Emperor Jiemin of Northern Wei

Last updated
(Bei) Wei Jiemindi ((北)魏節閔帝)
Family name:Yuan (元, yuán)
Given name:Gong (恭, gōng)
Posthumous name:Jiemin (節閔, jié mǐn),
literary meaning:
"self-controlled and careful"

Emperor Jiemin of Northern Wei ((北)魏節閔帝) (498 – 21 June 532 [1] ), also known as Emperor Qianfei (前廢帝), [2] at times referred to by pre-ascension title Prince of Guangling (廣陵王), personal name Yuan Gong (元恭), courtesy name Xiuye (脩業), was an emperor of Northern Wei. He became emperor after the clan members of the paramount general Erzhu Rong, after Erzhu Rong was killed by Emperor Xiaozhuang, overthrew Emperor Xiaozhuang. Emperor Jiemin tried to revive the Northern Wei state, but with his power curbed by the Erzhus, was not able to accomplish much. After the general Gao Huan defeated the Erzhus in 532, Emperor Jiemin was imprisoned by Gao and subsequently poisoned to death by Emperor Xiaowu, whom Gao made emperor.

Courtesy name name bestowed in adulthood in East Asian cultures

A courtesy name, also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including Taiwan, China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

An emperor is a monarch, and usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife, mother, or a woman who rules in her own right. Emperors are generally recognized to be of a higher honour and rank than kings. In Europe, the title of Emperor has been used since the Middle Ages, considered in those times equal or almost equal in dignity to that of Pope due to the latter's position as visible head of the Church and spiritual leader of the Catholic part of Western Europe. The Emperor of Japan is the only currently reigning monarch whose title is translated into English as Emperor.

Northern Wei former country (386–535)

The Northern Wei or the Northern Wei Empire, also known as the Tuoba Wei (拓跋魏), Later Wei (後魏), or Yuan Wei (元魏), was a dynasty founded by the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei, which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 AD, during the period of the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Described as "part of an era of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change", the Northern Wei Dynasty is particularly noted for unifying northern China in 439: this was also a period of introduced foreign ideas, such as Buddhism, which became firmly established.



Yuan Gong was born in 498, during the reign of Emperor Xiaowen. His father was Yuan Yu (元羽) the Prince of Guangling, a son of Emperor Xianwen and a brother of Emperor Xiaowen. His mother was Yuan Yu's concubine Lady Wang. In 501, during the reign of Emperor Xiaowen's son Emperor Xuanwu, Yuan Yu died from injuries he suffered when he was attacked by his lover's husband, the low level official, Feng Junxing (馮俊興), and for reasons unclear, Yuan Gong inherited Yuan Yu's title even though he had one older brother, Yuan Xin (元欣), and neither he nor Yuan Xin was the son of Yuan Yu's wife Princess Zheng Shirong (郑始容). Yuan Gong also had one younger brother, Yuan Yongye (元永業).

Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei Northern Wei emperor

Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei ( 魏孝文帝), personal name né Tuoba Hong (拓拔宏), later Yuan Hong (元宏), or Toba Hung II, was an emperor of the Northern Wei from September 20, 471 to April 26, 499.

Emperor Xianwen of Northern Wei ( 魏獻文帝) (454–476), personal name Tuoba Hong, was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was the first emperor in Chinese history who, after retiring in favor of his son Emperor Xiaowen to become Taishang Huang in 471, continued to hold on to power until his death in 476—when the official history states vaguely that he may have been killed by his stepmother Empress Dowager Feng.

Xuanwu was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty of Northern Wei (499-515). He is known within China as Beiwei Xuanwudi (北魏宣武帝). He was born Tuoba Ke, but later changed his surname so that he became Yuan Ke. During Xuanwu's reign, Northern Wei appeared, outwardly, to be at its prime, but there was much political infighting and corruption, particularly by Xuanwu's uncle Gao Zhao.

