The Golden Age of Wuding did not continue for very long after his death. During the following reigns, especially while Diyi and Dixin were in power, internal social conflict became more serious and neighboring states began to rebel. The last Shang Dynasty (The 16th - the 11th century BC) monarch, Dixin, normally known as King Zhou, was a despot just like King Jie of the Xia Dynasty (The 21st to the 17th century BC). Regardless of the instability of the state, Dixin ordered the construction of splendid palaces and gardens. He also used a large numbers of armies to attack the Eastern Yi tribe. As he devised and used cruel torture to repress those who disobeyed him, social unrest soon became intense.

In the 11th century BC, a frontier state called Zhou gained prominence. Under the rule of King Wen, the kingdom of Zhou soon became powerful. When King Wen died, his son Jifa, known as King Wu succeeded him. In 1122 BC, assisted by Jiangshang and Zhoudan, King Wu launched a punitive attack against King Zhou of the Shang. Having suffered much during the reign of King Zhou, the Shang army turned coat and led the Zhou army to the Shang capital. King Zhou committed suicide and the Shang Dynasty collapsed.

The Shang was followed by a new dynasty named Zhou, also spelled Chou. The Zhou Dynasty is traditionally divided into two periods: the Western Zhou (11th century BC to 711 BC) with Haojing as its capital and the Eastern Zhou (770 BC - 221 BC), when the capital was moved east to present Luoyang. Zhou reigned over 800 years and was the longest-ruling dynasty in Chinese history. It was especially noted for it brilliant achievements in culture.

'Western Zhou'

After defeating the Shang, King Wu founded the Zhou Dynasty, making Haojing his capital city, near the present city of Xian in Shaanxi Province. Historians call this period Western Zhou Dynasty (the 11th century BC - 771 BC).

'Political History'

Like the Shang kings, the Zhou kings worshipped their ancestors, but they also worshipped Heaven. The Shujing (Book of History), one of the earliest recorded texts, describes the Zhous version of their history. It assumes a close relationship between Heaven and the king, calling the king "the Son of Heaven." It explains that Heaven gives the king a mandate to rule so long as he does so in the interest of the people. The last Shang king had been decadent and cruel, so Heaven withdrew the Mandate of Heaven from him and entrusted it to the virtuous Zhou kings.

In order to reassure and pacify the people of Shang and consolidate the new regime, the Western Zhou introduced a feudal system. During the Zhou Dynasty, all the land and people were nominally the property of the king. Kings, as supreme rulers, distributed both land and the people on it to their relatives, meritorious ministers and generals founding many small vassal states. These kingdoms had to comply with the orders issued by Zhou emperors. This entailed providing an army to fight for the emperor and regular payment of tribute and homage to the emperor. Each of these vassals could pass his title down to a son, thus making each domain a hereditary vassal state. Within each state, there were noble houses holding hereditary titles. King Wus enfeoffment of dukes was the first practice of the feudal system during the Western Zhou Dynasty. Under this system, the Western Zhou Dynasty strengthened its rule and became a powerful slave owning country with vast lands.

Valuable lessons were learned from the collapse of the Shang. Consequently, Zhou established a complex state machinery to effectively control the entire country. Systematic criminal laws were instituted and a larger standing army was maintained than had been under the rule of the Shang Dynasty.

'Economy and Society'

The Western Zhou made a further achievement in social economy. Slaves were popularly exploited in pursuit of the production of greater surpluses, thereby creating wealth for their owners. Handcrafts progressed in this period and the bronze industry was especially important. Besides the bronze workshops controlled by the central government, the small kingdoms also had foundries of their own. Bronze products greatly increased in quality, quantity and variety so that their use covered nearly all aspects of life. The Western Zhou Chariot Burial Pit unearthed near Xian exemplifies the high technical standard of bronze production of this period.

The development of the bronze industry also promoted the prosperity of other industries. In agriculture, iron tools and the coupling-plough were brought into use for the first time, this greatly enhanced productivity. Bazaars appeared in some larger towns, where silk, weapons, cattle as well as slaves were traded. In addition, script became more widely used. People not only engraved inscriptions on oracle bones, but also engraved epigraphs on thousands of bronze utensils, recording the social life of that time.

