The Song dynasty (Chinese: 宋朝; pinyin: Sòng cháo; 960–1279) was an era of Chinese history that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou, ending the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. The Song often came into conflict with the contemporary Liao and Western Xia dynasties in the north. It was eventually conquered by the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Song government was the first in world history to issue banknotes or true paper money nationally and the first Chinese government to establish a permanent standing navy. This dynasty also saw the first known use of gunpowder, as well as the first discernment of true north using a compass.
The Song dynasty is divided into two distinct periods, Northern and Southern. During the Northern Song (Chinese: 北宋; 960–1127), the Song capital was in the northern city of Bianjing (now Kaifeng) and the dynasty controlled most of what is now Eastern China. The Southern Song (Chinese: 南宋; 1127–1279) refers to the period after the Song lost control of its northern half to the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty in the Jin–Song Wars. During this time, the Song court retreated south of the Yangtze and established its capital at Lin'an (now Hangzhou). Although the Song dynasty had lost control of the traditional "birthplace of Chinese civilization" along the Yellow River, the Song economy was still strong, as the Southern Song Empire contained a large population and productive agricultural land. The Southern Song dynasty considerably bolstered its naval strength to defend its waters and land borders and to conduct maritime missions abroad. To repel the Jin, and later the Mongols, the Song developed revolutionary new military technology augmented by the use of gunpowder. In 1234, the Jin dynasty was conquered by the Mongols, who took control of northern China, maintaining uneasy relations with the Southern Song. Möngke Khan, the fourth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, died in 1259 while besieging the mountain castle Diaoyucheng, Chongqing. His younger brother Kublai Khan was proclaimed the new Great Khan, though his claim was only partially recognized by the Mongols in the west. In 1271, Kublai Khan was proclaimed the Emperor of China. After two decades of sporadic warfare, Kublai Khan's armies conquered the Song dynasty in 1279. The Mongol invasion led to a reunification under the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368).
The population of China doubled in size during the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. This growth was made possible by expanded rice cultivation in central and southern Song, the use of early-ripening rice from south-east and southern Asia, and the production of widespread food surpluses. The Northern Song census recorded 20 million households, double of the Han and Tang dynasties. It is estimated that the Northern Song had a population of some 120 million people, and 200 million by the time of the Ming dynasty. This dramatic increase of population fomented an economic revolution in pre-modern China. The expansion of the population, growth of cities, and the emergence of a national economy led to the gradual withdrawal of the central government from direct involvement in economic affairs. The lower gentry assumed a larger role in grassroots administration and local affairs. Appointed officials in county and provincial centers relied upon the scholarly gentry for their services, sponsorship, and local supervision.
Social life during the Song was vibrant. Citizens gathered to view and trade precious artworks, the populace intermingled at public festivals and private clubs, and cities had lively entertainment quarters. The spread of literature and knowledge was enhanced by the rapid expansion of woodblock printing and the 11th-century invention of movable-type printing. Technology, science, philosophy, mathematics, and engineering flourished over the course of the Song. Philosophers such as Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi reinvigorated Confucianism with new commentary, infused with Buddhist ideals, and emphasized a new organization of classic texts that brought out the core doctrine of Neo-Confucianism. Although the institution of the civil service examinations had existed since the Sui dynasty, it became much more prominent in the Song period. The officials who gained power by succeeding in the exams became a leading factor in the shift from a military-aristocratic elite to a bureaucratic elite.
Northern Song in 1111. The largest territory of the Song dynasty at that period.
|Common languages||Middle Chinese|
|Religion||Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion|
|Historical era||Postclassical Era|
|February 4 960|
• Beginning of Mongol invasion
• Fall of Lin'an
• Battle of Yamen (end of dynasty)
|March 19 1279|
|958 est.||800,000 km2 (310,000 sq mi)|
|980 est.||3,100,000 km2 (1,200,000 sq mi)|
|1127 est.||2,100,000 km2 (810,000 sq mi)|
|1204 est.||1,800,000 km2 (690,000 sq mi)|
|Currency||Jiaozi, Guanzi, Huizi, Chinese cash, Chinese coin, copper coins, etc.|
"Song dynasty" in Chinese characters
After usurping the throne of the Later Zhou dynasty, Emperor Taizu of Song (r. 960–976) spent sixteen years conquering the rest of China, reuniting much of the territory that had once belonged to the Han and Tang empires and ending the upheaval of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. In Kaifeng, he established a strong central government over the empire. The establishment of this capital marked the start of the Northern Song period. He ensured administrative stability by promoting the civil service examination system of drafting state bureaucrats by skill and merit (instead of aristocratic or military position) and promoted projects that ensured efficiency in communication throughout the empire. In one such project, cartographers created detailed maps of each province and city that were then collected in a large atlas. Emperor Taizu also promoted groundbreaking scientific and technological innovations by supporting such works as the astronomical clock tower designed and built by the engineer Zhang Sixun.
The Song court maintained diplomatic relations with Chola India, the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt, Srivijaya, the Kara-Khanid Khanate of Central Asia, the Goryeo kingdom in Korea, and other countries that were also trade partners with Japan. Chinese records even mention an embassy from the ruler of "Fu lin" (拂菻, i.e. the Byzantine Empire), Michael VII Doukas, and its arrival in 1081. However, China's closest neighbouring states had the greatest impact on its domestic and foreign policy. From its inception under Taizu, the Song dynasty alternated between warfare and diplomacy with the ethnic Khitans of the Liao dynasty in the northeast and with the Tanguts of the Western Xia in the northwest. The Song dynasty used military force in an attempt to quell the Liao dynasty and to recapture the Sixteen Prefectures, a territory under Khitan control since 938 that was traditionally considered to be part of China proper (Most parts of today's Beijing and Tianjin). Song forces were repulsed by the Liao forces, who engaged in aggressive yearly campaigns into Northern Song territory until 1005, when the signing of the Shanyuan Treaty ended these northern border clashes. The Song were forced to provide tribute to the Khitans, although this did little damage to the Song economy since the Khitans were economically dependent upon importing massive amounts of goods from the Song. More significantly, the Song state recognized the Liao state as its diplomatic equal. The Song created an extensive defensive forest along the Song-Liao border to thwart potential Khitan cavalry attacks.
The Song dynasty managed to win several military victories over the Tanguts in the early 11th century, culminating in a campaign led by the polymath scientist, general, and statesman Shen Kuo (1031–1095). However, this campaign was ultimately a failure due to a rival military officer of Shen disobeying direct orders, and the territory gained from the Western Xia was eventually lost. There was also a significant war fought against the Lý dynasty of Vietnam from 1075 to 1077 over a border dispute and the Song's severing of commercial relations with the Đại Việt kingdom. After Lý forces inflicted heavy damages in a raid on Guangxi, the Song commander Guo Kui (1022–1088) penetrated as far as Thăng Long (modern Hanoi). Heavy losses on both sides prompted the Lý commander Thường Kiệt (1019–1105) to make peace overtures, allowing both sides to withdraw from the war effort; captured territories held by both Song and Lý were mutually exchanged in 1082, along with prisoners of war.
During the 11th century, political rivalries divided members of the court due to the ministers' differing approaches, opinions, and policies regarding the handling of the Song's complex society and thriving economy. The idealist Chancellor, Fan Zhongyan (989–1052), was the first to receive a heated political backlash when he attempted to institute the Qingli Reforms, which included measures such as improving the recruitment system of officials, increasing the salaries for minor officials, and establishing sponsorship programs to allow a wider range of people to be well educated and eligible for state service.
After Fan was forced to step down from his office, Wang Anshi (1021–1086) became Chancellor of the imperial court. With the backing of Emperor Shenzong (1067–1085), Wang Anshi severely criticized the educational system and state bureaucracy. Seeking to resolve what he saw as state corruption and negligence, Wang implemented a series of reforms called the New Policies. These involved land value tax reform, the establishment of several government monopolies, the support of local militias, and the creation of higher standards for the Imperial examination to make it more practical for men skilled in statecraft to pass.
The reforms created political factions in the court. Wang Anshi's "New Policies Group" (Xin Fa), also known as the "Reformers", were opposed by the ministers in the "Conservative" faction led by the historian and Chancellor Sima Guang (1019–1086). As one faction supplanted another in the majority position of the court ministers, it would demote rival officials and exile them to govern remote frontier regions of the empire. One of the prominent victims of the political rivalry, the famous poet and statesman Su Shi (1037–1101), was jailed and eventually exiled for criticizing Wang's reforms.
While the central Song court remained politically divided and focused upon its internal affairs, alarming new events to the north in the Liao state finally came to its attention. The Jurchen, a subject tribe of the Liao, rebelled against them and formed their own state, the Jin dynasty (1115–1234). The Song official Tong Guan (1054–1126) advised Emperor Huizong (1100–1125) to form an alliance with the Jurchens, and the joint military campaign under this Alliance Conducted at Sea toppled and completely conquered the Liao dynasty by 1125. During the joint attack, the Song's northern expedition army removed the defensive forest along the Song-Liao border.
