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Technological Inventions & Cultural Innovations of Tang and Song China

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Technological Inventions & Cultural Innovations of Tang and Song China





Gun Powder

900 CE

Explosive powder made from mixture of saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal

First used for fireworks, then weapons, technology spread west within 300 years.

Magnetic Compass

(for navigation)

1100 CE

Floating magnetized needle that always points north-south; device had existed in China for centuries before it was adapted by sailors for use at sea

Helped China become a sea power; technology quickly spread west

Mechanical clock

725 CE

Clock in which machinery (driven by running water) regulated the movements

Early Chinese clocks short –lived; idea for mechanical clock carried by traders to medieval Europe

Paper money

960 CE

Paper currency issued by Song government to replace cumbersome strings of metal cash used by merchants

Contributed to development of large-scale commercial economy in China


600 CE

Bone-hard white ceramic made of a special clay and a mineral found only in China

Became a valuable export-so associated with Chinese culture that it is now called “china”, technology remained a Chinese secret for centuries


Block printing:

735 CE

Block printing; one block on which a whole page is cut

Printing technology spread to Korea and Japan

  1. Based on the information contained in this chart, make a time line to display the sequence of Tang and Song dynasty innovations/inventions. Choose and label FOUR inventions or advancements. (2)

  1. 750 1000 1250 1500

  1. Pick TWO inventions of the Tang and Song Dynasties and explain how they helped China achieve a “Golden Age”. First, define the term “Golden Age.” (3)

Document #6:

“The basic justification for the Chinese Imperial (civil service) Exams was that appointees to civil service positions were not to be chosen through special or inherited privilege, but through an individual's own abilities. For centuries, the might of China was established militarily, often by emperors from humble origins who had toppled existing dynasties. However, once in control, these emperors soon realized that the actual governance of China would require the administrative services of thousands of bureaucrats. The civil service examination was thus a means for creating such a body of men…”

Document #7:

“The examination system also helped to maintain cultural unity and agreement on basic values. The fact that the content of the examinations were uniform (did not vary) meant that the local scholars and ambitious would-be scholars across the whole of China were taught with the same values. Even though only a small fraction (about 5 percent) of those who attempted the examinations passed them and received titles, the studying and the hope of eventual success on a another examination sustained the interest of those who took them. Those who failed to pass—most of the candidates at any single examination—did not lose wealth or local social standing; as dedicated believers in Confucian ideals, they served, without the benefit of state appointments, as teachers, patrons (supporters)of the arts, and managers of local projects, such as irrigation works, schools, or charitable foundations.”

Examine both documents.

  1. According to Document #6, what was needed—in addition to a powerful Emperor—to successfully rule China? (2)

  1. Using information from both documents above, explain how civil service examinations helped China achieve a Golden Age. Describe at least two ways. (4)

Document #8
Excerpts from Emperor Taizong on Effective Government:

Maintaining Military Forces
“Weapons and armor are a country’s tools of violence. A warlike country, however

huge and safe it may be, will end up declining and endangering its people. Military

force cannot be entirely eliminated nor used all the time. Teach people military

arts when they are free from farming in order to prepare them when necessary. …

Confucius said, “Not teaching people how to fight is the same as discarding them.”

Hence military might (strength) serves to benefit all of China.”


1. According to the document, when should military force be used?

  1. What is the Emperor’s main message about use of military force? (2)

  1. What stance, then, does he take about building a military? (2)

  1. How could the Emperor’s position on military force make China both strong and unified? (Explain both.) (4)

Document 9:

Examine the picture and answer the questions below.

  1. Describe the scene the artist depicts (is showing) in this drawing. (2)

  1. Describe THREE examples of urbanization (growing cities) shown in this picture. (3)

  1. How might successful business activity lead to cultural diversity? (2)

China DBQ

Part B: Essay
Historical Context:

The Tang and Song dynasties covered the time period from 618 to 1279 CE, a period of more than 600 years. Not only did these dynasties last a very long time, but they are also considered to be among the most outstanding of Chinese dynasties. The Tang and Song dynasties are considered a “Golden Age” in Chinese history. While these dynasties had experienced problems from time to time, overall they managed very well to maintain unity among China’s diverse people. A well-organized government, a clear social structure with some opportunity to move up from your social class position, moral philosophies that influenced government leaders and the people as a whole, economic prosperity through trade and an effective military are all factors that contributed to unity in the Tang and Song dynasties.


Using information from your documents in Part A, your answers to them, and your knowledge of social studies, answer the following in a well-organized essay that includes an introduction, several supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion.

How did the Tang and Song dynasties create a Golden Age in China?

(Part B Graphic Organizer total 20 points)
Note: Explain and support both internal and external connections.

China Essay Planning Template


The Tang and Song Dynasties created a climate that brought China into a Golden Age.

Reason/Evidence #1
Main Idea:China’s ideas were superior to others.
See documents 1, 2, 5 for support.
a) Support (be specific; cite documents)
b) Support

Reason/Evidence #2
Main Idea:Fair governing
See document 3, 6, 7
a) Support (be specific; cite documents)
b) Support

Reason/Evidence #3
Main Idea:strong economic system
See document 4, 9
a) Support (be specific; cite documents)
b) Support


(Sum up large concepts using different language. Leave the reader with a greater thought.)

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