'Decline of the Western Zhou'

The Zhou kings maintained control over their vassals for more than two centuries. Like the Shang, the Western Zhou achieved a flourishing age during its period of rule. However, as generations passed, vassal lords traded and sold land they had acquired from the Zhou kings. This gradual change in ownership created larger more profitable estates. In turn, this strengthened the position of the feudal lords giving them greater autonomy. As the Zhou kings were no longer the sole possessors of the land, the ties of kingship and vassalage inevitably weakened.

Added to this, although Zhou was the most powerful kingdom at the time, it actually didn't rule the whole of China, which then consisted of a number of quasi-independent principalities. During the reign of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the central plains had reached the peak of the Bronze Age while the neighboring regions lagged behind. In search of more wealth, the Western Zhou launched many wars against those kingdoms. At the same time, the Quanrong, an ancient ethnic group lived in the north-west, constantly harassed the Zhou, becoming the biggest threat to the Zhou Dynasty.

During his reign King You indulged Baosi, one of his concubines, and this engendered a power struggle within the kingdom. The Chinese idioms "A single smile costs one thousand pieces of gold" and "the sovereign rulers are fooled by the beacon fire" have been passed down to us from the King You's reign.

King You's neglect of duty finally led to the fall of the dynasty. In 771 BC when several of the vassals rebelled, the army of the Quanrong ethnic group took its chance, captured Haojing and killed King You. The Western Zhou Dynasty collapsed. The next year, in 770 BC, King Ping moved the capital to Luoyi (now Luoyang City in Henan Province). This was the start of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770 BC - 221 BC).

'Eastern Zhou'

In its early days, the Western Zhou Dynasty (The 11th century BC to 711 BC) was sufficiently powerful to be able to control the vassal states. In particular the states were prevented from fighting each other in order to annex their neighbors. However, from the time that King Ping moved his court to Luoyi (now the city of Luoyang in Henan Province) establishing the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, the Zhou influence went into decline. Although the king retained his position as nominal overlord he was no longer able to control the activities of his vassals. Economic imbalance meant some states were stronger than others. In turn this led to the stronger states declaring war on the weaker ones and annexing them regardless of the prohibition of such activity by the Zhou.

So, from the beginning of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty to the unification by Qin, China was marked by disunity and continuous conflicts. Historically, this is recorded as two periods: the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC - 476 BC) and the Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC).

"The sword once belonged to Goujian - King of the state of Yue, one of the states during the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.)"Political History

'Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-476 BC)'

Marked by overlord politics, this period was named after the book Spring and Autumn Annals (the history of Lu) adapted by Confucius.

After the eastward move of King Ping, some vassal states progressed in social economy. They became stronger while the royal authority took a nose dive, gradually loosing its control over them.

During the Spring and Autumn Period, there were over 150 kingdoms coexisting with Zhou, among them Qi, Lu, Jin, Yan, Qin, Chu, Wu, Yue, etc were the stronger. These powerful states, relying on their military and economic advantages, launched wars to expand their territories, forcing small states follow them so as to establish their dominance as overlords.

In the early to middle stage of the Spring and Autumn Period, five dukes, namely Huangong of the Qi state, Xianggong of the Song, Wengong of the Jin, Mugong of the Qin and Zhuangwang of the Chu, once fought for the "overlordship", known as the "the Five Overlords of the Spring and Autumn Period", in which Huangong of Qi was the first one to establish his hegemony by advocating "respect the king and repulse the alien tribes."

Continuous wars brought enormous balefulness to the people giving rise to wide opposition in the small states. Finally, in 579 BC and 546 BC, two treaties were made between Jin and Chu kingdoms, resulting in a short peace in the Central Plains.

In the epilogue to the struggle to become overlord of the Central Plains, Wu and Yue, two kingdoms located in the downstream area of the Yangtze River, rose up. Firstly defeated by the kingdom of Wu, Goujian, the king of Yue, applied himself to the development of agriculture and training his army He finally got an opportunity to conquer the Wu and became the last overlord during the Spring and Autumn Period.

According to historical records, during this period, a total of thirty-six kings were killed and fifty-two vassal states were demolished.

This constant conflict and annexation of one state by another during the Spring and Autumn Period hastened social and economic change and had the effect of integrating people of different tribes and nationalities.

"A jade ware excavated from the tomb of Marquis Yi of the state of Zeng, one of the hosts of lesser states during the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.)"The consequence of this period of drastic upheavals, reshufflings and regroupings, what had been several hundred states were reconstituted into seven mega-states. China entered the Warring States Period.

'Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC)'

After long-term wars, seven kingdoms, namely Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin, appeared as the most powerful states in this period, known as the "Seven Overlords" in history. To expand their forces and territories, the seven overlords, on the one hand, carried out reforms in their own states to strengthen themselves and, on the other, were warring against each other and scheming to annex other states, which gave rise to the situation of seven powerful states existing side by side and struggling against each other.

Qin, situated in the remote west, used to be a vassal state enfeoffed by King Ping for Qin Xianggongs contribution of escorting the king on his move east. During the Spring and Autumn Period, Qin Mugong annexed twelve states, largely expanding his territory, making himself an overlord. During the Warring States Period, Qin, because of its outlying position, was more backward than the states in the Central Plains.

When Qin Xiaogong was in power, Shangyang, an aristocratic descendant of the Wei kingdom, was entrusted by the monarch to carry out a series of reforms in 359 BC and 350 BC to strengthen the power of Qin. Shangyang's reforms include abolishing the outdated well-field system, legalizing the private ownership of land, canceling the hereditary system pf rank and initiating a county system.

In addition, Qin also paid attention to the development of agriculture. Around 250 BC, Libing, a governor of Shu prefecture (present Sichuan Province), together with his son, directed the construction of Dujiangyan Irrigation Project, which not only controlled flooding but also irrigated the whole Chengdu Plain.

"Emperor Qin Shi Huang - the founder of the first unified empire in the history of China."Qin, based on the reforms and improvements, quickly became a powerful state, laying a solid foundation for the future unification of China by Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

At the end of Warring States, the royal house of Eastern Zhou existed in name only. In 256 BC, Qin dispatched army and defeated the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. Before long, after King Yingzheng succeeded to the throne, he expedited his project of annexation and finally in 221 BC united China and established a unified, multi-national, autocratic and power-centralized state, putting an end to the Warring States Period.

At the end of Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD), Liuxiang, based on the information about this period, compiled a book and named it the History of Warring States according to the character of this period. Later generations then named this chaotic era the Warring States Period.

'Culture and Religion (The Hundred Schools of Thought)'

In this turbulent period, each regional lord competed in building strong and loyal armies and in economic production to ensure the advantage over others rivals in the struggle for survival among warring regional wars. Kingdom rulers sought the advice of teachers and strategists. Thinkers and intellectuals, besides teaching their disciples, were employed as advisers of the various kingdom rulers concerning methods of government, war, and diplomacy procedures. This fueled intensify activities and debates in the intellectual and ideology system. The golden age of China - philosophy came along thereafter. The five most influential schools of thought that evolved during this period were Confucianism, Taoism (Daoism), Mohism, Legalism and Militarism.

Among numerous schools, the oldest, and the most influential school of thought was Confucianism. It traced its origin to Kung Fu-tzu or Confucius (551-479 BC), a member of the lower nobility and a minor official in the small state of Lu and was later extended by Mencius (372-289 BC), like Confucius, an itinerant scholar teaching his disciples in different states and offering advice to their rulers. He repeatedly tried to convince rulers that the ruler should cultivate moral perfection in order to set a good example to the people and the ruler who governed benevolently would earn the respect of the people. He held the view that human nature was fundamentally good as everyone is born with the capacity to recognize what is right and act upon it. Just opposite to his view, Xunzi (about 313-238 BC), also a Confucian of the state of Chu argued that people are born selfish and that it is only through education and ritual that they learn to give up evil and return to good. He intensively negated the role of Heaven. Xunzi stressed the importance of the inner faith and belief of human beings exceeds any other spiritual beings.

"A plaque in the Beijing Confucius Temple recognizes of Confucius as an education precursor in Chinas history."Another school, the Mohism founded by Modi flourished in the latter half of the fifth century. It resembles Confucianism in its reverence for humanism. Master Mo called for a universal love encompassing all human beings in equal degree. He suggested a harmonious relationship between people on a reciprocal basis. Thus he is an assertor of unionism who suggested a practice of a political relationship of mutual benefit or dependence between states.

In contrast to these doctrines, and utterly opposed to them, were the tenets of the Legalist school, which sought by every means possible to strengthen the state and increase its military might. It began to take shape late in the fourth century. Legalists sought by every means possible to strengthen the state and increase its military might. They defined the duties of people in society by framing out detailed laws and figured out penalties accordingly to punish those who failed to fulfill them. Old customs and moral codes were to be replaced by those laws. Shangyang an aristocratic descendant of the kingdom Wei, was a representative of this school. He carried out a series of reforms in 359 BC and 350 BC to strengthen the power of Qin. Later in the Warring States Period, another legalist named Hanfei or Han Fei Zi who advocated harsh rules and laws was also an adviser to the ruler. He bent on organizing society on a rational basis and finding means to strengthen their states agriculturally and militarily. They devised elaborate means for controlling peoples lives and actions through laws and punishments.

