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Home History & Culture Hangzhou History Emperor Gaozong of Song

Emperor Gaozong of Southern Song Dynasty


Emperor Gaozong(宋高宗, 1107-1187) was the founder of Southern Song Dynasty in history of China after he moved the capital city of the empire from Kaifeng to Hangzhou after the failure to fighting against the invasion of ethnic Jin troops, which was historically known as the Incident of Jingkang (靖康之变, a historical event happened in 1127 that troops of jin, the ancient ethnic group of nvzhen, occupied Kaifeng, the capital city of Northern Song Dynasty, and enslaved Emperor Huizong and Emperor Qinzong of Northern Song Dynasty, and nearly all the imperial family members, concubines, officials as well as tens of thousands of civilians were captured).

The Portrait of Emperor Gaozong of Song

Tell You a True Emperor Gaozong of Song

Emperor Gaozong was a quite complicated figure in history of China, but he reestablished Song and developed it to be the richest country at the time all around the world. The story of Yue Fei in some way defamed him, and directly uglified his closest chancellor Qin Hui(秦桧), who was modeled to be a statue kneeling to the tomb of Yue Fei in today’s Memorial Temple of Yue Fei. Due to the bad influence of history textbook in modern China, the first impression of the people in China to Emperor Gaozong is always related to some keywords like non-feasance , love of pleasure, duplicity and dishonesty and disloyalty to the country. However, back to the truth of the history, a different image of Emperor Gaozong will be given.

Firstly, why Emperor Gaozong was unwilling to reconquest the northern territory? It could be objectively analyzed in this way based on the aspect of selfishness in human nature. In fact, the power of economy and troops of Southern Song Dynasty could absolutely guarantee the central government to reoccupy the northern territory. However, Emperor Gaozong was only worried about a probable result that he had to move the throne back to Emperor Qinzong after defeating the enemy. This is the main reason that Emperor Gaozong refused to get back the northern territory, and even killed General Yue Fei.

What did Emperor Gaozong do to the northern occupiers? Giving up reoccupying the northern land, Emperor Gaozong took the smart way of cultural influence. After Southern Song and Northern Jin signed the peace agreement, the boundary business was opened. Emperor Gaozong encouraged businessmen to sell the books of Confucianism and relevance to Jin people, and spread the culture influence to these uncivilized ethnic groups. Regarding the internal administration, Emperor Gaozong largely promoted the Confucianism, and for several times, he inscribed the poems and copied the classics of Confucianism to encourage the young people to read books and strive for attending at the national imperial examination.

Achievements of Emperor Gaozong to Hangzhou

The West Lake of Hangzhou to some degree was promoted by Emperor Gaozong. During the reign of Emperor Gaozong, Hangzhou ranked a world-top metropolis. Around the West Lake, the business and landscapes are better than today. Emperor Gaozong encouraged the local people to do business and always secretly visited the market or boated on the West Lake, and he sometimes financially helped some guys who suffered the frustrations in business, life or imperial examination. The imperial palace was located at today’s foot of the Phoenix Hill and Wu Hill, and around the West Lake, there were some sites included in the realm of palace buildings. Today, the Hefang Street and surrounding area is the site of palace of Southern Song Dynasty. At present, the typical tourist attractions include the Imperial Thoroughfare of Southern Song Dynasty, Hefang Street, Drum Tower, and the site of Yuletang.

A Part of Painting of the Imperial Palace Building Complex of Southern Song Dynasty in Hangzhou

By the way, Liuxia Township is a famous tourist destination in west Hangzhou; it is famous for the Xixi Wetland Park. It was said that Emperor Gaozong liked this place very much, and wanted to live here, and said “Xi Qie Liu Xia”, which means it is better to live in the Xixi Wetland. And Liu Xia became the name of this place.

Emperor Gaozong was one of few emperors in history of China who lived a long time. He passed away at the age of 80.

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