Yuan Gong was described to be confident and strong-willed, and also filially pious toward his grandmother Princess Dowager Meng and his father's wife Princess Dowager Zheng (whom, under Confucian doctrines, he was required to treat as a mother). During Yuan Cha's regency over Emperor Xuanwu's son Emperor Xiaoming (i.e., sometime between 520 and 525), Yuan Gong, because of Yuan Cha's corruption and violent tendencies, pretended to be ill and unable to speak, living in the Buddhist Longhua Temple (龍花寺). During the reign of his cousin Emperor Xiaozhuang, someone made a report to Emperor Xiaozhuang that Yuan Gong was only pretending to be unable to speak, and had treasonous intent. When Yuan Gong was informed of this, he, in fear, fled to Shangluo Mountain (上洛山, in modern Shangzhou, Shaanxi), but was captured and returned to Luoyang. Interrogations and investigations, however, yielded no proof that Yuan Gong plotted treason, so he was released.

Yuan Cha (元叉), courtesy name Bojun (伯雋), nickname Yecha (夜叉), was an official of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei, who initially came to power as the brother-in-law of Emperor Xiaoming's mother and regent Empress Dowager Hu. In 520, after a conflict with her lover Yuan Yi (元懌) the Prince of Qinghe, he killed Yuan Yi and put Empress Dowager Hu under house arrest, effectively taking over as regent. In 525, a countercoup by Empress Dowager Hu restored her, and bowing to public pressure, she forced him to commit suicide.

Emperor Xiaoming of Northern Wei ( 魏孝明帝), personal name Yuan Xu (元詡), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei (386–535). He ascended the throne in the age of five (515), so governmental matters were dominated by his mother Empress Dowager Hu. In 528, Emperor Xiaoming tried to curb his mother's powers and kill her lover Zheng Yan (鄭儼) by conspiring with the general Erzhu Rong. As a result, 18-year-old emperor was poisoned by his mother, who was soon overthrown by Erzhu. From that point on, Northern Wei royal lineage had no actual power. The next ruler, Emperor Xiaozhuang (507–531) was established by Erzhu. Since Erzhu's rival, general Gao Huan, enthroned another royal offspring, the country was soon split in two rival polities, Eastern and Western Wei, both of which did not hold long on the political map of the Southern and Northern Dynasties.

Emperor Xiaozhuang of Northern Wei, personal name Yuan Ziyou, was an emperor of China of the Northern Wei, a Xianbei dynasty. He was placed on the throne by General Erzhu Rong, who refused to recognize the young emperor, Yuan Zhao, who Empress Dowager Hu had placed on the throne after she poisoned her son Emperor Xiaoming.

In 530, Emperor Xiaozhuang, in fear that the paramount general Erzhu Rong would seize the throne, killed Erzhu Rong. Erzhu Rong's clan members rose and declared Erzhu Rong's wife Princess Beixiang's nephew Yuan Ye the Prince of Changguang emperor. Around the new year 531, Erzhu Rong's nephew Erzhu Zhao captured Luoyang and seized Emperor Xiaozhuang, subsequently killing him. Yuan Ye traveled toward Luoyang to take the throne. However, Erzhu Rong's cousin Erzhu Shilong was uncomfortable with Yuan Ye's lineage being distant from that of recent emperors, and wanted to find an emperor with closer imperial lineage. Erzhu Rong's nephew Erzhu Tianguang suggested Yuan Gong, and after Erzhu Shilong sent his brother Erzhu Yanbo (爾朱彥伯) to visit Yuan Gong to force him to accept and to ascertain that he was not truly unable to speak, Yuan Gong agreed, and Erzhu Shilong, when Yuan Ye arrived at Luoyang, forced him to yield the throne to Yuan Gong. Yuan Gong, after making three submissions to Yuan Ye declining the throne, took the throne as Emperor Jiemin.

