Cen Xi (Chinese :岑羲; died July 29, 713 ), courtesy name Bohua (伯華), was an official of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Shang, Emperor Ruizong, and Emperor Xuanzong. He was known for his integrity as an official in charge of civil service affairs, but was later implicated as a partisan of Emperor Xuanzong's aunt Princess Taiping in 713 and was executed when Emperor Xuanzong suppressed Princess Taiping's party.
Cen Xi's grandfather Cen Wenben served as a chancellor during the reign of Emperor Taizong, and his father Cen Manqian (岑曼倩) served as the secretary general of the capital prefecture Yong Prefecture (雍州, roughly modern Xi'an, Shaanxi) and carried the title of Duke of Xi.
Cen Xi himself passed the imperial examinations sometime before 691 and served as Taichang Boshi (太常博士), an official at the ministry of worship. In 691, during the reign of Emperor Taizong's daughter-in-law (and one-time concubine) Wu Zetian, who had declared a new Zhou Dynasty and interrupted Tang Dynasty, Cen Xi's uncle Cen Changqian,then a chancellor, was accused of treason and executed. As a result, Cen Xi was demoted to be a legal officer at Chen Prefecture (郴州, roughly modern Chenzhou, Hunan). He was subsequently made the magistrate of Jintan County. At that time, his brother Cen Zhongxiang (岑仲翔) was the magistrate of nearby Changzhou County (長洲, in modern Suzhou, Jiangsu) and another brother Cen Zhongxiu (岑仲休) was the magistrate of Lishui County (溧水, in modern Nanjing, Jiangsu). All three were known for their abilities in governance. The chancellor Zong Chuke, when an official was sent to examine the governance of the circuit containing those three counties, made the comment, "Do not forget about the three Cens east of the Yangtze River." He subsequently recommended Cen Xi, and Cen Xi was made the magistrate of Sishui County, near the capital Luoyang—which was considered a major promotion due to its location.
As of 704, Cen Xi was serving as the magistrate of Guangwu County (廣武—the new name for Sishui), when Wu Zetian asked the chancellors to recommend officials suitable of serving as low level officials in various ministries. The chancellor Wei Sili recommended Cen, but commented, "Alas, his uncle was Cen Changqian, and he suffers from the taint." Wu Zetian responded, "As long as he is capable, what taint can there be?" She therefore made Cen Tianguan Yuanwailang (天官員外郎), an official at the ministry of civil service affairs. It was said that based on Cen's precedent, thereafter family members of officials previously killed during Wu Zetian's reign were able to begin getting promoted.
In 705, Wu Zetian was overthrown in a coup led by Zhang Jianzhi, Cui Xuanwei, Huan Yanfan, Jing Hui, and Yuan Shuji, and her son and crown prince Li Xian, a former emperor, was restored to the throne (as Emperor Zhongzong). However, Wu Zetian's nephew Wu Sansi the Prince of Liang soon became a lover of Emperor Zhongzong's powerful wife Empress Wei and a trusted advisor of Emperor Zhongzong's. When the five coup leaders subsequently wanted to submit a petition to Emperor Zhongzong to have the ranks of Wu Sansi and other Wu clan members reduced, initially, no one was daring to draft the petition for them, but Cen Xi, then serving as Zhongshu Sheren (中書舍人), a mid-level official at the legislative bureau of government (中書省, Zhongshu Sheng), was willing to do so, and wrote an eloquent argument for the proposal. Later that year, after Wu Sansi was successful in having the five coup leaders removed from government, he had Cen made Mishu Shaojian (秘書少監), the deputy director of the Palace Library—an ostensibly honored position that carried little actual power. Eventually, he was made a deputy minister of civil service affairs (吏部侍郎, Libu Shilang) and was in charge of selecting officials, along with Cui Shi, Zheng Yin, and Li Yuangong (李元恭). Cui, Zheng, and Li were all known for corruption, but Cen was known for his integrity, during this time. Meanwhile, according to historical records that Cen himself later compiled, around this time, when Emperor Zhongzong's brother Li Dan the Prince of Xiang and sister Princess Taiping were implicated in a failed coup by Emperor Zhongzong's son and crown prince Li Chongjun in 707 in which Wu Sansi and his son Wu Chongxun (武崇訓) were killed, Cen and Xiao Zhizhong were the two officials who spoke on Li Dan's behalf, prompting Emperor Zhongzong to stop the investigation against Li Dan.
In 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 be crown princess. Soon thereafter, before Emperor Zhongzong's death was announced, Empress Wei, as part of the governmental reorganization to consolidate her power, gave Cen Xi the designation Tong Zhongshu Menxia Pingzhangshi (同中書門下平章事), making him a chancellor de facto.For the time being, Emperor Zhongzong's son by a concubine, Li Chongmao the Prince of Wen, was named emperor (as Emperor Shang), but Empress Wei retained power as empress dowager and regent. She sent a number of officials to survey the circuits, and Cen was sent to survey the Henan Circuit (河南道, roughly modern Henan and Shandong).
