Chapter 9 Responses
Margin Review Questions
1. Why are the centuries of the Tang and Song dynasties in China sometimes referred to as a “golden age”? • During this period, China reached a cultural peak, setting standards of excellence in poetry, landscape painting, and ceramics. • Particularly during the Song dynasty, there was an explosion of scholarship that gave rise to Neo- Confucianism. • Politically, the Tang and Song dynasties built a state structure that endured for a thousand years. • Tang and Song dynasty China experienced an economic revolution that made it the richest empire on earth. • Population grew rapidly, from 50 million–60 million people during the Tang dynasty to 120 million by 1200, spurred in part by a remarkable growth in agricultural production. • During this period, China possessed dozens of cities of over 100,000 people and a capital at Hangzhou with a population of over a million people. • Industrial production soared during the period, and technological innovation flourished, including the invention of printing and gunpowder, along with innovations in navigation and shipbuilding that led the world. • The economy of China became the most highly commercialized in the world, producing for the market rather than for local consumption.
2. In what ways did women’s lives change during the Tang and Song dynasties? • Chinese women of the Tang dynasty era, at least in the north, had participated in social life with greater freedom than in classical times. This was because of the influence of steppe nomads, whose women led less restricted lives. • But the revival of Confucianism and rapid economic growth during the Song dynasty resulted in the tightening of patriarchal restrictions on women. These new restrictions were perhaps most strikingly on display in the practice of foot binding. • In the textile industry, urban workshops and state factories increasingly took over the skilled tasks of weaving textiles that had previously been the work of rural women. • Growing wealth and urban environments offered women opportunities as restaurant operators, sellers of vegetables and fish, maids, cooks, or dressmakers. • The growing prosperity of elite families funneled increasing numbers of women into roles as concubines, entertainers, courtesans, and prostitutes. This trend reduced the ability of wives to negotiate as equals with their husbands, and it set women against one another. • Some positive trends in the lives of women occurred during the Song dynasty. Women saw their property rights expanded, and in some quarters, the education of women was advocated as a way to better prepare their sons for civil service exams.
3. How did the Chinese and their nomadic neighbors to the north view each other? • The nomadic neighbors saw China as the source of grain, other agricultural products, and luxury goods. • They also viewed China as a threat, because the Chinese periodically directed their military forces deep into the steppes, built the Great Wall to keep the nomads out, and often proved unwilling to allow pastoral peoples easy access to trading opportunities within China. • The Chinese saw the nomads as a military threat. • But they also needed the nomads, whose lands were the source of horses, which were essential to the Chinese military, and of other products, including skins, furs, hides, and amber. • Also, the nomads controlled much of the Silk Road trading network, which funneled goods from the West into China.
4. What assumptions underlay the tribute system? • Several assumptions underlay the tribute system, such as that China was the “middle kingdom,” the center of the world, infinitely superior to the “barbarian” peoples beyond its borders; that China was self-sufficient, requiring little from the outside world, while barbarians sought access to China’s wealth and wisdom; and that the Chinese might provide access to their wealth and wisdom under certain controlled conditions in the