Sui Dynasty: Facts, Timeline & Emperors

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

Dynasties, periods where the same family or group ruled, distinguish distinct periods in Chinese history. In this lesson learn about the major events of the Sui Dynasty, the third imperial dynasty in China.

Have you ever heard the saying, 'small, but mighty?' This phrase accurately describes the Sui Dynasty in China. The Sui Dynasty was 'small but mighty' because although it only lasted 37 years, its emperors' many accomplishments were important for the future success of the Chinese Empire.

Basic Overview

The Sui Dynasty refers to the period in Chinese history from 581 - 618 CE. It falls between the Southern and Northern Dynasties Period and the Tang Dynasty. The most important accomplishment of the Sui Dynasty was the successful effort to unite a country that had been divided and at war with itself for hundreds of years. Let's first talk about the events in China leading up to the Sui Dynasty.

The Southern and Northern Dynasties ruled China from 420 - 589. Within the northern and southern ruling bodies, there were many additional ruling bodies. For our study of the Sui Dynasty, the most important take-away from this period of Chinese history was that it was a period of extreme disunity.

Start of the Sui Dynasty

The Sui Dynasty officially began when Yang Jian, later known as Emperor Wendi, overthrew the corrupt and scandalous family who had been ruling northern China. Wendi had the support of the military and faced very few obstacles in becoming emperor. Initially Emperor Wendi ruled only Northern China, but within ten years of rising to power, he had united all of China under his rule.

Timeline and Emperors

The Sui Dynasty began in 581 and lasted until 618. Over the 37 years the Sui ruled China, there were only three emperors.

Yang Jian (Wendi), the founding and most notable Sui emperor

Yang Jian (Wendi) was the first ruler of the Sui Dynasty. He ruled from the start of the Sui in 581 until his death in 604. Although Wendi is most famous for uniting China by restructuring local forms of government, he had several other notable accomplishments that simplified the government and pleased citizens of China. Some of these things included: returning to Confucian practices, supporting the rise of Buddhism, administering an overdue census of the entire country and expanding the army. Wendi's reign ended when he was assassinated by his son, Yangdi in 604.

Emperor Yangdi, the second emperor of the Sui Dynasty

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