One other event of this time has to be mentioned: the great persecution of Buddhism in 955, but not only because 30,336 temples and monasteries were secularized and only some 2,700 with 61,200 monks were left. Although the immediate reason for this action seems to have been that too many men entered the monasteries in order to avoid being taken as soldiers, the effect of the law of 955 was that from now on the Buddhists were put under regulations which clarified once and for ever their position within the framework of a society which had as its aim to define clearly the status of each individual within each social class. Private persons were no more allowed to erect temples and monasteries. The number of temples per district was legally fixed. A person could become monk only if the head of the family gave its permission. He had to be over fifteen years of age and had to know by heart at least one hundred pages of texts. The state took over the control of the ordinations which could be performed only after a successful examination. Each year a list of all monks had to be submitted to the government in two copies. Monks had to carry six identification cards with them, one of which was the ordination diploma for which a fee had to be paid to the government (already since 755). The diploma was, in the eleventh century, issued by the Bureau of Sacrifices, but the money was collected by the Ministry of Agriculture. It can be regarded as a payment in lieu of land tax. The price was in the eleventh century 130 strings, which represented the value of a small farm or the value of some 17,000 litres of grain. The price of the diploma went up to 220 strings in 1101, and the then government sold 30,000 diplomas per year in order to get still more cash. But as diplomas could be traded, a black market developed, on which they were sold for as little as twenty strings.
(B) Period of Moderate Absolutism
(1) The Northern Sung dynasty
1 Southward expansion
The founder of the Sung dynasty, Chao K’uang-yin, came of a Chinese military family living to the south of Peking. He advanced from general to emperor, and so differed in no way from the emperors who had preceded him. But his dynasty did not disappear as quickly as the others; for this there were several reasons. To begin with, there was the simple fact that he remained alive longer than the other founders of dynasties, and so was able to place his rule on a firmer foundation. But in addition to this he followed a new course, which in certain ways smoothed matters for him and for his successors, in foreign policy.