China and Inner Asia
Rochester Institute of Technology, United States
In East Asian history the abdications of the three Song emperors in the second half of the twelfth century were a very rare phenomenon. After the 1162 abdication of Emperor Gaozong the dual palaces emerged in the temporary capital, Lin’an (present-day Hangzhou) based on a new court-created ritual tradition including the emperor’s regular visits to the retired emperor. The significance of this unique spatial structure, however, has been largely underestimated in understanding Song rituals and politics and Chinese urban history as well as the issue of dynastic revival (zhongxing). Drawing upon a variety of sources such as ritual books, official records, local gazetteers, and brush notes (biji), this paper aims at the collapse of the dual palaces in the early 1190s and tries to investigate its political, ritual and urban contexts. The imperial crisis between the reigning and retired emperors reached its climax in 1194 when Emperor Guangzong refused to see his dying father Xiaozong. The paper examines how Song officials, literati and urban dwellers responded to this long-standing ritual failure regarding the roles of eunuchs and Empress Li shaped by the widespread rumors. The voices of urban dwellers that are normally marginalized in historical accounts turned into prevailing public opinions, which not merely affected the political situation but counteracted the official narratives. The crisis ended with Guangzong’s reluctant abdication forced by powerful ministers, and this marked the end of the Southern Song dynastic revival as well as a potential model of peaceful imperial succession in premodern East Asia.