Erzhu Rong (爾朱榮), courtesy name Tianbao (天寶), formally Prince Wu of Jin (晉武王), was a general of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was of Xiongnu ancestry, and after Emperor Xiaoming was killed by his mother Empress Dowager Hu in 528, Erzhu overthrew her and put Emperor Xiaozhuang on the throne, but at the same time slaughtered many imperial officials and took over most of actual power either directly or through associates. He then contributed much to the rebuilding of the Northern Wei state, which had been rendered fractured by agrarian rebellions during Emperor Xiaoming's reign. However, in 530, Emperor Xiaozhuang, believing that Erzhu would eventually usurp the throne, tricked Erzhu into the palace and ambushed him. Subsequently, however, Erzhu's clan members, led by his cousin Erzhu Shilong and nephew Erzhu Zhao, defeated and killed Emperor Xiaozhuang. He was often compared by historians to the Han Dynasty general Dong Zhuo, for his ferocity in battle and for his violence and lack of tact.

Yuan Ye (元曄), courtesy name Huaxing (華興), nickname Penzi (盆子), often known as the Prince of Changguang (長廣王), was briefly an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was declared emperor by members of the paramount general Erzhu Rong's clan in 530 after Emperor Xiaozhuang had killed Erzhu Rong, and he carried imperial title for several months. However, as a member of the imperial clan who was distant from the lineage of recent emperors (as a descendant of Emperor Wencheng's brother Yuan Zhen the Prince of Nan'an, he was not a credible emperor, and in 531, after the Erzhus had prevailed over Emperor Xiaozhuang and put him to death, they forced Yuan Ye to yield the throne to Emperor Xiaozhuang's cousin Yuan Gong the Prince of Guangling, who took the throne as Emperor Jiemin. Emperor Jiemin treated Yuan Ye with respect and created him the Prince of Donghai, a higher title than his prior title of Prince of Changguang, but after Emperor Jiemin and the Erzhus were in turn overthrown by a coalition led by the general Gao Huan and replaced with Emperor Xiaowu, Emperor Xiaowu forced Yuan Ye to commit suicide.

Erzhu Zhao (爾朱兆), courtesy name Wanren (萬仁), was a general of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was ethnically Xiongnu and a nephew of the paramount general Erzhu Rong. After Erzhu Rong was killed by Emperor Xiaozhuang, Erzhu Zhao came to prominence by defeating, capturing, and killing Emperor Xiaozhuang. Subsequently, however, his general Gao Huan rebelled against him, defeating him and overthrowing the Erzhu regime in 532, capturing and killing most members of the Erzhu clan. Erzhu Zhao himself tried to hold out, but was again defeated by Gao in 533 and committed suicide.


During Emperor Jiemin's reign, the Erzhu clan members controlled much of the functions of the central government, the provinces, and the military, with Erzhu Shilong controlling the central government, Erzhu Zhao controlling the northern provinces, Erzhu Tianguang controlling the western provinces, and Erzhu Zhongyuan (爾朱仲遠) controlling the southeastern provinces. Despite this, Emperor Jiemin himself tried to exert influences on policy in subtle ways, and at times he refused to following Erzhu Shilong's wishes. For example, when Erzhu Shilong had the official Xing Zicai (邢子才) author Emperor Jiemin's general pardon edict, describing the death of Erzhu Rong in detail as an extremely wrongful act by Emperor Xiaozhuang, Emperor Jiemin refused to promulgate the edict as written, but instead wrote a brief edict himself, using humble language and not getting into details. He also removed the character huang (皇) from his title, going from huangdi (皇帝) to just di (帝). He treated Yuan Ye with honor, creating him the Prince of Donghai. He also, in an unprecedented action, ordered that rival Liang Dynasty no longer be referred to as "false" (偽, wei) Liang. (Traditionally, in Chinese history, the rival states referred to each other as "false.") He posthumously honored his father Yuan Yu as emperor, but only honored his mother Lady Wang as princess dowager, perhaps out of respect to Yuan Yu's wife Princess Zheng. He also created his brother Yuan Yongye the Prince of Gaomi and his son Yuan Shu (元恕) as Prince of Bohai.

