Emperor Ningzong

Emperor Ningzong of Song (19 November 1168 – 17 September 1224), personal name Zhao Kuo, was the 13th emperor of the Song dynasty in China and the fourth emperor of the Southern Song dynasty. He reigned from 1194 until his death in 1224.

Emperor Ningzong of Song
Song Ningzong 1.png
Emperor of the Song dynasty
Reign24 July 1194 – 17 September 1224
Coronation24 July 1194
PredecessorEmperor Guangzong
SuccessorEmperor Lizong
BornZhao Kuo
19 November 1168
Died17 September 1224(1224-09-17) (aged 55)
Lin'an, Zhejiang, China
Yongmaoling (永茂陵)
Shaoxing, Zhejiang
(m. 1185; died 1200)

(m. 1195⁠–⁠1224)
IssuePrincess Yuping
Era dates
Qingyuan (慶元; 1195–1201)
Jiatai (嘉泰; 1201–1204)
Kaixi (開禧; 1205–1207)
Jiading (嘉定; 1207–1224)
Posthumous name
Fatian Beidao Chunde Maogong Renwen Zhewu Shengrui Gongxiao Huangdi
Temple name
Ningzong (寧宗)
HouseHouse of Zhao
FatherEmperor Guangzong
MotherEmpress Ciyi
Emperor Ningzong of Song
Traditional Chinese宋寧宗
Simplified Chinese宋宁宗
Literal meaning"Peaceful Ancestor of the Song"
Zhao Kuo
Traditional Chinese趙擴
Simplified Chinese赵扩

He was the second son and the only surviving child of his predecessor Guangzong and like his father, Ningzong was weak-minded; easily dominated by women.[1] During Ningzong's reign, he had built 75 commemorative shrines and steles, the most in Song history.[2] He was a great patron of art, promoting artists such as Liang Kai and Ma Yuan to painter-in-waiting and writing poems about their paintings.[3] Upon Ningzong's death, a minor official and a relative of Ningzong became Emperor Lizong.


He was noted for the cultural and intellectual achievements made during his reign. In particular, Zhu Xi wrote some of his most famous Neo-Confucianist works during this period. However, Emperor Ningzong was known for his aversion towards the spread of Neo-Confucianism in his imperial court due to the influence of his chancellor Han Tuozhou and on the political side, however, Emperor Ningzong saw his government being plagued by rising inflation that threatened the economy and the military advances by the Jurchens from the north during the wars between the Song dynasty and Jurchen-led Jin dynasty.

In absence of a son, he adopted a relative named Zhao Xun in 1197 who was only 6 years old.[4]

In 1198, Neo-Confucianism was banned for two years until the ban was repelled in 1202.[5][6]

Song Invasion of the JinEdit

As the Jin were weakening because of natural disasters, Ningzong's chancellor Han Tuozhou continually provoked the weak Jin by launching raids.[7] War against the Jin was officially declared on June 14, 1206 by Han Tuozhou.[8] The war was a disaster. Despite the Jin's weakness due to the natural disasters, it had countered the attacks from the Song and even counter-attacked. To make things worse, Ningzong was not interested in the war effort[9] and morale was low. There was not enough supplies and many of the army deserted. Wu Xi (吳曦; d. 1207), the governor-general of Sichuan, defected to the Jin in December 1206.[10] This was bad, as Wu was holding the western front, however, Song loyalists assassinated Wu on March 29, 1207, before Jin troops could take control of the surrendered territories.[11] Fighting continued in 1207, but by the end of that year the war was at a stalemate. The Song was now on the defensive, while the Jin failed to make gains in Song territory.[12] The failure of Han Tuozhou's aggressive policies led to his demise. On December 15, 1207, Han was beaten to death by the Imperial Palace Guards.


A peace treaty was signed on November 2, 1208, and the Song tribute to the Jin was reinstated. The Song annual indemnity increased by 50,000 taels of silver and 50,000 packs of fabric.[13] The treaty also stipulated that the Song had to present to the Jin the head of Han Tuozhou, who the Jin held responsible for starting the war.[13] The heads of Han and Su were severed from their exhumed corpses, exhibited to the public, then delivered to the Jin finally ending the war.[14]

In 1210, The Mongols, formerly a Jin tributary, ended their vassalage and attacked the Jin in 1211.[15] In light of this event, the Song court debated ending tributary payments to the weakened Jin, but they chose to avoid antagonizing the Jin.[16] As the Mongols expanded, the Jin suffered territorial losses and attacked the Song in 1217 to compensate for their shrinking territory.[17] The Jin continued attacking the Song until they agreed to a peace treaty and the Jin returned home. However, the Song would never regain their lost land.

