This hanging silk scroll depicts Zhao Kuangyin, a military leader who became Emperor Taizu, founder of China's legendary Song Dynasty.

Image courtesy National Palace Museum, Taipei, and Wikimedia

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    On February 4, 960, military leader Zhao Kuangyin became the first emperor of the Song Dynasty. The Song ruled China for more than 300 years. 
    The Song Dynasty was notable for its contributions to government and science. Under the Song, China became the first government in the world to issue paper money (called jiaozi) on a national scale, allowing traders in far-flung portions of the empire to buy and sell goods at established prices. Scientists experimenting with magnetism were the first in the world to identify the concept of “magnetic north” by reading a compass. The first instances of moveable type are dated to Song Dynasty. Song military leaders were the first in the world to use gunpowder.
    Gunpowder, however, was not enough to ward off the powerful Mongol army led by Kublai Khan. The “Great Khan” conquered the Song and established the Yuan Dynasty throughout China in 1279.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    cartographer Noun

    person who makes maps.

    clay Noun

    type of sedimentary rock that is able to be shaped when wet.

    compass Noun

    instrument used to tell direction.

    Encyclopedic Entry: compass
    concept Noun


    emperor Noun

    ruler of an empire.

    empire Noun

    group of nations, territories or other groups of people controlled by a single, more powerful authority.

    far-flung Adjective

    spread over a great distance.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    identify Verb

    to recognize or establish the identity of something.

    instance Noun

    an occurrence or example of something.

    magnetic north Adjective

    direction that all compass needles point.

    magnetism Noun

    force by which objects attract or repel one another.

    Encyclopedic Entry: magnetism
    military Noun

    armed forces.

    mountain Noun

    landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.

    notable Adjective

    important or impressive.

    plateau Noun

    large region that is higher than the surrounding area and relatively flat.

    Encyclopedic Entry: plateau
    river Noun

    large stream of flowing fresh water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: river
    terrain map Noun

    map displaying the surface features of an area.

    trade Noun

    buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

    type Noun

    metal block with a letter or symbol engraved on one side, used in printing presses.

    ward off Verb

    to repel or keep back.