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(b Bianliang [modern Kaifeng], Henan Province, 1107; reg 1127–62; d Lin’an, now Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, 1187).

Chinese calligrapher, art patron and founding emperor of the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). He was the ninth son of the Song artist–emperor Huizong and inherited his father’s artistic talent. He played an important role in encouraging the arts, reviving imperial patronage and setting a standard for his royal successors. Gaozong received a thorough classical education, and his artistic interests were not discouraged, for he was not expected ever to rule. When his oldest brother, the Emperor Qinzong (reg 1126–7), was captured by the Jürchen nomads, founders of the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) in the north, Gaozong took the throne in order to perpetuate the Song dynasty in the south. He rallied support among the literati and the military by bestowing his calligraphic transcriptions of carefully selected texts on specific individuals. His calligraphy enjoyed widespread familiarity and influence after he started distributing rubbings of his works to successful ...