Thursday, September 4, 2008

Emperor Taizong of Tang

Emperor Taizong of Tang , personal name Lǐ Shìmín , was the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty of China, ruling from 626 to 649. As he encouraged his father, to rise against Sui Dynasty rule at Taiyuan in 617 and subsequently defeated several of his most important rivals, he was ceremonially regarded as a cofounder of the dynasty along with Emperor Gaozu.

He is typically considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, emperor in all of Chinese history. Throughout the rest of Chinese history, Emperor Taizong's reign was regarded as the exemplary model against which all other emperors were measured, and his "Reign of Zhen'guan" was considered a golden age of Chinese history and required study for future crown princes. During his reign, Tang China flourished economically and militarily. For more than a century after his death, Tang China enjoyed peace and prosperity.

In 630, Emperor Taizong sent his general Li Jing against Eastern Tujue -- to which Tang had once submitted -- defeating and capturing its Jiali Khan Ashina Duobi and destroying Eastern Tujue power. This made Tang the dominant power in East and Central Asia, and Emperor Taizong subsequently took the title of ''Tian Kehan'' .

Emperor Taizong was, in opposition to nobility of the time, a frank rationalist, openly laughing of superstitions and heaven's claimed signs, and modifying important rites in order to ease agricultural labour. The modern Chinese historian Bo Yang opined that Emperor Taizong achieved greatness by accepting criticism that others would find difficult to accept and trying hard not to abuse his absolute power , as well as employing capable Fang Xuanling, Du Ruhui, and Wei Zheng. Emperor Taizong's wife Empress Zhangsun served as a capable assistant to him as well.


Li Shimin was born in 599 at . His father the Duke of Tang was a general of the Sui Dynasty and a nephew, by marriage, to Sui's founding emperor , as Li Shimin's grandmother Duchess Dugu was a sister of Empress Dugu Qieluo -- both were daughters of Dugu Xin , a major general during Sui's predecessor dynasty Northern Zhou. Li Shimin's mother was Li Yuan's wife Duchess Dou, who was a daughter of Dou Yi the Duke of Shenwu and Dou Yi's wife, Northern Zhou's Princess Xiangyang. Duchess Dou bore Li Yuan four sons -- an older brother to Li Shimin, Li Jiancheng, and two younger brothers, Li Xuanba and Li Yuanji -- and at least one daughter . Li Yuan named Li Shimin "Shimin" as a shortened form of the phrase "save the earth and pacify the people" . Li Shimin apparently showed talent early in his life, and in 613, the official Gao Shilian, impressed with him, gave him a niece in marriage as his wife; he was 14 and she was 12. In 615, when Emperor Wen's son and successor was ambushed by Eastern Tujue forces at Yanmen , a general call was made for men to join the army to help rescue the emperor. Li Shimin answered that call and served under the general Yun Dingxing , apparently doing so with distinction. In 616, when Li Yuan was put in charge of the important city of Taiyuan, Li Shimin followed his father to Taiyuan, while leaving at least three other sons -- Li Jiancheng, Li Yuanji, and Li Zhiyun -- at the ancestral home Hedong .

Participation in the rebellion against Sui rule

Emperor Yang was soon dissatisfied with Li Yuan and Wang Rengong , the governor of Mayi Commandery , over their inability to stop Eastern Tujue incursions and the growing strengths of agrarian rebels, particularly the Eastern Tujue-support Liu Wuzhou the Dingyang Khan, who soon rose against Wang and killed him and soon captured Emperor Yang's secondary palace near Taiyuan. Li Yuan also became fearful that there had been prophecies throughout the empire that the next emperor would be named Li -- and that Emperor Yang had killed another official, Li Hun and Li Hun's clan over his fears that Li Hun's nephew, Li Min , would seize the throne.

In fear, Li Yuan considered rebellion, and at that point, he did not know that Li Shimin had also been doing so -- secretly discussing such plans with Li Yuan's associates Pei Ji and Liu Wenjing. Once Li Shimin's plans matured, he had Pei inform Li Yuan of them -- and also had Pei warn Li Yuan that if it were revealed that Li Yuan had had sexual relations with some of Emperor Yang's at the secondary Jinyang Palace , all of them would be slaughtered. Li Yuan agreed to rebel, and after secretly summoning Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji from Hedong and his son-in-law Chai Shao from the capital Chang'an, he declared a rebellion, claiming to want to support Emperor Yang's grandson the Prince of Dai, nominally in charge at Chang'an with Emperor Yang at Jiangdu , as emperor. He made both Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin major generals and advanced southwest, toward Chang'an. He created Li Shimin the Duke of Dunhuang.

However, when Li Yuan arrived near Hedong, his army was bogged down by the weather, and with food running out, there were rumors that Eastern Tujue and Liu Wuzhou would attack Taiyuan. Li Yuan initially ordered retreat, but at the earnest opposition by Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin, continued to advance. After defeating Sui forces at Huoyi , he decided to leave a small contingent to watch over Hedong while advancing across the Yellow River into Guanzhong . Once he did, he headed for Chang'an himself, while sending Li Jiancheng to capture the territory around the Tong Pass region to prevent Sui forces at Luoyang from reinforcing Chang'an and Li Shimin north of the Wei River to capture territory there. Meanwhile, Li Shimin's sister had also risen in rebellion in support of him, and she was able to gather a sizable army and capture some cities. She joined forces with Li Shimin and her husband Chai Shao. Soon, Li Yuan reconsolidated his forces and put Chang'an under siege. In winter 617, he captured Chang'an and declared Yang You emperor . He had himself made regent and created the Prince of Tang. He created Li Shimin the Duke of Qin.

