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List of emperors of the Song dynasty

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Title: List of emperors of the Song dynasty  
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Language: English
Subject: Emperor Taizu of Song, Emperor Renzong of Song, Economy of the Song dynasty, Emperor Guangzong of Song, Emperor Yingzong of Song
Collection: Lists of Chinese Monarchs, Song Dynasty Emperors
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List of emperors of the Song dynasty

Painted image of a portly man sitting in a red throne-chair with dragon-head decorations, wearing white silk robes, black shoes, and a black hat, and sporting a black mustache and goatee
A hanging-scroll portrait painting of Emperor Taizu of Song (r. 960–976), founder of the Song Dynasty, painted by an anonymous Song artist

The Song Dynasty (960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that succeeded the period referred to as Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907–960) and preceded the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), which conquered the Song in 1279. The conventional division into the Northern Song (960–1127) and Southern Song (1127–1279) periods is created by the conquest of northern China by the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234) in 1127 and the consequent shift of the capital from Bianjing (modern Kaifeng) in the north to Lin'an (modern Hangzhou) in the south.

Below is a complete list of emperors of the Song Dynasty, including their temple names, posthumous names, given names, and era names. The dynasty was founded by Zhao Kuangyin, who became Emperor Taizu (r. 960–976) and concluded with the death of Zhao Bing, known posthumously as Weiwang (r. 1278–1279). The last emperor of the Northern Song was Emperor Qinzong (r. 1126–1127), while the first emperor of the Southern Song was Emperor Gaozong (r. 1127–1162).

The emperor, or huangdi, was the supreme head of state during the imperial era of China (221 BC – 1912), including the Song. He was a hereditary ruler who shared executive powers with civilian officials appointed to various levels of office according to their performance in bureaucratic examinations. The growing importance of the civilian bureaucracy and national gentry class during the Song times led to a much more limited role for the emperor in shaping public policy, although he still maintained his autocratic authority. He had the sole right to establish new laws, although he was expected to respect legal precedents set forth by previous emperors of his dynasty.[1]


  • Background 1
  • Titles and names 2
  • Head of state 3
  • Emperors 4
    • Northern Song, 960–1127 4.1
    • Southern Song, 1127–1279 4.2
  • Family tree of emperors 5
  • Notes 6
  • Footnotes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Painted image of a man standing erect, wearing white silk robes, black hat, black shoes, and sporting a black mustache and goatee
Painted image of a man sitting in a wooden chair, wearing red silk robes, black shoes, a black hat, and sporting a black mustache and goatee
Left image: Portrait of Emperor Taizong (r. 976–997) by an anonymous Song artist
Right image: Portrait of Emperor Shenzong (r. 1067–1085) by an anonymous Song artist

The Song Dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song (r. 960–976) in 960, before the Song completely reunified China proper by conquest—excluding only the Sixteen Prefectures. The Song fought a series of wars with the Liao Dynasty (1125–1279), ruled by ethnic Khitans, over the possession of the Sixteen Prefectures of northern China.[2] The Liao regime was toppled in 1125 in a joint conquest by Song forces and the ethnic Jurchens led by Emperor Taizong of Jin (r. 1123–1134). However, the Jin quickly turned against the Song and invaded Song's northern territory.[2] In what is known as the Jingkang Incident,[3] Jin forces captured the Song's capital Kaifeng in 1127, along with Emperor Huizong of Song (r. 1100–1126), then a retired emperor, and his ruling son Emperor Qinzong of Song (r. 1126–1127).[4]

Emperor Gaozong of Song (r. 1127–1162), a son of Huizong, fled south and re-established the Song Dynasty at what is now Nanjing.[5] He established a temporary capital at Hangzhou in 1129, yet by 1132 he declared it the official capital city of the empire.[6] The Jin made several failed attempts to conquer the Southern Song, but in 1165 Emperor Xiaozong of Song (r. 1162–1189) and Emperor Shizong of Jin (r. 1161–1189) agreed to a peace treaty that resulted in a diplomatic accord being reached between the two countries.[7] The Song continued to rule southern China until 1279, when the Yuan Dynasty led by Kublai Khan, the Khagan of the Mongols,[8] invaded and conquered Song. The last ruler was Zhao Bing, known posthumously as Weiwang (r.1278–1279), who was killed on 27th March 1279 during the naval Battle of Yamen in what is now modern Yamen Town of the Xinhui District, Jiangmen City, Guangdong Province.[9][10]

