The reunification of China and the creation of a civil government apparatus -
China among equals: the Song empire and her neighbors -
The reform politics of Wang Anshi -
The reigns of Song Zhezong, Song Huizong and the invasion of the Jurchen -
The Song Dynasty moves south -
The Southern Song period -
The Mongol conquest of Song China
The reunification of China and the creation of a civil government apparatus
The 10th century was a time full of military coup d'etats, one general founding a new dynasty only to see his new empire being destructed by another general. In 960 just another general was proclaimed emperor: Zhao Kuangyin 趙匡胤 (posthumous title Song Taizu 宋太祖), the most important military official of the Later Zhou Dynasty 後周 at their court at Bianjing 汴京 (modern Kaifeng 開封/Henan) as commander-in-chief of the capital guards (dianqian du zongjian 殿前都總檢) and mililitary commissioner (jiedushi 節度使) of Songzhou 宋州 (Guide 歸德, modern Shangqiu 商丘/Henan). In 960 he was dispatched by chancellor Fan Zhi 范質 to fight against the small empire of Northern Han 北漢 and the intruding Khitan (Qidan 契丹) that supported the Han empire of the usurper Liu Chengjun 劉承鈞 (r. 954-967). In an anecdotical incident at Chenqiao Station 陳橋驛 Zhao Kuangyin was proclaimed emperor (r. 960-975) by his troops, among them his brother Zhao Kuangyi 趙匡義 (later Zhao Guangyi 趙光義), and Zhao Pu 趙普. The imperial guards at Kaifeng stood under the command of Shi Shouxin 石守信 and Wang Shenqi 王審琦 who both accepted the new ruler, likewise chancellor Fan Zhi. The child emperor of Later Zhou, Chai Zongxun 柴宗訓 (r. 959-960), was forced to retreat. The only resistance at the court came from Han Tong 韓通 who died and was buried with great honors by Zhao Kuangyin. The victorious troops of Zhao Kuangyin were admonished not to plunder and destroy anything. Loyal generals like Murong Yanzhao 慕容延釗 and Han Lingkun 韓令坤 suppressed the resistance of the provincial commanders Li Yun 李筠 and Li Chongjin 李重進. As a reward, generals loyal to the newly founded Song Dynasty were appointed as commanders of the imperial guard (jinjun 禁軍) at the capital but were soon transferred to the province, and Zhao Kuangyin took over the command of the imperial guard himself. Zhao Pu proposed to dismiss all these generals in order to prevent them from taking over too much military control and to challenge the imperial power - like it has been the fact since the mid-Tang 唐 period. During a banquet the emperor dismissed his generals and bestowed them with titles, honors and wealthy fiefdoms - the imperial power was won with a cup of wine, as the proverb goes.
China was still not unified. The north of modern Shanxi was occupied by Northern Han, and the whole south was divided into several empires (in sum called the Ten Kingdoms, Shiguo 十國). Zhao Pu and Zhang Yongde 張永德 proposed first to conquer the south and then the north. The first empire to be toppled was the small and weak Nanping 南平 (Jingnan 荊南) at the Yangtse River 長江 in 963, followed by an invasion of Shu 蜀 (modern Sichuan) in 965, the conquest of Southern Han (Nanhan [Nan Han]) 南漢 (modern Guangdong) in 970 and the incorporation of Southern Tang (Nantang [Nan Tang]) 南唐 (modern Hunan, Jiangxi) into the Song empire in 975. The empire of Wu-Yue 吳越 and the smaller dominions in modern Fujian could only be conquered in 978 by Zhao Kuangyin's successor.
Besides the reunification of China, the main task of Zhao Kuangyin's reign was to strengthen the power of the central government and to weaken the provincial military governors that had imposed such a huge damage to the central government during the Tang 唐 (618-907) and Five Dynasties (Wudai) 五代 period (compare the essay Wudai lun 五代論 by Fan Jun 范浚). Military and civil power were to be given back to the imperial court. Under the Song administration, prefectures (zhou 州) and districts (xian 縣) were directly controled by the central government, prefects (zhizhou 知州) were transferred every three years and were controlled by controllers-general (tongpan 通判) that were allowed to report to the capital without knowledge of the prefect; their finances and taxes were immediately sent to the capital by a transport commissioner (zhuanyunshi 轉運使) from the transport bureau (caosi 曹司); penal law was exerted by the central government; and - the most important innovation step - elite soldiers were garrisoned around the capital where they served as model (bingyang 兵樣) for the troops in the province. A great part of the army consisted of militia (mubing 募兵) that were professionals rather than conscripted peasants (yibing 役兵). The recruitment of landless peasants should weaken their potential for rebellions and social uprisings. Around half of the army was garrisoned around the capital, thus creating a kind of balance that enabled the emperor to suppress rebellions either in the capital or in the provinces. Generals were transferred regularly to another post in order to prevent them from binding ties with their officers and troops. The imperial army (jinjun 禁軍) that had been divided into two units (ersi 二司), the palace command (dianqian shiweisi 殿前侍衛司) and the metropolitan command (shiwei qinjun mabusi 侍衛親軍馬步司) was now divided into three divisions (sanya 三衙 or sanwei 三衛) under three marshals (sanshuai三帥): the palace command, the metropolitan cavaly command, and the metropolitan infantry command. These units had a command authority, but not fielding authority which lay with the bureau of military affairs (see next paragraph). Both authorities at one time could only be exerted by the emperor. The intention was to create a stable situation within the empire itself; but on the other side defense against foreign invaders was neglected in a dangerous grade, as we shall see soon.
The whole centralized administration was therewith constructed in a kind of radiation spider web, with every aspect of government concentrating in the imperial court. Even the central government was restructured in a way that should disenable a single unit or person to accumulate too much power. It was especially the position of the chancellor or grand counsellor (zaixiang 宰相) that was weakened. The grand counsellor should only possess the control of civil matters, and he had to share his tasks with a vice grand counsellor (canzhi zhengshi 參知政事). All military matters were controled by the Bureau of Military Affairs (shumiyuan 樞密院), while the important financial and household matters became the exclusive task of the three departments of the state financial commission (sansi 三司): the census bureau (hubusi 戶部司), tax bureau (duzhisi 度支司), and salt and iron monopoly bureau (yantiesi 鹽鐵司). This autocratic character of the Song governmental structure was even deepened by the enhanced importance of the censorate (yushitai 御史臺) and the remonstrance bureau (jianyuan 諫院), units that should control the work of the state officials. The structure of the officials was a threefold parallel, consisting of vane ranks (guan 官), vane titles (zhi 職) and temporary ordinances (chaiqian 差遣). While the former to were only designations, the real tasks were undertaken by temporary ordinanced officials, that means that if somebody was designated minister of war, there was in fact somebody else fulfilling this task, while the minister could have a very different job. The consequence of this power-division was a blown-up state apparatus that swallowed large sums from the state treasury. Official recruitment was now undertaken solely by state examinations and election by the emperor himself in the case of high offials. During the previous periods it had been use to promote officials only upon recommendation (mingjing 明經) by other offials. See also examination system.
