Alternative History

The Song Dynasty (Chinese: 宋朝; pinyin: Sòng Cháo; Wade-Giles: Sung Ch'ao) was a ruling dynasty in Serica between 960 and 1418; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Later Sui Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a permanent standing navy. This dynasty also saw the first known use of gunpowder, as well as first discernment of true north using a compass.

Great Song Empire of Serica
Timeline: XI: Serica & Romanum
Preceded by 960-1418 Succeeded by
Later Zhou Dynasty Later Sui Dynasty
Flag Seal
Flag Seal
Location of Song Dynasty
Location of Song Empire in red.
天下和宋 (Serican)
("All Under Heaven And Song.")
Capital Bianjing
Largest city Bianjing
Other cities Jiangkang (Nanjing), Guangzhou, Lhasa, etc.
Language Serican Mandarin (Spoken), Standard Serica (Written)
Religion Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism
Ethnic Group Huaxia (Han Chinese)
Government Absolute Imperial Monarchy
  Legislature Song Imperial Court
Population 1 Billion 
Currency Huizi, Jiaozi, copper coins, Seres cash


Emperor Taizu of Song (r. 960–976) unified China (Serica) through conquering other lands during his reign, ending the upheaval of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. In Bianjing, he established a strong central government over the empire. He ensured administrative stability by promoting the civil service examination system of drafting state bureaucrats by skill and merit (instead of aristocratic or military position) and promoted projects that ensured efficiency in communication throughout the empire. One such project was the creation by cartographers of detailed maps of each province and city which were then collected in a large atlas. He also promoted groundbreaking science and technological innovations by supporting such works as the astronomical clock tower designed and built by the engineer Zhang Sixun.

Social life during the Song was vibrant; social elites gathered to view and trade precious artworks, the populace intermingled at public festivals and private clubs, and cities had lively entertainment quarters. The spread of literature and knowledge was enhanced by the earlier invention of woodblock printing and the 11th-century invention of movable type printing. Pre-modern technology, science, philosophy, mathematics, engineering, and other intellectual pursuits flourished over the course of the Song. Philosophers such as Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi reinvigorated Confucianism with new commentary, infused with Buddhist ideals, and emphasized a new organization of classic texts that brought out the core doctrine of Neo-Confucianism. Although the institution of the civil service examinations had existed since the Sui Dynasty, it became much more prominent in the Song period. This became a leading factor in the shift of an aristocratic elite to a bureaucratic elite.

Reforms of Chancellor Wang Anshi[]

In 1069, Wang Anshi became the Chancellor of the Imperial Court. Seeing state corruption and weakness, he suggested and carried out a variety of reforms he called the New Policies. His reforms included land tax reform, the establishment of several government monopolies, the support of local militias, the education of the poor, and the creation of higher standards for the Imperial examination to make it more practical for men skilled in statecraft to pass. He also changed the organization and structure of the military with the backing of Emperor Shenzong. His reforms later helped end the conservative traditional Confucian values and helped bring more liberal ideas to Serica.

Conquests of the Song Dynasty Serican Army[]

Due to the advanced military organization, structure, and technology; the Sericans conquered Đại Việt, Cauli (Joseon, OTL Northern Korea), the Khitan Liao Dynasty, and the Jurchen Jinn Dynasty. They also managed to defend their territory against the Mongols, giving them one less source of loot, therefore weakening them. After Emperor Qinzong died from a battle with the Mongols, his younger half-brother Emperor Gaozong succeeded him. Because of the empire's near unlimited military power, they soon became aggressive and they conquered all of Tibet and Xinjiang by 1243. However, both newly-added provinces are treated with respect. The emperor installed Sakya Pandita as Imperial Viceroy of Tubo and High Spiritual Priest of the Way of the Buddha. In order to pacify the Beidi and the , or the northern and the western barbarians, Emperor Gong of Song (Gongzong) launched a violent military campaign to conquer the declining Mongol Empire. It is said that the each of the generals and their armies were assigned to invade different areas of OTL Siberia. Whoever completely conquered their assigned region first would receive a large reward. Although it is not known which general won the competition, it is known that the Sericans completed their conquest of OTL Manchuria, all of Mongolia, southern Siberia, all of Kazakhstan, all of Turkmenistan, northern Iran, and all of Afghanistan in only four years. The Mongols are left with a small part of Western Russia, but are soon defeated by the local Slavic peoples and Scandinavians. Slowly, as the Sericans conquer more and more peoples, they learn of their customs and traditions and the concept of Hua-Yi Distinction (discrimination against 'barbarians') weakens.

