Sony Dynasty | Chinese Antiques

Founding of the Song Dynasty 

The Northern Song was founded by Zhao Kuangyin, a military general ending the upheaval of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. With a strong central government the dynasty controlled most of inner China. The Song capital was in the northern city of Bianjing (today Kaifeng, eastern Henan province).
The Southern Song was set up by Zhao Gou, son of the last emperor of Northern Song. After Jin defeated the Northern Song, many imperial clansmen were captured by Jin's army. Fortunately, Zhao Gou had a lucky escape and fled to Nanjing Yingtianfu (in current Shangqiu of Henan Province) and established the Southern Song Dynasty there. Later, the capital city was moved to Lin'an (currently Hangzhou City in Zhejiang Province). The Southern Song's regime was subject to the Jin.

Quick Facts about the Song Dynasty

It had a prosperous economy and radiant culture. This period was considered as another period of 'golden age' after the glorious Tang Dynasty.

During the Song Dynasty, agriculture and productive technology were improved which promoted the output of food.

Painting became closely allied with calligraphy in aim, form, and technique so that it shed its status as mere craft and joined the higher ranks of the fine arts.

In the handicraft industry, the division of labour became more detailed which advanced handicrafts technology. The development of the commodity economy meant that the earliest paper currency appeared in this period.

Often coined the Chinese "renaissance". This term refers mainly to two aspects, namely the large amount of technical inventions made and perfected during the Song period. E.g. gunpowder, typography, the compass, book-printing, and to the "recovery" of what was defined as a Chinese culture after many centuries of "barbarian" influences.

With regard to literature, a large number of outstanding scholars and poets, such as Zhuxi, Ouyang Xiu, Su Shi, Sima Guang and Shen Kuo, emerged and built up the splendid cultural atmosphere of the Song Dynasty.

The Song only ruled over a relatively small area compared to the Han, the Tang or the Qing dynasties.

The Song period was a time of consolidation for Chinese culture, in which Confucianism was reconfirmed in its eminent position as a cultural doctrine, and Buddhism and Taoism were acknowledged as state-sponsored religions.

The early Northern Song dynasty witnessed the flowering of one of the supreme artistic expressions of Chinese civilization: monumental landscape painting. Retreating to the mountains to escape the turmoil and destruction that occurred at the end of the Tang dynasty, tenth-century recluse-painters discovered in nature the moral order that they had found lacking in the human world. In their visionary landscapes, the great mountain, towering above the lesser mountains, trees, and men, was like "a ruler among his subjects, a master among servants." Later, Song court painters transformed these idealised images of nature into emblems of a perfectly ordered state.

An important outgrowth of Song political unification was the creation of a distinctive style of court painting under the auspices of the Imperial Painting Academy. Painters from all parts of the empire were recruited to serve the needs of the court. The varied traditions represented by this diverse group of artists were welded together into a harmonious Song academic manner that valued a naturalistic, closely descriptive portrayal of the physical world.

There was a political shift during the early Song — from a society ruled by a hereditary aristocratic order to a society governed by a central bureaucracy of scholar-officials chosen through the civil-service examinations.

Dissatisfied with the rigidity and oversophistication of early Northern Song calligraphy, eleventh-century scholars sought to revive the natural, spontaneous qualities of more archaic models.

The literati also applied their new critical standards to painting. Rejecting the highly realistic descriptive style followed by the professional painters of the Imperial Painting Academy, they also departed from the official view that art must serve the state. Instead, the amateur scholar-artist pursued painting and calligraphy for his own amusement as a forum of personal expression.

Technology and science were strongly supported and communication was promoted all over the territory. Among the most noted projects that the empire supported was that of engineer Zhang Sixun, an astronomical clock tower.

The dynasty conquered lands and preserved good relationships with other countries in Asia both in terms of trade and diplomatic conduct.

Key Events During The Song Dynasty

960 AD: Zhao Kuangyin launches a mutiny in Chenqiao county (in current Henan Province). Soon the last king of the Latter Zhou is forced to abdicate.

960-1127 AD: 9 emperors reign during the Northern Song dynasty.

970 AD – 978 AD: During the earlier years of the Northern Song, Emperor Taizu builds a resilient central administration that rules the empire and pays great importance to the competitiveness and talent of bureaucrats through the conduct of examination for civil service, thereby disregarding social standing and connections. 

1100-1125 AD: Under Emperor Huizong, himself an accomplished painter and calligrapher, imperial patronage and the ruler's direct involvement in establishing artistic direction reaches a zenith. While maintaining that the fundamental purpose of painting is to be true to nature, Huizong seeks to enrich its content through the inclusion of poetic resonance and references to antique styles.

1127 AD: Northern Song dynasty is destroyed by the Jin. Zhao Gou flees to Nanjing Yingtianfu (in current Shangqiu of Henan Province) and establishes the Southern Song dynasty there. 

1127-1279 AD: 9 emperors reign during the Southern Song dynasty.

1132 AD: Song Dynasty establishes China's first permanent navy. The government sponsors massive shipbuilding and harbour improvement projects to protect and support the multitudes of ships sailing for maritime interests. 

1161 AD: During the Tangdao and Caishi Battle, the dynasty makes use of marine vessels equipped with trebuchet propellers that hurl gunpowder bombs. The Song Dynasty triumphs over the two battles.

1268 AD – 1273 AD The Mongols attack the Song dynasty and Kublai blocks the Yangzi River with his fleet

1271 AD: Kublai officially declares the formation of Yuan Dynasty.

1275 AD: The Song troops are defeated by Kublai’s army.

1276 AD: The majority of the territory of Song Empire has been seized by Yuan troops.

1279 AD: At the Yamen Battle, Pearl River Delta, Yuan armed forces led by Zhang Hongfan crumple the Song struggle. Emperor Huaizong of Song Dynasty, who is then eight years old, gives in to suicide, together with Lu Xifu who is a Prime Minister and the imperial clan’s 800 members; the remaining citizens are untouched.