Emperor Renzong of Song (30 May 1010 – 30 April 1063, Chinese calendar: 14 April 1010（the 3rd year of Dazhongxiangfu, 大中祥符三年） - 29 March 1063 (the 8th year of Jiayou, 嘉祐八年)), personal name Zhao Zhen, was the fourth emperor of the Song dynasty in China. He reigned for about 41 years from 1022 to his death in 1063, and was the longest reigning Song dynasty emperor. He was the sixth son of his predecessor, Emperor Zhenzong, and was succeeded by his cousin's son, Emperor Yingzong, because his own sons died prematurely. His original personal name was Zhao Shouyi but it was changed by imperial decree in 1018 to "Zhao Zhen", which means 'auspicious' in Chinese.
Compared to other famous Chinese emperors, Emperor Renzong is not widely known. His reign marked the high point of Song influence and power but was also the beginning of its slow disintegration that would persist over the next century and a half. One possible reason behind its weakness is its interpretation of its own foreign policy. The official policy of the Song Empire at the time was one of pacifism and this caused the weakening of its military. The Tangut-led Western Xia state took advantage of this deterioration and waged small scale wars against the Song Empire near the borders.
When Emperor Renzong came to power, he issued decrees to strengthen the military and paid massive bribes to the Khitan-led Liao dynasty, an adversary of Western Xia, in the hope that this would ensure the safety of the Song Empire. However, these policies involved a heavy price. Taxes were increased severely and the peasants lived in a state of perpetual poverty. This eventually caused organised rebellions to take place throughout the country and the breakdown of the Song government.
However, according to the records of History of Song, Renzong was considered to be merciful, tolerant, modest and frugal, and seldom revealed his feelings on expressions. One popular folk story of him was about that Emperor Renzong felt hungry one night and was eager to eat mutton. When the servant was about to ordered the cooks to prepare, Renzong stopped him, explained that this may cause waste if the cook kept cooking mutton from then on, and he preferred to suffer hunger rather than waste too much. Renzong ordered that officers of government must be very cautious to use death penalty, and if an officer once wrongly sentenced an innocent person to death, he would never get promoted. Renzong once said to his near ministers that: "I have never used the word 'death' to scold others, how dare I abuse the death penalty?"
During Emperor Renzong's reign, the culture of Song Dynasty, especially literature, began to prosper. Many most famous litterateurs and poets in Chinese history lived or started their creating careers during his reign, such as Fan Zhongyan, Ouyang Xiu and Mei Yaochen. In the 2nd year of Jiayou, the Imperial Examination enrolled some students who became even world-famous in the future, including Su Xun, Su Shi, Su Zhe, Zeng Gong and so on. They then became the most important litterateurs in Chinese history and began a new era of Chinese literature.
Emperor Renzong elevated the 46th-generation descendants of Confucius to the current title of Duke Yansheng. They were previously of lower noble ranks.
According to the 14th-century classical novel Water Margin, the first 27 years of Emperor Renzong's reign were known as the "Era of Three Abundances." But this was followed by a great plague around the year 1048 that decimated the population. It was only the prayers of the priests from the Taoist sect Way of the Celestial Masters that eventually lifted this pestilence. The imperial emissary who had been sent to the Taoist monastery recklessly entered the Suppression of Demons Hall, thinking the stories of demons was a hoax to delude gullible people.