Emperor Xiaozong of Song

Emperor Xiaozong of Song (27 November 1127 – 28 June 1194), personal name Zhao Shen, courtesy name Yuanyong, was the 11th emperor of the Song dynasty of China and the second emperor of the Southern Song dynasty. He started his reign in 1162 when his adoptive father and predecessor, Emperor Gaozong, abdicated and passed the throne to him. Even though Emperor Gaozong became a Taishang Huang ("Retired Emperor") after his abdication, he remained the de facto ruler, so Emperor Xiaozong only took full power in 1187 after Emperor Gaozong's death. After ruling for about a year, Emperor Xiaozong followed in his predecessor's footsteps and abdicated in favour of his third son Zhao Dun (Emperor Guangzong), while he became Taishang Huang and still remained in power until his death in 1194.

Emperor Xiaozong of Song
Palace portrait on a hanging scroll, kept in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
Emperor of the Song dynasty
Reign24 July 1162 – 18 February 1189
Coronation24 July 1162
PredecessorEmperor Gaozong
SuccessorEmperor Guangzong
Retired Emperor of the Song dynasty
Reign18 February 1189 – 28 June 1194
BornZhao Bocong (1127–1133)
Zhao Yuan (1133–1160)
Zhao Wei (1160–1162)
Zhao Shen (1162–1194)
27 November 1127
Jiaxing County, Xiuzhou, Song dynasty (modern Jiaxing, Zhejiang, China)
Died28 June 1194(1194-06-28) (aged 66)
Lin'an, Song dynasty (modern Hangzhou, Zhejiang)
Yongfuling Mausoleum (永阜陵, in present-day Shaoxing, Zhejiang)
Empress Chengmu
(died 1156)

(died 1167)

(before 1194)
IssueZhao Qi
Zhao Kai
Emperor Guangzong
Zhao Ke
Era dates
Longxing (隆興; 1163–1164)
Qiandao (乾道; 1165–1173)
Chunxi (淳熙; 1174–1189)
Posthumous name
Emperor Shaotong Tongdao Guande Zhaogong Zhewen Shenwu Mingsheng Chengxiao
(conferred in 1197)
Temple name
Xiaozong (孝宗)
HouseHouse of Zhao
FatherZhao Zicheng
Emperor Gaozong (stepfather)
MotherLady Zhang
Emperor Xiaozong of Song
Literal meaning"Filial Ancestor of the Song"
Zhao Shen
Traditional Chinese趙昚
Simplified Chinese赵昚
(courtesy name)

He was the first descendant of Emperor Taizu to become emperor.


Zhao Shen's birth name was Zhao Bocong (趙伯琮). In March 1133, after Zhao Bocong entered the imperial palace, his name was changed to Zhao Yuan (趙瑗). In April 1160, after Zhao Yuan was adopted by Emperor Gaozong, his name was changed to Zhao Wei (趙瑋). In July 1162, when Zhao Wei became crown prince, his name was changed again to Zhao Shen (趙眘).

Zhao Shen was given the courtesy name Yuangui (元瑰) in May 1160. In July 1162, when he became crown prince, his courtesy name was changed to Yuanyong (元永).

Early lifeEdit

Zhao Shen was a seventh-generation descendant of Emperor Taizu, the founder and first emperor of the Song dynasty. He was the second son of Zhao Zicheng (趙子偁; died 1143), a sixth cousin of Emperor Gaozong, the 10th Song emperor. After the Jingkang Incident in 1127, Emperor Gaozong's father, eldest brother and most of his close relatives were taken prisoner by the Jurchen-led Jin Empire. As Emperor Gaozong's only son, Zhao Fu (趙旉), died prematurely around the age of two, the emperor ordered his officials to start searching for other living descendants of the imperial family. Zhao Shen was discovered and adopted by Emperor Gaozong in April 1160 as a son. Another relative, Zhao Qu was also adopted. In July 1162, Emperor Gaozong officially designated Zhao Shen as his crown prince and heir apparent. One of the main reasons Gaozong chose Shen over Qu was of Shen's virtue.[1] It is said that Gaozong gave ten maids to Shen and Qu.[1] In the end, Qu had touched every maid but Shen had not even touched one winning Gaozong's favor over Qu.[1]

In 24 July 1162, Emperor Gaozong abdicated in favor of Emperor Xiaozong who became emperor although Emperor Gaozong retained power as Taishang Huang.


