Emperor Huizong

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  • Born: 1082
  • Died: 1135
  • Reign: 1101-1125
  • Chinese: 徽宗皇帝 (Huīzōng huángdì)

Emperor Huizong was the last emperor of China's Northern Song Dynasty. He is regarded as an exemplary calligrapher, painter, and patron of the arts, and is indeed quite possibly the most famous painter and calligrapher among China's emperors.

His most famous works include the handscroll paintings "Five-Colored Parakeet"[1] and "Court Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk,"[2] and the hanging scroll painting "Auspicious Cranes" (below) along with a number of works of calligraphy in Huizong's distinctive "Slender Gold" style. Huizong is also known for his personal/Imperial collection of over six thousand paintings, and for his establishment of the Imperial Painting Academy. The Academy would continue on into the Southern Song Dynasty, and would be revived in the Ming and Qing Dynasties as a body of official court painters, each of whom enjoyed formal court rank and worked producing artworks for the Court for a variety of official purposes.

Huizong was also a strong supporter of Daoism, giving it priority over Buddhism, and working to have many Buddhist institutions and deities refigured as Daoist ones, building upon similar actions by his predecessor, Emperor Zhezong of Song. He also sponsored the first printed compilation of the Daoist canon.[1]

Though a celebrated figure in the history of Chinese art, Huizong is also considered to have been a rather weak emperor in political terms, and is generally seen in rather negative terms, as his reign saw the loss of northern China (the Yellow River Valley) to the Jurchen hordes of the Jin Dynasty. The Jin captured the Northern Song capital of Kaifeng, and took Huizong and much of the Imperial family prisoner. While one of his sons, who had not been present in Kaifeng at the time, continued the Song Dynasty as Emperor Gaozong of Song in a new southern capital at Lin'an (Hangzhou), Huizong spent the rest of his life, the next ten years, a captive of the Jurchens, dying in 1135.

Auspicious Cranes, painting and calligraphy by Emperor Huizong, 1112. Liaoning Provincial Museum.
Preceded by
Emperor Zhezong of Song
Emperor of Song
Succeeded by
Emperor Qinzong of Song


  • Valerie Hansen, The Open Empire, New York: W.W. Norton & Co (2000), 276.
  1. Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 199-200.