Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Emperor Gaozong of Song -- Hard Decision Between Pursuing Peace or Dignity

Zhao Gou (1107 -- 1187), the ninth son of the Emperor Zhao Ji, who shouldn’t have the chance to inherit the throne.

So Gou was a carefree artsy prince of the Song Dynasty, living a luxury and fancy life in his early years.


Brave Prince Who Volenteered to Be A Hostage 

When his father and his older brother Zhao Huan were emperors, the nomadic regime Jin invaded the Song Empire’s capital, twice. 


Zhao Gou was very brave during that period; he volunteered to be a hostage in Jin, and had smartly negotiated with them for several times.


Later, when the Jin’s army was slaughtering in Song’s capital city and made almost the entire royal family become captives, Gou was on his way to regime Jin to be the hostage.


After hearing what Jin did to his empire, Gou escaped to another safe city and started to organize all of the Song’s armies and people.


Reestablishment of Song Dynasty As Only Escaped Prince

Zhao Gou then established another government, as the only royal prince of the Empire Song who was not in captivity. 


The new empire was also named Song, but the territory was much smaller, basically only in the southern part of China.


Now, the former prince officially became the Emperor Gaozong of Song in the history of China.

At the beginning of Gou's ruling, millions of loyal soldiers wanted to revenge to Jin, and get their lost lands back.

Having their emperors and tens of thousands of people enslaved, and nearly half of the territory occupied, was an unprecedented huge shame for a big empire in the history of China.

Enjoying of Life and Forgetting of the Humiliation

Zhao Gou, now the Emperor Gaozong of Song, was forced to summon back General Li Gang, who had successfully defended the kingdom before, and nominated him as the most powerful prime minister.


But Gou didn’t like Li Gang’s firmness and strong will, exactly the same as his brother emperor. So Li Gang was expelled a few months later,  and never had the chance to participate in politics to realize his revenge dream again.

Then Emperor Gaozong of Song probably were getting used to his comfortable life as a monarch, he postponed the fight-back plan, though his parents and siblings, his wife and kids were all captured and suffering in Jin’s regime. 


Being Attacked, Forcing to Fight Back and Achieving Victory

Some time later, Jin’s army was marching southward to the city where Emperor Zhao Gou was living; he was terrified and immediately escaped to another place, then kept escaping to different cities to avoid being captured by Jin.


Now he realized that he had to fight back; otherwise, he might be living on a boat soon.


Luckily, there were large numbers of loyal generals, warriors and volunteer civilians, who never stopped fighting; even though their emperor kept escaping the whole time. ​

Those talented generals and loyal soldiers helped Emperor Gaozong of Song defeat other uprising armies within his territory, and then Song's government, finally, decided to fight back, and to seek for revenge and their lost dignity. 


Among those warriors, there was an extraordinary marshal named Yue Fei, whose army defeated the nomadic enemies for several times and kept winning; this gave Song’s people huge hope to win back. 


When Song’s armies achieved great successes and had won back lots of cities, when they kept marching northward and Jin’s army kept losing and withdrawing, when these good news were inspiring everyone in the Empire Song, Emperor Gaozong of Song Zhao Gou, however, summoned all the armies to retreat, and signed another treaty with Jin. 


Signing of Shameful Treaty and Murdering of Great Marshal

In this unfair treaty, Song Empire respected Jin as monarch, gave back all the cities that Marshal Yue Fei and other generals had won back, ceded more territories to Jin, and promised to tribute a great deal of money to Jin every year. 


Then Emperor Gaozong of Song forced the most contributive marshal Yue Fei to give up the control over the army that he recruited and trained by himself, and soon imprisoned Yue, until he was poisoned to death by a evil minister Qin Hui.

Some people said the Emperor Gaozong of Song was threatened by Yue's achievement and reputation; others inferred that he didn’t want his father and brothers, who may threaten his throne, to come back to the Empire Song.


Either way, he killed and expelled those who wanted to fight back, and stayed comfortably in the south. 


Since then, Southern China was well developed and cultivated; agriculture, economy, culture and business were all prosperously increased.


People escaped from the north could get loans from the government to buy farmland and houses, and they didn’t need to pay taxes for 30 years.


Zhao Gou, the Emperor Gaozong of Song was also forced to develop shipbuilding technology and international trade, because years of wars cost lots of money.


He was also an excellent, diligent artist in the history of China, who was very good at calligraphy, painting, music and poetry. 

Some Calligraphy and Painting Works of Emperor Zhao Gou

Giving Back the Throne to Descendant of Zhao Kuangyin

Emperor Gaozong of Song had no sons after he built up the new Song Dynasty, and most of his royal family members were captured by Jin.


So he searched for offsprings of Emperor Zhao Kuangyin, the founder of the Song dynasty, from whom chose and nominated a polite, smart boy named Zhao Shen, as the crown prince.


When Zhao Gou was in his 50s, he abdicated the throne to this heir. Then he spent his retired years enjoying life, and practicing his art.


But whenever Emperor Zhao Shen wanted to revenge to Jin and take lost lands back, Gou tried his best to stop that, every time.  


Zhao Gou, the Emperor Gaozong of Song, was another controversial emperor in the history of China.


Some criticized that he was weak for only enjoying life in the southern China, having killed great generals, and lost the best opportunity to take lost lands and dignity back, as well as having searched for peace with little honor.


However, others believed that under those circumstances, he brought civilians in the south decades of peace and development, where agriculture, economy, art, business and science were further progressed.


In addition, he continued to use Song as the new dynasty’s name and gave back the throne to Zhao Kuangyin’s offspring, so he at least tried to preserve his ancestor’s empire.