By implementing a series of measures designed to intensify its centralized regime, the Northern and Southern dynasties ended the division since the end of Tang Dynasty and achieved reunification and stability.
In the mean time, the troops and people in the central plains bravely fought against attacks from the northern nomad ethnic groups, offering a relatively peaceful environment for the southern areas that saw fast social and economic growth.
Adoption of land tenancy systems and employment systems was a landmark reform in production relations, resulting in high enthusiasm in the working people and much more social and economic growth.
The population at the end of the Northern Song Dynasty increased to 100 million, offering vast numbers for the workforce. Large-scale reclamation of terrace and low-lying fields resulted in more farming land-twice the area as before. New types of farm ware, like plowshares with steel blades and seedling horses for paddy rice planting, were widely used for intensive farming. Champa paddy rice, a superior breed from Vietnam, was introduced and popularized, too, greatly increasing grain output. In the Southern Song Dynasty, the proverb known as "When the area around Dongting Lake has a good harvest, the entire country has enough food"had spread across the country, showing that the national economic center has shifted from the Yellow River basins to the Yangtze River basins.
2 Commodity economy
The Song Dynasty boasted an unprecedented prosperous commodity economy. Commercial activities went beyond the restrictions imposed since the Tang Dynasty, such as designated places and time for transactions. A large number of commodity distribution places emerged around cities and major traffic routes in rural areas, leading to the formation of bazaars and towns of different sizes. In the Northern Song Dynasty, a commercial tax was levied in towns under the county level, resulting in dense commercial tax networks and making the commercial tax one of the major revenues for governments. In the early 11th century, Sichuan saw the presence of the world's earliest paper currency—Jiaozi, which was designed to facilitate transactions. In the Southern Song Dynasty, Huizi and other types of paper currencies were widely used in circulation. Credit transactions with written deadlines and pledged by the rich emerged, too, as well as other commercial means of payment like Bianqianwu, an officially-operated financial organization for exchange, Didian for storage and negotiation and Zhiku for mortgage A needle shop in Jinan, Shandong, designed its signpost like this: on the upper side was its name "Jinan Liujia Needle Shop." In the middle was a white rabbit that was accompanied by the words "recognizing the white rabbit in front of the shop as the symbol" on both sides. On the lower part were the messages for advertisement: "the needles made of superior steel bars are thin and easy to use. Any one who buys the needles in large quantities for wholesale can enjoy special offers." That is a proof of the presence of trademarks and advertisements in the Song Dynasty, and the formation of the business mode combining raw material procurement, processing and wholesale. According to Prosperities and Dreams in the Eastern Capital, the "transactions of gold, silver and silk" in Bianjing of the Northern Song Dynasty took place in a lane in the southern part, where "buildings were spectacular and shops were spacious," and "every deal involved an amazing sum of money," resembling today's financial street. The city of Bianjing saw densely-distributed shops in more than 400 sectors, including big markets of rice, vegetables, meat, fish and fruits, cloth, scarves, folding fans, belts, combs, needles and ironware, as well as high-grade gold and silver shops and jewelry shops. In addition to these shops, morning and night fairs along the streets took place.
3 Social life
With the economic development and social progress, the social structure and social life in the Song Dynasty experienced profound changes.
An overwhelming majority of the population in the Song Dynasty lived in rural areas, most of whom could maintain their daily life and enjoyed a better life quality. Villagers would watch opera, listen to story-telling and have other fun during their leisure time, greatly enriching their cultural life.