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The Southern Song. The Collapse of the Northern Song. The ruler Emperor Huizong (r. 1100-1126) was regarded as “incompetent” as a ruler mediocre and corrupt officials and reformers like Cai Jing (1046-1126) and eunuchs like Tong Guang (1054-1126) ruled the state

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the collapse of the northern song
The Collapse of the Northern Song
  • The ruler Emperor Huizong (r. 1100-1126) was regarded as “incompetent” as a ruler
  • mediocre and corrupt officials and reformers like Cai Jing (1046-1126) and eunuchs like Tong Guang (1054-1126) ruled the state
  • Cai Jing’s party purged anti-reformers, demoting and banishing hundred of them, who were branded as “crooked scholars” and expelled from the political community.
factional discourse at the song court
Superior men (junzi)

Loyal (zhong)

Righteous (zheng)

Good and benevolent (shan)

Public-minded (gong)

Worthy (xian)

Upright (zhi)

Petty men (xiaoren)

Treacherous (jian)

Wicked (xie)

Evil and unkind (e)

Selfish (si)

Unworthy (buxiao)

obsequious (ning)

Factional discourse at the Song Court

Song’s attempt to ally with Jin against the Liao proved a failure; the Jin army defeated the Liao army and took control of north China

  • Emperor Huizong ignored the impending danger to his dynasty
    • Squandered a fortune on palaces and halls, religious festivities, and landscape design.
    • Construction of the Sacred Peaks of Longevity, a gigantic rock garden in the northeast quadrant of the Old Kaifeng

The Fang La Rebellion, which started in Zhejiang, annihilated 70,000 government’s regular troops.

  • The Jurchens violated Song-Jin peace agreement established in 1123, launching a full-scale war against the Song in 1125.
  • The Song, after nearly a two-year anti-Jin resistance and Huizong’s abdication, surrendered the Jin.

Emperor Qinzong, his father Huizong and an entourage of 3,000 people were rounded up and taken prisoner.

  • Another 15,000 people, including empresses, artisans, craftsmen, artists, musicians, and actors, were forced to join the long march to the Jin homeland in Manchuria.
  • Emperor Huizong died at Wuguo City near the northern border of Heilongjiang.
the southern song
The Southern Song
  • In 1127, Song lost the provinces north of the Huai and Han rivers to the Jin (Jurchens), resulting in another population shift from the north to the south.
  • Climate change brought colder weather, increasing snow, ice, rain, hailstorms, floods, which were often followed by droughts in north China.

Mass migration to the south occurred again, causing space reconfiguration and many changes in the south reminiscent of the .

  • Despite the loss of enormous number of lives because of wars and natural disasters, population increased rapidly and in the thirteenth century, before the Mongol invasion, almost half of mankind lived in China.

Southern Song, with its capital established in Lin’an (known as Hangzhou later), coexisted with the Jin, even though they all wanted to reunify China.

  • The Southern Song furthered the urbanization, commercialization, consumerism, secularization, which characterized the vitality of the Northern Song culture and life.
the capital and the material culture
The capital and the Material Culture
  • The city was made capital in 1138 by mere chance, but it soon developed into a great economic center of South China.
  • Known as Xingzai (Quinsay), the temporary residence of Emperor Gaozong, the first emperor of the Southern Song.
    • Government had no enthusiasm to make the city its permanent home.
    • Still, in a few decades, this town of medium size and provincial character was to become the richest and most populous city in the world.

“Autumn Wave of Qiantang River,” anonymous, Southern Song,

Now in Suzhou city museum

West Lake

Above: City Gate of Song Hangzhou

the city
The City
  • The layout:
    • A large thoroughfare
      • traversed the city from north to south, terminating at the north gate of the Imperial Palace.
      • Beyond the Palace, continued southwards to the altar for the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth
      • Crossed at right angles by other thoroughfares running east and west
    • Several canals ran parallel to the Imperial Way
    • The whole area, with ramparts, walls, streets, and canals, covered a surface between seven and eight square miles.
    • Ramparts made the city proper a recognizable entity and protected administration districts

Compared with Chang’an and Kaifeng, streets were narrow, overcrowded, noisy, and filled with merchants, traders, and craftsmen

  • It was overpopulated—houses are high and tightly built, their roofs border on each other, the eaves combine; two-story building became the architectural norm.
  • The main avenues were packed with commercial activities.