The doctrines of Daoism, the second great school of philosophy emerged during the Warring States Period. The Chinese word tao (pronounced "dao") means a way or a path. Considering it much too limited that Confucians use the term tao to speak of the way human beings ought to behave in society, the Taoists preferred to understand the tao as the Way of Nature as a whole. They tried to tell people that do not exaggerate the importance of man too much. Because human life is only a small part of the universal and the only way can human actions make sense is to act in accord with the principles of Nature. They hold disapprove of the over and unnatural mode of behavior and advocated the way of spontaneity and harmony. Many Taoists denounced violence as reflecting the ultimate ignorance of the Way of Nature. Tao-te Ching (Classic of the Way and Its Power) which is attributed traditionally to Laozi and later complied by Zhuangzi is a Taoist bible in which many theories mentioned above were narrated.

"Discovery of Qin Shi Huangs terra cotta legions helped to resolve some military strategies in Art of War - the tactic book of Master Suns"Due to the disunity and disturbance state, the earliest known treatise on war and military science, Chinese classic Bing-Fa (The Art of War) came out. It was traditionally attributed to Sun Tzu also spelled SUN-TZU or Sunzi (4th century BC), a military strategist and general who served the state of Wu near the end of the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC). The Art of War is a systematic guide to strategy and tactics for rulers and commanders. The book discusses various manoeuvres and the effect of terrain on the outcome of battles. Besides the glory achievements in the ideology field, another noted man you should not miss is Qu Yuan (340 BC - 278 BC) - a great poet and politician served as a chancellor to King Huai of the Kingdom of Chu. Two poetic essays written by him named Chu Ci (Chu Songs) and Li Sao (The Lament) exercised great influence on poetry writing of later ages.

By the end of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589), China had witnessed disunity and chaos for about 270 years.

In 577, the Northern Zhou conquered the Northern Qi and reunified the North China. The Northern Zhou, known as the reign of Yuwen family of the Xianbei ethnic group, continued for 24 years with five emperors over three generations. In 581, Yangjian, a relative of the royal family, usurped the throne and renamed the empire the Sui Dynasty with Changan (present Xian City in Shaanxi Province) as his capital city. Yangjian was historically called Emperor Wen.

After the founding of the empire, Emperor Wen quickly carried out a series of military plans to unify the country. Finally in 589, Emperor Wen wiped out the Chen Dynasty and reunified the south and the north.

Sui Dynasty lasted for only 38 years with two generations. History shows it was one of the short-lived Chinese dynasties.

'Political History'

In the early years of the Sui, Emperor Wen adopted many policies to bolster his regime.

For central government, the Sui Dynasty re-established the centralized administrative system created by the Han (206 BC - 220 AD). They set up "Three Departments and Six Ministries", placing under its supervision all state affairs. In local areas, the existing three tier form of government was reorganized, reducing it to a two tier system. This greatly simplified the administrative structure and enhancing the efficiency.

In addition, Emperor Wen abolished the privilege of the noble families which prevailed throughout the Jin (265 - 420) and the Northern and Southern Dynasties. Preferring to choose his officials on merits rather than by birth, Emperor Wen held regular examinations to select able people. By this means he was able to dismiss corrupt officials. This engendered support for the Sui court from scholars and contributed much to the consolidation of its rule. The imperial examination system for the selection and appointment of civil servants initialed by the Sui later was to be used by successive Chinese dynasties for over 1300 years.

A comprehensive law reform removed many of the harsh restrictions and punishments imposed on the people thus lightening the burden which had been imposed on them by earlier rulers.

'Social Economy'

A series of economical reforms were necessary in order to overcome the financial crisis with which Emperor Wen was faced. A crisis due to the long period of wars and conflict prior to his succession.

In order to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, the Sui reverted to the "land equalization system". While controlling the possession of the land by the rich, this law provided for land distribution to all families on the basis of the number of the people in each household. The people were able to farm the land they owned but were precluded from selling it. By permitting people to retain their land holdings much remained in the hands of landlords. Nevertheless, in spite of this, the farmers enthusiasm enhanced and great progress in agricultural productivity was achieved during this period.