Li Yuan's control of the Chang'an region became almost immediately contested by the rebel ruler Xue Ju the Emperor of Qin, who sent his son Xue Rengao toward Chang'an. Li Yuan sent Li Shimin to resist Xue Rengao, and Li Shimin defeated Xue Rengao at Fufeng , temporarily causing Xue Ju to toy with the idea of surrendering to Li Yuan, although Xue was subsequently dissuaded by his strategist Hao Yuan from doing so.

In spring 618, with Sui's eastern capital Luoyang under attack by the rebel ruler Li Mi the Duke of Wei, Li Yuan sent Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin to Luoyang, ostensibly to aid the Sui forces at Luoyang but instead intending to test whether Luoyang might submit to him. The officials at Luoyang rebuffed his attempt at rapprochement, and Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin, not wanting to fight either them or Li Mi for control of Luoyang at this stage, withdrew. Li Yuan subsequently changed Li Shimin's title to Duke of Zhao.

In summer 618, when news arrived at Chang'an that Emperor Yang had been killed at Jiangdu in a coup led by the general Yuwen Huaji, Li Yuan had Emperor Gong yield the throne to him, establishing Tang Dynasty as its Emperor Gaozu. He created Li Jiancheng crown prince but created Li Shimin the Prince of Qin, also making him ''Shangshu Ling'' , the head of the executive bureau of the government and a post considered one for a , while continuing to have Li Shimin serve as a major general as well.

During Emperor Gaozu's reign

The campaign to reunify the empire

The first thing that Li Shimin had to deal with was another incursion by Xue Ju, as Xue attacked Jing Prefecture and Emperor Gaozu sent Li Shimin to resist Xue. Li Shimin established his defenses and refused to engage Xue to try to wear Xue Ju out, but at that time, he was afflicted with malaria, and he let his assistants Liu Wenjing and Yin Kaishan take command, ordering them not to engage Xue Ju. Liu and Yin, however, did not take Xue Ju seriously, and Xue Ju ambushed them at Qianshui Plain , crushing Tang forces and inflicting 50%-60% casualties. Li Shimin was forced to withdraw back to Chang'an, and Liu and Yin were removed from their posts. Xue Ju, in light of his victory, was ready to launch an assault on Chang'an itself, under Hao Yuan's advice, but suddenly died of an illness in fall 618 and was succeeded by Xue Rengao. Emperor Gaozu then sent Li Shimin against Xue Rengao. Three months after Xue Rengao took the throne, Li Shimin engaged him, and after a fierce battle between Li Shimin and Xue Rengao's major general Zong Luohou , Li Shimin crushed Zong's forces, and then attacked Xue Rengao. Xue Rengao was forced to withdraw into the city of Gaozhi , and once he did, his soldiers began surrendering to Li Shimin in mass. Xue Rengao was himself forced to surrender. Li Shimin had him delivered to Chang'an, where he was executed. Around new year 619, Emperor Gaozu made Li Shimin ''Taiwei'' and made him in charge of Tang operations east of the Tong Pass.

In spring 619, Liu Wuzhou launched a major offensive against Tang. He captured Taiyuan in summer 619, forcing Li Yuanji, who had been in charge there, to flee, and then continued his offensive south. Emperor Gaozu sent Pei Ji against him, but by winter 619, Liu had crushed Pei's forces and taken over nearly all of modern Shanxi. Emperor Gaozu, shocked at the development, considered abandoning the region altogether. Li Shimin opposed doing so and offered to lead the army against Liu. Emperor Gaozu agreed and commissioned him with an army. He crossed the Yellow River and approached LIu's major general Song Jin'gang but did not engage him, choosing to try to wear Song out, only having his subordinates Yin Kaishan and Qin Shubao engage the other Dingyang generals Yuchi Jingde and Xun Xiang in relatively low-level engagements. Eventually, in spring 620, when Liu and Song ran out of food supplies, they retreated, and Li Shimin gave chase, dealing Song a major defeat. Yuchi and Xun surrendered, and after Li Shimin chased further, both Liu and Song fled to Eastern Tujue. All of Dingyang territory fell into Tang hands.

In summer 620, Emperor Gaozu again commissioned Li Shimin against a major enemy -- the former Sui general Wang Shichong, who had Sui's last emperor, Emperor Yang's grandson Yang Tong, yield the throne to him in 619, establishing a new state of Zheng as its emperor. When Li Shimin arrived at the Zheng capital Luoyang, Wang offered peace, but Li Shimin rebuffed him and put Luoyang under siege. Meanwhile, his subordinates took Zheng cities one by one. By winter 620, most of Zheng territory, other than Luoyang and Xiangyang, defended by Wang Shichong's nephew Wang Honglie , had submitted to Tang. Wang sought aid Dou Jiande the Prince of Xia, who controlled most of modern Hebei. Dou, reasoning that if Tang were able to destroy Zheng, his own Xia state would be corner, agreed. He sent his official Li Dashi to try to persuade Li Shimin to withdraw, but Li Shimin detained Li Dashi and gave no response. Meanwhile, during the campaign, Li Shimin chose some 1,000 elite soldiers, clad in black uniform and black armor, commanded by himself, to serve as advance forward troops, with Qin, Cheng Zhijie , Yuchi, and Zhai Zhangsun as his assistants.