The Erzhus, however, engaged in violence and corruption, and Emperor Jiemin was unable to curb them. As a result, in succession, the generals Liu Lingzhu (劉靈助) and Gao Huan rebelled. Liu was easily defeated, but Gao, with many disaffected generals joining him, proved to be a formidable opponent, and Gao, who initially acknowledged Emperor Jiemin's position as emperor, soon had another distant member of the imperial Yuan clan, Yuan Lang, declared emperor. In late 531, with the Erzhu clan in internal dissent from rumors that Gao spread, Gao defeated Erzhu Zhao and captured the important city Yecheng.

Gao Huan (496–547), courtesy name Heliuhun (賀六渾), formally Prince Xianwu of Qi (齊獻武王), later further formally honored by Northern Qi initially as Emperor Xianwu (獻武皇帝), then as Emperor Shenwu (神武皇帝,) with the temple name Gaozu (高祖), was the Han Chinese paramount general of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei and Northern Wei's branch successor state Eastern Wei. Though being ethnically Han, Gao was deeply affected by Xianbei culture and was often considered more Xianbei than Han by his contemporaries. During his career, he and his family became firmly in control of the government of Eastern Wei, and eventually, in 550, his son Gao Yang forced Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei to yield the throne to him, establishing the Gao clan as the imperial clan of a new Northern Qi state.

Yuan Lang (元朗) (513–532), courtesy name Zhongzhe (仲哲), frequently known by his post-removal title of Prince of Anding (安定王), at times known as Emperor Houfei, was briefly an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was proclaimed emperor by the general Gao Huan, who rebelled against the clan of the paramount general Erzhu Rong in 531, as a competing candidate for the imperial throne against Emperor Jiemin, who had been made emperor by Erzhu Rong's cousin Erzhu Shilong. In 532, after Gao's victory over the Erzhus, he believed Yuan Lang, whose lineage was distant from the recent emperors, to be unsuitable to be emperor, and instead made Emperor Xiaowu emperor. Emperor Xiaowu created Yuan Lang the Prince of Anding, but later that year put him to death.

In spring 532, Erzhu Shilong, in order to end the dissension within the Erzhu clan, requested that Emperor Jiemin marry Erzhu Zhao's daughter as his empress. Soon, the Erzhu forces, commanded by Erzhu Zhao, Erzhu Tianguang, Erzhu Zhongyuan, and Erzhu Shilong's brother Erzhu Dulü (爾朱度律), converged at Yecheng to face Gao Huan, but despite their numerical advantage, Gao defeated them. Erzhu Zhao and Erzhu Zhongyuan fled back to their headquarters, while Erzhu Tianguang and Erzhu Dulü fled back toward Luoyang. At this time, the general Husi Chun rose against the Erzhus at Luoyang, and he killed Erzhu Shilong and Erzhu Yanbo, while capturing and delivering Erzhu Tianguang and Erzhu Dulü to Gao, who executed them.

After the defeat of the Erzhus

Emperor Jiemin tried to take initiative by sending the official Lu Bian (盧辯) to greet Gao. Gao, who was then accompanying Yuan Lang and heading toward Luoyang, considered allowing Emperor Jiemin to keep the throne, as Yuan Lang's lineage was distant from recent emperors. He sent the general Wei Lan'gen (魏蘭根) to calm the imperial officials and to observe Emperor Jiemin. After Wei returned to Gao, Wei opined that Emperor Jiemin was intelligent and decisive and would be difficult to control in the future. Gao therefore arrested Emperor Jiemin and imprisoned him at Chongxun Temple (崇訓寺). Gao instead forced Yuan Lang to yield the throne to Yuan Xiu the Prince of Pingyang, and Yuan Xiu took the throne as Emperor Xiaowu.

During Emperor Jiemin's imprisonment at Chongxun Temple, he wrote a poem that is still extant:

A red door [sign of an honored household] brings disaster in the end;
The imperial purple is not something to be accustomed to;
Falls can be expected;
Things change three times a year;
And this is what fortune brings;
It is better to study the true path.

