Saturday, August 18, 2012

Historical Context: Song Dynasty

Welcome to the Song dynasty!

If your historical knowledge comes mostly from TVB shows, it’s won’t be surprising if you don’t know very much about this dynasty.  For some reason, the Song dynasty gets very little love from TVB. I believe the last Song era drama was Witness to Prosecution I & II. And TVB has never ventured into the imperial court of Song before King Maker. So here is some background info on the Song dynasty.

The King Maker is set in the Song dynasty.  The Song dynasty is split into two time periods: Northern and Southern Song. This is because the capital was moved when Song lost control of northern China to the Jin (“Gold”) Dynasty. The Song Dynasty was most recognized for its scholarly works, including literature, art, philosophy and science. It placed an emphasis on the merits of officials rather than their backgrounds. Agricultural and economic innovations contributed to the prosperity during the period. Famous people from the Song Dynasty include Bao Zheng (包青), Song Ci (, the coroner in Witness to Prosecution) and General Ngok Fei ().

Specifically, this drama is set during the Southern Song dynasty during the reign of Emperor Ningzong, played by Kwok Fung.  He was the 13th king of the Song dynasty. He ascended to the throne when his father chose to retire as king and take the title of Taishuang Huang (太上). Ningzong was third consecutive Emperor to take the throne before his predecessor’s death.  He had two Empresses. The first was Empress Gongshu (Kingdom Yuen).  

The second was Empress Gongsheng (aka Lady Yeung), which is the future Florence Kwok. She was said to be very beautiful and intelligent. It is rumored that when she entered the palace at a young age, she forgot her last name and only said she came from a township called 會稽. Coincidentally, there happened to be an official from the same township named Yeung Chi-san (Joseph Lee), so she said that he was her brother. When the first Empress died, Ningzong had two choices: Lady Yeung or another of his favourites, Lady Cao. A minister tried to persuade Ningzong to choose Lady Cao because he feared Lady Yeung would be too ambitious with her smarts. In the end, Ningzong still chose Lady Yeung to become Empress.

Posted ImageIn the series, Pierre Ngo and Chris Lai are brothers and princes of the Song court. They are not the sons of Emperor Ningzong. Ningzong had eight sons, but all died at a young age. He appointed his adoptive son as Crown Prince. However, after Ningzong’s death, the Prime Minister installed one of the brothers instead, as he knew the Crown Prince despised him. The brothers are descendants of Song Taizu, the founder of the dynasty.

So who wins? According to history, the next king was Emperor Lizong (宋理), which is the actor…………………

But don’t worry, guy who lost, your son will succeed Emperor Lizong.

Pictures taken from Asianfanatics and Ming Pao


  1. I'm super intrigued by Chinese history (the shortened version..) so thanks for this post! I recently finished Bu Bu Jing Xin and loved how it followed historical events so accurately. I reckon most shows follow history quite closely so it's always fun to know more about what happened during that time..

  2. Love is Beautiful is also set in the Song Dynasty