The Song Dynasty ruled China during one of its most brilliant and sophisticated cultural epochs, marking a high point for innovation in economy, science, engineering, and warfare. The Dynasty saw the introduction of the first banknotes and the first recorded chemical formula for gunpowder, as well as large-scale experimental architecture and a new intellectual interest in the arts. During this period, Buddhism waned in popularity as new philosophical schools of thought were introduced. The development of Neo-Confucianism and the re-emergence of Daoism reverberated through society, guiding it to ideals of balance and order. Buddhism, however, retained a strong influence over the arts, and many representations of Buddhist iconography can be found in the Song Dynasty extensive artistic production.
Sometimes potters and especially tile-makers of the Song period ‘signed’ their work by impressing one hand flat into the reverse. A whole tomb decorated with figural representation modified in this way was unearthed in Shanxi Province and reported in the western press in 2018, when it was revealed during renovations to a modern house built over the tomb.