However, the poor performance and military weakness of the Song army was observed by the Jurchens, who immediately broke the alliance, beginning the Jin–Song Wars of 1125 and 1127. Because of the removal of the previous defensive forest, the Jin army marched quickly across the North China Plain to Kaifeng. In the Jingkang Incident during the latter invasion, the Jurchens captured not only the capital, but the retired emperor Huizong, his successor Emperor Qinzong, and most of the Imperial court.
The remaining Song forces regrouped under the self-proclaimed Emperor Gaozong of Song (1127–1162) and withdrew south of the Yangtze to establish a new capital at Lin'an (modern Hangzhou). The Jurchen conquest of North China and shift of capitals from Kaifeng to Lin'an was the dividing line between the Northern and Southern Song dynasties.
After their fall to the Jin, the Song lost control of North China. Now occupying what has been traditionally known as "China Proper," the Jin regarded themselves the rightful rulers of China. The Jin later chose earth as their dynastic element and yellow as their royal color. According to the theory of the Five Elements (wuxing), the earth element follows the fire, the dynastic element of the Song, in the sequence of elemental creation. Therefore, their ideological move showed that the Jin considered Song reign in China complete, with the Jin replacing the Song as the rightful rulers of China Proper.
Although weakened and pushed south beyond the Huai River, the Southern Song found new ways to bolster its strong economy and defend itself against the Jin dynasty. It had able military officers such as Yue Fei and Han Shizhong. The government sponsored massive shipbuilding and harbor improvement projects, and the construction of beacons and seaport warehouses to support maritime trade abroad, including at the major international seaports, such as Quanzhou, Guangzhou, and Xiamen, that were sustaining China's commerce.
To protect and support the multitude of ships sailing for maritime interests into the waters of the East China Sea and Yellow Sea (to Korea and Japan), Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea, it was necessary to establish an official standing navy. The Song dynasty therefore established China's first permanent navy in 1132, with a headquarters at Dinghai. With a permanent navy, the Song were prepared to face the naval forces of the Jin on the Yangtze River in 1161, in the Battle of Tangdao and the Battle of Caishi. During these battles the Song navy employed swift paddle wheel driven naval vessels armed with traction trebuchet catapults aboard the decks that launched gunpowder bombs. Although the Jin forces commanded by Wanyan Liang (the Prince of Hailing) boasted 70,000 men on 600 warships, and the Song forces only 3,000 men on 120 warships, the Song dynasty forces were victorious in both battles due to the destructive power of the bombs and the rapid assaults by paddle wheel ships. The strength of the navy was heavily emphasized after that. A century after the navy was founded it had grown in size to 52,000 fighting marines.
Clockwise from upper left: Anonymous painting of Cai Wenji and her Xiongnu husband (Zuoxianwang) dating from the Southern Song. A head sculpture of an arhat, 11th Century. A seated wooden Bodhisattva statue, Jin dynasty (1115–1234). A wooden Bodhisattva statue from the Song dynasty (960–1279)
The Song government confiscated portions of land owned by the landed gentry in order to raise revenue for these projects, an act which caused dissension and loss of loyalty amongst leading members of Song society but did not stop the Song's defensive preparations. Financial matters were made worse by the fact that many wealthy, land-owning families—some of which had officials working for the government—used their social connections with those in office in order to obtain tax-exempt status.
Although the Song dynasty was able to hold back the Jin, a new foe came to power over the steppe, deserts, and plains north of the Jin dynasty. The Mongols, led by Genghis Khan (r. 1206–1227), initially invaded the Jin dynasty in 1205 and 1209, engaging in large raids across its borders, and in 1211 an enormous Mongol army was assembled to invade the Jin. The Jin dynasty was forced to submit and pay tribute to the Mongols as vassals; when the Jin suddenly moved their capital city from Beijing to Kaifeng, the Mongols saw this as a revolt. Under the leadership of Ögedei Khan (r.1229–1241), both the Jin dynasty and Western Xia dynasty were conquered by Mongol forces. The Mongols also invaded Korea, the Abbasid Caliphate of the Middle East and the Kievan Rus'.
The Mongols were allied with the Song, but this alliance was broken when the Song recaptured the former imperial capitals of Kaifeng, Luoyang, and Chang'an at the collapse of the Jin dynasty. The Mongol leader Möngke Khan led a campaign against the Song in 1259 but died on August 11 during the Siege of Diaoyu Castle in Chongqing. Möngke's death and the ensuing succession crisis prompted Hulagu Khan to pull the bulk of the Mongol forces out of the Middle East where they were poised to fight the Egyptian Mamluks (who defeated the remaining Mongols at Ain Jalut). Although Hulagu was allied with Kublai Khan, his forces were unable to help in the assault against the Song, due to Hulagu's war with the Golden Horde.
Kublai continued the assault against the Song, gaining a temporary foothold on the southern banks of the Yangtze. Kublai made preparations to take Ezhou, but a pending civil war with his brother Ariq Böke—a rival claimant to the Mongol Khaganate—forced Kublai to move back north with the bulk of his forces. In Kublai's absence, the Song forces were ordered by Chancellor Jia Sidao to make an immediate assault and succeeded in pushing the Mongol forces back to the northern banks of the Yangtze. There were minor border skirmishes until 1265, when Kublai won a significant battle in Sichuan.
From 1268 to 1273, Kublai blockaded the Yangtze River with his navy and besieged Xiangyang, the last obstacle in his way to invading the rich Yangtze River basin. Kublai officially declared the creation of the Yuan dynasty in 1271. In 1275, a Song force of 130,000 troops under Chancellor Jia Sidao was defeated by Kublai's newly appointed commander-in-chief, general Bayan. By 1276, most of the Song territory had been captured by Yuan forces, including the capital Lin'an.
In the Battle of Yamen on the Pearl River Delta in 1279, the Yuan army, led by the general Zhang Hongfan, finally crushed the Song resistance. The last remaining ruler, the 8-year-old emperor Emperor Huaizong of Song, committed suicide, along with Prime Minister Lu Xiufu and 800 members of the royal clan. On Kublai's orders, carried out by his commander Bayan, the rest of the former imperial family of Song were unharmed; the deposed Emperor Gong was demoted, being given the title 'Duke of Ying', but was eventually exiled to Tibet where he took up a monastic life. The former emperor would eventually be forced to commit suicide under the orders of Kublai's great-great grandson, Gegeen Khan, out of fear that Emperor Gong would stage a coup to restore his reign. Other members of the Song Imperial Family continued to live in the Yuan dynasty, including Zhao Mengfu and Zhao Yong.
The Song dynasty was an era of administrative sophistication and complex social organization. Some of the largest cities in the world were found in China during this period (Kaifeng and Hangzhou had populations of over a million). People enjoyed various social clubs and entertainment in the cities, and there were many schools and temples to provide the people with education and religious services. The Song government supported social welfare programs including the establishment of retirement homes, public clinics, and paupers' graveyards. The Song dynasty supported a widespread postal service that was modeled on the earlier Han dynasty (202 BCE – CE 220) postal system to provide swift communication throughout the empire. The central government employed thousands of postal workers of various ranks to provide service for post offices and larger postal stations. In rural areas, farming peasants either owned their own plots of land, paid rents as tenant farmers, or were serfs on large estates.
Although women were on a lower social tier than men (according to Confucian ethics), they enjoyed many social and legal privileges and wielded considerable power at home and in their own small businesses. As Song society became more and more prosperous and parents on the bride's side of the family provided larger dowries for her marriage, women naturally gained many new legal rights in ownership of property. Under certain circumstances, an unmarried daughter without brothers, or a surviving mother without sons, could inherit one-half of her father's share of undivided family property. There were many notable and well-educated women, and it was a common practice for women to educate their sons during their earliest youth. The mother of the scientist, general, diplomat, and statesman Shen Kuo taught him essentials of military strategy. There were also exceptional women writers and poets, such as Li Qingzhao (1084–1151), who became famous even in her lifetime.
Religion in China during this period had a great effect on people's lives, beliefs, and daily activities, and Chinese literature on spirituality was popular. The major deities of Daoism and Buddhism, ancestral spirits, and the many deities of Chinese folk religion were worshipped with sacrificial offerings. Tansen Sen asserts that more Buddhist monks from India travelled to China during the Song than in the previous Tang dynasty (618–907). With many ethnic foreigners travelling to China to conduct trade or live permanently, there came many foreign religions; religious minorities in China included Middle Eastern Muslims, the Kaifeng Jews, and Persian Manichaeans.
The populace engaged in a vibrant social and domestic life, enjoying such public festivals as the Lantern Festival and the Qingming Festival. There were entertainment quarters in the cities providing a constant array of amusements. There were puppeteers, acrobats, theatre actors, sword swallowers, snake charmers, storytellers, singers and musicians, prostitutes, and places to relax, including tea houses, restaurants, and organized banquets. People attended social clubs in large numbers; there were tea clubs, exotic food clubs, antiquarian and art collectors' clubs, horse-loving clubs, poetry clubs, and music clubs. Like regional cooking and cuisines in the Song, the era was known for its regional varieties of performing arts styles as well. Theatrical drama was very popular amongst the elite and general populace, although Classical Chinese—not the vernacular language—was spoken by actors on stage. The four largest drama theatres in Kaifeng could hold audiences of several thousand each. There were also notable domestic pastimes, as people at home enjoyed activities such as the go and xiangqi board games.
