The Legend of Emperor Taizu

clip image001 thumb The Legend of Emperor TaizuEmperor Taizu, Zhao Kuangyin (927-976), was the founder of the Song Dynasty of China, reigning from 960 to 976. His family was of fairly modest origins and cannot be traced back with certainty further than the late Tang dynasty. Zhao Kuangyin had little interest in a classical education and also joined the military eventually rising to be the commander of the Palace Army for the Second Zhou dynasty. It was this post that enabled him to rise to power. The last competent Second Zhou Emperor, Shizhong (954-960) died leaving an infant boy on the throne. Zhao Kuangyin, as the commander of the Emperor’s guard, allegedly reluctantly and only at the urging of his soldiers, took power in a coup detach.

In 960, Song Taizu reunited China after years of fragmentation and rebellion after the fall of the Tang dynasty in 907 and established the Song dynasty. He was remembered for, but not limited to, his reform of the examination system whereby entry to the bureaucracy favored individuals who demonstrated academic ability rather than by birth. He also created political institutions that allowed a great deal of freedom of discussion and thought, which facilitated the growth of scientific advance, economic reforms as well as achievements in arts and literature. Among what he had done in his political life, the best known deed perhaps was for weakening the military and preventing anyone else rising to power as he did. In 961, he summoned all of his martial generals to a feast, where he raised his goblet, and successfully coaxed them to release the roles being military leaderships. In 969 he did it once again to seigniors, hence greatly consolidated the initial regime in a peaceful way.

After 16 years reign and dead at the age of 49, Song Taizu was unexpectedly succeeded by his younger brother even though he had four living sons. In the traditional historical accounts his mother, the Dowager Empress Du warned him just as he rose to power that, because Zhou Shizhong had left an infant on the throne, someone else might usurp power if he did not name an adult as his heir. In folk memory, his younger brother is said to have murdered Song Taizu and fabricated his mother’s advice as justification.

Snap2 thumb1 The Legend of Emperor Taizu

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