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Zhao Dezhao
A portrait from Zhao family genealogy (1919)
Died26 August 979 (aged 27–28)[1]
Family name: Zhào ()
Given name: Dézhāo ()
Courtesy name: Rìxīn ()
Posthumous name
HouseHouse of Zhao
FatherEmperor Taizu of Song

Zhao Dezhao (趙德昭) (951 – 26 August 979) was an imperial prince of the Chinese Song Dynasty.

Officially the Prince Yi of Yan (燕懿王), he was the second son of Emperor Taizu and the crown prince since his elder brother died young. However, he did not succeed the throne after his father, as his uncle Emperor Taizong assumed power.


In 979, 3 years after his father's death, Zhao Dezhao was leading an army in Emperor Taizong's first campaign against the Khitans, when rumors spread in the army that Emperor Taizong had disappeared, and that Zhao Dezhao should be the new emperor.[2] The rumors died when Emperor Taizong was found, however, and Emperor Taizong was very unhappy about the results of his campaign and refused to award the troops sparking complaints from them.[1][2] On August 26, Zhao Dezhao went to inquire the emperor, who either barked "You do that when you become the new emperor!" or "You may do it yourself after you have ascended the throne! There's still time for that!"[1] Zhao Dezhao immediately went to his palace and asked his guards for a sabre. The guards told him that blades were not allowed in the palace, so Zhao Dezhao fetched a knife for cutting fruits, went to his room and then proceeded to slice his throat killing him.[1][2] Upon hearing about the suicide, Emperor Taizong was very saddened and hugged the corpse crying while saying "Silly boy, how did you come to this depravity?”[2]

However, as official history may not be trusted in events like this, some historians suspect that Zhao Dezhao was either murdered or forced to commit suicide by his uncle, who possibly was also involved in the deaths of Zhao Dezhao's father and younger brother. Zhao Defang, the last surviving son of Emperor Taizu, died 2 years after Zhao Dezhao. He was also in his 20s.

He was the ancestor of Zhao Yun and Zhao Qi who later became emperors. They were posthumously known as Emperor Lizong and Emperor Duzong respectively.



  1. ^ a b c d Ming, Hung Hing (2014-08-01). Ten States, Five Dynasties, One Great Emperor: How Emperor Taizu Unified China in the Song Dynasty. Algora Publishing. ISBN 9781628940725.
  2. ^ a b c d John W. Chaffee (1999). Branches of Heaven: A History of the Imperial Clan of Sung China. Harvard Univ Asia Center. pp. 28–. ISBN 978-0-674-08049-2.