Emperor Shunzong of Tang

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Tang Shunzong
Emperor of Tang Dynasty
ReignFebruary 28, 805 [1] [2] – August 31, 805 [1] [3]
Predecessor Emperor Dezong
Successor Emperor Xianzong
Born761 [1]
DiedFebruary 11, 806 [1] [4]
ConsortsLady Xiao of Lanling
(died 790)
Empress Zhuangxian (m. 775–806)
Issue Emperor Xianzong
Li Jing
Li Wei
Li Zong
Li Shu
Li Chou
Li Zong
Li Yue
Li Jie
Li Xiang
Li Qiu
Li Qi
Li Xuan
Li Ji
Li Xun
Li Wan
Li Shan
Li Hong
Li Gun
Li Shen
Li Lun
Li Chuo
Li Ji
Princess Hanyang
Princess Lianggongjing
Princess Dongyang
Princess Xihe
Princess Yun'an
Princess Xiangyang
Princess Guo
Princess Puyang
Princess Wen'an
Princess Xunyang
Princess Ping'en
Princess Shaoyang
Full name
Era name and dates
Yǒngzhēn (永貞) [5] : September 1, 805 [1] [6] – January 25, 806 [1] [7]
Posthumous name
Emperor Zhide
Dasheng Da'an Xiao
(至德大聖大安孝皇帝) (full)
Temple name
Shùnzōng (順宗)
Dynasty Tang Dynasty
Father Emperor Dezong
Mother Empress Zhaode
Tang Shunzong
Chinese 唐順宗
Literal meaning"Favorable Ancestor of the Tang"
Li Song
Chinese 李誦
Literal meaning(personal name)

Emperor Shunzong of Tang (761 [1] – February 11, 806 [4] ), personal name Li Song, was an emperor of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. He was created crown prince in 779 and became emperor in 805 after the death of his father Emperor Dezong, of whom he was the oldest son. His reign lasted less than a year, as, due to his illness, the powerful eunuchs were able to get him to approve a transfer of the throne to his son Li Chun, who took the throne as Emperor Xianzong. Emperor Shunzong was honored with the title of Taishang Huang (retired emperor). He died in 806, with some later historians suspecting that he was murdered by the eunuchs who arranged for Emperor Xianzong's succession.

Crown prince heir to the throne

A crown prince is the male heir apparent to the throne in a royal or imperial monarchy. Its female form is crown princess, which may refer either to an heir apparent or, especially in earlier times, the wife of the person styled crown prince.

Emperor Dezong of Tang emperor of the Tang Dynasty

Emperor Dezong of Tang, personal name Li Kuo, was an emperor of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and the oldest son of Emperor Daizong. His reign of 26 years was the third longest in the Tang dynasty. Emperor Dezong started out as a diligent and frugal emperor and he tried to reform the governmental finances by introducing new tax laws. His attempts to destroy the powerful regional warlords and the subsequent mismanagement of those campaigns, however, resulted in a number of rebellions that nearly destroyed him and the Tang Dynasty. After those events, he dealt cautiously with the regional governors, causing warlordism to become unchecked, and his trust of eunuchs caused the eunuchs' power to rise greatly. He was also known for his paranoia about officials' wielding power, and late in his reign, he did not grant much authority to his chancellors.

Emperor Xianzong of Tang emperor of the Tang Dynasty

Emperor Xianzong of Tang, personal name Li Chun, né Li Chun (李淳), was an emperor of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. He was the eldest son of Emperor Shunzong, who reigned for less than a year in 805 and who yielded the throne to him late that year.


During his short reign, Emperor Shunzong and his close associates Wang Shuwen and Wang Pi employed individuals such as Liu Zongyuan, Liu Yuxi, Han Ye (韓瞱), and Han Tai (韓泰), in trying to reform and rejuvenate the administration. His reforms, intended to strengthen imperial power over regional warlords and eunuchs, were later known as the Yongzhen Reformation (永貞革新), named after his era name of Yongzhen. While Emperor Shunzong's associates lost power after his yielding of the throne, Emperor Xianzong's subsequent reign was known for its reassertion of imperial power.

