Chinese History

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Zhao Kuangyin--- Founder of Song Dynasty


In A.D. 960, Zhao Kuangyin established the Song Dynasty, and made Kaifeng, the capital city in Henan Provice, the national capital. In the ensuing 160 years and more, Kaifeng remained the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty. It was one of the largest and most prosperous metropolises in the world.
Speaking of important figures in Chinese history, people mention Tang Zong and Song Zu in the same breath. Tang Zong refers to Li Shimin, Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty. Song Zu refers to Zhao Kuangyin, Emperor Taizu of the Song Dynasty. The Song Dynasty is known for its economic and cultural prosperity. These achievements were due to the policies adopted when the Song Dynasty was established. Zhao Kuangyin, the emperor who founded the Song Dynasty, was one of the important figures who opened up a new era.
In A.D. 927, Zhao Kuangyin was born at Jiamaying, Luoyang. The Tang Dynasty had disintegrated in fierce armed conflicts and China had once again entered into a period of separate regimes historically known as the period of "Five Dynasties and Ten States".
The times produce their heroes. In A.D. 960, Zhao Kuangyin, commander of the Later Zhou's imperial army, suddenly launched a mutiny at Chenqiao near Kaifeng. His troops stormed into the city of Kaifeng. Zhao Kuangyin became the first emperor of the Northern Song Dynasty.
From the "An£­Shi Rebellion" to the "Mutiny at Chenqiao", it covered about 205 years. Nobody can tell how many mutinies, big or small, took place in those years. But they had one characteristic in common. In each mutiny, the soldiers looted, burned and killed wherever they went. The people were left destitute. We can see that the "An£­Shi Rebellion" caused a change from order to turmoil while the "Mutiny at Chenqiao" caused a change from turmoil to order. That was a turning point in history.
As soon as he mounted the throne, Zhao Kuangyin began his cause of reunification. Before his death, the Song court had conquered the separate regimes south of the Yellow River. China was reunified after many years of separation.
Zhao Kuangyin was most afraid that his dynasty would be another short-lived one after the Five Dynasties.
He played clever political tricks to weaken the power of those who had rendered outstanding services. He put civil officials in important positions of administration, removing the hidden danger of an internal split.
He also adjusted economic policies. He made soldiers work in the fields to reduce unpaid labor of peasants. After years of war, agricultural production grew rapidly.
Zhao Kuangyin initiated a practical style of moderate and rational government. Such a style was followed for the most part of the Song Dynasty.
The unrestrained political environment made it possible for scholars to participate in and discuss state affairs. This was very significant for the development of all cultural undertakings. Many Chinese writers, philosophers and historians distinguished themselves during the Song Dynasty for more than 300 years. Some important scientific and technological innovations were recorded in those days.
When Zhao Kuangyin was born, China had just entered an era of chaos. When he passed away, an era of political unity and economic prosperity had begun. As a key figure at the turning point of history, Zhao Kuangyin performed immortal feats.