Periods of Chinese History
Agriculture – Waterworks – Printing – Mining and Smelting – Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing – Weaponry – Architecture - Porcelain and Earthenware – Astronomy – Geography and Mapping – Navigation and Shipbuilding – Medicine and Pharmacology – Mathematics - Physical theory and engineering|
The Song period is often compared with the western Renaissance when plenties of inventions were made that substantially improved the welware of mankind and contributed to technological progress. Indeed, three important inventions of mankind were made during the Song period: moveable printing types, gunpowder, and the compass. Two important factors contributed to the technological leap during this historical period. The first was the economic development with an increasing importance of money as currency. The second reason was the organized civil bureaucracy of the Chinese state that actively sought to enhance productivity in any sector of state life.
Agriculture always was – and is still today – the greatest part of the Chinese national economy. Every advancement in agriculture would improve social welfare.
The intensification of economic activities lead to and was caused by progresses in many fields of science and technology.
As the basis of economy, the agricultural output was not only crucial for social welfare but also for the tax revenue of the state. A very important topic of agronomical literature like Chen Fu's 陳旉 Nongshu 農書 "About Agriculture" was fertilization.
Important innovations in the tax system were undertaken for a short time while Wang Anshi 王安石 was Counsellor-in-chief. Peasants were given state loans to free them from the usurious interests claimed by private lenders or rich landowners. Accurately calculated land taxes and giving up a system of taxes in form of corvée labour disburdened the peasantry and contributed to an accelerated development of production capacities. Likewise contributing to an increased agricultural output were the long phases of peace with the northern neighbours. Different crops spread about large areas: cotton (mian 棉) came from the south, and wheat (mai 麥) came from the north, and diet was improved by the invention of new products, like tofu (doufu 豆腐).
Fertilization was an important instrument to enhance the productivity of any kind of soil if adjusted correctly. Ten kinds of fertilizers were known, from human and animal excrements to ash and different mineral salts and silts. Especially in densely populated areas like the lower Yangtze region, mulitple fertilizing was necessary to obtain several harvests a year. There were even professional dung traders during Song. Dung was stored in special barns (fenwu 糞屋) where it was protected from sun, rain and from being drained off.
Cultivation techniques during Southern Song were already quite advanced. In some areas of southern China, three harvests of wet rice (shuidao 水稻) were possible, but normally, after the second harvest, beans, sesame, or hemp was planted on the dry fields, in some dryer areas, wheat (xiaomai 小麥) became more and more widespread. Farmland in the south was therefore rotatory used as wet field and as dry field. Hemp was planted along with mulberry budhes, plants whose roots had different lengths and exploited the soil in different strata. Seedlings were raised in breeding plots with running water. In northern China, the rain-laden autumn was a good time for ploughing, and advanced ploughs (geng 耕) allowed to produce a crust that protected the soil from desiccating in summer.
Compared with the historical periods before, people of the Song period had much more fruits and crops to consume than before, and diet became much more variegated. Seedlings were not only directy sown in the prepared earth, but more and more kind of plants were risen separately in special breeding beds (qi 畦), like sugarcane (zhe 蔗), cotton (mian 棉), mulberry (sang 桑) and, of course, rice (dao 稻; mifan 米飯 as food). The propagation of plants was possible by inserting twigs into the earth that should breed own roots (yatiaofa 壓條法), by inserting cut off twigs into the earth (chatiaofa 插條法), or by digging the bole into the earth, only allowing twigs or offshoots to come out (maitiaofa 埋條法).
Song period peasants cultivated more than 30 kinds of vegetable and planted dozends of fruit species, among them many different kinds of citrus fruits. The book Lizhipu 荔枝譜 "Notes on Lichees" by Cai Xiang 蔡襄 records 32 kinds of lichees. Other Song scholars wrote books about every kind of cultivated crops and plants, like Master Zhou 周 about white peonies (Luoyang bai mudan 洛陽白牡丹 "White Peonies of Luoyang"), Liu Meng 劉蒙 about chrysanthemes (Jupu 菊譜 "Notes on Chrysanthemes"), Han Yan 韓彥 about oranges (Jupu 橘譜 "Notes on Oranges"). The famous scholar Su Shi 蘇軾 (Su Dongpo 蘇東坡) has described the raising of pine trees in his Dongpo zaji 東坡雜記 "Dongpo's Miscellaneous Records ", Chen Zhu 陳翥 talks about the cultivation of the wood-oil tree Aleurites cordata in his Tongpu 桐譜 "Notes on the Oiltree". Qin Guan 秦觀 wrote the first Chinese book about breeding silkworms: Canshu 蠶書 "Silkworm Book". Other kinds of kettle (chu 畜) and their breeding can be observed in Chen Fu's 陳旉 Nongshu 陳旉農書 "About agriculture" and in Luo Yuan's 羅願 Eryayi 爾雅翼 "Wings to the Erya [Classic Dictionary]" and Diaoxie leibian 調燮類編 "Adjusted Classes Compiled". Fishing was of high economic importance in the water-rich areas of southern China. Processes in fish farming are described in Zhou Mi's 周密 Guihai zashi 癸亥雜識 "Miscellaneous Knowledge of the Guihai Year", and in Ye Mengde's 葉夢得 Bishu luhua 避暑錄話 "Recorded Conversations Made Escaping the Heat".
