In the south there were four consecutive
dynasties over 160 years: the Song, Qi, Liang and Chen, all of whose capital
cities were based in the current Nanjing City. During this time, hereditary, big
families underwent a downfall after long-time social prominence since the
Western Jin Dynasty (265-316). Although such families still held a noble status,
they could no longer meddle in state affairs. Meanwhile, the scholars enjoyed
the most favorable opportunities and were entrusted important assignments by the
ruling class. The emperors retrieved complete power over the nation.
This was a period of both disturbances and
developments in Chinese history, especially during the Three Kingdoms and the
two Jin dynasties when political struggles were acute and civil wars frequent.
Ethnic minorities in the north entered the Central Plains and set up governments
there. The result was a long period of confrontations between the minority
regimes and regimes established by the Han Chinese in the south. The economy in
the south made some progress during this time and the northern regimes accepted
the Han political system and culture to varying degrees. This marked the
beginning of a merger between the Han and minority cultures. China's contact
with foreign countries also became more pronounced. Buddhist culture of the
Western Regions, in particular, was introduced to China on a large scale,
exerting a far-reaching influence on Chinese culture. Great progress was made in
science and technology, and literature and art reached an important stage
linking the past to the future.