Huizong came to the Song throne in the first month of 1100, a few months after his seventeenth birthday, and reigned almost twenty-six years, till the Jurchen invasion in late1125. Since his reign ended so badly, traditional historians have viewed Huizong’s many cultural pursuits as his vices, not his virtues. His love of painting and calligraphy was seen as self-indulgence, his faith in Daoism as self-delusion, his trust in Cai Jing as irresponsible. So long as one sets aside this moral framework, however, there are ample sources to look at Huizong and his reign afresh, to consider how he understood monarchy and its challenges, what he got from Daoism, how he used art to add to the grandeur of the throne, why he chose to ally with the Jurchen, and other related issues. Plus, the dramatic turns of his life make a good story.
Patricia Buckley Ebrey is the Williams Family Endowed Professor of History at the University of Washington. Over the course of her career, she has written on a broad range of periods and topics in Chinese history, from the aristocratic families of the medieval period, to family and marriage in the Song period, and then to art collecting and court culture. Her best known books are probably The Inner Quarters: Marriage and the Lives of Chinese Women in the Song Period (1993), which won the Levenson Prize, and The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (1996, 2010), which has been translated into many languages. Her most recent work on Huizong (r. 1100-1125) resulted in two books. Her study of Huizong’s collections (Accumulating Culture, 2008) received the Shimada prize for the best book in East Asian art history, and was followed six years later by a 600-plus page biography, Emperor Huizong (2014). That year she was awarded the American Historical Association’s Award for Scholarly Distinction and started work on the new Journal of Chinese
7:00 PM, Tuesday, April 25th, 2017
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