Clockwise from upper left: A Literary Garden, by Zhou Wenju, 10th century; Zhou Wenju, Go players, Palace Museum, Beijing; "Four Generals of Zhongxing" by Southern Song dynasty artist Liu Songnian (1174–1224); the renowned general Yue Fei (1103–1142) is the second person from the left in the latter painting.
During this period greater emphasis was laid upon the civil service system of recruiting officials; this was based upon degrees acquired through competitive examinations, in an effort to select the most capable individuals for governance. Selecting men for office through proven merit was an ancient idea in China. The civil service system became institutionalized on a small scale during the Sui and Tang dynasties, but by the Song period it became virtually the only means for drafting officials into the government. The advent of widespread printing helped to widely circulate Confucian teachings and to educate more and more eligible candidates for the exams. This can be seen in the number of exam takers for the low-level prefectural exams rising from 30,000 annual candidates in the early 11th century to 400,000 candidates by the late 13th century. The civil service and examination system allowed for greater meritocracy, social mobility, and equality in competition for those wishing to attain an official seat in government. Using statistics gathered by the Song state, Edward A. Kracke, Sudō Yoshiyuki, and Ho Ping-ti supported the hypothesis that simply having a father, grandfather, or great-grandfather who had served as an official of state did not guarantee one would obtain the same level of authority. Robert Hartwell and Robert P. Hymes criticized this model, stating that it places too much emphasis on the role of the nuclear family and considers only three paternal ascendants of exam candidates while ignoring the demographic reality of Song China, the significant proportion of males in each generation that had no surviving sons, and the role of the extended family. Many felt disenfranchised by what they saw as a bureaucratic system that favored the land-holding class able to afford the best education. One of the greatest literary critics of this was the official and famous poet Su Shi. Yet Su was a product of his times, as the identity, habits, and attitudes of the scholar-official had become less aristocratic and more bureaucratic with the transition of the periods from Tang to Song. At the beginning of the dynasty, government posts were disproportionately held by two elite social groups: a founding elite who had ties with the founding emperor and a semi-hereditary professional elite who used long-held clan status, family connections, and marriage alliances to secure appointments. By the late 11th century, the founding elite became obsolete, while political partisanship and factionalism at court undermined the marriage strategies of the professional elite, which dissolved as a distinguishable social group and was replaced by a multitude of gentry families.
Due to Song's enormous population growth and the body of its appointed scholar-officials being accepted in limited numbers (about 20,000 active officials during the Song period), the larger scholarly gentry class would now take over grassroots affairs on the vast local level. Excluding the scholar-officials in office, this elite social class consisted of exam candidates, examination degree-holders not yet assigned to an official post, local tutors, and retired officials. These learned men, degree-holders, and local elites supervised local affairs and sponsored necessary facilities of local communities; any local magistrate appointed to his office by the government relied upon the cooperation of the few or many local gentry in the area. For example, the Song government—excluding the educational-reformist government under Emperor Huizong—spared little amount of state revenue to maintain prefectural and county schools; instead, the bulk of the funds for schools was drawn from private financing. This limited role of government officials was a departure from the earlier Tang dynasty (618–907), when the government strictly regulated commercial markets and local affairs; now the government withdrew heavily from regulating commerce and relied upon a mass of local gentry to perform necessary duties in their communities.
The gentry distinguished themselves in society through their intellectual and antiquarian pursuits, while the homes of prominent landholders attracted a variety of courtiers, including artisans, artists, educational tutors, and entertainers. Despite the disdain for trade, commerce and the merchant class exhibited by the highly cultured and elite exam-drafted scholar-officials, commercialism played a prominent role in Song culture and society. A scholar-official would be frowned upon by his peers if he pursued means of profiteering outside of his official salary; however, this did not stop many scholar-officials from managing business relations through the use of intermediary agents.
The Song judicial system retained most of the legal code of the earlier Tang dynasty, the basis of traditional Chinese law up until the modern era. Roving sheriffs maintained law and order in the municipal jurisdictions and occasionally ventured into the countryside. Official magistrates overseeing court cases were not only expected to be well-versed in written law but also to promote morality in society. Magistrates such as the famed Bao Qingtian (999–1062) embodied the upright, moral judge who upheld justice and never failed to live up to his principles. Song judges specified the guilty person or party in a criminal act and meted out punishments accordingly, often in the form of caning. A guilty individual or parties brought to court for a criminal or civil offense were not viewed as wholly innocent until proven otherwise, while even accusers were viewed with a high level of suspicion by the judge. Due to costly court expenses and immediate jailing of those accused of criminal offences, people in the Song preferred to settle disputes and quarrels privately, without the court's interference.
Shen Kuo's Dream Pool Essays argued against traditional Chinese beliefs in anatomy (such as his argument for two throat valves instead of three); this perhaps spurred the interest in the performance of post-mortem autopsies in China during the 12th century. The physician and judge known as Song Ci (1186–1249) wrote a pioneering work of forensic science on the examination of corpses in order to determine cause of death (strangulation, poisoning, drowning, blows, etc.) and to prove whether death resulted from murder, suicide, or accidental death. Song Ci stressed the importance of proper coroner's conduct during autopsies and the accurate recording of the inquest of each autopsy by official clerks.
The Song military was chiefly organized to ensure that the army could not threaten Imperial control, often at the expense of effectiveness in war. Northern Song's Military Council operated under a Chancellor, who had no control over the imperial army. The imperial army was divided among three marshals, each independently responsible to the Emperor. Since the Emperor rarely led campaigns personally, Song forces lacked unity of command. The imperial court often believed that successful generals endangered royal authority, and relieved or even executed them (notably Li Gang, Yue Fei, and Han Shizhong).
Although the scholar-officials viewed military soldiers as lower members in the hierarchic social order, a person could gain status and prestige in society by becoming a high-ranking military officer with a record of victorious battles. At its height, the Song military had one million soldiers divided into platoons of 50 troops, companies made of two platoons, battalions composed of 500 soldiers. Crossbowmen were separated from the regular infantry and placed in their own units as they were prized combatants, providing effective missile fire against cavalry charges. The government was eager to sponsor new crossbow designs that could shoot at longer ranges, while crossbowmen were also valuable when employed as long-range snipers. Song cavalry employed a slew of different weapons, including halberds, swords, bows, spears, and 'fire lances' that discharged a gunpowder blast of flame and shrapnel.
Military strategy and military training were treated as sciences that could be studied and perfected; soldiers were tested in their skills of using weaponry and in their athletic ability. The troops were trained to follow signal standards to advance at the waving of banners and to halt at the sound of bells and drums.
The Song navy was of great importance during the consolidation of the empire in the 10th century; during the war against the Southern Tang state the Song navy employed tactics such as defending large floating pontoon bridges across the Yangtze River in order to secure movements of troops and supplies. There were large ships in the Song navy that could carry 1,000 soldiers aboard their decks, while the swift-moving paddle-wheel craft were viewed as essential fighting ships in any successful naval battle.
In a battle on January 23, 971, massive arrow fire from Song dynasty crossbowmen decimated the war elephant corps of the Southern Han army. This defeat not only marked the eventual submission of the Southern Han to the Song dynasty, but also the last instance where a war elephant corps was employed as a regular division within a Chinese army.
There was a total of 347 military treatises written during the Song period, as listed by the history text of the Song Shi (compiled in 1345). However, only a handful of these military treatises have survived, which includes the Wujing Zongyao written in 1044. It was the first known book to have listed formulas for gunpowder; it gave appropriate formulas for use in several different kinds of gunpowder bombs. It also provided detailed descriptions and illustrations of double-piston pump flamethrowers, as well as instructions for the maintenance and repair of the components and equipment used in the device.
The visual arts during the Song dynasty were heightened by new developments such as advances in landscape and portrait painting. The gentry elite engaged in the arts as accepted pastimes of the cultured scholar-official, including painting, composing poetry, and writing calligraphy. The poet and statesman Su Shi and his associate Mi Fu (1051–1107) enjoyed antiquarian affairs, often borrowing or buying art pieces to study and copy. Poetry and literature profited from the rising popularity and development of the ci poetry form. Enormous encyclopedic volumes were compiled, such as works of historiography and dozens of treatises on technical subjects. This included the universal history text of the Zizhi Tongjian, compiled into 1000 volumes of 9.4 million written Chinese characters. The genre of Chinese travel literature also became popular with the writings of the geographer Fan Chengda (1126–1193) and Su Shi, the latter of whom wrote the 'daytrip essay' known as Record of Stone Bell Mountain that used persuasive writing to argue for a philosophical point. Although an early form of the local geographic gazetteer existed in China since the 1st century, the matured form known as "treatise on a place", or fangzhi, replaced the old "map guide", or tujing, during the Song dynasty.