About 10 days after Emperor Xiaowu took the throne, he sent messengers to poison Emperor Jiemin. He did not bury Emperor Jiemin with imperial honors, but did give him a burial that was greater than ordinary for imperial princes, and ordered the imperial officials to attend the funeral.

Era name


Related Research Articles

Empress Dowager Hu, formally Empress Ling (靈皇后,), was an empress dowager of the nomadic dynasty Northern Wei (515-528). She was a concubine of Emperor Xuanwu, and she became regent and empress dowager after her son Emperor Xiaoming became emperor after Emperor Xuanwu's death in 515. She was considered to be intelligent but overly lenient, and during her regency, many agrarian rebellions occurred while corruption raged among imperial officials. In 528, she was believed to have poisoned her son Emperor Xiaoming after he tried to have her lover Zheng Yan (鄭儼) executed. This caused the general Erzhu Rong to attack and capture the capital Luoyang. Erzhu threw her into the Yellow River to drown.

Yuan Zhao (元釗), also known in history as Youzhu, was briefly an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei.

Yuan Yong (元雍), né Tuoba Yong (拓拔雍), courtesy name Simu (思穆), formally Prince Wenmu of Gaoyang (高陽文穆王), was an imperial prince of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was very powerful during the reign of his grandnephew Emperor Xiaoming, and by corrupt means grew very rich. This, however, drew resentment from the populace, and after Emperor Xiaoming's death in 528 and the subsequent overthrowing of Emperor Xiaoming's mother Empress Dowager Hu by the general Erzhu Rong, Erzhu had him and over 2,000 other officials slaughtered at Heyin.

Empress Erzhu Ying'e (爾朱英娥) was an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. She was the wife of Emperor Xiaozhuang and a daughter of the paramount general Erzhu Rong. She later became a concubine of Northern Wei and Eastern Wei's paramount general Gao Huan.

Empress Erzhu (爾朱皇后) was briefly an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. Her husband was Yuan Ye, also known as the Prince of Changguang.

Yuan Hao (元顥), courtesy name Ziming (子明) was an imperial prince and pretender to the throne of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei, who briefly received allegiance from most of the provinces south of the Yellow River after he captured the capital Luoyang with support of neighboring Liang Dynasty. He became complacent after capturing Luoyang, however, and when the general Erzhu Rong, who supported Emperor Xiaozhuang, counterattacked later that year, Yuan Hao fled Luoyang and was killed in flight.

Empress Erzhu was an empress of the Chinese dynasty Northern Wei. Her husband was Emperor Jiemin, and she was a daughter of the general Erzhu Zhao.

Erzhu Shilong (爾朱世隆) (500–532), courtesy name Rongzong (榮宗), was an official of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He first became prominent when after his cousin Erzhu Rong overthrew Emperor Xiaoming's mother Empress Dowager Hu and made Emperor Xiaozhuang emperor. Later, when Emperor Xiaozhuang killed Erzhu Rong in 530, Erzhu Shilong participated in the counterattack that overthrew Emperor Xiaozhuang, and thereafter controlled the imperial government during the reign of Emperor Jiemin. When the general Gao Huan, in turn, rebelled in response to Emperor Xiaozhuang's death, the officials in the imperial capital Luoyang rebelled against the Erzhus, and Erzhu Shilong was executed after failing to flee Luoyang.

Erzhu Tianguang (496–532) was a general of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He became a major general during the reign of Emperor Xiaozhuang, when his father's cousin Erzhu Rong was the paramount general of the state. He was renowned for pacifying the Guanzhong region, which had been seized by agrarian rebel generals Moqi Chounu (万俟醜奴) and Wang Qingyun (王慶雲) in 530. He thereafter tried to maintain a relatively distant profile from the other Erzhu clan members, particularly after Emperor Xiaozhuang killed Erzhu Rong later in 530 and then was overthrown and killed by Erzhu Rong's nephew Erzhu Zhao and cousin Erzhu Shilong. In 532, after the other Erzhus had suffered defeats at the hand of the rebelling general Gao Huan, Erzhu Tianguang tried to come to their aid, but was also defeated by another general who rebelled, Husi Chun, and Gao executed him.

