Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Great Emperor in Song Dynasty

Go To

The Great Emperor in Song Dynasty (Chinese: 大宋传奇之赵匡胤, Da Song Chuan Qi zhi Zhao Kuangyin) is a Chinese series starring Chen Jianbin (Cao Cao in Three Kingdoms) as the titular emperor, Zhao Kuangyin (known posthumously as Song Taizu). The series begins amidst the chaotic Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Chinese history. Since the fall of the Tang dynasty in 907 CE, China has been divided between various regimes for more than 40 years. Like many of his peers, Kuangyin desired for the day whereby China would return to peace under a unified empire. However, unlike most other people, he is willing to bear arms and fight for that day. Along the way, he made friends and enemies, and established the Song Empire. However, like all founding emperors, Kuangyin soon discovered that to found an empire is way easier than to actually govern it well...

The Great Emperor in Song Dynasty contains examples of:

  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Chai Rong's underaged son Zongxun. As expected, things fall apart very quickly after the boy became emperor.
  • Adapted Out: Fan Zhi and Wang Pu, the historical First and Second Chancellors of the Later Zhou when the coup at Chenqiao took place.note  In the show, some of Fan Zhi's actions and titles were shifted to Wei Renpu.
    • Historically, Guangyi had another wife (Lady Yin) before he married Lady Fu.
    • Cao Bin, the historical commander of the expedition which conquered the Southern Tang.
    • Historically, Kuangyin and Guangyi had another brother, Tingmei, who was alive during their reigns. note 
  • Artistic License – History: Historically, many ladies' names have not been recorded down. This includes Lady Du, Kuangyin's mother and later the first empress dowager of Song. Similarly, many events surrounding the ladies (except for Lady Du) in-series were fictional as their activities were not recorded down in traditional histories.
    • Historically, no coup took place on the day Kuangyin was born. However, it is historically true that in the year before his birth, a coup did take place involving his father Hongyin's benefactor. note 
    • Zhao Hongyin's and Empress Wang's deaths were greatly dramatised in-series. note 
    • The events surrounding and persons involved in the coup at Chenqiao had also been altered.note 
    • Historically, it was Kuangyin's third daughter who married Wei Renpu's son, not his eldest.
    • Historically, there were no records of Madame Huarui's family (except for her father's name: Xu Guozhang).
    • At Kuangyin's first meeting with Xu Rui, the poem he recites is adapted from a similar one written by Southern Tang's last ruler Li Yu. However, it is historically accurate that Lady Xu was a poet of great repute.
    • Historically, Lei Dexiang passed away in his mid 70s during Guangyi's reign. Similarly, the historical Fu Zhaoshou died in 1000 C.E., during Zhenzong's (Guangyi's son and successor) reign.
    • The "era name" controversy has been exaggerated.note 
    • The circumstances behind Zhang Qiong's death had been altered. note 
    • Averted by the series's treatment of Kuangyin's death; the series opted for a matter-of-fact approach (sudden death due to illness, e.g. stroke or heart attack) rather than the (in)famous story of "sound of the axe in the shadow of the flickering candle" in fiction/folklore.
    • Zig-zagged with Kuangyin's escort of Jing-niang. Traditionally, this story was recorded in literature and opera. However, Professor Wang Liqun of the University of Henan is of the opinion that there are elements of truth in the story. At the same time, the original story only had Kuangyin himself doing the escort. Also, Jing-niang did not enter the palace after Kuangyin became emperor, nor did she marry Zhang Qiong.
    • Also zig-zagged with the "Golden Cabinet Pledge" (金匮之盟). While many historians doubt its historical authenticity, it has its supporters as well. The series itself adopts a middle ground: while Lady Du did state her request to Zhao Pu and Kuangyin, Zhao Pu refused to commit the pledge to paper and implored Kuangyin to forget about it as well.note 
    • Again zig-zagged with Zheng En. There is still controversy on whether he existed, as traditional histories did not have records on him. However, like Jing-niang, he appears in another traditional opera story "Executing the Yellow Robe" (斩黄袍) note 
  • Ambition Is Evil: Kuangyin himself believes in this. However, his friends (particularly Zhao Pu and Shen (Yi)Lun) and family (particularly Guangyi) are supportive of him taking over the imperial throne. Even Lady Du advised him to be ruthless should the situation requires him to seize power in order to bring peace and order to China. note 
  • As You Know: Averted when Shen (Yi)Lun explained the concept of "gong jian" to Kuangyin. As Kuangyin had a military background, he initially thought that Shen was referring to bow(s) and arrow(s)note .
  • Blue Blood: As Guangyi explained, Lady Song's lineage is this, as both her grandmother and mother are princesses of previous dynasties. note 
  • Character Tics: After Kuangyin became emperor, whenever he encounters any frustration, he would hit the wooden tabletop with an axe-head shaped jade ornament.
    • Guangyi strokes his forehead with two fingers if met with the same situation.
  • Composite Character: Li Yu's (the last ruler of Southern Tang) empress, who was the amalgamation of Li Yu's historical two empresses, who were sisters. note 
  • Decadent Court: Downplayed. While there were still fierce competition between factions led by Zhao Pu and Guangyi, and casualties (most prominently, Empress Wang) due to courtly intrigue, decadence and deadliness in Kuangyin's court was reduced to a minimum.
  • Doomed by Canon: Knowing the historical fates of the various characters can spoil the story to a certain extent.
  • Drunk with Power: Zhao Pu. While he remains The Good Chancellor, he does develop some traits of the Evil Chancellor by the end of the series. note 
  • Feed the Mole: Guangyi does this to Song Qi after knowing he's spying for Zhao Pu.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Kuangyin and his sworn brothers, forged through adventure and later wars.