By spring 621, Luoyang was in desperate situation, and Xia forces had not yet arrived, but Tang troops had also suffered serious casualties, as Luoyang's defenses, aided by powerful bows and catapults, were holding. Emperor Gaozu, hearing that Dou had decided to come to Wang's aid, ordered Li Shimin to withdraw, but Li Shimin sent his secretary Feng Deyi to Chang'an to explain to Emperor Gaozu that if he did withdraw, Wang would recover and again be a major threat in the future. Emperor Gaozu agreed and allowed Li Shimin to continue to siege Luoyang. When Xia forward troops arrived first, Li Shimin surprised and defeated them, and then sent Dou a letter suggesting that he withdraw. Dou would not do so, and, against the advice of his wife and secretary general Ling Jing that he should instead attack Tang's prefectures in modern southern Shanxi, he marched toward Luoyang. Anticipating Dou's maneuver, Li Shimin left a small detachment, commanded by Li Yuanji, at Luoyang, while marching east himself, taking up position at the strategic Hulao Pass. When the armies engaged at Hulao, Li Shimin defeated Dou and captured him. He took Dou back to Luoyang and displayed him to Wang Shichong. Wang, in fear, considered abandoning Luoyang and fleeing south to Xiangyang, but as his generals pointed out that his only hope was Dou, he surrendered. Xia forces, after initially fleeing back to the Xia capital Ming Prefecture , also surrendered. Zheng and Xia territory were Tang's. Li Shimin returned to Chang'an in a grand victory procession, and, to reward Li Shimin, Emperor Gaozu awarded both him and Li Yuanji three mints so that they could mint money of their own. He also bestowed on Li Shimin the special title of "Grand General of Heavenly Strategies" . Meanwhile, Li Shimin's staff, already full of generals and strategists, were now being supplemented with a number of literary men.

The former Xia territory did not remain in Tang hands for long, as in winter 621, the Xia general Liu Heita rose against Tang rule, claiming to be avenging Dou, whom Emperor Gaozu had executed after Li Shimin took him back to Chang'an . He was allied with Xu Yuanlang, a former agrarian rebel general who was nominally under Wang Shichong and who had submitted to Tang after Wang's defeat. Liu dealt successive defeats to Emperor Gaozu's cousin Li Shentong the Prince of Huai'an, Li Xiaochang the Prince of Yi'an, and Li Shiji. Emperor Gaozu sent Li Shimin and Li Yuanji against Liu. In 622, after some indecisive battles with Liu, who had by that point taken over almost all of former Xia territory and claimed the title of Prince of Handong, Li Shimin defeated Liu by flooding his army with water from the Ming River , and Liu fled to Eastern Tujue. Li Shimin then headed east and attacked Xu, defeating him. After leaving Li Shiji, Li Shentong, and Ren Gui to continue to attack Xu, Li Shimin returned to Chang'an.

The struggle against Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji

By this point, Li Shimin and his older brother Li Jiancheng, who was created crown prince in 618, reportedly after Emperor Gaozu first offered the position to Li Shimin due to his contributions, were locked in an intense rivalry, as Li Shimin's accomplishments caused people to speculate that he would displace Li Jiancheng as crown prince, and Li Jiancheng, while an accomplished general himself, was overshadowed by his younger brother. The court became divided into a faction favoring the Crown Prince and a faction favoring the Prince of Qin. The rivalry was particularly causing problems within capital, as the commands of the Crown Prince, the Prince of Qin, and the Prince of Qi were said to have the same force as the emperor's edicts, and the officials had to carry conflicting orders out by acting on the ones that arrived first. Li Shimin's staff was full of talented men, but Li Jiancheng was supported by Li Yuanji, as well as Emperor Gaozu's concubines, who had better relationships with Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji than they did with Li Shimin.

Late in 622, when Liu Heita returned to former Xia domain after receiving aid from Eastern Tujue, defeating and killing Li Shimin's cousin Li Daoxuan the Prince of Huaiyang, he again regained most of former Xia territory. Li Jianheng's staff members Wang Gui and Wei Zheng suggested that Li Jiancheng needed to enhance his own reputation in battle, and so Li Jiancheng volunteered for the mission. Emperor Gaozu thus sent Li Jiancheng, assisted by Li Yuanji, to attack Liu. Li Jiancheng defeated Liu around the new year 623, and Liu was subsequently betrayed by his own official Zhuge Dewei and delivered to Li Jiancheng. Li Jiancheng killed Liu and returned to Chang'an in triumph. China was, by this point, roughly united under Tang rule.

For the next few years, the rivalry intensified, although during the meantime both Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin served as generals when Eastern Tujue made incursions. In 623, when the general Fu Gongshi rebelled at Danyang , Emperor Gaozu briefly commissioned Li Shimin to attack Fu, but soon cancelled the order and sent Li Shimin's cousin Li Xiaogong the Prince of Zhao Commandery instead.

