The Sungh (宋) was a state situated in modern-day Themiclesia. It overthrew the Tsjinh in 420 and was itself overthrown by the Rjang in 489. Inheriting Tsjinh's territories, it expanded upon it to cover most of southern Themiclesia and into Maverica. The Sungh asserted its power over the four states in the mid-400s but never successfully established a unitary government over them. Canonically, it is remembered as the second dynasty of a unified Themiclesia.
The Sungh state, with the exception of its first eight years, was ruled from the city of Tsjinh, located in Kien-k'ang; as such, most writers referred to it as Tsjinh but denoted its ruler as the Sungh family or dynasty (宋氏, sungh-grji′). During those eight years, it was formally ruled from the city of Sungh, which is only 20 km south of Kien-k'ang, but in reality most of the courtly elite still lived in Kien-k'ang. Apparently, no effort was made to alter the de facto status of Tsjinh as the capital city, as the archaeological ruins of Sungh show very little development beyond a town of local importance.
Despite subjugating the states through the Treaty of Five Kings (256) and thereby ending the Hexarchy, the Tsjinh never achieved political unity of the states that gave rise to Themiclesia. Instead, it utilized marriage alliances, commercial exploits, and appointment of sympathetic ministers in peer courts to advance its own interests, only twice using military power to uphold its influence. In 318, the senior line of the royal house went extinct, and the court dissolved into factions supporting various contenders; a series of rulers came and went, vying for influence and legitimacy. The Sungh house was one such faction that initially supported the three final kings of Tsjinh but became gradually turned into the power behind the throne. Having acquired sufficient clout amongst the courtiers, the Lord of Sungh deposed the final Tsjinh king and declared himself ruler in 420. With the four princes eager to renege on the Treaty of Five Kings, courtiers feared that warfare may again arise and threaten their properties; thus, they endorsed a non-royal line that they believed could provide superior leadership in a particularly challenging environment, after the royal house had proven impotent over the last century.
As the Sungh was founded by an experienced administrator that had consolidated influence for years and with the concurrence of influential courtiers, royal power was stable at the beginning of the dynasty. Yet as it was feared at the Tsjinh court, the four states rose up in arms and declared they would remove the Sungh king as a usurper and restore a Tsjinh prince. Envoys were dispatched to argue that the transition of power had been voluntary and done with the assent of the aristocracy; however, all rejected this and averred the peace treaty was only valid with a Tsjinh king on the throne. In May 422, Pjang was the first to invade, followed by Sjing in July. To prevent Sjing from interfering with defending Pjang, the Sungh king ceded Gwin prefecture to Dem, which turned to ally with Sungh instead. [...]
Having secured the alliance of Tengh and Dem, Pjang was persuaded to withdraw from Sungh in 425. This war would set the course for the 5th century in Themiclesia, as it allowed the Sungh king to re-issue the Treaty of Five Kings.
The Sungh state was considered a "military government" by the canonical historian Baron of Ku (洘侯, ku-go; d. 559), writing in 550 or so. The meaning of this assessment is still controversial amongst historians.
That King Mja was himself a baron of the Tsjinh state before leading a revolt that overthrew the patriarchy was connected to policies that protected other barons that supported him, especially promoting the growth of their estates and granting them important positions in the administration. This preference may have been interpreted as "military government" since the barons were responsible for providing local security and troops. Gro adds that the Sungh dynasty never enjoyed much peace against challengers that bill it as a usurper, and it prioritized security and military readiness in response.
A strong feature of the Sungh state is the relatively low status of the nobles of the demesne land (寰). Previously, these dynasties owned large swathes of productive land near the captial city; their leader became the patriarch, the monarch's most powerful minister, who oversaw the royal administration and, most importantly, defrayed the royal government's requirements on its nobility. In the Sungh period, their financial strength and ability to control the state appears depressed, with few notable statesmen rising from their ranks; instead, the barons from the peripheries were repeatedly summoned by the king to manage his household and exercise some influence over the bureaucracy.
In some 19th- and 20th-century publications, Sungh "military government" and "military policy" has been heavily romanticized to mean a commoner could rise through his merit on the battlefield. Naw says that "this interpretation was never accepted by most historians and is not supported by received or excavated materials."
Despite dramatic political changes amongst the greater nobility, the quotidian administration has been conserved from the Tsjinh period.
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In some 19th-century publications, Sungh "military government" and "military policy" has been romanticized to mean a commoner could rise to nobility through his merit on the battlefield. Naw says that "this interpretation was never accepted by most historians and is not supported by received or excavated materials." According to Naw, the "military government" should be read as "baronial government", in the sense that the dominant group of nobles were barons that provided soldiers for the royal army. Specifically, baronial power is relative to demesne elders' powers, who had few military obligations but also enjoyed rights to political power. "Military government" is thus better understood as the dominance of one kind of aristocrat over another.
Further investigations of has connected this romanticization with some strands of liberal nationalism in the mid-19th century. Authors of an extreme position cited several speeches attributed to barons, exhorting their men to "engage as ferociously as beasts, for there is reward for your every effort." Believing that, given the opportunity to earn dignity, they must have "fought very hard and received tremendous rewards, for such ferocious men will not sate except power and wealth, as much as their baronial lords". Those of a moderate position argued that distinguished commoners could become officers, in which position they had an opportunity to establish their own estates and ultimately become a recognized clan in politics.
However, these theories had largely died out by 1900, given an absolute inability to prove even a single case of a commoner being made a nobleman, let alone baron, for battlefield valour. Instead, a conservative view dominated the "military government" question in the 10s and 20s, relying on the notion that the Sungh kings and their barons had no particular interest to promote advancement, which in turn explains why those Liberal scholars of the previous century "catastrophically failed to justify their readings of history" because "they read the aspirations of their own times into those of historical personages, thereby creating chronological paradoxes."
The 19th-century theories about military government also entwined with what Naw calls "a Themiclesian version of the noble savage, only not a savage but a mercenary: the archetype of a man who cared not about killing and burning, only that it should enrich himself. A hero is manufactured out of what would be a villain in any civilized society, because he strives to take what he can, by force if necessary, in contempt of what his society expects." Kip tempers Naw's criticism, saying that the 19th-century intepretation of "military government" was not merely a fantasy, as the author did not suggest their intepretation was ideal. Rather, "these writings were allegories, not manifestoes. They paint out a painful eventuality, from the aristocratic perspective, if certain inequalities were not corrected first."
- "The politics of the Sungh dynasty is all military; its policies are all military" (宋氏政率武事亦武), Chapter 1, Book of the House of Sungh.