While there was already a great diversity in agricultural implements of the tread plow (tali 踏犁) because of lacking oxen, of lever-knife (zhadao 鍘刀) and the northeastern-style plow (tang 耥), the use of water power to move millstones, grinding stones and hammers and to move water from canals and rivers to irrigation ditches by a chained-buckets mechanism (fanche 翻車) became more and more usual, especially with large land owners. Until then, water was hoisted by a mechanism where large step-powered wheels (tache 踏車) moved chained buckets with water from the river to a ditch. As an inplement to pluck out rice seedlings peasants made use of the "seedling horse" (yangma 秧馬), planting and fertilizing was the task of a machine called "dung-drill" (fenlou 糞耬). In northern China, a "drill-tiller" (louchu 耬耡) was in use, while in the lower Yangtze region, a "plow-weeder" (tangyun 耥耘) became widespread at the end of Southern Song. For harvesting, a pushing scythe (tuilian 推鐮) with two wheels was invented.
There were lots of agricultural treatises written during the Song period, like the general treatises of Chen Fu 陳旉 (Nongshu 陳旉農書 "About agriculture"), Lou Shou 樓璹 (Gengzhitu 耕織圖 "Pictures of tilling and weaving"; only the text is preserved), and Wu Zan 吳攢 (Zhongyi biyong 種藝必用 "Essentials of the art of planting"). Cultivation of sugar-cane and the production of cane sugar is described in Wang Zhuo's 王灼 Tangshuangpu 糖霜譜 "Notes on Sugar Frost". Tao Gu 陶穀 (Yuanminglu 苑茗錄 "Record on Plantation Tea") and Cai Xiang 蔡襄 (Chalu 茶錄 "Record on Tea") describe the cultivation of the tea plants (cha 茶; ming 茗) and the fermentation of tea leaves. The monk Zanning 贊寧 wrote "Notes on Bamboo Shots" (Sunpu 筍譜/笋谱), Wu Fu 吳輔 "Notes on Bamboo" (Zhupu 竹譜), Chen Rensheng 陳仁生 "Notes on mushrooms" (Junpu 菌譜), Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 "The Peonies of Luoyang" (Luoyang mudan ji 洛陽牡丹記), Wang Guang 王觀 "The Peonies of Yangzhou" (Yangzhou shaoyao pu 揚州芍藥譜), Zhang Wuzhong 張武仲 "Notes on Peonies" (Shaoyaopu 芍藥譜), Fan Chengda 范成大 "Fan Cai's Notes on Plums" (Fan Cai meipu 范材梅譜), Wang Guixue 王貴學 "Notes on Orchids" (Lanpu 蘭譜), and many other authors wrote essays on special themes of agriculture and cultivation.
The first author describing cyclical phenologies (wuhou 物候) of the agricultural life was the Southern Song Daoist Lü Zuqian 呂祖謙 in his "Diary of the Years Gengzi and Xinchou" (Gengzi xinchou riji 庚子辛丑日記) where he records the growing, blooming, riping of various plants and the activities of birds and cicadas throughout the year.
The turmoils of the late Tang 唐 and of the Five Dynasty 五代 periods made it necessary to reconstruct much of the waterworks in northern China, especially around the capital Kaifeng 開封 (modern Kaifeng/Henan) where canals along the River Bian 汴河 were urgently needed for the supplies of one of the largest cities of the world at that time, ships transporting grain (hangyun 航運) from the rich lower Yangtze area to the north. During the 1070es much work was undertaken to reconstruct small canals and dykes in the countryside to prevent floodings (fanghong 防洪), fertilizing with floodwater (yuguan 淤灌), to divert water (paishui 排水), and to irrigate fields by moving water with wheels (lunshui 輪水). The Yellow River 黃河 who regularly overflooded whole regions in the north China Central Plain 中原 was payed special attention and care during the waterworks. A multiple system of dykes (zhengdi 正堤, yaodi 遙堤, lüdi 縷堤) should prevent this important river from inundating the nearby counties. Pole constructions of wood, stone and ropes (sao 埽) or saw-like reinforcings of stone or wood (juya 鋸牙) consolidated the dykes. Critical points of the dyke system were the weir constructions (dukou 堵口) that regulated the drainage of the river waters.
