History of Song Dynasty 960–1279

After Tang Dynasty, there is a period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960) between the Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty. During this period, five dynasties succeeded each other in rapid succession in the north, and more than a dozen independent states, mainly in the south, were established, though only ten of them are traditionally listed, hence giving rise to the name Ten Kingdoms. The Northern Song Dynasty, established in 960, was determined to reunify China. Jingnan and Wuping were swept away in 963, Later Shu in 965, Southern Han in 971, Southern Tang in 975. Finally, Wuyue and Qingyuan gave up their land to Northern Song in 978, bringing all of South China into the control of the central government.

After the Tang and Five Dynasties period, a time full of unrest and wars, the Song Dynasty was a time of consolidation for Chinese culture. The traditional state of civil administration fully developed and brought up a revival of Confucian thought, Neo-Confucianism, with many scholars commenting the traditional books, but also developing a more metaphysical worldview of the rather state-oriented old Confucianism. Song Dynasty is often known as the Chinese Renaissance, because of its similarities to the European renaissance for making progress in technology and inventions, the upcoming of new philosophical interpretations of the old texts meant a renewal of the old and the creation of new streaming. The Song period is marked by a revival of old Confucian traditions after the Tang age of Buddhism, and the prevailing position of civil scholars over the military age of Tang and Five Dynasties. But Song culture was also a culmination of the heritage of two thousand years of culture, and from this point of crystallization on, Chinese thinking became orthodox, culture became sterile as if it had been unchanged since thousands of years.

A power balance with the northern empires of Liao and Jin made it possible for the Song rulers to peacefully develop a blooming urban economy with new technical instruments. Trade now oriented more to the sea because the traditional trade routes to Inner Asia had been cut off. Song dynasty also had its beautiful poems, although of different forms from Tang’s. They are not made up of sentences of equal length, but have to fit into particular forms. They tend to be more romantic, dealing with the tragedy of love lost. Song suffered from invasions by people from the north, leading to the move of its capital city to the Southern city of Hangzhou along the Yangtze River. Song has its share of poets, scholars, calligraphers, painters, and statesmen. Song Dynasty is also known for its highly developed market economy.

List of Song Dynasty Emperors

Zhao Kuangyin, the Taizu Emperor (960-976)
Zhao Guangyi, the Taizong Emperor (976-997)
Zhao Heng, the Zhenzong Emperor (997-1022)
Zhao Zhen, the Renzong Emperor (1022-1063)
Zhao Shu, the Yingzong Emperor (1063-1067)
Zhao Xu, the Shenzong Emperor (1067-1085)
Zhao Xu, the Zhezong Emperor (1085-1100)
Zhao Ji, the Huizong Emperor (1100-1125)
Zhao Huan, the Qinzong Emperor (1126-1127)
Zhao Gou, the Gaozong Emperor (1127-1162)
Zhao Shen, the Xiaozong Emperor (1162-1189)
Zhao Dun, the Guangzong Emperor (1189-1194)
Zhao Kuo, the Ningzong Emperor (1194-1224)
Zhao Yun, the Lizong Emperor (1224-1264)
Zhao Qi, the Duzong Emperor (1264-1274)
Zhao Xian, the Gongdi Emperor (1275-1276)
Zhao Shi, the Duanzong Emperor (1276-1278)
Zhao Bing, the Weiwang Emperor (1278-1279)

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Central Academy of Fine Arts
Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University