In 1220, his adopted heir Zhao Xun died from dysentery. Zhao Xun was only 29 years old.[4] Shi Miyuan decided when Ningzong died, another relative named Zhao Hong was to succeed him but Zhao Hong was never placed as heir-apparent due to conflicts with Shi Miyuan and when Ningzong died, he was replaced by Zhao Yun, the future Emperor Lizong.[4]

He fell ill before dying a few days later in 1224.[18] Ningzong may have been poisoned; it is also worth mentioning that Ningzong was physically weak as a nearly emaciated which suggested physical ailments of some gravity was shown in his official portrait.[4] He was succeeded by another relative named Zhao Yun as all of Ningzong's children died young who later became Emperor Lizong.


Consorts and Issue:

  • Empress Gongshu, of the Han clan (恭淑皇后 韓氏; 1165–1200)
    • Zhao Jun, Prince Yanchonghui (兗衝惠王 趙埈; 1196), second son
    • Zhao Tan, Prince Bin (邠王 趙坦; 1200), third son
  • Empress Gongsheng, of the Yang clan (恭聖皇后 楊氏; 1162–1233), personal name Guizhi (桂枝)
    • Zhao Zeng, Prince Ying (郢王 趙增; 1200–1201), fourth son
    • Zhao Jiong, Prince Hua (華王 趙埛; 1202), fifth son
  • Jieyu, of the Cao clan (婕妤 曹氏)
    • Princess Yuping (玉屏公主)
      • Married Lin Cun (林存)
  • Furen, of the Zhong clan (夫人 鍾氏)
    • Zhao Qi, Prince Shun (順王 趙圻; 1207), sixth son
    • Zhao Zhi, Prince Shen (申王 趙墌; 1207), seventh son
  • Unknown
    • Zhao Ji, Prince Su (肅王 趙垍; 1208), eighth son
    • Zhao Zhi, Prince Pi (邳王 趙坻; 1223), ninth son
    • Princess Qi (祁公主), first daughter

Adopted Issue:

  • Zhao Xun, Crown Prince Jingxian (景獻皇太子 趙詢; 1192–1220)
  • Zhao Hong, Prince Zhenzhaosu (鎮昭肅王 趙竤; d. 1225)
  • Zhao Yun, Lizong (理宗 趙昀; 1205–1264)


Zhao Linghua
Zhao Zicheng (d. 1144)
Lady Liu
Emperor Xiaozong of Song (1127–1194)
Lady Zhang (d. 1167)
Emperor Guangzong of Song (1147–1200)
Guo Zhiqing
Guo Jian
Lady Xia
Empress Chengmu (1126–1156)
Lady Zhao
Emperor Ningzong of Song (1168–1224)
Li Dao
Empress Ciyi (1144–1200)
Lady Zhang

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Paludan, Ann (2009-01-01). Chinese Emperors: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial China. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 9780500287644.
  2. ^ Huang, Kuo Hung (2017-03-06). Telecommunication: Changing Humanities and Smart Application of Digital Technologies. Bentham Science Publishers. p. 50. ISBN 9781681084077.
  3. ^ Shen, Zhiyu (1981). The Shanghai Museum of Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. pp. 223–224. ISBN 0-8109-1646-0.
  4. ^ a b c d Davis, Richard L. "Troubles in Paradise: the Shrinking Royal Family in Southern Song" (PDF). National Palace Museum.
  5. ^ Twitchett 2009, p. 790.
  6. ^ Twitchett 2009, p. 787.
  7. ^ Franke 1994, pp. 245–247.
  8. ^ Franke 1994, pp. 247–248.
  9. ^ Davis 2009, p. 791.
  10. ^ Franke 1994, p. 248.
  11. ^ Franke 1994, p. 248; Davis 2009, p. 805.
  12. ^ Davis 2009, p. 805.
  13. ^ a b Franke 1994, p. 249.
  14. ^ Davis 2009, p. 812.
  15. ^ Franke 1994, pp. 251–252.
  16. ^ Davis 2009, pp. 819–821.
  17. ^ Franke 1994, p. 259.
  18. ^ McMahon, Keith (2016-04-21). Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 29. ISBN 9781442255029.


  • Davis, Richard L. (2009). "The Reigns of Kuang-tsung (1189–1194) and Ning-tsung (1194–1224)". In Paul Jakov Smith; Denis C. Twitchett (eds.). The Cambridge History of China: Volume 5, The Sung dynasty and Its Precursors, 907–1279. Cambridge University Press. pp. 756–838. ISBN 978-0-521-81248-1.
  • Franke, Herbert (1994). "The Chin dynasty". In Denis C. Twitchett; Herbert Franke; John K. Fairbank (eds.). The Cambridge History of China: Volume 6, Alien Regimes and Border States, 710–1368. Cambridge University Press. pp. 215–320. ISBN 978-0-521-24331-5.
  • Toqto'a, ed. (1343). History of Song. Volumes 37–40: Biography of Emperor Ningzong. |volume= has extra text (help)
  • Twitchett, Denis (2009). The Cambridge History of China Volume 5 The Sung dynasty and its Predecessors, 907-1279. Cambridge University Press.
Emperor Ningzong
Born: 1168 Died: 1224
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Guangzong
Emperor of the Song dynasty
Succeeded by
Emperor Lizong