Inside the state, the autocratic government of Song should make it impossible for generals to challenge the power of the emperor. Thus, the Song state was a highly civil-lead governmental system. Equally, the Song emperors refused to spend too much power in war campaigns against the northern intruders. It was obviously more advantageous to pacify the nomads in the north with tributary presents instead of fighting against them. Internal and external peace with a prosperous economy was more worth even in the eyes of Song time philosophers who renewed Confucian (rujiao 儒教) thought.
China among equals: the Song empire and her neighbors
The task of unifying China was not fulfilled when Emperor Taizu died in 976. He was succeeded by his younger brother Zhao Guangyi 趙光義 (posthumous title Song Taizong 宋太宗, r. 976-997). After conquering the state of Wu-Yue 吳越 and the dominions in the region of modern Fujian in 978 he fielded the Song armies against Northern Han (Beihan [Bei Han]) 北漢 in the area of modern Shanxi. Following four different march routes, the armies under Pan Mei 潘美 and Guo Jin 郭進 besieged the capital of Taiyuan 太原 and blocked the passes to the north where the armies of the Khitan (Qidan 契丹) Liao empire 遼 advanced from the north to help their ally, the Northern Han empire. But the army of Liao could be annihilated, and Northern Han submitted to the Song empire.
Emperor Taizong was still not content with the achieved results. The Khitan Liao empire had conquered sixteen prefectures (shiliu zhou 十六州) of the Yanyun region 燕雲 (around modern Beijing) from the Later Jin (Houjin [Hou Jin]) 後晉 empire. After initial successes, the Song army was defeated near Beijing by the Liao auxiliary forces under Yelü Xiuge 耶律休哥. A few years later, in 986, a second campaign to liberate Yanyun was undertaken when a young boy occupied the throne of the Liao empire (Emperor Liao Shengzong 遼聖宗, r. 982-1030), but as before, the Song troops under Pan Mei, Cao Bin 曹彬, and Yang Ye 楊業 were defeated. The Liao troops had been commanded by Empress Dowager Chengtian 承天太后 herself. The defeat was the more heavy as general Yang Ye was captured and starved to death in prison. Minister Song Qi 宋祁 proposed to erect a stable border line to the strong northern neighbors, but not in the shape of a fortified wall like the Great Wall, but instead along the course of the Baiyangdian 白洋淀 pond and river line. This proposal introduced the Song court politics of caring for internal affairs and neglecting the reconquista of lost territory (shou nei xu wai 守内虛外).
In the west, meanwhile, another empire rose and proved to be militarily equal to the Song Dynasty. It was the Tangut empire of Western Xia (Xixia [Xi Xia]) 西夏, founded by Li Jiqian 李繼遷 and his successors. In the 980s a conflict between Li Jiqian and governors of the northwest started with border raids and culminated in a marriage alliance with the Liao empire. Emperor Song Taizong for his part tried to gain peace at the northeastern border by bestowing Li Jiqian with some nominal military commands and granting him the imperial surname Zhao 趙 (as the Tang emperors had granted his family the imperial surname Li 李), but the ruler of the Xia empire refused. Closing the border trade and preventing the Tanguts from selling salt and acquiring Song food proved to be ineffective and only caused raids by the Tanguts. A military campaign of 996 proved ineffective and was called off. The next year, Emperor Taizong died and was succeeded by Zhao Heng 趙恆 (posthumous title Song Zhenzong 宋真宗, r. 997-1022). Emperor Zhenzong, just acceeded, did not want to engage in time-consuming and expensive military campaigns; he accepted the existance of an independent polity in the northwest, bestowed Li Jiqian the title of military governor (jiedushi 節度使) of Dingnan 定難 and King of Xiping 西平王. Furthermore, the Tangut empire was appeased with gold, brocade, cash and tea in order to prevent border raids on Chinese soil. Song China had become one of three empires on Chinese soil, being equal to the Khitan empire of Liao and the Tangut empire of Western Xia.
The war against the Liao empire found its culmination during the year 1004 when Empress Dowager Chengtian and Emperor Liao Shengzong fielded their armies to the south and advanced to Chanzhou 澶州 at the Yellow River 黃河 from where they endangered the Song capital Kaifeng. The Song court being in great turmoil and ready to leave the capital, opinions of diverse ministers differed widely about how to cope with the imminent danger of being captured by the Khitan army. While Wang Qinruo 王欽若 and Chen Yaosou 陳堯叟 proposed to transfer the capital, chancellor Kou Zhun 寇準 insisted on a war of resistance. Emperor Zhenzong personally lead the armies against the Khitan, assisted by Yang Si 楊嗣 and Yang Yanlang 楊延朗 (Yang Yanzhao 楊延昭), the sons of late general Yang Ye. In fact the Song army was able to defeat the Liao troops when their general Xiao Dalin 蕭撻凜 died. This situation of equal strength forces the Liao to agree to sign a contract, further known as the Chanyuan treaty (Chanyuan [Shanyuan] zhi meng 澶淵之盟). The Song emperor accepted the Liao emperor as his older brother and presented him an annual tribute of silk and silver. Both states were prohibited entering or even raiding the other side's territory, and both were not allowed to erect fortifications along a fixed borderline. Although offials like Wang Qinruo called this treaty a shame for Song China, the coming period of peaceful coexistance brought economical relaxation for the government and relieved the population from the harassment of war. It was the first time in Chinese history that the government of the "civilized" core area of China ("China proper") had to accept the dominance of a "barbarian" government.
The reform politics of Wang Anshi
Only three decades after the foundation of the Song Dynasty a peasant uprising should shake the foundations of the state and prove that the most important social problems were not resolved. In the area of modern Sichuan, the region of Shu 蜀, tea farmers rose up against the bureau of tea merchandise monopoly (bomaiwu 博買務) that deprived the tea farmers of a reasonable income. Leader of the peasant rebels was Wang Xiaobo 王小波 who assembled not only tea farmers but also thousands of tenant farmers (panghu 旁戶) that were exploited by the rich landowners of the Sichuan Basin. The motto of the rebels was to equalize income of rich and poor, and their will proved strong enough that the rebelling peasants were able to defeat regular Song armies and to conquer the regional capital Chengdu 成都 in 993. Li Shun 李順, the second leader of the rebellious movement, declared himself king of Shu. It was only with the strongest efforts that the Song military was able to reconquer the Sichuan Basin and to wipe out the last rebels until the begin of 995.
Economic conditions at the eve of the reform period
Taxes were only leviable if correct household registers (banji 版籍, huji 戶籍) were existant. Every few years the Song government had made household registrations. The countryside population of the Song empire was divided into landowners (zhuhu 主戶) and dependants (kehu 客戶), inhabitants of villages were city-dwellers (fangguohu 防郭戶). Tenant farmers were also called dianke 佃客 or fuke 浮客. About one third of the countryside population did not own any soil but had to rent a landowner's field. Landowners were divided into five categories according to the size of their estates.
State officials of the Song period often possessed large estates, called officials manors (guanzhuang 官莊), colony lands (tuntian 屯田) and garrison lands (yingtian 營田), the last two being estates owned by military officials. These lands were not granted by the state because of the official’s rank but was simply bought by the officials, without any restriction concerning the size of the estates. Their manors often had a considerable size and comprised hundreds of peasant families that often dwelled together with the owner around his manor that worked as a single separate economic unit. These landowners from the imperial family, the consort clans, and the highest officials, exploited the workforce of the dependant landless peasants working with them, some had even to hire drought animals and ploughs. Lending money or grain to the pesants, extremely high interest rates were common.
