During the reign of the Song (Sung) Dynasty of China (960-1279), a time of great cultural achievement, occurred the flowering of the Chinese system of bureaucratic centralization and economic regulation initiated under the preceding Tang (T’ang) Dynasty.
The founder of the Song, Zhao Guangyin (Chao K’uang-Yin) (927-76; r. 960-76), a general whose seizure of the throne ended the series of short reigns known as the five dynasties, put the military under civil administration to prevent the militarism that had brought down the Tang.
In general, the Song was not militarily powerful; however, the early Song achieved broad geographic control through Zhao’s conquests and boasted a large, strong central bureaucracy. Rapid commercial expansion fostered the growth of trade guilds and the use of paper currency. Radical reformer Wang Anshi (Wang An-Shih) (1021-86) introduced, over bitter opposition, such regulatory measures as price stabilization, loans to businessmen and peasants, and the establishment of emergency grain reserves.