In 624, when Li Jiancheng was found to have, against regulations, tried to add soldiers to his guard corps, Emperor Gaozu was so angry that he put Li Jiancheng under arrest. In fear, Li Jiancheng's guard commander Yang Wen'gan rebelled. Emperor Gaozu sent Li Shimin against Yang, offering to make him crown prince after he returned. After Li Shimin left, however, Feng Deyi , Li Yuanji, and the concubines all spoke on Li Jiancheng's behalf, and after Li Shimin returned, Emperor Gaozu did not depose Li Jiancheng, but instead blamed the discord between him and Li Shimin on Li Jiancheng's staff members Wang Gui and Wei Ting and Li Shimin's staff member Du Yan, exiling them to Xi Prefecture .

Later that year, Emperor Gaozu, troubled by repeated Eastern Tujue incursions, seriously considered burning Chang'an to the ground and moving the capital to Fancheng, a suggestion that Li Jiancheng, Li Yuanji, and Pei Ji agreed with. Li Shimin opposed, however, and the plan was not carried out. Meanwhile, Li Shimin himself was sending his confidants to Luoyang to build up personal control of the army there. After an incident in which Li Shimin suffered a severe case of food poisoning after feasting at Li Jiancheng's palace -- an event that both Emperor Gaozu and Li Shimin apparently interpreted as an assassination attempt -- Emperor Gaozu considered sending Li Shimin to guard Luoyang to prevent further conflict, but Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji, after consulting each other, believed that this would only give Li Shimin an opportunity to build up his personal power there, and therefore opposed it. Emperor Gaozu therefore did not carry out the plan. Meanwhile, the rivalry continued. Traditional historical accounts also indicated that at one point, when Li Shimin visited Li Yuanji's mansion, Li Yuanji wanted to assassinate Li Shimin, but Li Jiancheng, who could not resolve to kill a brother, stopped the plot. There was yet another incident in which Li Jiancheng, knowing that a horse threw its rider easily, had Li Shimin ride it, causing Li Shimin to fall off from it several times.

By 626, Li Shimin was fearful that he would be killed by Li Jiancheng, and his staff members Fang Xuanling, Du Ruhui, and Zhangsun Wuji were repeatedly encouraging Li Shimin to attack Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji first -- while Wei Zheng was encouraging Li Jiancheng to attack Li Shimin first. Li Jiancheng persuaded Emperor Gaozu to remove Fang and Du, as well as Li Shimin's trusted guard officers Yuchi Jingde and Cheng Zhijie, from Li Shimin's staff. Zhangsun, who remained on Li Shimin's staff, continued to try to persuade Li Shimin to attack first.

In summer 626, Eastern Tujue was making another attack, and under Li Jiancheng's suggestion, Emperor Gaozu, instead of sending Li Shimin to resist Eastern Tujue as he first was inclined, decided to send Li Yuanji instead. Li Yuanji was given command of much of the army previously under Li Shimin's control, further troubling Li Shimin, who believed that with the army in Li Yuanji's hands, he would be unable to resist an attack. Li Shimin had Yuchi summon Fang and Du back to his mansion secretly, and then on one night submitted an accusation to Emperor Gaozu that Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji were committing adultery with Emperor Gaozu's concubines. Emperor Gaozu, in response, issued summonses to Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji for the next morning, convening the senior officials Pei Ji, Xiao Yu, and Chen Shuda to examine Li Shimin's accusations. As Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji approached the central gate leading to Emperor Gaozu's palace, Xuanwu Gate , Li Shimin carried out the ambush he had set. He personally fired an arrow that killed Li Jiancheng. Subsequently, Yuchi killed Li Yuanji. Li Shimin's forces entered the palace and, under the intimidation of Li Shimin's forces, Emperor Gaozu agreed to create Li Shimin crown prince. Li Jiancheng's and Li Yuanji's sons were killed, and Li Shimin took Li Yuanji's wife Princess Yang as a concubine. Two months later, with Li Shimin firmly in control of power, Emperor Gaozu yielded the throne to him .

Early reign

One of the first actions that Emperor Taizong carried out as emperor was releasing a number of from the palace and returning them to their homes, so that they could be married. He created his wife Princess Zhangsun as empress, and their oldest son Li Chengqian as crown prince.

Emperor Taizong also immediately faced a crisis, as Eastern Tujue's Jiali Khan Ashina Duobi, along with his nephew the subordinate Tuli Khan Ashina Shibobi , launched a major incursion toward Chang'an, and just 19 days after Emperor Taizong took the throne, the two khans were just across the Wei River from Chang'an. Emperor Taizong, accompanied by Gao Shilian and Fang Xuanling, was forced to meet Ashina Duobi across the river and personally negotiate peace terms, including tributes to Eastern Tujue, before Ashina Duobi withdrew.

