Thursday, September 4, 2008

Emperor Xuanzong of Tang

Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (September 8, 685


Li Longji was born at the Tang Dynasty eastern capital Luoyang in 685, during the first reign of his father – but at that time, Emperor Ruizong's mother , not Emperor Ruizong, was in actual control of power as empress dowager and regent. Li Longji was the third son of Emperor Ruizong, and his mother was Emperor Ruizong's concubine Consort Dou. In 687, as the emperor's son, he was created the Prince of Chu. It was said that he was handsome as a child, and was talented in music. He had two older brothers – Li Chengqi, born of Emperor Ruizong's wife , and Li Chengyi , as well as three younger brothers – Li Longfan , Li Longye , and Li Longti .

During Wu Zetian's reign

In 690, Empress Dowager Wu had Emperor Ruizong yield the throne to her, and she took the throne as "emperor" of a new Zhou Dynasty, interrupting Tang. In 692, Li Longji and his brothers were allowed to have residences outside the palace and were given staffs at their mansions. Subsequently, all of Li Dan's sons were reduced in title, and Li Longji's title was reduced to Prince of Linzi, and he and his brothers, along with their cousins Li Guangshun the Prince of Yifeng, Li Shouli the Prince of Yong, and Li Shouyi the Prince of Yong'an , were kept inside the palace and not allowed to have contact with outsiders. until 699, when they were allowed to leave the palace and taken up residences outside.

During Emperor Zhongzong's second reign

In 705, Wu Zetian was overthrown in a coup, and Li Longji's uncle , who was at that time crown prince , who had been briefly emperor prior to Li Dan, returned to the throne . Li Longji was made the deputy minister of military supplies . In 708, he was made the secretary general of Lu Prefecture . In 710, he was recalled to the capital Chang'an to attend to Emperor Zhongzong when Emperor Zhongzong was sacrificing to heaven and earth. Meanwhile, sorcerers engaged by Emperor Zhongzong believed that there was an aura of an emperor at the area of Chang'an where the mansions Li Longji and his uncles were, and Emperor Zhongzong tried to fulfill the vision by visiting Li Longji's mansion and attending a feast there.

Coup against Empress Dowager Wei

In summer 710, Emperor Zhongzong died suddenly—a death that traditional historians believed to be a poisoning by Empress Wei 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 named emperor , but Empress Wei retained actual power as empress dowager and regent. Originally, under a plan put forth by Emperor Zhongzong's and Li Dan's sister Princess Taiping and Emperor Zhongzong's powerful concubine , Li Dan was to be named coregent, to assist Empress Wei, but under the opposition of two s—Empress Wei's cousin Wei Wen and close associate Zong Chuke—Li Dan was not made coregent.

In 711, Song and another chancellor, , tried to persuade Emperor Ruizong to carry out a plan that they believed would end her plotting. They proposed that the two princes who arguably had superior claims on the throne than Li Longji — Li Chengqi and Li Shouli — be sent out of the capital Chang'an to serve as prefectural prefects, while Princess Taiping and Wu Youji be sent to live in Luoyang. They also proposed that Li Longji be put in charge of most affairs of state. Emperor Ruizong initially agreed and made the orders as Song and Yao suggested, except that he believed that Luoyang was too far and therefore sent Princess Taiping and Wu Youji only to Pu Prefecture . After Princess Taiping found out that the plan was conceived by Song and Yao, however, she was incensed and let Li Longji know her anger. In fear, Li Longji submitted a petition accusing Song and Yao of alienating him from his brothers Li Chengqi and Li Shouli and aunt Princess Taiping, asking that the two be put to death. Emperor Ruizong, in response, demoted Song and Yao and recalled Princess Taiping, Li Chengqi, and Li Shouli to the capital. In the aftermaths, Li Longji submitted another request to yield the crown prince position to Li Chengqi, but Emperor Ruizong declined it. Also in 711, Emperor Ruizong posthumously honored both Empress Liu and Li Longji's mother Consort Dou as empresses and built a temple for them to be worshipped, but was unable to locate their bodies for reburial, and therefore had to give them a ceremonial reburial without the bodies. Emperor Ruizong also ordered that all minor matters be decided by Li Longji. Emperor Xuanzong had Wang Maozhong take 300 soldiers to the imperial guard camp to behead Chang and Li Ci. Then, Jia, Li You, Xiao, and Cen were arrested and executed as well. Dou fled into a canyon and committed suicide by hanging. Xue Ji was forced to commit suicide. When Emperor Ruizong heard about this, he quickly ascended the tower at Chengtian Gate to ascertain what was happening. Guo reported to him Emperor Xuanzong's intentions, and Emperor Ruizong felt compelled to affirm Emperor Xuanzong's actions in an edict. The next day, Emperor Ruizong issued an edict transferring all authorities to Emperor Xuanzong and moved to a secondary palace, Baifu Hall and would remain there until his death in 716.