Wang Shuwen (王叔文) was an official of the Tang dynasty of China. He was a close associate of Emperor Shunzong while Li Song was crown prince under his father Emperor Dezong, and was powerful during Emperor Shunzong's brief reign in 805, when Emperor Shunzong was severely ill. However, he offended the powerful eunuchs and further lost power when he was forced to leave governmental service due to his mother's death, and after Emperor Shunzong yielded the throne to his son Emperor Xianzong, Emperor Xianzong ordered Wang to commit suicide.

Wang Pi (王伾) was an official of the Chinese Tang Dynasty, who was a close associate of Emperor Shunzong. He, along with his ally Wang Shuwen, was powerful during Emperor Shunzong's brief reign in 805, but soon lost power and died in exile.

Liu Zongyuan Chinese writer

Liu Zongyuan was a Chinese writer, politician, and poet who lived during the Tang Dynasty. Liu was born in present-day Yongji, Shanxi. Along with Han Yu, he was a founder of the Classical Prose Movement. He has been traditionally classed as one of the "Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Song".


Li Song was born in 761, during the reign of his great-grandfather Emperor Suzong, at the Eastern Palace (i.e., the palace of his grandfather Li Yu, then Crown Prince) at the Tang Dynasty capital Chang'an. [1] His father Li Kuo was Li Yu's oldest son, and he himself was Li Kuo's oldest son. His mother was Li Kuo's consort Lady Wang (who was later empress). Early in his life, he was created the Prince of Xuancheng. [8] In 779, after the death of Li Yu (who was then emperor, as Emperor Daizong) and Li Kuo's ascension (as Emperor Dezong), Li Song was created the Prince of Xuan. In 780, he was created Crown Prince. [1]

Emperor Suzong of Tang emperor of the Tang Dynasty

Emperor Suzong of Tang, personal name Li Heng, né Li Sisheng (李嗣升), known as Li Jun (李浚) from 725 to 736, known as Li Yu (李璵) from 736 to 738, known briefly as Li Shao (李紹) in 738, was an emperor of the Tang dynasty and the son of Emperor Xuanzong. Suzong ascended the throne after his father fled to Sichuan during the An Lushan Rebellion in 756; Li Heng himself had fled in the opposite direction, to Lingwu, where he was declared emperor by the army. Much of Emperor Suzong's reign was spent in quelling the aforementioned rebellion, which was ultimately put down in 763 during the reign of his son Emperor Daizong.

Emperor Daizong of Tang emperor of the Tang Dynasty

Emperor Daizong of Tang, personal name Li Yu, né Li Chu (李俶), was an emperor of the Chinese Tang Dynasty.

Changan ancient city of China

Chang'an was an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese since it was a capital that was repeatedly used by new Chinese rulers. During the short-lived Xin dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; the old name was later restored. By the time of the Ming dynasty, a new walled city named Xi'an, meaning "Western Peace", was built at the Sui and Tang dynasty city's site, which has remained its name to the present day.

As crown prince

Li Song was described to be kind and lenient. He favored the study of arts, and was particularly good at calligraphy. He was also respectful to his teachers and often bowed to them despite his crown prince status. [8] In 781, he married Lady Xiao, the daughter of his grandaunt Princess Gao and her husband Xiao Sheng (蕭升), as his wife and crown princess. [9]

Chinese calligraphy calligraphy with Chinese script

Chinese calligraphy is a form of pleasing writing (calligraphy), or, the artistic expression of human language in a tangible form. This type of expression has been widely practiced in China and has been generally held in high esteem across East Asia. Calligraphy is considered as one of the four best friends of ancient Chinese literati, along with playing stringed musical instrument, the board game “go”, and painting. There are some general standardizations of the various styles of calligraphy in this tradition. Chinese calligraphy and ink and wash painting are closely related: they are accomplished using similar tools and techniques, and have a long history of shared artistry. Distinguishing features of Chinese painting and calligraphy include an emphasis on motion charged with dynamic life. According to Stanley-Baker, "Calligraphy is sheer life experienced through energy in motion that is registered as traces on silk or paper, with time and rhythm in shifting space its main ingredients." Calligraphy has also led to the development of many forms of art in China, including seal carving, ornate paperweights, and inkstones.

