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Old March 25th, 2015, 12:38 PM   #11

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When I think of the Song I always get the feeling that it was the most civilized time in Chinese history.

The innovation that came from that period plus the beauty I see in the art as well as what was stressed as being the most important for the people helps me to have a high regard for the period.
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Old March 25th, 2015, 12:54 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by mingming View Post
Two, actually.
How do you know? Which source can hope to speak authoritatively for millions of people with a most diverse social background? Those who had enough purchasing power would not have stopped at two meals per day, if they could have 3-5.
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Old March 25th, 2015, 04:29 PM   #13
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How do you know? Which source can hope to speak authoritatively for millions of people with a most diverse social background? Those who had enough purchasing power would not have stopped at two meals per day, if they could have 3-5.
I hope you realize some fundamental things if you are going to be discussing history:

1.) History is written by the wealthy and the powerful. They were the only ones back then who could afford an education. Therefore, an "authoritative source that speaks for millions of people with a most diverse social background" simply does not exist. These people were probably writing about their own lives, or the lives of those who are in a similar social class.

2.) Many people today have the resources to eat more than three times today, yet most people choose to go with three meals a day. It's something called habit.

3.) I never said my source was academic, so it might or might not be accurate. That said, I'm sure historians have done research on this, so I'll look more into it.
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Old March 25th, 2015, 04:47 PM   #14

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Originally Posted by purakjelia View Post
Song's economy was probably even better than the Tang. And also Song's military was not that weak, they were one of the first armies in the world to use gunpowder weapons, and they had resisted the Mongols for nearly half a century.
Yes, I only listed what they were "known" for, not what they actually are. The Han had a pretty strong economy too (from a military perspective, anyway), and the Tang were inventive but not as much as the Han/Song. The Song at the very least had good military technology, but was hampered by their bureaucracy and the unfortunate luck to be neighbors with some very powerful dynasties of their own (Jin, XiXia, Liao, and most famously the Mongol empire). Just look at what a shadow of a shadow of what the Liao could do in the form of the Kara Khitais. If a remnant of the Liao could come out the better in a conflict against the great Seljuk empire, then the Liao at its height, as well as the Jin who eclipsed the Liao, would be mighty neighbors indeed.

Last edited by HackneyedScribe; March 25th, 2015 at 04:57 PM.
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Old March 25th, 2015, 05:40 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by mingming View Post
I hope you realize some fundamental things if you are going to be discussing history:

1.) History is written by the wealthy and the powerful. They were the only ones back then who could afford an education. Therefore, an "authoritative source that speaks for millions of people with a most diverse social background" simply does not exist. These people were probably writing about their own lives, or the lives of those who are in a similar social class.

2.) Many people today have the resources to eat more than three times today, yet most people choose to go with three meals a day. It's something called habit.

3.) I never said my source was academic, so it might or might not be accurate. That said, I'm sure historians have done research on this, so I'll look more into it.
Please do so. I'd be interested if some researcher has made a real case along the line "three meals for the Song, two meals for the pre-Song!", but I rather expect some anecdotal evidence which cannot be readily treated as authoritative.
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Old March 25th, 2015, 06:01 PM   #16
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Some random tidbits on why with more and more research in modern times, the Song is generally becoming viewed in ever more positive light.

1. this is the first era where we have actual large records of court hearings from China, although judges were basically local administrators, the argument and sentence he brings has to be defensible in written law, and the interpretations of cases were often cited in future cases. very much like today.

2. some examples of the economy situation in the Song included that there were multiple decrees by the royal government telling farmers to "not wear silk and other extravagant clothings while farming to limit waste" it is certainly a curiousity to suggest that enough farmers might actually be doing that to warrant the imperial court to issue such edicts. There were significant pre-trading and commodity trading markets, many merchants were pre-paying farmers in the spring for their autumn crops. something that we didn't see happen in previous dynasties (and is again, very similar to today.)

3. unlike most other chinese dynasties, the Song, especially in it's later southern version seem to cared a lot about it's maritime policy. granted, that's mostly driven by necessity, but this period the sea trade officially replaced the land silk road, and some of the Chinese main ports became some of the largest in the world with large arab / persian populations.

3. This period is well recorded to be when story telling in the streets became a big thing, indeed 3 of the 4 classics were essentially complied from the story telling books of this period. in short, it's the firs time we see very obvious evidences of commoner's culture becoming mainstream, where as the poems of the Tang was clearly a game among the elite, in the Song, alot of the mainstream stuff were among the urban commoners.

4. In the major cities, some markets were open 24 hours a day.

5. Property rights were at it's height in this period, including that of women's, although Song is often seen as the beginning of surpression to women's rights in China (it is to some extend, ideologically) but in terms of law and how it was generally interpreted during the period, women's property rights were at an all time high.

