The Southern Song
The Civil & the Martial
 
The Threat from the North
The Liao, the Xi Xia & the Jin
The threat from the north confronted by the Song was one of the most basic justifications for the state-strengthening policies Wang Anshi had advocated. ... The northern neighbors of the Song all had Chinese ministers advising them, used some of the language and symbols of the Chinese imperial state, and adopted Chinese patterns of bureaucracy and taxation to administer any Chinese territories they conquered. This adaptation can be seen most clearly in the Khitan people ... [who] took advantage of the turmoil of the Five Dynasties (907-960) to proclaim their own Liao dynasty and to occupy the area around modern Beijing, which they made their southern capital, and parts of the north-central frontier around the modern city of Datong. In 946 they raided all the way to the Yellow River, overthrowing one of the short-lived north Chinese dynasties. Developing separate Khitan and Chinese bureaucracies and drawing some talented Chinese officials into their service, the Liao held on to their conquered territories and taxed and administered them in Chinese fashion. ... The situation was further complicated by the emergence on the northwest frontier of a vigorous multiethnic state with a Tangut ruling elite, which occupied some important trading centers in the 1030s and proclaimed itself the Xia, as in the name of the first dynasty; the Chinese called it the Xi (Western) Xia. ...
All this was dramatically changed by the rebellion in 1102 of the king of the Jurchen people, inhabiting what is now the northern part of northeast China, against the Liao. In 1115 the Jurchen king proclaimed himself the first emperor of the Jin (Gold) dynasty. Jin power expanded rapidly in the face of the weakening Liao. ... In a planned joint campaign in 1122, the Song armies were not able to advance against the weakened Liao even enough to retake the Liao southern capital, and they had to stand idly by while the Jin took it. The Jin refused to honor fully the territorial division agreed on in 1120, since the Song had contributed so little to the defeat of Liao. The Jin went on to finish off the remnants of Liao, picked a quarrel with the Song, and in 1125 mounted a great two-pronged attack on the north China plain. [Emperor] Huizong abdicated in a vain attempt at appeasement. The capital fell at the end of 1126; in 1127 the Jin armies withdrew to their home bases, taking with them the abdicated Huizong and his successor. [Mountain of Fame, 168-170]
 
 
[T]he Jin were finding it hard to keep control of the north China plain. ... In 1137 the Jin abolished it and made serious overtures to Gaozong’s court for peace negotiations. ... Control of Henan would be handed back to the Song. The coffins of Huizong and a dowager empress who had died in captivity would be returned for proper mourning and burial. But the conditions would be humiliating: the Song would have to acknowledge the ceremonial superiority of the Jin and send substantial gifts of silk and silver every year. Gaozong insisted that he was ready to bear these humiliations for filial piety’s sake, that is, so that the imperial coffins could be brought back. And of course peace would lessen his dependence on the generals. A humiliating peace, in which the Southern Song emperors were not even called emperors and their regime was simply called Jiangnan, south of the river, not Song, was concluded early in 1139. [Mountain of Fame, 176-7]
 
Yue Fei was born in 1103 to a family that apparently was literate but farmed the land and had only the most modest heritage of official rank. ... [He] is said to have been an excellent and diligent student, sometimes reading and writing all night. ... But he also was very much interested in military pursuits. ... It was as if this obscure young provincial already was casting himself as the realizer of all the Song moralists’ exhortations to selfless public service and at the same time as the reintegrator of the civil and military virtues, of wen and wu, that had drifted so far apart in the eleventh century. [Mountain of Fame, 171]
 
“serve the country with utmost loyalty”
盡忠報國
jin zhong bao guo
 
Loyal Soldier?
Potential Threat?

With [his victories against the Dongting Lake rebels] late in 1135 Yue’s power and prestige reached new heights. He received new honors and titles and was granted wide powers to make official appointments in the area under his control. ... Circumstances looked reasonably favorable for Yue to accomplish something in his great cause and for the Song to regain its mountains and rivers ... but then he made what may have been a crucial mistake. Gaozong’s older brother, who had been briefly enthroned in 1126 and then taken away by the Jin, still was alive in captivity, and if the Jin decided to set him up as a puppet, he might provide a dangerous alternative focus of power. ... Yue brought [up the question of naming an heir] in audience with Gaozong. He emerged ashen-faced, evidently realizing that he had gone too far. Gaozong professed to admire Yue’s frankness, but it seems that from this time on he was wary of any measure that would give still more power to this impetuous soldier who did not know his place. [Mountain of Fame, 175-6]
  • Why might Gaozong have changed his attitude towards Yue Fei after this event?
  • Was Yue Fei a loyal soldier or a potential threat?
 
In 1140 the Jin broke the new treaty and invaded Song territory along several fronts, avoiding the sector where Yue’s army was stationed. ... Gaozong and his ministers, among whom Qin Gui now was the most influential, were wary of the consequences of advances in the north but approved Yues plans for a campaign. With Yue and his son personally leading cavalry charges, the Jin forces were defeated in battle after battle and the Song occupied several of the great cities of Henan, approaching [the] old capital of Kaifeng. ...
 
 
But if Yue’s forces advanced … they would be in a dangerously exposed position, where a defeat might open the way for the Jin to advance again and threaten the Yangzi valley. A victory might leave Gaozong’s court at the mercy of this impetuous general with his alarming views on the question of imperial succession. Yue was ordered to withdraw from his conquests on the north China plain. He said, “My ten years of effort are destroyed in a single day! It is not that I have not been able to fulfill my responsibilities, but that the powerful official Qin Gui truly has deceived His Majesty!” But he was a loyal minister, and he did withdraw. [Mountain of Fame, 177-8]
 
 
[Imprisoned by Qin Gui on trumped up charges, which were dismissed by the judicial authorities,] Qin finally sent orders to the prison officials, and just before Chinese New Year Yue was murdered in prison, either by poison or by strangling. His son was executed, the family’s property was confiscated, and many records of his career were destroyed.
 
This weakness of culturally approved forms of military success certainly was a major source of the nonmobilizing character of the Chinese state. [Mountain of Fame, 180]
 
 
In 1141 Qin Gui also managed to secure a peace treaty with the Jin, ceding more territory and promising ceremonial subordination and larger annual presents. ... Beginning in 1161, after a new Jin invasion, Yue’s honors were [posthumously] restored and there were new  plans and abortive efforts to reconquer the north. Legends of Yue’s heroism continued to grow. In some places, especially near Hangzhou, temples were erected to his memory.
 
 
 
Outside these temples were statues of a kneeling Qin Gui; those who came to pay their respects to Yue were expected to spit on Qin as they passed. For some Yue became a warrior spirit who could be worshipped or summoned in trance, although far less widely venerated than Guan Yu. [Mountain of Fame, 179]


The Loss of the North
Consequences
An enormous number of people fled to the south … in the early twelfth century. Hundreds of thousands of people, including twenty thousand high officials, tens of thousands of their office staff, and over four hundred thousand military and their families moved to the new capital of Hangzhou and its surrounding towns. ... Even as the total population of China — in both the north and the south — remained around one hundred million, the number of men studying for the exams grew dramatically. In  some districts after 1200 as many as three hundred men competed for one slot — a far higher ratio than had existed earlier. Scholars agree that the increased interest in the examinations must have raised the literacy rate, with some estimating that one in ten men, but many fewer women, could read.
 
 
Although more men were taking the examinations, more were also exercising the shadow privilege, with the result that the number of positions going to those who had passed the open examinations declined throughout the dynasty. In 1046, 57 percent of the new officials had passed the regular, nonpreferential exams; in 1213 only 27 percent did so, with the bulk of the remaining positions going to those who had used the shadow privilege. [The Open Empire, 257-70]
 

The Gentry Class
The Emphasis on Local Society
In the years before the fall of the north, powerful bureaucratic families had assumed that their sons would pursue careers in officialdom. But the factional infighting between the classicists and the historicists forced them to rethink their strategies. When the classicists banned all the sons of leading historicist families from taking the examinations, they cut off what had been a certain career course — preparation for the examinations, sitting for the exams, and taking office. The powerful historicist families had to devise career paths outside the bureaucracy, and when the tables were turned and the historicists banned the sons of the classicists from taking the exams, they too had to shift gears.
      
These once prominent families turned away from government service. Instead they lived on their estates and devoted themselves to local society. They donated money to religious institutions, to Buddhist or Daoist monasteries, and to popular temples. They sought to help their communities and incidentally to enhance their local reputations by building bridges and roads, distributing grain during famine, and making loans to the needy. They also organized the all-important local militia, which tried to keep order. 
[The Open Empire, 268-9]
 

The Confucian Revival
The years following the fall of the north saw a change in the type of person worshiped in [Confucian shrines to worthy men]. The famous men who had held positions in the central government were joined by less famous men who had even occasionally been rejected by the state. These were intensely learned men, but men whose contemporaries misunderstood them. One such figure, Gao Deng, had joined the thousands of students who urged the emperor to declare war on the Jurchens who had just taken the north. A meeting with the prime minister who made peace with the Jurchens led to Gao’s first demotion; his second demotion came after he wrote an examination question critical of that minister. He never served again in the government. Zhu Xi (1130-1200) one of the leading Confucian thinkers of his generation, wrote a text commemorating Gao’s virtues, and he said: “The whole day long, like a torrent, he spoke of nothing but being a filial son and loyal minister and of sacrificing one’s life in favor of righteousness. Those who heard him were in awe; their souls were moved and their spirits lifted.” Gao was able to live a life of virtue and learning, both Confucian values, because he had not served the corrupt government that had failed to win back the north. [The Open Empire, 267-8]
 
 
Starting in 1181, Zhu Xi (1130-1200) taught at the White Deer Academy, where he stressed that the goal of education was moral self-cultivation, not the pursuit of civil service examination degrees. The students studied the Confucian classics, especially The Analects, Mencius, and two chapters taken from the Book of Rites [collectively known as the Four Books]. At the time, these texts were already circulating among Buddhist monks interested in learning more about Confucian teachings, but Zhu Xi taught that they offered the best models for those wanting to understand the Way of the ancient sages. Zhu stressed “apprehending the principle in things” (sometimes translated as “the investigation of things”), the cornerstone of his Neo-Confucian teachings. If someone very carefully examined the world around him and the teachings contained in the classics, he could perceive the pattern, or principle, underlying all human affairs.

Zhu Xi and his followers also encouraged members of the community to help one another without causing the government to intervene, although their plans enjoyed little success. They founded community granaries, which, unlike Wang Anshi’s ever-level granaries, were to be run privately by local people, not government officials. Like Wang Anshi’s Green Sprouts reforms, the private granaries also lost money, and all were defunct by 1308.
       The significance of the private academies and community granaries was that they expressed the growing suspicion of government institutions among those who advocated the Confucian revival. Shut out of the examination system, these men chose to dedicated themselves to a new ideal. They wanted to attain sagehood, not by government service but by devotion to the community. From the very beginning, Confucius and his followers had been torn about whether to join government as ministers, and most had not. The students of Zhu Xi and the other Confucian revivalists looked to Confucius himself as a model. They claimed to have a direct line of transmission of the Way from him, and they thought they could best pass on his teachings outside of the government. [The Open Empire, 271-2]