Except these tenant farmers, there were also – of course – many landowning peasants. As taxes often were too high, many free peasants sold their lands to rich landowners, becoming tenant farmers that were not tax-liable. Many free peasants did not only till their fields but engaged in lacquer production, tea and mulberry cultivation for an extra income.
The tax system of the Song period was following the two-tax system (liangshuifa 兩稅法) as a land tax (tianshui 田稅) of the late Tang period 唐. Except the taxation of the summer and autumn harvest, peasants had to pay a poll tax (shendingshui 身丁稅), miscellaneous taxes (zashui 雜稅, zabian 雜變), obligatory purchases of state grain and state silk (hedi 和糴, hemai 和買), and – at least the tenant farmers – the rent for their land (zufu 租賦). Labour service (fuyi 夫役) had to be rendered for maintenance of waterworks and roads, for official buildings, and for the transport of official commodities. Even landowners had to perform a kind of corvée (chaiyi 差役) in the shape of taking over temporary responsibilities for the local government.
The government of the emperors Zhenzong and Renzong
After the treaty of Chanyuan 澶淵 that was concluded with the Liao empire 遼 in the north, the Song government experienced a period of military relaxation. But instead of restructuring and easing the economical situation, Emperor Zhenzong 宋真宗 (r. 997-1022) started to undertake costly state rituals for different religions. Grand counsellor Wang Ruoqin 王若欽 stressed the duty for a Chinese emperor to carry out the traditional fengshan 封禪 and xisi 西祀 offerings to Heaven and Earth that made clear the difference between China’s culture and the neighboring barbarian states. These activities should serve as a compensation for the loss of imperial power against the "barbarian" empires of Liao in the north and Western Xia (Xixia [Xi Xia]) 西夏 in the northwest. The emperor himself believed him and fabricated a Heavenly scripture that invested him as blessed ruler. Emperor Zhenzong proclaimed a new reign motto (Dazhong xiangfu 大中祥符) and undertook several sacrificial journeys to Mt. Taishan 泰山. He was supported by five state officials, Wang Ruoqin, Ding Wei 丁謂, Chen Pengnian 陳彭年, Liu Chenggui 劉承珪, and Lin Te 林特 to venerate Confucius 孔子 and to support Buddhism (fojiao 佛教) and Daoism (daojiao 道教). Zhenzong built monasteris within the capital and spent a lot on the cultivation of these two religions. Within fifteen years the state treasury proved to be dangerously running short.
In 1022 Emperor Zhenzong died, followed by his son Zhao Zhen 趙禎 (posthumous title Song Renzong 宋仁宗, r. 1022-1063). Because the emperor was still in his youth, Empress Dowager Liu 劉太后 took over regency for the next twelve years, with the help of her favorits Lü Yijian 呂夷簡 and Yan Shu 晏殊. When the empress dowager died, Renzong dismissed Lü Yijian but called him back soon because he was unable to conduct government without this experienced minister. Under a government that did not implicate any changes within the daily business, the staff of state officials dangerously blew up and imposed a threat to the state expenditures. Without any foreign tensures for about two decades, the Song military was also without any fighting experiences, a situtation was the more aggravated as training for these “peace troops” was totally inadequate. From 1038 on the situation changed dramatically when Li Yuanhao 李元昊 proclaimed himself emperor of Western Xia. From now on, military clashes with Song troops became more frequent, and peace was only settled in 1044. The Liao empire in the north took advantage of this situation and undertook campaigns on the soil of Song China that were thrown back by general Di Qing 狄青.
A last set of problems that shook the Song government were the many uprisings of soldiers that occurred from the year 1000 on. Soldiers were often landless peasants roaming around that were pressed for military service. The fighting quality of these soldiers was often less than satisfying. In Sichuan, Wang Jun 王均 rebelled against the Song government, in 1007 Chen Jin 陳進 lead troops against the Song in the area of modern Guangxi. In 1043 Wang Lun 王倫 rebelled in the area of Shandong, and in the same year, a pesant rebellion in Shaanxi lead by Zhang Hai 張海 united with a military rebellion under Shao Xing 邵興. The rebellion of the soldier Wang Ze 王則 in 1047 lead him into the immediate vicinity of the capital Kaifeng.
The era of reforms
Under these conditions, minsters at the court of Emperor Zhenzong proposed some measures to unburden the people and to reduce the state expenditures.
Wang Yucheng’s 王禹偁 policies included the following methods: 1) ensuring peaceful relations with the Liao and the Western Xia empires; 2) diminish the inflated military and civil administration apparatus and lowering taxes; 3) make official examinations more difficult and reduce the number of new officials; 4) reduce spendings for monasteries; 5) raise the importance of high officials including the chancellor and reduce the political influence of the eunuchs. A few years later, under Emperor Renzong, Song Qi 宋祁 stressed „three increasings and three wastes” (sanrong sanfei 三冗三費): The number of civil officials, of unemployed troops and the number of Buddhist monks and nuns had increased too much, while spendings for the Daoist and Buddhist clergy and for the numerous offices had to be lowered. During the reign period Qingli 慶歷 (1041-48) minister Fan Zhongyan 范仲淹 was able to undertake the first reforms of the court politics, with the help of Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修, Yu Jing 余靖, Cai Xiang 蔡襄, Han Qi 韓琦, and Fu Bi 富弼. The first measure was to make the employment of officials more flexible: able persons should be allowed to stay more than three years with one posts, and unable or treacherous officials should be removed in a much easier way; at the same time, sons and relatives of state officials should not automatically obtain an office (enyin 恩蔭). During the examinations, the importance of knowledge in poetry should be reduced in favour of essays and the Confucian classics. The officials in the provinces responsible for the transport of tax grains should be observed more strictly and should be elected by the central authorities. Furthermore, the official state land alloted to officials should be redistributed in a more adequate way. Agricultural productivity should be enhanced by the regular irrigation construction of dykes and canals. The troops garrisoned around the capital should engage in agriculture and be trained in a more effective way. Service corvée should be reduced. Proclamations and edicts issued by the court should be followed by imminent implemented into action, with adequate control.
Established officials, large landowners and wealthy resisted the reforms, and under their pressure Fan Zhongyan and Fu Bi were dismissed from office in 1045. Fan Zhongyan's complaints are written down in his book Yueyanglou ji 岳陽樓記.
But the next generation of reformers could gain the attention of Emperor Renzong. Their leader was Bao Zheng 包拯. His main proposals concerned the reduction of superfluous state officials and military officials, Bao Zheng himself strictly opposed curruption among the ranks of officials to obtain land and wealth. In 1059 another official started to engage in reformation undertakings: Wang Anshi 王安石, an experienced financial official, who wrote a book called Yanshishu 言事書 by which he laid great stress on the moral education of state officials that had to be influenced by behaviour and habitus like it had been proposed by Confucius and the ancient sages. The reason for financial problems was for him not the existence of superfluous officials and posts, but the inadequate allocation of resources.
