Sung Dynasty, China Culture

In 960 a new power, Song (960-1279), reunified most of China Proper. The Song period divides into two phases: Northern Song (960-1127) and Southern Song (1127-1279). The division was caused by the forced abandonment of north China in 1127 by the Song court, which could not push back the nomadic invaders.

China Culture

The first part of the Sung dynasty is called the Northern Sung. In 960 AD, one of the generals of the declining T'ang Dynasty managed to reunify China under his control. This general's name was Chao K'uang-yin, but once became emperor he renamed himself Sung T'ai Tsu. Sung T'ai Tsu was a strong emperor who kept the army firmly under his control, but after Sung T'ai Tsu died, his successors did not do as well, and China's defenses became weak. The Sung Dynasty never controlled as large an empire as the T'ang had. In 1004 AD, the Sung made peace with the Khitans in the north-east, and in 1044 they made peace with the Western Hsia in the north-west. The emperors had to pay heaps of gold to these people every year in order to keep them from attacking China.

Sung Dynasty, China

On the other hand, the old Han Dynasty examinations became more and more important to Chinese government, and from the Sung dynasty on, these examinations were really the only way to get political power in China. But paying out the gold meant that poor people had to pay high taxes, and everyone was unhappy. Some people wanted to keep making the payments anyway, and other people thought it would be better to try to fight the northern invaders off. These two groups kept fighting with each other. First one would get into power and then the other.


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.


Kings / Kingdoms

Events In China

Comments / Worldwide Events

Bei Song Dynasty (960 1126 A.D.)


Song Tai Zu

(960 976 A.D.)

Zhao Kuang Yin took over Zhou and became the first emperor of Song Dynasty

Otto the Great, King of Germany, revived Holy Roman Empire (962 A.D.)

First Christian King of Sweden, Olaf Skutkonnung (993 A.D.)

Maya civilization began to collapse in America. Moche valley becomes site of Kingdom of Chimur (1,000 A.D.)

England- Domesday Book commissioned by William the Conqueror (1,086 A.D.).

First Crusade to the Holy Land (1,096 A.D.)

Crusaders captured Jerusalem. Republic of Venice increasing power, based on trading and shipping (1,099 A.D.)

Song Tai Zong

(976 998 A.D.)

Tai Zong is also known as Guang Yi

Song Zhen Zong

(998 1,023 A.D.)


Song Ren Zong

(1,023 1,064 A.D.)


Song Ying Zong

(1,064 1,068 A.D.)


Song Shen Zong

(1,068 1,086 A.D.)

Wang AnShis reform. Faced with criticisms that the reform was too rush, Wang resigned as Prime Minister in 1,076 A.D.

Song Zhe Zong

(1,086 1,101 A.D.)

Si Ma Guan became Prime Minister and abolished the reform (1086 A.D.). Zhang Xiang became Prime Minister and reinstated the reform (1,094 A.D.).

Song Wei Zong

(1,101 1,126 A.D.)

Chai Jing replaced Zhang Xiang as the Prime Minister (1,101 A.D.). Manchurians established the Jin Dunasty (1,115 1234 A.D.) and invaded China (1,125 A.D.). The rebellion of Song Jiang, leader of the 108 Liang Shan Heroes (1120 A.D.)

Song Qin Zong

(1,126 1,127 A.D.)

The Manchurians captured capital Bian Jing.

Then about 1110 AD, the Sung emperor made an alliance with the Juchens of Manchuria to fight the Khitans and get them out of China. It worked great! But once the Khitans were out, in 1115, the Juchens took over the Sung capital of Kaifeng. The Juchens took the emperor and his son prisoner.


The second part of the Sung dynasty is called the Southern Sung. Another son of the Sung emperor ran away to southern China and in 1126 he started a new Sung Dynasty with its capital at Hangzhou. He took the name Kao Tsung. Kao Tsung and his successors were not very strong militarily, and could not take back northern China from the Juchen. But they did develope thriving trade. Because the Juchen had cut off their traditional route along the Silk Road, traders began sailing to South-East Asia and to India. Paper money helped to create growth in the economy.


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.

Sung Dynasty, China

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.


Kings / Kingdoms

Events In China

Comments / Worldwide Events

Nan Song Dynasty (1127 1279 A.D.)


Song Gao Zong

(1,127 1,163 A.D.)

The Manchurians kidnapped Qin Zhong and his father. Gao Zhong crowned himself as First Emperor of Nan Song, and made Nang Jing his capital. Explosives used in battle by Chinese against the Manchurians (1,161 A.D.)

End of Toltec Empire in Mexico (1,151 A.D.)

Italy- Leaning Tower of Paris built (1,184 A.D.). Francis of Assisi founded Franciscan Order (1,210 A.D.)

England- Magna Carta stated justice to all and no imprisonment without fair trial (1,215 A.D.)

Song Xiao Zong

(1,163 1,190 A.D.)

Signed peace treaty with the Manchurians (1,165 A.D.)

Song Guan Zong

(1,190 1,195 A.D.)


Song Ning Zong

(1,195 1,225 A.D.)

Genghis Khan united Mongolia, invaded the Manchurians (1,206 A.D.) and signed a peace treaty with them (1,214 A.D.). Mongols attacked Russia (1,224 A.D.)

Song Li Zong

(1,225 1,265 A.D.)

Song and the Mongols attacked the Manchurians, and brought an end to the Jin Dynasty (1,233 A.D.).

Genghis Khan conquered Poland and Hungary (1,238 A.D.), defeated European united army (1,241 A.D.), Korea (1,247 A.D.).

Kublai Khan succeeded Genghis Khan (1,260 A.D.).

Song Qing Zong

(1,265 1,275 A.D.)

Kublai Khan Established Yuan Dynasty; Marco Polo visited China (1,271 A.D.). Mongols attacked Japan (1,274 A.D.).

Song Gong Zong

(1,275 1,277 A.D.)

Mongols seized Lin An, kidnapped Gong Zhong and brought an end to the Song Dynasty.

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 ( b1130-1200), whose synthesis of Confucian thought and Buddhist, Taoist, and other ideas became the official imperial ideology from late Song times to the late nineteenth 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 nineteenth century. Neo-Confucian doctrines also came to play the dominant role in the intellectual life of Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.


But in 1279 AD the Mongols invaded from the north and killed the last of the Sung emperors.

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