The imperial courts of the emperor's palace were filled with his entourage of court painters, calligraphers, poets, and storytellers. Emperor Huizong was a renowned artist as well as a patron of the arts. A prime example of a highly venerated court painter was Zhang Zeduan (1085–1145) who painted an enormous panoramic painting, Along the River During the Qingming Festival. Emperor Gaozong of Song initiated a massive art project during his reign, known as the Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute from the life story of Cai Wenji (b. 177). This art project was a diplomatic gesture to the Jin dynasty while he negotiated for the release of his mother from Jurchen captivity in the north.
In philosophy, Chinese Buddhism had waned in influence but it retained its hold on the arts and on the charities of monasteries. Buddhism had a profound influence upon the budding movement of Neo-Confucianism, led by Cheng Yi (1033–1107) and Zhu Xi (1130–1200). Mahayana Buddhism influenced Fan Zhongyan and Wang Anshi through its concept of ethical universalism, while Buddhist metaphysics deeply affected the pre–Neo-Confucian doctrine of Cheng Yi. The philosophical work of Cheng Yi in turn influenced Zhu Xi. Although his writings were not accepted by his contemporary peers, Zhu's commentary and emphasis upon the Confucian classics of the Four Books as an introductory corpus to Confucian learning formed the basis of the Neo-Confucian doctrine. By the year 1241, under the sponsorship of Emperor Lizong, Zhu Xi's Four Books and his commentary on them became standard requirements of study for students attempting to pass the civil service examinations. The East Asian countries of Japan and Korea also adopted Zhu Xi's teaching, known as the Shushigaku (朱子學, School of Zhu Xi) of Japan, and in Korea the Jujahak (주자학). Buddhism's continuing influence can be seen in painted artwork such as Lin Tinggui's Luohan Laundering. However, the ideology was highly criticized and even scorned by some. The statesman and historian Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072) called the religion a "curse" that could only be remedied by uprooting it from Chinese culture and replacing it with Confucian discourse. A true revival of Buddhism in Chinese society would not occur until the Mongol rule of the Yuan dynasty, with Kublai Khan's sponsorship of Tibetan Buddhism and Drogön Chögyal Phagpa as the leading lama. The Christian sect of Nestorianism, which had entered China in the Tang era, would also be revived in China under Mongol rule.
Sumptuary laws regulated the food that one consumed and the clothes that one wore according to status and social class. Clothing was made of hemp or cotton cloths, restricted to a colour standard of black and white. Trousers were the acceptable attire for peasants, soldiers, artisans, and merchants, although wealthy merchants might choose to wear more ornate clothing and male blouses that came down below the waist. Acceptable apparel for scholar-officials was rigidly defined by social ranking system. However, as time went on this rule of rank-graded apparel for officials was not as strictly enforced. Each official was able to display his awarded status by wearing different-coloured traditional silken robes that hung to the ground around his feet, specific types of headgear, and even specific styles of girdles that displayed his graded-rank of officialdom.
Women wore long dresses, blouses that came down to the knee, skirts and jackets with long or short sleeves, while women from wealthy families could wear purple scarves around their shoulders. The main difference in women's apparel from that of men was that it was fastened on the left, not on the right.
The main food staples in the diet of the lower classes remained rice, pork, and salted fish. In 1011, Emperor Zhenzong of Song introduced Champa rice to China from Vietnam's Kingdom of Champa, which sent 30,000 bushels as a tribute to Song. Champa rice was drought-resistant and able to grow fast enough to offer two harvests a year instead of one.
Song restaurant and tavern menus are recorded. They list entrees for feasts, banquets, festivals, and carnivals. They reveal a diverse and lavish diet for those of the upper class. They could choose from a wide variety of meats and seafood, including shrimp, geese, duck, mussel, shellfish, fallow deer, hare, partridge, pheasant, francolin, quail, fox, badger, clam, crab, and many others. Dairy products were rare in Chinese cuisine at this time. Beef was rarely consumed since the bull was a valuable draft animal, and dog meat was absent from the diet of the wealthy, although the poor could choose to eat dog meat if necessary (yet it was not part of their regular diet). People also consumed dates, raisins, jujubes, pears, plums, apricots, pear juice, lychee-fruit juice, honey and ginger drinks, spices and seasonings of Sichuan pepper, ginger, soy sauce, oil, sesame oil, salt, and vinegar.
City views of Song dynasty from paintings. Clockwise from upper left: A Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127) era Chinese painting of a water-powered mill for grain, with surrounding river transport. The bridge scene from Zhang Zeduan's (1085–1145) painting Along the River During Qingming Festival. Chinese boats from Along the River During Qingming Festival. Leifeng Pagoda in the Southern Song Dynasty by Li Song.
The Song dynasty had one of the most prosperous and advanced economies in the medieval world. Song Chinese invested their funds in joint stock companies and in multiple sailing vessels at a time when monetary gain was assured from the vigorous overseas trade and domestic trade along the Grand Canal and Yangtze River. Prominent merchant families and private businesses were allowed to occupy industries that were not already government-operated monopolies. Both private and government-controlled industries met the needs of a growing Chinese population in the Song. Artisans and merchants formed guilds that the state had to deal with when assessing taxes, requisitioning goods, and setting standard workers' wages and prices on goods.
The iron industry was pursued by both private entrepreneurs who owned their own smelters as well as government-supervised smelting facilities. The Song economy was stable enough to produce over a hundred million kilograms (over two hundred million pounds) of iron product a year. Large-scale Deforestation in China would have continued if not for the 11th-century innovation of the use of coal instead of charcoal in blast furnaces for smelting cast iron. Much of this iron was reserved for military use in crafting weapons and armouring troops, but some was used to fashion the many iron products needed to fill the demands of the growing domestic market. The iron trade within China was advanced by the construction of new canals, facilitating the flow of iron products from production centres to the large market in the capital city.
The annual output of minted copper currency in 1085 reached roughly six billion coins. The most notable advancement in the Song economy was the establishment of the world's first government issued paper-printed money, known as Jiaozi (see also Huizi). For the printing of paper money, the Song court established several government-run factories in the cities of Huizhou, Chengdu, Hangzhou, and Anqi. The size of the workforce employed in paper money factories was large; it was recorded in 1175 that the factory at Hangzhou employed more than a thousand workers a day.
The economic power of Song China heavily influenced foreign economies abroad. The Moroccan geographer al-Idrisi wrote in 1154 of the prowess of Chinese merchant ships in the Indian Ocean and of their annual voyages that brought iron, swords, silk, velvet, porcelain, and various textiles to places such as Aden (Yemen), the Indus River, and the Euphrates in modern-day Iraq. Foreigners, in turn, affected the Chinese economy. For example, many West Asian and Central Asian Muslims went to China to trade, becoming a preeminent force in the import and export industry, while some were even appointed as officers supervising economic affairs. Sea trade with the South-west Pacific, the Hindu world, the Islamic world, and East Africa brought merchants great fortune and spurred an enormous growth in the shipbuilding industry of Song-era Fujian province. However, there was risk involved in such long overseas ventures. In order to reduce the risk of losing money on maritime trade missions abroad, wrote historians Ebrey, Walthall, and Palais:
[Song era] investors usually divided their investment among many ships, and each ship had many investors behind it. One observer thought eagerness to invest in overseas trade was leading to an outflow of copper cash. He wrote, 'People along the coast are on intimate terms with the merchants who engage in overseas trade, either because they are fellow-countrymen or personal acquaintances....[They give the merchants] money to take with them on their ships for purchase and return conveyance of foreign goods. They invest from ten to a hundred strings of cash, and regularly make profits of several hundred percent'.
Advancements in weapons technology enhanced by gunpowder, including the evolution of the early flamethrower, explosive grenade, firearm, cannon, and land mine, enabled the Song Chinese to ward off their militant enemies until the Song's ultimate collapse in the late 13th century. The Wujing Zongyao manuscript of 1044 was the first book in history to provide formulas for gunpowder and their specified use in different types of bombs. While engaged in a war with the Mongols, in 1259 the official Li Zengbo wrote in his Kezhai Zagao, Xugaohou that the city of Qingzhou was manufacturing one to two thousand strong iron-cased bomb shells a month, dispatching to Xiangyang and Yingzhou about ten to twenty thousand such bombs at a time. In turn, the invading Mongols employed northern Chinese soldiers and used these same types of gunpowder weapons against the Song. By the 14th century the firearm and cannon could also be found in Europe, India, and the Middle East, during the early age of gunpowder warfare.
As early as the Han dynasty, when the state needed to accurately measure distances traveled throughout the empire, the Chinese relied on a mechanical odometer. The Chinese odometer was a wheeled carriage, its gearwork being driven by the rotation of the carriage's wheels; specific units of distance—the Chinese li—were marked by the mechanical striking of a drum or bell as an auditory signal. The specifications for the 11th century odometer were written by Chief Chamberlain Lu Daolong, who is quoted extensively in the historical text of the Song Shi (compiled by 1345). In the Song period, the odometer vehicle was also combined with another old complex mechanical device known as the south-pointing chariot. This device, originally crafted by Ma Jun in the 3rd century, incorporated a differential gear that allowed a figure mounted on the vehicle to always point in the southern direction, no matter how the vehicle's wheels turned about. The concept of the differential gear that was used in this navigational vehicle is now found in modern automobiles in order to apply an equal amount of torque to a car's wheels even when they are rotating at different speeds.
