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Why did the Song Dynasty, the weakest Chinese dynasty that hadn't even united China, stand up against the Mongol Empire for so long?


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Paul Denlinger
Paul Denlinger, US_2016 = Germany_1933
Answered Jul 10, 2017 • Author has 7.5kanswers and 31.2m answer views
The Song dynasty was founded by a LaterZhou general Zhao Kuangyin, who himself harbored a deep distrust for themilitary. The reason for his distrust? The Song succeeded the Tang dynasty, andthe Tang dynasty, after the Anlushan rebellion (755 - 763CE), was heavilyinfluenced by military commissioners which were financially independent of theChinese emperor in Chang’an (now Xi’an).
Chinese dynasties normally study theweaknesses of the dynasties they succeed to make sure that they don’t make thesame mistakes; this was what the Song did with the Tang.


Chen Yankai
Chen Yankai, Inner Asia History Lover
upxed Dec 6, 2017
First, a little correction:
After Möngke Khan died in the Siege ofDiaoyu Fortress, Mongol empire split. Kublai Khan then declared him as theemperor of Yuan dynasty China in 1271 AD. Thus,the funny fact is: Mongol empireactually never managed to conquer Song.
It’s the Mongol Yuan empire that finallymade it. :)


Here begins the serious answer:
Simply speaking, Song empire was not soweak as you suppose.
I’ll take an example to make it clear.
We know Song fought against Liao empire inthe 10th and 11th century.
Due to the stereotype that Song wasmilitarily very weak, many people actually forget the fact that Song actuallywon 9 of 18 battles against Liao empire. In the other hand, Liao only won 8battles against Song.
宋辽战争 - 维基百科 (From Wikipedia. A list of all the battles between Liao and Song.)

链接:宋辽战争 - 维基百科。

All in all, the reason that Song couldresist Mongols for so long time was simply because Song was the second mostpowerful country in the world at that time and Mongol army couldn’t reallypenetrate Song empire’s North defending line for more than 40 years.
The reason that Yuan dynasty finallyconquered Song is also simply because in the latter stage, Yuan’s wealth,manpower, weapon technologies and even the number of soldiers all exceededSong.
In the key battle that decided Song’s fate:
Battle of Xiangyang - Wikipedia
It’s actually 8000 Song soldiers vs 100,000 Yuan soldiers…
Song’s fate had already been determined asearly as when Mongols’ decision of expanding to the Western Asia and EasternEurope was made.



Jinxin Liu
Jinxin Liu, studied at RensselaerPolytechnic Institute
Answered Jul 10, 2017 • Author has 303answers and 820.1k answer views
Song was the most advanced and wealthydynasty in Chinese history. And its military power was not that weak as peoplemight think. It was just unlucky: some strategically significant regions, suchas 幽云十六州, were lost to other countries even before Song was founded; Songhappened to face several powerful neighbors.
Given the extremely disadvantaged startingcondition, Song had been doing pretty good. It lasted for over 300 years—thesecond longest dynasty after Qin.



That wealth meant they could build verypowerful fortifications, man and maintain a very large army and navy, and equipit with the latest and most advanced weaponry available.
The Mongols ultimately had to draw upon theresources of their entire empire, obtaining the resources they needed tooverrun the Song.
Indeed, if it were not for the incompetenceof their leadership in the final years, it is quite conceivable that they couldhave held off the Mongols indefinitely.



Pun Anansakunwat
Pun Anansakunwat, Read Chinese history for17 years
Answered Sep 2, 2017 • Author has 286answers and 1.1m answer views
Despite not ruling the entire realm, SongDynasty had many strengths.
Song Dynasty was so rich. The economy ofthe south prospered. They managed to build huge armies, and sustained them fora long time. Song could easily fight the war of attrition (Battle of Xiangyang)at the border for years.
Song Dynasty had advanced technologies. Forexample, Song dynasty used gunpowder weapons to fight the nomads for decades.
3. The southern part of China has theYangtze River as a natural barrier. If Song navy had naval supremacy, Mongolcavalry was useless. Later, Kublai Khan countered this by ordering Han Chinesefrom the North to build his own navy as well.


4. Song Dynasty had fortified its northernborder, especially at Xiangyang. The Mongols were never good at siege warfare.Thus, it took years and many lives for them to take Xiangyang, one of thelargest fortified cities.
5. Even though Song dynasty’sadministration was in disarray, the dynasty possessed several loyal and capablegenerals. They fought bravely, and brought the mighty Mongols to stalemate foryears.
6. Mongol troops’ unfamiliarity with a hot,wet southern area of China was also a factor. This made Mongol troops much lesseffective in fighting battle-hardened Southern Chinese troops that desperatelyfought for their homeland.


But Song dynasty in deed maximized theirdefensive geographical advantage when defend against the Mongol Empire. This isonly reason Song dynasty can survive until 1276 (Song Capital was bleached on1276, by normal standard it should be counted until 1276, but somehow mosttexts uses 1279, the last fall of Song resistance as cut off date) . Mongolsare not used to combat on rivers, seas, forest, and mountainous region, this iswhy Song was able to survive for that long.
Also Song was a giant of the era, it mightbe weak, but still a giant body, economic strength is still one of the best ofthe era, So Mongol still taking a long time to break Song defense andeventually digest it.