Another group of reformers was lead by Sima Guang 司馬光, among his fellows were Su Shi 蘇軾 (in the West better known as Su Dongpo 蘇東坡) his brother Su Che 蘇轍. Sima Guang wanted to reduce the size of the imperial guards, ameliorate the state examinations and allow able officials to hold their posts longer than three years. Finances should be allocated in a matter that allowed all social groups, peasants, artisans, and merchants to freely engage in their professions, in order to obtain the best results in productivity. Su Shi proposed to tax state officials and not only the people below them.
In 1063 Emperor Renzong was followed by Zhao Shu 趙曙 (posthumous title Song Yingzong 宋英宗, r. 1063-1067). He soon fell ill and died, follwed by his son Zhao Suo 趙瑣/Xu 頊 (posthumous title Song Shenzong 宋神宗, r. 1067-1085) in 1067. The young Emperor Shenzong enthusiastically asked Fu Bi to assist him in undertaking administratiorial reforms, but the old statesman refused. Instead, the group around Wang Anshi gained the confidence of the emperor and started to implement crucial changes within the state apparatus during the reign period Xining 熙寧 (1068-1077). Wang Anshi became chancellor, the head of the three financial departments finance planning commission (sansi tiaolisi 三司條例司) were Lü Huiqing 呂惠卿, Zeng Bu 曾布, and Su Che. The objective was to resolve the financial and military problems of the Song state, the tactics were to lighten the burden laid upon the shoulders of the peasants and to gain access to the capital of the gentry and the rich merchants.
The first set of measures should increase the state income and reduce the economic power of the merchants. Commodities that were to be supplied to the court were often stored by merchants who thus were able to control prices. Wang Anshi tried to balance demand and supply for important commodities by special transport agents (fayunshi 發運使) with an adapted supply system (junshufa 均輸法) that organized the provision of commodities to the capital according the the real demands. Expenditures were controled by purchasing the cheapest and storage of the more expensive goods. Market prices should also be controled by special market offices (shiyisi 市易司) by a market rate system (shiyifa 市易法). Mutual credits between the market offices and the merchant guilds would inhibit money-lenders from exploiting and monopolizing market participants. The imperial palace should sell and purchase goods by different market institutions and not only by the merchant guilds, thus giving up the dependance on a single guild (mianhangfa 免行法 "anti-guild regulation"). Merchants had to pay turnover taxes instead of services or goods.
The second set of measures should consolidate the agricultural production and prevent further reduction landowning peasantship. The price of grain could be controled by the state purchasing or selling grain that was stored within the state granaries (changpingcang 常平倉, guanghuicang 廣惠倉). Peasants were granted credits while the grain was not ripe yet (qingmiaofa 青苗法 “green sprouts regulation”) and payed an interest of 20 to 30 percent to the state. Manpower needed for offical work was estimated, and peasants were only recruited according to the needs (muyifa 募役法 "conscription regulation" or mianyifa 免役法 "anti-corvée regulation"), others payed a compensation fee.
Taxes were fixed according to the quality of the soil, ranged in five grades. The soil was exactly registered in order to control the increase of large land estates. Peasants or landowners undertaking water works and reclaiming land were rewarded.
The third set of measures targetet at the reinvigoration of military force. Troops should be trained more systematically by their officers and generals (jiangbingfa 將兵法 "generals-and-soldiers regulation"), and superfluous barracks and units were joined together. Households were grouped together in sets of ten or five (baojia 保甲) and should organize police and sentry which should represent a kind of para-military training for relieving the state expenditures for military.
The fourth set of reforms should strengthen the examination system. Poetry and refined literature should be given up in favour to the important outlines of classical Confucian literature and essays to actual problems (dianshice 殿試策 "palace examination promulgation"). The state university (taixue 太學) was staffed with new personnel, and new schools were founded in the capital, teaching military arts, law, and medicine.
Concerning foreign policy, a defensive military attitude was given up in favour to some attacks against the kingdoms of Tubo 吐蕃 and the Western Xia territory.
All these refoms had the strengthening of the central government and the emperor as their target, but members of the aristocracy (the imperial clan) and the old state officials saw their position endangered by the reformist acitivities. Among the opponents were also the older reformers like Ouyang Xiu and Fu Bi, but also Grand Empress Dowager Cao 曹太皇太后, Empress Dowager Gao 高太后 and their clans, and – the brother of Emperor Shenzong, Zhao Hao 趙顥.
The reigns of Song Zhezong, Song Huizong and the invasion of the Jurchen
In 1085 Emperor Shenzong died, and his minor son Zhao Xu 趙煦 (posthumous title Song Zhezong 宋哲宗, r. 1085-1100) acceeded to the throne, proclaiming the reign period Yuanyou 元祐 (1086-1093), while Grand Empress Dowager Gao 高太皇太后 took over the regency, with the help of the two chancellors Sima Guang 司馬光 and Lü Gongzhu 呂公著. Under their guidance, all reforms implemented during the reign of Emperor Shenzong 宋神宗 (r. 1067-1085) were abolished (called the Yuanyou revision, Yuanyou genghua 元祐更化), disregarding even the profitable parts for the Song government. In the field of foreign policy, defensive policies were resumed, and some border regions were ceded to the Western Xia empire (Xixia [Xi Xia]) 西夏. Cai Que 蔡確, Zhang Dun 章惇, Shen Kuo 沈括, Lü Huiqing 呂惠卿, and Han Zhen 韓縝, the last representatives of the reformist party, were forced to retreat from office in 1086. The staff of state officials was replaced by people loyal to Sima Guang. After the death of the great statesman and historiographer (Sima Guang wrote the universal history Zizhi tongjian 自治通鑑) the conservative party fell apart into different factions. Leader of the Henan faction (Luodang 洛黨) became the Neoconfucian philosopher Cheng Yi 程頤, sided by Jia Yi 賈易 and Zhu Guangting 朱光庭, while the Sichuan faction (Shudang 蜀黨) was lead by Su Shi 蘇軾 and Lü Tao 呂陶, and the Shaanxi faction (Shuodang 朔黨) was dominated by the less known politicians Liu Zhi 劉摯, Liang Tao 梁燾, Wang Yansou 王岩叟 and Liu Anshi 劉安世.
With the death of Great Empress Dowager Gao in 1093 the young emperor Zhezong could finally take over the tasks of government. The anti-reformist parties had lost their head as represented by the strong ruling empress dowager, and Emperor Zhezong who had since long been uncomfortable with the party struggles, decided to resume the aborted reforms, supported by Yang Wei 楊畏 and Zhang Shangying 張商英. In 1094 Emperor Zhezong proclaimed a new reign period, Shaosheng 紹聖 (1094-1097), and reinstalled many persons of the old reformist party into the highest offices, replacing people of Sima Guang’s entourage, like Lü Dafang 呂大防, Su Che, Fan Zuyu 范祖禹 and Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅. Important parts of the old reforms of the Yuanyou period were reintroduced, like the “green sprout regulation” and the “anti-corvée regulation”. At the same time, the garrisons in the northwest resumed their fortification works and attacked the Western Xia border forts. But like the anti-reformist party before, the reformer party now dissolved into two factions lead by Zhang Dun 章惇 (together with Cai Bian 蔡卞 and Cai Jing 蔡京) and by Li Qingchen 李清臣.
