Song Dynasty

The Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127 A.D.)

The Northern Song was a regime of the Han people founded by Zhao Kuangyin who was known as Emperor Taizu. The Song capital was located at Kaifeng in Henan Province.
In 959, Emperor Shizong of Later Zhou kingdomd died of illness, so Emperor Gong, a seven years old boy, succeeded to the throne. In 960, Zhao Kuangyin, Satrap and Commander of the imperial army, started a mutiny in Chenqiaoyi (southeast of present-day Fengqiu in Henan) and led an army into Kaifeng to force Emperor Gong to abdicate his throne to him. The name of the dynasty was changed to the Song, which historically known as the Northern Song. And the capital remained in Kaifeng in north China. During the early period of Northern Song Dynasty (960-997), the great efforts to end separatism were made. After fighting for over ten years across the country, Zhao eliminated the resistant forces of the Later Zhou and cleared away the separatist regimes of the Jingnan, the Later Shu, the Southern Han and the Southern Tang. Later, Emperor Taizong summoned Qian Chu of the Wuyue to surrender, which meant the end of the Northern Han. By this time, the state of warlord warfare that had lasted over 200 years from the time of the An Lushan and Shi Siming Revolts o in the Tang Dynasty basically ended. The Northern Song's territories extended to the eastern and southern coastlines. In the north, it bordered on the Liao, along the present-day Jin River, Baxian in Hebei and Yanmenguan in Shanxi. In the northwest, it reached as far as the Baiyü Mountain in Shaanxi, the eastern Gansu and the northeastern Qinghai, contiguous to the Western Xia and the Turfan. In the southwest it bordered on Vietnam, smaller the territories of the Tang Dynasty.

They also introduced political, military and economic reforms in order to ensure peace and stability. Militarily, they plotted to deprive the militarily power of generals, set up a Military Council to take charge of troop-deployment arrangement, but without any power to command troops. The Marshals and the Military Council had their own duties but held each other in check. They were both under direct control of the emperor. In the army, a shifting defence system was implemented - troops and their commander were regularly transferred to different regions for military service to prevent them from forming cliques. Administrative reforms included the three central departments, the Secretariat, the Military Council, and the Chancellor of the Treasury, which were placed under the Prime Minister to share administrative, military and financial power. In this way, the Prime Minister would not have too much power. The power of local despotic satraps was taken to drain. These satraps were given sinecures in the capital, while their former domains were to be governed by civil prefects appointed by the emperor and under the direct control of the royal house. The local surplus revenues, after deduction for expenditures, were subjected to the central government. These reforms greatly strengthened the power of the central government, created political stability and spurred economic development. But the increase in centralized power also produced negative effects such as the weakening of local governments and the military strength.

The middle period of the Northern Song (998-1099), was an important period in the history of the Northern Song. The new economic policies such as the "two-taxes" system and the tenancy system greatly motivated the peasants to work. As a result, population increased, more land was cultivated, more advanced iron tools were made, more effective farming techniques appeared and farming products became more diversified as well as doubled in output. Statistics show there were 4.13 million families on the household register in 997. The number of families increased to 12.46 million in 1063. Farming land increased from 300 million in 996) to 520 million mu in1063. This fast agricultural growth promoted the development of handicrafts and commerce. The Northern Song industries of shipbuilding, metallurgy, textiles, dyeing, paper-making and china-making all experienced greater progress than any previous dynasties either in scale of production or techniques. Paper money appeared and soon was in widespread use. This period also saw a boom in science and culture as a result of the invention and application of the compass, printing techniques and gunpowder. However, social conflicts became increasingly common. Both military and political expansion together with quick land annexation pace increasingly depleted the government treasury. Under these circumstances, the Northern Song tried several reforms to improve the situation. Well-known examples are the "Qingli Reform" during Emperor Renzong's reign and the "Wang Anshi Reform" during Emperor Shenzong's reign. But these reforms brought about few results, and the Northern Song went into decline.

In the last stage of the Northern Song (1100-1127), many peasants, impoverished and homeless rose to rebel against the government. The uprisings led by Fang La and Song Jiang were among the biggest of the period. Moreover, external aggression aggravated the situation. For a long time, the Northern Song kept fighting against the Liao, the Xia and the Jin. Soon after the truce with the Western Xia, a powerful Jin force launched a large-scale attack on the Northern Song. In 1126, the Jin army conquered Kaifeng, the capital of the Northern Song. In 1127, the Northern Song emperor was deposed and the dynasty came to the end.

