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Emperor Taizong

History >> Biography >> Ancient China


Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty is considered by many historians to be one of the greatest emperors in the history of China. He helped his father, Emperor Gaozu, to overthrow the Sui Dynasty and establish the Tang Dynasty. Once he became emperor, Taizong expanded China's rule and ushered in the Golden Age of the Tang Dynasty.

"Tang Taizong" by unknown painter
[Public Domain]

Growing Up

Emperor Taizong was born in Wugong, China in 598. His birth name was Li Shimin. His father, Li Yuan, was an important general in the army of the Sui Dynasty. He grew up in his family's palace with an older brother, two younger brothers, and a sister.

At an early age, Li Shimin began to make a name for himself. When he was just seventeen he heard that the current emperor had been captured by some enemy soldiers. He joined up with a group of men and fought bravely while helping to rescue the emperor.

The Tang Dynasty

The emperor of the Sui Dynasty was a tyrant and a poor leader. Li Shimin and his father realized that the Sui Dynasty was about to collapse. They put together a successful plot that removed the Sui Emperor and crowned his father as emperor while establishing the new Tang Dynasty.

Li Shimin became his father's main general. He successfully led the army in many battles against his father's rivals and helped to strengthen his rule.

Becoming Emperor

When his father became emperor, Li Shimin's older brother became the crown prince. As Li Shimin became more successful on the battlefield, his brothers became concerned that he would want to become emperor. They plotted against him and planned to have Li Shimin killed. However, Li Shimin found out and managed to kill his brothers instead. A few months after this, his father stepped down from being emperor and Li Shimin became Emperor Taizong.

Ruling China

Once he was in power, Emperor Taizong made many changes to the government. He established four main departments of government that all reported to him. He listened to his ministers and, unlike some leaders before him, allowed his ministers to be critical. If he agreed with their criticism, he made changes.

Emperor Taizong wanted to be a good leader and to help his people. He started a new regulation called the "equal distribution of land." This law allowed for each family to own enough land for them to make a living. He also started a new tax system that was based on the number of adult men in the family. He tried to keep the taxes fair, so that the people could prosper.

At the same time he was improving China, he was conquering new lands. Under Emperor Taizong, China expanded to become the dominant power in Asia and the largest nation in the world.

During Taizong's rule China would have many years of peace and prosperity. He also established new regulations that allowed for China to prosper for many years after his rule came to an end.


Emperor Taizong became ill during the summer of 649 and died. He was 51 years old. His ninth son, Li Zhi, took over as Emperor Gaozong.


Emperor Taizong built a lasting legacy in China. His reign was considered one of the most important in Chinese history. Future leaders would study his rule as children and would try to imitate his reign once they became emperor.


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