Song Dynasty is super underrated IMO. It lasted over 300 years, but most people's first impression of Song is the dynasty that was defeated by the Mongols.
Exactly. Just look at its peak plateau. It’s way more flatten than any other dynasties. Proves it managed its peak longer than any other empires. We need to study more about Song’s system.
China probably achieved its highest GDP per capita relative to the rest of the world during Song Dynasty. However, Song Dynasty was too focused on getting rich. It was territorially small, and militarily weak. An optimum has to be struck between focusing on economic wealth and military strength.
宋朝时期，中国的人均 GDP 可能是世界上最高的。然而，宋代太注重致富了。它领土狭小，军事力量薄弱。在关注经济财富和军事实力之间，必须找到一个最佳选择。
History has shown this twice for China, once during the Song and again during the Qing. If you're rich, you MUST convert part of that wealth into military strength to deter invasions as well as to protect your economic and development interests, else you're just a fat pig waiting for slaughter by barbarians.
The Song did fight quite well actually. They developed and employed new technologies and held back the mongols for quite a while. They did have bad intelligence and the mongols did have one of the most formidably fighting forces in history.
For example the Song wasted considerable forces retaking the devastated north when the mongols retreated to choose a new leader.
The Song were also not good at diplomacy, they needlessly offended the mongols multiple times by killing the mongol envoys and refusing any cooperation.
There are still lessons to be learned from this part of history.
I agree. The Song was already starting to industrialize. If not for the Mongols who knows how much history would have changed.
The Song lost out to the Mongols, but people forget that they resisted for over 70 years in war and endured droughts and famines during that time.
However, Southern Song's defense is really bad when compared to Eastern Jin. It only looks decent when compared to Southern Ming.
eastern jin was around 300 to 400 CE right?
yes, and they held against a united northern invasion of both Former Qin and Northern Wei (after they got usurped). While Jin administration is far from perfect, they don't have crazy stuff like policies of Jia Sidao.
Southern Song had the best heavy infantry in the pre-gunpowder era. It was with those heavy infantry that Song resisted Mongols (and other nomadic tribes) for so long.
indeed, however, they lack of cavalry as well as defensive oriented tactics meant if a Mongol army is defeated (even a devastating one that kills their khan), they can usually lick their wounds and come back with minimal loss of their position; while any Song defeat would mean major army units destroyed and huge loss of territory. This weakness is not new either, through out Song-Liao and Song-Jin wars, we see this pattern repeat again and again. (However, Mongol is unique in that they can put up a determined siege lasting years even when facing mounting losses, while Khitan and Jurchen forces will usually retreat upon stiff resistance.)
This is again strongly contrasted with Ming armies less than a century later which blitzkrieged from South of Yangtze to North of the Gobi in about two years.
Song was a culturally rich period but the lack of military culture ended up driving them down. It was more socially palatable to become a government official than anything else, so the state kind of collapsed on itself
That's fascinating! Do you have a source with more detail behind this chart? I'd be curious what scales the 1.0 all-time max. I'd probably put more stock in "recent" measurements, which could benefit from modern methods of quantification, but clearly the PRC era shows a skyrocketing improvement.
I would not take Ray Dalio's theory seriously. Dalio forms his conclusion and make historical rise and fall of empires to fit it. When it involves people things are more complicated and unpredictable. Economics is social and it is not physical law which some economists like to make it out to be.
Good point. And to the limited extent that economics is "physical law", our ability to measure it was pretty sketchy back in 700 AD. It is interesting (although, as you point out, maybe entirely contrived) that the relative value dropped precipitously toward the end of each dynasty. Whether the figure of merit is accurate for today's PRC, it's at least on a rapid upswing, not drifting down. But the devil is in the details -- was there ANYTHING quantitative in how the graph was produced?
As much as i love PRC - no way is it at the level of the peak of the Ming dynasty, and above ALL of the Qing dynasty.
Remember Zheng He in the early Ming Dynasty? His fleet could've damn well conquered/colonized half the world if they wanted to.
I'd elevate everything before mid-Qing dynasty a big step up. Late Qing / ROC era was yes... a disaster.
The vertical scale is relative to the world's other empires. I suspect the reason why China's peaks during Ming and Qing are lower is because this coincided with the European peak and their colonisation of the world. China had fewer international competitors during Tang and Song Dynasties. The only credible competition for size and power then was the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates. During Europe's peak, there were always multiple Empires that were very strong, including non-European ones like the Ottoman. Today, the world is much more fragmented than ever before. Power is more dispersed, so the absolute strength of the top powers should also be weaker. Even in 2020, the PRC is clearly in second place in terms of raw national power (economic+military). PRC isn't doing worse than Ming or Qing in world rankings.
According to the graph, the Ming peak occurred between 1500-1600. There are several contenders for top power in this period: Spain and Portugal have just colonised most of the Americas between them, while the Ottomans was close to its maximum strength. The Mughals in India were also near maximum strength. I'd say the world was quite multi-polar during this period, but these four plus China should be the top powers.
The Qing peak in that graph was late-1700s/early-1800s. Considering that the 19th century was the British century, it was likely already the top power. It lost the US, but more than compensated by gaining control over India, and rapidly expanding into Canada, Australia and parts of Africa. France was also very strong around the time of Napoleon - it had been the strongest power in Europe before Britain's ascendancy. Russia was gaining the upper hand over all of its neighbours (Ottomans, Persia) and had already expanded to the Far East, Unequal Treaties were coming. These along with China are the top powers.
China today is comparatively poorer than it was during those eras, Ming Dynasty at its peak was formidable, and China pre opium war was still stronger than the European empires.
The thing that people overlook in this graph is the absolutely steep climb at the end. The recovery and the short amount of time it took to achieve that is a stupendous feat in itself.
And long may it continue to rise!