Polymath figures such as the statesmen Shen Kuo (1031–1095) and Su Song (1020–1101) embodied advancements in all fields of study, including biology, botany, zoology, geology, mineralogy, mechanics, horology, astronomy, pharmaceutical medicine, archeology, mathematics, cartography, optics, art criticism, and more.
Shen Kuo was the first to discern magnetic declination of true north while experimenting with a compass. Shen theorized that geographical climates gradually shifted over time. He created a theory of land formation involving concepts accepted in modern geomorphology. He performed optical experiments with camera obscura just decades after Ibn al-Haytham was the first to do so. He also improved the designs of astronomical instruments such as the widened astronomical sighting tube, which allowed Shen Kuo to fix the position of the pole star (which had shifted over centuries of time). Shen Kuo was also known for hydraulic clockworks, as he invented a new overflow-tank clepsydra which had more efficient higher-order interpolation instead of linear interpolation in calibrating the measure of time.
Su Song was best known for his horology treatise written in 1092, which described and illustrated in great detail his hydraulic-powered, 12 m (39 ft) tall astronomical clock tower built in Kaifeng. The clock tower featured large astronomical instruments of the armillary sphere and celestial globe, both driven by an early intermittently working escapement mechanism (similarly to the western verge escapement of true mechanical clocks appeared in medieval clockworks, derived from ancient clockworks of classical times). Su's tower featured a rotating gear wheel with 133 clock jack mannequins who were timed to rotate past shuttered windows while ringing gongs and bells, banging drums, and presenting announcement plaques. In his printed book, Su published a celestial atlas of five star charts. These star charts feature a cylindrical projection similar to Mercator projection, the latter being a cartographic innovation of Gerardus Mercator in 1569.
The Song Chinese observed supernovae. Moreover, the Soochow Astronomical Chart on Chinese planispheres was prepared in 1193 for instructing the crown prince on astronomical findings. The planispheres were engraved in stone several decades later.
There were many notable improvements to Chinese mathematics during the Song era. Mathematician Yang Hui's 1261 book provided the earliest Chinese illustration of Pascal's triangle, although it had earlier been described by Jia Xian in around 1100. Yang Hui also provided rules for constructing combinatorial arrangements in magic squares, provided theoretical proof for Euclid's forty-third proposition about parallelograms, and was the first to use negative coefficients of 'x' in quadratic equations. Yang's contemporary Qin Jiushao (c. 1202–1261) was the first to introduce the zero symbol into Chinese mathematics; before this blank spaces were used instead of zeroes in the system of counting rods. He is also known for working with the Chinese remainder theorem, Heron's formula, and astronomical data used in determining the winter solstice. Qin's major work was the Mathematical Treatise in Nine Sections published in 1247.
Geometry was essential to surveying and cartography. The earliest extant Chinese maps date to the 4th century BCE, yet it was not until the time of Pei Xiu (224–271) that topographical elevation, a formal rectangular grid system, and use of a standard graduated scale of distances was applied to terrain maps. Following a long tradition, Shen Kuo created a raised-relief map, while his other maps featured a uniform graduated scale of 1:900,000. A 3 ft (0.91 m) squared map of 1137—carved into a stone block—followed a uniform grid scale of 100 li for each gridded square, and accurately mapped the outline of the coasts and river systems of China, extending all the way to India. Furthermore, the world's oldest known terrain map in printed form comes from the edited encyclopedia of Yang Jia in 1155, which displayed western China without the formal grid system that was characteristic of more professionally made Chinese maps. Although gazetteers had existed since 52 CE during the Han dynasty and gazetteers accompanied by illustrative maps (Chinese: tujing) since the Sui dynasty, the illustrated gazetteer became much more common in the Song dynasty, when the foremost concern was for illustrative gazetteers to serve political, administrative, and military purposes.
The innovation of movable type printing was made by the artisan Bi Sheng (990–1051), first described by the scientist and statesman Shen Kuo in his Dream Pool Essays of 1088. The collection of Bi Sheng's original clay-fired typeface was passed on to one of Shen Kuo's nephews, and was carefully preserved. Movable type enhanced the already widespread use of woodblock methods of printing thousands of documents and volumes of written literature, consumed eagerly by an increasingly literate public. The advancement of printing deeply affected education and the scholar-official class, since more books could be made faster while mass-produced, printed books were cheaper in comparison to laborious handwritten copies. The enhancement of widespread printing and print culture in the Song period was thus a direct catalyst in the rise of social mobility and expansion of the educated class of scholar elites, the latter which expanded dramatically in size from the 11th to 13th centuries.
The movable type invented by Bi Sheng was ultimately trumped by the use of woodblock printing due to the limitations of the enormous Chinese character writing system, yet movable type printing continued to be used and was improved in later periods. The Yuan dynasty scholar-official Wang Zhen (fl. 1290–1333) implemented a faster typesetting process, improved Bi's baked-clay movable type character set with a wooden one, and experimented with tin-metal movable type. The wealthy printing patron Hua Sui (1439–1513) of the Ming dynasty established China's first metal movable type (using bronze) in 1490. In 1638 the Beijing Gazette switched their printing process from woodblock to movable type printing. Yet it was during the Qing dynasty that massive printing projects began to employ movable type printing. This includes the printing of sixty-six copies of a 5,020 volume long encyclopedia in 1725, the Gujin Tushu Jicheng (Complete Collection of Illustrations and Writings from the Earliest to Current Times), which necessitated the crafting of 250,000 movable type characters cast in bronze. By the 19th century the European style printing press replaced the old Chinese methods of movable type, while traditional woodblock printing in modern East Asia is used sparsely and for aesthetic reasons.
The most important nautical innovation of the Song period seems to have been the introduction of the magnetic mariner's compass, which permitted accurate navigation on the open sea regardless of the weather. The magnetized compass needle – known in Chinese as the "south-pointing needle" – was first described by Shen Kuo in his 1088 Dream Pool Essays and first mentioned in active use by sailors in Zhu Yu's 1119 Pingzhou Table Talks.
There were other considerable advancements in hydraulic engineering and nautical technology during the Song dynasty. The 10th-century invention of the pound lock for canal systems allowed different water levels to be raised and lowered for separated segments of a canal, which significantly aided the safety of canal traffic and allowed for larger barges. There was the Song-era innovation of watertight bulkhead compartments that allowed damage to hulls without sinking the ships. If ships were damaged, the Chinese of the 11th century employed drydocks to repair them while suspended out of the water. The Song used crossbeams to brace the ribs of ships in order to strengthen them in a skeletal-like structure. Stern-mounted rudders had been mounted on Chinese ships since the 1st century, as evidenced with a preserved Han tomb model of a ship. In the Song period, the Chinese devised a way to mechanically raise and lower rudders in order for ships to travel in a wider range of water depths. The Song arranged the protruding teeth of anchors in a circular pattern instead of in one direction. David Graff and Robin Higham state that this arrangement "[made] them more reliable" for anchoring ships.
Architecture during the Song period reached new heights of sophistication. Authors such as Yu Hao and Shen Kuo wrote books outlining the field of architectural layouts, craftsmanship, and structural engineering in the 10th and 11th centuries, respectively. Shen Kuo preserved the written dialogues of Yu Hao when describing technical issues such as slanting struts built into pagoda towers for diagonal wind bracing. Shen Kuo also preserved Yu's specified dimensions and units of measurement for various building types. The architect Li Jie (1065–1110), who published the Yingzao Fashi ('Treatise on Architectural Methods') in 1103, greatly expanded upon the works of Yu Hao and compiled the standard building codes used by the central government agencies and by craftsmen throughout the empire. He addressed the standard methods of construction, design, and applications of moats and fortifications, stonework, greater woodwork, lesser woodwork, wood-carving, turning and drilling, sawing, bamboo work, tiling, wall building, painting and decoration, brickwork, glazed tile making, and provided proportions for mortar formulas in masonry. In his book, Li provided detailed and vivid illustrations of architectural components and cross-sections of buildings. These illustrations displayed various applications of corbel brackets, cantilever arms, mortise and tenon work of tie beams and cross beams, and diagrams showing the various building types of halls in graded sizes. He also outlined the standard units of measurement and standard dimensional measurements of all building components described and illustrated in his book.
Grandiose building projects were supported by the government, including the erection of towering Buddhist Chinese pagodas and the construction of enormous bridges (wood or stone, trestle or segmental arch bridge). Many of the pagoda towers built during the Song period were erected at heights that exceeded ten stories. Some of the most famous are the Iron Pagoda built in 1049 during the Northern Song and the Liuhe Pagoda built in 1165 during the Southern Song, although there were many others. The tallest is the Liaodi Pagoda of Hebei built in 1055, towering 84 m (276 ft) in total height. Some of the bridges reached lengths of 1,220 m (4,000 ft), with many being wide enough to allow two lanes of cart traffic simultaneously over a waterway or ravine. The government also oversaw construction of their own administrative offices, palace apartments, city fortifications, ancestral temples, and Buddhist temples.