Late in 626, Emperor Taizong ranked the contributors to Tang rule and granted them titles and fiefs, naming among the first rank of contributors Zhangsun Wuji, Fang, Du Ruhui, Yuchi Jingde, and Hou Junji. When Li Shentong, as his distant uncle, objected to being ranked under Fang and Du, Emperor Taizong personally explained how Fang and Du's strategies allowed him to be successful, and this managed to get the other objectors to quiet down, as Emperor Taizong was even willing to rank low such an honored individual as Li Shentong. Emperor Taizong also buried Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji with honors due imperial princes and had their staff members attend the funeral processions. Meanwhile, he appeared to began to reshuffle government further -- which he had already begun after being created crown prince -- by dismissing his father's trusted advisors Xiao Yu and Chen Shuda, making his own trusted advisors chancellors. However, he also began to greatly pay attention to the officials' submissions and their criticism of imperial governance, making changes where he saw needed. He also particularly began to trust Wei Zheng, accepting much advice from Wei as far as his personal conduct was concerned. He was also willing to demote his own trusted advisors, as he demoted Gao after finding that Gao had held back submissions from his deputy Wang Gui. Viewing Sui's Emperor Yang as a negative example, he frequently solicited criticism, rewarding those officials willing to offer them, particularly Wei and Wang Gui.

Also in 627, the general the Prince of Yan -- a late-Sui warlord who later submitted to Tang, who associated with Li Jiancheng -- fearing that Emperor Taizong would eventually take action against him, rebelled at Bin Prefecture , but was quickly crushed by the official Yang Ji and killed in flight. Later that year, when Emperor Gaozu's cousin Li Youliang the Prince of Changle, the commandant at Liang Prefecture , was accused of allowing his staff to oppress the people and to trade with Qiang and Xiongnu tribesmen, Emperor Taizong sent the chancellor Yuwen Shiji to investigate, and in fear, Li Youliang's staff members plotted to hold him hostage and rebel. When this was discovered, Emperor Taizong forced Li Youliang to commit suicide. Late in the year, Wang Junkuo , the commandant at You Prefecture , also rebelled, but was defeated quickly and killed in flight. However, although there were also reports that Feng Ang , a warlord in the modern Guangdong region, was rebelling, Emperor Taizong, at Wei's suggestion, sent messengers to comfort Feng, and Feng submitted.

Also in 627, Emperor Taizong, seeing that there were too many prefectures and counties, consolidated and merged many of them, and further created another level of local political organization above prefectures -- the circuit -- dividing his state into 10 circuits.

In 628, with Ashina Duobi and Ashina Shibobi having a fallout, Ashina Shibobi submitted to Emperor Taizong, as did the chieftains of Khitan tribes, who had previously submitted to Eastern Tujue. With Eastern Tujue in turmoil, Ashina Duobi was no longer able to protect the last late-Sui rebel ruler who along remained standing against Tang pressure -- Liang Shidu the Emperor of Liang, and in summer 628, with the Tang generals Chai Shao and Xue Wanjun sieging the Liang capital Shuofang , Liang Shidu's cousin Liang Luoren killed Liang Shidu and surrendered, finally uniting China. With Eastern Tujue weakened, Eastern Tujue's vassal Xueyantuo also broke away and formed its own khanate, and Emperor Taizong entered into an alliance with Xueyantuo's leader Yi'nan, creating Yi'nan the Zhenzhupiqie Khan .

In late 629, believing the time ripe for a major attack on Eastern Tujue, Emperor Taizong commissioned the general Li Jing with overall command of a multi-pronged army, assisted by the generals Li Shiji, Chai, and Xue Wanche , attacking Eastern Tujue at multiple points. The army was successful in its attacks, forcing Ashina Duobi to flee, and by late spring 630, Ashina Duobi had been captured, and Eastern Tujue chieftains all submitted to Tang. Emperor Taizong spared Ashina Duobi but detained him at Chang'an, and he considered what to do with the Eastern Tujue people. The main opposing views were from the chancellors Wen Yanbo and Wei . Emperor Taizong accepted Wen's suggestion and established a number of prefectures to accommodate the Eastern Tujue people, still leaving them governed by their chieftains, without creating a new khan to govern them.

In 631, Emperor Taizong established a scheme, where the contributors to his reign were given, in addition to their current posts, additional posts as prefectural governors, to be passed on to their descendants. Soon, however, receiving much opposition to the plan, the strongest of which came from Zhangsun Wuji, Emperor Taizong cancelled the scheme.

After the conquest of Eastern Tujue, Emperor Taizong's officials repeatedly requested that he carry out sacrifices to heaven and earth at Mount Tai, and Emperor Taizong, while at times tempted by the proposal, was repeatedly dissuaded from doing so by Wei, who pointed out the expenses and the labors that would be imposed on the people as a result, and also that this would open China's borders to attack.

Middle reign

In 634, Emperor Taizong sent 13 high level officials, including Li Jing and Xiao Yu, to examine the circuits to see whether the local officials were capable, to find out whether the people were suffering, to comfort the poor, and to select capable people to serve in civil service.

