The Song Dynasty in China | Asia for Educators

China in 1000 CE

The Most Advanced Society in the World

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Song Module Home


Two Versions of the Scroll

•The Beijing Qingming Scroll and Its Significance for the Study of Chinese History

Translations of Qingming shanghe tu

The Handscroll Format

Economic Revolution

Population Boom


•The Role of Merchants


—Transport according to Marco Polo

Paper Money

•From Copper Coins to Paper Money

—Use of Paper Money throughout Khubilai Khan's Yuan Dynasty according to Marco Polo

Iron & Steel

•From Charcoal to Coal

—"Black Stones" unrecognized by Marco Polo

Textiles & Silk



Rice Cultivation

•A Labor-Intensive Crop

•New Varieties of Rice

Printing & Movable Type


—Images of printing tools and print

—Storytelling from the scroll

•Movable Type

—Francis Bacon on the Significant of Three Chinese Inventions: Printing, Gunpowder, and the Compass

Shipbuilding & the Compass


•The Compass


•More about Chinese Military Technology

•Cai Guo-qiang, Contemporary Artist Exploring the Use of Gunpowder and Explosives

Scientific & Technical Experimentation

•Experimental and Innovations by Song Dynasty Officials

—Su Song and the Mechanical Clock Tower

—Shen Gua (Shen Kuo)

•Stereotypes Considering Chinese Culture and Scientific Inquiry

•For Further Reading


A New Kind of City Emerges

•"Urban Life as Depicted in Scroll"

•Urban Life


•Kaifeng, Prosperous Capital of the Northern Song

Hangzhou and the Urban Elite

•Hangzhou as described by Marco Polo

•Pastimes of the Urban Elite

Temples and Religious Life

•Chinese Buddist Sculpture

•More about the Kaifeng Pagoda

The Rainbow Bridge

•More about the Technology behind the Rainbow Bridge


Scholar-Officials and the Examination System

•Scholar-Officials of the Song

—Memorials of Song-dynasty Officials

•The Examination System

—More about Scholar-Officials and the Civil Service Examinations

The Three Perfections and Su Shi

•The Three Perfection

—Old Guo Xi

•Su Shi (Su Dongpo, 1036-1101)

—Translation of the scroll detail

—More about Northern Song Painting and Calligraphy

"Neo-Confucianism" & Family


—The Five Confucian Classics and the Four Books

—Fan Zhongyan (989-1062)

—Sima Guang (1019-1086)

—Zhu Xi (1131-1200)

•The Centrality of the Family in Confucian Teaching

—Classic of Filial Piety

—Read the full text of the Classic of Filial Piety

•The Status of Women

—Read Li Qingzhao's poem, To "Southern Song..."


—Slide Show

•More about Domestic Life during the Song Dynasty

Outside World

Northern Rivals: Liao, Jin, Xi Xia, and the Mongols

•Map of the locations of the northern rivals

•Silver Ingot from Song (Asia Society)

•More about the Song Dynasty's Northern Rivals

International Trade

•International Trade, Overland

—Map showing Overland Trade Routes

•International Trade, Maritime

—Importance of the Maritime Trade

—More on Song Shipbuilding & Ship Excavation near Quanzhou

•According to Marco Polo


View the Scroll

Animated Version

For Teachers

Lesson Plans & Resources


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