The professions of the architect, craftsman, carpenter, and structural engineer were not seen as professionally equal to that of a Confucian scholar-official. Architectural knowledge had been passed down orally for thousands of years in China, in many cases from a father craftsman to his son. Structural engineering and architecture schools were known to have existed during the Song period; one prestigious engineering school was headed by the renowned bridge-builder Cai Xiang (1012–1067) in medieval Fujian province.
Besides existing buildings and technical literature of building manuals, Song dynasty artwork portraying cityscapes and other buildings aid modern-day scholars in their attempts to reconstruct and realize the nuances of Song architecture. Song dynasty artists such as Li Cheng, Fan Kuan, Guo Xi, Zhang Zeduan, Emperor Huizong of Song, and Ma Lin painted close-up depictions of buildings as well as large expanses of cityscapes featuring arched bridges, halls and pavilions, pagoda towers, and distinct Chinese city walls. The scientist and statesman Shen Kuo was known for his criticism of artwork relating to architecture, saying that it was more important for an artist to capture a holistic view of a landscape than it was to focus on the angles and corners of buildings. For example, Shen criticized the work of the painter Li Cheng for failing to observe the principle of "seeing the small from the viewpoint of the large" in portraying buildings.
There were also pyramidal tomb structures in the Song era, such as the Song imperial tombs located in Gongxian, Henan province. About 100 km (62 mi) from Gongxian is another Song dynasty tomb at Baisha, which features "elaborate facsimiles in brick of Chinese timber frame construction, from door lintels to pillars and pedestals to bracket sets, that adorn interior walls." The two large chambers of the Baisha tomb also feature conical-shaped roofs. Flanking the avenues leading to these tombs are lines of Song dynasty stone statues of officials, tomb guardians, animals, and mythological creatures.
In addition to the Song gentry's antiquarian pursuits of art collecting, scholar-officials during the Song became highly interested in retrieving ancient relics from archaeological sites, in order to revive the use of ancient vessels in ceremonies of state ritual. Scholar-officials of the Song period claimed to have discovered ancient bronze vessels that were created as far back as the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BCE), which bore the written characters of the Shang era. Some attempted to recreate these bronze vessels by using imagination alone, not by observing tangible evidence of relics; this practice was criticized by Shen Kuo in his work of 1088. Yet Shen Kuo had much more to criticize than this practice alone. Shen objected to the idea of his peers that ancient relics were products created by famous "sages" in lore or the ancient aristocratic class; Shen rightfully attributed the discovered handicrafts and vessels from ancient times as the work of artisans and commoners from previous eras. He also disapproved of his peers' pursuit of archaeology simply to enhance state ritual, since Shen not only took an interdisciplinary approach with the study of archaeology, but he also emphasized the study of functionality and investigating what was the ancient relics' original processes of manufacture. Shen used ancient texts and existing models of armillary spheres to create one based on ancient standards; Shen described ancient weaponry such as the use of a scaled sighting device on crossbows; while experimenting with ancient musical measures, Shen suggested hanging an ancient bell by using a hollow handle.
Despite the gentry's overriding interest in archaeology simply for reviving ancient state rituals, some of Shen's peers took a similar approach to the study of archaeology. His contemporary Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072) compiled an analytical catalogue of ancient rubbings on stone and bronze which pioneered ideas in early epigraphy and archaeology. During the 11th century, Song scholars discovered the ancient shrine of Wu Liang (78–151 CE), a scholar of the Han dynasty (202 BCE – 220 CE); they produced rubbings of the carvings and bas-reliefs decorating the walls of his tomb so that they could be analyzed elsewhere. On the unreliability of historical works written after the fact, scholar-official Zhao Mingcheng (1081–1129) stated "...the inscriptions on stone and bronze are made at the time the events took place and can be trusted without reservation, and thus discrepancies may be discovered." Historian R.C. Rudolph states that Zhao's emphasis on consulting contemporary sources for accurate dating is parallel with the concern of the German historian Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886), and was in fact emphasized by many Song scholars. The Song scholar Hong Mai (1123–1202) heavily criticized what he called the court's "ridiculous" archaeological catalogue Bogutu compiled during the Huizong reign periods of Zheng He and Xuan He (1111–1125). Hong Mai obtained old vessels from the Han dynasty and compared them with the descriptions offered in the catalogue, which he found so inaccurate he stated he had to "hold my sides with laughter." Hong Mai pointed out that the erroneous material was the fault of Chancellor Cai Jing (1047–1126), who prohibited scholars from reading and consulting written histories.
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms
| Dynasties in Chinese history
The architecture of the Song dynasty (960–1279) was noted for its towering Buddhist pagodas, enormous stone and wooden bridges, lavish tombs, and extravagant palaces. Although literary works on architecture existed beforehand, architectural writing blossomed during the Song dynasty, maturing into a more professional form that described dimensions and working materials in a concise, organized manner. In addition to the examples still standing, depictions in Song artwork, architectural drawings, and illustrations in published books all aid modern historians in understanding the architecture of the period.
The professions of architect, master craftsman, carpenter, and structural engineer did not have the high status of the Confucian scholar-officials during the dynastic era. Architectural knowledge had been passed down orally for thousands of years, usually from craftsman fathers to their sons. There were also government agencies and schools for construction, building, and engineering. The Song dynasty's building manuals aided not only the various private workshops, but also the craftsmen employed by the central government.Culture of the Song dynasty
The Song dynasty (960–1279 AD) was a culturally rich and sophisticated age for China. There was blossoming of and advancements in the visual arts, music, literature, and philosophy. Officials of the ruling bureaucracy, who underwent a strict and extensive examination process, reached new heights of education in Chinese society, while general Chinese culture was enhanced by widespread printing, growing literacy, and various arts.
Appreciation of art among the gentry class flourished during the Song dynasty, especially in regard to paintings, which is an art practiced by many. Trends in painting styles amongst the gentry notably shifted from the Northern (960–1127) to Southern Song (1127–1279) periods, influenced in part by the gradual embrace of the Neo-Confucian political ideology at court.
People in urban areas enjoyed theatrical drama on stage, restaurants that catered to a variety of regional cooking, lavish clothing and apparel sold in the markets, while both urban and rural people engaged in seasonal festivities and religious holidays.Economy of the Song dynasty
For over three centuries during the Song dynasty (960–1279) China experienced sustained growth in per capita income and population, structural change in the economy, and increased pace of technological innovation. Movable print, improved seeds for rice and other commercial crops, gunpowder, water-powered mechanical clocks, the use of coal as a source of fuel for a variety of industries, improved techniques for iron and steel production, pound locks and many other technological innovations transformed the economy. In north China, the main fuel source for ceramic kilns and iron furnaces shifted from wood to coal.
During the Song dynasty, there was also a notable increase in commercial contacts with global markets. Merchants engaged in overseas trade through investments in trading vessels and trade which reached ports as far away as East Africa. This period also witnessed the development of the world's first banknote, or printed paper money (see Jiaozi, Guanzi, Huizi), which circulated on a massive scale. Combined with a unified tax system and efficient trade routes by road and canal, this meant the development of a truly nationwide market. Regional specialization promoted economic efficiency and increased productivity. Although much of the central government's treasury went to the military, taxes imposed on the rising commercial base refilled the coffers and further encouraged the monetary economy. Reformers and conservatives debated the role of government in the economy. The emperor and his government still took responsibility for the economy, but generally made fewer claims than in earlier dynasties. The government did, however, continue to enforce monopolies on certain manufactured items and market goods to boost revenues and secure resources that were vital to the empire's security, such as tea, salt, and chemical components for gunpowder.
These changes made China a global leader, leading some historians to call this an "early modern" economy many centuries before Western Europe made its breakthrough. Many of these economic gains were lost, however, in the succeeding Yuan dynasty.Emperor Huizong of Song
Emperor Huizong of Song (7 June 1082 – 4 June 1135), personal name Zhao Ji, was the eighth emperor of the Song dynasty in China. He was also a very well-known calligrapher. Born as the 11th son of Emperor Shenzong, he ascended the throne in 1100 upon the death of his elder brother and predecessor, Emperor Zhezong, because Emperor Zhezong's only son died prematurely. He lived in luxury, sophistication and art in the first half of his life. In 1126, when the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty invaded the Song dynasty during the Jin–Song Wars, Emperor Huizong abdicated and passed on his throne to his eldest son, Zhao Huan who assumed the title Emperor Qinzong while Huizong assumed the honorary title of Taishang Huang (or "Retired Emperor"). The following year, the Song capital, Bianjing, was conquered by Jin forces in an event historically known as the Jingkang Incident. Emperor Huizong, along with Emperor Qinzong and the rest of their family, were taken captive by the Jurchens and brought back to the Jin capital, Huining Prefecture in 1128. The Jurchen ruler, Emperor Taizong of Jin, gave the former Emperor Huizong a title, Duke Hunde (literally "Besotted Duke"), to humiliate him. After his surviving son, Zhao Gou, declared himself as the dynasty's tenth emperor as Emperor Gaozong, the Jurchens used him, Qinzong, and other imperial family members to put pressure on Gaozong and his court to surrender. Emperor Huizong died in Wuguo after spending about nine years in captivity.
