We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Change over Time in Postclassical China

The whole doc is available only for registered users

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now

The era of the Tang and Song Dynasties is considered the Golden Age of Post-classical China. During these times, trade, society, art, and literature all flourished. A revival of Confucian thought was promoted by the governments of both dynasties. There was a decline in the status of women over this time period as well. These political and social aspects of Chinese life have both changed and remained the constant as China progressed through the Tang and the Song dynasties.

The rebuilding of and expansion of the Chinese bureaucracy was crucial for the restoration of Chinese unity that the early Tang emperors strived to achieve. Central to the restored bureaucracy was a scholar-gentry and a reworked Confucian ideology. As the Tang Empire expanded, the rulers were in desperate need of loyal and well-educated officials to help govern their vast lands. The scholar-gentry bureaucrats were also able to offset the power of the aristocrats. The executive department of the new Chinese bureaucracy was divided into six ministries which included war, justice and public works. There was an additional Bureau of Censors whose main charge was to keep track of officials at all levels and report their misdeeds or failings.

Tang Emperors educated their officials in the Confucian classics, which were believed to teach moral and organizational principal which were essential to effective administrators. During both the Tang and Song periods, the examination system was greatly expanded and the plan of advancement in the civil service was more widely accepted. There were several different types of examinations administered by the Ministry of Rites to the students of government schools or to those who were recommended by already distinguished scholars. Only those who were able to pass the exams on philosophical and legal classics and even more challenging ones on Chinese literature were allowed to be considered for the highest offices.

Those who passed the difficult Chinese literature exams earned the envied title of jinshi. Their families’ position was secured by the prospeft of high office that was opened up by their success. Success in these exams won candidates “special social status” which meant they gained the right to wear certain distinguishing types of clothing and were exempt from corporeal punishment. They also gained access to material comfort and the refined pleasure enjoyed by all elite. However, even though merit and ambition “counted for something,” birth and family influence was frequently more significant.

Confucian thought continued its revival on through the Song dynasty, where it had an even greater impact. Confucianism had a great influence not only on the government, but on intellect and everyday life as well. New academies were founded which were devoted solely to the study of the classical texts and remarkable libraries were founded as well. One of the most well-known thinkers of the Song era, Zhu Xi, stressed the importance of applying philosophical values to everyday life. Philosophers such as Zhu Xi, who believed in this approach, were called neo-Confucians. Neo-Confucians are “revivers of ancient Confucian teachings,” who believed that refining personal morality was the highest goal for humans. These philosophers claimed that virtue could be achieved through knowledge acquired through books in addition to personal observation through contact with men of wisdom and high morality. They believed it was in these ways that the essentially good nature of humans could be developed and greater men [fit to govern and teach others] could be developed.

Chinese intellectual life during the eras of all the dynasties that followed the Song has been deeply affected by neo-Confucian thinking. The hostility of foreign philosophical systems that neo-Confucianism promoted, lessened the openness of Chinese rulers to external ideas and influences. The neo-Confucian stress on tradition and hostility to outside influences was one of many forces that eventually subdued “innovation and critical thinking among Chinese elite.”

The emphasis on rank, obligation, deference, and traditional rituals on neo-Confucians reinforced class, age, and gender distinctions. Neo-Confucians argued that if men and women kept their place and performed the tasks of their age and social rank, there would be social harmony and prosperity. Neo-Confucians believed that historical experience was the best guide for “navigating the uncertain terrain of the future,” and that the best solutions to any problems could be found in examples drawn from the past. Confucianism was promoted by both the Tang and the Song dynasties, though the encouragement was even more extensive in the Song.

The social status of women in post-classical China changed throughout the Tang and Song dynasties. Even though the status of women improved through the Tang dynasty, it then steadily deteriorated in the Song dynasty. Within the society, it is clear that women remained subordinate to men, but at least for upper class women living in urban areas, opportunities for personal expansion increased in the Tang and early Song. Tang women would sometimes exercise considerable power at high levels of Chinese society. They enjoyed access to a broad range of activities and career possibilities. Both Tang and Song law allowed divorce by shared consent of both husband and wife. There were many laws that protected women as well, such as those prohibiting a husband from setting aside his wife if her parents were dead or if he had been poor when they were married and later became rich. There was also a great degree of independence of women in those times.

In the mid-late Song dynasty, when neo-Confucianism became a major force, the woman’s role as a homemaker and mother was stressed. The main role of the women was to be the bearer of sons to continue the patrilineal family line. Simultaneously, men were permitted to have premarital sex without any dishonor, to take concubines if affordable, and to remarry if one or more of their wives died. Neo-Confucians even “attacked” Buddhists for supporting career alternatives for women, such as the monastic life and scholarship while sacrificing marriage and raising a family. Laws that favored men were drafted and women were excluded from education which would allow them to enter the civil service and ascend to powerful political positions.

The practice of foot binding exemplifies the extent to which women were constricted and subordinated. Small feet became a sign of beauty and wealth. Only the wealthy could afford to practice the tradition because it restricted a women’s mobility. Bound feet were a constant source of pain for a woman and made it difficult to walk even short distances. This meant that women could not engage in occupations except the ones that could be pursued within the “family compound,” such as textile production.

During the times of the Tang and Song Dynasties, a revival of Confucian thought was promoted, though more extensively in the Song rather than the Tang. Women held a relatively high social status in the Tang Dynasty, but their power declined through the Song. These political and social aspects of Chinese life have both changed and remained the constant as China progressed through the Tang and the Song dynasties.

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59