Southern Song China's Advancement and Ultimate Impediment

Published: 2021-09-13 19:25:10
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In Jacques Gernet's book, "Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion," the argument is made that Southern Song China featured substantial progression and many significant advancements from the prior Tang Dynasty. According to Gernet, these advancements brought China into a golden age, during which the country became wealthier and more civilized than any existing nation at the time. How does Gernet contextually allude to his argument that the Southern Song Dynasty progressed substantially from the Tang?
Gernet initially begins his argument that the Tang and Southern Song Dynasties featured contrasting civilizations by writing, "The differences are striking between the China of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and the China of the Tang times . . . An uncouth, warlike, rather stiff and hierarchical society had given place to one that was more lively, mercantile, pleasure seeking, and corrupt." This line clearly states Gernet's view that daily life in the Tang lacked considerable elements of modern civilization that the Southern Song Dynasty possessed.
Additionally, throughout his text, Gernet describes daily life in the Southern Song on many levels, taking special consideration to relate it to that of the Tang. One element Gernet emphasizes is how advancements in the Southern Song's capital of Hangzhou allowed the city's population to grow considerably from its size during Tang times. He backs this argument up with facts from primary source documents that state, "Between 1165 and 1173, 104,669 families were counted . . . The final figure about the year 1270 was 186,330 families." The way this information is presented allows the reader to understand that improvements made by the Southern Song, allowed Hangzhou's population to nearly double in less than a century. Another tactic Gernet uses to describe the Southern Song's advancements is to explain how the dynasty solved issues of the Tang's society. This can be seen Gernet's argument that monetary problems played a vital role in the Tang's downfall, but were later solved with the Southern Song's introduction of paper money. Gernet writes, "Through the use of paper money the state solved its currency problems," and affirms his belief that the Southern Song's people truly learned and improved from those of the Tang Dynasty.
The foundation of this book lies in the ways that citizens of the Southern Song lived and brings into question why Gernet feels the need to expound on the details of their lives. What is he trying to achieve by explaining daily life in the Southern Song Dynasty? Gernet's sole purpose in describing the Southern Song's ways of life is to provide an insight into how the Mongol Invasion severely impaired China's development. He emphasizes this argument by transparently stating, "The Mongol Invasion put an end to a period of rapid progress

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