Despite his incompetence in rulership, Emperor Huizong was known for his promotion of Taoism and talents in poetry, painting, calligraphy and music. He sponsored numerous artists at his imperial court, and the catalogue of his collection listed over 6,000 known paintings.Emperor Renzong of Song
Emperor Renzong of Song (30 May 1010 – 30 April 1063, Chinese calendar: 14 April 1010（the 3rd year of Dazhongxiangfu, 大中祥符三年） - 29 March 1063 (the 8th year of Jiayou, 嘉祐八年)), personal name Zhao Zhen, was the fourth emperor of the Song dynasty in China. He reigned for about 41 years from 1022 to his death in 1063, and was the longest reigning Song dynasty emperor. He was the sixth son of his predecessor, Emperor Zhenzong, and was succeeded by his cousin's son, Zhao Shu who took the throne as Emperor Yingzong because his own sons died prematurely. His original personal name was Zhao Shouyi but it was changed by imperial decree in 1018 to "Zhao Zhen", which means 'auspicious' in Chinese.History of Song
The History of Song or Song Shi (Sòng Shǐ) is one of the official Chinese historical works known as the Twenty-Four Histories of China that records the history of the Song dynasty (960–1279). It was commissioned in 1343 and compiled under the direction of First Minister Toqto'a and Prime Minister Alutu (阿鲁图/阿魯圖) during the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) at the same time as the History of Liao and the History of Jin. Running to a total of 496 chapters, the History of Song includes biographies of the Song Emperors along with contemporary records and biographical sketches of Song dynasty politicians, soldiers and philosophers.Jin–Song Wars
The Jin–Song Wars were a series of conflicts between the Jurchen Jin dynasty (1115–1234) and Han Chinese Song dynasty (960–1279). In 1115, Jurchen tribes rebelled against their overlords, the Khitan Liao dynasty (907–1125), and declared the formation of the Jin. Allying with the Song against their common enemy the Liao dynasty, the Jin promised to return to the Song the Sixteen Prefectures that had fallen under Liao control since 938. The Chinese agreed but Jurchens quick defeat of the Liao dynasty combined with Song dynasty military failures made the Jin reluctant to cede these territories. After a series of negotiations that embittered both sides, the Jurchens attacked the Song dynasty in 1125, dispatching one army to Taiyuan and the other to Bianjing (modern Kaifeng), the Song capital.
Surprised by news of an invasion, Song general Tong Guan retreated from Taiyuan, which was besieged and later captured. As the second Jin army approached the capital, Song emperor Huizong abdicated and fled south. Qinzong, his eldest son, was enthroned. The Jurchens laid siege to Kaifeng in 1126, but Qinzong negotiated their retreat from the capital by agreeing to a large annual indemnity. Qinzong reneged on the deal and ordered Song forces to defend the prefectures instead of fortifying the capital. The Jin resumed war and again besieged Kaifeng in 1127.
They captured Emperor Qinzong of Song, many members of the imperial family and high officials of the Song imperial court in an event known as the Jingkang Incident. This separated north and south China between Jin and Song. Remnants of the Song imperial family retreated to southern China and, after brief stays in several temporary capitals, eventually relocated to Lin'an (modern Hangzhou). The retreat divided the dynasty into two distinct periods, Northern Song and Southern Song.
The Jurchens tried to conquer southern China in the 1130s, but were bogged down by a pro-Song insurgency in the north and a counteroffensive by Song generals Yue Fei, Han Shizhong, and others. The Song generals regained some territories but retreated on the orders of Southern Song emperor Gaozong, who supported a peaceful resolution to the war. The Treaty of Shaoxing (1142) set the boundary of the two empires along the Huai River, but conflicts between the two dynasties continued until the fall of the Jin in 1234.
A war against the Song begun by 4th Jin emperor, Wanyan Liang, was unsuccessful. He lost the Battle of Caishi (1161) and was later assassinated by his own disaffected officers. An invasion of the Jin motivated by Song revanchism (1206–1208) was also unsuccessful. A decade later, the Jin launched an abortive military campaign against the Song in 1217 to replace territory they had lost to the invading Mongols. The Song allied with the Mongols in 1233, and in the next year jointly captured Caizhou, last refuge of the Jin emperor. The Jin dynasty collapsed that year in 1234. After the demise of the Jin, the Song dynasty itself became a target of the Mongols, and collapsed in 1279.
The wars engendered an era of technological, cultural, and demographic changes in China. Battles between the Song and Jin brought about the introduction of various gunpowder weapons. The siege of De'an in 1132 was the first recorded use of the fire lance, an early ancestor of firearms. There were also reports of battles fought with rudimentary gunpowder bombs like the incendiary huopao or the exploding tiehuopao, incendiary arrows, and other related weapons. In northern China, Jurchens were the ruling minority of an empire predominantly inhabited by former subjects of the Song. Jurchen migrants settled in the conquered territories and assimilated with the local culture. The Jin, a conquest dynasty, instituted a centralized imperial bureaucracy modeled on previous Chinese dynasties, basing their legitimacy on Confucian philosophy. Song refugees from the north resettled in southern China. The north was the cultural center of China, and its conquest by the Jin diminished the regional stature of the Song dynasty. The Southern Song, however, quickly returned to economic prosperity, and trade with the Jin was lucrative despite decades of warfare. Lin'an, the Southern Song capital, expanded into a major city for commerce.Keel
On boats and ships, the keel is either of two parts: a structural element that sometimes resembles a fin and protrudes below a boat along the central line, or a hydrodynamic element. These parts overlap. As the laying down of the keel is the initial step in the construction of a ship, in British and American shipbuilding traditions the construction is dated from this event. Only the ship's launching is considered more significant in its creation.
The word can also be used as a synecdoche to refer to a complete boat, such as a keelboat.Li Shishi
Li Shishi (1062-1127) was a courtesan (角妓 / 角伎) during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127), in Bianjing (now Kaifeng), the capital of the Song Dynasty. Emperor Huizong was a regular client of hers. She fled to Zhejiang or Hunan after the Jingkang Incident of the Jin–Song wars occurred in 1127.List of emperors of the Song dynasty
The Song dynasty (960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that succeeded the period referred to as Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907–960) and preceded the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), which conquered the Song dynasty in 1279. The conventional division into the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) and Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279) is created by the conquest of northern China by the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) in 1127 and the consequent shift of the capital from Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng) in the north to Lin'an (present-day Hangzhou) in the south.
Below is a complete list of emperors of the Song dynasty, including their temple names, posthumous names, given names, and era names. The dynasty was founded by Zhao Kuangyin, who became Emperor Taizu (r. 960–976) and concluded with the death of Zhao Bing (r. 1278–1279). The last emperor of the Northern Song was Emperor Qinzong (r. 1126–1127), while the first Southern Song emperor was Emperor Gaozong (r. 1127–1162).
The emperor, or huangdi, was the supreme head of state during the imperial era of China (221 BC – 1912), including the Song dynasty. He was a hereditary ruler who shared executive powers with civilian officials appointed to various levels of office according to their performance in bureaucratic examinations. The growing importance of the civilian bureaucracy and national gentry class during the Song dynasty led to a much more limited role for the emperor in shaping public policy, although he still maintained his autocratic authority. He had the sole right to establish new laws, although he was expected to respect legal precedents set forth by previous emperors of his dynasty.Liu Song dynasty
The Song dynasty (), better known as the Liu Song dynasty (420–479 CE; simplified Chinese: 刘宋; traditional Chinese: 劉宋; pinyin: Liú Sòng; Wade-Giles: Liu Sung), also known as Former Song (前宋) or Southern Song (南宋), was the first of the four Southern Dynasties in China, succeeding the Eastern Jin and followed by the Southern Qi.
The dynasty was founded by Liu Yu (劉裕) (363–422), whose surname together with "Song" forms the common name for the dynasty, the Liu Song. This appellation is used to distinguish it from a later dynasty of the same name, the Song dynasty (960–1279, ruled by the House of Zhao). Although the Liu Song has also at times been referred to as the "Southern Song", the name is now mainly used to refer to the Song dynasty after 1127.
The Liu Song was a time when there was much internal turmoil. A number of emperors were incompetent and/or tyrannical, which at least partially led to many military revolts. These rulers include Liu Shao, Emperor Xiaowu, Emperor Qianfei, Emperor Ming, and Emperor Houfei. Emperor Ming was especially vicious, murdering a large number of his brothers, nephews, and other male relatives — many of them children. Such internal instability eventually led to the dynasty's destruction. However, its founder Emperor Wu was considered one of the greatest generals during the Southern and Northern Dynasties period, and the reign of its third emperor, Emperor Wen, is known for its political stability and capable administration, not only of its emperor but its strong and honest officials. This is known as the Reign of Yuanjia (425–453) and one of the relative golden ages for the Southern Dynasties.Mongol conquest of the Song dynasty
The Mongol conquest of the Song dynasty under Kublai Khan (r. 1260–1294) was the final step for the Mongols to rule the whole of China under the Yuan dynasty (Mongol Empire). It is also considered the Mongol Empire's last great military achievement.New Book of Tang
The New Book of Tang (Xīn Tángshū), generally translated as "New History of the Tang", or "New Tang History", is a work of official history covering the Tang dynasty in ten volumes and 225 chapters. The work was compiled by a team of scholars of the Song dynasty, led by Ouyang Xiu and Song Qi.
