The Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty arose after the large Tang Empire fell in 906. The Tang Empire was divided among kingdoms or was conquered by invaders. Large sections in the west and north were taken over by other empires or by nomadic tribes, and in the east, there were 8 small kingdoms in 923. In the year 960, Emperor Taizu conquered the area, and the Song Dynasty era began. The Song Dynasty era is divided almost equally into two time periods of about equal length called the Northern Song (960-1127) and the Southern Song (1127-1279) eras. The capital of the Northern Song Dynasty was in Kaifeng. But the Jin Empire conquered the capital and the northeastern region. So the Song court moved to Hangzhou. The Song Dynasty ruled over a relatively prosperous empire south of the Yangtze River that lasted more than 300 years. Rice cultivation and commerce were important in their economy. During their reign, the population of the region is thought to have doubled from about 50 million to a 100 million, science and technology advanced, and costumes and traditional ways of life were developed that were followed until modern times.
Overall, the economy prospered. Rice cultivation in the south flourished enough to support a doubling of the population. International trade was very important, and large commercial cities such as Hangzhou grew that later astounded Marco Polo when he saw them. Private trading companies sent large merchant ships to Arabia, India and other regions to trade Chinese tea, silk and manufactured products. Iron foundries produced as much as 200 million pounds of iron a year for weapons and tools. Some economists say the Song era was a time of technological and economic revolution.
Most of the Song Dynasty related cultural relices are littered in Kaifeng and Hangzhou, as the two served as the capital of the Northern Song dynasty and Southern Song Dynasty, respectively. Some of those historical relices in Hangzhou include Tomb of Yuefei, Song Dynasty Town and Hefang Street.
Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127)
Emperor Taizu began reigning over the whole region in the year 960. His capital was Kaifeng. One of the reforms of his court and later courts was staffing the administration and court positions with scholars who passed the Imperial Examinations. The Liao Empire in the northeast was a military threat, and the Song court wanted to regain the land of the Western Xia in the northeast. The empire also conflicted with the Viets in the southeast. In various campaigns against these three countries, the Northern Song Dynasty usually lost. However, they kept their territorial integrity until 1127. Commerce and rice production enabled the rapid growth of port cities, merchant cities and a large urban population. Overall, their reign was one of stability, prosperity and technological and industrial advance.
During the Song Dynasty, the Imperial Examination that tested knowledge of the material of the Neo-Confucian Classics was important for candidates for government positions. It was thought that a governing bureaucracy staffed by scholars would be more loyal to the court than officials who had domains or areas of rule of their own. The officials were generally dependent on the courts for their pay and position. The ruling literati who passed the exams were thought to be intelligent and noble.
In wars against the Western Xia Kingdom, the Liao Empire, and the Viet Kingdom, the result was stalemate. They couldn't conquer their neighbors, but they didn't lose significant territory to them. The Tanguts had a small kingdom in the northwest that controlled access to the strategic Gansu Corridor that was an important link in the Silk Road trade route. The Tangut tribe was a part of the Tang Empire, but they became a kingdom when the empire disintegrated. As the Song Empire expanded, they resisted them in the late 900s. They thought that if could gain that territory, they could perhaps reestablish lucrative Silk Road trade like that of the Han and Tang Dynasties. The Song Dynasty managed to win several military victories over the Tanguts in the early 11th century. Then a leading scientist and scientific writer named Shen Kuo (1031-1095) who wrote a scientific book called The Dream Pool Essays lead an army against them, but they lost. The Tanguts regained territory they had earlier lost. The Liao Empire was an aggressive enemy in the northeast. They forced the Northern Song Dynasty to give some tribute in 1005. From 1075 to 1077, the Ly Dynasty in Vietnam fought them. This war ended in a stalemate also. Captives and captured land were mutually exchanged.
The Northern Song Dynasty ended when they attacked the Liao Empire together with the Jurchens who were vassals of the Liao Dynasty. They defeated the Liao Empire, but then the Jurchens attacked the Song Empire and captured Kaifeng that was the Song capital city along with the emperor and much of the ruling clan in 1129. A member of the emperor's clan became the new emperor, and he established a new capital at Hangzhou. The Jurchens made Kaifeng their capital and founded the Jin Empire.
Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279)
The Song rulers retained their domain south of the Yangtze River along with most of the population. They also retained big southern merchant cities. The government constructed ships and improved harbor facilities. Quanzhou, Guangzhou, and Xiamen were big seaports, and the government built a navy to protect the merchant shipping. Song Empire merchant ships sailed as far as India and Arabia. The Song Empire continued to be prosperous. They defeated attacks of the Jin Empire.They had a better navy than the Jin did, and the wide Yangtse River was a natural defensive boundary..
