External Pressure as Catalyst for the Greatness of the Song Dynasty

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The Song dynasty was the beginning of modern China. This era was marked by a flourishing economy, a deep distinctively Chinese culture, and technological revolutions. From the beginning to the end the Song dynasty was under a constant threat from northern tribes that coveted the wealth of the Song. The powerful states that surrounded the Song dynasty crushed all hopes for expansion. The Song was forced to focus on developing their own country instead of conquering others. Without the opportunity to expand and a military threat on the borders the Song were forced to either flourish or perish. The hostile states that looked enviously on the wealth and prosperity of the Song were a main factor in the economic and cultural greatness that they desired.

The Song dynasty was under constant military threat, the threat led to a “stimulated centralization of government power” and “improvements in military technology” (Illustrated 138). Nearly seventy five percent of Song expenditures were spent on military equipment and research. Under threat of northern invasion Song engineers developed gunpowder, incendiary grenades delivered by catapults, and military strategy manuals. The song maintained an army of nearly 1,250,000 men “the government manufactured armaments in huge quantities, arrowheads by the tens of millions per year, amour by tens of thousands” (Illustrated 138). The massive military expenditures helped spur industrial growth. In 1078 the Song dynasty was mining 125,000 tons of iron ore per year, which is “greater than Great Britain in 1950” (lecture 10/12). The ability to smelt the ore was “seven hundred years ahead of Europe, very advanced for its time” (lecture 10/12). Massive military growth and constant spending on indus...

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... (sourcebook 175). Zhu Xi saw Buddhism as foreign and un-Chinese, after his death the government official adopted his position and made his commentaries of the classics mandatory.

The foreigners on the borders did not have the most direct role in the technological, agricultural, and economical achievements in the Song dynasty, but without the hostile states on the border the series of events that led to prosperity never would have occurred. The denser population in the south that led to more productive farms and a burgeoning economy is a direct result of the threat of foreign invaders. The military spending helped spur advances in metallurgy and helped expand industries was only done from the hostile intentions of neighbors. Without the hostile states surrounding it the Song tribe never would have been forced into the greatness that the Song dynasty is known for.
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