6. from a more classical POV, this was probably the last period where the emperor was not treated as some god-tyrant, and court intrigues were far less common than the ridiculous eunich stuff that went on in most other major dynasties (save for the Qing.) the Song was pretty much the only major dynasty that clearly stated that you can not execute an official for offending /disagreeing with the emperor, though sometimes they were still exiled (technically they were repositioned.... to govern some far away place.)

7. this was the first dynasty where the imperial exam became fully entrenched, where as in the Tang era noble familes still played a big role, by the Song it was the generation where phrases like "no family is rich for more than 3 generation" comes from. Most official were raised from middle class land owning farming families, some were even from really poor families.

Many sees this period as the time where most of the good things about Chinese dynasties happened, and many signs in regards to society and law that showed down right modern tendencies and thinking. It obviously still had plenty of problems, (it's bureaucracy was actually somewhat of a mess, low level workers rarely had clear cut budgets to pay for their service.) but many are often struck by the good that it had especially with today's hindsight.

Last edited by RollingWave; March 25th, 2015 at 06:03 PM.
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Old March 25th, 2015, 06:20 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RollingWave View Post
Some random tidbits on why with more and more research in modern times, the Song is generally becoming viewed in ever more positive light.

1. this is the first era where we have actual large records of court hearings from China, although judges were basically local administrators, the argument and sentence he brings has to be defensible in written law, and the interpretations of cases were often cited in future cases. very much like today.

2. some examples of the economy situation in the Song included that there were multiple decrees by the royal government telling farmers to "not wear silk and other extravagant clothings while farming to limit waste" it is certainly a curiousity to suggest that enough farmers might actually be doing that to warrant the imperial court to issue such edicts. There were significant pre-trading and commodity trading markets, many merchants were pre-paying farmers in the spring for their autumn crops. something that we didn't see happen in previous dynasties (and is again, very similar to today.)

3. unlike most other chinese dynasties, the Song, especially in it's later southern version seem to cared a lot about it's maritime policy. granted, that's mostly driven by necessity, but this period the sea trade officially replaced the land silk road, and some of the Chinese main ports became some of the largest in the world with large arab / persian populations.

3. This period is well recorded to be when story telling in the streets became a big thing, indeed 3 of the 4 classics were essentially complied from the story telling books of this period. in short, it's the firs time we see very obvious evidences of commoner's culture becoming mainstream, where as the poems of the Tang was clearly a game among the elite, in the Song, alot of the mainstream stuff were among the urban commoners.

4. In the major cities, some markets were open 24 hours a day.

5. Property rights were at it's height in this period, including that of women's, although Song is often seen as the beginning of surpression to women's rights in China (it is to some extend, ideologically) but in terms of law and how it was generally interpreted during the period, women's property rights were at an all time high.

6. from a more classical POV, this was probably the last period where the emperor was not treated as some god-tyrant, and court intrigues were far less common than the ridiculous eunich stuff that went on in most other major dynasties (save for the Qing.) the Song was pretty much the only major dynasty that clearly stated that you can not execute an official for offending /disagreeing with the emperor, though sometimes they were still exiled (technically they were repositioned.... to govern some far away place.)

7. this was the first dynasty where the imperial exam became fully entrenched, where as in the Tang era noble familes still played a big role, by the Song it was the generation where phrases like "no family is rich for more than 3 generation" comes from. Most official were raised from middle class land owning farming families, some were even from really poor families.

Many sees this period as the time where most of the good things about Chinese dynasties happened, and many signs in regards to society and law that showed down right modern tendencies and thinking. It obviously still had plenty of problems, (it's bureaucracy was actually somewhat of a mess, low level workers rarely had clear cut budgets to pay for their service.) but many are often struck by the good that it had especially with today's hindsight.
Good post, I learned a lot. Song was indeed the most prosperous and the most open-minded of all Chinese dynasties, and it probably had the best living standard.

I also heard that the Song was the first in the world to issue paper currency, and the Song government also built houses for the poor and the disabled people, took care of them, and even supported for their education.

