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Hui-tsung

Hui-tsung (hwē-dzōng) [key], 1082–1135, Chinese emperor of the Northern Sung dynasty, painter, and a great patron of art. Politically he was a rather ineffectual ruler, but he was said to have devoted all his spare time to painting and to the reorganization of the Imperial Academy of Painting. Through his encouragement, art collecting came into vogue during his reign. The emperor himself was an accomplished artist, specializing in delicately colored bird-and-flower paintings. There are also many such paintings by others that have his seals and signatures—affixed by the emperor to signify his approval of the work of artists who laboriously copied his own paintings. Most of these works show intimate, detailed studies of nature, executed in a refined, sensitive, and meticulous manner. He abdicated in 1125 when his attempts to buy off the advancing Jurchens failed. In 1126 the Northern Sung capital at Kaifeng was overrun by the Jurchens, and he was captured together with the new emperor and taken to Manchuria, where he died in captivity. A scroll painting in silk at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, known as Ladies Preparing Silk, is believed to be the copy made by the emperor after the work by the 8th-century painter Chang Hsüan. The same museum has a small painting called The Five-Colored Parakeet, which is one of the best bird-and-flower paintings attributed to him.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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