In the year 1100 Emperor Zhezong died, followed by his younger brother Zhao Ji 趙佶 (posthumous title Song Huizong 宋徽宗, r. 1100-1125). Empress Dowager Xiang 向太后 was able to take over regency, took advantage of the discrepancies among the high officials and installed her own adherents. The pendulum agains swang to the anti-reformists, with the grand-counsellors Han Zhongyan 韓忠彥 and Zeng Bu. When Emperor Huizong officially took over regency in 1102 a new group of ministers under the domination of Cai Jing started to control the court politics of the Song Dynasty. Cai Jing proclaimed a document that denounced all his opponents as traitors. Although Cai Jing nominally reinstalled the methods and regulations of Wang Anshi’s reforms, the implementation of the regulations in practice was less than perfect, and in fact, not much had changed for the social groups that possessed most of the arable lands. Cai Jing reintroduced the old tea taxation system (quechafa 榷茶法) by which the production and merchandise of tea was a state business. Similarly, the state-controled merchandise of salt vouchers (yanchao 鹽鈔) assured a certain revenue for the state. Some eunuchs like Yang Jian 楊戩 and Li Yan 李彥 acquired land designated as waste land that was in fact state-owned land. Cai Jing himself had emptied the southern state granaries and had the grain transported to the capital where he and his followers made profit from the acquired grain and money reserve. Emperor Huizong who was a great patron of artists and engaged himself in many arts, lived in great luxury that was financed by a population controled by large land owners. The state finances were administerd by a eunuch called Tong Guan 童貫 who was also in charge of the highest military commands. Tong Guan, Cai Jing and people like Wang Fu 王黼, Liang Shicheng 梁師成 and Zhu Mian 朱勔 profited from their position under a ruler who was not concerned about politics.
Like he was a patron of arts, Emperor Huizong saw himself also a patron of Confucianism (rujiao 儒教), state doctrine since the Han Dynasty 漢. He erected Confucius temples but at the same time was also adherent of Daoism (daojiao 道教).
In 1119 after several military conflicts in the region of the borders between Tubo 吐蕃 (Tibet), Western Xia and the Song empire, a peace agreement was made with the Tangutian Western Xia empire.
It was expecially the lower Yangtse 長江 area that suffered most under the economic exploitation of this group of state officials. In 1120 a large peasant uprising shook this region. Fang La 方臘 gathered willing peasants around him to stage a rebellion against the exploitation by landowners and the state. The rebels took the city of Hangzhou 杭州 and received a vast echo of rebels that joined the uprising and occupied the whole Yangtse delta that was the lifeline of the Song economy. While the rebel armies spread to all directions, the Song court sent out his armies under Tong Guan, Tan Zhen 譚稹, Wang Lin 王禀 and Liu Zhen 劉鎮 who reconquered Hangzhou, captured Fang La and massacred the rebels. But it was only in 1122 that the last surviving troops of the peasant rebels could be annihilated.
The lower reaches of the Yellow River 黃河 often changed their course during the many centuries of Chinese history, and often left back an inundated landscape. A swamp called Liangshan 梁山濼 in the western parts of modern Shandong served as refuge for peasants that had lost their lands, and for bandits that had escaped. In 1119 a rebel army under Song Jiang 宋江 is first mentioned, and the court sent smaller troops to suppress the rebellion, and Song Jiang soon submitted. On the base of these scarce historical traces a whole novel has been developed, the heroic tale of the "Outlaws of the Marsh" (Shuihuzhuan 水滸傳) In the next years a series of rebellions shook all northern provinces of the Song empire and made clear that the peasantry was no longer able to suffer, the most important are the rebellions of Zhang Di 張迪 and of Gao Tuoshan 高托山 in Hebei.
But the greatest danger for the Song Dynasty came far from the north. In 1115 the Jurchen (Nüzhen 女真) khan Wanyan Aguda 完顏阿骨打 had founded a Jin Dynasty 金 in the area of modern Manchuria. With exteme volocity he conquered one by one of the territories of the Liao empire 遼 south of his realm, and stood ready to overrun the empire of Liao. Facing this immediate threat, the Liao court approached Emperor Song Huizong for help. But the Song court saw this situation as a chance to conquer back old Chinese territories around modern Beijing (the sixteen prefectures of Yanyun 燕雲十六州). In 1120 the Song and the Jin government concluded the alliance of Haishang (Haishang mengyue 海上盟約) by which the Liao empire should be annihilated and the region of Yanyun should be gained back. But because a large part of the army was bound by the Fang La rebellion and because Tong Guan and Cai You 蔡攸 underestimated the force of the Liao armies, the Song troops were beaten. General Liu Yanqing 劉延慶 again was defeated by the Liao, whereupon the leading statesman, the eunuch Tong Guan, asked the Jurchen ruler to conquer the Yanyun region for the Song. Jin Taizu who eventually conquered Yanjing 燕京 (modern Beijing) refused to cede this territory to the Song empire. Only after the Song court disagreed to pay a high annual tribute to the Jurchen, the city was given to the Song, after plundering it.
Long ago the Jin rulers had become aware that the Song government and the Song armies would be unable to withstand the Jurchen attacks. In 1125 Emperor Jin Taizong 金太宗 (r. 1123-1134) fielded his armies to conquer the cities of Taiyuan 太原 (troops lead by Wanyan Zonghan 完顏宗翰) and Yanjing (troops lead by Wanyan Zongwang 完顏宗望), but he encountered determined resistance by the troops of Wang Lin. In the east, general Guo Yueshi 郭藥師 was not able to withstand the pressure of the Jurchen, and lead them across the Yellow River 黃河. In panic, Emperor Huizong ceded the throne to his son Zhao Huan 趙桓 (posthumous title Song Qinzong 宋欽宗, r. 1125-1126) and took flight to the south. In this situation, officials attacked the high ministers responsible for the bad government during the last two decades. Wang Fu, Li Yan, Lian Shicheng, Cai Jing and Tong Guan were all put to death or died during their flight. Among the new court officials, two factions emerged. Great counsellor Bai Shizhong 白時中, Li Bangyan 李邦彥, and Zhang Bangchang 張邦昌 proposed to submit to the Jurchen, while others like Li Gang 李綱, Li Zhuo 李棁 and Zheng Wang 鄭望 advocated a war of resistance. Emperor Qinzong stayed in the capital Kaifeng 開封. After a few initial skirmishes, Wanyan Zongwang presented his conditions: Song China would have to cede the whole north, to pay tributes, to accept the emperor of Jin as his nominal uncle and to provide hostages. Meanwhile, more Song troops advanced towards the capital and Wanyan Zongwang withdrew some miles, taking hostages with him. The resistance faction at the court now gained the upper hand, and the Jin army had to withdraw to the north. The capital was only safe after paying heavy tributes to the Jurchen.