Important examples of waterworks in the south are the ditches of Mulan Bank 木蘭阪 (near modern Putian 莆田/Fujian) that controled a water reservoir, and the Dujiang Dam 都江堰 where dyke and canal beds were paved with stones (shiba 石壩, shifa 石筏). From the Southern Song period and the shift of the Song capital to Hangzhou 杭州 (Lin'an 臨安; modern Hangzhou/Zhejiang) on the lower Yangtze area became more important. Parts of the Lake Taihu 太湖 reservoir became a region where intensive water engineering took place, with digging or deepening canals (junhe 浚河), constructing embankments (yu 圩), and building sluices (zhamen 閘門, for ships chuanzha 船閘). Between the fields, a doubled surrounding embankment (weidi 圍堤) was able to serve as path if it was reinforced by reed grass, poplars and mulberry trees. Within the wet fields (yutian 圩田) themselves, a grid of water canals (shuigou 水溝) allowed the water to reach every acre of arableland. At the sea shore along the coast of Liangzhe-Dong 兩浙東 (modern Zhejiang) province, stone bunds (shitang 石塘) were erected against the force of the ocean.
In northern China, dykes that controlled moats (tangbo 塘泊, fangtian 方田) even served as a system to obsist the intruding Khitan 契丹 from the Liao Empire 遼 in the north. This system of national defense included canals with a length of altoghether 800 kms.
The invention of movable-type printing (huozi yinshua 活字印刷) as made by Bi Sheng 畢昇 deeply contributed to the spread of literature, knowledge and thought. Song moveable types were made from clay, later from wood. The cheaper books became, the more widespread was literature of all kinds, and on this base, the first private libraries came up among the gentry. One of the first books printed with moveable types is the Buddhist canon Dazangjing 大藏經 of 983. Many other books of literary or scientific content printed during the Song period are preserved until today. The character type of the Song period prints became prevalent for long centuries and is still used today (Songti 宋體 type); it is based on the calligraphic styles of Ouyang Xun 歐陽詢, Yan Zhengqing 顏真卿 and Liu Gongquan 柳公權. In the neighbouring states, Non-Chinese peoples like the Khitan, Jurchen and Tanguts, that all had created their own script partially by imitating the style of Chinese characters, printed books written in native langues using their own scripts (Khitan script, Jurchen script, Tangut script). Paper money and bills of change (jiaozi 交子) were likewise printed with the new printing methods invented during the Northern Song period.
Mining and smelting
Digging ores and exploring mines were allowed to be private business for the most part of the Northern Song period. Only smelting ores and producing metal was observed by state officials who instantly taxed the produced intermediate products. Iron and steel was mainly produced in the prefectures of Cizhou 磁州, Xingzhou 刑州 and Xuzhou 徐州, all locations in China's north that was occupied by the Jurchen 女真 empire of Jin 金 after 1129. Non-ferrous metal like copper (tong 銅), tin (xi 錫), and lead (qian 鉛) that were employed for the casting of coins, mainly came from southern China. Gold (jin 金) came from Shandong, silver (yin 銀) from the southwest. Copper ores were processed with water containing blue vitriol (danfan 膽礬).
The most important smelting works of the Song periods were Handan 邯鄲, Linsui 林歲, Tongbai 桐柏, and Anyang 安陽 in Hebei, and Acheng 阿城 in Heilongjiang (a works of the Jin empire) were kilns (liantielu 煉鐵爐, zhengkuanglu 蒸礦爐) of 6 m height produced iron. Even transportable kilns (xinglu 行爐) were in use. Although charcoal (mutan 木炭) was the widespread and traditional firing material, mineral coal (meitan 煤炭) came more and more in use. The process of creating steel (gang 鋼) out of iron (tie 鐵) was already very refined.
Digging coals in the region of Shanxi, Shaanxi and Henan gradually became a business of the state. Iron production became much better when coke (jiaotan 焦炭) was invented during the 12th century. Galleries of coal mines could be as long as 500 m, but "coal wells" (meijing 煤井) with a depth of about 6 m were normal.
Salt (yan 鹽) was likewise won from "salt wells" (yanjing 鹽井), especiall in the region of Sichuan. During the Song period a new technique was found to bore such wells, the "profound pipe wells" (zhuotongjing 卓筒井) with a narrow opeing and amazing depths of several dozen meters.
Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing
As a special branch of agriculture, connected with the tax income of the state, the production of clothing and materials was enhanced by the Song state. Silk products (sichou 絲綢) did not only serve as a means to satisfy the aristocracy's need for luxury goods, but also as as good of foreign trade and tribute. Many silk and brocade production facilities were in the hands of the state who hired (zhaomu 招募) peasants and workers instead of resorting to corvée labor (laoyi 勞役). The largest state manufacturies could be found in Kaifeng, Luoyang 洛陽, Runzhou 潤州 (modern Zhenjiang 鎮江/Jiangsu), Hangzhou 杭州, Suzhou 蘇州, 梓州 and Chengdu 成都.
While most of the fabrication of material and clothing was still undertaken in China's north during the Tang period, the permanent danger of warfare activities in the north lead to the relocation of the silk production to the south. More than hundred kinds of brocade (jin 錦) were manufactured during Southern Song, among them satin (duan 緞) with a double layer of "flower" pattern (huawen 花紋), and many kinds of wonderful gauze (luo 羅) material or brocade with a velvet (rong 絨) reverse. Silk (juan 絹) was also used as ground for paintings and calligraphies. The most refined silk material of the Song period was a kind of gauze with very thin warp threads and crude weft threads (kesi 緙絲) that was often used by painters like Zhu Kerou 朱克柔. Another kind of silk processing was embroidery (cixiu 刺繡).
Much more common among the average population was of course clothing material made of hemp (zhuma 苧麻), i.e. linen (mabu 麻布), wool (mao 毛) and cotton (mian 棉). Cotton was first produced on the island of Hainan 海南島 and just started to become a cheap and popular material for clothing.
Dyeing with herbal or mineral liquids was only one method to add color to a fabric. An inexpensive method to produce colorful materials without using elaborated brocades was to imprint patterns (yinhua 印花) on a woven material. The printing plates were nothing else then carved woodblocks (loukong muban 鏤空木板) like for book printing.
Manufacturing large amounts of fabric made it necessary to contruct sophisticated spinning wheels (fangche 紡車) and looms (zhiji 織機). The Song period saw the invention of water-driven spinning wheels and elaborated machines that were forerunners of the jacquard machines (tihuaji 提花機).
A very important innovation in war technology was the invention of black powder (huoyao 火藥) that has been made during the Tang period but only became applicable during Song. During the 11th century firearms were already widespread among the Song, Khitan 契丹 and Jurchen 女真 troops. These arms were catapults (paoshiji 抛石機) that launches bombs (huoyaobao 火藥包) and grenades (jili huoqiu 蒺藜火球), some filled with poisoneous evaporating materials. From the begin of the 12th century on, cannons (pao 砲) were produced with barrels made from bamboo stripes held together with an iron ring. Tube-like metal barrels are said to be invented by Chen Gui 陳規 in Southern Song. The Jurchens made the first iron barrel for cannons and introduced this cannon called "Haven-shaking thunder" (zhentianlei 震天雷) in 1221. The first hand-gun with a bamboo barrel was first used in 1132. But still, all these firearms were limited in use because they were not yet sophisticated enough to replace the very effective crossbow (nu 弩). During Northern Song, Wang Ruoqin 王若欽 wrote a military encyclopedia, Wujing zongyao 武經總要 "Essentials of the Military Classics".
A very important manual of house building technique is Li Jie's 李誡 Yingzao fashi 營造法式 "Rules and Patterns of Architecture" where the erection of timber buildings is described as a very sophisticated technology. But likewise, buildings made of stone show intensified technical knowledge compared with Tang pagodas and buildings. Glazed tiles (liuliwa 琉璃瓦) became much more widespread during the Song period.
While walls had no supporting function for timber buildings, columns, pillars and skeleton framing are the main parts of timber pagodas and halls.
Preserved timber buildings of the Song period are the Shengmu Hall 聖母殿 of Jin Temple 晉祠 in Taiyuan 太原/Shanxi, and the Great Hall of Baoguo Monastery 保國寺 in Ningbo 寧波/Zhejiang, timber buildings of the Liao empire are the Guanyin Hall 觀音閣 of Dule Monastery 獨樂寺 in Jixian 薊縣/Tianjin, the Guanyin Hall 觀音殿 of Kaiyuan Monastery 開元寺 in Yixian 易縣/Hebei, the Great Hall of Huayan Monastery 化嚴寺 in Datong 大同/Shanxi, the Great Hall of Kaishan Monastery 開善寺 in Xincheng 新城縣/Shanxi, the Great Hall of Fengguo Monastery 奉國寺 in Yixian 義縣/Hebei, and as timber pagoda (muta 木塔) the large and wonderful Shakya Pagoda 釋迦塔 in Yingxian 應縣/Shanxi. Preserved timber buildings of the Jin empire are the Manjusri Hall 文殊殿 of Foguang Monastery 佛光寺, and buildings in the Chongfu Monastery 崇福寺.
The largest Song brick pagoda (zhuanta 磚塔) is that of Kaiyuan Monastery 開元寺 in Dingzhou 定州/Hebei. The oldest Song pagoda with brick stairs is the square Pota (special pronunciation) Pagoda 繁塔 of Kaifeng 開封/Henan, or the "Iron" Pagoda 鐵塔 of the Youguo Monastery 佑國寺 in Kaifeng with a spiral staircase. Song brick pagodas are fully developed, and later pagodas have not added any further inventions. There were also brick pagodas with wooden stairs and storey floors like the wonderful pagoda of Longhua Monastery 龍華寺 near Shanghai 上海, and the square but tall pagoda of Xingshengjiao Monastery 興聖教寺 in Songjiang 松江/Shanghai. Some brick pagodas imitated the timber construction, the oldest example is the Tiger Hill Pagoda 虎丘塔 of Yunyan Monastery 雲岩寺 near Suzhou 蘇州/Jiangsu. Compact brick pagodas were also found; they are reminiscences of the Tang period and are mainly found in northern China, like the pagodas of Pujiu Monastery 普救寺 in Zhuozhou 涿州/Beijing and that of Tianning Monastery 天寧寺 in Beijing 北京, the White Pagoda 白塔 of Qingzhou 慶州 (modern Balinzuo Banner 巴林左旗, Inner Mongolia), the large pagoda of Jueshan Monastery 覺山寺 in Lingqiu 靈丘/Shanxi, or the Flower Pagoda 花塔 of Qinghua Monastery 慶華寺 in Laishui 淶水/Hebei. Windows of the particular storeys were often applied staggered, like in the Double Pagoda 雙塔 of the Luohan Monastery 羅漢院 in Suzhou 蘇州/Jiangshu. Song period stone pagodas are preserved as the Double Pagoda 雙塔 in Kaiyuan Monastery 開元寺 in Quanzhou 泉州/Fujian. The largest brick pagoda of the Jin empire is the Flower Pagoda 花塔 of Guanghui Monastery 廣惠寺 in Dingxian 定縣/Hebei.
In the southwest in the empire of Dali 大理 we can observe clear influences of Southeast Asian Buddhist art. The White Naga Pagoda 飛龍白塔 in Jinghong 靖洪/Yunnan that is identical to pagodas in Myanmar (former Burma).
Other objects of sacral architecture are the tombs of the Northern Song emperors (Songling 宋陵) near Gongxian 鞏縣/Henan with seven main tombs and about 300 satellite tombs. In the previous period, the Five Dynasties, we find the tombs of the two rulers of Southern Tang (Nangtang erzhu 南唐二主) near Jiangning 江寧/Jiangsu, and the tomb (mu 墓) of Wang Jian 王建, ruler of Shu 蜀, in Chengdu 成都/Sichuan.
Other stone objects are the Dharani Sutra 陀羅尼經 stone pillar (shichuang 石幢) of Zhaoxian 趙縣/Hebei, and stone pavilions like that of Wanshan Monastery 萬杉寺 of Mt. Lushan 廬山/Jiangxi. Stone bridges are preserved as the arch bridge Lugouqiao 盧溝橋 in Beijing, or the Luoyang 洛陽橋 and Anping Bridges 安平橋 near Quanzhou 泉州/Fujian, the Baodai Bridge 寶帶橋 near Suzhou 蘇州/Jiangsu, and the Bazi Bridge 八字橋 in Shaoxing 紹興/Zhejiang.
Near Hangzhou 杭州/Zhejiang, protecting the banks of the mouth of the Qiantang River 錢塘江, is a stone sea wall of the Southern Song period.
