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House of Zhao

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House of Zhao

House of Zhao, also known as House of Chao (Pinyin: Zhao; Wade–Giles: Chao; Traditional Chinese: 趙; Simplified Chinese: 赵), was the imperial family of Song Empire.

Map of Song

Family History

The Origin

Song Taizong (r: 976-9 97)
Song Taizu (r: 960-76)

The House of Zhao originated from Zhuo Jun Zhao Shi [1](Wade–Giles: Chuo Jun Chao Shi; Traditional Chinese: 涿郡趙氏; Simplified Chinese: 涿郡赵氏;),which is a very old and well-known family in China with a long history since Spring and Autumn period (simplified Chinese: 春秋时代; traditional Chinese: 春秋時代; pinyin: Chūn qiū shí dài)。The founder of the Song Empire ── Zhao Kuangyin (Wade–Giles: Chao Kuangyin; Traditional Chinese: 趙匡胤, Simplified Chinese: 赵匡胤; pinyin: Zhào Kuāngyìn), also known as Song Taizu was born in a family with military tradition. His father Zhao Hongyin (趙弘殷) moved from Zhuo Jun to Luoyang (Traditional Chinese: 洛陽, Simplified Chinese: 洛阳)。Zhao Kuangyin also had an elder brother Zhao Guangji, two younger brothers: Zhao Guangyi (His successor, the second emperor of Song Empire) and Zhao Guangmei, and two younger sisters.

During the reign of Emperor Zhenzong the Song Emperors claimed Huangdi as an ancestor.[2]

Rise of Family

Zhao Kuangyin's military career started in Hou Han. However, he quickly changed his stance, and went for his new leader Zhou Shizong, which was the enemy of Hou Han. He also persuaded his father Zhao Hongyin (趙弘殷), who was a military general of Hou Han, to serve for Zhou Shizong ─ Chai Rong. This caused the decline and collapse of Hou Han. With Zhou Shizong's trust, Zhao Kuangyin was assigned to the guardian of the new little seven-year-old Emperor Zhou Gong Di before Zhou Shizong's death.

However, with great accomplishment, ambition, and followers' loyalties and supports, Zhao Kuangyin eventually replaced Zhou Gong Di during a peaceful military coup, and became new ruler of the new kingdom Song. With years' efforts, Zhao Kuangyin conquered rest of the kingdoms in the north and south, and finally reunited China, and found great Song Empire. In order to prevent same military coup to happen again, Zhao Kuangyin fired all of his generals, and sent them home safely. This caused the overall military weakness of Song later.

Zhao Guangyi reigned for seventeen years and died suddenly and suspiciously in 976 at the age of forty-nine. His brother Zhao Guangyi ─ also known as Song Taizong became new emperor of Song Empire. There was a saying that Zhao Kuangyin was murdered by his brother Zhao Guangyi; and Zhao Kuangyin's two princes also died in same way.

Panorama of Along the River During Qingming Festival, 12th century original by Zhang Zeduan, the Capital of Song ─ Dongjing

Decline: Jingkang Incident

Empress of Song Qinzong, committed suicide during Jingkang Incident

Nevertheless, Song still thrived under Zhao Guangyi's reign. But the threats of Northern Nomadic tribes, such as Khitans (Chinese: 契丹), Jurchens (Jin) (Chinese: 女真), and Tangut (Chinese: 黨項). On March 20, 1127, the capital of Song ─ Dongjing (literally Eastern Capital, now Kaifeng) fell into Jurchen's hands in the Jin–Song wars. After several days' looting and raping, the grand emperor Song Huizong, the emperor Song Qinzong, the empress of Song Qinzong, the grand empress Song Huizong, the consorts, most princes and princess, and other nobles were all captured, enslaved, and forced to walk to Jurchens' land. This miserable historical event was called Jingkang Incident (simplified Chinese: 靖康之难; traditional Chinese: 靖康之難). Many of these nobles died from illness, hunger, tortures, and rapes during the journey or after arriving in Jurchens' land. Some of them commits suicide to prevent from torturing and raping.[3]

A map showing the territory of the Song dynasty after suffering losses to the Jin dynasty. The western and southern borders remain unchanged from the previous map, however the northernmost third of the Song's previous territory is now under control of the Jin. The Xia dynasty's territory remains unchanged. In the southwest, the Song dynasty is bordered by a territory about a sixth its size, Nanchao.
Southern Song in 1142

Song Huizong's ninth son, and Song Qinzong's ninth brother ─ Zhao Gou, also known as Song Gaozong, escaped from this disaster, and crowned to be the new emperor of Song in the south, and the capital was Hangzhou (renamed as Lin'an at the time). Song Gaozong's only son died very young, then Song Gaozong was forced to give his crown to his great ancestor Zhao Guangyi's elder brother Zhao Kuangyin's descendants. The royal lineage now went back to Zhao Kuangyin's line.