  • Foreshadowing: Kuangyin enrobing Guo Wei in a yellow robe is a nod to the same thing happening to him later at Chenqiao. note 
    • Fu Rong asking Guangyi to wear the imperial robe (at a time where even Kuangyin was not yet emperor) is one to his eventual ascension to the throne.
    • Zhao Pu predicted that should Guangyi inherit the throne, he would then pass it on to his own son instead of Dezhao. This was exactly what happened historically.
    • Yao Shu's misgivings about becoming Du Shenzhao's deputy at Chanzhou turned out to be (fatally) prescient.
    • Lei Dexiang's failed attempt to impeach Zhao Pu is one to his son Youling's historically successful one in 973 CE.
  • Historical In-Joke: Jing-niang's royal title (Princess of Yan) was historically given to Kuangyin's younger (full) sister, who was also Gao Huaide's wife.
    • Kuangyin hitting the wooden tabletop with an axe-head shaped jade ornament alludes to the story of "the sound of the axe in the shadow of the flickering candle" (斧声烛影) in literature and folklore, which alleged that Guangyi murdered his brother for the throne. In the last episode, Wang Ji'en was the one who saw the silhouettes of both Kuangyin and Guangyi against the candlelight, and heard the sound of the jade ornament hitting the wooden tabletop.
    • Kuangyin hacking at the imperial robe in the aftermath of Zhang Qiong's death is a subtle one to the traditional opera story "Executing the Yellow Robe". note 
  • Insane Troll Logic: For Fu Rong, the main reason why she wants to become empress is that her two elder sisters had become empresses, and she thought herself more beautiful and clever than them. Not surprisingly, Guangyi had to remind her many times that she was committing treason, with disastrous consequences should things go awry.
  • I Have Many Names: Guangyi. He had to change his name from Kuangyi so as to avoid the naming taboo after his bro became emperor. Soon after he became emperor, he changed his name to "Jiong".
  • I Know You Know I Know: Kuangyin does this to Tao Gu, who was the chief examiner of the first imperial examination of the Song era, and had been taking bribes. Tao got the hint and decided to select candidates based on merit, instead of bribes.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Civilian officials vs. military officers. As Kuangyin had a military background, but wanted the empire to head towards a civilian-centric direction, this caused him many headaches. note 
  • Irony: Han Tong spent much effort to frame Kuangyin of treason in front of Chai Rong. Yet, just before the coup at Chenqiao, Han had become utterly convinced of his loyalty to the Later Zhou. To add to the irony, Han was the only important official of the Later Zhou to perish in the coup.
    • Fu Rong, who wanted to become empress since her introduction, only got to become so posthumously after her husband Guangyi became emperor as Kuangyin's successor.
    • Guangyi spent much effort in trying to remove Zhao Pu as First Chancellor; the narration in the epilogue noted that he re-appointed Zhao Pu as First Chancellor six years after his ascension as emperor due to Zhao Pu revealing the "Golden Cabinet Pledge". note 
  • The Lost Lenore: For Kuangyin, Empress Wang. For 5 years after her death, he did not elevate another woman to the position.
  • Older Than They Look: Shen (Yi)Lun was about 18 years older than Kuangyin. Early in-series, he's portrayed as a few years older at the most. It was only during Zhao Pu's impeachment that he looked his age of 65 (vs. Kuangyin's 47).
  • Parenting the Husband: Inverted with Kuangyin and Empress Song, with Kuangyin Parenting The Wife as she is more than two decades his junior. note 
  • Retired Badass: Fu Yanqing, the patriarch of the Fu family. To viewers, he's probably best known for having three daughters who were married to emperors. Historically, he was a celebrated general in his younger days; there were also allusions to his military career as the series progresses.
  • Roman à Clef: Most of the ladies who appear in-series are this, due to the lack of records on their names. An outstanding example is Shuya, Kuangyin's first wife as her surname was not revealed until after Kuangyin became emperor; a closer look at the timeline implies that she's meant to represent Taizu's first wife Lady He, who died before his ascension.
  • Succession Crisis: Before the Song was established, emperors of the various regimes come and go with alarming frequency.
    • Played with when it comes to Kuangyin's heir, as he is unable to come to a firm decision between his son or his brother. note 
  • Time Skip: The series bypassed Guo Wei's reign of about 3 years. Before that, the series also bypassed Kuangyin's childhood years.
  • Velvet Revolution: The coup at Chenqiao. Truth in Television, as this bloodless coup was considered a miracle compared to other coups before or since.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: During a discussion after Chai Rong's death, Guangyi compared Han Gui to Pang Juan, and claimed that their side has more than enough Sun Bins to counter him. note 
    • The series also does not explain the dynamics behind the formation of Northern Han, note  and why Southern Tang "suddenly" became Jiangnan Guo note .
  • Younger Than They Look: Several.
    • Empress Wang. Historically, she was in her teens when she married Kuangyin and passed away while in her early 20s.
    • Chai Rong. Historically, he was in his late 20s to early 30s while serving under Guo Wei, and was about 37 when he died.
    • Liu Chengyou. Historically, he was only about 20 years old when he died.
    • Zhang Yongde and Lyu Yuqing. Historically, both men were in their early 30s during the immediate aftermath of the coup at Chenqiao. For Zhang, Artistic License – History applies as he's set to be nine years older than Kuangyin in the story. note 
  • Young Future Famous People: Guangyi, Kuangyin's younger brother who was a kid/teenager in the early episodes, ascended to the throne as Kuangyin's successor at the end of the last episode. The narration also noted that his descendants would become emperors of the Northern Song Dynasty, while Kuangyin's descendants would only become emperors from the second emperor of the Southern Song onwards.