In 783, when a mutiny by soldiers from Jingyuan Circuit (涇原, headquartered in Pingliang, Gansu) forced Emperor Dezong to abandon Chang'an and flee to Fengtian (奉天, in modern Xianyang, Shaanxi), Li Song accompanied Emperor Dezong to Fengtian, and was said to have personally protected Emperor Dezong during the journey to Fengtian, along with his younger brother Li Yi (李誼) the Prince of Pu. [10] [11] After the Jingyuan soldiers supported the general Zhu Ci as their emperor (of a new state of Qin), Zhu put Fengtian under siege, and Li Song was said to have personally participated in the defense of Fengtian, including personally encouraging soldiers and attending to the wounded. [12]

Pingliang Prefecture-level city in Gansu, Peoples Republic of China

Pingliang is a prefecture-level city in eastern Gansu province, China, bordering Shaanxi province to the south and east and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to the north. Pingliang is well known for the nearby Kongtong Mountains, which are sacred to Taoism and location of the mythical meeting place of the Yellow Emperor and Guangchengzi, an immortal.

Gansu Province

Gansu is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the northwest of the country.

Xianyang Prefecture-level city in Shaanxi, Peoples Republic of China

Xianyang is a prefecture-level city in central Shaanxi province, situated on the Wei River a few kilometers upstream (west) from the provincial capital of Xi'an. Once the capital of the Qin dynasty, it is now integrated into the Xi'an metropolitan area, one of the main urban agglomerations in inland China, with more than 7.17 million inhabitants, its built-up area made of 2 urban districts was 945,420 inhabitants at the 2010 census. It has a total area of 10,213 square kilometres (3,943 sq mi).

After the rebellion was put down and Emperor Dezong and his family returned to Chang'an, Li Song's position was endangered over an incident involving his grandaunt/mother-in-law Princess Gao. As of 787, the chancellor Zhang Yanshang had discovered that the imperial guard officer Li Sheng (李昇) was secretly visiting Princess Gao, and he came to suspect that Li Sheng, whose father Li Shuming (李叔明) was a political enemy of Zhang's, was having an affair with Princess Gao. Initially, at the advice of another chancellor, Li Mi—who feared that an investigation would taint Li Song—Emperor Dezong took no actions against anyone other than to transfer Li Sheng out of the imperial guards to avoid contact with Princess Gao. [13] However, by fall 787, the incident had flared up in public, as accusations were made that Princess Gao, who often visited Li Song's palace, was having affairs not only with Li Sheng, but also with other officials Xiao Ding (蕭鼎), Li Wan (李萬), and Wei Ke (韋恪); worse, she was also accused of secretly using witchcraft to curse Emperor Dezong. Emperor Dezong, in anger, imprisoned Princess Gao and became angry at Li Song. Li Song, fearing the taint, divorced Crown Princess Xiao, but Emperor Dezong's anger did not recede, and he considered replacing Li Song as crown prince with Li Yi. At Li Mi's earnest opposition, Emperor Dezong ultimately decided not to do so. [14] The former crown princess was later killed on Emperor Dezong's orders, during a time when Li Song was ill. [15]

Zhang Yanshang (張延賞), né Zhang Baofu (張寶符), was an official of the Chinese dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reign of Emperor Dezong.

Witchcraft Practice of and belief in magical skills and abilities either alone or in groups

Witchcraft or witchery is the practice of magical skills and abilities exercised by solitary practitioners and groups.

In 795, after the former chancellor Lu Zhi and several of his associates was exiled due to false accusations by Emperor Dezong's favorite Pei Yanling, the imperial scholar Yang Cheng (陽城) led a group of junior officials in petitioning Emperor Dezong in protesting Lu's innocence, drawing Emperor Dezong's anger toward them. Emperor Dezong were initially set to punish Yang and the other junior officials, but after Li Song spoke on their behalf, Emperor Dezong did not do so. [16] It was also said that it was Li Song's urging that Pei and another favorite of Emperor Dezong's, Wei Qumou (韋渠牟), who were poorly regarded by the people, were not made chancellors. [8]