Porcelain and Earthenware
Although porcelain was invented during the period of south-north division, it was only during the Song period that we can really talk of quality porcelain that was produced in the kilns (yao 窯) of the Song empire and her neigbors. Compared to thecenturies before, porcelain became one of the most appreciated necessities for daily life even for social groups lower than the aristocracy and gentry. Shops and restaurants made use of porcelain (ciqi 瓷器) instead of crude earthenware (taoqi 陶器). Song porcelain had very different colors, glazing (youse 釉色), patterns and structures, and almost every kiln was famous for a special type of firing, coloring and ornaments. One factor for the increased use of porcelain was the prohibition of using bronze for items of daily use. Intensified monetarization of the economy and the permanent warfare with the northern empires of Liao and Jin made it necessary for the Song state to strictly control the amount of copper and bronze at disposal within the empire. But the many advantages of porcelain (no corrosion, light weight, beauty, low price) made it a very compatible material to replace bronze. A further factor contributing to the immense development in porcelain production was overseas trade that had reached huge dimension during the Song period. Porcelain was used as a currency abroad – together with silk, brocade and varnish. Mass production of this "chinaware" in large manufacturies was undertaken in all production places, some kilns were able to fire up to 20,000 pieces. The most important kilns of the Song empire were that of Dingzhou 定州 (near modern Quyang 曲陽縣/Hebei), Ruzhou 汝州, Yaozhou 耀州, Cizhou 磁州, Junzhou 鈞州/Henan, Longquan 龍泉/Zhejiang, Jian'ou 建甌/Fujian, Jizhou 吉州/Jiangxi, and the famous kilns of Jingdezhen 景德鎮/Jiangxi, founded during the reign-period Jingde (1004-1007). Preferred colors of Song porcelain were white (baiyou 白釉), a light bluegreen (qingyou 青釉, qingbaiyou 青白釉), and brownish-black (heiyou 黑釉, jiangyou 醬釉). On this fired body, an additional coloring could be added (jiacai 加彩), and the vessel was fired a second time ("color firing" caishao 彩燒). Some of the kils were government-operated kilns (guanyao 官窯), like the Ruzhou kiln near Kaifeng 開封/Henan, and later in Hangzhou 杭州/Zhejiang.
Porcelain of the Liao empire is more crude than the Song counterparts, and their types are often decored with a typical cock's crest (jiguan 雞冠). Most Liao kilns were situated near the different capitals of the empire. But great masses of porcelain used within the Liao empire were simply traded in from the Song empire.
The Jin Dynasty occupied the northern part of the Song empire and there took over the very productive kilns of Dingzhou, Yaozhou and Junzhou.
Astonomical observation was very essential throughout Chinese history. The Song astronomer Han Xianfu 韓顯符 calculated the right ascension of the pole star (chijingcha 赤經差). In 1034 a new observation of the starry sky was undertaken that is compiled in the book Jingyou qianxing xinshu 景佑乾像新書 "A New Book of the Sky from the Jingyou period". A decade later, Zhou Cong 周琮 lead a new observation of all 28 traditional constellations (xiu 宿) with the help of an ecliptical instrument (huangdaoyi 黃道儀). Wang Anli 王安禮 adjusted the position of the fixed star (hengxing 恆星) as calculated by Yu Jicai 庾季才 during the 6th century. The astronomical calculations of the Song period were still in use during the 14th century. A last accurate observation was undertaken by Yao Shunfu 姚舜輔 in 1105, explained in his book Jiyuanli 紀元曆. All these calculations were put down in maps and tables that are already very accurate. Su Song's 蘇頌 book Xin yixiang fayao 新儀像法要 "New Essential Rules for Observing Constellations" demonstrates that observers of the northern hemisphere have no chance to see the constellations of the southern sky. In Suzhou 蘇州/Jiangsu a map of the starry sky with more than 1400 stars was incised into stone tablets. A Song star table is preserved in the Yuan period 元 book Lingtai miyuan 靈台秘苑 "Secret Garden of the Soul Terrace".
New calculations for the calendar (lifa 曆法) were undertaken more than 20 times during the Song period. The other three empires of China, the Western Xia, Liao, and Jin Dynasty likewise recalculated the calendrical cycle of the Chinese luni-solar year.
The armillary sphere (hunyi 渾儀) was the most important instrument for celestial observations, and such instruments of the Northern Song period were not only very huge but also very accurate. The other instrument, the celestial globe (hunxiang 渾象), showed the movements of the celestial bodies "around" the earthly observer. In 1092 Su Song and Han Gonglian 韓公廉 drew up a large combined water-moved mechanism that was able to serve as armillary sphere, celestial globe, and as a clock (shuiyun yixiang tai 水運儀像臺) with bells and drums.
Otherwise, time was calculated by a kind of clepsydra (louke 漏刻). Yan Su 燕肅 was the first to solve the problem of water loss by a complicated mechanism with several containers, a clepsydra called "lotus water clock" (lianhualou 蓮花漏). Shen Kua 沈括, author of the famous anthology Mengqi bitan 夢溪筆談 "Brush Discussions from a Dream Creek", constructed another clepsydra (fulouyi 浮漏儀), a third model was created by Sun Fengji 孫逢吉 (tonghu loujian zhidu 銅壺漏箭制度).
