Week 4: Reforms in Song China

Lecture 1: A Matter of Government

Recap: Song . . . Khitans/Liao . . . Tanguts/Xia

I. Domestic Legacies of the Tang Dynasty

  1. Agricultural and commercial expansion
    1. Population increase
    2. Increased importance of the Yangzi valley
    3. Retreat of the state
  2. Decline of the aristocracy
    1. The shi class
    2. Civil service examinations

II. Nature of the Song State

  1. Centralization of power
  2. Bureaucratism
  3. Factionalism

Lecture 2: The Culture of Politics

I. Political Concerns in Eleventh-Century China

  1. Treaty of Shanyuan (1005; Khitans/Liao)
  2. Treaty of 1044 (Tanguts/Xia)

II. Early Eleventh-Century Reformers

  1. Fan Zhongyan (989–1052)—”Ten-Point Memorial” (1043)
  2. Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072)—”On Parties” (1045)

III. Righteous Ministers I—Wang Anshi (1021–1086) . . . “Ten Thousand Word Memorial” (1058)

  1. State finance—Financial planning commission (2nd month of 1069) . . . Tribute transport and distribution system (7th month) . . . Hired-service system (10th month of 1070) . . . Land survey (8th month of 1072) . . . Guild exemption tax (ninth month of 1073)
  2. Economy—Farm loans (9th month of 1069) . . . State trade system (3rd month of 1072) . . .
  3. Defense—Mutual surveillance (bao jia) system (12th month 1070) . . . Horse-breeding system (5th month of 1072) . . . Directorate of Weapons (6th month of 1073)
  4. Education and civil service—Reform of the examination system (3rd month of 1070) . . . Reorganization of the National Academy (ninth month of 1071) and establishment of local schools . . . Introduction of Law as a field (third month of 1073) . . . Institutionalization of government clerks (12th month of 1070)

IV. Righteous Ministers II—Sima Guang (1019-1086) . . . The Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government (1072–1084)

V. Political Culture of Song China (or What do you do when you end up with a lot of smart people?)


  1. What are the main points of Wang Anshi's "Ten Thousand Word Memorial"? What did Wang find lacking in the Song government?
  2. On what grounds did Sima Guang oppose Wang's reforms?
  3. What can one conclude about the Song political culture from the exchange between Wang Anshi and Sima Guang?


External links to Maps:

Northern Song

Physical Map

Map of Modern China: Physical Geography

Source: National Museum of Chinese History, ed., A Journey into China's Antiquity, vol. 1 (Beijing: Morning Glory Publishers, 1997), pp. 8–9.


Physical Map by Satellite

Map of Modern China: Physical Geography

Administrative Map

Map of Modern China: Administrative Divisions

Source: SACU



Wang Anshi



  • Bol, Peter K. "This Culture of Ours": Intellectual Transitions in T'ang and Sung China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992.
  • Hymes, Robert P., and Conrad Schirokauer. Ordering the World: Approaches to State and Society in Sung Dynasty China. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993.
  • Ji, Xiao-bin, Politics and Conservatism in Northern Song China The Career and Thought of Sima Guang (1019-1086). Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2004.
  • Levine, Ari Daniel. Divided by a Common Language: Factional Conflict in Late Northern Song China. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008.
  • Liu, James T. C. Reform in Sung China: Wang An-shih (1021-1086) and His New Policies. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1957.
  • Smith, Paul J. Taxing Heaven's Storehouse: Horses, Bureaucrats, and the Destruction of the Sichuan Tea Industry, 1074-1224. Cambridge, Mass.: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1991
  • Chaffee, John W., and Denis Twitchett, eds. The Cambridge History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. doi:10.1017/cho9781139193061.


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