Sung Dynasty (red) in 625
|-||Establishment of Ming Dynasty||625|
|Today part of||Ming Dynasty|
The Sung Dynasty was a country played by Christos200 in SouthernKing's Kashmir. For most of its existence its economic and military might was without equal. It was by far the richest state in the world and undertook numerous public works projects while giving pensions to the elderly and unemployed. It also had the largest army and one of the largest navies in the world. The Sung Dynasty was also a golden age for poetry and mathematics. Sung was an absolute monarchy but usually the power concentrated in the hands of capable Imperial Chancellors.
The Dynasty was founded in 319 by Wang Jong. In 506, Sung conquered the state of Liao but since then followed an isolationist foreign policy. A succession of capable Emperors and Chancellors ensured a century of prosperity. A plague in 610 caused a collapse of the Emperor's authority and the country was ravaged by warlordism until the establishment of the Ming Dynasty in 625 after the overthrow of the last Emperor by a palace coup.
The Han Dynasty, after years of trials and tribulations, finally collapsed in the early late second century, replaced by the chaotic Three Kingdoms period, with the kingdoms of Wu, Shu, and Wei clashing for control. This lasted just under a century, with Wei emerging victorious. It appeared that unity had returned to China - alas, it was not to be. A coup in 265 resulted in Wei being overthrown and the formation of a short-lived Jin dynasty, which would only last a half century until another period of civil war, the War of the Eight Princes, broke out in the 310s. Ultimately, the Jin dynasty was ousted. The civil war would continue for several more years, until Wang Jong, the former Jin grand commander, with the support of the peasantry himself overthrow the last Jin claimant and declared himself Emperor, the first of the Sung dynasty. The Sung finally brought peace to the country, though it remained unable to reconquer the north from invaders, and had largely pressured programs of land redistribution to the peasants at the expense of the upper classes. The dynasty almost fell in 420 thanks to a coup by the Sung chancellor, but a cousin of the imperial family escaped and led a peasant rebellion, ending the interregnum in 425.
Yangdi Emperor (498 - 535)Edit
The Yangdi Emperor came to the throne in 498. He relied upon the powerful Imperial Chancellor Yang Guo. In 501, the King of Liao, seeing the writing on the wall with the growing strength of the dynasty of the Great Sung, accepted an offer of protection – he would retain sovereignty as a Governor-General of Liao. However, under the command of the Imperial Chancellor Yang Guo, an imperial army was quickly dispatched to the border between the two realms. As if this was not a worrying enough situation for Liao, in the next several years peasant revolts began springing up, especially in the north and east of the kingdom. With the Liao army distracted, their worst fears were confirmed in 504 when Yang Guo’s army crossed the border with clear hostile intent. The brilliant techniques used by Yang Guo in this campaign were recorded down to history. Amongst them was the hiring of an almost equal sized army of prostitutes to travel with that of the Sung, preventing much of the sexual destruction that is almost natural with war, along with harsh punishment for any war crimes. The humaneness of the Sung, coupled with forced land redistributions and punishments for accused corrupt Liao officials, meant that the Liao peasants greeted the army as liberators, and openly undermined the defense. The weak and distracted Liao army stood little chance, and despite some sporadic Liao victories in skirmishes aided by the terrain, by and large by 506 the campaign was concluded, the Liao court in custody, and the area incorporated seamlessly into the Empire.
Less further afield, after the defeat of Liao the Great Sung also spent a great deal of money on an empire-wide irrigation improvement project and the Yangdi Emperor ordered a council of imperial scholars, led by Ling Wei, to categorize and codify the laws of all the realm under one. This would become known as the Yangdi Code. The adoption of the Yangdi Code was a great success in unifying and tying together the scattered local laws of the state, meaning that, even in the areas once belonging to the Liao kingdom, the empire’s coherency and stability were higher than they have ever been. Thus, it was an era of peace and prosperity in China, as with the lands more and more redistributed to the peasants, they could enjoy a greater standard of living than any others in history.
Another landmark event occurred in 508, when the harbor of Guangzhou was suddenly filled by a truly immense fleet of quite strange ships, crewed by dark-skinned men. This treasure fleet claimed to come from a faraway land called “Yibram,” which was in a perpetual struggle against another land, “Madagascar,” supposedly an island that the Yibri were beginning to conquer. The Chinese and Yibri exchanged words and goods. Ultimately, a few of the Yibri stayed and established a presence in Guangzhou’s foreign quarter. The rest returned with a great amount of gold, some Chinese texts, and a great deal of sailing experience.
Yangdi's reign was a golden age for poetry in China. Perhaps one of the pivotal events in launching this golden age was the marriage of the aging Yangdi Emperor to Suren, a princess of the Rouran Khanate, in a diplomatic move that helped forge a lasting peace between the two East Asian realms. The marriage was a happy one, and despite a large age gap the two had strong feelings for each other. Court poets immediately set out writing love poems, in the efforts of winning the lovestruck Emperor’s favor, and the ensuing growth led to a national blossoming of poetry, advancing the country’s cultural prowess.
