Jingkang Incident

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Jingkang Incident
Part of the Jin–Song Wars
Bianjing (Kaifeng) on the map of modern Henan
Date September 1125 – March 1127
Location Bianjing
Result Jin victory
All the territories north of the Huai River ceded to Jin
Northern Song dynasty Jin dynasty
Commanders and leaders
Emperor Qinzong of Song Emperor Taizong of Jin
Wanyan Nianhan
Wanyan Wolibu
First Siege: 200,000
Second Siege: 70,000
First Siege: 100,000
Second Siege: 150,000
Casualties and losses
Many royal family members abducted. Devastating destruction to government and civilians. Unknown

The Jingkang Incident (simplified Chinese: 靖康事变; traditional Chinese: 靖康事變), Humiliation of Jingkang (simplified Chinese: 靖康之耻; traditional Chinese: 靖康之恥), or The Disorders of the Jingkang Period (simplified Chinese: 靖康之乱; traditional Chinese: 靖康之亂) [1] took place in 1127 during the Jin–Song Wars when the invading Jurchen soldiers of the Jin dynasty besieged and sacked Bianjing (modern Kaifeng), the capital city of Song China. The Jin forces abducted Emperor Qinzong, his father the Taishang Huang, Emperor Huizong, and many members of the imperial court.

This ended the era known as the Northern Song, when the Song controlled most of China. The rest of the imperial family was forced to flee and establish a new government, now known as the Southern Song, at Lin'an, which was to become their capital. This incident is so named because this was the major incident during the short reign of Emperor Qinzong, whose era name was "Jingkang" (Chinese: 靖康).


In 1120, under the Alliance Conducted at Sea, the Jin and Northern Song agreed to jointly attack the Liao dynasty and, if victorious, divide up the territory. The Jin would get a large portion of the northern land and the Song would get a smaller portion in the southern region called the Sixteen Prefectures.

The Jin army sacked the Liao capital of Shangjing and ended the dynasty. The Song army in the south, however, could not even penetrate Liao’s defensive positions and the army was defeated by the remaining Liao troops afterwards. This exposed the limitation of the Song army as well as the corruption and bureaucracy in Song’s imperial court. At the end, the Jin army took control of the entire Liao territory.

After the fall of Liao, Song court wanted the Sixteen Prefectures as promised. Jin sold the land at a price of 300,000 bolts of silk and 200,000 ounces of silver. This price was considered to be extremely generous because it was the tribute that Song was previously paying to the Liao annually since the Chanyuan Treaty of 1005.

Prelude to the war[edit]

According to the Twenty-Four Histories (二十四史), in 1123, three years after the fall of Liao, a Jin general by the name of Zhang Jue (張覺) defected to the northern Song dynasty (both they and Zhang Jue were Han Chinese). Since he was governor of the Jin-controlled Pingzhou Prefectures, an area just north of the Sixteen Prefectures on the other side of the Great Wall of China, the Pingzhou Prefectures were also merged into Song territory. The imperial court initially welcomed the defection and awarded Zhang an honorific title and land. Jin, on the other hand, sent a small army aimed to overturn the defection but was defeated by Zhang’s troops.[2]

Soon after that, the Song court realized Zhang’s defection would only bring more hostile actions from the north.[3] Zhang Jue was executed in the winter of 1123.[4] This came too late: in the fall of 1125, Emperor Taizong of Jin issued an order of full-scale attack on Song territories.[5]

First Siege of Kaifeng[edit]