One year later, 1126, the Jin armies again poured southwards, this time conquering Taiyuan and Daming 大名, a city that promised direct access to the capital Kaifeng. This time the emperor was ready to cede the taxes of the northern provinces to the Jin government, even to cede the territory down to the Yellow River. But many magistrates and inhabitants of the northern provinces were not ready to become subjects of the Jurchen. After the two armies of the Jurchen started to besiege Kaifeng, Emperor Qinzong personally met with the Jurchen generals and signed the capitulation. He was held as a host until the members of the imperial family had coughed up all their gold and money, the city was plundered, and Zhang Bangchang was installed as puppet emperor of an empire called Chu 楚 that should be dominated by Jin. The emperor and his father, Huizong, were abducted together with their whole courtiers and harem. The Song Dynasty seemed to be ended during this disastrous reign period Jingkang 靖康 (1126).
The Song Dynasty moves south
After the catastrophy of the year 1126, the Prince of Kang 康王, Zhao Gou 趙構 (posthumous title Song Gaozong 宋高宗, r. 1127-1162) proclaimed himself emperor of the Song in the southern capital Yingtian 應天 (Nanjing 南京; modern Shangqiu 商丘/Henan) and proclaimed the reign motto Jianyan 建炎 (reign period 1127-1130), which marked the begin of a historical period that is called the Southern Song (Nansong [Nan Song] 南宋) while the period until the catastrophy of the Jingkang period (1126) was called Northern Song (Beisong [Bei Song] 北宋). The old capital Kaifeng 開封 (Dongjing 東京; modern Henan prov.) was guarded by Zong Ze 宗澤.
The next decades until 1141 were characterized by a permanent struggle between a pro-war faction that wanted to conquer back the territories occupied by the Jurchen, and an appeasement faction that wanted to conclude a peace treaty with the Jin empire in order to secure political and financial stability of the weak and young Southern Song government. Great counsellor Li Gang 李綱, Zhang Suo 張所, and Wang Xie 王[玉+燮] used the spirit of large groups among the population of the occupied territories to organise resistance against the Jurchen. But Emperor Gaozong and his advisors Huang Qianshan 黃潛善 and Wang Boyan 汪伯彥 preferred a peaceful settlement of the status quo. The anti-war faction was so strong that opponents like Chen Dong 陳東 and Ouyang Che 歐陽澈 were even executed for proposing resistance war.
Meanwhile the popular resistance war against the government of the Jin empire 金 went on, peasants troops built a read scarf army (hongjinjun) 紅巾軍 and were often able to defeat smaller Jurchen contingents under marshal Wanyan Zonghan 完顏宗翰. The largest partisan army were the fighters under Zhao Bangjie 趙邦傑 and Ma Kuo 馬擴 who had proclaimed their own King Xinwang 信王, Zhao Zhen 趙榛, a relative of Emperor Gaozong. Other resistance fighters (the "eight-character army" bazijun 八字軍) under Wang Yan 王彥 had tatooed their front with eight Chinese characters declaring their aptness to fight against the Jurchen. Other groups were lead by Liu Liyun 劉立芸, Yang Hao 楊浩, Liu Limang 劉里忙, Shao Long 邵隆 (Shao Xing 邵興), Shao Yi 邵翼 and the monk Zhihe 智和. The naval troops of the Liangshan swamp 梁山泊 were commanded by Zhang Rong 張榮. While the court of the surviving dynasty did not welcome these resistance warriors, it was only a few state officials that employed these volunteer troops in their war against the Jurchens, expecially Zong Ze 宗澤, governor of the old capital of Kaifeng 開封 (Dongjing 東京). His proposals to the emperor to return to Kaifeng as a symbol for the population of northern China was not adopted, and within the next few years, the resistance among the inhabitants of the Yellow River plain 中原 weakened or was crushed by Jurchen troops.
The years 1128 and 1129 saw a huge offensive of the Jin troops to the south. They attacked Yangzhou 揚州 (modern Jiangsu prov.) and forced the emperor to withdraw to the south, to Hangzhou 杭州 (modern Zhejiang). At this situation, the state officials Miao Fu 苗傅 and Liu Zhengyan 劉正彥 attempted a coup to replace Emperor Gaozong, but the rebellion was ended by Lü Yihao 呂頤浩, Zhang Jun 張浚, Han Shizhong 韓世忠, Liu Guangshi 劉光世, and Zhang Jun 張俊. The governor of Kaifeng, Du Chong 杜充, left the old capital and prepared to defend Jiankang 建康 (modern Nanjing 南京/Jiangsu). The Jin troops under Wanyan Zongbi 完顏宗弼 crossed the Yangtse river 長江 and took Jiankang. Emperor Gaozong retreated across the sea, and only the resisting defenders under Han Shizhong that fought around Huangtiandang 黃天蕩 were able to prevent the Jurchen troops from pursuing the fleeing emperor. The famous general Yue Fei 岳飛 liberated Jiankang and threw the Jurchen back north of the Yangtse, other Jurchen troops were defeated by Zhang Rong from the Liangshan swamp, who almost captured the Jin general Wanyan Chang 完顏昌.
The Jurchen installed another Chinese puppet emperor, Liu Yu 劉豫, as ruler of a Qi Dynasty 齊. In the year 1131 the Jin armies were gravely defeated by the Song under Wu Jie 吳玠 at the Heshang plain 和尚原 (near Baoji 寶雞/Shaanxi). Three years later, the Song armies again further advanded after defeating the Jin. Wu Jie and Yue Fei were able to reconquer a large strip of territory in the region of modern Henan. Although these years brought great successes to the Song Dynasty that gradually began to stabilize in her new home in the south, the Emperor Gaozong and his chancellor Qin Kuai 秦檜 favored a defensive politc instead of further expanding the territory to the north. State officials opposing this appeasement policy, like Li Gang, Zhang Jun 張浚, Han Shizhong and Yue Fei were dismissed from office. In a peace treaty, some territory was ceded to the Song empire. But at the Jin court, Wanyan Zongbi overthrew the Jurchen peace faction and fielded an army south against the Song. Liu Qi 劉錡, leading the "eight-character" army, defeated Wanyan Zongbi. Yue Fei who had connections with the partisan armies, proposed to drive back the Jurchen after they had been defeated several times in 1140. Trapped by his political opponent Zhang Jun he was faced with the far larger units of Wanyan Zongbi, but the hero was able to defeat again the Jurchen general (battle of Yancheng 郾城). But the central government prohibited the Song armies to advance farther to the north - although the Song armies were in most cases victorious. The political enemies of Yue Fei and Han Shizhong arranged them being stripped off their duties and being imprisoned. In 1141 the Song government concluded the peace treaty of the Shaoxing period (Shaoxing heyi 紹興和議; reign period 1131-1162) with the Jin empire, determining the following points: The government of the Song empire accepted the Jin Dynasty as their superior. A borderline between the two empires was fixed, running approximately in the middle between the lower courses of the Yellow River 黃河 and the Yangtse 長江. And third, the Song Dynasty had to provide to the Jin empire and annual tribute of silver ingots and silk.