The Yangdi Emperor’s illustrious reign began to come to an end in 530, when the aging emperor had his eldest son and heir, Chang Yang, crowned as co-emperor; a stroke of genius that would prevent any succession crisis. Five years later, Yangdi would retire – thus beginning the sole rule of the Qianglong Emperor, whose reign would see the continued prosperity of his predecessor.
Qianlong Emperor (535 - 580)Edit
The real power in Chinese domestic affairs during the first years of Qianlong's reign was the imperial chancellor, Yang Guo, whose Treatise on Military Efficiency had become the standard for Chinese military texts. Between 530 and Yang Guo’s death, at the age of 80, in 541, a number of reforms and programs were initiated by the eminent chancellor. A large number of roads through the countryside were paved and constructed according to a plan by three mathematicians; schools and universities for the country’s scholars were constructed in towns across China; and, most far-reaching of all, at Yang Guo’s behest, the state began providing pensions for some of the elderly and unemployed. Some of these were popular, others were, suffice to say, not. The conservative faction of scholars balked strongly at the last one, citing it an unnecessary expense and an unnecessary involvement of the state in economic matters. Still, the Qianglong Emperor’s high opinion of the chancellor and his policies meant that they stayed, years after Yang Guo’s death.
After Yang Guo's death, the increasingly powerful position of Imperial Chancellor of Great Sung fell to one Xiang Yaoshi, a remarkably young man for the post. Xiang’s main concern lay at sea – he proposed a new doctrine: “the dragon rides the waves,” he famously declared to the Qianlong Emperor. To this end, the size of the imperial fleet was greatly expanded. Ports and harbors were constructed at grand scales in dozens of coastal towns and cities. The port construction efforts in Great Sung were overseen by a eunuch mathematician named Jia Xian, best known for his work on the so-called “Jia Xian triangle,” a mathematical tool in which each number in a growing pyramid is the sum of the two numbers above it. His work was able to increase the efficiency of Chinese ports significantly. The newly expanded Sung fleet made a grand tour of sorts amongst a few of its neighboring countries – ports in Champa, Baekje, and Hirajima all saw visits by Chinese “dragon ships,” instilling fear and wonder both in observers. In any case, all these countries were shaken by this.
In the 560s the Kamchachans, barbarians from the north, took over most of the Chinese territories of the Rouran Khanate. During his last years as Emperor, Qianlong was concerned with those people. In 580 he retired to a life of seclusion in a distant Taoist temple.
Taizong Emperor (580 - 625)Edit
In 580 a prince named Chang Wu ascended to the Heavenly Throne as Taizong Emperor. He build a long line of fortifications along the Sung northern border, providing added security against northern invaders. This, and the subsequent construction of a great Taoist temple on Wudang mountain, were the landmarks of the reign. Jia Xian became Imperial Chancellor in 583, after Xiang Yaoshi’s death via heart attack. The imperial preference for Taoism continued, as an expedition of Taoist scholars was dispatched to the Kingdom of Kamarupa, where an intellectual community of considerable size grew, and with it, increasing cultural imports and intermingling across the mountains.
A golden age – especially in poetry – was brought to a dramatic halt, after 610, due to a sudden sequence of outbreaks of a deadly and fearsome plague, reportedly brought in from Nusantara. City after city, it struck, killing tens of thousands, and often causing entire villages to be abandoned. Starving peasants more often than not wound up rioting against each other, warlordism became rampant for a brief few years in the countryside, and all China seemed to be in a horrid state of decay. More importantly, it badly weakened the bureaucratic structures that held up the Empire of All Under Heaven. The disease, however, seemed to fizzle out by the time it reached the north; which was by and large spared, as were areas such as the Rouran. Smaller outbreaks were reported in Korean and Japanese cities, but to large part those regions survived it relatively unscathed.
Establishment of the Ming DynastyEdit
A powerful court clique of Five Eunuchs decided enough was enough. Along with Wang Yang, Imperial Minister of Rites, and General Huang Ming, they invited the Emperor into the throne room for a supposedly important meeting, whereupon the Emperor was promptly met with hundreds of arrows. The last Emperor of the Sung Dynasty quickly passed away. In the chaos that ensued, a purge of Sung loyalists began; a brief rebellion at the hands of loyalist general Jiang Ling ended quickly when a spy in the army killed Jiang with a wooden pole. Huang Ming was quickly elevated to the Emperorship, and, to gain popular support, distributed two-thirds of the palace’s stocks of gold directly to the people.
The new Ming – “bright” – Dynasty quickly set about consolidating its rule. Brutal military campaigns throughout the countryside – by the so-called Army of Heaven – brought the warlords back in line. And a program of hospital building in the cities was initiated. Sung-era pensions for the lower classes were continued. But it was clear that the eunuchs were solidly in power in this new dynasty – the Five Eunuchs quickly assumed the role of an Imperial Council which replaced the Sung-era Ministries.