The Song Dynasty (960-1279) was a ruling dynasty in China. This dynasty is divided into two periods: Northern Song and Southern Song. Social life was vibrant in the Song dynasty. Literature and knowledge was enhanced by wood block printing and movable type printing. Confucianism infused with Buddhist ideals emphasized a new organization of classic texts brought out the core doctrine of Neo-Confucianism. The civil service examinations became more prominent in the Song period. Administrative sophistication and complex organization was during this era. Song Dynasty was prosperous in many respects of the society. Even though this dynasty was technologically and culturally advanced, Song people were not militarily powerful.
The civil service examination and the scholar-officials helped shape the educated class of Song and produce extraordinary men.
The most distinctive features of Chinese civilization were in the Song period. This was the scholar-official class certified through highly competitive civil service examinations. These elite were better educated than others in Chinese history. Aristocratic habits and prejudices largely disappeared when examination system was fully developed. This system came to be considered the normal ladder to success. The invention of printing should be given a little credit. The art of carving words and pictures into wooden blocks was developed by Tang craftsmen. They would ink the blocks then press paper onto them. An entire page of text and illustrations was held on each block. In the eleventh century movable type, on piece of type for each character, was invented. In China whole-block printing was cheaper. The spread of literacy was because printing dramatically lowered the price of books. Cheaper books made it easier for the upper class to have their own libraries. The encyclopedia was one of the popular innovations. The number of scholars entering each competition went from 30,000 to 80,000 at the end of the century and 400,000 by the end of the dynasty. Men had to memorize the classics in order. The officials tried the exams several times and were a little over thirty years of age when they succeeded. Some of those who devoted years, for the exam, never became officials. The civil service examinations were not the only thing that was involved in a life of an educated man. Collecting antiques, old books, and practicing the arts were a few pursuits. The engagement of the elite with the arts led to extraordinary achievement during the Song period. The upper-class men would gather to compose or criticize poetry, to view each other’s treasures, and more.
Extraordinary men were produced with the new scholar-official. These men were able to hold...