At the same time, the government unified the coinage, nationalized the mints and standardized weights and measures. Furthermore, Emperor Wen levied lower taxes on the farmers and merchants, greatly promoting the development of social economy.

To improve means of transport between the south and north the construction of the Grand Canal was commenced and completed during the reigns of Emperor Wen and his son, Emperor Yang. This great project connected the Yellow River with the Yangtze River and had the effect of greatly increasing cultural and economic exchange between the two areas.

Moreover, defense works such as the Great Wall, mainly the sections in Ninxia and Inner Mongolia areas, were built in this period to withstand the attack of Tujue (Turks) tribe.

'Culture and Foreign Policy'

The Sui Dynasty was founded on the centuries of division. People from different tribes and areas were varied in their habits, cultures and customs. By the time the Sui had the territorial unification of China, to unify the people from different backgrounds, the spread of Buddhism was highly encouraged.

Under the patronage of the Sui, Chinese Buddhism blossomed. The number of temples and monks increased greatly. Buddhism in China had its own teachers, whose knowledge was as deep and broad as that of any from India. With the prosperity of Chinese Buddhism, people in other countries came to China in succession to study the religion, turning China into a major center of Buddhist learning.

Due to the long-term disunity, relationships with other countries had declined. The Sui Dynasty re-established these and with the Silk Road, promoted the exchange between China and the Western Asia, laying a solid foundation for a flourishing Tang Dynasty (618 - 907). Emperor Yang sent Peiju to the Western Regions to invite merchants there to trade with the Empire. This enhanced Chinas status and influence in the Asian area during the Sui Dynasty.


The Sui Dynasty's early demise was attributed to the governments tyranny and ceaseless wars.

Emperor Wen died unexpectedly in 604 and his second son Yangguang, historically known as Emperor Yang, succeeded to the throne. In the early part of his reign Emperor Yang benefited from the reforms introduced by his father and the Sui Dynasty achieved full economic prosperity.

However, lulled by his easy success, Emperor Yang soon began to abuse his power. On the one hand, he continued to carry out lavish construction projects, such as the Great Wall, the Great Canal and the relocation of his capital in Luoyang. On the other, he repeatedly went on pleasure trips and all too frequently launched wars on his neighbors. Some of Emperor Yangs policy did contributed a lot to the social development and the stability of the country, however, they made the ordinary people all out at the elbows.

Emperor Yangs extravagance and putridness finally led to the exhaustion of the countrys resources. Beginning in 613, rebellions broke out one by one. In 616, forced by the chaotic situation, Emperor Yang, retreated to Jiangdu (present Yangzhou City in Jiangsu Province). With the emperor absent, Liyuan, a general stationed in Taiyuan, conquered Changan and put a new emperor on the throne.

In 618, Emperor Yang was murdered in Jiangdu by one of his aides. Quickly, Liyuan deposed the new emperor and established his own dynasty in Changan - the Tang Dynasty, declaring himself Emperor.

In political terms, the fall of the Tang Dynasty (681-907) and the resultant disintegration of the empire did not mean a sharp break with the past. The Five Dynasties all aspired to the reunification of China and by 959 the Later Zhou had brought much of the country back under a single ruler. The changes of dynasty were due to the change of ruling family. The ruling elite remained unaltered and the civil service continued the routine tasks of government with no serious disruption. In the south in several of the Ten States the same continuity was evident and the examination system continued. When Zhao Kuangyin seized power by a coup in Chenqiaoyi in 960 he was able to consolidate and extend his control in a restrained and methodical manner. The Song Dynasty that he founded has been divided into two periods. Firstly, the Northern Song when the capital was in Dongjing (present day Kaifeng City in Henna Province) from 960 to 1127. Secondly, the Southern Song, with their capital in present day Hangzhou from 1127 to 1279.

The Song Dynasty ranks alongside the Tang and also the Han (206 BC - 220 AD) in importance. For a little under three and a quarter centuries under its rule, China enjoyed a period of economic growth coupled with great artistic and intellectual achievement. It is for this reason that the period is referred to as the Chinese Renaissance, comparing it with the Renaissance that spread through Europe.

