|Northern Song in 1111|
|Religion||Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion|
|- 960–976||Emperor Taizu|
|- –||Cai Jing,|
|- –||Fan Zhongyan,|
|- –||Li Fang,|
|- 1120 est.||118,800,000a[›]|
|Currency||Jiaozi, Huizi, Chinese cash, Chinese coin, copper coins etc.|
|History of China|
|3 Sovereigns and 5 Emperors|
|Xia Dynasty 2100–1600 BCE|
|Shang Dynasty 1600–1046 BCE|
|Zhou Dynasty 1045–256 BCE|
|Spring and Autumn Period|
|Warring States Period|
|Qin Dynasty 221 BCE–206 BCE|
|Han Dynasty 206 BCE–220 CE|
|Three Kingdoms 220–280|
|Wei, Shu & Wu|
|Jin Dynasty 265–420|
|Western Jin||16 Kingdoms|
|Southern & Northern Dynasties|
|Sui Dynasty 581–618|
|Tang Dynasty 618–907|
|( Second Zhou 690–705 )|
|5 Dynasties &
|Northern Song||W. Xia|
|Yuan Dynasty 1271–1368|
|Ming Dynasty 1368–1644|
|Qing Dynasty 1644–1911|
|Republic of China 1912–1949|
The Song Dynasty (; Wade-Giles: Sung Ch'ao; ) was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a permanent standing navy. This dynasty also saw the first known use of gunpowder, as well as first discernment of true north using a compass.
The Song Dynasty is divided into two distinct periods: the Northern Song and Southern Song. During the Northern Song (, 960–1127), the Song capital was in the northern city of Bianjing (now Kaifeng) and the dynasty controlled most of inner China. The Southern Song (, 1127–1279) refers to the period after the Song lost control of northern China to the Jin Dynasty. During this time, the Song court retreated south of the Yangtze River and established their capital at Lin'an (now Hangzhou). Although the Song Dynasty had lost control of the traditional birthplace of Chinese civilization along the Yellow River, the Song economy was not in ruins, as the Southern Song Empire contained 60 percent of China's population and a majority of the most productive agricultural land. The Southern Song Dynasty considerably bolstered its naval strength to defend its waters and land borders and to conduct maritime missions abroad.
To repel the Jin, and later the Mongols, the Song developed revolutionary new military technology augmented by the use of gunpowder. In 1234, the Jin Dynasty was conquered by the Mongols, who took control of northern China, maintaining uneasy relations with the Southern Song. Möngke Khan, the fourth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, died in 1259 while besieging a city in Chongqing. His younger brother Kublai Khan was proclaimed the new Great Khan, though his claim was only partially recognized by the Mongols in the west. In 1271, Kublai Khan was proclaimed the Emperor of China. After two decades of sporadic warfare, Kublai Khan's armies conquered the Song Dynasty in 1279. China was once again unified, under the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368).
The population of China doubled in size during the 10th and 11th centuries. This growth came through expanded rice cultivation in central and southern China, the use of early-ripening rice from southeast and southern Asia, and the production of abundant food surpluses. The Northern Song census recorded a population of roughly 50 million, much like the Han and Tang dynasties. This data is found in the Standard Histories. However, it is estimated that the Northern Song had a population of some 100 million people, and 200 million by the time of the Ming Dynasty. This dramatic increase of population fomented an economic revolution in premodern China. The expansion of the population was partially the cause for the gradual withdrawal of the central government from heavily regulating the market economy. A much larger populace also increased the importance of the lower gentry's role in grassroots administration and local affairs. Appointed officials in county and provincial centers relied upon the scholarly gentry for their services, sponsorship, and local supervision.
Social life during the Song was vibrant; social elites gathered to view and trade precious artworks, the populace intermingled at public festivals and private clubs, and cities had lively entertainment quarters. The spread of literature and knowledge was enhanced by the earlier invention of woodblock printing and the 11th-century invention of movable type printing. Pre-modern technology, science, philosophy, mathematics, engineering, and other intellectual pursuits flourished over the course of the Song. Philosophers such as Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi reinvigorated Confucianism with new commentary, infused with Buddhist ideals, and emphasized a new organization of classic texts that brought out the core doctrine of Neo-Confucianism. Although the institution of the civil service examinations had existed since the Sui Dynasty, it became much more prominent in the Song period. This became a leading factor in the shift of an aristocratic elite to a bureaucratic elite.
Emperor Taizu of Song (r. 960–976) unified China through conquering other lands during his reign, ending the upheaval of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. In Kaifeng, he established a strong central government over the empire. He ensured administrative stability by promoting the civil service examination system of drafting state bureaucrats by skill and merit (instead of aristocratic or military position) and promoted projects that ensured efficiency in communication throughout the empire. One such project was the creation by cartographers of detailed maps of each province and city which were then collected in a large atlas. He also promoted groundbreaking science and technological innovations by supporting such works as the astronomical clock tower designed and built by the engineer Zhang Sixun.
