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The Song Dynasty’s Emperor Huizong

Emperor Huizong of Song Dynasty held the throne for 25 years. (Image:  via   Wikimedia  / CC0 1.0)
Emperor Huizong of Song Dynasty held the throne for 25 years. (Image: via Wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

The Northern Song Dynasty’s eighth emperor, Song Huizong, was very talented, and he was a man of great attainments in calligraphy and painting. In particular, the so-called “Slender Gold” style of calligraphy created by Huizong is very unique and no one could rival him in this respect.

This Taoist emperor also believed in fate, and he often asked Taoist fortune tellers to relate his future.

Emperor Huizong held the throne for 25 years. In the later years of the Northern Song Dynasty, forces from the Jin kingdom launched a southward invasion. When the Jin forces were approaching Bianjing (today’s Keifeng), Huizong was so afraid that he passed the throne to Prince Zhao Huan in haste and retired from being emperor.

Huizong visits a fortune teller

Legend has it that after Huizong abdicated the throne, he made a tour incognito with his bodyguards to inspect his people in various places in the countryside. When seeing so many homeless people begging for food on the streets and the chaotic situation in the urban and suburban areas, Huizong was very sad.

As he was about to return to the palace, he happened to spot a fortune teller’s stand, which was very outstanding on the bustling street. Seeing an elderly man with grey hair leisurely sitting in front of the fortune telling table, Huizong suddenly felt like consulting the fortune teller.

song huizong chinese calligraphy slender gold style ancient china emperors

Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty was a man of great attainments in calligraphy and painting. (Image: via Wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

When approaching the fortune teller, Huizong thought that he should not reveal his birth date to others, as he was an emperor. He thus asked the fortune teller to predict his fortune according to a Chinese character he would write down.

When the fortune teller handed him a pen and a piece of paper to jot down a Chinese character for analysis, Huizong was afraid that his identity might be recognised because of his “Slender Gold” style of calligraphy.

After thinking it over, he decided to ask the fortune teller to write down the character for “horse” on the paper on his behalf.

After taking a look at the character for “horse,” the fortune teller suddenly changed his countenance, stood up, and began to talk to Huizong in a very polite manner, saying that Huizhong was by no means an ordinary person.

It was indeed hard for Huizong to believe that the character written by someone else on his behalf could possibly reveal his identity.

 

chinese word horse

The Chinese character for ‘horse.’ (Brad T./China Gaze)

The fortune teller’s dire predictions

Unexpectedly, he was even more surprised by the following words related by the fortune teller: “If we look at the character for horse upside down, it, in fact, symbolises the character of master, with three strokes on its sides and four dots on the bottom.

As the character of master is upside down, you are no longer a real emperor and the three strokes on the side might mean that your future will not go smoothly. Judging from the fact that the four dots on the bottom are disconnected, you will suffer from many years of chaos.

chinese word horse upside down

Upside down Chinese character for ‘horse.’ (Brad T./China Gaze)

Although Huizong was an emperor who believed in his corrupt officials and was addicted to a life of vanity, after listening to what the fortune teller mentioned, he dared not lose his temper on the spot. He simply left right away after leaving some small silver coins.

Huizong suffers his sad fate

After returning to the palace, Huizong summoned a Taoist priest to conduct a Taoist ritual for him in order to defeat the invading Jin kingdom and save his chaotic nation. Unfortunately, it turned out to be true that fate can never be changed.

His troops were defeated by the troops of the Jin kingdom from four directions. Eventually, after Bianjing was conquered, he was captured and was escorted to Wukuocheng in the north (today’s old town in the north of Ilan County in Heilongjiang Province).

Huizong suffered tremendous tortures along the way and he was then placed under house arrest in Wukuocheng. He was subjected to various kinds of torture and persecution, deported to northern Manchuria for the last eight years of his life, and he eventually died in poverty from diseases and extreme melancholy when he was 54.

During his imprisonment, the mental torture, remorse, and sorrow he suffered are reflected in the poems he wrote.

dragon stone emperor huizong slender gold script chinese calligraphy ancient china emperors

‘Dragon Stone’ by Emperor Huizong. (Image: via Wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

From this story about Huizong, we understand that man’s fate is predestined. Regardless of how talented and capable you may be, and no matter whether you are just an ordinary person or a supreme emperor, your fate can never be changed, even if magic tricks are exercised.

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