Emperor Taizong of Tang, whose era name is Zhen’guan, had ruled China from 624 to 647. During his reign, China became tremendously peaceful and prosperous, and this period, which has been usually called “Reign of Zhen’guan”or “Zhen’guan Prosperity,” is commonly viewed as a glorious page in Chinese history. “Zhen Guan Zheng Yao” is a book recording Taizong’s political discussion with his courtiers, in which “admonition” and “meritocracy” are the very essence that people later on would like to capture or extol. Additionally, Taizong’s “Incident of Xuanwu Gate” is indeed worthwhile to give some thought from a different angle. Such an incident is not merely a political infighting over the succession to the throne, but it is also a challenge to the primogeniture system, which says that the eldest son should inherit and take the position as the “Crown Prince” before he becomes the next head of state. This incident, namely, implies that, the eldest or not, anyone of the emperor’s sons may have the chance to be the new ruler as long as he is able to demonstrate his talents and capabilities for governing a nation and subjugating its people. As to the “Crown Prince”, who is traditionally and systematically the next in line to the throne, he is required to enhance his own reputation in battle. Taizong, a prince of high caliber but the second son to the imperial family, seizes power through political maneuvers. After ascending the throne, Taizong places his full trust in those who work under him in exchange for their unswerving loyalty. Besides, he is well-known for his benevolence and care for governance, and his magnanimity is embodied in the appointment and recruitment of civil officials on the basis of their aptitude, competence, and virtue. In brief, the book, “Zhen Guan Zheng Yao,” has turned into a cultural paradigm of the communication between the monarch and his subjects, judging from the book’s scope and content.
There is no doubt that “Reign of Zhen’guan”or “Zhen’guan Prosperity” is a glorious page in history. Most historians would give this period high praise, and scholars researching into Chinese history yearn for it. Deeply rooted in Chinese culture, people here in Taiwan are proud to have it. However, rather than a miracle, it is a unique combination resulting from the right time and space, with the right people and appropriate circumstances. Simply put, there was and will be no comparison between this period and others.
Regardless of the difference of time and space, there seems to be a constant rule to explain the rise and fall of all powers, be it a monarchy or a democracy. By plowing on with numerous historical archives and materials, we can learn from the past so as to look ahead. As a consequence, “Reign of Zhen’guan”or “Zhen’guan Prosperity” deserves to be explored from a modern perspective.
Compared with the other 21 dynasties within the China’s history of 5000 years, Tang dynasty is perceived as the zenith in Chinese civilization. Tang China also flourishes economically and militarily while emperor Taizong reigns. After defeating those nomadic kingdoms around Tang China, the emperor Taizong wins the title of “Tien Kehan”(Heavenly Khan). Taizong contributes significantly to the founding of Tang dynasty and is considered one of the greatest emperors in all of Chinese history. As far as the span of Taizong’s reign is concerned, an entire 23-year reign can hardly compare to the two emperors’ reign of the Manchu Qing dynasty, Kangxi and emperor Qianlong, who ruled China 60 and 61 years respectively. In spite of this, what people today would lovely to talk about is still Taizong’s “Reign of Zhen’guan”or “Zhen’guan Prosperity.” It is a period which will go down in history.