Emperor Xiaowu of Northern Wei ( 魏孝武帝), personal name Yuan Xiu, courtesy name Xiaoze (孝則), at times known as Emperor Chu, was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. After the general Gao Huan rebelled against and defeated the clan of the deceased paramount general Erzhu Rong in 532, he made Emperor Xiaowu emperor. Despite Gao's making him emperor, however, Emperor Xiaowu tried strenuously to free himself from Gao's control, and in 534, he, aligning with the general Yuwen Tai, formally broke with Gao. When Gao advanced south to try to again take control of the imperial government, Emperor Xiaowu fled to Yuwen's territory, leading to Northern Wei's division into two. Emperor Xiaowu's relationship with Yuwen, however, soon deteriorated over Yuwen's refusal to condone his incestuous relationships with his cousins, and around the new year 535, Yuwen poisoned him to death. Emperor Xiaowu's successor Emperor Wen of Western Wei is typically regarded, then, as the first emperor of Western Wei, formalizing the division of the empire.

Empress Gao was an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. Her husband was Emperor Xiaowu.

Husi Chun (斛斯椿) (495–537), courtesy name Fashou (法壽), formally Prince Wenxuan of Changshan (常山文宣王), was a general and official of the Chinese/Xianbei state Northern Wei and Northern Wei's branch successor state Western Wei.

Yuwen Tai (507–556), nickname Heita (黑獺), formally Duke Wen of Anding (安定文公), later further posthumously honored by Northern Zhou initially as Prince Wen (文王) then as Emperor Wen (文皇帝) with the temple name Taizu (太祖), was the paramount general of the Chinese/Xianbei state Western Wei, a branch successor state of Northern Wei. In 534, Emperor Xiaowu of Northern Wei, seeking to assert power independent of the paramount general Gao Huan, fled to Yuwen's domain, and when Gao subsequently proclaimed Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei emperor, a split of Northern Wei was effected, and when Yuwen subsequently poisoned Emperor Xiaowu to death around the new year 535 and declared his cousin Yuan Baoju emperor, the split was formalized, with the part under Gao's and Emperor Xiaojing's control known as Eastern Wei and the part under Yuwen's and Emperor Wen's control known as Western Wei. For the rest of his life, Yuwen endeavored to make Western Wei, then much weaker than its eastern counterpart, a strong state, and after his death, his son Yuwen Jue seized the throne from Emperor Gong of Western Wei, establishing Northern Zhou.

Lou Zhaojun, formally Empress Ming, was an empress dowager of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. She was the wife of Gao Huan, the paramount general of Northern Wei and its branch successor state Eastern Wei, and during Gao Huan's lifetime was already influential on the political scene. After Gao Huan's death, she continued to exert influence through the regency of her son Gao Cheng, and then as empress dowager after another son Gao Yang seized the throne from Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei and established Northern Qi. She continued to serve as grand empress dowager through the reigns of Gao Yang's son Emperor Fei, and then again as empress dowager during the reigns of two more of her own sons, Emperor Xiaozhao and Emperor Wucheng.


  1. 兩千年中西曆轉換
  2. As he was removed from the throne, he initially received no imperial posthumous name. The Book of Wei , written by Wei Shou, an official of the branch successor state Eastern Wei, referred to him as Emperor Qianfei ("the former deposed emperor"), but the competing successor dynasty, Western Wei, probably because of requests by his older brother Yuan Xin (元欣) the Prince of Guangling, gave him the relatively honoring posthumous name Emperor Jiemin. Historians generally referred to him as Emperor Jiemin.
Chinese royalty
Preceded by
Yuan Ye (Prince of Changguang)
Emperor of Northern Wei (Northern)
Succeeded by
Yuan Lang (Prince of Anding)
Emperor of Northern Wei (Southern)
Succeeded by
Emperor Xiaowu of Northern Wei