Titles and names

From the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) until the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), the ruling head of state was known as huangdi, or emperor.[11] In Chinese historical texts, emperors of the Song Dynasty, along with the Tang and Yuan, are referred to by their temple names.[12] Before the Tang Dynasty (618–907), emperors were generally referred to in historical texts by their posthumous names.[12] During the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing dynasties, emperors were exclusively referred to in historical texts by their single era name, whereas emperors of previous dynasties, including Song, usually had multiple era names.[13] The amount of written characters used in posthumous names grew steadily larger from the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) onwards and thus became overly long when referring to sovereigns.[12] For example, the posthumous name of Nurhaci (r. 1616–1626), founder of the northern Manchu state which would eventually establish the Qing Dynasty, contained 29 written characters.[12] By the Tang Dynasty, much shorter temple names were preferred when referring to the emperor, a preference that was carried into the Song Dynasty.[12] Each emperor also had a tomb name (Ling hao 陵號) and various other honorific titles.[14]

Head of state

A painted image of four Chinese women wearing colorful silk robes, their hair tied up into buns, standing around a small wooden block with silk laid on top while holding large whisks which they use to beat the silk
Peter K. Bol writes that Emperor Huizong's political ideology and even his artwork, such as this piece showing women preparing [15]

In theory, the emperor's political power was absolute, but even during the Han Dynasty he shared executive powers with civilian officials and normally based his decisions on the advice and formal consensus of his ministers.[16] During the Song Dynasty, a national examination system managed by scholar-bureaucrats was used to recruit officials; those who passed the Palace Examination—the highest-level examination in the country—were appointed directly by the emperor to the highest central-government posts.[17] Like commoners, these senior officials had to obey his edicts as law or be punished.[1] However, senior officials not only challenged the emperor over policy, but restrained him by invoking the ideal Confucian mores and values of the literati gentry class from which they came.[18]

During the preceding Tang Dynasty, the civil service examinations did not yet produce the high number of officials as they would during Song; [19] a hereditary aristocracy remained dependent on the court for attaining rank and holding office.[20] Song rulers, particularly Emperor Huizong, encountered a great deal of political opposition despite attempts to attain the ideals of the sage kings of antiquity. The inability of the sovereign to monopolize political authority was linked to the rise of a new class of gentry and scholar-official who filled the bureaucracy.[21]

When the Song Dynasty was founded, the political elites consisted of officials (and their sons) who had served in the Five Dynasties era, as well as those who came from prominent families which boasted an aristocratic ancestry and had provided officials for generations.[22] Since the first Song emperors wished to avoid domination of government by military strongmen such as the jiedushi of the previous era, they limited the power of military officers and focused on building a powerful civilian establishment.[23] During the 11th century, the expansion of schools and local academies nurtured a nationwide gentry class which provided most if not all officials.[24] By the late 11th century, the elite marriage strategies of prominent families eroded due to the intense partisan politics surrounding the New Policies (Xin fa 新法) of Chancellor Wang Anshi (1021–1086). These great families were replaced by officials representing diverse local gentry lineages throughout the country.[25]

Peter K. Bol asserts that the supporters of Wang's expansionist, activist central government in his New Policies were convinced that he understood the dao which brought utopia to Western-Zhou (c. 1050 BC – 771 BC) antiquity and were determined to conform society according to his vision. The marginalized emperor—the last remaining aristocrat with any true political power—embraced the fiction that he was like the sage kings of old who brought society into a state of total harmony with court rituals and policy reforms.[21] Yet after the reign of Huizong, Song rulers and officials alike disregarded the New Policies and focused instead on reforming society through a local, bottom-up approach.[21] For example, Huizong attempted from 1107–1120 to bar anyone who had not attended a government school from serving in public office. He thus rejected anyone who did not acknowledge his brand of Confucian ideology as orthodoxy.[26] However, the government-run school system during the Southern Song eventually lost prominence to private academies, which had outnumbered government schools during the early Northern Song.[27] Even before Huizong's reign, Sima Guang (1019–1086), a prominent chancellor and political rival to Wang Anshi, had little to say about the emperor's role in shaping major reforms and public policy, mentioning only that the emperor made major appointments when necessary.[28]

Emperors could choose whether to supervise the policy bureaucracy or to pursue scholarship, cults, hobbies, or women instead. However, Frederick W. Mote argues that most Song emperors—who spent much of their childhood confined and isolated within a luxurious palace—were aloof conformists detached from the world of normal affairs and thus relied on officialdom to administer the government.[29] While the mainstream view is that the Song court exercised the highest degree of restraint and courtesy towards civil officials, the new protocol of enhanced deferential treatment by officials towards the emperor during conferences and meetings further eroded the emperor's close contact with his ministers.[30]


