Interesting Facts About Emperor Shenzong: The 6th Emperor Of The Song Dynasty Of China

Emperor Shenzong of Song (born 25th May 1048, China – died 1st April 1085, China), personal name Zhao Xu, was the sixth emperor (reigned 1067–85) of the Song dynasty (960–1279) of China. His original personal name was Zhao Zhongzhen but he changed it to “Zhao Xu” after his coronation. He reigned from 1067 until his death in 1085.
During his reign, Emperor Shenzong became interested in Wang Anshi’s policies and appointed Wang as the Chancellor. Under the Shenzong emperor, the radical reformer Wang Anshi carried out his economic and social program. Emperor Shenzong’s younger sister (Princess Shuguo, 1051-1080) was married to Wang Shen.
Wang implemented his famous New Policies aimed at improving the situation for the peasantry and unemployed, which some have seen as a forerunner of the modern welfare state. These acts became the hallmark reform of Emperor Shenzong’s reign.
Although the Shenzong emperor continued to implement the reforms, Wang himself created so much personal antagonism that he had to retire from office in 1076. The magnitude of the program and the ineptness of the bureaucracy prevented the program from achieving any great success. On Shenzong’s death, the regents who ruled for his young son were dominated by conservative officials who revoked all the reforms.
Emperor Shenzong sent failed campaigns against the Vietnamese ruler Lý Nhân Tông of the Lý dynasty in 1076. Emperor Shenzong’s other notable act as emperor was his attempt to weaken the Tangut-led Western Xia state by invading and expelling the Western Xia forces from Gansu Province.
The Song army was initially quite successful at these campaigns, but during the battle for the city of Yongle, in 1082, Song forces were defeated. As a result, Western Xia grew more powerful and subsequently continued to be a thorn in the side of the Song Empire over the ensuing decades.
When the new emperor came of age, the reforms were restored, but the struggle between the two factions continued for several generations, not only denying Shenzong’s reforms the chance to take effect but nullifying any good that might have been accomplished by the programs of either side.
Aside from the ancient Roman embassies to Han and Three-Kingdoms era China, contact with Europe remained sparse if not nonexistent before the 13th century. However, from Chinese records, it is known that Michael VII Doukas of Fo lin (i.e. the Byzantine Empire) dispatched a diplomatic mission to China’s Song dynasty that arrived in 1081, during the reign of Emperor Shenzong.
Emperor Shenzong died in 1085 at the age of 36 and was succeeded by his son, Emperor Zhezong.
Below are a few interesting facts about Emperor Shenzong:
1. During Emperor Shenzong’s reign, Sima Guang, a minister interested in the history of the previous 1000 years, wrote a very influential history book, the Zizhi Tongjian or A Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government.
This book records historical events from the Zhou dynasty to the Song dynasty. Another notable literary achievement which occurred during his reign was the compilation of the Seven Military Classics, including the alleged forgery of the Questions and Replies between Tang Taizong and Li Weigong.
2. Low-interest government loans to peasants were instituted, new land surveys were made to correct tax inequities, and government revenues were increased by a program of purchasing manufactured specialties in one region and selling them in another.
3. To augment the military forces and maintain local security, Shenzong and Wang ordered the training of local militia groups in all villages. The government also procured horses and assigned them to peasant families in North China.

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