Imperial City was in the northern foothill of Phoenix Hill and the emperor turned his back to the city when holding audience and performing his official duties.

  • The Imperial Boulevard had to give way to commercialism in the port area of the Grand Canal.

“Zhongxing ruiying tu” (Auspicious Signs in favor of Restoration) by Xiao Zhao (蕭照), Southern Song. Sections 7 and 12 of a twelve-section painting depicting the first emperor, Zhao Gou, and his life. Tianjin Art Museum

a city of multiple functions
A city of multiple functions
  • Housed Imperial palace, office of central government
    • Also the seat of a large prefecture and the seat of two sub-prefectures, the office of which were situated within the ramparts
  • Population was well over a million by 1275 (increased from 200 thousand in the early 12th century).
    • A large population lived beyond the ramparts
    • Large permanent markets were located in the middle Yangtze valley
    • Commercial center was along the river bank at some distance from the ramparts
an overpopulated city
An Overpopulated City
  • The famous Italian traveler Friar Odoric de Pordenone of the Franciscan order:
    • “The city is greater than any in the world…nor is there any span of ground that is not well inhabited”
  • He was in China for three years between 1323 and 1328
Characterized by multistoried buildings in most crowded districts:
    • Dwelling-houses were three to five stories, or higher, built of wood and bamboo
    • This special mode of construction had important effects on the general life style and social relations
    • Plagued by the frequent outbreaks of fire; measures were taken to fight them (guard-stations, watch-towers, fire-fighting equipment, including scythes, hatchets, buckets, etc.)
fire fighting in hangzhou
Fire-fighting in Hangzhou

Eight watch-towers within the ramparts; two beyond the ramparts. When smoke was sighted

During the day--the soldiers on guard in the towers gave warning of the first sign of fire by running up flags

At night; lightening the lantern

Numbers of flags and lanterns indicated the location of the fire (the closer to the ramparts, the higher the number)

Fire-fighting squads of soldiers numbered two thousand within the city and twelve thousand outside its walls

They were equipped with buckets, ropes, flags, hatchets, scythes, lanterns and fireproof clothing

Garrisoned troops also joined the fire-fighting


Material culture reached its peak in Song times with booming light industry

  • Silk industry--
  • “Canzhi tu” (Silk-Weaving), anonymous, Southern Song, two sections of a 24-section painting, Heilongjiang Provincial Museum

“Canzhi tu” (Silk-weaving) two other sections of the 24-sectin painting

“Fangche tu” (Spinning wheel) by Wang Juzheng, Northern Song, women holding a baby with left hand and spinning silk with right hand. National Palace Museum, Beijing

pharmaceutical industry
pharmaceutical industry
  • Reason other than new publications:
    • Huizong’s personal interest in medicine and his policies aimed to enhance public awareness of the importance of health
  • Huizong’s contribution
    • produced treaties on medicine based on the medical theories formulated by Zhang Zhongjing (Han) and Sun Simo (Tang), supervised the compilation of an enormous formulary
    • enhanced and expanded existing medical education, medical schools, and examination system
    • established public health institutions, including hospitals and pharmacies, and elevated status of physicians

Scholar-officials were concerned about health care and took on the task of looking after the sick.

  • Physicians practiced traditional techniques of acupuncture and moxibustion, and herbal medicine

Bronze Acupuncture Model created by Wang Weiyi (N. Song) based on his [Ellustratd]Classic of the Bronze Man’s Moxibustion and Acupuncture or The Illustrated Manual on Points for Acupuncture and Moxibustion


Institutionalized medical education started in 1044 when the government established a Medical School Service, which was enhanced under Emperor Huizong.