However, the Mongols attacked both the Jin Empire and the Western Xia. At the end of their era, the Southern Song allied with the Mongols to attack the Jin Empire. Their attack was successful. When the Song reclaimed the old cities of Kaifeng and Beijing, the Mongols under Kublai Khan attacked them. After about two decades of warfare, the Song capital was taken in 1279 and the empire ended. The Song Dynasty were defeated first by the Jin Empire and then by the Mongols. Each time they allied with another people in an aggressive campaign against a powerful neighbor, they were attacked and defeated by those they allied with.
Philosophy, Religion, and Political Science
Chinese empires had a common written language for 2,000 years. No matter what their spoken language was, most educated people in all eras from the Han Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty needed to be able to read the ancient texts from the end of the Zhou Dynasty (1045-255 BC) era and also write in a form of that written language. By requiring the candidates for official positions to pass exams testing their knowledge of the Neo-Confucian texts, the court ensured that their officials were exceptionally intelligent and could communicate in this very difficult literary language. They wanted to ensure that the officials understood a common political philosophy that emphasized submission to the emperor and one's superiors and following and maintaining the traditionally defined roles of life. This was an advantage in keeping unity under the court and ensuring that the empire ran smoothly.
Almost all the bureaucratic rulers needed to know the Neo-Confucian Classics indepthly. Those who did the best on the exams memorized the entire texts. The Neo-Confucian Classics were Four Books and Five Classics (四書五經) that contained the political and religious philosophy of Confucius and others. These nine books were compiled and codified in the Song era. The Five Classics were thought to have been penned by Confucius, and the Four Books were thought to contain Confucian School-related material but were compiled during the Song era.
The Five Classics and Four Books were written in the written Classical Language. The Five Classics include: The Book of Changes, The Classic of Poetry, The Record of Rites that was a recreation of the original Classic of Rites of Confucius that was lost in the Qin book purge, The Classic of History, and The Spring and Autumn Annals that was mainly a historical record of Confucius' native state of Lu. The Four Books include: The Analects of Confucius that is a book of pithy sayings attributed to Confucius and recorded by his disciples; Mencius that is a collection of political dialogues attributed to Mencius; The Doctrine of the Mean; and The Great Learning that is a book about education, self-cultivation and the Dao. For foreigners who want a taste of this Confucian philosophy, reading the Analects of Confucius is a good introduction since the statements are usually simple and like common sense.
This government system had advantages and disadvantages. The bureaucrats all studied the same works on social behavior and philosophy, and this promoted unity and the normalization of behavior throughout the empire and during the times of dynastic change. The scholar-bureaucrats had a common base of understanding, and they passed on these political and philosophical ideals to the people under them so that the whole empire might have a common philosophy of life. A disadvantage of this system was that innovative reform and political criticism could be restricted easily by rulers. Innovation and personal freedom was stifled.
During the Song Dynasty era, the religions of Daoism and Buddhism became less popular among the ruling class than in previous eras. Neo-Confucian thought became their dominant philosophy of life. Neo-Confucianism was the main religious belief and political philosophy of the bureaucrats most of the time until the end of the Qing Era (1912) except during the Yuan Dynasty era.
Achievements in Science
Song era scientists and inventors advanced knowledge remarkably quickly compared to those of other dynastic eras. The Song era and the Han era were the dynastic eras of most rapid scientific and technical progress. The Song inventors were especially good at concocting varieties of gunpowder to use for different purposes. Shen Kuo, the scientist who failed in his campaign against the Western Xia, was very successful as a scientist. Chinese scientists advanced the state of their knowledge about the geography of the empire, astronomy, and mechanical engineering and other subjects.
Shen Kuo (1031-1095)
Shen Kuo (1031–1095) wrote scientific treatises about his research and about various fields that show advanced knowledge. He was a court official as well as a general. Shen Kuo's Dream Pool Essays of 1088 was a voluminous scientific composition that can be said to contain the forefront of knowledge in astronomy, magnetism and other fields. He is said to have discovered the concepts of true north and magnetic declination towards the North Pole. However, he didn't discover the compass. It is known that lodestone compasses were used in the Han era. But he was the first to describe the magnetic needle compass's declination. This knowledge predates European discovery.
Movable Type Printing
Shen Kuo (1031–1095) also wrote about how a contemporary printer manufactured and used movable type. However, he didn't describe that the person was the inventor of this technique. In his Dream Pool Essays of 1088, Shen Kuo said that the printer made thin ceramic characters himself. Then he arranged these on a block. He said that the method wasn't useful for printing just a few sheets of text, but for a hundreds of sheets the method was fast and economical.