Northern Song, 960–1127

Portrait Temple name
(Miao Hao 廟號 Miào Hào)[note 1]
Posthumous name
(Shi Hao 諡號)
Birth name Period of reign Era names (Nian Hao 年號) and their according range of years
Taizu (太祖 Tàizǔ) too long; not used when referring to this sovereign[note 2] Zhao Kuangyin (趙匡胤 Zhào Kuāngyìn) 960–976
  • Jianlong (建隆 Jiànlóng) 960–963[31]
  • Qiande (乾德 Qiándé) 963–968[32]
  • Kaibao (開寶 Kāibǎo) 968–976[33]
Taizong (太宗 Tàizōng) too long; not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Kuangyi (趙匡義 Zhào Kuāngyì) or Zhao Guangyi (趙光義 Zhào Guāngyì) 976–997
  • Taipingxingguo (太平興國 Tàipíngxīngguó) 976–984[34]
  • Yongxi (雍熙 Yōngxī) 984–988[35]
  • Duangong (端拱 Duāngǒng) 988–989[36]
  • Chunhua (淳化 Chúnhuà) 990–994[37]
  • Zhidao (至道 Zhìdào) 995–997[38]
Zhenzong (真宗 Zhēnzōng) too long; not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Heng (趙恆 Zhào Héng) 997–1022
  • Xianping (咸平 Xiánpíng) 998–1003[39]
  • Jingde (景德 Jǐngdé) 1004–1007[40]
  • Dazhongxiangfu (大中祥符 Dàzhōngxiángfú) 1008–1016[41]
  • Tianxi (天禧 Tiānxǐ) 1017–1021[42]
  • Qianxing (乾興 Qiánxīng) 1022[43]
Renzong (仁宗 Rénzōng) too long; not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Zhen (趙禎 Zhào Zhēn) 1022–1063
  • Tiansheng (天聖 Tiānshèng) 1023–1032[44]
  • Mingdao (明道 Míngdào) 1032–1033[45]
  • Jingyou (景祐 Jǐngyòu) 1034–1038[46]
  • Baoyuan (寶元 Bǎoyuán) 1038–1040[47]
  • Kangding (康定 Kāngdìng) 1040–1041[48]
  • Qingli (慶曆 Qìnglì) 1041–1048[49]
  • Huangyou (皇祐 Huángyòu) 1049–1053[50]
  • Zhihe (至和 Zhìhé) 1054–1056[51]
  • Jiayou (嘉祐 Jiāyòu) 1056–1063[52]
Yingzong (英宗 Yīngzōng) too long; not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Shu (趙曙 Zhào Shù) 1063–1067
  • Zhiping (治平 Zhìpíng) 1064–1067[53]
Shenzong (神宗 Shénzōng) too long; not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Xu (趙頊 Zhào Xū) 1067–1085
  • Xining (熙寧 Xīníng) 1068–1077[54]
  • Yuanfeng (元豐 Yuánfēng) 1078–1085[55]
Zhezong (哲宗 Zhézōng) too long; not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Xu (趙煦 Zhào Xǔ) 1085–1100
  • Yuanyou (元祐 Yuányòu) 1086–1093[56]
  • Shaosheng (紹聖 Shàoshèng) 1094–1098[57]
  • Yuanfu (元符 Yuánfú) 1098–1100[58]
Huizong (徽宗 Huīzōng) too long; not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Ji (趙佶 Zhào Jí) 1100–1125
  • Jianzhongjingguo (建中靖國 Jiànzhōngjìngguó) 1101[59]
  • Chongning (崇寧 Chóngníng) 1102–1106[60]
  • Daguan (大觀 Dàguān) 1107–1110[61]
  • Zhenghe (政和 Zhènghé) 1111–1118[62]
  • Chonghe (重和 Chónghé) 1118[63]
  • Xuanhe (宣和 Xuānhé) 1119–1125[64]
Qinzong (欽宗 Qīnzōng) too long; not used when referring to this sovereign Zhao Huan (趙桓 Zhào Huán) 1126–1127
  • Jingkang (靖康 Jìngkāng) 1125–1127[65]