A portrait of Emperor Huizong

Taizong’s armies invaded Song territory from the west and from the north. The Northern Force took swift action, sacked Qinhuangdao in October 1125, sacked Baoding, Dingzhou, Zhengding and Xingtai in January of the year after. The Northern Force, commanded by Wanyan Wolibu,[6] did not meet much resistance as most of the Song generals surrendered themselves and the cities as soon as the Jin army arrived. On the other hand, the Western Force, commanded by Wanyan Nianhan,[6] was held up near the cities of Datong and Taiyuan from the very beginning and did not make much progress for the rest of the war. In February 1126, the Northern Force crossed the Yellow River and began the siege of Kaifeng, the capital city of Song. Before the invaders surrounded the city, Emperor Huizong (徽宗) abdicated in favour of his twenty-six-year-old son who became Emperor Qinzong (钦宗) and fled to the countryside with his entourage. Jin’s Northern Force faced difficult siege fighting that was not designed for cavalries as Kaifeng put up a fight in the face of invaders. At the same time, Jin's Western Force was still held up in Datong area and could not come to aid. In an effort to end the battle sooner, the young emperor sent his brother Zhao Gou, who later on became the first emperor of Southern Song Dynasty, to the enemy camp for peace talks. Taizong ordered to take Zhao Gou as hostage until the Song court came up with a ransom. Eventually, the Song court came forth with the money and the city of Taiyuan was also given to Jin as a “good faith gift.” Soon, Zhao Gou was released and the Northern Force started to withdraw.

Second Siege of Kaifeng[edit]

Everything went back to normal as soon as the invaders retreated: lavish parties continued to be held daily at the imperial palace. The “run-away emperor” – Huizong returned from the countryside, and joined the parties that were being held by his son. Song generals suggested that large numbers of troops ought to be garrisoned along the border of the Yellow River. Qinzong rejected the proposal by citing that the Jin might never come back. Many experienced generals who defended the city in the first siege of Kaifeng were removed from the capital and posted elsewhere in the country. Many army groups were decommissioned or sent back to their prefectures of origin.

Three months after the first siege of the city, Jin sent two ambassadors to Song. The two ambassadors were nobles from the former Liao Dynasty. Qinzong misjudged the situation and believed that they could be used to turn against their Jin ruler. The emperor sent a coded letter which was sealed in candle wax, inviting them to join Song to form an Anti–Jin alliance. The two handed the letter to Taizong right away. Furious, the Jin emperor ordered an even bigger army to attack Song. This second campaign would eventually topple the Northern Song Dynasty.

Since most of the Jin troops just returned from their first expedition and had not even unpacked, the army was quickly mobilized. Following precedents set in the previous campaign, the Jin army divided into two groups, Wolibu's Northern Force and Nianhan's Western Force, even daring to take the same routes again.

In September 1126, the two Jin army groups set foot in Song territory. Unlike the previous battle, however, the Western Force was able to sack Datong within only one month. Cities like Luoyang and Zhengzhou surrendered themselves, clearing the way to the capital. The Northern Force, having sacked Baoding, Dingzhou and Zhengding in September, regrouped and crossed the Yellow River in November. It then went on a rampage and sacked Qingfeng, Puyang and other satellite cities around the capital in December. By the middle of December, the two forces regrouped at Kaifeng and the capital was finally besieged.

Unlike the first siege, Kaifeng’s defenses in the second siege had some fatal flaws:

  1. Due to the lack of experienced generals and personnel, the whole defense process was unorganized with no–prioritization.
  2. The Jin army was much bigger than the last time. Taizong sent a 150,000 strong force, having learnt from the first siege, when the Western Force was held up in Datong and could not advance on Kaifeng. This time, however, Datong was sacked within a month, and the full strength of the Western force was under the city walls.
  3. Although Qinzong called for help and many responded, the rapidity of deployment of Jin troops made it impossible to aid the city. Song troops from all over the country, including Zhao Gou’s troops came to Kaifeng but were not able to get into the city.
  4. Qinzong's trust in a minister who claimed he could bring "divine soldiers" (神兵) from the Heaven to the battleground was misplaced, causing much wasted time and human life.

On the January 9, 1127, Kaifeng fell. Emperor Qinzong and his father Huizong were captured by the Jin army and the Northern Song Dynasty fell.[7][8]


On March 20, 1127 AD, Jin troops summoned the two captured emperors to their camps. Awaiting them was a directive from Taizong that they were to be demoted to commoners, stripped of their ceremonial trappings and Jin troops would compound the imperial palace. This was just the beginning of weeks of looting, rapes, arson and execution of prisoners of war and civilians.

