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Emperor Taizu of Song China
Birth and death: March 21, 927Plantilla:Dda
Family name: Zhào (趙)
Given name: Kuāngyìn (匡胤)
Courtesy name (字): Yuanlang (元朗)
Dates of reign: February 4, 960¹–November 14, 976
Dynasty: Sòng (宋)
Temple name: Tàizǔ (太祖)
Posthumous name:
Never used short
Posthumous name:
Emperor Qiyun Liji Yingwu
Ruiwen Shende Shenggong
Zhiming Daxiao²
General note: Dates given here are in the Julian calendar.

They are not in the proleptic Gregorian calendar.

1. In control of only Northern China at first, was in control of

most of Southern China only in 975.
2. Final version of the posthumous name given in 1017.

Emperor Taizu (March 21, 927November 14, 976, Plantilla:Zh-c), born Zhao Kuangyin (traditional Chinese: 趙匡胤), was the founder of the Song Dynasty of China, reigning from 960 to 976.

Ancestry and early life[]

His family was of fairly modest origins and cannot be traced back with certainty further than the late Tang dynasty. His ancestor Zhao Ting (828-874) was an official who served in Zhuozhou, in Hebei near to where the family lived. His second son Zhao Ting (851-928) and his son Zhao Jing (872-933) also served as local officials in Hebei. Zhao Jing's son Zhao Hongyin (899-956) decided against a civil career and became a military officer instead. Zhao Hongyin knew that in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period that it would be a military career that will lead to success. As a result, Zhao Kuangyin was trained in martial arts and in the art of war. After his father started to lose his position in the government, Zhao Kuangyin at the age of twenty-one decided to leave because he knew that with his father's position, he could not become successful in the current society. He would wander around various settings in society for two years, which would mold Zhao Kuangyin's more accurate view of society. It was said that one day a Daoist saw that Kuangyin was despite and in his beggar like disguise, yet still had an aura on him. Seeing the aura, he told him to go to the north where there were currently conflicts of war.

Period under Zhou Shizong[]

Eventually, Zhao Kuangyin served under Later Zhou, which included Zhou Taizu and Zhou Shizong. He slowly rose through the ranks. At first, he was the Chief of the Palace commander under Guo Wei. When Cao Rong recognized Kuangyin's talent, he was placed in command of cavalry units. His career really started at the battle of Gaoping against the alliance of the Northern Han and the Liao. In the initial confrontation, the right flank army was defeated. Looking at the situation, Kuangyin and Zhang Yongde(张永德) led 4000 personal Chief of the Palace elite troops to counter. In the end, the counter was successful, repelling the Northern Han back to Taiyuan. After this brilliant performance, Kuangyin quickly rose through the ranks. Around this time, he started to develop his own set of officials beneath him. These people included Shi Soxing, Wang Pangchi, Yang Guangyi, Wang Zhenzhong, Liu Qingyi, Liu Sozhong, Liu Yanglang, Mi Xin, Tian Zhongjing, Pang Mei, Zhao Guangyi (his brother), Shen Yileng, Lu Xuqing, Zhao Pu, Chu Zhaobu. Soon enough, he was promoted to a Jie Du Shi, controlling the most military power under Zhou Shizong. The last competent Second Zhou Emperor, Shizong (r. 954-960) died leaving an infant boy on the throne. Zhao Kuangyin, as the commander of the Emperor's guard, allegedly reluctantly and only at the urging of his soldiers, took power in a coup d'etat.


In 960, Song Taizu helped reunite most of China after the fragmentation and rebellion between the fall of the Tang dynasty in 907 and the establishment of the Song dynasty. The plan set during Zhou Shizong's period was to first conquer the North, then the South. During Taizu's period, there was a change in strategy. He would conquer all the small countries such as Shu, South Han, and South Tang. The exception was the strong Northern Han in the north at Taiyuan supported by the Khitans. Taizu's strategy was to first take the Southern territories because the South was weaker than the North as the Liao supported Northern Han.

In 968, Taizu personally led the army against the Northern Han. At first, Taizu tore through the defenses and placed Taiyuan under siege, but was ultimately forced to retreat after he stuck against the defenses of the Northern Han with the Liao cavalry coming in to support.

He established the core Song Ancestor Rules and Policy for the future emperors. He was remembered for his expansion of the examination system such that most of the civil service were recruited through the exams (in contrast to the Tang where less than 10% of the civil servants came through exams). He also created academies that allowed a great deal of freedom of discussion and thought, which facilitated the growth of scientific advance, economic reforms as well as achievements in arts and literature. He is perhaps best known for weakening the military and so preventing anyone else rising to power as he did.

Throne transmission[]

He reigned for sixteen years and died in 976 at the age of forty-nine. Curiously, he was succeeded by his younger brother even though he had four living sons. This mode of succession was common among the nomadic peoples who lived in the north (such as the Khitans and the Tanguts) but it was not common in Chinese history. The traditional historical accounts place emphasis on the role Zhao Kuangyin's mother played in the decision which was made shortly after the Song Dynasty was proclaimed (around 961). So for nearly his entire reign, it was known and accepted that his brother would succeed him.

His temple name means "Grand Forefather".

Martial Arts[]

According to martial arts traditional lore, the Emperor Taizu created a Shaolin-based fighting style known as Tàizǔ Chángquán (太祖長拳; literally "Emperor Taizu long fist"). It is the core style of modern day Long Fist. Whether he really did invent this style or if it even dates from this time is not actually known.

See also[]

Emperor Taizu of Song
House of Zhao (960-1279)
Died: 976
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Dynasty Created
Emperor of the Song Dynasty
Succeeded by
The Taizong Emperor
Preceded by
The Gongdi Emperor of the Later Zhou Dynasty
Emperor of China

de:Song Taizu es:Taizú fr:Song Taizu id:Kaisar Song Taizu ja:趙匡胤 no:Keiser Taizu av Song pt:Taizu th:ซ่งไท่จู่ vi:Tống Thái Tổ zh:赵匡胤