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Song Dynasty (960-1279)

(Redirected from Song dynasty)

Not to be confused with: Song Dynasty (420-479)


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The Song dynasty (Chinese: 宋朝) was a ruling dynasty in China from 960-1279. Its founding marked the reunification of China for the first time since the fall of the Tang dynasty in 907. The intervening years, known as the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, were a time of division between north and south and of rapidly changing administrations.

The Song dynasty itself can be divided into two distinct periods: the Northern Song and Southern Song. The Northern Song (960-1127) signifies the time when the Song capital was in the northern city of Kaifeng and the dynasty controlled all China. The Southern Song (1127-1279) refers to the time after the Song lost control of northern China to the Khitan Liao dynasty, itself later conquered by the Jurchen Jin dynasty. The Song court retreated south of the Yangtze River and made their capital at Hangzhou. Because Chinese diplomatic theory did not recognize relations between equal states, the Southern Song was technically a tributary state of the northern dynasty.

The northern Jin dynasty was overrun by the Mongols in 1234, who subsequently took control of northern China and maintained uneasy relations with the Southern Song court. The Mongol Yuan dynasty, proclaimed in 1271, finally destroyed the Song dynasty in 1279 and once more unified China, this time as part of a vast Mongol empire.

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Arts, culture and economy

The founders of the Song dynasty built an effective centralized bureaucracy staffed with civilian scholar-officials. Regional military governors and their supporters were replaced by centrally appointed officials. This system of civilian rule led to a greater concentration of power in the emperor and his palace bureaucracy than had been achieved in the previous dynasties.

The Song dynasty is notable for the development of cities not only for administrative purposes but also as centers of trade, industry, and maritime commerce. The landed scholar-officials, sometimes collectively referred to as the gentry, lived in the provincial centers alongside the shopkeepers, artisans, and merchants. A new group of wealthy commoners - the mercantile class - arose as printing and education spread, private trade grew, and a market economy began to link the coastal provinces and the interior. Landholding and government employment were no longer the only means of gaining wealth and prestige.

Culturally, the Song refined many of the developments of the previous centuries. Included in these refinements were not only the Tang ideal of the universal man, who combined the qualities of scholar, poet, painter, and statesman, but also historical writings, painting, calligraphy, and hard-glazed porcelain. Song intellectuals sought answers to all philosophical and political questions in the Confucian Classics. This renewed interest in the Confucian ideals and society of ancient times coincided with the decline of Buddhism, which the Chinese regarded as foreign and offering few practical guidelines for the solution of political and other mundane problems.

The Song Neo-Confucian philosophers, finding a certain purity in the originality of the ancient classical texts, wrote commentaries on them. The most influential of these philosophers was Zhu Xi (1130-1200), whose synthesis of Confucian thought and Buddhist, Taoist, and other ideas became the official imperial ideology from late Song times to the late 19th century. As incorporated into the examination system, Zhu Xi's philosophy evolved into a rigid official creed, which stressed the one-sided obligations of obedience and compliance of subject to ruler, child to father, wife to husband, and younger brother to elder brother. The effect was to inhibit the societal development of premodern China, resulting both in many generations of political, social, and spiritual stability and in a slowness of cultural and institutional change up to the 19th century. Neo-Confucian doctrines also came to play the dominant role in the intellectual life of Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.

Fall of the Southern Song

In 1276 the Southern Song court fled to Guangdong by boat, fleeing Mongol invaders, and leaving the Emperor Gong of Song China behind. Any hope of resistance centred on two young princes, Emperor Gong's brothers. The older boy, Zhao Shi, aged nine was declared emperor, and, in 1277, the imperial court sought refuge first in Silvermine Bay (Mui Wo) on Lantau Island and later in today's Kowloon City, Hong Kong (see also Sung Wong Toi). The older brother became ill and died, and was succeeded by the younger, Zhao Bing, aged seven. When on March 19, 1279 the Song army was defeated in its last battle, the Battle of Yamen, against the Mongols in the Pearl River Delta, a high official is said to have taken the boy emperor in his arms and jumped from a clifftop into the sea, drowning both of them. These emperors are also believed to have held court in the Tung Chung valley, which takes its name from a local hero who gave up his life for the emperor. Hau Wong , an official from this court, is still revered as a god in Hong Kong.