The Southern Song Dynasty (A.D. 1127 - A.D. 1279)

The Southern Song was a Han regime founded by Zhao Gou (known as Emperor Gaozong), with its capital in Lin'an (present-day Hangzhou, Zhejiang).

In1126, the capital of Northern Song Kaifeng was conquered by the army of Jin. In 1127, Emperor Qinzong was deposed, ending the Northern Song. One month later, Zhao Gou, the Prince of Kang the ninth son of Emperor Huizong of Northern Song and former marshal in Hebei, was supported by former ministers of the Northern Song and thus was designated as emperor in Nanjin (south of present-day Shangqiu in Henan), reestablished the Song Dynasty, known as the Southern Song Dynasty. Emperor Gaozong did not adopt the suggestion of active resistance of his prime minister but passive defense. Consequently, discouraged, the Song fled to Hangzhou, and then southern of China, abandoning the Huai River valley and the Yangtze River under the pressure of the Jin forces. Not until the Jin troop were satisfied with the war booty they had required and withdrew to the north did Emperor Gao Zong come back to Hangzhou where he established the capital. Then, Hangzhou was renamed Lin'an.
Its territorial boundaries in the north extended from the Huaishui, through Jingtang (present-day Tanghe in Henan), Deng (east of present-day Deng County in Henan) to Dasanguan (southwest of Baoji, Shaanxi) in the Qinling Mountain, bordering the Jin and in the southeast and southwest remained the same as those of the Northern Song. Jin controlled northern part of China, moved its capital to Yan, then, it was renamed Dadu, in order to control the Yellow River Valley easily.
The political system in the Southern Song generally followed its Northern Song counterparts. But the administrative organisations were streamlined and re-structured to accommodate the new practice of autocratic centralisation of power. The three secretariats and six departments of the former Northern Song Dynasty were merged in order to reduce the number of official posts and administrative organisations. But changes were not so drastic with respect to regional governments. Reforms were also introduced into the military system. Early in the Southern Song, the former Northern Song's Military Council was replaced with various bodies. But in 1131, the Military Council was restored to its position as the highest military body. At the same time, more military and paramilitary organisations were set up in regional areas to maintain order and to resist the Jin forces.
After the Southern Song became more politically stable, the social economy began to develop. Two-fifths smaller than Northern Song, the Southern Song's advanced agricultural techniques saw it reap rich harvests. To meet its military needs, the Southern Song paid great attention to weapon manufacturing, mining, metallurgy, and shipbuilding. As a result, the Southern Song surpassed the Northern Song in technique and scale of these industries.
One noticeable cultural development during the Southern Song was the flourishing of moral science, especially the Neo-Confucianism which came to be the official ideology of the day.
The Southern Song took some strategic defense measures which were quite successful. It strengthened its defensive forces in Shaanxi andSichuan. A complete system of defensive works was built to link the Yangtze River and the eastern bank of the Huai River midstream. It pursued a strategy of attacking the Central Plains with Jingxiang as its base to link up with Hesu. It also attached great importance to developing military hardware, reforming the military system and increasing the army's manpower. As a result, the situation became more favorable. However, the Southern Song pursued a policy of suing for peace and had no plan to recover the Central Plains. Moreover, its policy of appointing civil officials to control and restrain military officers greatly discouraged its generals and hindered the development of military strength. The measures taken in 1114 to deprive three great generals of their commanding power, to kill the outstanding anti-Jin general Yue Fei and to reduce the number of the soldiers led to its self-destruction. Consequently, the Southern Song went into decline.

After the emergence of the Mongols, the three powers in the north - the Mongols, the Western Xia and the Jin - constantly fought against each other. This should have been the best opportunity for the Southern Song to expand. But, its rulers, having adopted a self-defence strategy, took no action at all. It was not until the Western Xia vanished and the Jin, having lost most of its northern territories, turned to attack the Southern Song that the Southern Song was forced to fight. Although the Southern Song troops held the southward marching Jin army at bay, they also suffered heavy losses. Meanwhile the Mongolian forces entered the northern bank of the Yellow River, while the Southern Song no longer had any strength left to march north. Worse still, when the Jin was doomed, the Southern Song even made a decision to unite with the Mongols to resist the Jin, not knowing that it would soon follow the Jin's fate. 