The Song court maintained diplomatic relations with Chola India, Fatimid Egypt, Srivijayan Indonesia, the Kara-Khanid Khanate of Central Asia, and other countries that were also trade partners. However, it was China's closest neighboring states which would have the greatest impact on its domestic and foreign policy. From its inception under Taizu, the Song Dynasty alternated between warfare and diplomacy with the ethnic Khitans of the Liao Dynasty in the northeast and with the Tanguts of the Western Xia Dynasty in the northwest. The Song Dynasty used military force in an attempt to quell the Liao Dynasty and recapture the Sixteen Prefectures, a territory under Khitan control that was traditionally considered to be part of China proper. However, Song forces were repulsed by the Liao forces who engaged in aggressive yearly campaigns into northern Song territory until 1005 when the signing of the Shanyuan Treaty ended these northern border clashes. The Song were forced to provide tribute to the Khitans, although paying this tribute did little damage to the overall Song economy since the Khitans were heavily dependent upon importing massive amounts of goods from the Song Dynasty. More significantly, the Song state recognized the Liao state as its diplomatic equal. The Song Dynasty managed to win several military victories over the Tanguts in the early 11th century, culminating in a campaign led by the polymath scientist, general, and statesman Shen Kuo (1031–1095). However, this campaign was ultimately a failure due to a rival military officer of Shen disobeying direct orders, and the territory gained from the Western Xia was eventually lost. There was also a significant war fought against the Lý Dynasty of Vietnam from 1075 to 1077 over a border dispute and the Song's severing of commercial relations with the Đại Việt kingdom. After Lý forces inflicted heavy damages in a raid on Guangxi, the Song commander Guo Kui (1022–1088) penetrated as far as Thăng Long (modern Hanoi). However, heavy losses on both sides prompted the Lý commander Thường Kiệt (1019–1105) to make peace overtures, allowing both sides to withdraw from the war effort; captured territories held by both Song and Lý were mutually exchanged in 1082, along with prisoners of war.
During the 11th century, political rivalries thoroughly divided members of the court due to the ministers' differing approaches, opinions, and policies regarding the handling of the Song's complex society and thriving economy. The idealist Chancellor, Fan Zhongyan (989–1052), was the first to receive a heated political backlash when he attempted to make such reforms as improving the recruitment system of officials, increasing the salaries for minor officials, and establishing sponsorship programs to allow a wider range of people to be well educated and eligible for state service. After Fan was forced to step down from his office, Wang Anshi (1021–1086) became Chancellor of the imperial court. With the backing of Emperor Shenzong (1067–1085), Wang Anshi severely criticized the educational system and state bureaucracy. Seeking to resolve what he saw as state corruption and negligence, Wang implemented a series of reforms called the New Policies. These involved land tax reform, the establishment of several government monopolies, the support of local militias, and the creation of higher standards for the Imperial examination to make it more practical for men skilled in statecraft to pass. The reforms created political factions in the court. Wang Anshi's New Policies Group (Xin Fa), also known as the 'Reformers', were opposed by the ministers in the 'Conservative' faction led by the historian and Chancellor Sima Guang (1019–1086). As one faction supplanted another in the majority position of the court ministers, it would demote rival officials and exile them to govern remote frontier regions of the empire. One of the prominent victims of the political rivalry, the famous poet and statesman Su Shi (1037–1101), was jailed and eventually exiled for criticizing Wang's reforms.
While the central Song court remained politically divided and focused upon its internal affairs, alarming new events to the north in the Liao state finally came to its attention. The Jurchen, a subject tribe within the Liao empire, rebelled against the Liao and formed their own state, the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234). The Song official Tong Guan (1054–1126) advised Emperor Huizong (1100–1125) to form an alliance with the Jurchens, and their joint military campaign toppled and completely conquered the Liao Dynasty by 1125. However, the poor performance and military weakness of the Song army was observed by the Jurchens who immediately broke the alliance with the Song, launching an invasion into Song territory in 1125 and another in 1127; in this latter invasion, the Jurchens captured not only the Song capital at Kaifeng, but the retired emperor Huizong, his successor Qinzong, and most of the Imperial court. This took place in the year of Jingkang (Chinese 靖康) and it is known as the Humiliation of Jingkang (Chinese 靖康之恥). The remaining Song forces regrouped under the self-proclaimed. Emperor Gaozong (1127–1162), and withdrew south of the Yangtze River to establish the Song Dynasty's new capital at Lin'an (in modern Hangzhou). The Jurchen conquest of northern China and shift of capitals from Kaifeng to Lin'an was the dividing line between the Northern Song Dynasty and Southern Song Dynasty.