Geography and Mapping
Song geographers produced many comprehensive accounts of the whole area of the Song empire, including descriptions of geographic and natural conditions. But these compendia had also the character of encylopedias, depicting the whole human geography of regions and the state; cities, agriculture, craftsmenship, state officials, important persons, touristic attractions and customs were also incorporated into general and regional geographies. As general geographies, we find books like Le Shi's 樂史 Taiping huanyu ji 太平寰宇記, Wang Cun's 王存 Yuanfeng jiuyu zhi 元豐九域誌, Ouyang Min's 歐陽忞 Yudi fangji 輿地方志, Wang Xiangzhi's 王象之 Yudi jisheng 輿地記勝, or Zhu Mu's 祝穆 Fangyu shenglan 方輿勝覽.
The administration of an empire as vast as China made it necessary to exactly draw up the geography. A second reason for the detailed maps of the Song period are the claims of the northern Chinese territories occupied by the Khitans and Jurchens. The first large map of the whole Northern Song empire was completed in 993, the Chunhua tianxia tu 淳化天下圖 "World Map of the Chunhua Period". Incised in a stone tablet, the map Huayitu 華夷圖 "Map of China and Beyond" from the late 11th century is based on a Tang period map. The Confucius temple in Suzhou houses an incised map of Song China, the Dilitu 地理圖 "Geographical Map" from about 1180, by Huang Shang 黃裳. Many other maps of the Song state are lost. But we have preserved some maps of particular provinces (lu 路). Some geographers even made physical maps with modeled mountains. City maps are preserved from Suzhou 蘇州 (Pingjiang prefecture 平江府) and Guilin 桂林. In three "Maps of Yu's Traces" (Yujitu 禹跡圖) preserved in different places (Xi'an 西安/Shaanxi, Zhenjiang 鎮江/Jiangsu, Jishan 稷善縣/Shanxi), the landscape is covered with a scale grid, every square representing one hundred li 里 (about 50 kms).
A geography theoretician was Cheng Dachang 程大昌 who wrote the Yugong lun 禹貢論 "Treatise About the Tribute of Yu [the Great, a chapter of the classic Shangshu]", a first critical commentary and explanation of China's oldest geographical work.
Fan Dacheng 范大成 wrote three books with geographical value, Lanpeilu 攬轡錄 "Controlling the bridles", Canluanlu 驂鸞錄 "Troika and Phenixes", and Wuchuanlu 吳船錄 "Ships from Suzhou". Song Minqiu 宋敏求 wrote some regional geographies about Chang'an, the old capital of Han and Tang (Chang'anzhi 長安志), the province Henan (Henanzhi 河南志), and Kaifeng (Dongjingji 東京記). An important report about foreign countries is Zhao Rukuo's 趙汝适 Zhufanzhi 諸藩志 "About all Barbarians". A similar book is Lingwai daida 嶺外代答 "Representative Answers about Foreign Countries" by Zhou Qufei 周去非.
Navigation and Shipbuilding
North China was occupied by several empires that blocked Song China's access to the Inner Asian trade routes. No wonder that the maritime trade increased substantially during the centuries of the Song period.
The pending compass needle (zhinanzhen 指南針), an instrument very crucial for exact navigation, was invented by Shen Kua 沈括, and at the end of the 11th century the compass shell (zhenpan 針盤) was in use. A first book describing naval routes is Xu Jing's 徐競 description of a journey to Korea (Xuanhe fengshi Gaoli tujing 宣和奉使高麗圖經 "Maps of the Passage to Koryŏ During an Imperial Envoy of the Xuanhe Period").
Shipbuilding had naturally reached a high level. In southen China, ships were built and repaired in dry-docks (ganchuanwu 乾船塢), and Zhang Zhongyan 張中彥 crossed the Yellow River with a pontoon bridge (fuqiao 浮橋). Model ships were copied and allowed to build up a fleet of equal types of ships.
A very famous invention of the Song period are water-proof bulkhead chambers (shuimi gecang 水密隔艙) in a ship's body. The hull itself was stablized by the baffles between these compartments, not by any ribs or a keel. Offshore ships had a triangular profile, the body of inland ships or of coasting trade ships had rather a flat bottom.
For military purposes, Feng Zhi 馮制 created a new type of battle ship (zhanjian 戰艦) combining the strengths of different other ship types. The largest of these ships could even carry firearms. During battles, even paddle ships (chechuan 車船) were in use.
The coastline of China has changed substantially throughout the centuries, especially in the Gulf of Bohai 渤海 where the silt of the Yellow River 黄河 has pushed forward the coastline. Tang scholars, and Song scholars again, assumed that many thousand years ago the coastline of the Bohai Gulf was as west as the Taihang Mountain range.
With more experience in offshore navigation Song shipmen became more confident in forecasting winds and weather of the ocean. The rhythm of the tides (chaoxi 潮汐) could also be explained and calculated in a very accurate degree.
