Timeline Description: During the Song dynasty (960 - 1276), China saw unprecedented population growth and cemented a number of traditions that outsiders would come to see as "typically Chinese," such as consuming rice and tea. An economic revolution reflected advances in agriculture, iron working, and printing, while the government refined its Confucian philosophical approach to merit-based appointments. Song China focused its efforts on maintaining peace with its more powerful neighbors, as well.
|960||Emperor Taizu founds the Song dynasty.
After the collapse of the Tang dynasty, China suffers through a period of disorder. A general in the powerful kingdom Northern Zhou rebels against his king and founds the Song dynasty, calling himself Emperor Taizu. This launches the Northern Song period, with the capital at Kaifeng.
|1004||The Song agree to annual payments to prevent northern invasion.
Threatened by three states to the north (the Khitan, Jurchen, and Mongol states), the Song agree to make annual payments of money and silk to them in exchange for their agreement not to invade.
|1012||A new variety of early-ripening rice leads to an economic revolution.
By 1012 a new variety of early-ripening rice has been introduced to China from Champa, near the Mekong River Delta. This drought-resistant rice, besides ripening faster, can be grown in places where older varieties have failed. China's rice production booms, which contributes to population growth and an economic revolution.
|1041||Bi Sheng invents movable type.(c. 1041)
While China has been printing for several centuries, Bi Sheng invents movable type using fragile baked clay. Movable type is ultimately more expensive than whole-block printing in China, but the system revolutionizes European communication when it reaches the west in the 15th century.
|1044||Scientists record formulas for powerful gunpowder.
While the Chinese have been using gunpowder regularly, the scientists ZengGongliang and Yang Weide write a treatise in 1044 in which they record formulas for making even more powerful blasting powder with nitrate.
|1075||The Song court begins an unsuccessful war against the Ly dynasty.
Hoping to annex Viet territory, run by the vassal-like Ly dynasty, the Song court launches a two-year attack. The Ly dynasty is able to withstand the attacks, and the war ends in a stalemate.
|1078||Iron production peaks.
Heavy industry grows during the Song dynasty, particularly iron production, as iron is used primarily by the army. Iron production reaches around 125,000 tons per year in 1078, a sixfold increase over the output in 800.
|1088||ShenKuo writes the Dream Pool Essays.
Polymath and statesman ShenKuo writes the Dream Pool Essays, in which he describes a number of Chinese achievements, including movable type, archaeology, and the concept of true north.
|1100||China's population reaches 100 million.
Thanks to the Song economic revolution, China's population reaches 100 million in 1100, making itthe largest country in the world. Its population probably exceeds that of all Europe.
|1119||First reports of a magnetic compass.
The first reports of Song China using a redesigned magnetic compass date to 1119. The Song refine the design of the magnetic compass to use a smaller needle which is attached to a fixed stem. It is key to Song ocean travel.
|1127||The Southern Song period begins.
In the late Northern Song period, corruption plagues the government and the regime declines. In 1127, a disastrous war leads the Jurchen state to capture the Song emperor and establish its own Jin Empire in the north. Remaining members of the Song establish a new capital at Huangzhou and begin the Southern Song period.
|1188||Zhu Xi writes Daxue.
Zhu Xi, an influential Chinese philosopher, writes Daxue, or "The Great Learning," a commentary on government. Zhu Xi's work contributed to the development of Neo-Confucianism, which became accepted as the orthodox interpretation of Confucianism in later dynasties.
|1235||The Mongols attack the Song dynasty.
In their quest to conquer much of Asia, the Mongols briefly ally with the Song dynasty to attack the Jin Empire. When this alliance collapses, the Mongols begin to attack Song China, but the Chinese are able to withstand many battles with their military power and advanced weaponry.
|1266||Marco Polo arrives in Beijing.
Venetian merchant Marco Polo arrives in Beijing, where he meets Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who has assumed power over much of Song China. Khan asks Polo to return with news and relics of Christianity.
|1276||The Song dynasty ends.
After decades of attacks from the Mongols (who have named themselves the Yuan dynasty under Kublai Khan), the Song dynasty finally crumbles.