Emperor Zhenzong

Emperor Zhenzong of Song (23 December 968 – 23 March 1022), personal name Zhao Heng, was the third emperor of the Song dynasty of China. He reigned from 997 to his death in 1022. His personal name was originally Zhao Dechang, but was changed to Zhao Yuanxiu in 983, Zhao Yuankan in 986, and finally Zhao Heng in 995. He was the third son of his predecessor, Emperor Taizong, and was succeeded by his sixth son, Emperor Renzong at the end of his reign. He was ill, but retained the power to rule. Because of his illness, charge of rule was often in the hands of his third wife, Empress Liu.

Emperor Zhenzong of Song
Portrait assis de l'empereur Song Zhenzong.jpg
Portrait on a hanging scroll, kept in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
Emperor of the Song dynasty
Reign8 May 997 – 23 March 1022 (All with the Empress Liu)
Coronation8 May 997
PredecessorEmperor Taizong
SuccessorEmperor Renzong
RegentEmpress Liu
BornZhao Dechang (968–983)
Zhao Yuanxiu (983–986)
Zhao Yuankan (986–995)
Zhao Heng (995–1022)
23 December 968
Died23 March 1022(1022-03-23) (aged 53)
ConsortsEmpress Zhanghuai
(m. 983; died 989)
Empress Zhangmu
(m. 991; died 1007)
(before 1022)

(before 1022)

Empress Zhanghui (m. 995–1022)
IssueEmperor Renzong
Princess Zhaohuai
Era dates
Xianping (咸平; 998–1003)
Jingde (景德; 1004–1007)
Dazhongxiangfu (大中祥符; 1008–1016)
Tianxi (天禧; 1017–1021)
Qianxing (乾興; 1022)
Regnal name
Emperor Chongwen Guangwu Shengming Renxiao (崇文廣武聖明仁孝皇帝);
Emperor Chongwen Guangwu Yitian Zundao Baoying Zhangwei Shengming Renxiao(崇文廣武儀天尊道寶應章威聖明仁孝皇帝);
Emperor Chongwen Guangwu Gantian Zundao Yingzhen Youde Shangsheng Qinming Renxiao (崇文廣武感天尊道應真佑德上聖欽明仁孝皇帝);
Emperor Tiyuan Yuji Gantian Zundao Yingzhen Baoyun Wende Wugong Shangsheng Qinming Renxiao (體元御極感天尊道應真寶運文德武功上聖欽明仁孝皇帝);
Emperor Yingtian Zundao Qinming Renxiao (應天尊道欽明仁孝皇帝)
Posthumous name
Emperor Yingfu Jigu Shengong Rangde Wenming Wuding Zhangsheng Yuanxiao
(膺符稽古神功讓德文明武定章聖元孝皇帝) (conferred in 1047)
Temple name
Zhenzong (真宗)
HouseHouse of Zhao
FatherEmperor Taizong
MotherEmpress Yuande
Emperor Zhenzong of Song
Literal meaning"True Ancestor of the Song"
Zhao Dechang
Traditional Chinese趙德昌
Simplified Chinese赵德昌
Zhao Yuanxiu
Traditional Chinese趙元休
Simplified Chinese赵元休
Zhao Yuankan
Traditional Chinese趙元侃
Simplified Chinese赵元侃
Zhao Heng
Traditional Chinese趙恆
Simplified Chinese赵恒


Tomb guardian at Emperor Zhenzong's tomb

Emperor Zhenzong's reign was noted for the consolidation of power and the strengthening of the Song Empire. The empire prospered, and its military might was further reinforced. However, it would also mark the beginning of a foreign policy towards the Khitan-led Liao dynasty in the north that would ultimately result in humiliation.

In 1004, the Khitans waged war against the Song Empire. Emperor Zhenzong, leading his army, struck back at the Khitans. Despite initial successes, in 1005, Emperor Zhenzong concluded the Chanyuan Treaty. The treaty resulted in over a century of peace, but at the price of the Song Empire agreeing to an inferior position to the Liao Empire, and also agreeing to pay an annual tribute of 100,000 ounces of silver and over 200,000 bolts of silk. The admission of inferiority would come to plague the foreign affairs of the Song Empire, while the payments slowly depleted the empire's coffers.

