The Song period was a time of great prosperity. Changes in agriculture, especially a boom in the production of rice, fed the growth of the economy. Trade and commerce flourished. These developments had started during the Tang dynasty. Under the Song, they would help make China one of the most advanced societies in the world.
Along with prosperity came urbanization, or the growth of cities. During this period, China’s huge cities dwarfed the cities of medieval Europe.
An Italian traveler named Marco Polo first saw China toward the end of the Song dynasty. He marveled at China’s crowded cities and bustling markets. Polo was especially impressed by the boat traffic on the Grand Canal. This great waterway linked northern China with the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) river valley in the south. Farmers and merchants used the canal to ship their crops and goods. Polo wrote, “It is indeed surprising to observe the multitude and the size of the vessels that are continually passing and repassing, laden [loaded] with merchandise of the greatest value.”
In this chapter, you will learn how changes in agriculture, trade and commerce, and urbanization made China so prosperous. Let’s begin by finding out how changes in agriculture helped to spur the growth of China’s economy. (Caption)
Use this spoke diagram as a graphic organizer to help you understand more about the changes in Chinese agriculture, commerce, and urbanization that occurred from the 10th to the 13th centuries. Page 188
17.2 Changes in Agriculture
Changes in agriculture were a major reason for the growth of China’s economy during the Song dynasty. This period saw a huge increase in the production of rice as well as new and better farming methods. Let’s look at how and why these changes happened.
Reasons for Agricultural Changes There were several reasons for the changes in Chinese agriculture. The first was the movement of farmers to the fertile basins of the Chang Jiang river in southern China.
During the Tang dynasty, northern China was the wealthiest and most populous part of the country. But wars and attacks by people from Mongolia drove many landowners to move south. Under the Song, southern China continued to grow. By 1207, about 65 million people lived in the south, compared to 50 million in the north.
The move to the south changed what farmers grew. Northern farmers had cultivated wheat and millet. These crops grew well in the north’s cold, dry climate. In contrast, the south’s climate was warm and wet. Wetlands covered most of the Chang Jiang valley. These conditions were ideal for cultivating rice plants, which need a lot of water.
Rice farmers, though, had their own problems. Rice crops were frequently destroyed by drought (periods of dry weather) and violent storms called typhoons. Even if a crop survived, it took five months to mature from planting to harvest.
During the 11th century, a new kind of rice was brought to China from Southeast Asia. The new type of rice was resistant to drought, and it matured in two months instead of five. Now farmers could plant at least two crops of rice each year, and rice production boomed.
Production increased even more with new and better farming techniques and tools. An improved plow and harrow made it easier (Caption)
Rice, grown in southern China, became the country’s most important crop during the 13th century. Peasants worked hard during the growing season. Above, a peasant is preparing the rice paddy with a water buffalo (left) before rice seedlings are planted (right). Opposite, a chain pump provides water for the rice paddy (top), and peasants harvest the rice by hand (bottom). (Vocabulary)
harrow a farm tool used to break up and even out plowed ground Page 189
to prepare fields for planting. Farmers began using fertilizer to produce larger crops. A device called a chain pump helped farmers irrigate land at the edges of lakes, marshes, and rivers. To grow rice on hillsides, farmers created flat areas called terraces. More and more land was devoted to farming, and landowners became wealthier.
Characteristics of the New Agriculture Imagine visiting a farming area in southern China during the 13th century. Small farms cover every bit of suitable land. Terraced hillsides spread as far as the eye can see. Rice grows on the terraces in flooded fields called paddies. Elaborate irrigation systems crisscross the paddies, bringing water where it’s needed.
Early in the growing season, you can see water buffaloes pulling a plow and harrow to level the fields and prepare them for planting. The seeds have been growing in seedbeds for a month. Now workers will transplant the young plants to the paddy.
Growing rice takes a lot of hard work done by many hands. In the fields, large numbers of workers walk backward as they transplant the rice plants in straight rows. Two months from now, the workers will harvest the rice by hand.
