|Emperor Xiaowu of Northern Wei|
|Reign||June 13, 532 - February 3, 535|
|Successor|| Emperor Xiaojing (Eastern) |
Emperor Wen (Western)
|Regent|| Gao Huan (532-534)|
Yuwen Tai (534-535)
|Died||February 3, 535 25)(aged|
Emperor Xiaowu of Northern Wei ((北)魏孝武帝) (510 – February 3, 535), personal name Yuan Xiu (元脩 or 元修), courtesy name Xiaoze (孝則), at times known as Emperor Chu (出帝, "the emperor who fled"), 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 (as Gao then made Yuan Shanjian the Heir Apparent of Qinghe emperor (as Emperor Xiaojing), establishing Eastern Wei). 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.
Yuan Xiu was born in 510, as the third son of Yuan Huai (元懷) the Prince of Guangping, a son of Emperor Xiaowen and a younger brother of the then-reigning Emperor Xuanwu. His mother Lady Li was Yuan Huai's concubine, although historical records were not clear on the issue. In 517, Yuan Huai died.
In Yuan Xiu's youth, he was considered to be quiet and smart, and he was interested in military matters. In 527, Emperor Xuanwu's son Emperor Xiaoming created Yuan Xiu the Duke of Ruyang. In 530, Emperor Xiaozhuang promoted him to the title of Prince of Pingyang.
In 532, the general Gao Huan defeated the members of the clan of the paramount general Erzhu Rong (who had overthrown and killed Emperor Xiaozhuang after Emperor Xiaozhuang killed Erzhu Rong in 530). During the campaign, Gao had declared Yuan Lang, a distant member of the imperial Yuan clan, emperor, to compete with Emperor Jiemin, whom Erzhu Rong's cousin Erzhu Shilong had made emperor. Gao, after victory, considered Yuan Lang an inappropriate choice to be emperor, given his distant relationship to the recent emperors. He considered keeping Emperor Jiemin on the throne, but decided against it when his generals Wei Lan'gen (魏蘭根) and Cui Ling (name not in Unicode) opined that Emperor Jiemin would be difficult to control in the future; he therefore had Emperor Jiemin imprisoned. He also considered making Yuan Yue (元悅) the Prince of Ru'nan, the only surviving son of Emperor Xiaowen, whom he welcomed back from rival Liang Dynasty (where Yuan Yue had fled earlier), emperor, but later changed his mind after hearing that Yuan Yue was violent and arbitrary. At that time, the imperial princes were all largely in hiding, and Yuan Xiu was hiding at a farm. Gao's ally, the general Husi Chun, located Yuan Xiu, and Gao wanted to make Yuan Xiu emperor. After a meeting with Gao, in which Gao vowed allegiance, Yuan Xiu decided to agree. Gao therefore forced Yuan Lang to yield the throne to Yuan Xiu, who then took the throne as Emperor Xiaowu.
One thing Emperor Xiaowu immediately started doing—for which he was criticized by historians—was eliminating potential claimants to the throne. Less than 10 days after taking the throne, he poisoned the deposed Emperor Jiemin to death. Six months later, he forced Yuan Lang and another former emperor, Yuan Ye, to commit suicide. He also executed his uncle Yuan Yue.
Although Gao made him emperor, Emperor Xiaowu also almost immediately tried to do what he could to avoid being controlled by Gao. Although he married Gao's oldest daughter as his empress around the new year 533, he, after initially appearing to show deference to Gao, began to rule with Husi Chun and his associate Wang Sizheng (王思政) as his assistants, making decisions contrary to Gao's opinion, particularly after Gao had defeated the final major member of the Erzhu clan, Erzhu Zhao. He secretly communicated with Heba Yue (賀拔岳), who controlled the western provinces, and also commissioned Heba Yue's brother Heba Sheng (賀拔勝) as the commander of the southern provinces, wanting to depend on the Heba brothers to resist Gao's hold. Tensions also increased over Gao's desire to control more provinces and Emperor Xiaowu's corresponding desire to wrest control of the provinces from Gao.
In spring 534, Heba Yue's friend and lieutenant, Houmochen Yue (侯莫陳悅), due to Gao's instigation, assassinated Heba Yue. Heba Yue's troops supported Heba Yue's assistant Yuwen Tai to replace him, and Yuwen soon defeated Houmochen, who committed suicide. Emperor Xiaowu continued to engage in talks with Yuwen (whom Heba Yue had previously sent to Emperor Xiaowu as a liaison) with an eye of depending on Yuwen to face off against Gao. In summer 534, Emperor Xiaowu prepared his troops and, believing he could catch Gao by surprise, issued secret edits to Gao pretending that he was suspecting Yuwen and Heba Sheng of rebellion and planning to attack them with Gao. Gao saw through Emperor Xiaowu's plot, however, and instead marched toward Luoyang. Wang Sizheng, believing that the imperial troops were not strong enough to resist Gao's, suggested Emperor Xiaowu to flee to Yuwen's territory, and Emperor Xiaowu decided to do so, rejecting Husi Chun's offer to take one final stand at Luoyang, particularly when Heba Sheng failed to come to the emperor's aid and when Yuwen's troops failed to arrive quickly. It took Gao only a month to reach Luoyang, and Emperor Xiaowu fled west, encountering Yuwen's troops on the way, and had them escort him back to Yuwen's headquarters at Chang'an, where he reestablished the imperial government and made Yuwen prime minister. He also married his sister Princess Fengyi to Yuwen.
