Emperor Shizong of Jin

Emperor Shizong of Jin (March 29, 1123–January 20, 1189) of the jin dynasty (Chinese: 金世宗; pinyin: Jīn Shìzōng) was emperor of the jin dynasty, the Jurchen dynasty which ruled northern China. He reigned from October 27, 1161 to January 20, 1189. His Jurchen name was Wanyan Wulu (完顏烏祿, Wányán Wūlù), Chinese name, Wanyan Yong (完顏雍, Wányán Yōng) and Wanyan Bao (完顏褒, Wányán Bāo). The era name was Dading (大定, Dàdìng).

Early life

Wanyan Wulu was a grandson of the founder of the dynasty, Wanyan Aguda, and the son of the famous early-Jin general Wanyan Zongfu (完顏宗輔; courtesy name 完颜宗尧, Wanyan Zongyao). Wulu's father died when the boy was just 12 years old, and he grew up under the influence of his mother, who had come from a Sinicized Bohai gentry family from Liaoyang. After her husband death, Wulu's mother preferred to become a nun instead of remarrying one of her husband's relatives, as was the Jurchen custom. Thanks to his mother and her relatives, Wulu received a good Chinese education, and had as good knowledge of Chinese classics as any Chinese emperor.

Wulu is said to have also been greatly influenced by the wife he had before becoming emperor. Her birth name was Wulinda (乌林荅). She advised Wulu to be patient and to pretend to be loyal to his cousin, the then reigning Emperor Hailingwang (also known as Wanyan Liang). Hailingwang admired his cousin's wife and in 1151 called her to his inner court, but she committed suicide. This event resulted in deep enmity between the two cousins.

When in 1161 Emperor Hailingwang invaded the southern song dynasty to reunify China under the Jurchen rule, he also sent agents to assassinate many of his own relatives and thus to cement his power within the Jin state. Wulu, also on the hit list, raised a rebellion against Emperor Hailingwang. The rebellion was supported by many Jurchen officers and aristocrats dissatisfied with Hailingwang's policy of cultural Sinicization and administrative centralization, and the human cost of Hailingwang's southern adventure. The first military officer to support the rebellion was said to be Wanyan Mouyan (完顏谋衍). The emperor was soon murdered, and Wulu was able to become the new ruler of the empire without actually fighting Hailingwang.

Shizong's rule

Once on the throne, Wulu - who from now on would be known to the posterity as Emperor Shizong - reversed Hailingwang's plan for invading southern song dynasty, as well as his domestic Sinicization policies. Although conversant with Chinese culture himself, Shizong thought that the Jurchens' strength was in maintaining their "simple and sincere", culture, and would often attribute Hailingwang's defeat to the latter's wholesale abandonment of it. He wasn't opposed Chinese culture per se - in fact, he once claimed that the "natural and honest" Jurchen way of life was much like what the ancient Chinese sages taught - but he thought that merely reading the classics without putting their ideas in practice was counterproductive.

During Shizong's reign confiscated large areas of unused land and land that had been grabbed by a few large Jurchen landowners, and redistributed it to the Jurchen settlers in North China. Still, many Jurchen preferred not to work their land plots, but lease them to Chinese farmers, and engage in heavy drinking instead. The emperor criticized his people for losing their martial spirit and military skills, such as archery and riding. To give example to his subjects, Shizong made hunting an annual royal activity in 1162, and until 1188 he went hunting almost every autumn and winter. He liked archery and ball games as well.

As part of his promotion of the Jurchen culture and Jurchen language, soon after ascending the throne Shizong started a program of translating Chinese classics into Jurchen. The Jurchen version of the Chinese Classic of History (Shang shu) was first to be published; by the end of the Dading era, many other Chinese classics become available in Jurchen as well.

Early in his reign, Shizong chose 3,000 Jurchen men to study the Jurchen language. In 1173, the state started offering jinshi degrees in Jurchen as well, opened the Jurchen Imperial Academy (女真国子学) in the capital and local schools in all the circuits (lu) of the empire. It is thought by modern scholars that the purpose of offering the jinshi examinations in Jurchen was more to promote Jurchen scholarship than to recruit more Jurchen for the state service, as most of the Jurchen jinshi degree holders ended up working as teachers of the Jurchen language and of the Chinese classics in Jurchen translation.

Shizong required that when dealing with Jurchen speakers, government officials responded in Jurchen. In 1174, even the imperial guards were told to learn Jurchen, and not to speak in Chinese; in 1183, one thousand copies of the Jurchen edition of the Canon of Filial Piety were distributed to them for their edification.

As one of the ways of restoring Jurchen traditions, Shizong prohibited servants and slaves from wearing silk, and in 1188 he prohibited Jurchens in general from wearing Chinese clothes.

Shizong (as well as his successor Zhangzong) has been described as a believer in both Buddhism and Taoism. In 1187, he invited Wang Chuyi (a disciple of the founder of the Quanzhen school of Taoism, Wang Chongyang) to preach at his inner palace. (According to some sources, another Wang Chongyang's disciple, Qiu Chuji, was invited as well). The emperor requested the presence of Wang Chuyi himself at his deathbed.

Modern evaluation

Modern scholars of the Jin Empire feel that Shizong's efforts to maintain and revive Jurchen language and culture were not particularly efficacious. The language lacked native literature, and his translations of Chinese works into Jurchen were helping to bring Chinese ideas and values into Jurchens' minds. In fact, the emperor himself once said that the Jurchen language was "inferior to Chinese", and could not even match Khitan. Outside of the old Jurchen lands in far Manchuria, people did not see the utility of speaking the "dying" and "inferior" language, and Shizong himself was wondering if the posterity would criticize him for his attempts to force people use it.

Shizong's attempts to preserve Jurchens' identity as hunters, too, were conflicting with his drive to improve their livelihood by making them into good farmers. Nonetheless, people generally admired his love of peace, his promotion of learning and care of people's well being; traditionally, his era was called a "miniature of Yao and Shun", referring to the legendary ancient sage kings.

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