It allowed food, troops, and military supplies to reach the capital in the north. Under the Song, vast amounts of grain were shipped along the Grand Canal, spurring economic activity and the growth of cities along the route.

Advances in Science and Technology

Under Tang and Song rulers, China enjoyed a golden age in science and technology. Using earlier advances, close observation, and analysis, the Chinese made breakthroughs in astronomy, agriculture, medicine, and military technology. Astronomers produced accurate star maps and calendars. Expert engineers developed irrigation and flood control projects. The human-operated water wheel was invented as well as new plows and rice-growing technologies.

By the mid-800s, the Chinese had discovered the chemistry of making explosives. At first, the new technology was used for fireworks. In time, gunpowder was put to military purposes for canons and other firearms. The Chinese pioneered the use of movable type to print books. The invention made printed books available more cheaply and spread learning, especially medical knowledge. During this time, the Chinese improved on their ancient practice of acupuncture to treat many ailments. The magnetic compass invented in China helped sailors at sea. The Chinese also developed mechanical clocks to tell exact time.

An Ordered Society

Under the Tang and Song, China was a well-ordered society. At its head was the emperor, whose court was filled with aristocratic families. The court stood at the center of a huge bureaucracy from which officials fanned out to every province and county in China. The bureaucracy oversaw China's huge population, made up of the gentry, or wealthy landowners, and peasants.

The Bureaucracy

Under the Tang and Song rulers, the Chinese bureaucracy, which had begun under the Han, continued to develop. Aristocratic families had less influence. Instead, officials came from the scholar-gentry, the educated landowning class.

The bureaucracy included a variety of government-funded departments. Some of these departments oversaw tax collecting and government revenue. Other departments were devoted to the study of disciplines such as medicine, astronomy, and mathematics.

Illustration of an open air room with a set of desks at which men are filling out papers. At a central desk are administrators, who accept completed papers.

Candidates take the rigorous civil service exam during the Song dynasty. Students studied for years in preparation for the exam, which usually led to an honored position as a civil servant in the bureaucracy.

Important mathematical texts were written during the Tang and Song dynasties that recorded existing arithmetic, algebra, and geometry knowledge and helped these ideas spread. Later mathematicians used these books as references for their own discoveries.

The Gentry

China's gentry class stood at the top of Chinese society. They valued scholarship more than physical labor. Most scholar-officials at court came from this class because they alone could afford to spend years studying the Confucian ideas. Only a few lucky men passed the grueling civil service exam and won the most honored positions in government.

The Song scholar-gentry supported a revival of Confucian thought. Scholars searched out old Confucian texts and new schools of thinkers reinterpreted Confucian ideas that emphasized social order, duty, rank, and proper behavior. This Confucian revival stressed traditions of the past. Although corruption and greed existed among the civil servants, the ideal Confucian official was a wise, kind, selfless, virtuous scholar who knew how to ensure harmony in society.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments