The Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 CE)

By: Krishna Tipparaju & Geena Kumaran, Period 7


The period during the Song Dynasty was the most scientifically advanced time. With the new way of picking governors, they encouraged education, which led to the many scientific advances. The Song dynasty was split into 2 parts, the Northern and Southern Song dynasty.


The first leader of the Song Dynasty was named Sung T'ai Tsu. He took charge right after a series of rebellions, after the Tang dynasty had just fallen. During the Song dynasty, the political and economic system had a major improvement. The Song dynasty maintained a well trained government by using the civil service system. This means that people are chosen for their skills. If they wanted to be part of the government they would have to take an exam called the civil service test. Many men studied for years to prepare for the test. Only 200 of the thousands who attempted would get picked.

Northern Emperors of The Song Dynasty

  1. Song Taizong, (Zhao Guangyi)------------------- The younger brother of Zhao Kuangyin; during his reign, the whole China was unified by his defeating the Northern Han (951 - 979).976 - 997
  2. Song Zhenzong (Zhao Heng)--------------------- Son of Emperor Taizong; In his reign, the military power of Song was strengthened. He founded the famous ceramic kiln in Jingdezhen.997 - 1022
  3. Song Renzong, (Zhao Zhen)----------------------Son of Emperor Zhenzong; His reign was the turning point of the Song Dynasty from the prosperity to the fall.
  4. Song Yingzong, (Zhao Shu)----------------------- Son of one of the imperial clansmen and was adopted by Emperor Renzong.

Southern Emperors of the Song Dynasty

  1. Song Gaozong

    (Zhao Gou)---------9th son of the Huizong

  2. Song Xiaozong
    (Zhao Shen)-------- he was the 7th generation son of Emperor Taizu
  3. Song Guangzong
    (Zhao Dun)--------- the current city named Chongqing was named before as Guangzong
  4. Song Ningzong
    (Zhao Kuo)----------- many cultural and "intellectual" achievements.
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Sung T'ai Tsu


Trade was very important for the Song economy. Trade guilds were organized by paper currency. Paper currency was increasing during the Song Dynasty. Several cities with populations more than 1,000,000 used principal waterways for transportation and as trade routes. Paper money made it easy to trade with northern states and central countries. Merchant ships and annual voyages brought the dynasty iron, silk, velvet, porcelain. Many West Asian and Central Asian countries went to China to trade goods. Sea trade between Korea and Japan helped the Song Dynasty to grow economically. Goods were also transported across the Silk Road. The goods included tea, silk, copper coins, paper, printed books, porcelain, lacquer ware, jewelry, rice, ginger and spices. The invention of the magnetic compass improved boating and navigation skills. Most occupations were involved in business, army, and trading. These occupations flourished during the Song Dynasty because of the new inventions. For example the magnetic compass made trading easier, which made trading a popular occupation. Private trading companies would trade with Arabia, India and other countries.

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Camels, loaded with goods, about to exit the city through the gate, Beijing qingming scroll

Inventions/Technology/Science & Architecture

During the Song Dynasty, the follwoing were invented:
  • the abacus used in math
  • hand grenades
  • glow in the dark paint
  • gunpowder
  • paper money
  • fireworks

During the Song dynasty, the following improved:

  • maps
  • porcelain
  • tools and weapons
These inventions affected the social and religion of the people. These inventions made their life easier. Boys who went to school used the abacus in math. Gunpowder was used in wars/battles. Gunpowder transformed the way that wars were fought. The Song Dynasty used the gunpowder to make fire lances and for the fireworks. These fireworks were used during the Chinese New Year celebrations as well. Paper money made trading easier with northern countries (i.e. Japan, Korea). Porcelain were used daily in the Song Dynasty. Porcelain was used as plates, baskets/pots and more.
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A model mechanical clock tower made by Su Song

They also invented:

Religion/Culture/Social Life

Religion had a great affect on people's lives, beliefs and daily activities. Major deities of Daoism (a.k.a. Taoism) and Buddhism and of the Chinese folk religion were worshiped with sacrificial offerings. The Song Dynasty supported public festivals like the Lantern festival. Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism flourished in the Song Dynasty. Arts were very important in the Song Dynasty, as well as, Chinese literature that was spiritually popular. Poetry and literature were popular with the invention of moveable Type which helped create more books. People enjoyed many various social clubs and entertainment in the cities. They provided education and a religious services for everyone. They didn't have many legal and social privileges. Girls would get married at a young age (age 15) . Although both men and women were educated well, woman were the lowest in the social class. Women lacked rights to property, as well. Parents had the authority in the house, often punishing the children. Girls would help out their mothers, learn, and get married at a young age. Boys would learn and become the major breadwinner of the family.

The Classes in The Song Dynasty

- Landowner (upper class)

- Scholar bureaucrats or military leaders (middle class)

- Merchants and artisans (lower class)

The fall of the Song dynasty

The Song government did not maintain a strong army because of their other values, so when the Khitans invaded China, they conquered a section to the North of China. To stop them from invading further, they were compelled to pay a lot of money and had to raise taxes. Many on the peasants suffered, yet no one paid attention to those problems. During the invasion of the Northern Song dynasty the Southern Song dynasty still flourished. They improved compasses and they made many Junk Ships*. These junk ships traded as far as the east Coast of Africa. Finally in 1279 CE the invaders finally conquered the whole dynasty.

* Junk ships are boats not used for junk but used for trading, war and piracy. They are:

  • Fast
  • Able to sail up wind
  • Easy to handle
They are made from soft lightweight wood, have battens made from bamboo, and have flat bottoms.