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The Fall of The Northern Song Dynasty

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The Fall of the Northern Song Dynasty

The fall of the Northern Song Dynasty in 1126 occurred during the reign of the Emperor Hui-tsung, has received much attention by scholars in recent years in light of new research into the historical records of the time.

During the winter of 1125, two Jurchen armies invaded the Song military districts of Ho-tung and Ho-pei West as well as Ho-pei East. The Jurchen laid siege to T’ai-yuan, the provincial seat of Ho-tung, before heading off to the Song capital, Kaifeng.

“These events precipitated the abdication of Emperor Hui-tsung and the ascension of Emperor Ch’in-tsung to the Sung throne. The Jurchen army crossed the Yellow River three days after the new year of 1126. Former emperor Hui-tsung departed the capital on an “eastern tour.” Li Kang was elevated to the Council of State and made capital regent-this was among a number of administrative reappointments at this time-in anticipation of the new em-peror Ch’in-tsung’s imminent departure from the city. But Li Kang argued strongly against the emperor’s departure, and Ch’in-tsung remained. On 1126/1/7 the Jurchen besieged K’ai-feng. In return for their potential withdrawal, they demanded cash reparations, cession of the three commanderies, and a royal prince and a grand councilor as hostages. A week later, the grand councillor Chang Pang-ch’ang (1081-1127) and Prince K’ang, the future Emperor Kao-tsung, went as “ambassadors”-in effect as hostages-to the Jurchen camp”.

Yao P’ing-chung and Ch’ung Shih-tao both lead the armies sent in to reinforce the Song court. Ch’ung Shih-tao suggested, to buy more time, to propose to the Jurchen that the tax revenues from the three commanderies be added to the Song annual tribute payments and as negotiations started, that the northern armies would arrive and give them the upper hand. However, Yao P’ing-chung wanted to lead a full military attack.

On the first February 1126, Yao P’ing-chung led a force of 10,000 men and launched a surprise attack on the Jurchen stockades. However, the Jurchen spies had warned them of the attack and so the raid was unsuccessful. Yao P’ing-chung disappeared in the chaos.

The Song court was put under pressure to the Jurchen stipulations for withdrawal, and three days later the Court agreed to cede the three commanderies. The treaty was dictated under Jurchen terms and on the 10thFebruary, the Jurchen released the hostages and moved back to the north. The following year, the Song Court moved their capital south, thus beginning the Southern Song Dynasty.


Hartman, Charles (2003) The Reluctant Historian: Sun Ti, Chu Hsi, and the Fall of Northern Sung, T’oung Pao, BRILL.


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