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The Sui Dynasty: An Overview

Updated on August 8, 2017

Sui Dynasty Ruled China For Nearly Four Decades

The Sui Dynasty was a powerful dynasty which ruled China for 38 years. This dynasty was preceded by the Southern and the Northern dynasties and succeeded by the Tang Dynasty.

Sui Dynasty Was Established by Yang Jian

The Sui Dynasty time period was 581 AD to 618 AD. It was established by Yang Jian, who was also known as Emperor Wendi. Daxing was the capital of the Sui Dynasty between 581 and 605, and Luoyang between 605 to 618.

In 2016, more than 20 experts from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and National Museum of China found the site of the Jinyang Palace, which dates from the Sui Dynasty.

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Daxing Was Located at the Foot of the Longshou Plateau, Encompassing Present Day Xi'An.

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Xi An, Shaanxi, China
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Emperor Xuandi Was a Bad Ruler

The Northern Zhou Dynasty was ruled by Emperor Xuandi. People suffered during this period due to his inefficient rule. Emperor Xuandi died in the year 580 AD due to illness.

Jingdi Becomes the Emperor

Eight year old Emperor Jingdi inherited the throne. The Han generals seized this opportunity to overthrow the regime. They chose Yang Jian as their leader. Yang Jian assisted Emperor Jingdi as his prime minister for some time. He had the military under his control.

Yang Jian Established the Sui Dynasty

Yang Jian dethroned Emperor Jingdi and established the Sui Dynasty in the year 581 AD. In the year 589 AD he defeated the southern Chen rulers and brought about the unification of China. Most of the Sui Dynasty achievements occurred during his regime. His foreign policy was excellent.

Emperor Wendi Encouraged Meritocracy

People experienced a sense of well being during Emperor Wendi's (personal name: Yang Jian) rule. He introduced the system of "Three Cabinets and Six Departments". By doing so, he improved the efficiency of the administration. He brought all government officials under annual assessment. His policies encouraged meritocracy in appointment of government officials.

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Emperor Wendi Constructed the Guangtong Canal

Emperor Wendi succeeded in controlling the growth of population by taking appropriate measures. He introduced the land equalization system. In the year 584 AD, he constructed the Guangtong Canal. This enhanced agricultural production and improved water transportation.

First Bridge in the World Was Built During the Rule of Sui Dynasty

Emperor Wendi encouraged his soldiers to practice farming during peace time. Zhaozhou Bridge, the first bridge in the world was built during the rule of Sui Dynasty. Great advances in science and art were made during this period. Maritime Silk Road developed further during these years. China started to welcome foreign students during his reign. Chengdu was an economic and cultural centre in western China during the Sui Dynasty.

Yang Guang Killed Yang Jian After He Came to Power

Yang Jian chose Yang Guang, his second son, as his successor. Unfortunately, Yang Guang killed Yang Jian after he came to power. He also killed his elder brother. Yang Guang was also known as Emperor Yangdi. Yang Guang was a tyrant and was unpopular among his subjects.

Yang Guang Was Killed by His Followers

Yang Guang abused workers and other resources of the empire. He tried to conquer Korea three times, but failed miserably. His unnecessary wars and unreasonable expenses weakened the state. His regime witnessed many peasant uprisings. Yang Guang was killed by his followers in the year 618 AD. The Sui Dynasty came to an end with his death. Today codes and books of Sui Dynasty are studied worldwide.

The construction of the Grand Canal connecting Beijing in the north and Zhejiang Province in the south led to the downfall of the Sui Dynasty.

- Mei Xinyu, an associate researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation

Guoqing Temple

On the cobbled path to Guoqing Temple, which is nestled in a green blur of trees and bamboo, it is easy to picture the past. This famous temple in the Tiantai Mountains was built more than 1,400 years ago during the Sui Dynasty.

Guoqing Temple is considered to be the birthplace of China’s first Buddhist sect, the Tiantai school. Its reputation and delightful surrounding scenery draw tourists as well as devotees.

Keju Was Introduced During the Period of Sui Dynasty

Keju (科举 kē jǔ), also known as the Imperial Exam or Civil Exam, was first introduced by the central government to select talented individuals from the amongst the commoners during the period of Sui Dynasty

Refreshing Drink Matcha

With its fresh, newly picked taste, matcha is a refreshing drink, and also an ingredient in desserts, cookies and ice cream. It is made from the leaves of tea bushes that grow in shade, with only the finest buds hand-picked. The ingredient originated in China during the Sui Dynasty.


The lion’s head, or shizitou, is a staple dish from Huaiyang cuisine. It is a centerpiece at banquets and formal dinners. Shizitou dates back to the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618), when Emperor Yang traveled to Yangzhou, where a chef created four dishes to represent the city’s four famous landmarks. Sunflower seed paste was used in the original lion’s head. Lion’s head is a soft and smooth meat dish. It can be steamed, braised with soy sauce, or cooked as a clear soup.

Major Achievements Of the Sui Dynasty

Unified China
Reduced Economic Inequality
Formulated Kaihuang legal code
Increased agricultural productivity
Built the Grand Canal

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Top 3 Most Powerful Dynasties of China

Han Dynasty
206 B.C.E. - 220 C.E.
Tang Dynasty
618 C.E. - 907 C.E.
Qing Dynasty
1368 C.E. - 1644 C..E.

All the people within the four seas may, without exception, develop enlightenment and together cultivate fortunate karma, bringing it to pass that present existences will lead to happy future lives, that the sustained creation of good causation will carry us one and all up to wondrous enlightenment.

— Emperor Wendi


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