Emperor Gaozong of Song

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Emperor Gaozong of Song
Gaozong Of Song.jpg
Emperor of the Song dynasty
Reign 12 June 1127[1] – 24 July 1162[2]
Coronation 12 June 1127
Predecessor Emperor Qinzong
Successor Emperor Xiaozong
Retired Emperor of the Song dynasty
Reign 24 July 1162 – 9 November 1187
Born Zhao Gou
(1107-06-12)12 June 1107
Died 9 November 1187(1187-11-09) (aged 80)
Era dates
Jianyan (建炎; 1127–1130)
Shaoxing (紹興; 1131–1162)
Posthumous name
Shouming Zhongxing Quangong Zhide Shengshen Wuwen Zhaoren Xianxiao Huangdi
(awarded in 1191)
Temple name
Gaozong (高宗)
House House of Zhao
Father Emperor Huizong
Mother Empress Xianren
Emperor Gaozong of Song
Chinese 宋高宗
Literal meaning "High Ancestor of the Song"
Zhao Gou
Traditional Chinese 趙構
Simplified Chinese 赵构
(courtesy name)
Chinese 德基

Emperor Gaozong of Song (12 June 1107 – 9 November 1187), personal name Zhao Gou, courtesy name Deji, was the tenth emperor of the Song dynasty in China and the first emperor of the Southern Song dynasty. He was the ninth son of Emperor Huizong and a younger brother of Emperor Qinzong. In 1127, during the wars between the Song dynasty and Jurchen-led Jin dynasty, the Song capital Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng) fell to Jin forces in an event historically known as the Jingkang Incident. Emperors Huizong and Qinzong were taken prisoner by the Jurchens, while Zhao Gou managed to escape to southern China. He reestablished the Song dynasty (as the Southern Song dynasty) in Lin'an (present-day Hangzhou) and was proclaimed emperor. He reigned from 1127 until 1162, when he abdicated the throne in favour of his adopted son Zhao Shen (Emperor Xiaozong), and became a Taishang Huang ("Retired Emperor") until his death in 1187.

He was the last descendant of Emperor Taizong to become emperor; subsequent Song emperors were descendants of Emperor Taizu.


Quatrain on the Heavenly Mountain, calligraphy by Emperor Gaozong.

Emperor Gaozong was the ninth son of Emperor Huizong and a younger brother of Emperor Qinzong. His mother, whose maiden family name was Wei (韋), was a concubine of Emperor Huizong. She was posthumously honoured as Empress Xianren (顯仁皇后; 1080–1159).

Emperor Gaozong was originally a prince during the reigns of his father and brother. After the two emperors were captured by forces of the Jurchen-led Jin Empire in the Jingkang Incident in 1127, he escaped to southern China and reestablished the Song Empire (as the Southern Song dynasty) and was proclaimed emperor. In March 1129, Gaozong nearly lost his throne to a mutiny that was instigated by the palace guards led by Miao Fu and Liu Zheng Yan who were unsatisfied with Gaozong's decision to appoint one of their adversary Wang Yuan, to important imperial post hence would outrank them. Miao and Liu banded together with at least ten thousand palace guards under the pretense that Wang and the eunuchs in court were plotting, mutinied and murdered Wang. They then forced Gaozong to abdicate in favor of his three year old son. The plot came to an abrupt end less than a month later in April 1129 when Miao and Liu was defeated by Gaozong's loyal army and were both executed for treason.

The Great Chu, a puppet state created by the Jin Empire, was abolished when Zhang Bangchang submitted to Emperor Gaozong. During Emperor Gaozong's reign, the Jurchens often attacked his realm. Initially, he employed military leaders such as Li Gang, Zong Ze, Yue Fei, Han Shizhong, and Yu Yunwen to lead the Song forces to hold off the Jurchens. However, after years of fighting and significant military success, Emperor Gaozong settled on a pacifist stance.[3] One of the major reasons behind this was that Emperor Gaozong and the chancellor Qin Hui did not want the Song army to defeat the Jurchens, as this might result in Emperor Qinzong being restored to the throne. As a result, Emperor Gaozong and Qin Hui plotted to frame Yue Fei for some ambiguous offence and had him put to death. Han Shizhong was also dismissed from his military duties. During Emperor Gaozong's reign, the Song and Jin empires signed the Treaty of Shaoxing, which recognised the Jurchens' claims to the former Song territories they already conquered, in exchange for peace between the two empires.