Southern Song, 1127–1279

Portrait Temple names
(Miao Hao 廟號 Miào Hào)
Posthumous names
(Shi Hao 諡號)
Birth names Period
of reigns
Era names (Nian Hao 年號) and their according range of years
Gaozong (高宗 Gāozōng) Shòumìng Zhōngxīng Quángōng Zhìdé Shèngshén Wǔwén Zhāorén Xiànxiào Huángdì (受命中興全功至德聖神武文昭仁憲孝皇帝) Zhao Gou (趙構 Zhào Gòu) 1127–1162
  • Jingyan (靖炎 Jìngyán) 1127–1130[66][67]
  • Shaoxing (紹興 Shàoxīng) 1131–1162[68]
Xiaozong (孝宗 Xiàozōng) Shàotǒng Tóngdào Guāndé Zhāogōng Zhéwén Shénwǔ Míngshèng Chéngxiào Huángdì
Zhao Shen (趙昚 Zhào Shèn) 1162–1189
  • Longxing (隆興 Lóngxīng) 1163–1164[69]
  • Qiandao (乾道 Qiándào) 1165–1173[70]
  • Chunxi (淳熙 Chúnxī) 1174–1189[71]
Guangzong (光宗 Guāngzōng) Xúndào Xiànrén Mínggōng Màodé Wēnshùn Wǔshèng Zhécí Xiào Huángdì (循道憲仁明功茂德溫文順武聖哲慈孝皇帝) Zhao Dun (趙惇 Zhào Dūn) 1189–1194
  • Shaoxi (紹熙 Shàoxī) 1190–1194[72]
Ningzong (寧宗 Níngzōng) Fǎtiān Bèidào Chúnquán Démào Gōngrén Wénzhé Wǔshèng Ruìgōng Xiào Huángdì (法天備道純德茂功仁文哲武聖睿恭孝皇帝) Zhao Kuo (趙擴 Zhào Kuó) 1194–1224
  • Qingyuan (慶元 Qìngyuán) 1195–1200[73]
  • Jiatai (嘉泰 Jiātài) 1201–1204[74]
  • Kaixi (開禧 Kāixǐ) 1205–1207[75]
  • Jiading (嘉定 Jiādìng) 1208–1224[76]
Lizong (理宗 Lǐzōng) Jiàndào Bèidé Dàgōng Fùxīng Lièwén Rénwǔ Shèngmíng Ān Xiào Huángdì (建道備德大功復興烈文仁武聖明安孝皇帝) Zhao Yun (趙昀 Zhào Yún) 1224–1264
  • Baoqing (寶慶 Bǎoqìng) 1225–1227[77]
  • Shaoding (紹定 Shàodìng) 1228–1233[78]
  • Duanping (端平 Duānpíng) 1234–1236[79]
  • Jiaxi (嘉熙 Jiāxī) 1237–1240[80]
  • Chunyou (淳祐 Chúnyòu) 1241–1252[81]
  • Baoyou (寶祐 Bǎoyòu) 1253–1258[82]
  • Kaiqing (開慶 Kāiqìng) 1259[83]
  • Jingding (景定 Jǐngdìng) 1260–1264[84]
Duzong (度宗 Dùzōng) Duānwén Míngwǔ Jǐng Xiào Huángdì (端文明武景孝皇帝) Zhao Qi (趙祺 Zhào Qí) 1264–1274
  • Xianchun (咸淳 Xiánchún) 1265–1274[85]
Gongzong (恭宗 Gōngzōng) Xiàogōng Yìshèng Huángdì (孝恭懿圣皇帝) Zhao Xian (趙顯 Zhào Xiǎn) 1275
  • Deyou (德祐 Déyòu) 1275–1276[86]
Duanzong (端宗 Duānxōng) Yùwén Zhāowǔ Mǐn Xiào (裕文昭武愍孝皇帝) Zhao Shi (趙昰 Zhào Shì) 1276–1278
  • Jingyan (景炎 Jǐngyán) 1276–1278[87]
Huaizong (懷宗) Gōng Wén Níng Wǔ Āi Xiào Huángdì (恭文寧武哀孝皇帝) Zhao Bing (趙昺 Zhào Bǐng) 1278–1279
  • Xiangxing (祥興 Xiángxīng) 1278–1279[88]

Family tree of emperors


  1. ^ Convention: "Sòng" + temple name or posthumous name except last emperor who was revered as Song Di Bing (Sòng Dì Bǐng 宋帝昺)
  2. ^ See the "names and titles" section of this article for an explanation.


