Emperor Huizong

Emperor Huizong

by Patricia Buckley Ebrey


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China was the most advanced country in the world when Huizong ascended the throne in 1100 CE. In his eventful twenty-six-year reign, the artistically gifted emperor guided the Song Dynasty toward cultural greatness. Yet Huizong would be known to posterity as a political failure who lost the throne to Jurchen invaders and died their prisoner. The first comprehensive English-language biography of this important monarch, Emperor Huizong is a nuanced portrait that corrects the prevailing view of Huizong as decadent and negligent. Patricia Ebrey recasts him as a ruler genuinely ambitious—if too much so—in pursuing glory for his flourishing realm.

After a rocky start trying to overcome political animosities at court, Huizong turned his attention to the good he could do. He greatly expanded the court's charitable ventures, founding schools, hospitals, orphanages, and paupers' cemeteries. An accomplished artist, he surrounded himself with outstanding poets, painters, and musicians and built palaces, temples, and gardens of unsurpassed splendor. What is often overlooked, Ebrey points out, is the importance of religious Daoism in Huizong's understanding of his role. He treated Daoist spiritual masters with great deference, wrote scriptural commentaries, and urged his subjects to adopt his beliefs and practices. This devotion to the Daoist vision of sacred kingship eventually alienated the Confucian mainstream and compromised his ability to govern.

Readers will welcome this lively biography, which adds new dimensions to our understanding of a passionate and paradoxical ruler who, so many centuries later, continues to inspire both admiration and disapproval.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674725256
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 01/06/2014
Pages: 696
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 12.00(h) x 2.80(d)

About the Author

Patricia Buckley Ebrey is Professor of History and Chinese Studies at the University of Washington.

Table of Contents

List of Tables, Maps, and Illustrations vii

Preface xi

Note on Ages, Dates, and Other Conventions xix

Chronology xxi

Cast of Characters xxiii

Genealogy of the Song Emperors and Empresses xxix

I Learning to Rule, 1082-1108

1 Growing Up in the Palace, 1082-1099 3

2 Taking the Throne, 1100 38

3 Trying for Balance, 1101-1102 71

4 Choosing the Reformers, 1102-1108 98

II Striving for Magnificence, 1102-1112

5 Placing Faith in Daoism, 1100-1110 131

6 Embracing and Revitalizing Tradition 159

7 Welcoming Masters and Experts 186

8 Crafting an Image as an Artist 219

III Anticipating Great Things, 1107-1120

9 Pursuing the Monumental 243

10 Finding Pleasure in Court and Palace Life 284

11 Working with Councilors 317

12 Accepting Divine Revelations, 1110-1119 343

13 Allying with Jin 372

IV Confronting Failure, 1121-1135

14 Adjusting to Military Setbacks, 1121-1125 395

15 Abdicating the Throne, 1125-1126 421

16 Losing Everything, 1126-1127 449

17 Enduring Captivity, 1127-1135 475

Afterword 505

Appendix A Reasons for Rejecting Some Common Stories about Huizong and His Court 517

Appendix B Huizong's Consorts and Their Children 529

Timeline 531

Notes 543

References 599

Chinese Character Glossary 637

Index 649

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