Although weakened and pushed south along the Huai River, the Southern Song found new ways to bolster its strong economy and defend its own state against the Jin Dynasty. They had able military officers such as Yue Fei and Han Shizhong. The government sponsored massive shipbuilding and harbor improvement projects, and the construction of beacons and seaport warehouses in order to support maritime trade abroad and the major international seaports, such as Quanzhou, Guangzhou, and Xiamen, that were sustaining China's commerce. To protect and support the multitudes of ships sailing for maritime interests into the waters of the East China Sea and Yellow Sea (to Korea and Japan), Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea, it was a necessity to establish an official standing navy. The Song Dynasty therefore established China's first permanent navy in 1132, with a headquarters at Dinghai. With a permanent navy, the Song were prepared to face the naval forces of the Jin on the Yangtze River in 1161, in the Battle of Tangdao and the Battle of Caishi. During these battles the Song navy employed swift paddle wheel driven naval vessels armed with trebuchet catapults aboard the decks that launched gunpowder bombs. Although the Jin forces boasted 70,000 men on 600 warships, and the Song forces only 3,000 men on 120 warships, the Song Dynasty forces were victorious in both battles due to the destructive power of the bombs and the rapid assaults by paddle wheel ships. The strength of the navy was heavily emphasized after that. A century after the navy was founded it had grown in size to 52,000 fighting marines. The Song government confiscated portions of land owned by the landed gentry in order to raise revenue for these projects, an act which caused dissension and loss of loyalty amongst leading members of Song society but did not stop the Song's defensive preparations. Financial matters were made worse by the fact that many wealthy, land-owning families—some which had officials working for the government—used their social connections with those in office in order to obtain tax-exempt status.
Although the Song Dynasty was able to hold back the Jin, a new considerable foe came to power over the steppe, deserts, and plains north of the Jin Dynasty. The Mongols, led by Genghis Khan (r. 1206–1227), initially invaded the Jin Dynasty in 1205 and 1209, engaging in large raids across its borders, and in 1211 an enormous Mongol army was assembled to invade the Jin. The Jin Dynasty was forced to submit and pay tribute to the Mongols as vassals; when the Jin suddenly moved their capital city from Beijing to Kaifeng, the Mongols saw this as a revolt. Under the leadership of Ögedei Khan (r.1229–1241), both the Jin Dynasty and Western Xia Dynasty were conquered by Mongol forces. The Mongols also invaded Korea, the Abbasid Caliphate of the Middle East, and Kievan Rus'. The Mongols were at one time allied with the Song, but this alliance was broken when the Song recaptured the former imperial capitals of Kaifeng, Luoyang and Chang'an at the collapse of the Jin Dynasty. The Mongol leader Möngke Khan led a campaign against the Song in 1259, but died on August 11 during the Battle of Fishing Town in Chongqing. Möngke's death and the ensuing succession crisis prompted Hulagu Khan to pull the bulk of the Mongol forces out of the Middle East where they were poised to fight the Egyptian Mamluks (who defeated the Mongols at Ain Jalut). Although Hulagu was allied with Kublai Khan, his forces were unable to help in the assault against the Song, due to Hulagu's war with the Golden Horde.
Kublai continued the assault against the Song, gaining a temporary foothold on the southern banks of the Yangtze. Kublai made preparations to take Ezhou, but a pending civil war with his brother Ariq Böke—a rival claimant to the Mongol Khaganate—forced Kublai to move with the bulk of his forces back north. In Kublai's absence, the Song forces were ordered by Chancellor Jia Sidao to make an opportune assault, and succeeded in pushing the Mongol forces back to the northern banks of the Yangzi. There were minor border skirmishes until 1265, when Kublai won a significant battle in Sichuan. From 1268 to 1273, Kublai blockaded the Yangzi River with his navy and besieged Xiangyang, the last obstacle in his way to invading the rich Yangzi River basin. Kublai officially declared the creation of the Yuan Dynasty in 1271. In 1275, a Song force of 130,000 troops under Chancellor Jia Sidao was defeated by Kublai's newly appointed commander-in-chief, general Bayan. By 1276, most of the Song territory had been captured by Yuan forces. In the Battle of Yamen on the Pearl River Delta in 1279, the Yuan army, led by the general Zhang Hongfan, finally crushed the Song resistance. The last remaining ruler, the 8-year-old emperor Emperor Huaizong of Song committed suicide, along with Prime Minister Lu Xiufu  and 800 members of the royal clan. On Kublai's orders, carried out by his commander Bayan, the rest of the former imperial family of Song were unharmed; the deposed Emperor Gong was demoted, being given the title 'Duke of Ying', but was eventually exiled to Tibet where he took up a monastic life.