Bookprint as fundament for the spread of knowledgeThe bookprint, invented during Tang Dynasty and quickly pressed forward by the need to distribute Buddhist sutras, reached a further stage during Song time: exchangeable types for bookprinting were invented during the middle of 11th century.
Encyclopedias Song dynasty scholars tried to gain an overview of the knowledge of their time and composed, under the guidance of emperors, many encyclopedias. Among the most important encyclopedias of Chinese literature history are the "Four great books of Song dynasty" (Song Si Da Shu 宋四大書), the anthology Wenyuan Yinghua 文苑英華, the story anthology Taiping Guangji 太平廣記, and the monographical encyclopedias Taiping Yulan 太平御覽 and Cefu Yuangui 冊府元龜. Other important encyclopedias are Zheng Qiao's 鄭樵 Tongzhi 通治 "Comprehensive Treatise on Government", Wang Yinglin's 王應麟 Yuhai 玉海 "Jade Ocean", and Ma Duanlin's 馬端臨 Wenxian Tongkao 文獻通考 "Comprehensive Studies in Literature".
Private authorship The Song time governmental official was different his counterpart of the Tang Dynasty. While Tang nobles engaged in physical activities like playing polo, Song scholars were only interested in learning and preserving their own intellectual life-style in the library. People began to write monographies and to compose anthologies for their own purposes: mathematical or technical texts like Shen Gua's 沈括 Mengqi Bitan 夢溪筆談 "Brush discussions a dream creek", or Fu Gong's 傅肱 Xiepu 蟹譜 "Manual for crabs". Especially geography and mathematics were of broad interest for Song scholars, but there were also people beginning to analyse inscriptions and artefacts of old times, like the Zhou bronze vessels or old coins. Have a look at the encyclopedias to see the progress in science and technique during the Song period. Very popular was the essay, "brush notes" biji or suibi, with the famous representants Su Xun 蘇洵 and his sons Su Zhe 蘇轍 and Su Shi 蘇軾 (Su Dongpo 蘇東坡). Except these three, to the famous Tang and Song authors (Tang Song Ba Da Jia 唐宋八大家) also belong Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 and Wang Anshi 王安石, but still of great importance are Wang Yucheng 王禹偁, Li Gefei 李格非, Fan Zhongyan 范中淹, Sima Guang 司馬光, Li Gou 李覯, and Zeng Gong 曾鞏.
During Tang Dynasty, the regulated poem (lüshi 律詩 or gushi 古詩) was the typical form of poems. Now, under Song, the melodious poem (ci 詞), written to a melody already existing, became popular. All important people engaged in writing poems as the mastership of poetry was a part of general education. In the towns and cities and among the normal people, entertainment was an important part of their life. Many of the anecdotes or tales that the storytellers and theatre players presented to the people became so popular that they even found entrance into the written literature.
New ways in historiography Chinese historiography had long won its traditional shape that followed the monographical pattern of Sima Qian's 司馬遷 masterpiece Shiji 史記. Song Dynasty historians like Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 followed this pattern, but they imposed their special interpretation of history as a moral and ethical didactic for later generations. Ouyang Xiu rewrote the Histories of Tang (Tangshu 唐書) and that of the Five Dynasties (Wudaishi 五代史) because he saw influence of Buddhism too strong and the description of the former emperors as too good. The first critical views of historiography were already seen by Tang scholars. A further masterpiece incorporating source critics is Sima Guang's 司馬光 Zizhi Tongjian 資治通鑑 "Comprehensive mirror providing material for government", a universal history the Warring States period to the begin of Song. Sima Guang does not follow the monographical style of the Shiji, but he reports history in a chronological order. The philosopher Zhu Xi 朱熹 wrote a condensation of Sima Guang's opus, called Tongjian Gangmu 通鑑綱目 "Essentials of the Comprehensive Mirror", but with a moral touch. Going back to a monographical style reporting special themes the "Mirror", Yuan Shu 袁樞 created a third new style of historiography with his Tongjian Jishi Benmo 通鑑紀事本末 "Reporting origin and result of historic events the Comprehensive Mirror".
Except these great writings, there are still extant many books or documents about Song history, like Xu Mengxin's 徐夢莘 Sanchao Beimeng Huibian 三朝北盟會編 (covering 1117-1162, the defeat by the Jin-Jürched and the withdrawal to the south), the Liangchao Gangmu Beiyao 兩朝綱目備要 (covering 1190-1203), Li You's 李攸 Songchao Shishi 宋朝事實, or Songshi Yi 宋史翼 by the Qing scholar Lu Xinyuan 陸心源 . The Yuan official Tuotuo 脫脫 compiled the official dynastic history of Song, the Songshi 宋史. An institutional history of Song can be found in the compilation Song Huiyao (Jigao) 宋會要輯稿 by the Qing scholar Wang Yunhai 王雲海 .
Neo-Confucianism As a philosophical stream during Song Dynasty, Confucianism was defined newly and seen different standpoints. Confucianism has been a state doctrine since the mid of Former Han Dynasty. But it has not only been a fundament for a centralized and autocratic state, but also a basis for wide discussions about the relation between Heaven, nature and man. Song time philosophers tried to redefine man's position in the universe. The literary movement to go back to the roots of Confucianism to heal the diseases of the state, called "Old literature movement (guwen yundong 古文運動)", was started by the Tang scholars Han Yu 韓愈 and Li Ao 李翱. The Song time historian Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 stressed that cultural norms and education serve to practise a better policy. Zhou Dunyi 周敦頤 (wrote Taiji Tu Shuo 太極圖說 "Explanation of the diagram of Highest Extreme", and Tongshu 通書 "Comprehensive writing"), Shao Yong 邵雍 and the brothers Cheng Yi 程頤 and Cheng Hao 程顥 based their speculations about a better society on the Confucian classics, but it was the great philosopher Zhu Xi 朱熹 who founded a school with the interest to newly interprete the old classical works. His school focused on the explanation of human nature and universal order and was therefore called "School of Nature and Order" (Xinglixue 性理學 or short Lixue 理學), in the West known as Neo-Confucianism. Zhu Xi's philosophy saw the world determined by a dualism between a rational natural and moral order (li 理) and odem or non-organized stuff (qi 氣), or shape and matter. Deeply interested in a comprehensive interpretation of the Confucian classics, Zhu Xi wrote numerous comments to the old books. Some of his discussions are collected in the book Zhuzi Yulei 朱子語類 "Manifold discourses of Master Zhu". Lu Jiuyuan 陸九淵, another philosopher, interpreted the world in a more monistic sense, assuming that the universe is a spatial and temporal expression of spirit. His school of thinking is called "School of the mind" (Xinxue 心學).
Neo-Confucianism and his representants became the leading philosophical school until the end of Qing Dynasty, but the interpretation of the universe by Yuan and Ming time philosophers developed to an orthodox and sterile worldview.
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