1. The Sung dynasty was considered a Golden Age in Chinese history. During this dynasty, the economy expanded and China became the leading economic force in East Asia. As the center of agriculture moved to rice crops in southern China, a new strain of rice and new irrigation techniques allowed the Chinese to harvest two crops of rice a year. This surplus allowed more people to pursue the arts, learning and trade.
Foreign trade increased with traders coming from far and wide to China. The Chinese built new types of ships that were better and their goods were traded to distant lands. Among these fine goods were porcelain items, which the Chinese perfected and was said to be the worlds best. To encourage trade, China released printed money. Chinas cities prospered as centers of trade and grew in population.
2. Under the Tang and Sung dynasties, China was basically split into two classes: the gentry and the peasantry. The Gentry were wealthy land owners and government officials. They were better educated than they were at physical labor. Officials in China had to pass rigorous civil service examinations.
The great thinkers of the Sung dynasty revived old Confucian tradition and thought. Peasantry lived in small self-sufficient villages. They farmed the fields and did it well with better tools and techniques. Some peasant families supplemented their income by making handicrafts such as baskets and embroidery which they took to trade at nearby markets for things they needed, such as salt and tea. It was possible for a peasant to rise through his or her social class and become part of the gentry.
If a smart young peasant studied and passes a civil service exam, he and his whole family would move up in society. Merchants were considered lowlier than the peasants under the Sung dynastys Confucian ideas because they made money off of other peoples work. The peasants and artisans made the goods while they only sold them. 3. Women, during the Sung dynasty, had more rights and equality than they did at later times.
The wife and mother-in-law of a family ran the family affairs, managing finances, servants and discipline. However, boys were valued more than girls, and when a girl married, she was to become totally part of her husbands family and could never remarry. To reinforce womens subordinate position, their feet were bound from an early age, deforming them as they grew, until they were shaped into lily-like hoof feet. Women who had these hoof-feet were considered noble and beautiful, and desirable as wives. They wore tiny shoes that would look too us today as baby shoes with high sides. In the view of the Chinese men of the time, these feet were sexual signals, much as men in our culture might view legs.
These tiny disfigured feet made women unable to leave the house without assistance, reinforcing the Confucian belief then women were not meant to do outdoor work. Li Bo Li Bo was perhaps the greatest poet of the Sung dynasty in China, during which period poetry was the most respected form of literature. He loved life and freedom, and wrote about 2,000 poems about harmony with nature and regretting times passage. Du Fu- Du Fu was a contemporary and close friend of Li Bos. Less romantic and more realistic than his close friend, Du Fu wrote about the horrors of war and condemned the opulence of the court.