In 1234, Song allied with Mongol, fought against Jurchens to revenge for Jingkang Incident (simplified Chinese: 靖康之难; traditional Chinese: 靖康之難). Jurchens were finally defeated by both Song and Mongol. After the successful conquest of Jurchen, Song and Mongol's alliance quickly broke up, and turned into enemies of each other.

The Fall of the Empire

On March 19, 1279, the prime minister Lu Xiufu committed suicide with eight-year-old Emperor Huaizong of Song at sea after the Battle of Yamen against the Mongols with Song remnants. The Song empire ended, and the House of Zhao completely lost control over China and unable to regain power since. The classic China was considered to be ended at the same time. China was under the Mongolian Borjigin clan-established Yuan dynasty's rule under the for nearly one hundred years, until the rise of the Ming dynasty founded by the House of Zhu.[4]

Later Descendants

The Song royal descendant Zhao Mengfu became a famous painter during the Yuan dynasty and met with the Yuan Emperor Kublai Khan.

Later Song royal descendants included Zhao Yiguang 趙宧光 (1559-1625) who lived during the Ming dynasty, his wife was Lu Qingzi, they were intellectuals and members of the gentry.[5][6] Zhao patronized his wife's books with his money.[7] Zhao Yiguang and Lu had a son, Zhao Jun, who married Wen Congjian's daughter, who was also from a gentry family and literati who wrote poems.[8]

Two of his works are housed in the Wang qishu, they were the Jiuhuan shitu 九圜史圖 and the Liuhe mantu 六匌曼圖. They were part of the Siku Quanshucunmu congshu 四庫全書存目叢書.[9]

Currently, there are numbers of known House of Zhao members living in Zhangpu County's Zhao Family Fort (趙家堡) in Fujian, where they taken up a residence since Yuan dynasty's establishment, and others in Hua'an County. There are some members reside in Guangdong.

Family tree of emperors

Notable People

Northern Song

Song Taizu 太祖

Song Taizong 太宗

Song Zhenzong 真宗

Song Renzong 仁宗

Song Yingzong 英宗

Song Shenzong 神宗

Song Zhezong 哲宗

Song Huizong 徽宗, also a great artist.

Song Qinzong 欽宗

Southern Song

Song Gaozong 高宗

Song Xiaozong 孝宗

Song Guangzong 光宗

Song Ningzong 寧宗

Song Lizong 理宗

Song Duzong 度宗

Song Gongzong 恭宗

Song Duanzong 端宗

Song Huaizong 懷宗

Other Descendants



  • Zhao Yiguang, a literary figure during the Ming dynasty, related to Zhao Mengfu
  • Zhao Jun, son of Zhao Yiguang

See also


  1. ^ 陳邦瞻【宋史紀事本末】卷一
  2. ^ Patricia Buckley Ebrey (2003). Women and the family in Chinese history. Volume 2 of Critical Asian scholarship (illustrated ed.). Psychology Press. p. 190.  
  3. ^ "Moaning Words" 宋人無名氏【呻吟語】
  4. ^ Rossabi 1988, p. 76
  5. ^ Ellen Widmer, Kang-i Sun Chang (1997). Ellen Widmer, Kang-i Sun Chang, ed. Writing women in late imperial China (illustrated ed.). Stanford University Press. p. 93.  
  6. ^ Ellen Widmer, Kang-i Sun Chang (1997). Ellen Widmer, Kang-i Sun Chang, ed. Writing women in late imperial China (illustrated ed.). Stanford University Press. p. 26.  
  7. ^ Dorothy Ko (1994). Teachers of the inner chambers: women and culture in seventeenth-century China (illustrated, annotated ed.). Stanford University Press. p. 270.  
  8. ^ Marsha Smith Weidner (1988). Marsha Smith Weidner, Indianapolis Museum of Art, ed. Views from Jade Terrace: Chinese women artists, 1300-1912 (illustrated ed.). Indianapolis Museum of Art. p. 31.  
  9. ^ Florence Bretelle-Establet (2010). Florence Bretelle-Establet, ed. Looking at it from Asia: the processes that shaped the sources of history of science. Volume 265 of Boston studies in the philosophy of science (illustrated ed.). Springer.  
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