Emperor Gaozong was also a notable poet and had significant influence on other Chinese poets. Among his surviving works is the Quatrain on Heavenly Mountain.

Emperor Gaozong abdicated in 1162 after reigning for more than 35 years, and passed the throne to his adopted son Zhao Shen (Emperor Xiaozong), because his only son, Zhao Fu (趙旉), died prematurely around the age of two. Emperor Gaozong then assumed the title of Taishang Huang ("Retired Emperor") but remained the de facto ruler until his death in 1187.

Titles from birth

  • His Imperial Highness The Prince of Kang 康王
  • His Imperial Majesty The Emperor
  • His Imperial Majesty The Retired Emperor 太上皇


  • Parents:
    • Zhao Ji (徽宗 趙佶; 1082 – 1135)
    • Lady Wei (顯仁皇后 韋氏; 1080 – 1159)
  • Consorts and Issue:
  1. Lady Xing Bingyi (憲節皇后 邢秉懿; 1106 – 1139)
  2. Lady Wu (憲聖皇后 吳氏; 1115 – 1197)
  3. Lady Pan (賢妃 潘氏; d. 1148)
    1. Zhao Fu (元懿皇太子 趙旉; 1127 – 1129)
  4. Unknown
    1. Lady Zhao Fuyou (康大宗姬 趙佛佑; 1124 – 1127)
    2. Lady Zhao Shenyou (康二宗姬 趙神佑; b. 1124)
    3. Third Princess Kang (康三宗姬; b. 1125)
    4. Fourth Princess Kang (康四宗姬; b. 1126)
    5. Fifth Princess Kang (康五宗姬; b. 1126)

See also

  1. Chinese emperors family tree (middle)
  2. List of emperors of the Song dynasty
  3. Architecture of the Song dynasty
  4. Culture of the Song dynasty
  5. Economy of the Song dynasty
  6. History of the Song dynasty
  7. Society of the Song dynasty
  8. Technology of the Song dynasty
  9. Yue Fei
  10. Jin–Song Wars
  11. Tang Clan


  1. ^ Following the capture of Emperor Qinzong in January 1127 by forces of the Jin dynasty, Zhao Gou was proclaimed emperor on 12 June 1127 in the Song southern capital. He was deposed for 25 days between 26 March and 20 April 1129 by generals Miao Fu (苗傅) and Liu Zhengyan (劉正彥). After being restored to the throne, he was pursued by Jin forces and was not in full control of southern China until the late 1130s.
  2. ^ Emperor Gaozong abdicated in favour of Emperor Xiaozong, his cousin's son whom he had adopted. He then granted himself the title Taishang Huang ("Retired Emperor") but remained the de facto ruler.
  3. ^ Peter Allan Lorge (2005). War, politics and society in early modern China, 900–1795. Taylor & Francis. p. 55. ISBN 0-415-31690-1. Retrieved March 2, 2012. He therefore initially brought the belligerent Li Gang back into government to reassure the officials and generals of his intent to resist the Jurchen and perhaps recapture the north, and then sacked Li and brought in officials more concerned with Gaozong's personal authority... The military situation began to change, however, as Song loyalist forces became more coordinated and competent generals emerged to deal the Jurchen several defeats. Jurchen armies also began to run into the usual operational problems that diminished the power of steppe armies on extended campaigns. Even in economically-developed areas, an army that lived off the land could not return through the same place it had just looted. As Jurchen soldiers became more encumbered with loot, they became less mobile and less interested in further campaigning, though they might be more willing to return in the future. Southern China was also much less favorable for cavalry than northern China, and the Jurchen had to cross not only numerous small rivers and canals but also the Huai and Yangzi rivers. 
Emperor Gaozong of Song
Born: 12 June 1107 Died: 9 November 1187
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Qinzong
Emperor of the Song Dynasty
Succeeded by
Emperor Xiaozong
Honorary titles
Title last held by
Emperor Huizong
Retired Emperor of China
Title next held by
Emperor Xiaozong
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