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A ruler who ushered in an era of prosperity

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-17 06:27
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Over 240 relics from 15 museums display the prosperity of Tang Dynasty (618-907) emperor Li Shimin's era in the National Library of China. [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

Tang emperor helped establish a confident and flourishing nation, as exhibition shows, Wang Kaihao reports.

As the result of a royal coup, 27-year-old Li Shimin, a prince who once campaigned to help his father impose stability across the country and establish the Tang Dynasty (618-907), ascended to the throne, taking the place of his elder brother, Li Jiancheng.

This dramatic moment is perhaps controversial. Nonetheless, when viewed over the long term, this detour in history led to an era of prosperity.

The 23-year reign of Li Shimin, posthumously known as Emperor Taizong of Tang, left a long list of impressive achievements to admire, including battlefield triumphs, a receptive attitude toward good advice in politics and national governance, even from followers of former rivals, and an inclusive policy toward ethnic groups from afar.

Consequently, the name given to his reign, Zhenguan, is widely seen as symbolic of a peaceful and flourishing time in ancient China.

An exhibition in Beijing at the National Library of China offers intriguing insight into this time as it guides visitors through the Zhenguan era.

Organized by Art Exhibitions China, the national library and several other institutions, Zhenguan: Li Shimin's Saga of Prosperous Era is the first major exhibition in Beijing to focus on this iconic figure and includes 249 exhibits from 15 museums around the country, including pottery figurines, gold and silver artifacts, stone statues, and epigraphs. It will run until Aug 25.

It seeks to show the human side of its subject. "Through this exhibition, we will not just portray Li Shimin as a ruler with ambition and great expectations," explains Art Exhibitions China's Feng Xue, who is curator of the exhibition. "We also want to present him as someone with emotions just like everyone else.

"Looking back on the civilization of the Tang Dynasty from various perspectives, we can sense the continuous innovation and creativity that define the cultural ethos of the era."

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