The ‘Golden Age’ of the Song Dynasty: part 4 of 4

April 27, 2018

In 1973, under the sands of a beach in the city of Quanzhou City in Fujian Province, a well-preserved boat built during the Song Dynasty was discovered.

It was the oldest, fully intact wooden boat unearthed in the world with a load capacity of 200 tons. It was not the largest boat constructed during that time. The largest had a load capacity of more than 1,000 tons.

Experts say the construction of these ships with hermetic compartments made safe navigation possible and these methods that were developed a millennia ago in China are still used today in modern ship construction.

During the Song Dynasty, the trading port of Quanzhou was considered one of the two largest in the world. Egypt’s Alexandria was the second one. As an important seaport for trade at one end of the Maritime Silk Road, Quanzhou had close ties with Korea and Japan in the east and as far as northeast Africa in the west.

There were two major kinds of trade goods, silk, and porcelain. Some scholars say porcelain should be considered the fifth great Chinese invention.

Return to Part 3, or start with Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The ‘Golden Age’ of the Song Dynasty: part 3 of 4

April 26, 2018

The invention of movable type during the Song Dynasty also helped. The Dream Pool Essays (still in print more than a thousand years later) records most of the scientific achievements of the time, which included knowledge of petroleum and geological changes. The most important achievement recorded in the ancient encyclopedia was the invention of movable type by Bo Sheng.

The first printed characters were engraved in tiny cubes of baked clay.

The age of paper in the history of human civilization started in China. Papermaking had been developed during the Han Dynasty in 105 A.D. However, the quality of this paper was poor and was not ideal for writing. Later, during the Song Dynasty papermaking was improved to a high level.

Thanks to improved paper and printing presses, Song era books were printed in large numbers. Even today, original Song Dynasty books tell the world about the innovations and achievements of that era. At the time, Hangzhou (almost 110 miles southwest of Shanghai) was the greatest printing center in the world.

Movable type printing became widespread and had an important role in the cultural development of the time. The shape of books also changed. During the Tang Dynasty, books were rolled. However, with movable type, books were printed in volumes similar to modern books.

Han Qi, a research fellow at today’s Chinese Academy of Sciences, believes that the development of Neo-Confucianism during the Song Dynasty was due to the widespread availability of printed books.

Those printed books also promoted the development of science, technology, and education, and during the Song Dynasty, both private and public school spread at a faster rate.

This was also the age of the scholar-bureaucrat. A scholar from an impoverished background could become a member of the higher social class by scoring high on the imperial examinations.

China was also the first country to introduce bronze-block printing for advertisements.

Porcelain from China during the Song Dynasty also helped make China a well-known trading partner with the West.

Continued in Part 4 on April 27, 2018, or return to Part 2

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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The ‘Golden Age’ of the Song Dynasty: part 2 of 4

April 25, 2018

The Song Dynasty was responsible for innovations and prosperity that doubled the population from 50-million at the end of the Tang Dynasty to 100-million.

Here are a few examples of what happened. A new type of canal lock was invented in 1373 AD, four hundred years before someone in Europe invented a similar lock. This enabled China to finish building the Grand Canal, the longest canal in the world that is still in use.

The focus on astronomical observations helped improve agriculture and the Song Dynasty’s grain yield was ten to twenty times that of Europe at the time. In addition, methods to fertilize land that was not suitable for growing crops was also developed leading to two or three annual harvests that helped support the large population. For a comparison, the 3rd edition of Introduction to Medieval Europe reports, “Bold estimates for the whole of continental Europe (including Russia and the Balkans) place the number of inhabitants in the year 1000 at 30 and 40 million.”

Although China’s four greatest inventions came long before the Song Dynasty, it wasn’t until then that papermaking, the large-scale application of printing, the compass, and gunpowder made their mark about four hundred years before the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented his printing press in 1440 AD.

It was also during this dynasty that the compass was improved for navigation making it less likely for ships to get lost at sea and allowed ships to travel farther from China.

To preserve these innovations, Shen Kuo published his Dream Pool Essays in 1088 AD (still in print today), a huge encyclopedic book that covered a wide range of subjects, including literature, art, military strategy, mathematics, astronomy, meteorology, geology, geography, metallurgy, engineering, hydraulics, architecture, zoology, botany, agronomy, medicine, anthropology, archeology, etc.

Continued in Part 3 on April 26, 2018, or return to Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The ‘Golden Age’ of the Song Dynasty: part 1 of 4

April 24, 2018

Fifty-three years after the Tang Dynasty collapsed (618 – 907AD), the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) was born and established its first capital in Kaifeng City, Henan Province.

The Song Dynasty survived for 319 years — thirty years longer than the Tang Dynasty.

Reference.com says, “While the Tang and Song dynasties shared much in common, there were a couple of major differences in the way they ruled over the populous territory of China. During both periods China experiences political, cultural and social blossoming. Some common traits include the development of trade, the flourishing of painting and poetry and the improvement of bureaucracy. Even though both Tang and Song were Chinese dynasties, they did not rule over the same territory. The Song power was centered on the southeastern part of the country, whereas the Tang power extended over much of modern China, as well as Manchuria, Tibet, and Mongolia.”

In addition, during the Song Dynasty, astronomy was one of the areas where advances were made. In July 1054, an unknown nova appeared in the sky. The sudden appearance of this nova alarmed the bureau of astronomy. A year later, the star vanished. The nova was important because Chinese astronomers discovered the Crab Nebula near Taurus and careful records were kept that still benefits science today.

In fact, the world’s largest and earliest star chart was carved on a stele in Suzhou, Jiangsu.

Continued with Part 2 on April 25, 2018

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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