'Northern Song'

In 959, following the death of Emperor Shizong who had been a wise monarch, a seven year old child succeeded to the throne as Emperor Gong. In the next year, Zhao Kuangyin seized power and forced Emperor Gong to abdicate in his favour. Zhao took the name Taizu and established his capital city in Dongjing (present city of Kaifeng). His first task was to ensure that there would be no further military coups and he did this by establishing a professional army loyal to the dynasty with its military commanders under the strict control of the central government. For the remainder of his reign, Taizu concentrated his efforts upon winning over the southern states. Such was his success that by the time of his death in 976 apart from Zhejiang, Shanxi, Nanzhao and the area ruled by the Qidan, the country had come under Song control. The activities of the warlords had been brought to an end.

Taizu was succeeded by his brother, Taizong who brought Zhejiang and Shanxi back into the fold. He was unsuccessful in his two attempts to drive out the Qidan and was forced to deal with them on equal terms. From then on the Song Dynasty sought to defend its borders against invasion and unlike the Tang never ruled a universal empire.

Important steps were taken to strengthen the administration under the autocratic control of the emperor. These developments were supported by important changes in the recruitment to the bureaucracy and the running of the examination system. The control over the military and the replacement of aristocratic power with something akin to a meritocracy brought about a stability that allowed the country to enjoy a period of prosperity due to the expansion of industry, commerce and agriculture. These factors in turn led to the development of new cities as centres of administration, trade, commerce and industry. The period of reforms lasted until the death of Emperor Shenzong in 1086. From that time onwards there was a decline due to differences between ruling factions and rebellions by peasants. The increased military skills of the three rival powers, the Liao, Jin and Western Xia meant they were able to take advantage of the weakened country and in 1126 the Jin army conquered Kaifeng after a long siege. In the following year the Northern Song Emperor was deposed and along with his son was taken off to Manchuria.

'Southern Song'

The military weakness of the Northern Song (960 - 1127) eventually took its toll. In 1127, the Jin army sacked the Northern Song capital of Kaifeng, taking Emperor Huizong and most of his family hostage. Huizongs ninth son, Zhaogou, fled to the south. That same year, the Song court re-established itself in Linan (present Hangzhou City), where it continued to rule for another 150 years as the Southern Song Dynasty. Zhaogou is known historically as Emperor Gaozong.

The period of the Southern Song is neither a period of power nor stability and the dynasty only controlled the area south of the Yangtze River. When the dynasty was newly established, instead of appointing competent people to carry out reforms and devise effective defensive strategies, Emperor Gaozong did the opposite. By blocking the efforts of his talented Prime Minister Ligang he reversed the dominant military strategy from one of active resistance to passive defence. In addition, talented people were supplanted and less able and often incapable ones were appointed to very important positions.

The Jin army continued its attempts to conquer the area south of the Yangtze River. In order to avoid further hostilities, following the founding of the dynasty, Emperor Gaozong made peace with the Jin, accepting humiliating terms that included the payment of tribute.

After the emergence of the Mongols, the three powers in the north - the Mongols, the Western Xia and the Jin - constantly fought against each other. Ideally, this presented the Southern Song with its best opportunity fro expansion. However, as a defensive strategy had been adopted, no action was taken at all. It was not until the Western Xia vanished and the Jin, having lost most of its northern territories, turned to attack the Southern Song that they were forced to fight. Although the Southern Song troops held the southward marching Jin army at bay, they also suffered heavy losses. Meanwhile the Mongolian forces advanced on to the northern bank of the Yellow River, but the Southern Song lacked sufficient strength left to march against these new invaders. Even worse, with the Jin virtually defeated, the Southern Song foolishly decided to unite with the Mongols to continue to resist them. Sadly, the Song was quite unaware that their new allies were going to be far more dangerous than the Jin.

Soon after conquering the Jin, the Mongols then set their sights on the Southern Song. In 1276, the Mongolian army captured Hangzhou, putting an end to the Southern Song Dynasty. Some of the Song ministers went south to Fujian and Guangdong to reestablish the mini-Song court which was short-lived, ending in the 2nd year of Xiangxing (1279) at Yashan.

Despite the precarious military situation, the Southern Song period was one of prosperity and creativity.

The art of the Southern Song Dynasty developed in an urban culture characterized by active foreign trade and the emergence of a merchant class eager for diversions and entertainments previously available only to the nobility. These new patrons particularly enjoyed painting with a realistic style that depicted the pleasures of daily life. Printing had been invented during the late Tang. By the time that the Southern Song assumed power books were more widely available and much less expensive. Increased access to education and the expanded civil service examination system brought more scholars into government service than ever before. The Song period also saw a revival of Confucianism, known as Neo-Confucianism.