During the reign of Emperor Xiaozong, the Chinese increased the number of trade missions that would dock at ports throughout the Indian Ocean, where Arab and Hindu influence was once predominant. Xiaozong also was responsible for Yue Fei's posthumous rehabilitation, clearing out the remnants of Qin Hui's faction in court, and stabilizing the economy making his reign the most powerful era of the Southern Song Dynasty and it's said he was the best ruler of the Southern Song dynasty.[1]

Archery and equestrianism were required for non-military officials at the Military College in 1162 during Emperor Xiaozong's reign.[2]

In 1165, he reached peace with the Jin Dynasty.

In 1187, the retired Emperor Gaozong died. Xiaozong was stricken with grief and retreated from governing, insisting on mourning Gaozong and stating that he would only rule for two more years.[1][3] Xiaozong turned all government affairs to his son Zhao Dun.[3]

In 1189, Emperor Xiaozong abdicated in favour of his son, Zhao Dun who took the throne as Emperor Guangzong.[3] He then granted himself the title Taishang Huang and remained as the de facto ruler.

As Retired EmperorEdit

His daughter-in-law Empress Li reportedly attempted to keep Emperor Guangzong and his father (Xiaozong) separate, and often stopped the emperor from seeing his father.[4] On one occasion, at the sickbed of the emperor, her father-in-law threatened to have her executed for not taking proper care of the monarch.[4]

Retired Emperor Xiaozong fell ill in 1194 and was made worse when Emperor Guangzong refused to visit him.[5] Xiaozong soon died. Emperor Guangzong refused to attend his funeral and as a result, was forced to give his throne to the deceased retired emperor's grandson Emperor Ningzong.


Consorts and Issue:

  • Empress Chengmu, of the Guo clan (成穆皇后 郭氏; 1126–1156)
    • Zhao Qi, Crown Prince Zhuangwen (莊文皇太子 趙愭; 1144–1167), first son
    • Zhao Kai, Prince Weihuixian (魏惠憲王 趙愷; 1146–1180), second son
    • Zhao Dun, Guangzong (光宗 趙惇; 1147–1200), third son
    • Zhao Ke, Prince Shaodaosu (邵悼肅王 趙恪), fourth son
  • Empress Chenggong, of the Xia clan (成恭皇后 夏氏; d. 1167)
    • Unnamed daughter
    • Unnamed son
  • Empress Chengsu, of the Xie clan (成肅皇后 謝氏; 1132–1203), personal name Sufang (蘇芳)
  • Noble Consort, of the Cai clan (贵妃 蔡氏)
  • Worthy Consort, of the Li clan (贤妃 李氏)
  • Unknown
    • Princess Jia (嘉公主; d. 1162), first daughte
    • Second princess


Zhao Congyu, a grandson of Zhao Defang
Zhao Shijiang
Lady Xue of Hedong
Zhao Linghua
Li Weixian
Lady Li
Zhao Zicheng (d. 1144)
Lady Liu
Emperor Xiaozong of Song (1127–1194)
Lady Zhang (d. 1167)

In Pop CultureEdit

Portrayed in 2022 WEBNOVEL titled ROSES OF BLOOD by author TAIYANG DASHENG.

See alsoEdit

  1. Chinese emperors family tree (middle)
  2. List of emperors of the Song dynasty
  3. Architecture of the Song dynasty
  4. Culture of the Song dynasty
  5. Economy of the Song dynasty
  6. History of the Song dynasty
  7. Society of the Song dynasty
  8. Technology of the Song dynasty
  9. Jin–Song Wars


  1. ^ a b c d e Keith McMahon (21 April 2016). Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing. ISBN 9781442255029.
  2. ^ Lo, Jung-pang (1 January 2012). China as a Sea Power, 1127-1368: A Preliminary Survey of the Maritime Expansion and Naval Exploits of the Chinese People During the Southern Song and Yuan Periods. NUS Press. pp. 103–. ISBN 978-9971-69-505-7.
  3. ^ a b c Xiong, Victor Cunrui; Hammond, Kenneth J. (2018-09-17). Routledge Handbook of Imperial Chinese History. Routledge. p. 302. ISBN 9781317538226.
  4. ^ a b Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  5. ^ Editorial, Asiapac (2018-11-27). The Classic of Filial Piety (2013 Edition - EPUB). Asiapac Books Pte Ltd. p. 72. ISBN 9789812296733.
Emperor Xiaozong of Song
Born: 1127 Died: 1194
Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of the Song Dynasty
Succeeded by