Before and during the growing season, the rice paddy has to be constantly watered and drained. Dams, dikes, gated channels, and chain pumps help to move water into and out of the paddies.
Although rice is the main crop, peasants also grow tea, cotton, and sugar. To feed silkworms, they grow mulberry trees. In the southern hill area, you see tea plants. The Chinese had once used tea only as medicine. But by the ninth century, tea was the national drink. Tea drinking became a social custom, and teahouses became popular. To meet the demand, farmers grew more tea.
Results of Agricultural Changes The shift to rice growing was an important development for China. First, it increased food production. The abundance of food helped support a larger population. For the first time, China’s population grew to more than 100 million people.
With ample food, peasants could take time away from farming to make silk, cotton cloth, and other products to sell or trade. Rice farmers could also market their surplus rice. Landowners became rich enough from growing rice to buy luxury items. All these changes encouraged the growth of trade and commerce, which we will look at next. (Vocabulary)
chain pump a pump with containers attached to a loop of chain to lift water and carry it where it is wanted Page 190
17.3 The Growth of Trade and Commerce
Trade and commerce had already begun growing during the Tang dynasty. Tang emperors eased restrictions on merchants, and they actively promoted trade. Products like rice, silk, tea, jade, and porcelain traveled along trade routes to India, Arabia, and Europe. Under the Song, business activity blossomed even more.
Reasons for Growth in Trade and Commerce One reason for the growth of trade and commerce was that wealthy landowners were eager to buy luxuries. The demand for luxuries encouraged traders as well as Chinese artisans, who made silk and other goods.
Commerce was also helped by water transportation. A vast network of rivers and canals connected different parts of China. Farmers in central China could ship their rice north along the Grand Canal. Busy boat owners had plenty of business, because it was cheaper and faster to move goods by water than by road. A barge could travel 45 miles a day, compared to 25 miles a day for an oxcart.
Improvements in navigation helped increase overseas trade. Navigational charts and diagrams, along with the magnetic compass (a Chinese invention), made it easier for sailors to find their way on long voyages.
With so much buying and selling going on, people needed more currency. During the 11th century, the government minted huge numbers of copper coins—so many that there was a copper shortage. Moneylenders began issuing paper money to merchants. The idea caught on, and the government printed paper money in large quantities. The increase in currency further spurred the growth of commerce.
Characteristics of China’s Commercial Growth Let’s take a trip on the waterways of China in the 13th century. Our first stop is at a market town along a canal. The canal is crowded with barges loaded with rice and other goods. The barges are sailed, rowed, or pushed along with the help of long poles. Oxcarts and pack animals trudge along the roads and over the bridges that cross the canal. Peasants are coming to town to sell their surplus crops and animals, as well as things they have made at home, such as silk, charcoal, and wine.
On the streets and bridges, merchants have set up small shops to attract customers who are visiting the city. Street peddlers sell goods from the packs they carry.
You also see “deposit shops” where merchants trade long strings of copper coins for paper money. Paper money is much easier to carry around, but unlike copper, it has no value in itself. If there is too much paper money in (Vocabulary)
barge a long boat with a flat bottom
currency the form of money used in a country Page 191
circulation, it loses its value. For this reason, the government controls the amount of paper money that is available. It also threatens to cut off the heads of counterfeiters (people who print fake money).
Let’s continue our journey to a port city on the eastern coast. In the harbor, men are loading silk, ceramics, sugar, and rice wine into sailing vessels called junks. These ships are big enough to hold several hundred men. Notice their sails, which are made of bamboo matting. The junks will soon depart for Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, India, the East Indies, and even Africa. They will return loaded with indigo, spices, silver, ivory, and coral.
