial advisors openly started fighting against emperor. With the help of rebels Li Yuan assassinated emperor Yang in 618. He declared himself as Emperor Gaozu of Tang dynasty. With Emperor Gaozu long and stable period of Tang dynasty started which is considered as peak of Chinese imperial state and culture.
Society and culture:
Despite short lasting of Sui dynasty it had successful cultural, social and economic development.
State apparatus was strengthened by Emperor Wen and Yang by stronger incorporating of Confucian values in education, laws and execution of affairs. Social structure and educational system of Han dynasty was adopted. Three Departments and Six Ministries which role declined after Han dynasty were strengthened again. They were empowered to widely serve and implement emperors decisions, collect taxes as before what was written. Its functioning and roles were defined in more details than before as well as details of imperial examination. Reforms conducted by Wen and Yang emperors stabilized governance that was inherited by Tang emperors. It was one of important preconditions for Tang governance.
Economy was stabilized and construction developed. In agriculture state distributed more land to peasants. Equal size of fields was distributed. At beginning taxes were decreased Production of salt and iron increased. Also construction of ships was increased as state understood importance of fleet for strengthening army.
Large construction project started. It was initiated by Emperor Yang in 600. It was construction of Grand Canal in order to build new trade route and connect important economic centers. Canal had aim to ease trade by connecting important cities and major rivers. Cities that were connected by canal were Changan( capital), Luoyang, Taiyuan, Yanzhou, Hangzhou and many other coastal or continental cities. Changan was biggest metropolis of the time with vibrant city life. Most of canal was built during Emperor Yang but some sections were added during Tang dynasty. Canal was longer than 1000km and was largest construction project of the world during that time. It was precondition for prosperity and trade during Tang dynasty.
Sui dynasty was short lasting but during its period culture and arts developed too. Trends in culture and religion during Sui gave direction of its development during Tang dynasty. When it comes to painting it was expanding and new styles were adopted in Chinese painting. Among them are northern Xianbei painting styles. Many nomadic non-Chinese instruments were adopted too in Chinese music. Also poetry began was very popular and its popularity boomed during Tang dynasty. Most famous poet of Sui dynasty was Emperor Yang himself.
Religion was spreading both Buddhism and Taoism. In Taoism there were no significant developments during Sui dynasty while Buddhism was encouraged by Emperor Wen. Emperor Wen promoted Chan Buddhism calling all people to practice Buddhism and find inner and mutual peace. During Sui Dynasty Tiantai sect of Buddhism appeared which promoted meditative practices. Main document which Tiantai school promoted was Lotus Sutra which teaches about virtues of Buddha and eliminating negative energy and karma. It calls on searching enlightenment by breathing techniques during meditation.