Less than a month later, Princess Taiping and Li Dan's son Li Longji the Prince of Linzi rose in rebellion and killed Empress Dowager Wei and Li Guo'er. Under their support, Li Dan, himself a former emperor, returned to the throne (as Emperor Ruizong), displacing Emperor Shang. Cen was made You Sanqi Changshi (右散騎常侍, a senior advisor at the legislative bureau) and minister of justice (刑部尚書, Xingbu Shangshu), and later demoted to be the prefect of Shan Prefecture (陝州, roughly modern Sanmenxia, Henan). He was, however, soon recalled to be the minister of census (戶部尚書, Hubu Shangshu). In 712, he was made chancellor de facto again, with the greater designation of Tong Zhongshu Menxia Sanpin (同中書門下三品). He was put in charge of editing the imperial history and also the register of clans. In editing the chronicles of Emperor Zhongzong's reign, he recorded how he and Xiao Zhizhong had spoken in Emperor Ruizong's defense when Li Chongjun's coup attempt occurred, and when Emperor Ruizong read the records, Emperor Ruizong thanked Cen and awarded him with silk and a good horse; Emperor Ruizong also made him Shizhong (侍中), the head of the examination bureau (門下省), a post considered one for a chancellor. Emperor Ruizong also created him the Duke of Nanyang.
At that time, Cen Xi's older brother Cen Xian (岑獻) was the deputy principal of the imperial university, and his younger brothers Cen Zhongxiang and Cen Zhongxiu were prefectural prefects. Some 10s of his clan members were in fairly important positions. Cen Xi, at one point, sighed and commented, "When things become extreme, they will be reversed. This is what I am fearful of." He was fearful of what happened to the Cen clan and other officials during the earlier part of Wu Zetian's reign. However, he did not actually resign.
In 712, Emperor Ruizong passed the throne to Li Longji, who was then crown prince, and Li Longji took the throne as Emperor Xuanzong. At the suggestion of Princess Taiping, however, Emperor Ruizong retained power as Taishang Huang (retired emperor), and Princess Taiping continued to be influential through Emperor Ruizong. Cen Xi was considered a member of her party. Later in 712, Emperor Xuanzong's associates, the chancellor Liu Youqiu and the general Zhang Wei (張暐), with Emperor Xuanzong's approval, planned to kill Cen and two other chancellors aligned with Princess Taiping -- Dou Huaizhen and Cui Shi—but the news was leaked after Zhang informed the plan to the official Deng Guangbin (鄧光賓). Liu, Zhang, and Deng were spared but exiled.
By 713, it was said that Princess Taiping, Dou, Cen, Xiao Zhizhong, Cui; along with other officials Xue Ji, Li Jin (李晉) the Prince of Xinxing (a grandson of Li Deliang (李德良), a cousin of Tang's founder Emperor Gaozu), Li You (李猷), Jia Yingfu (賈膺福), Tang Jun (唐晙); the generals Chang Yuankai (常元楷), Li Ci (李慈), and Li Qin (李欽); and the monk Huifan (惠範), were plotting to overthrow Emperor Xuanzong. It was further said that they discussed, with the lady in waiting Lady Yuan to poison the gastrodia elata that Emperor Xuanzong routinely took as an aphrodisiac. When this alleged plot was reported to Emperor Xuanzong by Wei Zhigu, Emperor Xuanzong, who had already received advice from Wang Ju (王琚), Zhang Shuo, and Cui Riyong to act first, did so. He convened a meeting with his brothers Li Fan (李範) the Prince of Qi, Li Ye (李業) the Prince of Xue, Guo Yuanzhen, along with a number of his associates — the general Wang Maozhong (王毛仲), the officials Jiang Jiao (姜皎) and Li Lingwen (李令問), his brother-in-law Wang Shouyi (王守一), the eunuch Gao Lishi, and the military officer Li Shoude (李守德) — and decided to act first. On July 29,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. After his death, Cen's properties were confiscated.
Princess Taiping was a royal princess during the Tang dynasty and her mother Wu Zetian's Zhou dynasty. She was the youngest daughter of Wu Zetian and Emperor Gaozong and was powerful during the reigns of her mother and her elder brothers Emperor Zhongzong and Emperor Ruizong, particularly during Emperor Ruizong's second reign, when for three years until her death, she was the real power behind the throne.
Song Jing (宋璟), formally Duke Wenzhen of Guangping (廣平文貞公), was an official of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as the chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Ruizong and Emperor Xuanzong. He was praised by historians for his insistence on being morally upright, and for being a just administrator of the law during his time as Xuanzong's senior chancellor.
Zhang Yue (663–730), courtesy name Daoji (道濟) or Yuezhi (說之), formally Duke Wenzhen of Yan (燕文貞公), was an official of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou dynasty, serving as a chancellor three separate stints during the reigns of Emperor Ruizong and Emperor Xuanzong. He is known for having suggested the transition of Tang central government armed forces from being conscription-based to recruitment-based, and for turning the office of the chancellor into a specialized post with strong executive powers.
