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much more aggressive and ambitious than his father. Taizong secured
what his father could not even imagine: the submission of the Turks to
Tang overlordship. He understood the Turks well and knew their psy-
chology. During the 620s, when the Turks were making threatening
moves toward the Tang, Taizong twice dashed out of the gates of
Chang'an on horseback and rode into the Turk encampments, where
he actually challenged the Turk khans to personal combat. Overawed
by his bravado and confidence, the Turks on both occasions backed off.
Taizong predicted that the Turks would eventually weaken themselves
through civil war, and in the late 620s his predictions came true. In 630
the Turks decided to avoid self-destruction by submitting to the Tang,
and they agreed to recognize Taizong as their “Heavenly Khan.” With
this, Taizong became without question the most powerful man in the
world. He reigned as emperor over the Chinese and Heavenly Khan
over the hordes of warlike Turkic mounted warriors on China's
northern frontier. Tang domination over the Turks endured for half a
century. The Tang then deployed Turks along its northern frontiers as
guards. Other Turks went into China and were eventually assimilated
into Chinese civilization.
This peculiar relation between the Chinese and the Turks symbol-
izes Tang China's approach to the outside world in general. Chang'an,
the Tang capital, became the cultural and economic center of Asia. The
Japanese and Koreans greatly admired Tang civilization and sent
many envoys to learn its culture and methods of government. The
Japanese even modeled their first capital cities after the Tang capital.
Nara and Heian were virtual scaled-down copies of Chang'an, and
the “Japanese” tea ceremony and the formal kimono dress were based
on Tang precedents. Silla dynasty Korea (A.D. 668-935) copied Tang
governmental organization in extensive detail, and the earliest litera-
ture in both Korea and Japan was in large part written in pure Chinese.
Taizong himself was part Turk and so could not entertain arrogant or
condescending attitudes toward foreign peoples and cultures. He
had a very open-minded attitude toward all peoples, and his style
was reflected and perpetuated throughout the rest of the dynasty. He
fostered and protected foreign religions, and in Chang'an were found
Buddhist temples, Jewish synagogues, Islamic mosques, and Nesto-
rian Christian chapels. (Nestorian Christianity was condemned as her-
esy at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 because of its seemingly
heterodox views of Jesus Christ. It eventually declined in the West
but spread through much of Asia, where it achieved its greatest extent
from the seventh through tenth centuries.) China in Tang times was
wide open to the outside world, more so than in any other period until
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