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A History of China by Wolfram Eberhard

Thus hastening the end of the Juchen state


In

1165 it was agreed between the Sung and the Juchen to regard each other as states with equal rights. It is interesting to note here that in the treaties during the Han time with the Hsiung-nu, the two countries called one another brothers--with the Chinese ruler as the older and thus privileged brother; but the treaties since the T'ang time with northern powers and with Tibetans used the terms father-in-law and son-in-law. The foreign power was the "father-in-law", i.e. the older and, therefore, in a certain way the more privileged; the Chinese were the "son-in-law", the representative of the paternal lineage and, therefore, in another respect also the more privileged! In spite of such agreements with the Juchen, fighting continued, but it was mainly of the character of frontier engagements. Not until 1204 did the military party, led by Han T'o-wei, regain power; it resolved upon an active policy against the north. In preparation for this a military reform was carried out. The campaign proved a disastrous failure, as a result of which large territories in the north were lost. The Sung sued for peace; Han T'o-wei's head was cut off and sent to the Juchen. In this way peace was restored in 1208. The old treaty relationship was now resumed, but the relations between the two states remained tense. Meanwhile the Sung observed with malicious pleasure how the Mongols were growing steadily stronger, first destroying the Hsia state and then aiming the first heavy blows against the Juchen.
In the end the Sung entered into alliance with the Mongols (1233) and joined them in attacking the Juchen, thus hastening the end of the Juchen state.

The Sung now faced the Mongols, and were defenceless against them. All the buffer states had gone. The Sung were quite without adequate military defence. They hoped to stave off the Mongols in the same way as they had met the Kitan and the Juchen. This time, however, they misjudged the situation. In the great operations begun by the Mongols in 1273 the Sung were defeated over and over again. In 1276 their capital was taken by the Mongols and the emperor was made prisoner. For three years longer there was a Sung emperor, in flight from the Mongols, until the last emperor perished near Macao in South China.

3 _Cultural situation; reasons for the collapse_

The Southern Sung period was again one of flourishing culture. The imperial court was entirely in the power of the greater gentry; several times the emperors, who personally do not deserve individual mention, were compelled to abdicate. They then lived on with a court of their own, devoting themselves to pleasure in much the same way as the "reigning" emperor. Round them was a countless swarm of poets and artists. Never was there a time so rich in poets, though hardly one of them was in any way outstanding. The poets, unlike those of earlier times, belonged to the lesser gentry who were suffering from the prevailing inflation. Salaries bore no relation to prices. Food was not dear, but the things which a man of the upper class ought to have were far out of reach: a big house cost 2,000 strings of cash, a concubine 800 strings. Thus the lesser gentry and the intelligentsia all lived on their patrons among the greater gentry--with the result that they were entirely shut out of politics. This explains why the literature of the time is so unpolitical, and also why scarcely any philosophical works appeared. The writers took refuge more and more in romanticism and flight from realities.

The greater gentry, on the other hand, led a very elegant life, building themselves magnificent palaces in the capital. They also speculated in every direction. They speculated in land, in money, and above all in the paper money that was coming more and more into use. In 1166 the paper circulation exceeded the value of 10,000,000 strings!


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