Medicine and Pharmacology
Two sources stipulated the development of Chinese medicine during the Song period. The first was the invention of moveable type printing, the second was the reinterpretation of the universe by the Neo-Confucianists, with the universal agent qi 氣 being a crucial element for medicine.
An innovation for Song period medicine was the establishment of official and educational facilities for physicians that contributed to the spread of medical knowledge. Within the Hanlin Academy 翰林學院 there was a Medical Department (yiguan yaoju 醫官藥局), and the emperors were interested to see medical research within the compound of the imperial palace. The reformer Wang Anshi 王安石 had founded a Great Medical Department (taiyiju 太醫局) where the following disciplines were tought: internal medicine (dafangmai 大方脈), apoplexy (fengke 風科), pediatrics (xiaofangmai 小方脈), ophthalmology (yanke 眼科), ulceration (yangzhong 瘍腫), obstetrics (chanke 產科), dentistry (kouchi 口齒), pharyngology (yanhouke 咽喉科), acupuncture and moxibustion (zhenjiuke 針灸科). In 1057 the traditional medical books like the Suwen 素問, Nanjing 難經, Shanghanlun 傷寒論, Jinkui yaolüe 金匱要略, Maijing 脈經, Zhubing yuanhou lun 諸病源候論, Qianjin yaofang 千金要方 and were again commented and published. New compendia were compiled, like Jia Huangzhong's 賈黃中 Shenyi pujiao fang 神醫普校方 "Generally commented recipes of the Divine Physician", Wang Huaiyin's 王懷隱 Taiping shenghui fang 太平聖惠方 "Recipes of the Holy Favor of the Taiping Era", and some more, like the official compendia Taiping huiming heji ju fang 太平惠民和劑局方 "Recipes of the Department of Favoring the People and Harmonizing Preparation of the Taiping Era", and Zhenghe shengji zonglu 政和聖濟總錄 "General Index of Holy Care of the Zhenghe Era". Apart from these officially compiled handbooks, many privately published books about medicine and pharmakology appeared on the market, like Tang Shenwei's 唐慎微 Jingshi zhenglei beiji bencao 經史證類備急本草 "Digest to Herbs and Roots as Evidential Categories from the Classics and Histories", Kou Zongshi's 寇宗奭 Bencao yanyi 本草衍義 "Extended Meanings of Roots and Herbs", and many others.
Pulse diagnostics was a critical point in clinical medicine. But Song physicians already started to undertake anatomical researches with the bodies of deceased persons. As causes for diseases (pathogenesis), infections were known to Song period physicians, and they were well aware that psychological influences often causes diseases. Nontheless, cosmic influences (yunqi 運氣: the Five Phases wuxing 五行, six conditions of the air liuqi 六氣) on the human constitution were still thought to be of crucial importance.
The most famous physicians of the Song period wre Pang Anshi 龐安時, Zhu Gong 朱肱, Xu Shuwei 許叔微, Qian Yi 錢乙, Chen Yan 陳言, Wang Shuo 王碩, Yan Yonghe 嚴用和, Chen Ziming 陳自明, Zhang Yuansu 張元素, Li Gao 李杲, Liu Wansu 劉完素, and Zhang Congzheng 張從政.
The Northern Song rulers established an academic division (suanxueke 算學科) responsible for mathematical research. The ten old mathematical books were reprinted and published. The most important Song mathematicians were Jia Xian 賈憲, Shen Kua 沈括, Qin Jiushao 秦九韶 (wrote Shushu jiuzhang 數書九章 "A Mathematical Book in Nine Chapters"), and Yang Hui 楊輝. Jia Xian invented a numerical solution of equations by using a method similar to the Pascal triangle. The old method of solving algebraic equations (kaifangshu 開方術) was developed to a solution of equations by successive addition and multiplication (zengcheng kaifang fa 增乘開方法). Employing unknown numbers (tianyuan 天元) for the solution of equations was introduced during Song, and we have preserved book of Li Ye 李冶 describing these methods (Ceyuan haijing 測圓海鏡 "Ocean Mirror of Surveying Circles"; Yigu yanduan 益古演段 "Exerting Parts as Increased [Knowledge] of the Old").
Yang Hui wrote Xiangjie jiuzhang suanshu 詳解九章算術 "Exact Comments on the Art of Mathematics in Nine Chapters", commenting many older and contemporary mathematical writings and methods; Chengchu tongbian benmo 乘除通變本末 "Multiplication and Division, Developed from the Basics", a book that can serve as an educational tool; and Xugu zhaiqi suanfa 續古摘奇算法 "Selected Special Calculation Methods as Supplement to the Old" where he comments various mathematical exercises.
2000 ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail