chapter  Chapter 8
20 Pages


A Golden Age
ByRhoads Murphey, Kristin Stapleton

This chapter presents what many Chinese consider the greatest period in their history: the Tang and Song dynasties. The Chinese cultural and political tradition was carried on in indigenous hands by a succession of rival dynasties vying for supremacy in the south, which was enriched by a flood of wealthy and educated refugees from the north. Under Tang rule China achieved a new high point in prosperity, cultural sophistication, and imperial power. The Tang is credited with extending the function of the Han civil service examinations to the recruitment of officials, not just for promotion. China in the eleventh century probably produced more iron, steel, and metal goods than the whole of Europe until the mid-eighteenth century and similarly preceded Europe by seven centuries in smelting and heating with coal. The Yangzi delta and the southeast coast had long been China’s commercial center, with the help of high productivity and easy movement of goods by river, sea, and canal.