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 grew 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 representation of Buddhist iconography can be found in the Song Dynasty extensive artistic production.
Representations of landscapes were paramount during the Song era, and closely–viewed objects such as birds on branches or the image depicted on this brick, were held in high-esteem. Partly influenced by the gradual embrace of Neo-Confucian ideologies, naturalistic scenes conveyed social and political convictions, becoming metaphors for the well-regulated state.