Around this time, Tang was having increasing conflicts with Tuyuhun, whose Busabo Khan Murong Fuyun, under instigation by his strategist the Prince of Tianzhu, had been repeatedly attacking Tang prefectures on the borders. At one point, Murong Fuyun sought to have a Tang princess marry his son the Prince of Zun, but the marriage negotiations broke down over Emperor Taizong's insistence that the Prince of Zun come to Chang'an for the wedding. In summer 634, Emperor Taizong had the generals Duan Zhixuan and Fan Xing lead forces against Tuyuhun, but with Tuyuhun's forces highly mobile and avoiding direct confrontation, Duan, while not defeated, could not make major gains. Once Duan withdrew, Tuyuhun resumed hostilities. In winter 634, with the Tufan king Songts& making overtures to marry a Tang princess as well, Emperor Taizong sent the emissary Feng Dexia to Tufan with an eye toward an alliance against Tuyuhun. In winter 634, he commissioned Li Jing, assisted by the other generals Hou Junji, Li Daozong, Li Daliang , Li Daoyan , and Gao Zengsheng , to attack Tuyuhun. In 635, Li Jing's forces crushed Tuyuhun forces. Murong Fuyun was killed by his own subordinates, and his son Murong Shun killed the Prince of Tianzhu and surrendered. Emperor Taizong created Murong Shun the new khan, although Murong Shun was soon assassinated. Emperor Taizong then created Murong Shun's son Murong Nuohebo as the new khan.

Also in 635, Emperor Gaozu died, and Emperor Taizong, observing a mourning period, briefly had Li Chengqian serve as regent, and after he resumed his authorities less than two months later, he still authorized Li Chengqian to thereafter rule on minor matters.

In spring 636, Emperor Taizong commissioned his brothers and sons as commandants and changed their titles in accordance with the commands that they received, sending them to their posts -- with the exception of his son Li Tai the Prince of Wei, who by this point was beginning to be highly favored by him. He further allowed Li Tai to engage literary men to serve as his assistants, as Li Tai favored literature. From this point on, Li Tai would be so favored that there began to be talks that Emperor Taizong might let him displace Li Chengqian, whose favors began to wane.

In fall 636, Empress Zhangsun died. Emperor Taizong mourned her bitterly and personally wrote the text of her monument.

In summer 637, Emperor Taizong recreated the feudal scheme that he had considered and abandoned in 631, creating 35 hereditary prefect posts.

Sometime before 638, Emperor Taizong, disgusted with the traditional noble clans of Cui, Lu, Li, and Zheng and believing that they were abusing their highly honored names, commissioned Gao Shilian, Wei Ting, Linghu Defen, and Cen Wenben to compile a work later to be known as the ''Records of Clans'' , with the intent of dividing the clans into nine classes based on their past contributions, good deeds, and ill deeds. In an initial draft that Gao submitted, he nevertheless ranked the branch of the Cui clan that the official Cui Min'gan belonged to as the highest, a decision that Emperor Taizong rebuked, as he pointed out that Gao was merely again looking at tradition and not the recent contributions. He therefore personally intervened in revising the work, reducing Cui's clan to the third class.

In fall 638, Tufan's Songtsän Gampo, displeased that Emperor Taizong had declined to give him a Tang princess in marriage and believing that Murong Nuohebo had persuaded Emperor Taizong to decline the marriage proposal, launched a major attack with forces of 200,000 on Tuyuhun and then on several Tang prefectures, putting Song Prefecture under siege. Emperor Taizong commissioned Hou, assisted by Zhishi Sili , Niu Jinda , and Liu Jian , of a total of force of 50,000 to counterattack, and Niu, who commanded the forward forces, defeated Tufan forces at Song Prefecture. Songsän Gampo withdrew and sued for peace, but still sought to marry a Tang princess. Emperor Taizong agreed this time.

Also in 638, believing that Xueyantuo was growing increasingly strong and difficult to control, Emperor Taizong granted Yi'nan's sons and Jialibi both lesser khan titles, to try to create dissensions between them.

In summer 639, Ashian Jiesheshuai , the younger brother of Ashina Shibobi, whom Emperor Taizong did not favor and gave little recognition to, formed a conspiracy with Ashina Shibobi's son Ashina Hexiangu to assassinate Emperor Taizong. They had planned to wait for the Prince of Jin to depart from the palace in the morning and use that opportunity to attack the palace. On the day they planned, however, Li Zhi did not leave the palace, and Ashina Jiesheshuai attacked anyway but was quickly defeated, captured, and executed. After this incident, however, the officials began advocating sending the Tujue people away from the heart of the state. In fall 639, Emperor Taizong created a Tujue prince who had served him faithfully, Li Simo as the khan of a newly recreated Eastern Tujue state , giving him all of the Tujue and Xiongnu who had surrendered as his subordinates, to be settled north of the Great Wall and the Yellow River. However, the Tujue people were fearful of Xueyantuo and initially refused to head to their new location. Emperor Taizong issued an edict to Yi'nan that he and Li Simo keep their peace and not attack each other, and after receiving from Yi'nan the assurance that he would not attack, the Tujue people advanced to the new location.

Meanwhile, Qu Wentai , the king of Gaochang, who had previously been submissive to Tang, had become increasingly hostile to Tang, allying with Western Tujue. In 640, Emperor Taizong commissioned Hou, assisted by Xue Wanjun, to launch a major attack on Gaochang. As they approached Gaochang, Qu Wentai died in fear and was succeeded by his son Qu Zhisheng . Qu Zhisheng offered to submit, but Hou demanded a surrender, which Qu Zhisheng refused. However, Hou put Gaochang under siege, and with aid from Western Tujue not arriving, Qu Zhisheng surrendered. Wei suggested that Emperor Taizong allow Qu Zhisheng to remain king, pointing out that the monetary and human costs would be high to keep a permanent garrison at Gaochang, but Emperor Taizong disagreed, and he converted Gaochang into two prefectures and annexed it into his state.

