Arguably the finest dynasty of imperial China. After the collapse of the Tang dynasty (not to be confused with the beverage Tang), political chaos ensued for several years until Chao K'uang-yin re-united China in 960 AD. Characterised by a surplus of food and huge population growth. Driven into the south in 1127 by Jurchen tribes. Finally conquered by the Mongols in 1279.

The Song Dynasty was the period of time between the years 960 and 1279 in Chinese history. This Dynasty is considered to be one of China's most creative and artistic periods.

The Song Dynasty saw large population growth, particularly in urban areas. The capital, (which was moved from Kaifeng to Hangzhou), grew greatly during this time. The iron and coal industries began to develop, (this along with increased foreign trade caused land taxes to decrease). Paper money began to see widespread usage, and China developed new, larger sailing vessels. The Song Dynasty was also the first society ever to have printed books. This brought about the civil service examination system, (this was very important to upper-class life).

A revival in Confucianism, (with some Buddhist influence), was brought about by the advances in education available.

Emperors of the Song Dynasty

Northern Song Emperors

Southern Song Emperors

The End of the Northern Song

In 1115, the Jurchens, a farm based group of people from eastern Manchuria rebelled against the Khitans' and declared the Jin Dynasty. The Song administration believed that they would gain a formitable ally with the Jin and made an alliance that included dividing up former Khitan land. This was a complete failure and the alliance deteriorated into open warfare between the Jin and Song in less than 3 years.

In 1126 the Juchens attacked the Song capital of Kaifeng in a siege that lasted less then 2 months and then sacked the city. The Emperor Huizong had abdicated and left the throne to his son. Both of them, as well as much of the imperial family was kidnapped following the siege and taken to places northeast for where attempts to pay ransom were unsuccessful and Huizong died in captivity. Meanwhile the remaining parts of the Song had regrouped and fled to southern China where they declared another son of Huizong as emperor.

The Song administration was now left with the undesirable position of being forced into peace talks with the Juchens. By 1138 however, the Song controlled all of China south of the Huai River and the Juchens controlling all of northern China.

Throughout the remaing years of the Song Dynasty, before its fall to the Mongols in 1276, many government officals and intellectuals dreamed of retaking their lost homeland, the place where all previous emperors were buried and home of all previous Chinese capitals. Indeed most historians agree that the Song officals who were part of the peace parties were nothing more than appeasers. A prime example of this is the general Yue Fei who made substantial gains in the north before being sacked and executed. However, the Song would have to remain somewhat of a tributary state to the Juchens following a 1142 treaty where they appeased them with annual payments.


Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. Cabridge Illustrated History: China.

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