By 803, Li Song had become close to two of his staff members—Wang Pi, who was also a talented calligrapher, and Wang Shuwen, who was good at playing Go. It was said at that Wang Shuwen's suggestion, Li Song avoided drawing further suspicion from Emperor Dezong. (Li Song was set to speak to Emperor Dezong against Emperor Dezong's unpopular the Emperor's purchasing (宮市)—where palace eunuchs were effectively requisitioning supplies from merchants while paying no or very little compensation, and Wang Shuwen pointed out that this would cause Emperor Dezong to suspect Li Song of trying to be popular at his expense.) At Wang Shuwen's suggestion, Li Song also began to gather a group of junior officials that Wang Shuwen had befriended and considered capable of being important officials and generals in the future, including Wei Zhiyi, Lu Chun (陸淳), Lü Wen (呂溫), Li Jingjian (李景儉), Han Ye (韓曄), Han Tai (韓泰), Chen Jian (陳諫), Liu Zongyuan, Liu Yuxi, Ling Zhun (凌準), and Cheng Yi, in anticipation of his future reign. [17]

In winter 804, Li Song suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak. When subsequently, Emperor Dezong became ill as well, members of the imperial family attended to him, but Li Song was unable to do so. This saddened Emperor Dezong greatly and caused his own conditions to grow worse, and he died on February 25, 805. [18] Initially, the palace eunuchs expressed the opinion that perhaps Li Song should not succeed to the throne, but after the imperial scholar Wei Cigong (衛次公) spoke firmly in Li Song's favor, and Li Song, despite his illness, appeared to show that he was not completely incapacitated, he was able to succeed to the throne (as Emperor Shunzong). [17]


In his illness, Emperor Shunzong was unable to actually rule on everything submitted to him. He was attended to by the eunuch Li Zhongyan (李忠言) and his concubine Consort Niu, and it was said that the petitions submitted to him were ruled by him behind a screen. Li Zhongyan, Consort Niu, Wang Shuwen, Wang Pi, and the imperial scholar Wei Zhiyi (who was made a chancellor at Wang Shuwen's recommendation) formed a group who made decisions, with Wang Shuwen making rulings, giving them to Wang Pi to deliver to Li Zhongyan, and then Li Zhongyan issuing edicts in Emperor Shunzong's name approving Wang Shuwen's rulings, for Wei to execute. It was said that Wang Shuwen and his associates, including Han Tai, Liu Zongyuan, and Liu Yuxi were making decisions on personnel matters quickly, depending on their likes and dislikes. [17]

Under this system, Emperor Shunzong quickly issued a number of orders that were intended to reform certain improper or unpopular measures of Emperor Dezong's reign: [17]

Wang Shuwen and his associates, however, drew resentment from other officials for their hold on power. They were particularly despised by several eunuchs who were powerful during Emperor Dezong's reign—Ju Wenzhen (俱文珍), Liu Guangqi (劉光琦), and Xue Yingzhen (薛盈珍). At the instigations of those eunuchs, the imperial scholars Zheng Yin, Wei Cigong, Wang Ya, and Li Cheng were summoned to the palace for the purpose of drafting an edict to create Emperor Shunzong's oldest son Li Chun—who was described to be intelligent and decisive and who was feared by Wang Shuwen's group, particularly Consort Niu—crown prince. Zheng Yin wrote down, "The Crown Prince should be the oldest son" and showed it to Emperor Shunzong, who nodded. On April 26, 805, [19] the edict was promulgated, and LI Chun was officially installed as crown prince on May 8. [17] [20]

Meanwhile, Wang Shuwen tried to seize the control of the Shence Army from the powerful eunuchs by putting the senior general Fan Xichao (范希朝) in command of the Shence Army units on the western border, with Han Tai as Fan's deputy. However, the eunuchs realized this and ordered the Shence Army soldiers not to obey Fan's orders; when Fan arrived at his command, the officers would not even welcome him, and he and Han Tai were forced to return to Chang'an. The eunuchs also reacted by having Wang Shuwen technically promoted—to be the deputy minister of census—but stripped of his status as imperial scholar (which both he and Wang Pi had been made) to make it difficult for him to handle the affairs of state. Wang Shuwen also offended the regional warlords by trying to execute Yang Shi'e (羊士諤) and Liu Pi, two subordinate officials sent to Chang'an to make demands on the central government on behalf of their superiors (the executions were not carried out due to Wei Zhiyi's opposition). Liu Pi's superior Wei Gao, the military governor ( Jiedushi ) of Xichuan Circuit (西川, headquartered in modern Chengdu, Sichuan), subsequently submitted a harshly worded petition accusing Wang Shuwen and his associates of crimes, and also wrote a letter to Li Chun urging him to take over as regent. Wei Gao's petition was subsequently echoed by other military governors Pei Jun (裴均) and Yan Shou (嚴綬), causing much alarm for Wang Shuwen and his associates. [17]