In winter 640, Songsän Gampo sent his prime minister Ludongzan as an emissary to Tang, offering tributes and again requesting marriage. Emperor Taizong created a daughter of a clansman as the Princess Wencheng, and in 641 sent Li Daozong to accompany Princess Wencheng to Tufan to preside over the wedding.

In winter 641, believing that Emperor Taizong was about to carry out sacrifices to heaven and earth at Mount Tai and would be unable to aid Eastern Tujue, Yi'nan launched a major attack on Eastern Tujue, commanded by his son Dadu . Li Simo was forced to retreat inside the Great Wall. Emperor Taizong commissioned Li Shiji, assisted by Zhang Jian , Li Daliang, Zhang Shigui , and Li Xiyu , to attack Xueyantuo. Li Shiji soon defeated Dadu at Nuozhen River , and Dadu fled.

Late reign

By 642, it was clear that Li Tai had ambitions on replacing his brother Li Chengqian, and the governmental officials began to be divided into pro-Li Chengqian and pro-Li Tai factions. After urging by Wei Zheng and Chu Suiliang to take actions that would clarify that Li Chengqian's position was secure, Emperor Taizong attempted to do so by making repeated statements to that effect, but his continued favoring of Li Tai led to continued speculation among officials.

Also by 642, Xueyantuo had posed a sufficiently serious threat that Emperor Taizong saw two alternatives -- destroying it by force or forming into a ''heqin'' relationship by marrying one of his daughters to Yi'nan. This particularly became an issue after the Tang general Qibi Heli , the chieftain of the Qibi Tribe, was kidnapped by his own subordinates and taken to Xueyantuo. In order to ransom Qibi, Emperor Taizong made a promise to eventually give his daughter Princess Xinxing to Yi'nan in marriage, and Yi'nan released Qibi.

In the winter 642, an event took place in Goguryeo that would eventually precipitate wars between Tang and Goguryeo. According to Chinese accounts Go Geonmu , the king of Goguryeo, was apprehensive about his general Yeon Gaesomun and was plotting with his other officials to kill Yeon. When Yeon received the news, he started a coup and killed the king and the high level officials. He declared King Yeongnyu's nephew Go Jang king, while taking power himself with the title of ''Mangniji'' . When Emperor Taizong received the news, there were suggestions that an attack be launched against Goguryeo, suggestions that Emperor Taizong initially declined.

In spring 643, Wei died, and Emperor Taizong mourned him bitterly, authoring Wei's monument himself and, prior to Wei's death, promising to give his daughter Princess Hengshan in marriage to Wei's son Wei Shuyu . Later in spring, Emperor Taizong commissioned 24 portraits at Lingyan Pavilion to commemorate the 24 great contributors to his reign.

Also in 643, Emperor Taizong would see major turmoil among his own closest family. In spring 643, his son Li You the Prince of Qi, angry over restrictions that his secretary general Quan Wanji had often placed on him, killed Quan and declared a rebellion. Emperor Taizong sent Li Shiji against Li You, but before Li Shiji could engage Li You, Li You was captured by his own subordinate Du Xingmin and delivered to Chang'an, where Emperor Taizong ordered him to commit suicide and executed 44 of his associates.

The death of Li You drew out news of another plot. Li Chengqian, who had been fearful that Emperor Taizong would eventually remove him and replace him with Li Tai, had begun to conspire with Hou Junji, Li Yuanchang the Prince of Han , the general Li Anyan , and his brothers-in-law Zhao Jie and Du He to overthrow Emperor Taizong. During the investigations in the aftermaths of Li You's rebellion, one of the co-conspirators, Li Chengqian's guard Gegan Chengji , was implicated by association, and in order to save himself, he revealed Li Chengqian's plot. Emperor Taizong was shocked by the news, and he appointed Zhangsun Wuji, Fang Xuanling, Xiao Yu, and Li Shiji, along with the officials in charge of the supreme court and the legislative and examination bureaus of the government to carry out a joint investigation. At the suggestion of the mid-level official Lai Ji, Emperor Taizong deposed, but did not kill, Li Chengqian, while ordering Li Yuanchang to commit suicide and executing Hou, Li Anyan, Zhao, and Du.

After Li Chenqian was deposed, Emperor Taizong briefly promised Li Tai that he would be made crown prince. However, as the investigations continued, Emperor Taizong came to the belief that Li Chengqian's downfall was driven by Li Tai's machinations, and therefore resolved to depose Li Tai as well. At Zhangsun's suggestion, Emperor Taizong created a younger son, the Prince of Jin , crown prince, who was considered kinder and gentler, while exiling Li Chengqian and Li Tai.

Meanwhile, coming to the belief that he made an ill-advised promise to Yi'nan to give him Princess Xinxing in marriage, Emperor Taizong demanded a large amount of bride price -- 50,000 horses, 10,000 cows and camels, and 100,000 sheep -- a price that Yi'nan agreed to, but could not immediately collect and deliver. Emperor Taizong used it as an excuse to cancel the marriage agreement. Meanwhile, as Wei Zheng had, prior to his death, recommended Hou and Li Chengqian's staff member Du Zhenglun as chancellors, Emperor Taizong came to suspect that Wei was part of the plot as well. He destroyed the monument he had authored for Wei and cancelled the betrothal between Wei Shuyu and Princess Hengshan.

