[T’ai-tsung] [Li Shimin]
(bad 600; reg 626–49; d 649). Chinese emperor, patron and art collector. He was the second emperor of the Tang dynasty (ad 618–907), not to be confused with Emperor Taizong (reg 976–97) of the Song period (960–1279). He staged a coup d’état to gain power, assassinating his elder brother, the rightful heir, and forcing his father, Emperor Gaozu (reg 618–26), to retire. Taizong’s reign was marked by superb civil and military administration, a strong economy and an expansion of Chinese power and prestige across Asia, into Mongolia, Turkestan and elsewhere. Later historians considered Taizong a model Confucian ruler who, at least during the early years of his reign, was unusually open to advice from the brilliant ministers he assembled at his court.
From his youth, Taizong had a deep interest in calligraphy and was himself an accomplished calligrapher, as well as the author of several treatises on calligraphy. His passion for this art form was most evident, however, in his career as a collector and patron. By the early 630s Taizong had amassed a collection of ...