The Song united China once again in a new age of prosperity. Regional governors were replaced by centrally appointed officials which finally spelt the end of the aristocratic domination of government. There was a new scholar-gentry class of landholders who had undergone many years of education. The middle-classes rose in importance as printing and education became widespread and a market economy grew so people could become wealthy without being landowners or government employees. The status of women, however, declined with many concubines and the start of foot-binding.
Cultural and artistic pursuits were encouraged and Confucianism came to the fore again. Cities became thriving commercial centres with new opportunities for trade and industry and their greatest economic innovation was probably the widespread use of money as this made trade much easier and also brought about the first credit. Agricultural technology meant that the food-supply system reached its peak of efficiency and the same system remained in force until the 20th century. There was also educational reform with the establishment of the first national public school system in history which trained the most intelligent and moral boys for public service.
The downside was that their military was weak and so they often signed treaties rather than fight. They made an alliance with the Chin dynasty in northern Manchuria. Together they defeated their mutual enemies, but then the Chin turned on their allies who fled to the south and re-established their Dynasty in Hangzhou.
The final campaign covers both of the Song Dynasties. You are to reunite China after its 50 years of chaos. You have had the imperial yellow robe placed on you by your fellow officers and are to go to Kaifeng and build a strong city, well defended against expected invasions. You must slowly conquer the enemy cities, four in this first episode, and when done you are ruling the Song Dynasty. You then become a general and must go and build up the military in Pingyao and keep the Khitan threat at bay. While wealth and learning are increasing, there is still danger from the north. You have to flee from Kaifeng to Chengdu to escape from the invaders and your job is to build up military strength quickly to enable you to retake your lands back before the Khitan find you. You succeed in retaking Kaifeng and you are now in charge of future development of the city. The Emperor wishes for an astronomical clock tower to be built whilst being ready to appease enemies. Over the next 100 years Kaifeng is developed into a magnificent cultural centre.
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