Friday, October 3, 2008

Zhong Shaojing

Zhong Shaojing , courtesy name Keda , was an official of the dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, briefly serving as a during the reign of .


It is not known when Zhong Shaojing was born, but it is known that he was from Qian Prefecture . His clan traced its ancestry to a number of officials of Han Dynasty, Cao Wei, Jin Dynasty , Northern Wei, Southern Qi, Liang Dynasty, Sui Dynasty, and Tang Dynasty. Both Zhong Shaojing's great-grandfather Zhong Baoshen and grandfather Zhong Ziwei , however, were only minor local officials, and Zhong Shaojing's father Zhong Fazun did not carry any official titles. In Zhong Shaojing's youth, during the reign of Wu Zetian, he served as a ''Sinong Lushi'' , a low-level official at the ministry of agriculture, but as he was well-known for his , was requested by the legislative bureau of government to serve there. Many plaques of important public works projects built during Wu Zetian's reign, including the imperial meeting hall and the palaces, and the odes to the nine ''s'' that Wu Zetian built, were physically written by Zhong.

Participation in coup of 710

As of the ''Jinglong'' era of Wu Zetian's son , Zhong Shaojing was serving as the director of imperial gardens . In 710, Emperor Zhongzong died suddenly -- a death that traditional historians believed to be a poisoning carried out by his powerful wife and her daughter Li Guo'er the Princess Anle, so that Empress Wei could become "emperor" like Wu Zetian and Li Guo'er could become crown princess. For the time being, Emperor Zhongzong's son by a concubine, the Prince of Wen, was made emperor , and Empress Wei retained power as empress dowager and regent. She viewed Emperor Zhongzong's brother the Prince of Xiang and sister Princess Taiping as threats, and considered killing them. Meanwhile, Princess Taiping and Li Dan's son the Prince of Linzi heard news of this, and therefore considered acting first. They, along with Princess Taiping's son Xue Chongjian , Zhong, Wang Chongye , Liu Youqiu, and Ma Sizong , planned a coup, and soon launched it, with support from imperial guard soldiers disgruntled at harsh treatment by their commanders Wei Bo and Gao Song , Empress Wei's nephews whom she had put in charge. Zhong was set to join the coup with the servants and laborers of the imperial gardens, but almost did not do so as he suddenly hesitated, only resolving to join the coup after his wife pointed out that if the coup failed, he would suffer death anyway. The coup was successful, and Empress Wei and Li Guo'er were killed. Li Dan was made regent, and for his contributions in the coup, Zhong was made ''Zhongshu Shilang'' , the deputy head of the legislative bureau , and given the designation ''Canzhi Jiwu'' , making him a ''de facto''. He was also given the honorific title ''Yinqing Guanglu Daifu'' . The next day, he was given the greater chancellor ''de facto'' designation of ''Tong Zhongshu Menxia Sanpin'' .

During Emperor Ruizong's reign

Several days after the coup, Li Dan, at the urging of Princess Taiping, Li Longji, and Li Longji's brother Li Chengqi the Prince of Song, retook the throne , displacing Emperor Shang. Once Emperor Ruizong took the throne, Zhong received further promotions and honors -- he was made ''Zhongshu Ling'' -- the head of the legislative bureau and a post considered one for a chancellor -- and created the Duke of Yue. He was also was given awards of silk, servants, a mansion, land, horses, and other assorted treasures. It was said that, however, that other officials disrespected Zhong for his past as a low-level official and despised him for carrying out actions based on his own wishes and desires. The official Xue Ji suggested to him that he demonstrate modesty by offering to resign -- something often done when high level officials are commissioned and mostly done ceremonially -- and when Zhong did, Xue entered the palace and persuaded Emperor Ruizong to accept the resignation. Emperor Ruizong did, and he made Zhong the minister of census , and later the prefect of Shu Prefecture .

During Emperor Xuanzong's reign

In 712, Emperor Ruizong passed the throne to Li Longji, who took the throne as Emperor Xuanzong. Sometime after, Zhong Shaojing was recalled to again serve as minister of census, and later the head of the crown prince's household . However, the chancellor Yao Chong disliked Zhong, and he accused Zhong and Liu Youqiu of complaining that they were not given important positions despite their contributions. Despite their denials, they were still demoted -- in Zhong's case, to be the prefect of Guo Prefecture . At a later point, he was further accused of offenses and demoted to be the sheriff of Huai'en County , and his titles were stripped. He subsequently served as the secretary general of Wen Prefecture .

In 727, Zhong visited the capital Chang'an, and had the opportunity to meet Emperor Xuanzong. He wept and stated:

Emperor Xuanzong was saddened, and immediately made Zhong ''Yinqing Guanglu Daifu'' and ''Taizi You Yude'' , a member of the staff of the crown prince . Some time thereafter, he was made ''Taizi Shao Zhanshi'' , the deputy head of the crown prince's household. He died in his 80s while still serving in that position, although the year is not known.

It was said that Zhong, in addition to being a famed calligrapher, also favored collecting calligraphy. Among his collections were several hundred works of Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi, and Chu Suiliang. Three of his sons, Zhong Jiabi , Zhong Jia'e , and Zhong Jiawei served as officials.

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