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A Misplaced Artist--Emperor Song Huizong


Emperor Huizong (November 2, 1082 - June 4, 1135) was the eighth and one of the most famous emperors of the Song Dynasty of China, with a personal life spent amidst luxury, sophistication and art but ending in tragedy.

Song Huizong


Reigning from 1100 to 1126, Emperor Huizong was undoubtedly far from being a model emperor. He neglected the army while Song China became increasingly weak and at the mercy of foreign enemies. By the beginning of 1126 the Jin dynasty, a strong enemy from the north, attacked Kaifeng, the capital of the Song Empire. Stricken with panic, Huizong fled away as he abandoned the celestial duties Heaven bestowed upon him to protect the Chinese empire. Thanks to brave officials who found the courage not to follow their leader, the Jin dynasty didn’t manage to occupy the well fortified city of Kaifeng. The Song regime was forced to sign some humiliating treaties and give tribute to the superior Jin. Eventually the Jin did take over the capital, capturing Huizong and most of his court, fortunately his son, later better known as Emperor Gaozong (高宗) , managed to escape and establish the southern Song dynasty of which the capital was the beautiful city of Hangzhou. Huizong died in captivity in total poverty in the remote area of northern Manchuria, where he spent the last 9 tragic years of his life.

The Autumn of West Mountain


In spite of being a total failure in running state and military affairs, Huizong is probably one of the greatest patrons of art any nation ever had. Not only a great patron of art but without doubt a great artist himself, he excelled in painting birds and flowers and also produced worthy poetry. His paintings are considered to be China’s greatest surviving masterpieces and his fine reproduction of Zhang Xuan’s 'Court Ladies Preparing Newly-Woven Silk' is the only surviving copy of this great Tang masterpiece. His unique calligraphy became an independent style known as the “Slender Gold” style (Shou Jin Ti). The name "Slender Gold" came from the fact that Huizong's writing resembled gold filament, twisted and turned. This style of calligraphy is a sharp diversion from anything seen before and in a way demonstrates that although Huizong was not very courageous in the battle field, he certainly had the courage to innovate in the field of aesthetics. His calligraphy, even more celebrated than his painting, is extremely unconventional and original, the strokes are stretched to their extreme limits and the result is a fascinating dynamism that until today stands out as an independent and striking interpretation of Chinese characters.

Finches and Bamboo

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