In 644, with Yanqi's king Long Tuqizhi , who had assisted the Tang campaign to conquer Gaochang, turning against Tang and allying with Western Tujue, Emperor Taizong sent the general Guo Xiaoke , the commandant at Anxi to launch a surprise attack on Yanqi. Guo caught Long Tuqizhi by surprise and captured him, making his brother Long Lipozhun regent.

Also in 644, with Goguryeo attacking Silla and Silla requesting aid, Emperor Taizong decided to prepare for a campaign to conquer Goguryeo. He arrested the emissaries that Yeon sent to the Tang court, accusing them of disloyalty to King Yeongnyu. By winter 644, the mobilization was in full force.

In spring 645, Emperor Taizong departed from Luoyang and led the troops northeast, behind a vanguard of 60,000 commanded by Li Shiji and Li Daozong. At the same time, Zhang Liang led the other 40,000 from sea. By summer 645, Tang forces had captured Liaodong , and headed southeast toward the Goguryeo capital Pyongyang. Emperor Taizong's 20,000 force defeated a large force of 150,000 commanded by two Gogureyo generals and then put Anshi under siege. However, the capable defense put up by Anshi's commanding general stymied Tang forces and, in late fall, with winter fast approaching and his food supplies running out, Emperor Taizong withdrew. He much regretted launching the campaign and made the comment, "If Wei Zheng were still alive, he would never have let me launch this campaign." He reerected the monument he authored for Wei and summoned Wei's wife and children to meet him, treating them well. He also began to suffer from an illness -- an illness that he would never appear to completely recover from.

Meanwhile, in the aftermaths of the Goguryeo campaign, Xueyantuo's Duomi Khan Bazhuo launched attacks against Tang's border prefectures, with largely inconclusive results. In spring 646, the Tang generals Qiao Shiwang and Zhishi Sili counterattacked, defeating Bazhuo's forces, causing him to flee. His vassals Huige, Pugu , and Tongluo tribes took the opportunity to rebel and attack him. Hearing this, Emperor Taizong launched a major attack, commanded by Li Daozong, Ashina She'er , Zhishi, Qibi, Xue Wanche, and Zhang Jian, against Xueyantuo. With Xueyantuo under attack from multiple sides, Bazhuo was killed by Huige forces, and the remaining Xueyantuo people fled and supported Bazhuo's cousin Duomozhi as Yitewushi Khan, but soon offered to submit to Tang. Emperor Taizong sent Li Shiji toward Duomozhi's location, with the direction to either accept his submission or destroy him. Duomozhi surrendered and was taken to Chang'an, ending Xueyantuo's rule over the region. The other tribes formerly submissive to Xueyantuo offered Emperor Taizong the title of "Heavenly Khan" and thereafter largely became submissive to Tang. Tang nominally established seven command posts and six prefectures over the region.

After the victory over Xueyantuo, Emperor Taizong again turned his attention toward to Goguryeo, cutting off relations once more and considering another campaign. Under suggestions by some of his officials, he decided to launch harassment campaigns against Goguryeo's northern region on a yearly basis, to weaken Goguryeo gradually. The first of these campaigns was launched in spring 647, with Niu Jinda and Li Shiji in command, and would reoccur. All this was in preparation of another campaign in 649 with forces totaling 300,000, but Taizong died before this campaign and the campaign was stalled into Gaozong's reign.

In 648, Emperor Taizong launched another campaign, commanded by Ashina She'er, aimed at , but first attacking Yanqi and killing Long Xuepoanazhi and replacing him with his cousin Long Xiannazhun . Ashina She'er advanced on Qiuzi and captured its king Bai Helibushibi , making his brother king instead.

By summer of 649, Emperor Taizong was seriously ill -- with some believing that his illness was caused by his taking pills given him by . Believing Li Shiji to be capable but fearing that he would not be submissive to Li Zhi, he demoted Li Shiji out of the capital to be the commandant at remote Die Prefecture , with instructions to Li Zhi that if Li Shiji hesitated, to execute him immediately, and if he did not, to recall him after Emperor Taizong's death and make him chancellor. Li Shiji, when receiving the order and realizing that his life was at stake, immediately departed for Die Prefecture. Soon thereafter, Emperor Taizong, after entrusting Li Zhi to Zhangsun Wuji and Chu, died at his summer palace Cuiwei Palace . His death was initially kept a secret, and three days later, after his casket had been returned to Chang'an, his death was announced, and Li Zhi took the throne as Emperor Gaozong.

Taizong "reign" 616-649

Colors show the succession of Taizong conquest in Asia :

{鄰) of the . The novel is also known as ''The Biography of the Prince of Qin of the Tang Dynasty'' , ''Romance of Tang'' , and '' Romance of the Prince of Qin'' .
* Hong Kong TVB made a TV drama about Li Shimin's adventure based on the ''The Novel of the Prince of Qin of the Great Tang'' . TVB's 1983 martial arts drama ''The Foundation'' also featured a young Li Shimin prominently as one of its three leads .
* * The epic novel Journey to the West contains a fictional account of the Emperor's invention of the door god to protect his chamber from the spirit of a vengeful dragon whom he failed to save from execution.

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