Meanwhile, Gao Huan took over the Luoyang region, and soon also defeated Heba Sheng, taking over his territory and forcing him to flee to Liang. Gao then wrote repeated petitions to Emperor Xiaowu, requesting that he return to Luoyang and indicating that he was willing to return to the status quo ante. Emperor Xiaowu did not respond to any of Gao's overtures. Gao therefore made Yuan Shanjian, the son and heir apparent of Emperor Xiaowu's cousin Yuan Dan (元亶) the Prince of Qinghe emperor (as Emperor Xiaojing) and moving the capital from Luoyang to Yecheng, thus formally dividing the empire into two (Eastern Wei under Emperor Xiaojing and Western Wei under Emperor Xiaowu), albeit with each claiming to be the rightful one.
Meanwhile, Emperor Xiaowu's relationship with Yuwen Tai was deteriorating. While at Luoyang, he had previously entered into incestuous relationships with three of his cousins—Yuan Mingyue (元明月) the Princess Pingyuan, the Princess Ande, and Yuan Jili (元蒺藜), who was also created princess. Yuan Mingyue accompanied him on his flight to Chang'an, but Yuwen disapproved of the relationship, and persuaded the imperial princes to arrest and kill her. Emperor Xiaowu was very angry, and he often used his bow or pounded his table inside the palace as demonstrations of his displeasure. Around the new year 535, he drank wine spiked by poison—in all likelihood placed by Yuwen's assassins—and died. Yuwen made his cousin Yuan Baoju the Prince of Nanyang (Yuan Mingyue's brother) emperor (as Emperor Wen).
The Northern Wei, also known as the Tuoba Wei (拓跋魏), Later Wei (後魏), was a dynasty founded by the Tuoba (Tabgach) clan of the Xianbei, which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 AD, during the period of the Northern and Southern 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. The Northern Wei were referred to as "Plaited Barbarians" by writers of the Southern dynasties, who considered themselves the true upholders of Chinese culture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Emperor Jiemin of Northern Wei ( 魏節閔帝), also known as Emperor Qianfei (前廢帝), 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.
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 Zhao (爾朱兆), courtesy name Wanren (萬仁), Xianbei name Tumo'er (吐沒兒), 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.
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.
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.
Empress Gao was an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. Her husband was Emperor Xiaowu.
Emperor Wen of Western Wei ( 魏文帝) (507–551), personal name Yuan Baoju (元寶炬), was an emperor of Western Wei—a branch successor state to Northern Wei. In 534, Yuan Baoju, then the Prince of Nanyang, followed his cousin Emperor Xiaowu in fleeing from the capital Luoyang to Chang'an, after a fallout between Emperor Xiaowu and the paramount general Gao Huan. However, Emperor Xiaowu's relationship to the general that he then depended on, Yuwen Tai, soon deteriorated as well, and around the new year 535, Yuwen Tai poisoned Emperor Xiaowu to death, making Yuan Baoju emperor. As Gao Huan had, late in 534, made Yuan Shanjian the son of Emperor Wen's cousin Yuan Dan (元亶) the Prince of Qinghe emperor, thus establishing Eastern Wei, Emperor Wen was known as Western Wei's first emperor, formalizing the division. Emperor Wen's relationship with Yuwen appeared cordial, but he was unable to exercise much real power.
Husi Chun (斛斯椿) (495–537), courtesy name Fashou (法壽), Xianbei name Daidun (貸敦), 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.
Gao Huan (496–547), Xianbei 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 paramount general and minister of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei and Northern Wei's branch successor state Eastern Wei. Though being ethnically Chinese, Gao was deeply affected by Xianbei culture and was often considered more Xianbei than Chinese 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.
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.
Yuwen Hu (宇文護), courtesy name Sabao, formally Duke Dang of Jin (晉蕩公), was a regent of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou in China. He first came into prominence as the nephew of Western Wei's paramount general Yuwen Tai, and after Yuwen Tai's death in 556, he became the guardian to Yuwen Tai's son Yuwen Jue. In 557, he forced Emperor Gong of Western Wei to yield the throne to Yuwen Jue, establishing Northern Zhou. However, Yuwen Hu dominated the political scene, and after Emperor Xiaomin tried to seize power later that year, he killed Emperor Xiaomin and replaced him with another son of Yuwen Tai, Emperor Ming. In 560, he poisoned Emperor Ming, who was succeeded by another son of Yuwen Tai, Emperor Wu. In 572, Emperor Wu ambushed Yuwen Hu and killed him, personally taking power.
Yang Yin (楊愔) (511–560), courtesy name Zhunyan (遵彦), nickname Qinwang (秦王), was a high-level official of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi.
Yuan Lang (Prince of Anding)
| Emperor of Northern Wei (Northern)|
Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei
Emperor Jiemin of Northern Wei
| Emperor of Northern Wei (Eastern)|
| Emperor of Northern Wei (Western)|
Emperor Wen of Western Wei