The Song Dynasty is incredibly rich. I mean it, they were an incredibly rich dynasty. To the degree that they were able to throw money literally at their problems. They paid a large tribute to the Jurchens to keep them off their land for most part.
Until it didn’t solve their problems. It gives a good idea as to what sort of dynasty this was. A time where they avoided war as much as possible and boosted mostly in the economy and social sphere.
This was mostly a time of social development
It was also the time of great social development. Where the idea of slavery had been abolished and where women enjoyed almost near emancipation. Inheriting half if they are unmarried and their dowries being with them rather than the husband’s, that was a far better deal than most of it.
China had been a society which had slaves up until this point. And even after it will be reestablished in some form. Mostly the Qing dynasty as the Ming only did it to people who were sold people into slavery. Here servants were employed, based on a contract, similar to the modern workers we are today. They are paid for their years of service and often come from rural countrysides to be servants.
As much as it can tell that their society was a lot more modern. And how they reached near emancipation when compared to all others. Another factor is the number of inventions they came up with. Gunpowder had been discovered at this point, along with the printing press. Two inventions which would leave a profound impact on history.
Their flaws as a dynasty were lack of military investment.
It was a lesson taught by the previous dynasty. The Tang dynasty fell apart as many many people had a ton of troops behind them which could lead to rebellions and the like. But that is for another post where I’ll go into deeper detail.
And that made them wary against military action. Until of course what happened in Jingkang where the majority of princes had been massacred and taken. And their consorts becoming slaves. It is the first and last time it has happened. Even then they still managed to maintain a semblance of a dynasty through the Southern Song.
Their emancipation of women was similar to that of Roman Law. Women were entitled to half of the assets. Their dowries were their personal finances, not a brideprice to the family for taking them. And they kept it even upon the death of their husbands
Unlike later dynasties, women here were not expected to spend the rest of their lives as a widow in mourning. When they remarried, the Song government would provide a sum of money to the woman. And the Song government also did the same to first-time brides.
A backward tradition began from this time
Ironically, this was also the start of one of China’s most painful traditions for women: footbinding. It is doubted whether this tradition started from this dynasty or went back way further into China’s past. A possible contender at the time had been during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms. But it is clear that the practice began widespread from here.
And it all began from the palace, which consisted of ladies who had nothing better to do and locked in the palace regardless of what they did. Slowly spreading to the aristocratic court and by the Qing all of China. That itself can take a post as I have seen sources which debunk that footbinding went to that ridiculous extreme until the Qing.
The Song Dynasty was both rich in culture and wealth. Mostly from the sources I could find as most view the dynasty as weak and a time of decline.