T'ai Tsung, 626 AD
Yangdi, the last ruler of the Sui Dynasty, was killed in 618 AD by his generals, who blamed him for the disastrous defeat of the Chinese army in Korea. One of the generals, Li Shih-min, took over ruling the empire, putting his father, Li Yuan, on the throne as emperor. By 626, Li Shih-min made his father abdicate (retire) and took over being emperor himself, taking the new name T'ai Tsung. He made his capital at in northern China, at Chang'an, one of the main stops on the Silk Road. Chang'an became one of the biggest cities in the world at this time.
T'ai Tsung had a long reign and was a strong emperor. He continued the Han Dynasty way of choosing governors and judges on the basis of the great examinations, to see who was the smartest and the best educated. And he also continued the Sui Dynasty way of giving each man a grant of land and collecting taxes equally from everyone. T'ai Tsung also took a census every three years to make sure that everyone paid the right amount of taxes. Under his rule, trade and cities began to become more important to China.
Eyewitness: Ancient China, by Arthur Cotterell, Alan Hills, and Geoff Brightling (2000). .
China (History of Nations), by Greenhaven Press (2002). For middle schoolers. The negative review on Amazon is actually for a different book - don't be alarmed!
Daily Life in Traditional China: The Tang Dynasty, by Charles Benn (2001). A general introduction for adults.
Women of the Tang Dynasty, by May Holdsworth (1999). A short introduction, with many pictures of T'ang period figurines.
The Court of the Lion: A Novel of the T'ang Dynasty, by Eleanor Cooney and Daniel Altieri (1990). Historical fiction, for grownups.