Song Dynasty: 969 - 1279 AD

Major Accomplishments: most urban of Chinese dynasties, merchants are valued more than in past, Silk Road traffic increases

Song Video:

Song (Sung) Dynasty 960-1279

Song Overview

  • prosperous economy/ trade along Silk Road
  • radiant culture with goods and entertainment from all over the world
  • Most urban Chinese culture
  • Beginning of modern China
  • Strongest empire in the world at this time

SONG Politics

  • effective centralized bureaucracy
  • Elite families important locally
  • Official must pass the Civil Service Exam
  • the mercantile class grew in power as they became wealthy

SONG Economics

  • Agriculture improved = more food
  • paper currency used regularly
  • private trade grew, and a market economy began to link the coastal provinces and the interior.
  • Much trade along Silk Road, Grand Canal and coastal regions of China and SE Asia
  • Song Grain Mill

SONG Religion

  • Confucianism remains the most important official philosophy
  • Neo-Confucianism added metaphysical answers to many Buddhist questions
  • Buddhism continued
  • Taoism also
  • Ancestor worship

SONG Social Life

  • Poor farmers’ remain the same as always; women still oppressed
  • City life improves with better food, music, art, and great entertainment
  • Many opportunities for travel
  • Education increases in the city
  • House and architecture improve

SONG Intellectual Life

  • magnetic compass and calculator (the abacus) invented
  • Education improved since schools were abundant.
    Woodblock printing made books more widely available.
  • Confucian scholars were
  • Military was not respected


  • monumental landscape painting
  • often done in a watercolor/ink wash style
  • Great poetry continues

Fall of the Song

  • Heavy dependence on growth of civilian government at expense of military
  • By 1127,  the Song court could not push back the Northern nomadic invaders
  • Cut the size of the Song about in half

Coming of the Mongols (Yuan Dynasty)

  • Empire fell because they stopped emphasizing military and relied on wealth
  • Often hired N. tribes to defend China
  • Corruption in govt lost confidence of the peasants and the peasants did not support the Song government enough when the Mongols invaded