According to The Accounts of Jingkang, Jin troops looted the entire imperial library and the decorations in the palace. Jin troops also abducted all the female servants and imperial musicians.[9] The royal family was abducted and their residences were looted.[10] All the female prisoners were ordered, on pain of death, to serve the Jin aristocrats no matter what rank in society they had previously held.[11] A Jin prince wanted to marry Huizong’s daughter Fujin, who had been other's wife. Later on the emperor’s concubines were also given to the prince by Taizong.[12] To avoid captivity and slavery under the Jurchen, a lot of Chinese palace women committed suicide.[13]

Taizong feared that the remaining Song troops would launch a counter offensive to reclaim the capital. Therefore, he set up in Kaifeng a puppet government for the lands south of the Yellow River (called Chu, 楚),[6] and ordered all the assets and prisoners to be taken back to Jin's capital – Shangjing (near today's Harbin) in Manchuria.[6] The captives would march to the Jin capital along with the assets. Over 14,000 people, including the entire royal family (except Zhao Gou) went on this “one-way” journey. Their entourage — almost all the ministers and generals of Northern Song Dynasty — suffered from sickness, dehydration and exhaustion, and many never made it.[14] Upon arrival, each person had to go through a Jurchen ritual where the person has to be naked and wearing only sheep skins. Empress Zhu committed suicide because she could not bear the humiliation. Men were sold into slavery in exchange for horses with a ratio of ten men for one horse. Women were kept in a part of Jin palace called huanyiyuan(浣衣院) or offered for public bidding. Some Song princesses became Jin princes' concubines. Someone bought an “ex–royal” for less than ten ounces of gold.[15]

Aftermath and appraisal[edit]

  • The scale of destruction and devastation was unprecedented: treasures, art collections, scrolls from the imperial library and human lives were lost on a scale that the Chinese had never seen before[dubious ]. Due to the heavy damage to the country's economy and military, and the loss of talented manpower, the Southern Song Dynasty did not recover the lost territories, despite constant fighting between the Song and Jin, the territory was ruled by non-Han emperors.[16][17][18] It would take another 200 years, in Ming Dynasty, to claim back all the territories that Song Dynasty lost.
  • Many foreign–sounding, non-traditional Chinese family names existing in China today can date back to this incident, as the Han Chinese were forced to adapt a Jin last name. In fact, many members of the royal family of Qing Dynasty held the surname “Jueluo” (觉罗); it is believed that they were the descendants of Huizong and Emperor Qinzong.[19]
  • This invasion, combined with the later Mongol rule, were speculated to have caused China's advance into capitalism to fall behind by several centuries; although the Ming later restored the old order, their own fall to the Manchu were to stagnate China once more. This view is supported by the fact that the Song economy had been advanced, and exhibited many features of capitalism. According to this view, the Jingkang Incident holds historic significance in regard to China's decline in the modern age.[20]
  • Researchers in China who published their findings in the People's Political Consultative Daily in 2001, pointed out that this incident led to the transformation of Women's Rights after the Song Dynasty. Since the members of the royal family who were captured were sold as slaves or concubines, Chinese rulers after Song emphasized the importance of Sexual norm, especially a woman's chastity and loyalty towards her husband. Chinese rulers of later dynasties instructed that when a woman is confronted between the choice of survival or the honor of chastity, survival is not an option.[21]
"The Four Generals of Zhongxing," painted by Liu Songnian during the Southern Song Dynasty. Yue Fei is the second person from the left. It is believed to be the "truest portrait of Yue in all extant materials."[22]

Cultural references[edit]

  • Guy Gavriel Kay liberally fictionalizes the incident in River of Stars, an alternate historical fiction novel for adults.[26] Kay uses alternate names for historic places and fictional characters.[27]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. (2013). Emperor Huizong (Harvard University Press; 2013) 661 pages; scholarly biography online review
  • Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. (1999). The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-66991-X (paperback).
  • Jing-shen Tao (1976) The Jurchen in Twelfth-Century China. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-95514-7.
  • Franke, Herbert and Denis Twitchett. Alien Regimes and Border States, 907–1368 (Cambridge History of China, vol. 6). Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-521-24331-9. Partial text on Google Books.
  • Kaplan, Edward Harold. Yueh Fei and the founding of the Southern Sung. Thesis (Ph. D.) -- University of Iowa, 1970. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1970.


