Affluent life of Citizens in the Capital of an Ancient Dynasty

Since ancient times Hangzhou, originally known as Lin’an, has been called “a paradise on earth” In fact, it was granted this title in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), which was confirmed by Mr. Xu, the director of the Historical Institute of Zhejiang Academy of Social Sciences. On December 6, he vividly depicted the affluent life of Hangzhou locals during the Southern Song Dynasty period to a keen audience.
Mr. Xu said that after the development and construction in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the most prosperous dynasty throughout the history of China, Hangzhou became a nationally renowned city. However, it was only later in the Southern Song Dynasty that Hangzhou came to its peak in history, becoming the capital city of the whole country and praised in the saying “Up above there is heaven; down below there are Suzhou and Hangzhou”.

Numerous Japanese sinologists believe that the development degree and civilized level of Hangzhou in the Southern Song Dynasty are comparable to a modern city in Western Europe, or, as one of them pointed out, it was the oriental renaissance. Marco Polo, an Italian traveler, once traveled to Hangzhou in the late Song Dynasty and wrote in his book “the Travels of Macro Polo”: Hangzhou is the largest city I have ever seen, filled with joy.

Fastidious lifestyle

Numerous Chinese ancient books support the fact that Hangzhou locals during the Southern Song Dynasty focused on sensuality, especially regarding food. Just as one book depicted back then, food to the Hangzhou people today is still one of the ecstasies of life, to be pondered over in advance; to be smothered with love in preparation; and to have time lavished on it in the final pressure of eating. A high-quality meal, back then, was a very serious matter, it was meticulously prepared and fastidiously enjoyed. Hundreds of dishes, meat, fish, soups, fresh and dried vegetables, drinks and cakes, crisp and smooth textures, some of which were designed to mix, others to contrast, would all be served in a banquet.

Despite food, people in the capital city still indulged in some spiritual enjoyment, such as acrobatics, plays, novels and other elusive arts that were unique to ancient China.

Advanced Social View

As we all know, ancient China was a typically agricultural society, which attached importance to agriculture and looked down on business. However, Hangzhou in the Southern Song Dynasty ranked the country’s leading level in commercial community and highly appreciated the value of business often carrying out activities on the focus of money.