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The Southern Song Cultures

The early May of 1127 A.D. was a time of a new reign when Zhao Gou, the ninth son of Emperor Song Shenzong, founded his new empire at Ying Tian Fu (present Shang Qiu, He Nan Province ) with assistance of the former court subjects in the Northern Song Dynasty. Zhao Gou became the first emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty, appointing the year entitled Jian Yan. The beginning of the new dynasty saw fiascos of the Song troops under the invasion of Jin nomads, placing the capital Ying Tian Fu in great jeopardy. Five months later, Zhao Gou was forced to retreat southward, and respectively established temporary capitals Yang Zhou, Jian Kang (present Nan Jing city), Hangzhou and Yue Zhou (present Shao Xing city). The most embarrassing moment witnessed the Song court taking refugee in a boat. Luckily, the storm on the ocean prevented Jin invaders from chasing and killing them. Initially, most officials of the Song court tended to set the capital at Jian Kang, arguing that the city had been the capital of China for six times in the Chinese history with economic superiority in the southeast China. And the Yangtze River served as a natural defense against the Jin army. However, the Emperor eventually designated Hangzhou as the political center with seemingly sufficient reasons. As the richest city in the area, Hangzhou was even farther than Jian Kang from the war frontier, providing the central government with a safer paradise. Besides, not being distant from Jian Kang, Hangzhou also enjoyed similar economic wealth and supply. In order to pacify those in favor of the first choice, the emperor named Jian Kang a subordinate capital.

Half of the nation's territory was lost when the imperial court was reestablished in Hangzhou (called Lin An at the moment), but the town was the top metropolis in the country and one of the most prosperous cities in the world. As far as the imperial wall was concerned, a more believable record of how many structures there were inside it can be found in the county's history book of Qian Tang by Nie Xin Tang, the local mayor, in the Ming Dynasty. Namely, there were 30 palaces, 33 halls, 13 chambers, 4 studies, 7 buildings, 6 platforms and 19 pavilions. In addition to this glorious complex of imperial construction, the education enterprising advanced rapidly in the Song time. The imperial government initiated the following three forms of education: Tai studies, Wu studies and Zong studies. The students engaged in Tai Studies, the highest institution of learning in the Song Dynasty, were classified into three levels in accordance with their academic achievement. The top level students would be interviewed by the Emperor in person before their titles were conferred. They would become part of the ruling class sooner or later. It was perfectly obvious that the Song authorities attached vital importance to books for cultivation of talented people. Yet the students of Tai studies held strong awareness of sharing political responsibilities. For example, Tang Si Tui, an adherent of the notorious prime minister Qing Hui, took power and got removed from office due to the opposition of Tai students. The Wu studies or military science in the Southern Song Dynasty was designed to train military officers. The champion of the martial contest at the imperial court would be appointed a general, and the second and the third a vice general. (In such a case, the notion that education through reading books was better than any other career died hard, at least in the Southern Song Dynasty. Despite the current criticism against this notion, the students do not give up such a philosophy easily, which has been positively proved by historical facts.) Zong studies was a number of institutions of higher learning for training descendants of dignified bureaucracy.

Southern Song society in Hangzhou was characterized by opera and acrobatic shows. There is presently an artificial scenic spot called the Song Dynasty Town. Regardless of its outlook, a multitude of acrobatic performance brings variety to this Song way of life. In the real Song time, a lot of acrobatic performers playing with bottles, bowls, vats, drums, incense stoves, etc. demonstrated incredible skills and beauty to spectators. The imitation of Song Dynasty Town replays the pursuit of this highly esthetic way of life. (Certainly, nothing can truly and absolutely reappear, but the present acrobatic programs may present a better stage and skill than that of the Song time. However hard we try, it is difficult to repeat exactly what happened before.) Apart from the street acrobatics, artists playing pottery flutes appeal to us as well. The music sounds melancholy, creating a feeling that makes time fly back to the street of Southern Song society.

07-08-06 21:05
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