  1. ^ a b Mote (1999), pp. 98–99.
  2. ^ a b Bol (2001), p. 112.
  3. ^ Hennessey (1984), pp. 42, 51.
  4. ^ Ebrey et al. (2006), pp. 165–167.
  5. ^ Gernet (1962), p. 22.
  6. ^ Coblin (2002), p. 533.
  7. ^ Tilman (1995), p. 29; Mostern (2008), p. 241.
  8. ^ Rossabi (1988), pp. 8, 53.
  9. ^ Rossabi (1988), pp. 93–94.
  10. ^ David C. Wright (2012). David Andrew Graff; Robin D. S. Higham, eds. A Military History of China. University Press of Kentucky. p. 73.  
  11. ^ Wilkinson (1998), p. 106; Mote (1999), p. 98.
  12. ^ a b c d e Wilkinson (1998), p. 106.
  13. ^ Wilkinson (1998), pp. 106–107.
  14. ^ Wilkinson (1998), p. 107.
  15. ^ Bol (2001), pp. 113–114.
  16. ^ de Crespigny (2007), pp. 1216, 1226–1228; Bielenstein (1980), pp. 84–85, 143–144; Hucker (1975), pp. 149–150; Wang (1949), pp. 157–158, 173–177.
  17. ^ Ebrey et al. (2006), p. 159–160; Bol (2001), p. 107; Gernet (1962), p. 65.
  18. ^ Mote (1999), p. 99–100.
  19. ^ Ebrey (1999), pp. 145–146.
  20. ^ Bol (2001), 132.
  21. ^ a b c See Bol (2001), pp. 103–134 for detailed analysis.
  22. ^ Hartwell (1982), pp. 405–407.
  23. ^ Ebrey (1999), pp. 145–146; Mote (1999), p. 102; see also Needham (1972), p. 132.
  24. ^ Yuan (1994), pp. 196–194; Bol (2001), pp. 115–116, 121, 133; see also Ebrey (1999), pp. 145–146.
  25. ^ Hartwell (1982), pp. 413–416.
  26. ^ Bol (2001), 116.
  27. ^ Hymes (1986), pp. 132–133; Walton (1999), p. 199.
  28. ^ Bol (2001), p. 133.
  29. ^ Mote (1999), p. 100.
  30. ^ Mote (1999), p. 101.
  31. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 873–876.
  32. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 876–878.
  33. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 878–881.
  34. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 881–883.
  35. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 883–885.
  36. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 885–886.
  37. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 886–887.
  38. ^ Bo (1977), p. 887.
  39. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 887–891.
  40. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 891–892.
  41. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 892–894.
  42. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 894–895.
  43. ^ Bo (1977), p. 895.
  44. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 895–896.
  45. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 896–897.
  46. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 897–898.
  47. ^ Bo (1977), p. 898.
  48. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 898–899.
  49. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 899–903.
  50. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 903–904.
  51. ^ Bo (1977), p. 905.
  52. ^ Bo, pp. 905–907.
  53. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 908–909.
  54. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 909–914.
  55. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 914–918.
  56. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 918–921.
  57. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 921–923.
  58. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 923–924.
  59. ^ Bo (1977), p. 927.
  60. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 927–928.
  61. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 928–929.
  62. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 929–931.
  63. ^ Bo (1977), p. 931.
  64. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 932–935.
  65. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 937–938.
  66. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 938–942.
  67. ^ In 1129, Emperor Gaozong was briefly forced to abdicate in favor of his two-year-old son Zhao Fu, with the era name Mingshou, but as shortly after Emperor Gaozong was restored by forces loyal to him, Zhao Fu is not usually considered a Song emperor by traditional historians, nor was his era name recognized. But see Bo (1977), pp. 941–942.
  68. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 944–961.
  69. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 961–962.
  70. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 963–965.
  71. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 965–969.
  72. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 970–972.
  73. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 972–973.
  74. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 977–978.
  75. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 979–981.
  76. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 981–988.
  77. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 989–990.
  78. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 991–994.
  79. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 995–996.
  80. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 996–997.
  81. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 998–1002.
  82. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 1003–1004.
  83. ^ Bo (1977), p. 1005.
  84. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 1006–1008.
  85. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 1008–1011.
  86. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 1012–1013.
  87. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 1013–1015.
  88. ^ Bo (1977), pp. 1015–1016.


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  • Wang, Yu-ch'uan. "An Outline of The Central Government of The Former Han Dynasty," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1/2 (Jun., 1949), pp. 134–187.
  • Wilkinson, Endymion. (1998). Chinese History: A Manual. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Asia Center of the Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-12378-6.
  • Yuan, Zheng. "Local Government Schools in Sung China: A Reassessment," History of Education Quarterly (Volume 34, Number 2; Summer 1994): 193–213.

External links

  • Chinese History - Song Dynasty 宋 (960–1279), emperors and rulers (
  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

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