  • Government-run pharmacies established in the Northern Song and increased in the Southern Song, along with drugstores.
  • Charity hospitals, or relief hospitals, founded in all major cities in the Northern Song also increased in the Southern Song.

new profession called literati physicians emerged

  • All healers learned how to make a diagnosis by feeling someone’s pause

“Village Physician,” by Li Tang, Southern Song, on silk, National Palace Musuem, Taipei, Taiwan


Thoroughfares, Imperial Way, canals

Wide and spacious

Water transport: boats on the canals



Boats of many different kinds, propelled either by a pole or by an oar fixed at the stern, passed along the canals of the city

  • Ports were filled with rice, boats loaded with wood, coal, bricks, tiles, sacks of salt with their boatmen and family living on board
  • Rich families have their own boats for pleasure outings and for transport of goods
  • Buddhist monasteries, too, had private fleets for provisioning them with vegetables and with firewood

“Story of the Eight Eminent Monks” by Liang Kai, Southern Song, portions of eight paintings

Road transport:
    • Road transport was difficult because they were paved with large stones, so water transport was preferred
    • Carts were seen on the Imperial Way; light vehicles, such as carriages, were used for passengers
Rich people went about on horseback; ladies, in chairs carried by porters. Chairs had a canopy and small folding doors, as well as the bearer-shafts
  • Goods were transported by porters, or donkeys and mules.

Rice-barges on the Bian River,

“Qingming shanghe tu”

food supplies
Food Supplies
  • “Vegetables from the east, water from the west, wood from the south and rice from the north”
  • Staple of life to townspeople: rice and pork
    • Rice-barges coming from the great rice-growing regions (Zhejiang and Jiangsu) passed along its canals
    • Rice imported from the Huai valley, and by sea, from Canton
    • Rice-barges were unloaded at the Rice Market Bridge, where cargo was sold in numerous shops and restaurants of the town
    • The principal pig-market was right in the center
Salted fish (200 shops selling)
  • 15 big markets selling particular products:
    • The vegetable market, the fresh-fish market, the crab-market, the cloth-market
    • The markets for flowers, for olives, for pearls and precious stones, for medical plants, and for books
    • Shops selling noodles, fruits, thread, incense and candles, oil, soya sauce, fresh and salted fish, pork and rice

Legumes could be sown and harvested through four seasons, and were the sustenance of the Song people

    • Soybeans was the most important
    • Various kinds of soybeans were cooked in porridges and gruels, fermented and shaped into bean curd, and made into tasty sauces.
    • Soybeans were also used as fodder for cattle and horses.
    • Green beans, broad beans, and silkworm beans, as well as peas were cooked as fresh vegetables or made into noodles or dumplings

Song people ate a great variety of other vegetables:

    • Cabbages, melons, gourds, garlic, leaks, and onions
    • Aquatic vegetables: water chestnuts, lotus, and water caltrop, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, radishes, and ginger.
  • Fruits:
    • Peaches, plums, apricots, pears, persimmons, oranges and tangerines, bananas, lichees, olives, loquats ,and longan.
fish industry
Fish Industry
  • Fish-raising techniques well documented in Song records are still being used today
  • The fish discussed in Song records are the fish still being raised and eaten in China
  • Fish industry grew so fast that it was closely regulated
    • Fish traps, particularly square dip nets with the four corners reinforced, were prohibited
    • Woodened fish traps or weirs were outlawed
    • Use of poison was strictly outlawed
marco polo s words about hangzhou
Marco Polo’s words about Hangzhou
  • “There are ten principal markets, though besides these there are a vast number of others in the different parts of the town. The former are all squares of half a mile to the side… the back of the market places, there runs a very large canal, on the bank of which towards the squares are built great houses of stone, in which the merchants from India and other foreign parts store their wares, to be handy for the markets. In each of the squares is held a market three days in the week, frequented by 40,000 or 50,000 persons, who bring thither for sale every possible necessity of life, so that there is always an ample supply of every kind of meat and game, …
Red-deer, fallow-deer, hares, rabbits, partridges, pheasants, francolins, quails, fowls, capons, and of ducks and geese [of] an infinite quantity; for so many are bred on the Lake that for a Venice groat of silver you can have a couple of geese and two couple of ducks. Then there are the shambles where the larger animals are slaughtered, such as calves, beeves, kids (goats), and lambs, the flesh of which is eaten by the rich and great dignitaries. These markets make a daily display of vegetables and fruits…From the Ocean Sea also come daily supplies of fish in great quantity….”