''Kaiyuan'' era

Emperor Xuanzong's ''Kaiyuan'' era is usually viewed as one of the golden ages of Chinese history – a period of political stability, peace in society, and economic prosperity, in addition to advances in education, literature, music, painting, sculpture, and religion.

Early ''Kaiyuan'' era

Meanwhile, Zhang Shuo and Liu Youqiu served as chancellors, but they were soon displaced by Yao Yuanzhi and Lu Huaishen. Changing the system of having a large group of chancellors simultaneous, as had been the case throughout Tang, Emperor Xuanzong reduced the numbers to two for the rest of his reign. Yao was considered a highly capable administrator, and with him ruling on most important matters and Lu assisting, the government was said to be highly efficient.

Also in 714, Emperor Xuanzong created , his second son and the son of his then-favorite concubine Consort Zhao, crown prince. Meanwhile, Tang, Tufan, and the were constantly engaging in a three-way tug of war for influence in the Xiyu region. In 715, for example, when the king of Bahanna was expelled by a new king supported by Tufan and the Umayyad Caliphate, Tang forces commanded by the general Zhang Xiaosong attacked the new king and restored the old king.)

Middle ''Kaiyuan'' era

In 723, Zhang Jiazhen was demoted on account of a corruption scandal involving his brother Zhang Jiayou . His position was filled by , who was soon himself demoted over suspicions, never proven, that he was plotting treason. With Zhang Shuo thus effectively being the senior chancellor, Zhang Shuo promoted literary studies, which Emperor Xuanzong also favored. In 724, he also commissioned the chief imperial astronomer Nangong Shuo to carry out a major astronomical survey to observe the sun and the North Star at various points of the empire.

In winter 725, Emperor Xuanzong, at Zhang Shuo's urging, carried out a magnificent ceremony at Mount Tai to offer sacrifices to heaven and earth. In 734, Emperor Xuanzong added Li Linfu, a close associate of Consort Wu, as a chancellor as well. Such generals who rose in ranks included An Lushan, An Sishun, Geshu Han, and Gao Xianzhi.

By 748, Consort Yang's cousins Yang Guozhong, Yang Xian and Yang Qi , as well as her three sisters , had become exceedingly wealthy and powerful due to the favors that Emperor Xuanzong showed them. It was said that their wealth topped all households in Chang'an. It was also said that by 749, the empire was so wealthy that Emperor Xuanzong viewed treasures as expendable and so awarded them without limit.

In 755, Yang Guozhong further provoked An, who was then back at his post in Fanyang, by surrounding An's mansion at Chang'an and arresting and executing An's staff members. An, in fear and anger, rebelled in winter 755, and quickly reached and captured Luoyang after defeating Feng Changqing's undersupplied army. Subsequently, Emperor Xuanzong, believing in reports from the eunuch Bian Lingcheng that Feng was cowardly and that Feng's superior Gao Xianzhi was corrupt, executed both Feng and Gao and replaced Gao with Geshu in defending Tong Pass from An's advances. An declared himself emperor of a new state of at Luoyang, but with Geshu defending Tong Pass, An's advances stalled, while Tang forces commanded by Li Guangbi and Guo Ziyi made advances against An-controlled territory north of the Yellow River. Emperor Xuanzong, with Yang Guozhong suggesting that they flee to Jiannan Circuit, abandoned Chang'an and fled with Gao Lishi, Yang Guozhong, Wei, Li Heng, Consort Yang, and her family. The following day, July 15, the imperial guards accompanying the emperor, angry at Yang Guozhong, rose and killed him and forced Emperor Xuanzong to kill Consort Yang as well. Subsequently, Emperor Xuanzong continued on to Jiannan, but Li Heng did not, but rather went to Lingwu, where, on August 13, he recognized Emperor Suzong as the new emperor, and thereafter took the title of ''Taishang Huang'' – although his edict recognizing Emperor Suzong appeared to still indicate desire to retain control like his father Emperor Ruizong did early in his reign:

However, perhaps to avoid the impression that he was keeping a rival government to Emperor Suzong, he sent the several chancellors that he had retained or created while on the journey to or after he arrived in Chengdu – Wei, Fang Guan, and Cui Huan – to Lingwu to formally invest imperial power on Emperor Suzong and to serve under Emperor Suzong.