After the Yuan army captured Lin'an in 1276, the Southern Song Dynasty ended. Some of its ministers went south to Fujian and Guangdong to reestablish the mini-Song court which was short-lived, ending in 1279 at Yashan.

Economy of the Song Dynasty

During the Song period, agriculture, handicrafts and commerce flourished. New cities sprang up. In agriculture, growing areas continuously increased. Tools of production were also improved. Tali, a laborsaving plough that could replace form cattle appeared, other farm implements, such as Yangma by which people could transplant thousands of beds of rice seedlings each day, water-powered and cattle-driven waterwheels started to be widely used. Improved rice, named Zhancheng Rice, was popularized and thus its output was greatly increased. In Northern Song period, there were nearly two ofr three hundred mines in whole country. With division of labor like panning, mining, boiling and refining, each miner had his own responsibility. The amount of iron then produced increased by a big margin. The smelting of copper, iron, lead and tin was very popular. The amount coal produced was considerable and excavating techniques were much improved. Great technological progress was also made in the mining of well salt in southwest China, resulting in the increasing of output.

The silk weaving was very flourishing in the northern Song Dynasty. The fine silk was as light as a mist. Overseas trade began to develop. Achievements in porcelain manufacture outshone all previous records and sold overseas.Among the famous kilns were Guanyao in Kaifeng, Ruyao in Ruzhou (now Linru County, Henan), Junyao in Yuzhou (now Henan), Dingyao in Dingzhou (now Hebei)and yueyao in Yuezhou (now Shaoxing, Zhejiang), which were jointly known as Five Famous Kilns. And shipbuilding, papermaking, sugar refining and tea processing had all made evident progress compared with those before. Flourishing commerce centers were found every where in the south as well as in the north, there were row upon row of shops and markets in the capital city and other big cities. With the collercial prosperity, the earliest paper currency called Jiaozi, started to be issued. Overseas trading in the Song was extraordinarily prosperous. A harbor administration, with its agency called Shibosi, took charge of foreign trade in such foreign trading ports as Guangzhoum Hangzhou, Mingzhou (now Ningbo, Zhejiang) and so forth. Thus the mumber of Korean, Japanese, Arabs and Persians who came to China to trade increased day after day. Gunpowder was widely used for military purposes.

Culture and Science of the Song Dynasty

During the Song period, science and technology made impressive strides. A host of thinkers, scholars and men of letters came to the fore. There was a boom in calligraphy, painting, sculpture and weaving art. Especially noteworthy are the inventions of the compass and movable type printing which have greatly contributed to human progress.
In the area of Chinese literature, Ci poetry of the Song Dynasty enjoyed a high prestige. It originated from the Tang Dyansty and matured in the Five Dynasties, creation reached its summit in the Song Dynasty. Su Shi, Lu You, and Xin Qiji were famous Ci poets. Writing about a wide range of subjects and expressing bold and unrestrained feelings. Vernacular tales of the Song Dynasty, know as Hua Ben, originated from the master copies of those who engaged in storytelling and ballad singing, It dealt with such topics as classic, history and town life and thus exerted great influence on the novels of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
First imperial art academy in China was established during the Five Dynasty. But, during the Song Dynasty, art academy came to a time of great prosperity. There were different genre paintings appeared. The famous painters all had their own distinctive achievements, some of them famous for landscape, some of them famous for flowers and birds.

Famous calligraphers emerged in large numbers in the Song Dynasty. Su Shi, HuangTingjian, Mi Fu and Cai Xiang enjoyed a high prestige in the history of Chinese calligraphy.

Li Xue appeared in the Song Dynast. Li Xue, also known as Dao Xue, was a Confucian school formed by Buddhism and Taoism. Compared with taditional Confucianism, it was a great change. Neo- Confucianism, one group of LiXue enjoyed high prestige during the later period of Song. In the following hundreds of years, its explanation and analysis on Confucian classics was set up as an official one and thus became an orthodox learning.