The Southern Song period
After the Song elite had fled to the south, members of the imperial house (zongshi 宗室) and highest civil and military officials occupied the most fertile lands of the lower Yangtse 長江 region - although new catasters were organised (jingjiefa 經界法) in order to obtain as much tax-liable households. Much like during the Southern Dynasties period (Nanchao) 南朝, the taxes were totally left the the landowners who often did only care for their income rather than for regular work improving dykes and irrigation systems - task that was actually to be undertaken by the government. Peasants were not only exploited as tenant farmers who often had to pay high rents for land, tools and drawing animals, and high profits for credits, but the peasantry had also to pay a considerably higher regular tax in grain and kind of the double tax system (liangshuifa 兩稅法) than during the Northern Song period: the permanent war campaigns proved to be very costly and were only payable for the Song government if taxes would be increased or new miscellaneous taxes were raised (zashui 雜稅). Grain and clothing material bought by the state military departments (hedi 和糴, hemai 和買) was often not payed but had changed into a real tax. The motto of liberating northern China often served as an instrument for the introduction of a new tax. During the reign of Emperor Ningzong 宋寧宗 (r. 1194-1224) miscellaneous taxes were reorganized as "money of general supply" (jingzongzhi qian 經總制錢).
At the central government, Qin Kuai 秦檜 dominated the politics after the peace treaty with the Jurchen in 1141, together with the physician Wang Jixian 王繼先 and the eunuch Zhang Quwei 張去為. Their opponents like Zhang Fei 張飛 and Shao Long 邵隆 were dismissed or even murdered. Oppression against writers should prohibit the distribution of literature that advocated the reconquest of the north. Poetry that praised the actual politics of appeasement were promoted to high offices. Although Emperor Gaozong 宋高宗 (r. 1127-1162) had relied on the help of Qin Kuai, he did not want Qin's son to become his successor in the office of prime minister. After Qin Kuai's death the adherents of the mighty chancellor were stripped from their offices. Nontheless, the politics of appeasement were maintained under the new ministers Wan Sili 萬俟卨 and Tang Situi 湯思退. But during their reign, many peasant uprisings in the regions of modern Jiangxi (Wang Zongshi 王宗石, Chen Yong 陳顒, Luo Xian 羅閑, Wu Zhong 吳忠, Song Potan 宋破壇, Liu Dongtian 劉洞天, Deng Zhuang 鄧裝, Hu Yuanshi 胡元奭), Hunan (Li Dongzhi 李冬至), Fujian (Fan Ruwei 范汝為, Ye Tie 葉鐵) and Zhejiang (Monk Juzheng 居正) proved the economical oppression of large parts of the population. The largest rebellions took place around Lake Dongting 洞庭湖 (Hunan) and was lead by Zhong Xiang 鍾相 and Yang Mo 楊麼 during the years 1130 to 1135. It was the famous - and today very popular - general Yue Fei who lead the suppression of these uprisings.
Martial activities with the Jurchens were resumed when Prince Hailing 海陵王, Wanyan Liang 完顏亮, became ruler of the Jin empire 金 in 1161 (r. 1149-1160). His front against the Song in the south was attacked by rebels under Xin Qiji 辛棄疾 in the region of modern Shandong. Song general Li Bao 李寶 established contacts with the rebel armies and destroyed a part of the Jin naval army. During this naval battle for the first time in world history black powder was used for military means. Wanyan Liang wanted to cross the Yangtse at Caishi 采石 (modern Maanshan 馬鞍山/Anhui), but the naval army of the Song under Yu Yunwen 虞允文 defeated the Jurchens. At the same time Wanyan Yong 完顏雍 (posthumous title Jin Shizong 金世宗, r. 1161-1189) proclaimed himself emperor of Jin, the Prince of Hailing was killed, and the Jin army withdrew to the north. Territorial gains that were made during these weeks in the region of modern Henan and modern Shaanxi were again lost to the Jurchen general Tushan Hexi 徒單合喜. In 1162 Emperor Gaozong abdicated in favour to his son Zhao Shen 趙昚 (posthumous title Song Xiaozong 宋孝宗, r. 1162-1189) who immediately adopted a new politic of resistance against the Jurchens. He reinstalled Yue Fei and Zhang Jun 張浚 as the highest military commanders, but after initial victories generals Li Xianzhong 李顯忠 and Shao Hongyuan 邵宏淵 were defeated by the Jurchen general Heshilie Zhining 紇石烈志寧. The peace faction again took over the court, and the peace treaty with the Jin empire was renewed (treaty of the Longxing period Longxing heyi 隆興和議; reign period 1163-1164). Although secret preparations for a further invasion of the north, starting from Sichuan and from the lower Yangtse, were organized, these were given up after the death of general Yu Yunwen. The military effectiveness of the Song troops seemed not to be fit for a new engagement with the Jurchen, the peace faction at the court - including the emperor's retired father - was too strong, and the financial problems too severe to undertake a new invasion within the next few years. Furthermore, Emperor Xiaozong wanted to restrict the power of the prime minister and adopted the proposals of informal officials like Zeng Di 曾覿, Long Dayuan 龍大淵, Zhang Yue 張說, Wang Bian 王抃 and the eunuch Gan Sheng 甘昇. The economical and social problems of the peasantry further aggravated, provoking some rebellions in the area of modern Hunan and Guangdong (Wang Xuan 王宣, Zhong Yu 鍾玉, Li Yun 李雲, Li Jin 李金, Lai Wenzheng 賴文政, Xin Qiji 辛棄疾, Chen Tong 陳峒, Li Jie 李接, Jiang Dalao 姜大老).
In 1189 the frustrated emperor resigned and transmitted the throne to his son Zhao Dun 趙惇 (posthumous title Song Guangzong 宋光宗, 1189-1194). Only four years later the emperor proved insane and was forced to abdicate with the support of his grandmother. His son Zhao Kuo 趙擴 was enthroned as the new emperor (posthumous title Song Ningzong 宋寧宗, r. 1194-1224) in 1194. At the begin of his reign, his relatives Zhao Ruyu 趙汝愚 and Han Tuozhou 韓侂冑 and their adherents should fight for the political power. An important supporter of chancellor Zhao Ruyu was the Neoconfucian philosopher Zhu Xi 朱熹. In 1196 Han Tuozhou proved victorious and had Zhu Xi and his political faction forbidden (faction prohibition of the Qingyuan period Qingyuan dangjin 慶元黨禁; reign period 1195-1200)
In 1206 a new invasion of the north was undertaken but soon collapsed under the attacks of the well-prepared Jurchen armies. The pacification commisioner (xuanfushi 宣撫使) of Sichuan, Wu Xi 吳曦, submitted to the Jin and was rewarded with the title of King of Shu 蜀, but Sichuan was soon liberated by loyal Song troops. In 1208 a third peace treaty among the two states on Chinese soil was concluded. After Han Tuozhou and his invasion of the north had failed, prime minister Shi Miyuan 史彌遠 determined the politics of the Song court for the next decade. The economical situation aggravated when more and more paper currency (kuaizi 會子) was introduced. In 1197 the fisher people of Daxishan Island 大奚山島 rebelled against the cruelty of financial officials and were massacred, in 1208 Yao tribes 瑤族 under Luo Shichuan 羅世傳 and Chinese under Li Yuanli 李元礪 staged an uprising in the region of modern Hunan. In 1220 Zhang Fu 張福 and Mo Jian 莫簡 lead a "Red Turban" or "Red Scarves" (hongjin 紅巾) uprising in Sichuan. The plot of the military commander Luo Riyuan 羅日愿 who wanted to remove Shi Miyuan was discovered and aborted. But besides internal struggles and rebellions, a new challenge seemed to pose a new chance for the Southern Song government.