On July 19, Wang Shuwen was forced to leave governmental service when his mother died, to observe a period of mourning for her. Wang Pi made repeated attempts to have Wang Shuwen recalled to serve as chancellor, but his repeated petitions were unheeded. Realizing that their party was near defeat, Wang Pi himself claimed to have suffered a stroke and left governmental service as well. Thereafter, Wang Shuwen's and Wang Pi's other associates began to fall out of power. On August 26, [21] Emperor Shunzong issued an edict making Li Chun regent, and on August 31, he issued another edict yielding the throne to Li Chun (as Emperor Xianzong). Emperor Shunzong himself took the title of Taishang Huang (retired emperor) while giving Li Chun's mother Consort Wang the title of Taishang Huanghou (太上皇后, "retired empress"). [17]

As retired emperor

In winter 805, the hermit Luo Lingze (羅令則) went from Chang'an to Purun (普潤, in modern Baoji, Shaanxi) and stated to Liu Yong (劉澭) the prefect of Qin Prefecture (秦州, which had its seat at Purun) that he had an edict from Emperor Shunzong ordering Liu to start a rebellion to depose Emperor Xianzong and support a new emperor. Liu arrested Luo and delivered him to Chang'an, where Luo and his associates were caned to death. There is no record in history suggesting that Emperor Shunzong approved or knew of Luo's actions. He died on February 11, 806. [4] [17]

The Old Book of Tang included a commentary by Han Yu about Emperor Shunzong: [1]

When Emperor Shunzong was the Crown Prince, he was attentive to the arts and skillful at calligraphy. Emperor Dezong was capable in writing poems, and whenever he wrote poems to the officials or military governors, he would have Emperor Shunzong calligraph them. He was lenient and kind, but decisive. He was also honoring of his teachers, and he often bowed to them. When he accompanied Emperor Dezong to Fengtian and they were pressed by the bandit Zhu Ci, he put himself before the soldiers and got up on the walls to battle and encourage the soldiers, such that they all fought earnestly. After Emperor Dezong had been emperor for a long time and no longer trusted chancellors, such favorites as Pei Yanling, Li Qiyun [(李齊運)], and Wei Qumou stole power, forcing out the likes of Lu Zhi and Zhang Pang [(張滂)]. No one else dared to speak about this, but the Crown Prince comfortably discussed and reasoned about these matters, such that Emperor Dezong never made Pei or Wei chancellor. When he once attended an imperial feast at Yuzao Palace [(魚藻宮)], there was much display of water, boats, and music on the boats, causing Emperor Dezong much happiness. The Crown Prince, however, quoted a poem that encouraged happiness but not frivolity. Whenever he reported to the emperor, he never endeared himself to eunuchs. He was Crown Prince for 20 years, and all under the heaven received his secret grace. Unfortunately, he became seriously ill when he was emperor, and his close associates took undue power. But he was able to pass the throne to the oldest and the best, such that the Dynasty was able to continue in prosperity. Was he not good?

Chancellors during reign


See also

  1. Chinese emperors family tree (middle)

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Old Book of Tang , vol. 14.
  2. [ dead link ]
  3. [ dead link ]
  4. 1 2 3 [ dead link ]
  5. Emperor Shunzong actually did not declare the Yongzhen era until he had already passed the throne to Emperor Xianzong, but the Yongzhen era was still commonly associated with him rather than Emperor Xianzong.
  6. [ dead link ]
  7. [ dead link ]
  8. 1 2 3 New Book of Tang , vol. 7.
  9. Zizhi Tongjian , vol. 227.
  10. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 228.
  11. Li Yi was biologically the son of Emperor Dezong's younger brother Li Miao, but was adopted by Emperor Dezong by Emperor Daizong's orders, presumably after Li Miao's death. See Old Book of Tang, vol. 150.
  12. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 229.
  13. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 232.
  14. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 233.
  15. New Book of Tang, vol. 77.
  16. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 235.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 236.
  18. [ dead link ]
  19. [ dead link ]
  20. [ dead link ]
  21. [ dead link ]
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Dezong of Tang
Emperor of Tang Dynasty
Succeeded by
Emperor Xianzong of Tang