Movable type printing wasn't as important an innovation for China as it was in Europe. Chinese written language used tens of thousands of characters. It was tedious to make so many characters, and it was often easier just to carve wooden blocks to print with. The wood block printing technique is said to have been invented during the preceding Tang Dynasty. Since European alphabets used only a few dozen letters, movable type printing was much more economical. European literacy and culture advanced rapidly.
Another revolutionary group of inventions of the Song era was gunpowder weapons, explosives and varieties of gunpowder. A weak form of gunpowder was known during the preceding Tang Dynasty, but there may be no mention of its use in weaponry until the Song Dynasty. But during the Song Dynasty, a variety of kinds of gunpowder were invented for use in rockets, guns, chemical warfare weapons, and bombs. Gunpowder became powerful enough to make dangerous weapons. Zeng Gongliang and Yang Weide wrote a treatise called Wujing Zongyao in 1044 that described several formulas for making powerful blasting powder with a large percentage of nitrate. At the end of the Song Dynasty in 1277, the Song army used landmines against the Mongols. When the Mongols captured China, they used the landmines and various kinds of gunpowder weapons in their attacks on other countries.
Some of this advanced ancient knowledge wasn't known or wasn't utilized in later dynasties. In later eras, gadgets such as complex mechanical clocks or mechanical odometer machines perhaps weren't as appreciated. Perhaps when dynasties changed and new empires began, the scientists who were generally servants of the imperial courts left or fled and their scientific texts in the imperial courts were lost or left unused. In the empires, the powerful imperial court set the course of scientific research. In the top down hierarchies, rulers had control of what the scholars did, where they lived, and what funding they received.
Culture and Society
The Song Empire experienced economic growth and industrial advance that was unprecedented in earlier dynastic eras. They built some of the biggest cities in the world. There was relative stability and peace, and commercialization, urbanization, and industrialization advanced. Rice cultivation technique advanced, and rice became the major food crop. For the urban elite, food was plentiful. According to Marco Polo, the people in the largest city ate surprisingly large quantities of fresh meat and fish. Marco Polo thought that the cities were richer than European cities. During the Song era, cultural traditions originated that remained important until modern times including living in large urban environments, eating rice and foot binding.
During the Tang era and before, the empires mainly cultivated wheat and millet. The earlier empires developed around the Yellow River in the north. But the latter empires expanded southwards, and people migrated to the south. During the Song era, most of the people lived in the south where they used improved techniques of rice cultivation. This enabled the population to explode.
Based on census counts taken during the Western Han Dynasty and the Tang Dynasty, it is thought that the population of both of the empires was about 50 million or 60 million. This means that after about 800 years, the regional population didn't grow. Scholars think that the population in the region first exceeded 100 million during the Song era. During the Song era, people learned how to live in some of the world's largest urban centers such as Kaifeng and Hangzhou. These cities didn't have walls around them for protection and were more like modern cities.
Higher class and richer people began binding the feet of girls. They essentially crippled their girls for life. It was thought that this made them more submissive and signified their family's status. The custom of foot binding spread to the lower classes and even to peasants, though it rendered the girls less able to do farm labor. By the Qing era, the majority of women except those of ethnic minorities had bound feet. It was thought that the small feet were more beautiful.
Hi Drake, Below are the information for your reference.
Where to Visit?
First tour:Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai
Sceneric locations:Guilin, the Yellow Mountains, Jiuzhaigou, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia.
Historic cities:Beijing, Xi'an, Nanjing, Yan'an, Dunhuang and the Silk Road.
Beaches:Sanya and Hong Kong.
Cruises:the Yangtze, the Li River (Guilin), the South China Sea.
Minority Culture:Kunming, Kaili, Xishuangbanna, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia.
These are just some suggestions. China offers the hugest range of exotic attractions and things to do on earth.
The Best Time to Visit?
Winter is cold and mountain areas are inaccessible in most parts of China, but low season prices are available. Go skiing, see the Ice Festival, or head for beaches in the south.
Spring has pleasant temperatures, and comes later in northern and high areas, but there is high rainfall in some southern destinations. See a flower festival.
Summer is very hot over most of China, the south experiences the monsoon, and it is peak season. It is the best time to go to Tibet and other remote areas.
Autumn is the best season weather-wise. Generally warm/cool and drier, the best places to go have spectacular autumn colours, like Jiuzhaigou and the Great Wall.Whitney Liao Replied on 2012-11-30
- Chinese Dynasties
- The Xia Dynasty
- The Shang Dynasty
- The Zhou Dynasty
- Spring and Autumn Period
- Warring States Period
- The Qin Dynasty
- The Han Dynasty
- Three Kingdoms
- The Jin Dynasty
- The Sui Dynasty
- The Tang Dynasty
- The Western Xia Dynasty
- The Song Dynasty
- The Yuan Dynasty
- The Ming Dynasty
- The Qing Dynasty
- The Kingdom of Dali