  1. ^ Coblin, W. South. "Migration History and Dialect Development in the Lower Yangtze Watershed," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (Volume 64, Number 3, 2002): 529–453. Page 533.
  2. ^ "Twenty - Four Histories, History of Jin" 《金史·太宗本纪》:『十一月壬子,命宗望問闍母罪,以其兵討張覺。』 ("November of 壬子 year, the [Jin] emperor sent troops for Zhang Jue's defection.")
  3. ^ "Twenty - Four Histories, History of Liao" 《遼史·天祚帝本纪》:『金人克三州,始來索倉,王安中諱之。索急,斬一人貌類者去。金人曰,非倉也,以兵來取。安中不得已,殺倉,函其首送金。』 ("After Jin troops sacked 3 cities, Jin sent diplomats for Zhang Jue. Panicking, Wong (a Song General) killed someone who looked like Zhang and mailed the head. Jin recognized the face and attacked again.")
  4. ^ "Twenty - Four Histories, History of Jin" 《金史·叛臣列傳》:『安中不得已,引覺出。數以罪,覺罵宋人不容口,遂殺覺函其首以與金人。』("Wong was forced to beheaded Zhang and sent the head to Jin.")
  5. ^ "Twenty - Four Histories, History of Jin" 《金史·太宗本纪》:『十月甲辰,詔諸將伐宋。以諳班勃極烈杲兼領都元帥,移賚勃極烈宗翰兼左副元帥先鋒,經略使完顏希尹為元帥右監軍,左金吾上將軍耶律余睹為元帥右都臨,自西京入太原。六部路軍帥撻懶為六部路都統,斜也副之,宗望為南京路都統,闍母副之,知樞密院事劉彥宗兼領漢軍都統,自南京入燕山。』("October of 甲辰 year, the [Jin] emperor appointed a few generals and attacked Song from the west and north.")
  6. ^ a b c d Jing-shen Tao, "The Jurchen in Twelfth-Century China". University of Washington Press, 1976, ISBN 0-295-95514-7. Pages 20-21. Tao refers to the Western and Northern Force as the Western and Eastern Armies, respectively.
  7. ^ Bowman, John Stewart (2000). Columbia chronologies of Asian history and culture. Columbia University Press. p. 32. ISBN 0-231-11004-9. 
  8. ^ The bulletin of Sung and Yüan studies (1987), Cornell University Department of History, issues 19–21
  9. ^ "The Accounts of Jingkang" (靖康稗史箋證),「二十四日,开宝寺火。二十五日,虏索国子监书出城。」次年正月,「二十五日,虏索玉册、车辂、冠冕一应宫廷仪物,及女童六百人、教坊乐工数百人。二十七日,虏取内侍五十人」("On the 24th, Kaibao Temple was set ablaze. On the 25th, the books from the Imperial College were confiscated." "On January 25th of the following year, jade books, chariots, royal headwear, ceremonial instruments, and 600 young girls and several hundred imperial musicians were seized. On the 27th, some 50 servants were abducted.)
  10. ^ "The Accounts of Jingkang" (靖康稗史箋證) 「二十七日,金兵掠巨室,火明德刘皇后家、蓝从家、孟家,沿烧数千间。斡离不(完颜宗望)掠妇女七十余人出城。」("On the 27th, Jin troops plundered the residencies of Empress Lui, Lan Cong, Meng and torched thousands of others. Wolibu (Wanyan Zongwang) abducted over 70 women.")
  11. ^ "The Accounts of Jingkang" (靖康稗史箋證) 「烈女张氏、曹氏抗二太子意,刺以铁竿,肆帐前,流血三日。初七日,王妃、帝姬入寨,太子指以为鉴,人人乞命。」("Because the maiden martyrs Mistress Zhang and Mistress Cao resisted the Second Prince's ambitions, they were impaled with metal rods and placed in front of a tent where they bled to death in three days. On the 7th day of the month, the other concubines entered the stockade. The prince used the example of Zhang and Cao as a warning, and they all begged for their lives.)