Contact with the Romans[]

See Also: Roman Empire

On the fourth month of 1278 of the Roman calendar, 45 thousand Serican troops arrived at the city of Shahr-e-Rey, Persia; where the Roman army was stationed at the time. The Romans were frightened, as the Serican army had brought archers, cannons, and other siege weapons that rivaled their Roman counterparts. The Roman general stopped the advancing army and inquired their identities and objective. The Sericans misunderstood and thought it was a declaration of war, and so the two great armies clashed in what would be known as the Rey Skirmish.

Both sides suffered light casualties, but after a day of fighting both sides withdrew and sent negotiators. According to Serican sources, a Roman archer yelled, "Sorry!" in Persian to a Persian-speaking officer during the battle and the officer ordered to stop and withdraw. Roman sources say that a Serican officer shouted, "We are from the Land of the Silk, the great Song!" to the Romans and they withdrew. And yet Muslim sources claim that the people of Rey, tired of the destruction, ran out of their homes and between the two armies. They claim after the battle the Generals of both the Serican army and the Roman army converted to Islam after-wards. However, what all three sides agree is that the Sericans and Romans immediately established diplomatic relations with each other and agreed to make Shahr-e-Rey a neutral city for trading purposes. Silk and paper arrived in mass amounts all over Europa, while Roman and Greek books are bought by many Serican people.

In 1321 Serican chancellor Yangzi Liang (扬子 亮)arrived in Byzantium to meet with Roman consuls Quintus Faenius Ignatius and Vibius Calvisius Nennius, marking a new era of Pax Eurasia. The Romans were eager to trade with the Sericans after a famine killed millions in Northern Europe. With primitive copies of Roman siege weapons and tactics, the Sericans are able to conquer the rest of Siberia by 1334, reaching as far as OTL Alaska.

In 1360, the Song Imperial Family celebrates its 400th year of power, and the Serican army gives the Emperor southwest OTL Russia as a present to the Imperial Family.

First Silk War[]

Main article: First Silk War

In 1393, war erupted between the Roman Empire and Serica. Arabia and Russia soon joined the side of the Romans and jointly defeated the Serican army, forcing them out of the Middle East and Siberia. Serica was prohibited from exporting silk to the Roman Empire and had to pay each of the Allied nations a large sum of money annually for a span of 20 years.


With young Emperor Duanzong succeeding to the throne in 1391, the eunuchs abused their powers and generals competed for supremacy in the Imperial Court. After the First Silk War, despite being a teenager, Duanzong tried to eliminate the state corruption and restore the Song Empire to its former glory in vain. Soon several imperial relatives and leading figures competed for the throne. Because the government had drafted and sent many of its farmers to guard the frontiers as soldiers, famines struck the country. Mongols revolted and attacked from the north, Tibetans and Muslim Seres rebelled and raided from the west, Vietnamese pushed back the Sericans from their lands in the south, and Korean warlords politically isolated themselves from the Sericans by kicking them out and disobeying imperial orders. As the empire was threatened and robbed of its territories on all four directions, internal conflict among the Imperial Court along with several assassinations and coups greatly weaken the nation. In February 1418, the 27 year-old emperor was assassinated by the eunuchs. The following month, a Serican general named Yang Weifeng captured Bianjing and established the New Sui Dynasty, officially dissolving the Song Empire.


The early Song military was chiefly organized to ensure that the army could not threaten Imperial control, often at the expense of effectiveness in war. Song's Military Council operated under a Chancellor, who had no control over the imperial army. The imperial army was divided among three marshals, each independently responsible to the Emperor. Since the Emperor rarely led campaigns personally, Song forces lacked unity of command. The imperial court often believed that successful generals endangered royal authority, and relieved or even executed them.

However, Wang Anshi's reforms changed the military command to strengthen Song's military. The War Council met much more often and the Emperor presided over the meeting. More technology was used in the army. Young heirs to the throne and the reigning Emperor were often urged to read different military treatises. Therefore, the emperors after Shenzong were often more knowledgeable of warfare than their predecessors.