Late in 757, Emperor Suzong, with aid from Huige, recaptured Chang'an from Yan, then ruled by An Lushan's son An Qingxu, who had killed An Lushan earlier in 757 and taken over the throne himself. After Emperor Suzong recaptured Chang'an, he sent messengers to Emperor Xuanzong requesting that he return to Chang'an and offering the throne back to Emperor Xuanzong. Emperor Xuanzong, apprehensive of the offer, initially not only declined but further requested to remain in Jiannan. Only after Emperor Suzong, at the suggestion of his strategist , had the government officials make a joint submission to Emperor Xuanzong no longer mentioning the return of the throne, did Emperor Xuanzong agree to depart Jiannan to return to Chang'an. On the way back to Chang'an, he had Gao Lishi try to dig up Consort Yang's body for reburial, but her body had already decomposed; only her fragrance bag remained. Emperor Xuanzong took the fragrance bag back to Chang'an and visited it daily, as if Consort Yang were still alive. On January 16, 758, he arrived at Chang'an, and in a grand ceremony where Emperor Suzong offered the throne back to him again, he formally declined again and personally put on the yellow robe symbolizing imperial status on Emperor Suzong, commenting, "I had been the Son of Heaven for 50 years, and I did not consider it a great honor. Now I am truly honored to be the father to the Son of Heaven." He took up residence at Xingqing Palace, a palace that was remodelled from the residence that he and his brothers had when they were imperial princes.

After Emperor Xuanzong was forcibly moved back to the main palace, Emperor Suzong tried to please him by offering him the best of all of the tributes of the land first, but Emperor Xuanzong became depressed and rarely ate meat, and quickly became ill. Emperor Suzong had his daughters Princesses Wan'an and Xianyi attend to their grandfather, and initially frequently personally visited Emperor Xuanzong, but after some time became ill himself and could not visit Emperor Xuanzong. He began to regret forcibly moving Emperor Xuanzong and considered killing Li Fuguo, but as Li Fuguo wielded command of the imperial guards at this time, he did not dare to try to do so.

Emperor Xuanzong was deeply criticized by later historians for his wastefulness and for his appointing of Li Linfu, Yang Guozhong, and An to prominent offices. The modern People's Republic of China leader Mao Zedong said that Emperor Xuanzong was "half bright, half dark." The strength that Xuanzong had allowed the military governors to have, which was perpetuated after Tang had defeated Yan, led to a period of increasing conflict and instability which set the stage for the decline of the Tang Dynasty and the ensuing Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period.

Era names

* ''Xiantian'' 712-713
* ''Kaiyuan'' 713-741
* ''Tianbao'' 742-756

Chancellors during reign

* Cen Xi
* Liu Youqiu
* Cui Shi
* Lu Xiangxian
* Wei Zhigu
* Dou Huaizhen
* Xiao Zhizhong
* Guo Yuanzhen
* Zhang Shuo
* Yao Chong
* Lu Huaishen
* Xue Na
* Yuan Qianyao
* Song Jing
* Su Ting
* Zhang Jiazhen
* Du Xian
* Xiao Song
* Pei Guangting
* Yuwen Rong
* Han Xiu
* Pei Yaoqing
* Zhang Jiuling
* Li Linfu
* Niu Xianke
* Li Shizhi
* Chen Xilie
* Yang Guozhong
* Wei Jiansu
* Cui Yuan
* Fang Guan