Emperor Ruizong of Tang, personal name Li Dan, also known at times during his life as Li Xulun, Li Lun, Wu Lun, and Wu Dan, was the fifth and ninth emperor of Tang Dynasty. He was the eighth son of Emperor Gaozong and the fourth son of Emperor Gaozong's second wife Empress Wu. He was wholly a figurehead during his first reign when he was controlled by his mother, and he was the titular and Puppet ruler of the Tang Empire from 684 to 690. He during his second reign after his mother's death, significant power was exercised by his sister Princess Taiping.
Cen Changqian, briefly known as Wu Changqian (武長倩) during the reign of Wu Zetian, formally the Duke of Deng (鄧公), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as chancellor during the reign of Emperor Gaozong That dominated by Empress Wu, as well as Wu Zetian's reign and her earlier regency over her sons Emperor Zhongzong and Emperor Ruizong. In 691, he offended Wu Zetian by opposing the movement to declare her nephew Wu Chengsi crown prince, and he, along with his fellow chancellors Ge Fuyuan and Ouyang Tong, were accused of treason and executed.
Wu Youji (武攸暨), formally Prince Zhongjian of Ding (定忠簡王), was an imperial prince of Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty and an official of Tang Dynasty. He is best known as the second husband of Wu Zetian's powerful daughter Princess Taiping.
Wu Sansi, posthumously Prince Xuan of Liang (梁宣王), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and his aunt Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, becoming an imperial prince and chancellor during the reign of Wu Zetian and subsequently, while only briefly powerful chancellor during the second reign of Wu Zetian's son and his cousin Emperor Zhongzong, becoming very powerful due to both the trust Emperor Zhongzong had in him and his affair with Emperor Zhongzong's powerful wife Empress Wei. He was killed in a rebellion by Emperor Zhongzong's son the crown prince Li Chongjun in 707.
Wei Anshi, formally Duke Wenzhen of Xun (郇文貞公), was an official of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou dynasty, serving as a chancellor several times, during the reigns of Wu Zetian, her sons Emperor Zhongzong and Emperor Ruizong, and her grandson Emperor Shang.
Wei Sili, courtesy name Yan'gou (延構), formally Duke Xiao of Xiaoyao (逍遙孝公), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Wu Zetian, her sons Emperor Zhongzong and Emperor Ruizong, and her grandson Emperor Shang.
Xiao Zhizhong was an official of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Wu Zetian's sons Emperor Zhongzong and Emperor Ruizong and grandsons Emperor Shang and Emperor Xuanzong. He was known for his willingness to point out corruption in high-level officials, but was later himself implicated as a partisan of the powerful Princess Taiping and executed in 713 when Emperor Xuanzong suppressed Princess Taiping's party.
Cui Shi, courtesy name Chenglan (澄瀾), was a Chinese writer and politician. He served as an official of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Wu Zetian's sons Emperor Zhongzong and Emperor Ruizong and grandsons Emperor Shang and Emperor Xuanzong. In 713, with Emperor Xuanzong locked in a rivalry with his aunt Princess Taiping, Cui chose to side with Princess Taiping, and after Emperor Xuanzong suppressed Princess Taiping's party, Cui was exiled and ordered to commit suicide in exile.
Zhao Yanzhao, courtesy name Huanran (奐然), was an official of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Zhongzong, Emperor Shang, and Emperor Ruizong.
Zheng Yin (鄭愔), courtesy name Wenjing (文靖), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, briefly serving as chancellor during the reign of Emperor Zhongzong.
Liu Youqiu, formally Duke Wenxian of Xu (徐文獻公), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Ruizong and Emperor Xuanzong.
Xue Ji, courtesy name Sitong (嗣通), was an official of the Chinese Tang dynasty, briefly serving as chancellor during the reign of Emperor Ruizong. He was considered one of the four greatest calligraphers of early Tang, along with Yu Shinan, Ouyang Xun, and Chu Suiliang.
Cui Riyong 崔日用 (673–722), formally Duke Zhao of Qi 齊昭公, was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, briefly serving as a chancellor during the reign of Emperor Ruizong.
Guo Yuanzhen, formal name Guo Zhen (郭震) but went by the courtesy name of Yuanzhen, was an official, general, and diplomat of Tang and Zhou China, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Ruizong and Emperor Xuanzong.
Dou Huaizhen, known by his courtesy name Dou Congyi (竇從一) during the second reign of Emperor Zhongzong, posthumously renamed Du Huaizhen (毒懷貞), was an official of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Ruizong and Emperor Xuanzong.
Lu Xiangxian (陸象先) (665–736), né Lu Jingchu (陸景初), formally Duke Wenzhen of Yan (兗文貞公), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Ruizong and Emperor Xuanzong.
Wei Zhigu, formally Duke Zhong of Liang (梁忠公), was an official of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Ruizong and Emperor Xuanzong.