The Mongol conquest of Song China
From the begin of the 13th century the Jin empire 金 in the north suffered from the intrusions and the military pressure of the Mongol federation (Menggu 蒙古) that had been united by Temüjin called Genghis Khan. In 1215 Zhen Dexiu 真德秀 prosposed to refuse any further tributes to the Jin empire. Emperor Jin Xuanzong 金宣宗 resumed war campaigns against the Song in the south, the first reason being a punishment for the delay of the annual tributes, the second reason was a territorial compensation for the losses to the Mongols. In Sichuan the Jurchen armies suffered great losses against the Song troops that had allied with the Tangut empire in the west (Western Xia, Xixia [Xi Xia] 西夏), in Shandong the Song troops were supported by rebel armies under Yang An'er 楊安兒, Yang Miaozhen 楊妙真 and Li Quan 李銓 who wore red jackets (hence called "Red Jacket Army" hong'aojun 紅襖軍). These defeats of the Jurchen lead to the political decision of the Jurchen emperor Aizong 金哀宗 (r. 1223-1233) to end the invasion of southern China. The Jurchen capital had been shifted from Daxing 大興 (modern Beijing 北京) to Kaifeng 開封 (Henan), the old capital of the (Northern) Song Dynasty - the north of the Jurchen empire had already been occupied by the Mongols. In 1217 Shi Miyuan managed the throne accession of Zhao Yun 趙昀 (posthumous title Song Lizong 宋理宗, r. 1224-1264) instead of crown prince Zhao Hong 趙竑. Zhao Hong's rebellion was suppressed, and prime-minister Shi Miyuan reigned for another decade. Li Quan now fought against the Song government, attacked the capital Lin'an 臨安 (Hangzhou 杭州/Zhejiang) and could only be defeated in 1231.
Even Kaifeng, the new capital of the Jin in the south, was not far enough from the Mongol invaders. In 1233 the Song government became an ally of the invading Mongols who promised them to return all territories south of the Yellow River 黃河 to the Song. Song general Meng Gong 孟珙 defeated the Jin general Wu Xian 武仙 and directed his troops to besiege the city of Caizhou 蔡州 where the last emperor of the Jurchens had fled to. With the help of the Mongols, the Song armies were finally able to extinguish the Jurchen empire that had occupied northern China since more than a century. A year later, generals Zhao Kui 趙葵 and Quan Zicai 全子才 fielded their armies to occupy the old capitals of Northern Song, but the cities were already plundered by the Mongols. The nomad warriors, lead by Great Khan Öködei, attacked and started their slow but steady invasion of the south.
From 1235 on the Mongol general "Kuoduan Hequ 闊端和曲" started to attack the region of Sichuan with the Chengdu plain. The occupation of this region had often been an import step for the conquest of the south. The important city of Xiangyang 襄陽, the gateway to the Yangtse plain, that was defended by the Song general Cao Youwen 曹友聞, capitulated in 1236. In the east, meanwhile, Song generals like Meng Gong 孟珙 and Du Guo 杜果 could withstand the pressure of the Mongol armies under "Kouwen Buhua 口溫不花" - the main Mongol forces were at that time routed to central Asia and towards the Russian principalities. In Sichuan, governor Yu Jie 余玠 adopted the plan of the brothers Ran Jin 冉璡 and Ran Pu 冉璞 to fortificate important locations in mountainous areas, like Diaoyucheng 釣魚城 (modern Hechuan 合川/Sichuan). From this point, Yue Jie was able to hold Sichuan for furthern ten years.
The Mongol attacks on Southern Song China intensified with the election of Möngke ("Mengge 蒙哥") as Great Khan in 1251. Passing the Chengdu Plain in Sichuan, the Mongols conquered the empire of Dali 大理 in modern Yunnan in 1253. Möngke's brother Qubilai (Khubilai, "Hubilie 忽必烈"), the future founder of the Yuan Dynasty 元, and general Uriyangqadai ("Wulianghetai 兀良合台"). In 1259 Möngke died during the battle of Diaoyucheng that was defended by Wang Jian 王堅. The Chinese general Jia Sidao 賈似道 collaborated with the Mongols and took the opportunity of Möngke's death to occupy Sichuan as subject of the Mongols.
The central government of the Southern Song meanwhile was unable to cope with the challenge of the Mongols and new peasant uprisings in the region of modern Fujian (lead by Yan Mengbiao 晏夢彪) and Hunan (Chen Sanchuang 陳三搶, Zhang Mowang 張魔王). The court of Emperor Lizong 宋理宗 was dominated by consort clans (Yan 閻, Jia 賈) and the eunuchs Dong Songchen 董宋臣 and Lu Yunsheng 盧允昇. In 1260 Jia Sidao became chancellor who took control over the new emperor Zhao Qi 趙禥 (posthumous title Song Duzong 宋度宗, r. 1264-1274) and expelled his opponents like Wen Tianxiang 文天祥 and Li Fu 李芾. Because the financial revenue of the late Southern Song state was very low, Jia Sidao tried to reform the regulations for the merchandise of lands with his state field regulation (gongtianfa 公田法).
In 1260 Qubilai was elected Great Khan and proclaimed himself Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty in 1271. Advised by the Chinese collaborator Liu Zheng 劉整 the cities of Xiangyang and Fancheng 樊城 (modern Hubei) were besieged and fell in 1273 after a long defense war, lead by Zhang Tianshun 張天順 and Lü Wenhuan 呂文煥. The Yangtse River 長江 was now open for a large fleet that could conquer the Southern Song empire. A year later, the child-prince Zhao Xian 趙[顯-頁] was made emperor (posthumous title Song Gongdi 宋恭帝, r. 1274-1275), the political power still being in the hands of Jia Sidao. When the Yuan troops and fleet advanced and one prefecture after the other submitted to the Yuan, Jia Sidao offered his own submission, but the Yuan chancellor Bayan ("Boyan 伯顏") refused. The last contingents of the Song empire were heavily defeated, the old city of Jiankang 建康 (modern Nanjing 南京/Jiangsu) fell, and Jia Sidao was killed. The capital of Song, Lin'an 臨安 (modern Hangzhou 杭州/Zhejiang), was defended by Wen Tianxiang and Zhang Shijie 張世傑. Emperor Gongdi abdicated, but faithful loyalists like Zhang Jue 張珏, Wen Tianxiang, Zhang Shijie and Lu Xiufu 陸秀夫 enthroned the emperor's younger brother Zhao Shi 趙昰 (posthumous title Song Duanzong 宋端宗, r. 1276-1277) and then Zhao Bing 趙昺 (r. 1278-1279). Zhao Shi was enthroned far from the capital, in the region of Fuzhou but he soon died during the flight to the south in the region of modern Guangdong. Zhao Bing was enthroned on an island in the South China Sea (Yaishan 崖山, near Xinhui 新會/Guangdong). In 1279 the Yuan took the island, and Lu Xiufu drowned himself, embracing the last emperor of Song.
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