Personal information

* Father
** Emperor Ruizong of Tang
* Mother
** Consort Dou , posthumously honored as Empress Zhaochunsheng
* Wife
* Major Concubines
** Consort Liu, mother of Princes Cong, Wan, and Sui
** Consort Zhao, mother of Crown Prince Ying , posthumous name He
** Consort Yang, mother of Crown Prince Heng and Princess Ningqing, posthumously honored Empress Yuanxian
** Consort Qian, mother of Prince Yan
** Consort Huangfu, mother of Prince Yao and Princess Linjin
** Consort Liu, mother of Prince Ju
** , mother of Princes Yi, Min, Mao, and Qi and Princesses Shangxian, Xianyi, and Taihua, posthumously honored Empress Zhenshun
** Consort Gao, mother of Prince Jiao and Princess Changle
** Consort Guo, mother of Prince Lin
** Consort Liu, mother of Prince Bin
** Consort Zhong, mother of Prince Huan
** Consort Lu, mother of Prince Huang
** Consort Yan, mother of Prince Ci
** Consort Wang, mother of Prince Gui
** Consort Chen, mother of Prince Gong
** Consort Zheng, mother of Prince Tian
** Consort Wu, mother of Princes Xuan and Jing
** Consort Dong, mother of Princess Guangning
** Consort Du, mother of Princess Wanchun
** Consort Chang, mother of Princess Xinping
** Consort Caoye, mother of Princess Shou'an
** Consort Yang Yuhuan
* Children
** Li Cong , né Li Sizhi , name changed to Li Tan 725 and to Li Cong in 736, initially the Prince of Xuchang , later the Prince of Tan , later the Prince of Qing , posthumously honored Crown Prince Jingde and then Emperor Fengtian 756
** Li Ying , né Li Siqian , name changed to Li Hong 725 and to Li Ying in 736, initially the Prince of Zhending , later the Prince of Ying , later the Crown Prince , posthumously restored to crown prince status 762
** Li Heng , né Li Sisheng , name changed to Li Jun 725, to Li Yu in 736, and to Li Shao and then Li Heng in 738, initially the Prince of Shan , later the Prince of Zhong , later the Crown Prince (created 738, later Emperor Suzong of Tang
** Li Yan , né Li Sizhen , name changed to Li Qia 725 and to Li Yan in 736, initially the Prince of Ceng , later the Prince of Di
** Li Yao , né Li Sichu , name changed to Li Juan 725 and to Li Yao in 736, the Prince of E , posthumously restored to prince status in 762
** Li Wan , né Li Sixuan , name changed to Li Huang 725 and to Li Wan in 736, initially the Prince of Zhen , later the Prince of Rong , posthumously honored Crown Prince Jinggong
** Unnamed prince
** Li Ju , né Li Ju , name changed to final form 725, the Prince of Guang , posthumously restored to prince status 762
** Li Yī , posthumously created Prince Dao of Xia
** Unnamed prince
** Unnamed prince
** Li Sui , né Li Wei , name changed to Li Sui 736, the Prince of Yi
** Li Jiao , né Li Yun , name changed to Li Jiao 736, the Prince of Ying
** Unnamed prince
** Li Min , posthumously created Prince Ai of Huai
** , né Li Ze , name changed to Li Lin 736, the Prince of Yong
** Unnamed prince
** Li Mao , né Li Qing , name changed to Li Mao 736, the Prince of Shou
** Unnamed prince
** Li Bin , né Li Hui , name changed to Li Bin 736, the Prince of Yan
** Li Qi , né Li Mu , name changed to Li Qi 736, the Prince of Sheng
** Li Huán , né Li Yì , name changed to Li Huan 736, the Prince of Ji
** Li Huang , né Li Mian , name changed to Li Huang 736, the Prince of Xin
** Li Ci , né Li Cui , name changed to Li Ci 736, the Prince of Yi
** Li Gui , né Li Huàn , name changed to Li Gui 736, the Prince of Chen
** Li Gong , né Li Cheng , name changed to Li Gong 736, the Prince of Feng
** Li Tian , né Li Hui , name changed to Li Tian 736, the Prince of Heng
** Unnamed prince
** Li Xuan , né Li Cong , name changed to Li Xuan 736, the Prince of Liang
** Li Jing , né Li Tao , name changed to Li Jing 736 , posthumously created Prince Ai of Bian
** Princess Yongmu
** Princess Changfen
** Princess Xiaochang, died early
** Princess Tangchang
** Princess Lingchang, died early
** Princess Changshan
** Princess Wan'an
** Princess Shangxian, died early
** Princess Huaisi, died early, posthumously given Taoist name Dengzhen
** Princess Jin, initially Princess Gaodu
** Princess Xinchang
** Princess Linjin
** Princess Wei, initially Princess Jianping
** Princess Zhenyang
** Princess Xincheng
** Princess Chu, initially Princess Shouchun , became Taoist nun 784 with the Taoist name Shangshan
** Princess Pukang, died early, posthumously created 868
** Princess Changle
** Princess Yongning
** Princess Song, initially Princess Pingchang
** Princess Qi, initially Princess Xinxing, then Princess Ningqin
** Princess Xianyi
** Princess Yichun, died early
** Princess Guangning
** Princess Wanchun
** Princess Taihua
** Princess Shouguang
** Princess Lecheng
** Princess Xinping
** Princess Shou'an

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