Emperor Gaozong

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About Emperor Gaozong

Lifespan: 1107 – 1187 A.D

Reign Years: 1127 – 1162 A.D

Given Name: Zhao Gou

Reign Name: Gaozong

Emperor Gaozong – Song Dynasty

Emperor Gaozong of Song was the 10th emperor of the Song Dynasty and the first Southern Song Dynasty emperor. His given name was Zhao Guo, and he was the 9th son of Emperor Huizong.

Aside from being the emperor, he was a notable poet and greatly influenced other poets in China. One of his surviving pieces is The Quatrain on Heavenly Mountain.

He ascended the throne after the Incident of Jingkang. It was when his father and brother perished their dynasty and were captured by the Jurchen of the Jin Dynasty.

Emperor Gaozong re-established the Song Empire in the south. It had a smaller territory, but his people had wealthy lives.

Despite this, he kept shifting from taking revenge, recovering the lost lands & dignity of the Song, and developing his territory. It led him to make a train of questionable decisions, thus, receiving criticisms during his rule.

Reign of Emperor Gaozong

After proving he was a more competent and better administrator than his predecessors, support flocked from the imperial court’s remnants. When he ascended the throne, Emperor Gaozong of Song re-established the empire and was proclaimed the Southern Song Dynasty emperor.

From 1127 to 1129, the Song Dynasty sent 13 embassies to the Jin Empire to discuss terms of peace. They also had negotiations of releasing Emperor Gaozong’s mother and former Emperor Huizong. Despite this, the Jin Empire’s court ignored the Song.

Gaozong’s early reign was full of Jurchen attacks and raids. It all stemmed from Zhang Bangchang’s execution despite submitting to Emperor Gaozong of Song.

Former Empress Meng, the regent of Da Chu, also submitted to the emperor. This triggered the Jin to resume their attacks. They eventually emerged victorious as they conquered North China.

The Southern Song Empire

Upon hearing the Song’s demise, Zhao Gou, the royal family’s free prince, didn’t bother retaliating against the Jin. He didn’t even care to save his family, who was held captive by the enemy. Instead, he reorganized the resources of the Song, then enthroned himself as the Southern Song Dynasty emperor in another city.

At some point, he was chased by the Jin Empire’s army, so Emperor Gaozong kept heading south to escape.

From late 1127 to early 1128, Emperor Gaozong of Song moved to Yangzhou for safety. However, he couldn’t escape the Jurchens as they advanced to a certain area barely a year later. This time, they threatened to conquer Yangzhou as well.

Treaty of Shaoxing

After years of continuous fighting and seeing significant success, Emperor Gaozong of Song settled with a pacifist stand. He opted for this since he and chancellor Qin Hui didn’t want the Song to defeat the Jin Dynasty. Doing so may result in the emperor’s half-brother, Qinzong, from recalling the throne.

To note, Qinzong was the last emperor of the Northern Song. He lived in the Jin Empire and was exiled to Manchuria.

In the last quarter of 1142, both the Song and Jin Empires signed and agreed on the Treaty of Shaoxing. It recognized the Jurchens’ claims over the former Song territories that they’ve previously conquered.

So, they gave up all lands located north of the Huai River. Plus, they also paid a yearly tribute to keep the peace between the two empires.

Development and Prosperity of the Southern Song Dynasty

Since then, South China has become cultivated and well-developed. It was when agriculture, business, culture, and the economy flourished.

Despite having a smaller territory, the Southern Song Dynasty was among the richest periods in China. Since years of wars cost a lot of resources, Emperor Gaozong had to develop shipbuilding technologies and international trade to acquire money.

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Abdication of Emperor Gaozong

After ruling for over 35 years, Emperor Gaozong abdicated. He did this since his only son died of illness when he was only two years old. The emperor passed his position to Zhao Shen, his distant cousin and adopted son.

Zhao Shen eventually became Emperor Xiaozong.

Another reason for his abdication may be how he handled the Battle of Caishi and Wanyan Liang. Upon retiring, he took the title of Taishang Huang or retired emperor. Although he stepped down from the throne, he retained adequate power until the last days of his life.

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