The more I learn about the Song, the more I like about it. It seems that the Song was already on the verge of becoming a modern society, but too bad the Mongol invasion and destruction interrupted Song's progress and brought China back down into a third world backwater.
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Old March 25th, 2015, 06:36 PM   #18

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Quote:
1. this is the first era where we have actual large records of court hearings from China, although judges were basically local administrators, the argument and sentence he brings has to be defensible in written law, and the interpretations of cases were often cited in future cases. very much like today.
We have court hearing records from as early as the Qin, and these sound pretty professional. Or at least professional given their technological limits. For example:

"Interrogation: In all cases of legal interrogation one should first listen to the testimony and write it down, letting each person questioned set out his own statement. Although the investigator may recognize that a person is stating lies, there is no need to challenge each of them. Once the statement has been completed, as it will not be cogent, insist then on those points that can be challenged. Once again attend fully to the response and then examine those points that remain unexplained, insisting on them. If one has insisted to the limit and the person has repeatedly lied, changing his words and refusing to submit, then, in cases where the statutes permit, the subject may be flogged. When a person is flogged, a written record must state: "Recorded herewith: Because X has repeatedly changed his statement and failed to provide a cogent explanation, he has been interrogated by flogging."

Trial: If in trying lawsuits it is possible by means of documents to track down the defendant's words, obtaining the facts without flogging, this is the best means. Flogging is an inferior method, for when there is fear, everything is spoiled."
-writings found in tomb of administrator Xi

Of course, the Song dynasty forensics book "Collected Cases of Injustice Rectified" blows it out of the water, ie:

“As to suicide by hanging, it can easily be distinguished from cases where the victim was strangled by someone else or died through plotted murder with the death passed off as suicide. Where the victim has really killed himself by hanging, tying up a rope or some such thing and hanging himself, the flesh where the rope crosses over behind the ears will be deep purple in color, the eyes will be closed, the lips open, the hands clenched, and the teeth exposed. If the rope passed high on the throat, then the tongue will be pressed against the teeth. If low on the throat, the tongue often will protrude a long way, and there will be spittle on the chest. Behind the buttocks, feces will have been excreted. If another man strangled the victim and tried to pass it off as suicide, the mouth and eyes will be open, the hands apart, and the hair in disorder. The circulation of blood will have been interrupted at the base of the throat, the scares will be shallow and faint in color, and the tongue will neither protrude nor will it be pressed against the teeth. On the neck there will be scratches inflicted by the victim’s fingernails, and on the body there may be other mortal wounds. There may be difficulty distinguishing cases where the victim was half-strangled and then hung up, with the death passed off as suicide. When anything suspicious appears in the description of the evidence, the best course is to investigate it as a case of murder by hanging and set a time limit for apprehension of the criminal” (McKnight, The Washing Away of Wrongs, pp. 112-113)"
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Old March 25th, 2015, 06:56 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by purakjelia View Post
Good post, I learned a lot. Song was indeed the most prosperous and the most open-minded of all Chinese dynasties, and it probably had the best living standard.

I also heard that the Song was the first in the world to issue paper currency, and the Song government also built houses for the poor and the disabled people, took care of them, and even supported for their education.

The more I learn about the Song, the more I like about it. It seems that the Song was already on the verge of becoming a modern society, but too bad the Mongol invasion and destruction interrupted Song's progress and brought China back down into a third world backwater.
Song paper currency were closer to rain checks issued by private banks, though towards the end of dynasty they offically backed some of those papers that they essentially functioned like paper currency.

But it was the Mongol Yuan that really issued large numbers of it officially, but all the last 3 dynasty had a lot of deflation problems

Last edited by RollingWave; March 25th, 2015 at 07:08 PM.
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Old March 26th, 2015, 07:29 AM   #20

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Paper money actually goes all the way back to the Tang dynasty. But yeah, it didn't become commonplace until the Song.

There are still existing examples of bills from various dynasties. This is a 55 guan bill (55,000 copper coins) from the Tang era. A Guan was a string of 1,000 wen (coins). It was a common denomination in Imperial China, usually just called a "string".

Click the image to open in full size.

This much smaller bill is only worth 100 copper coins, which shows that paper could be used for small transactions. All Chinese money had a picture of the denomination on it, possibly so illiterate people knew how much they were worth. Some bills show the value in coins, others in silver ingots.

Click the image to open in full size.

Here's some Song bills. To give you an idea how much money was worth during the Song dynasty, government officials made between 300 to 300,000 cash a month depending on rank (not including separate money they got for clothing and supplies). A fine horse would've cost you about 40,000 cash (40 guan). A mule, 4,000. A bolt of high-quality silk cost around 2,500 cash. A day laborer made 200 or 300 cash a day. A large bag of rice would cost you around 250 cash. A bag of salt would be 40 cash. You could build yourself a nice little house for 100,000, and some rich women spent that much on jewelry alone.

Click the image to open in full size.


Click the image to open in full size.


Paper money was also used in the conquest dynasties and even in Khara Khitai.

Click the image to open in full size.


Jin dynasty bill

Click the image to open in full size.

Xi Xia bill

Click the image to open in full size.


Yuan dynasty

Click the image to open in full size.

Last edited by stevapalooza; March 26th, 2015 at 07:39 AM.
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