After the collapse of the Tang Dynasty, China once again spiraled into chaos. Muslims from Arabia took Central Asia, while Nomads from the North constantly harassed. Rival warlords divided China into separate provinces and controlled each individually. Then, in 960, Taizu untied all of China and became the very first Song emperor. During the Song empire, China's population skyrocketed to over one million, making it the most populous country in the world.
Science and Technology
Many new and innovative ideas came about during the Song Dynasty. Technological advances included:
gunpowder (was used to make bombs, grenades, cannons, etc.)
the movable typewriter (allowed for faster and more efficient production of written works)
porcelain (used in pottery)
the mechanical clock (easier timekeeping)
the magnetic compass (used by sailors to plot their course)
Mathematical advancements also came through, such as the creation of negative numbers.
China's vast population required vast amounts of food to support it. Chinese farmers needed to find a way to produce more crops within the same amount of time. Around the year 1,000, a new, fast-ripening rice was imported from Vietnam. The government proceeded to distribute this rice to all farmers. Its ability to ripen much faster than usual allowed for two crops to be harvested per year, doubling China's food production.
Due to the Muslim's taking of the Silk Road, Chinese traders had to find a new way to import and export goods. So they turned to the sea. Thanks to the magnetic compass, Chinese sailors were able to plot faster routes. Many port cities began popping up along China's southern coast, and Chinese trading posts were established around Southeast Asia. This constant exchange also included an exchange of ideas. Buddhism quickly spread from Asia, and even found followers within the Muslim-dominant Arabian Peninsula.
A change in society came about with the shift in power. Chinese society divided into multiple classes based on wealth. A large upper class, known as the gentry, expanded greatly under the Song Dynasty. The gentry were the most educated, due to the fact that they could afford education in the first place. Most gentry found jobs in the civil service, as government workers were required to be highly educated.
Women in Chinese society have always been degraded, but during the Song Dynasty, the status of women declined even further, especially among the upper class. A woman's work was deemed less important to a family than a man's. Peasant women, however, still pulled a fair amount of work in the field, and therefore the status of peasant women didn't decline as much as it did to the wealthy. A common practice among upper class women was to have a "lily foot". At a very young age, girls' feet were bound tightly, eventually breaking the arch of the foot and allowing it to heal incorrectly. These women were crippled for life, but to marry a woman with a lily foot was a sign of wealth and prestige for the husband.