Song dynasty emperors

Temple Names ( Miao Hao 廟號 Mio Ho) Posthumous Names ( Shi Hao 諡號 ) Born Names Period of Reigns Era Names (Nian Hao 年號) and their according range of years
Convention: "Song" + temple name or posthumous name except last emperor who was revered as Song Di Bing (宋帝昺 Sng D Bǐng)
Bei (Northern) Song dynasty, 960- 1127
Taizu (太祖 Tizǔ) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Kuang Yin (趙匡胤 Zho Kuāng Yn) 960-976 Jianlong (建隆 Jinlng) 960-963
    Qiande (乾德 Qind) 963-968
Kaibao (開寶 Kāibǎo) 968-976
Taizong (太宗 Tizōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Kuang Yi (趙匡義 Zho Kuāng Y) or Zhao Guang Yi (趙光義 Zho Guāng Y) 976-997 Taipingxingguo (太平興國 Tipngxīnggu) 976-984
    Yongxi (雍熙 Yōngxī) 984-987
Duangong (端拱 Duāngǒng) 988-989
Chunhua (淳化 Chnhu) 990-994
Zhidao (至道 Zhdo) 995-997
Zhenzong (真宗 Zhēnzōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Heng (趙恆 Zhohng) 997-1022 Xianping (咸平 Xinpng) 998-1003
    Jingde (景德 Jǐngd) 1004-1007
Dazhongxiangfu (大中祥符 Dzhōngxingf) 1008-1016
Tianxi (天禧 Tiānxī) 1017-1021
Qianxing (乾興 Qinxīng) 1022
Renzong (仁宗 Rnzōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Zhen (趙禎 Zho Zhēn) 1022-1063 Tiansheng (天聖 Tiānshng) 1023-1032
    Mingdao (明道 Mngdo) 1032-1033
Jingyou (景祐 Jǐngyo) 1034-1038
Baoyuan (寶元 Bǎoyun) 1038-1040
Kangding (康定 Kāngdng) 1040-1041
Qingli (慶曆 Qngl) 1041-1048
Huangyou (皇祐 Hungyu) 1049-1054
Zhihe (至和 Zhh) 1054-1056
Jiayou (嘉祐 Jiāyu) 1056-1063
Yingzong (英宗 Yīngzōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Shu (趙曙 Zho Sh) 1063-1067 Zhiping (治平 Zhpng) 1064-1067
Shenzong (神宗 Shnzōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Xu (趙頊 Zhoxū) 1067-1085 Xining (熙寧 Xīnng) 1068-1077
    Yuanfeng (元豐 Yunfēng) 1078-1085
Zhezong (哲宗 Zhzōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Xu (趙煦 Zhoxǔ) 1085-1100 Yuanyou (元祐 Yunyu) 1086-1094
    Shaosheng (紹聖 Shoshng) 1094-1098
Yuanfu (元符 Yunf) 1098-1100
Huizong (徽宗 Huīzōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Ji (趙佶 Zho J) 1100-1125 Jianzhongjingguo (建中靖國 Jinzhōngjnggu) 1101
    Chongning (崇寧 Chngnng) 1102-1106
Daguan (大觀 Dguān) 1107-1110
Zhenghe (政和 Zhngh) 1111-1118
Chonghe (重和 Chngh) 1118-1119
Xuanhe (宣和 Xuānh) 1119-1125
Qinzong (欽宗 Qīnzōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Huan (趙桓 Zhohun) 1125-1127 Jingkang (靖康 Jngkāng) 1126-1127
Nan (Southern) Song dynasty, 1127- 1279
Gaozong (高宗 Gāozōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Gou (趙構 Zho Gu) 1127-1162 Jianyan (靖炎 Jngyn) 1127-1130
    Shaoxing (紹興 Shoxīng) 1131-1162
Xiaozong (孝宗 Xiozōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Shen (趙慎 Zho Shn4) 1162-1189 Longxing (隆興 Lngxīng) 1163-1164
    Qiandao (乾道 Qindo) 1165-1173
Chunxi (淳熙 Chnxī) 1174-1189
Guangzong (光宗 Guāngzōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Dun (趙惇 Zho Dūn) 1189-1194 Shaoxi (紹熙 Shoxī) 1190-1194
Ningzong (寧宗 Nngzōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Kuo (趙擴 Zho Ku) 1194-1224 Qingyuan (慶元 Qngyun) 1195-1200
    Jiakai (嘉泰 Jiāki) 1201-1204
Kaixi (開禧 Kāixī) 1205-1207
Jiading (嘉定 Jiādng) 1208-1224
Lizong (理宗 Lǐzōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Yun (趙昀 Zho Yn) 1224-1264 Baoqing (寶慶 Bǎoqng) 1225-1227
    Shaoding (紹定 Shodng) 1228-1233
Duanping (端平 Duānpng) 1234-1236
Jiaxi (嘉熙 Jiāxī) 1237-1240
Chunyou (淳祐 Chnyu) 1241-1252
Baoyou (寶祐 Bǎoyu) 1253-1258
Kaiqing (開慶 Kāiqng) 1259
Jingding (景定 Jǐngdng) 1260-1264
Duzong (度宗 Dzōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Qi (趙祺 Zho Q) 1264-1274 Xianchun (咸淳 Xinchn) 1265-1274
did not exist Gong Di (恭帝 Gōngd) Zhao Xian (趙顯 Zho Xiǎn) 1274-1276 Deyou (德祐 Dyu) 1275-1276
Duan Zong (端宗 Duān Zōng) too tedious; thus, not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Shi (趙是 Zho Sh) 1276-1278 Jingyan (景炎 Jǐngyn) 1276-1278
did not exist Di (帝 D) or Wei Wang (衛王 Wiwng) Zhao Bing (趙昺 Zho Bǐng) 1278-1279 Xiangxing (祥興 Xingxīng) 1278-1279

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Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45