The Southern Song dynasty

Authored by: Robert Foster

Routledge Handbook of Imperial Chinese History

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138847286
eBook ISBN: 9781315726878
Adobe ISBN:


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The loss of the North and the capture of retired emperor Huizong 徽宗, reigning emperor Qinzong 欽宗, nearly the entire imperial family, and much of the court in 1127, was a shock. With the move of the capital south to Lin’an 臨安, the newly enthroned Gaozong 高宗 was able to stabilize the dynasty, which continued for another 152 years. During that time, the dynasty spent heavily on the military, while the court debated the wisdom of trying to retake the North. The economy could support military spending as commerce flourished. The market economy and the burgeoning printing industry led to social and cultural changes that many consider the foundations for later imperial China. The status of women changed, too, influenced by the economy and expanding literacy. Although the period is famous for the rise of Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism, and Popular Religion continued to be important. And while the Northern Song elites focused on large-scale empire-wide agendas (such as Wang Anshi’s New Policies), Southern Song elites tended to narrow their focus to local projects.

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