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Introduction

    As seen in texts and surviving objects, people in the Sung dynasty, under a prosperous economy, took increasing pleasure in life. On one hand, the quality of arts and crafts developed rapidly, including elegant designs and the use of luxury materials, such as silk tapestries and embroideries, gold- and silverware, jades, lacquerware, ceramics, and studio objects. On the other hand, the quantity of material wealth expanded rapidly. In cities, the quest for higher standards was obvious, but neither was it overlooked in the countryside. A text of the period, for example, states that "Even when only two people sit down for a drink, they use a pouring bowl, two cups, five plates of vegetables and five for fruits, several dishes.... And when someone drinks alone, silverware is often used." This is just one example of the degree to which people enjoyed life in the Sung. The middle and upper classes took pleasure in such aspects of daily life as appreciating paintings, tasting tea, offering incense, and drinking wine. Numerous annual events linked to the seasons and festivals included lantern viewing, the first tea, appreciating flowers, and enjoying the cool of summer and snow in winter. Such activities became the fashion for everyone from the emperor down to the poor. Beautiful utensils and refined objects adorned everyday life. Scholars, despite the simplicity of their lifestyle, also participated, as seen in their collecting studio objects, pursuing the art of tea, and studying painting and calligraphy. Scholars also helped dictate the content and direction of aesthetic taste, playing a major role in trends of the period.