It was originally simply called the Tangshu (Book of Tang) until the 18th century.Science and technology of the Song dynasty
The Song dynasty (Chinese: 宋朝; 960–1279 CE) provided some of the most significant technological advances in Chinese history, many of which came from talented statesmen drafted by the government through imperial examinations.
The ingenuity of advanced mechanical engineering had a long tradition in China. The Song engineer Su Song admitted that he and his contemporaries were building upon the achievements of the ancients such as Zhang Heng (78–139), an astronomer, inventor, and early master of mechanical gears. The application of movable type printing advanced the already widespread use of woodblock printing to educate and amuse Confucian students and the masses. The application of new weapons employing the use of gunpowder enabled the Song to ward off its militant enemies—the Liao, Western Xia, and Jin with weapons such as cannons—until its collapse to the Mongol forces of Kublai Khan in the late 13th century.
Notable advances in civil engineering, nautics, and metallurgy were made in Song China, as well as the introduction of the windmill to China during the thirteenth century. These advances, along with the introduction of paper-printed money, helped revolutionize and sustain the economy of the Song dynasty.Shen Kuo
Shen Kuo (Chinese: 沈括; 1031–1095) or Shen Gua, courtesy name Cunzhong (存中) and pseudonym Mengqi (now usually given as Mengxi) Weng (夢溪翁), was a Han Chinese polymathic scientist and statesman of the Song dynasty (960–1279). Excelling in many fields of study and statecraft, he was a mathematician, astronomer, meteorologist, geologist, zoologist, botanist, pharmacologist, agronomist, archaeologist, ethnographer, cartographer, encyclopedist, general, diplomat, hydraulic engineer, inventor, academy chancellor, finance minister, governmental state inspector, poet, and musician. He was the head official for the Bureau of Astronomy in the Song court, as well as an Assistant Minister of Imperial Hospitality. At court his political allegiance was to the Reformist faction known as the New Policies Group, headed by Chancellor Wang Anshi (1021–1085).
In his Dream Pool Essays or Dream Torrent Essays (夢溪筆談; Mengxi Bitan) of 1088, Shen was the first to describe the magnetic needle compass, which would be used for navigation (first described in Europe by Alexander Neckam in 1187). Shen discovered the concept of true north in terms of magnetic declination towards the north pole, with experimentation of suspended magnetic needles and "the improved meridian determined by Shen's [astronomical] measurement of the distance between the pole star and true north". This was the decisive step in human history to make compasses more useful for navigation, and may have been a concept unknown in Europe for another four hundred years (evidence of German sundials made circa 1450 show markings similar to Chinese geomancer compasses in regard to declination).Alongside his colleague Wei Pu, Shen planned to map the orbital paths of the Moon and the planets in an intensive five-year project involving daily observations, yet this was thwarted by political opponents at court. To aid his work in astronomy, Shen Kuo made improved designs of the armillary sphere, gnomon, sighting tube, and invented a new type of inflow water clock. Shen Kuo devised a geological hypothesis for land formation (geomorphology), based upon findings of inland marine fossils, knowledge of soil erosion, and the deposition of silt. He also proposed a hypothesis of gradual climate change, after observing ancient petrified bamboos that were preserved underground in a dry northern habitat that would not support bamboo growth in his time. He was the first literary figure in China to mention the use of the drydock to repair boats suspended out of water, and also wrote of the effectiveness of the relatively new invention of the canal pound lock. Although Ibn al-Haytham (965–1039) was the first to describe camera obscura, Shen was the first in China to do so, several decades later. Shen wrote extensively about movable type printing invented by Bi Sheng (990–1051), and because of his written works the legacy of Bi Sheng and the modern understanding of the earliest movable type has been handed down to later generations. Following an old tradition in China, Shen created a raised-relief map while inspecting borderlands. His description of an ancient crossbow mechanism which he himself unearthed proved to be a Jacob's staff, a surveying tool which wasn't known in Europe until described by Levi ben Gerson in 1321.
Shen Kuo wrote several other books besides the Dream Pool Essays, yet much of the writing in his other books has not survived. Some of Shen's poetry was preserved in posthumous written works. Although much of his focus was on technical and scientific issues, he had an interest in divination and the supernatural, the latter including his vivid description of unidentified flying objects from eyewitness testimony. He also wrote commentary on ancient Daoist and Confucian texts.Sima Guang
Sima Guang (17 November 1019 – 11 October 1086), courtesy name Junshi, was a Chinese historian, writer, and politician. He was a high-ranking Song dynasty scholar-official and historian who authored the monumental history book Zizhi Tongjian. Sima was a political conservative who opposed Wang Anshi's reforms.Society of the Song dynasty
Chinese society during the Song dynasty (960–1279) was marked by political and legal reforms, a philosophical revival of Confucianism, and the development of cities beyond administrative purposes into centers of trade, industry, and maritime commerce. The inhabitants of rural areas were mostly farmers, although some were also hunters, fishers, or government employees working in mines or the salt marshes. Conversely, shopkeepers, artisans, city guards, entertainers, laborers, and wealthy merchants lived in the county and provincial centers along with the Chinese gentry—a small, elite community of educated scholars and scholar-officials.
As landholders and drafted government officials, the gentry considered themselves the leading members of society; gaining their cooperation and employment was essential for the county or provincial bureaucrat overburdened with official duties. In many ways, scholar-officials of the Song period differed from the more aristocratic scholar-officials of the Tang dynasty (618–907). Civil service examinations became the primary means of appointment to an official post as competitors vying for official degrees dramatically increased. Frequent disagreements amongst ministers of state on ideological and policy issues led to political strife and the rise of political factions. This undermined the marriage strategies of the professional elite, which broke apart as a social group and gave way to a multitude of families which provided sons for civil service.
Confucian or Legalist scholars in ancient China—perhaps as far back as the late Zhou dynasty (c. 1046–256 BC)—categorized all socio-economic groups into four broad and hierarchical occupations (in descending order): the shi (scholars, or gentry), the nong (peasant farmers), the gong (artisans and craftsmen), and the shang (merchants). Wealthy landholders and officials possessed the resources to better prepare their sons for the civil service examinations, yet they were often rivaled in their power and wealth by merchants of the Song period. Merchants frequently colluded commercially and politically with officials, despite the fact that scholar-officials looked down on mercantile vocations as less respectable pursuits than farming or craftsmanship. The military also provided a means for advancement in Song society for those who became officers, even though soldiers were not highly respected members of society. Although certain domestic and familial duties were expected of women in Song society, they nonetheless enjoyed a wide range of social and legal rights in an otherwise patriarchal society. Women's improved rights to property came gradually with the increasing value of dowries offered by brides' families.
Daoism and Buddhism were the dominant religions of China in the Song era, the latter deeply impacting many beliefs and principles of Neo-Confucianism throughout the dynasty. Ironically, Buddhism came under heavy criticism by staunch Confucian advocates and philosophers of the time. Older beliefs in ancient Chinese mythology, folk religion, and ancestor worship also played a large part in people's daily lives, as the Chinese believed that deities and ghosts of the spiritual realm frequently interacted with the living realm.
The Song justice system was maintained by policing sheriffs, investigators, official coroners, and exam-drafted officials who became county magistrates. Song magistrates were encouraged to apply both their practical knowledge as well as the written law in making judicial decisions that would promote societal morality. Advancements in early forensic science, a greater emphasis on gathering credible evidence, and careful recording by clerks of autopsy reports and witness testimonies aided authorities in convicting criminals.Song official headwear
The headwear of Song dynasty officials consisted of a black hat with two wing-like flaps. The thin flaps are stiff and straight, and could extend up to almost a meter each.
The founder of the Song dynasty, Emperor Taizu of Song, designed this so that during assemblies, his officials would be kept apart by the flaps and would not whisper to each other.Song poetry
Song poetry refers to Classical Chinese poetry of or typical of the Song dynasty of China (960–1279). The dynasty was established by the Zhao family in China in 960 and lasted until 1279.
Many of the best known Classical Chinese poems, popular also in translation, are from the Song dynasty poets, such as Su Shi (Dongpo), Ouyang Xiu, Lu You and Yang Wanli. This was also a time of great achievement in painting and literature, and many artists were accomplished in more than one of these, as well as often being government officials.
|Hanyu Pinyin||Sòng cháo|
|Gwoyeu Romatzyh||Sonq chaur|
|Yale Romanization||Sung chìuh|
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Song dynasty topics
Administrative divisions of the Song dynasty