Commercialization in Song Dynasty China
The Song dynasty continued the commercial and technological success (960–1279) from previous Chinese dynasties. As the economy continued to commercialize, China became the most urbanized place in the world. China’s economic success resulted from various technological innovations that allowed China to produce and trade foods and goods more quickly and efficiently. Chinese technological innovation during this period reshaped the world as technological advances diffused west along international trade routes.
What is Commercialization?
Commercialization is the development of businesses and markets where merchants sell goods for profit on a large scale. In non-commercialized economies, families produce products for personal consumption, or goods are produced and sold at a small scale.
Key Term: Commercialization
What Did Commercialization Look Like in the Song Dynasty China?
Song Dynasty China was one of the most developed and prosperous commercial centers globally. As urban centers grew during the Song dynasty, urban areas depended on trade and commerce to import staple products such as rice and export luxury goods like silk and porcelain for profit. It became increasingly common for merchants to sell both agriculture and non-agricultural goods in markets. Trade within rural areas also expanded. However, despite growing commercialization, most of China’s population remained poor and worked in agricultural production or as craftspeople in rural areas.
- China was also one of the most urbanized places in the world.
- The Song capital city of Hangzhou numbered over 1 million people, and dozens of other cities numbered had populations in the hundreds of thousands.
- A Chinese writer vividly described Hangzhou in 1235. His description included specialized markets that sold various food products and manufactured goods such as books, silk, and porcelains.
- Hangzhou had a thriving restaurant and bar scene.
- There were inns of varied sorts. Those with red lanterns meant that prostitutes were available inside.
- The city had multiple schools for the study of Confucianism and the arts, such as music.
- Clubs were available for citizens with varied interests like Buddhism, fitness, fishing, and poetry.
- Italian explorer Marco Polo, who visited Hangzhou in the 13th century, described the city as “beyond dispute the finest and noblest city in the world.”
What Were the Causes of Chinese Commercialization?
The economy of the Song dynasty flourished as a result of increased production. Chinese commercialization resulted from innovations in Chinese production methods, new technologies, and innovations in finance (money) systems during the Tang (618-907) and Song dynasties.
What Were the Effects Did Chinese Commercialization Globally?
Increasing commercialization impacted both China and the world. During both the Tang and Song dynasties, China produced significant scientific and technological innovations that would diffuse widely globally on long-distance trade routes. The transfer of Chinese technological innovations was not a quick process. It often took hundreds or thousands of years before making its way into the western world, usually via India, Central Asia, and the Middle-Eastern societies. As Chinese innovations spread, communities adopted and modified the technologies.