  12. ^ "The Accounts of Jingkang" (靖康稗史箋證) 完颜宗翰大怒道:「昨奉朝旨分虏,汝何能抗令?堂上客各挈二人。」徽宗道:「上有天,下有帝,人各有女媳。」然而无用,设也马北上途中就以富金为妻,回到上京后,金太宗诏许,「赐帝姬赵富金、王妃徐圣英、宫嫔杨调儿、陈文婉侍设也马郎君为妾。」 (An angry Wanyan Zonghan said: "Yesterday I was ordered to separate the prisoners, how can you refuse to obey? Our men shall each take two women." Emperor Huizhong replied, "Above there is Heaven, and below emperors and the people have their daughters and daughter-in-laws." His protest proved ineffective. She Yema married Fujin during his journey back north. After She arrived in the Supreme Capital, the Jin Emperor Taizong delivered the following edict: "The Imperial Princess Zhao Fujin, along with Concubines Xu Shengying, Yang Diao'er and Chen Wenwan are hereby bestowed upon Prince She Yema.")
  13. ^ Peter Allan Lorge (2005). War, politics and society in early modern China, 900-1795. Taylor & Francis. p. 54. ISBN 0-415-31690-1. Retrieved March 2, 2012. Many palace women drowned themselves rather than be given to the Jurchen invaders. 
  14. ^ "The Accounts of Jingkang" (靖康稗史箋證) 「临行前俘虏的总数为14000名,分七批押至北方,其中第一批宗室贵戚男丁二千二百余人,妇女三千四百余人」,靖康二年三月二十七日,「自青城国相寨起程,四月二十七日抵燕山,存妇女一千九百余人。」("There were 14,000 captives divided into 7 groups when the march commenced. The first group, composed of royal family members and nobles, contained 2,200 males and 3,400 females and departed on the 27th day of the third month from the Qingcheng stockade. When it arrived in Yanshan on the 27th day of the following month, just over 1,900 females remained.")
  15. ^ "The Accounts of Jingkang" (靖康稗史箋證) 设也马北上途中就以富金为妻,回到上京后,金太宗诏许,「赐帝姬赵富金、王妃徐圣英、宫嫔杨调儿、陈文婉侍设也马郎君为妾。」 (She Yema married Fujin during his journey back north. After She arrived in the Supreme Capital, the Jin Emperor Taizong delivered the following edict: "The Imperial Concubine Zhao Fujin, along with Concubines Xu Shengying, Yang Diao'er and Chen Wenwan are hereby bestowed upon Prince She Yema.""The Accounts of Jingkang" (靖康稗史箋證) 「以八金买倡妇,实为亲王女孙、相国侄妇、进士夫人」 ("For 8 pieces of gold, one purchased a singing girl who had been a prince's granddaughter, prime minister's daughter-in-law, and minister's wife.")
  16. ^ 徐夢莘. 三朝會盟北編
  17. ^ 大金弔伐錄
  18. ^ 金少英(2001). 大金弔伐录校补. 中华书局.
  19. ^ 《黑龙江志稿•氏族》:「觉罗者,传为宋徽、钦之后。」("People who held the surname of `Jueluo'(觉罗) were believed to be the descendants of Huizong & Qingzhong.)
  20. ^ Li Bo, Zheng Yin, "5000 years of Chinese history", page 874-880
  21. ^ <<靖康之難中恥辱的女性>> (The Women in the Jingkang Incident),People's Political Consultative Daily, Oct 23rd, 2001
  22. ^ Shao Xiaoyi. "Yue Fei's facelift sparks debate". China Daily. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  23. ^ James T. C. Liu. "Yueh Fei (1103-41) and China's Heritage of Loyalty." The Journal of Asian Studies. Vol. 31, No. 2 (Feb., 1972), pp. 291-297
  24. ^ Jinyong, The Legend of the Condor Heroes, Book 1, Chapter 1.
  25. ^ Baker, Christopher. allgame ((( Bandit Kings of Ancient China > Overview ))). Allgame. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  26. ^ http://www.catbytes.org/?p=1296
  27. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/river-of-stars-by-guy-gavriel-kay/2013/04/01/4eaf9692-9186-11e2-bdea-e32ad90da239_story.html