He was responsible for ordering the shipment of 30,000 bushels of quick-maturing rice seed from the Fujian Province to the lower Yangtze basin in 1011–1012, improving agriculture.

Emperor Zhenzong stressed the importance of Taoism at his imperial court. It was during his reign that the so-called Heavenly Texts, which glorified the Zhao family, were allegedly discovered. This was followed up by imperial sacrificial ceremonies carried out at Mount Tai. From 1013 to 1015, the emperor issued official decrees deifying the Jade Emperor as the highest ruler of Heaven.[1]

Champa rice was introduced to China from Champa during Emperor Zhenzong's reign.

In 1020, Emperor Zhenzong became affected by an illness which was to cause his death two years later and unable to handle the affairs of state. By this time, Zhenzong’s wife Empress Liu was already established as power behind the throne and handled the affairs of state. She continued to act unofficially as regent of China for the two remaining years of Zhenzong’s life.

Tomb of Emperor Zhenzong

Zhenzong died in 1022 of the foresaid illness. He was succeeded by his 6th son, Zhao Zhen who took the throne as Emperor Renzong, but all actual power still would be in the still hands of Empress Liu, who became empress dowager.


A number of Chinese artifacts dating from the Tang dynasty and Song dynasty, some of which had been owned by Emperor Zhenzong were excavated and then came into the hands of the Kuomintang general Ma Hongkui, who refused to publicise the findings. Among the artifacts were a white marble tablet from the Tang dynasty, gold nails, and bands made out of metal. It was not until after Ma died, that his wife went to Taiwan in 1971 from the United States to bring the artifacts to Chiang Kai-shek, who turned them over to the National Palace Museum.[2]


Consorts and Issue:

  • Empress Zhanghuai, of the Pan clan (章懷皇后 潘氏; 968–989)
  • Empress Zhangmu, of the Guo clan (章穆皇后 郭氏; 975–1007)
    • Zhao You, Crown Prince Daoxian (悼獻皇太子 趙佑; 995–1003), second son
    • Unnamed son
    • Unnamed son
  • Empress Zhangxian, of the Liu clan (章獻皇后 劉氏; 968–1033), personal name E ()
  • Empress Zhangyi, of the Li clan (章懿皇后 李氏; 987–1032)
    • Zhao Zhen, Renzong (仁宗 趙禎; 1010–1063), sixth son
    • Princess Jingyi (靜一帝姬), first daughter
  • Empress Zhanghui, of the Yang clan (章惠皇后 楊氏; 984–1036)
  • Noble Consort Zhaojing, of the Shen clan (昭靜貴妃 沈氏; 994–1076)
  • Worthy Consort, of the Cao clan (贤妃 曹氏)
  • Worthy Consort, of the Chen clan (贤妃 陈氏)
  • Noble Consort, of the Du clan (貴妃 杜氏; d. 1046), personal name Qiongzhen (瓊真)
    • Princess Zhaohuai (昭懷帝姬; d. 1047), personal name Zhichong (志衝), second daughter
  • Lady of Conducive Appearance, of the Dai clan (順容戴氏)
  • Beauty, of the Xu clan (美人徐氏)
  • Talented Lady, of the Chen clan (才人陳氏)
  • Unknown
    • Zhao Ti, Prince Wen (溫王 趙禔), first son
    • Zhao Zhi, Prince Chang (昌王 趙只), third son
    • Zhao Zhi, Prince Xin (信王 趙祉), fourth son
    • Zhao Qi, Prince Qin (欽王 趙祈), fifth son



  1. ^ Jonathan D. Spence. God's Chinese Son. New York 1996. p.42
  2. ^ China archeology and art digest, Volume 3, Issue 4. Art Text (HK) Ltd. 2000. p. 354.
Emperor Zhenzong
House of Zhao (960–1279)
Born: 997 Died: 1022
Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of the Song Dynasty
Succeeded by
Emperor of China
997–1022 (With the Empress Consort Liu)