South asia travel map

The 300-year Tang ascendancy brought advances in the world of the arts. Poetry of a quality rarely surpassed was written and the skilled pottery makers have bequeathed to posterity magnificent horse and camel figures – symbols of a trading culture which penetrated deep into the northern and north-eastern steppes. At the Chinese court, the theatre, fine arts, music, dancing and philosophy received imperial patronage. But meanwhile in the lower strata of society, areas of conflicts were emerging. The redistribution of land was intended to create larger farms and more efficient use of the land and also to equalise the balance of power among landowners, but it led instead to emigration into western regions and to armed resistance in the face of centralised power. Yet again peasant power sealed the fate of a once powerful dynasty. After the first rebellions in the west, which the imperial troops were able to put down, the dynasty’s power waned. In the outlying regions, threatened by insurgents, control of the military protectorates was lost and nearer the capital the dynasty’s forces were overcome by the peasants’ revolts.

Fifty years of provisional government followed the Tang Dynasty, but Song Dynasty the powerful economic and cultural movements which bore fruit dur- 960-1279 ing the Song Dynasty were advancing, leading to a climax in Chinese history with the clear superiority of the southern region over the north.

Until then all Chinese dynasties had developed their power base and capital in the Huanghe valley with Xi’an or Chang’an in the west and Luoyang in the east alternating as seats of government. The Shang had also used Anyang and Zhengzhou on the Huanghe as capitals.

When the Song came to power they initially chose the northern town of Kaifeng as their capital, South asia travel map but at the same time the southern industrial and agricultural centres of the Song culture were developing, safe from the incursions of the Kitan and Nuzhen tribes. While paying annual dues to foreign tribes and allowing them use of the land, the Song rulers gave the Chinese people not only many years of peace but also economic prosperity and cultural enrichment. Coal mining, salt refineries and foundries provided a firm basis for the manual crafts.

Certain discoveries gave the economy a powerful boost. Gunpowder, for example, proved to be a major advance for the arms industry and the discovery of the compass rendered sea navigation safer. New outlets and trading partners were established and movable print types created new ways of communication. China had become one of the richest and most advanced nations in the world.

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