Results of Growth in Trade and Commerce The increase in trade and commerce had several effects. First, it resulted in the growth of the merchant class. Second, business activity brought increased prosperity, giving China the highest standard of living in the world. Third, many commercial centers grew into big cities. You’ll learn about China’s increasing urbanization in the next section. (Caption)
Commerce greatly expanded in China under the Song dynasty. This scene shows commercial life in the northern Song city of Kai-Feng during the 13th century. Page 192
Urbanization increased during the Song dynasty as cities sprouted up all over China. Chinese cities became the largest in the world. The city of Hangzhou had perhaps 2 million people within its walls. It’s no wonder that Marco Polo was impressed with the cities he visited. European cities of this period had no more than 50,000 residents.
Reasons for Urbanization Why did the growth of cities increase under the Song? One answer is that the growth of commerce encouraged people to move to cities and towns. There, people could make a living as merchants, traders, peddlers, and shopkeepers. In addition, landowners left their farms because they preferred the shops and social life of the cities. More people brought still more opportunities for business, and cities grew even larger.
Characteristics of Cities China’s cities at this time were crowded, exciting places. The crowds in Hangzhou astonished Marco Polo. He wrote, “Anyone seeing such a multitude would believe it impossible that food could be found to feed them all, and yet on every market day all the market squares are filled with people and with merchants who bring food on carts and boats.”
Let’s stroll through a typical 13th-century city. The streets are filled with rich landowners, merchants, traders, moneylenders, and visiting peasants eager to sell their surplus crops. Signs in the market area identify the goods sold in each shop—silk, silver, pearls, food items, fans, lacquerware, porcelain, and many more.
In the entertainment area musicians, jugglers, acrobats, and puppeteers perform outdoors. There are theaters, restaurants, wine shops, and teahouses. Food vendors carrying trays of food on their heads provide plenty to eat.
You might be surprised to see young girls whose feet are so tightly bound with cloth that their toes are bent under. The girls will grow up to have tiny feet, which the Chinese consider beautiful. But they will also have difficulty walking. (Caption)
As population increased and commerce grew, huge cities like Kai-Feng developed. These two scenes are part of a 15-foot scroll called Ch’ing Ming Festival on the River. Page 193
This custom of foot binding first became common during the Song dynasty. It marked a decline in the status of women. Some followers of neo-Confucianism taught that women were inferior to men. In addition, women in cities did not take part in farmwork. In the countryside, women enjoyed greater status because they did do farmwork.
Results of Urbanization The growth of cities changed the way many ordinary Chinese lived. Cities were vibrant centers of activity, from buying and selling to hobbies and board games. Public works projects provided employment for many city dwellers. Urbanization also stimulated culture, giving artists an audience of wealthy, leisured people. Paintings produced during the Song period are considered some of the finest in the world. 17.5 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you learned about changes in agriculture, trade and commerce, and urbanization during the Song dynasty. During this time, the center of Chinese civilization shifted from the north to the south. The south’s warm, wet climate was ideal for growing rice. Rice became China’s most important crop.
A new kind of rice seed and improvements in farming methods greatly increased rice production. This helped support a larger population. It also gave landowners money for buying luxuries, which stimulated the growth of commerce.
Commerce was also helped by a network of rivers and canals. Improvements in navigation made overseas trade easier. Traders and merchants supplied the goods people wanted to buy. As China moved to a money economy, the increase in currency helped business grow.
Commercial activity contributed to the growth of cities. Merchants, peasants, peddlers, and traders sold all kinds of goods. China enjoyed the highest standard of living in the world.
Chinese scientists and inventors also contributed to China’s prosperity. Next you’ll learn about some of their inventions and discoveries. Page 195
Chinese Discoveries and Inventions (Caption)
The first mechanical clock used a water wheel to create sounds every quarter hour. 18.1 Introduction
In Chapter 17, you learned about economic changes in China during the Song dynasty. In this chapter, you will explore discoveries and inventions made by the Chinese between about 200 and 1400 C.E. Many of these advances came during the Tang and Song dynasties.
Over the centuries, Chinese scholars and scientists studied engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine, among other subjects. Their studies led to impressive scientific and technological progress that was often far ahead of European advances.
