Song dynasty

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Song dynasty
Chinese 宋朝

The Song dynasty ruled China from 960 to 1279. It began about 50 years after the fall of the Tang dynasty and united China under central rule. In the interim was a period known as the period of the Five Dynasties. The Song dynasty emphasized education even more than the Tang dynasty did. Art and literature thrived, and society was much less strictly controlled under the Song than under the Tang, and some scholars propose that a form of proto-capitalism developed, as markets expanded and merchants became more important. (Traditionally, merchants had been seen as one of the lowest rungs of pre-modern Chinese society, and whilst this was still so under the Song, their role became greater.) Paper money was invented during the Song dynasty, although it was not particularly widely used, and was a solution to the massive weight of money in Sichuan province in the Song - the huge rolls of coin were too heavy to carry, and merchants developed paper money to lessen the burden. It became official government tender somewhat later on.

History of China
Xia c. 2070–c. 1600 BC
Shang c. 1600 – 1046 BC
Zhou 1045–256 BC
Qin 221–206 BC
Han 206 BC – 220 AD
Three Kingdoms 220–280
Jin 265–420
Northern and Southern
Sui 581–618
Tang 618–907
Five Dynasties and
Ten Kingdoms
Song 960–1279
Yuan 1271–1368
Ming 1368–1644
Qing 1644–1911
Republic 1912–1949
People's Republic 1949–present

The Song dynasty ultimately collapsed from too much bureaucracy and its weak military (although in fact, Song military expenditure was vastly more than at any other time previously in Chinese history, and the army was much larger ). It was unable to fight off invading tribes like the Khitan and the Jurchen, which invaded north China and forced the Song dynasty to the south in 1127. This invasion means that the Song dynasty is divided into the Northern Song, when the capital was at Kaifeng, and the Southern Song, when the capital was at Hangzhou. The Mongols then took over southern China in 1279, causing the complete end of the Song dynasty, and the beginning of the Yuan dynasty, which ended in 1368.[1]

Further reading

  • Hymes, Robert, and Conrad Schirokauer, eds. Ordering the World: Approaches to State and Society in Sung Dynasty China, U of California Press, 1993; complete text online free
  • Wright, David Curtis. History of China (2001) 257pp; online edition