Although the scholar-officials viewed military soldiers as lower members in the hierarchic social order, a person could gain status and prestige in society by becoming a high ranking military officer with a record of victorious battles. At its height, the Song military had two million soldiers divided into platoons of 50 troops, companies made of two platoons, and one battalion composed of 500 soldiers. Crossbowmen were separated from the regular infantry and placed in their own units as they were prized combatants, providing effective missile fire against cavalry charges. The government was eager to sponsor new crossbow designs that could shoot at longer ranges, while crossbowmen were also valuable when employed as long-range snipers. Song cavalry employed a slew of different weapons, including halberds, swords, bows, spears, and 'fire lances' that discharged a gunpowder blast of flame and shrapnel.

Military strategy and military training were treated as science that could be studied and perfected; soldiers were tested in their skills of using weaponry and in their athletic ability. The troops were trained to follow signal standards to advance at the waving of banners and to halt at the sound of bells and drums.

When the Song Serican army invaded the Mongol Empire, they stole many of their horses and built an effective cavalry that defeated many of the 'barbarians' of the north.

The Song navy was of great importance during the consolidation of the empire in the 10th century; during the war against the Southern Tang state the Song navy employed tactics such as defending large floating pontoon bridges across the Yangzi River in order to secure movements of troops and supplies. There were large naval ships in the Song that could carry 1,000 soldiers aboard their decks, while the swift-moving paddle-wheel crafts were viewed as essential fighting ships in any successful naval battle.

The advanced technology of the Serican army helped them win early battles in the First Silk War; but due to incompetent rulers, corruption, and lack of money Serica lost the war. Serica lost much their territory in Northern Siberia and the Middle East. In 1418, descendants of the Sui Dynasty emperors overthrew the last Song emperor and founded the Later Sui Dynasty.

Society and Culture[]

Main Article: Song Dynasty Society and Culture (Wikipedia)'


Wikipedia Article: Economy of the Song Dynasty

The Song Dynasty marked by commercial expansion, economic prosperity, and revolutionary new economic concepts. Private trade grew and a market economy began to link the coastal provinces with the interior. The enormous population growth rate from increased agricultural cultivation in the 10th to 11th centuries doubled Inner Serica's overall population, which rose above 100 million people (compared to the earlier Tang, with some 50 million people).

Jiao zi


Beyond domestic profits made in Serica, merchants engaged in overseas trade by investing money in trading vessels that docked at foreign ports as far away as East Africa. The world's first development of the banknote, or printed paper money (Jiaozi, Huizi), was established on a massive scale. Combined with a unified tax system and efficient trade routes by road and canal, this meant the development of a true nationwide market system in Serica. Although much of the revenue in the central government's treasury was consumed by the needs of the military conquests budget, government taxes imposed on the rising commercial base in China refilled the monetary coffers of the Song government. For certain production items and marketed goods, the Song government imposed monopolies in order to boost revenues and secure resources that were vital to the empire's security, such as steel, iron and chemical components for gunpowder.

Song Sericans invested their funds in joint stock companies and in multiple sailing vessels at a time when monetary gain was assured from the vigorous overseas trade and indigenous trade along the Grand Canal and Yangzi River. Prominent merchant families and private businesses were allowed to occupy industries that were not already government-operated monopolies. Both private and government-controlled industries met the needs of a growing Seres population in the Song. Both artisans and merchants formed guilds which the state had to deal with when assessing taxes, requisitioning goods, and setting standard worker's wages and prices on goods.

The iron industry was pursued by both private entrepreneurs who owned their own smelters as well as government-supervised smelting facilities. The Song economy was stable enough to produce over a hundred million kilograms (over two hundred million pounds) of iron product a year. Large scale deforestation in Serica would have continued if not for the 11th century innovation of the use of coal instead of charcoal in blast furnaces for smelting cast iron. Much of this iron was reserved for military use in crafting weapons and armoring troops, but some was used to fashion the many iron products needed to fill the demands of the growing indigenous market. The iron trade within Inner Serica was furthered by the building of new canals which aided the flow of iron products from production centers to the large market found in the capital city.

Court ladies pounding silk from a painting (捣练图) by Emperor Huizong

A painting of women making silk, 12th Century.

During and after the First Silk War, silk was banned in the Roman Empire. The already unstable government collapsed in 1418 and was replaced by the Later Sui Dynasty.


Main article: Technology of the Song Dynasty

Dynasties in Serican history Preceded by:
Later Zhou Dynasty
Song Dynasty
Succeeded by:
Later Sui Dynasty