To understand the importance of one Chinese invention, imagine that you are a trader in the 10th century. You are far out at sea on a Chinese junk loaded with goods you are bringing to Korea. Without any landmarks to guide you, how do you know which direction you’re headed? Normally you might steer by the sun or the stars. But what if clouds cover the sky? Can you still figure out which way to travel?
In the past, you might have been lost. But thanks to the magnetic compass, you can find your way. Your compass is a magnetized needle that aligns itself with the Earth’s magnetic poles so that one end points north and the other south. By the Song dynasty, the Chinese were using this type of compass to help them navigate on long voyages. People still use the same kind of device today.
Like the compass, other Chinese inventions and discoveries allowed people to do things they had never done before. In this chapter, you will learn about Chinese advances in exploration and travel, industry, military technology, everyday objects, and disease prevention. As you’ll see, the influence of many Chinese ideas reached far beyond China. (Caption)
Use this illustration of a scroll as a graphic organizer to help you remember the Chinese discoveries and inventions you learn about. Page 196
Several Chinese inventions made exploration and travel safer and faster. Some innovations benefited traders and other voyagers who ventured out to sea. Others improved travel on rivers, lakes, canals, and bridges inside China.
Improving Travel by Sea The Chinese developed the first compass as early as the third century B.C.E. The first Chinese compasses were pieces of a magnetic mineral called lodestone. The Earth itself is like a giant magnet with north and south poles. Because lodestone is magnetic, it is influenced by Earth’s magnetic poles. If you put a piece of lodestone on wood and float it in a bowl of water, the lodestone will turn until it points in a north-south direction.
The Chinese eventually replaced the lodestone with a steel needle. They had learned that rubbing a needle with lodestone made the needle magnetic. A needle used as a compass gave a more accurate reading than a piece of lodestone.
By the Song dynasty, the Chinese were using magnetic compasses for navigation at sea. Compasses made long sea voyages possible because sailors could figure out directions even without a landmark or a point in the sky to steer by. The compass remains an important navigational tool today.
The Chinese also made sea travel safer by improving boat construction. By the second century C.E., they discovered how to build ships with watertight compartments. Builders divided the ships into sections and sealed each section with caulk, a sealant that keeps out water. If there was a leak, it would be isolated in one compartment. The other compartments would stay dry, keeping the ship afloat. Modern shipbuilders still use this technique.
Improving Travel on Rivers, Lakes, Canals, and Bridges Within China, people often traveled by boat on rivers or across lakes. An invention called the paddlewheel boat speeded up this type of travel. (Caption)
Paddlewheel boats were easily maneuvered, which made them effective warships. Page 197
Have you ever paddled a canoe or other small boat? As you push your paddle through the water, the boat moves forward. In the fifth century, the Chinese adapted this idea by arranging a series of paddles in a wheel. As the paddlewheel turned, the paddles moved continuously through the water, causing the boat to move forward.
Paddlewheel boats allowed the Chinese to travel much faster on rivers and lakes. We still use this type of boat for pleasure trips today.
Another innovation, the canal lock, was invented in the 10th century, during the Song dynasty. As you’ve learned, the Chinese used canals extensively. As the surrounding land sloped up, parts of canals were at different levels. Before canal locks were invented, the Chinese had to drag their boats up stone ramps to reach water at a higher level. Sometimes the boats would be seriously damaged.
Canal locks solved this problem. When a boat entered the lock, a gate was lowered to hold in water. The water was then allowed to rise until it reached the level of the water up ahead. Then the boat floated on. To go “downhill,” water was let out of the lock until it fell to the level of the water down below.
The invention of locks made canal travel much easier. Locks could raise boats as much as 100 feet above sea level. They are used today on rivers and canals around the world, including the famous Panama Canal.
The Chinese also found ways to improve bridges. For example, in 610 C.E., a Chinese engineer invented a new type of arched bridge. In Europe, Roman-designed bridges rested on arches that were half-circles. The new Chinese bridge used arches that were a smaller part, or segment, of a circle. This made the bridges broader and flatter than semicircular arches. Called a