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What is Song Dynasty?

By Licia Morrow
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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The Song Dynasty in China lasted from 960 CE to 1279 CE, and is considered a prosperous and culturally rich period in Chinese history. This era followed the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms era and was succeeded by the Yuan Dynasty.

The Northern Song Dynasty lasted from 960 AD to 1127 AD and was established by Zhao Kuangyin, a military leader from the later Zhou Dynasty, who led an overthrow in the county of Chengiao in 960 CE. The center of the Northern Song was placed in Bianjing, in the already united Chinese territory. Unfortunately, this early period of the Song Dynasty was filled with political corruption, which led to the establishment of the Southern Song Dynasty. Between the years 1115 and 1234, the Jin Dynasty army overthrew the government of the Northern Song and exerted power over the new rulers of the Southern Song period.

The Southern Song era was in place from 1127 to 1279, and was created by Zhao Gou, son of the last Northern Song emperor. Zhao Gou escaped the gathering clans organized under the Jin Dynasty and was able to firmly establish this later Song period in the city of Nanjing Yingtianfu.

The Song Dynasty was enriched by advancements in technology, agriculture, labor, and economic advancement and organization. The compass was invented during this period and typography first became a common Chinese practice. Additionally, many writers, poets, and scholars emerged to solidify Chinese culture through the arts and education. The Song era saw such philosophers as Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi create a new understanding of Confucianism, one including Buddhist theory. This led to newer and better organized texts and the introduction of Neo-Confucianism, which included Confucianism, Doaism, and Buddhism.

Due to an expanding system of rice farming, the Chinese population doubled during the Song period. Agriculture was improved through surplus production, the use of early-ripening rice, and expansive cultivation in southern and central China. The growing population led the central government to reduce their regulatory involvement in the economy.

During the later years of the Song period, the strength of the navy was expanded in order to fight the Jin, the Mongols, and to defend Chinese borders. The widespread use of gunpowder assisted in the strength of the later Song military. However, the Song Dynasty came to an end when Kublai Khan expanded the territories of the Mongols, defeated the Song military, took over the Yangzi River basin, and established the Yuan dynasty.

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Discussion Comments

By live2shop — On Nov 16, 2011

The Song Dynasty was a time of economic progress and thus was a time for cultural and economic advancement. Their ability to transform rice farming to the point where the population doubled in size during this dynasty is really an accomplishment.

The Song Dynasty lasted a long time. It finally crumbled like so many powerful societies do. It's hard to understand just why.

For some reason, they weakened and the Song Dynasty of China was invaded by the Mongols and were defeated and taken over.

By Misscoco — On Nov 15, 2011

Sometimes when I observe how much poverty and economic problems there have been in China until recently. Then I forget about all the inventions and cultural advancement they made many centuries ago, I am amazed.

They invented gun powder, developed many medical treatments, wrote many marvelous writings, developed yoga and other methods of exercise and relaxation.

The ability of a country to make advancements depends on what kind of leaders they have, how much warfare there is, and how they are doing economically.

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