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|(Bei) Qi Xiaozhaodi ((北)齊孝昭帝)|
|Family name:||Gao (高, gāo)|
|Given name:||Yan (演, yǎn)|
|Temple name:||Suzong (肅宗, sù zōng)|
|Posthumous name:||Xiaozhao (孝昭, xiào zhāo),|
"filial and accomplished"
Emperor Xiaozhao of Northern Qi ((北)齊孝昭帝) (535–561), personal name Gao Yan (高演), courtesy name Yan'an (延安), was an emperor of Northern Qi. He was generally considered a capable ruler, but ruled for less than two years before dying from injuries suffered from falling off a horse. Northern Qi would not have another capable ruler after his death.
Gao Yan was born in 535, as the third of six sons that Gao Huan, then the paramount general of Eastern Wei and the Prince of Bohai, had with his wife Princess Lou Zhaojun, after his older brothers Gao Cheng and Gao Yang, and Gao Huan's sixth son overall. He was said to be intelligent in his childhood, and was much favored by his mother Princess Lou. At age three, in 538, he was created the Duke of Changshan. He was said to be studious, particularly favoring the Book of Han in his studies.
In 550, Gao Yang, who had become regent of Eastern Wei following the deaths of Gao Huan in 547 and Gao Cheng in 549, had Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei yield the throne to him, ending Eastern Wei and starting Northern Qi as its Emperor Wenxuan. As the new emperor's brother, Gao Yan was created the Prince of Changshan. He received a number of official posts during Emperor Wenxuan's reign, and was said to have distinguished himself in his ability to govern despite his youth, and was known for his solemnity. However, he was also said to be so stern in his ways that if subordinates carried out incorrect actions, he would cane them severely. At times, he participated in military campaigns that Emperor Wenxuan personally commanded.
Emperor Wenxuan ruled Northern Qi diligently early in his reign, but later in his reign, perhaps starting 554 or so, he began to act erratically and cruelly toward his officials and members of his own household. On one occasion, when invited to one of Emperor Wenxuan's feasts, his face showed sadness and anxiety, and Emperor Wenxuan deduced that he must have disapproved Emperor Wenxuan's preoccupation with drinking and women, and he declared that he would stop drinking—although his abstension from alcohol only lasted for several days. Emperor Wenxuan also favored irreverent and sometimes immoral games within his palace, but when Gao Yan was present he would curb his behavior, and while Emperor Wenxuan was known for often visiting nobles' households and having sexual relations with their women, regardless of their relationships to him, he did not do so as to Gao Yan's household. During this period of Emperor Wenxuan's reign, then, Gao Yan became one of the only few individuals who would dare to try to get the emperor to change his behavior, although often only with temporary effect. On one occasion, Gao Yan offered a petition listing a number of behaviors that he believed Emperor Wenxuan should change—and this caused Emperor Wenxuan to be exceedingly angry at him, threatening to kill him and sentencing Gao Yan's chief advisor, Wang Xi (王唏), whom Emperor Wenxuan suspected to have contributed to the petition, to hard labor. In a later incident, Emperor Wenxuan, after having awarded Gao Yan a lady in waiting while drunk, forgot about the award after he became sober, and accused Gao Yan of stealing the lady in waiting, battering Gao Yan severely with a sword hilt. Gao Yan became angry and went on a hunger strike. Emperor Wenxuan, in order to placate Gao Yan, then agreed to release Wang Xi from hard labor and return him to Gao Yan's headquarters. Meanwhile, Emperor Wenxuan, who distrusted Eastern Wei's Yuan imperial household, of whom Gao Yan's wife Princess Yuan was a member, tried to get Gao Yan to divorce Princess Yuan, but Gao Yan refused, and when Emperor Wenxuan carried out a massacre of the Yuans in 559, it was at Gao Yan's earnest intercession that Emperor Wenxuan spared Princess Yuan's father Yuan Man (元蠻) and his family.
Emperor Wenxuan's crown prince was his son Gao Yin, who was known for his studiousness, but Emperor Wenxuan, who, despite his Han ethnicity, favored Xianbei warrior ways, felt that Gao Yin was too Han in his thinking and repeatedly considered deposing him. Particularly when he was drunk, Emperor Wenxuan often stated that he would pass the throne to Gao Yan, and he stopped doing so only after being warned by his prime minister Yang Yin that his statements were potentially causing instability.
In fall 559, Emperor Wenxuan suffered a major illness that historians believed to be alcoholism-driven. He stated to his wife Empress Li Zu'e, "A person will live and die, and there is nothing to regret, other than that our son Gao Yin is still young, and someone else will take his throne." He stated to Gao Yan, "Go ahead and take the throne, but do not kill him!" However, he did not change the succession order, and after his death, Gao Yin took the throne as Emperor Fei.
Pursuant to Emperor Wenxuan's will, the government was in the hands of several of his trusted officials – Yang Yin, Gao Guiyan (高歸彥) the Prince of Pingqin, Yan Zixian (燕子獻), and Zheng Yi (鄭頤). Gao Yan, while respected by the people, was not given great power, and while Grand Empress Dowager Lou had some desire to have Gao Yan made emperor instead, there was insufficient support at the time, and Yang, in fear that Gao Yan and another brother of Emperor Wenxuan, Gao Zhan the Prince of Changguang, would try to take power, took steps to curb their authorities. Meanwhile, Gao Yan's own supporters, citing the example of the Duke of Zhou, were suggesting to him that he should take power as the young emperor's uncle, and while Gao Yan initially rejected such overtures, he was watching the political scene carefully.
As Emperor Fei took the throne while he was attending to his father's deathbed at the secondary capital Jinyang (晉陽, in modern Taiyuan, Shanxi), when he proceeded to the capital Yecheng (鄴城, in modern Handan, Hebei) in spring 560, it was initially believed that Gao Yan or Gao Zhan would be put in charge of Jinyang—then perhaps the most militarily secure city in the empire; instead, by the arrangements of Yang and his associates, the two princes were ordered to accompany the young emperor to Yecheng.
Once the imperial train arrived at Yecheng, the situation became even more tense, as an associate of Yang's, Kezhuhun Tianhe (可朱渾天和), was convinced that Emperor Fei would not be safe in his reign unless his two uncles were killed, and alternatively, Yan Zixian considered putting Grand Empress Dowager Lou, who still wielded much power as the clan matriarch, under house arrest, and forcing her to turn her authorities to Empress Dowager Li. Meanwhile, the ambitious Yang was carrying out a governmental reorganization scheme to trim unnecessary offices and titles and to remove incompetent officials. The officials who were hurt by Yang's actions became disaffected and largely hoped that Gao Yan and Gao Zhan would take action and began to encourage them to do so. In spring 560, Yang considered sending Gao Yan and Gao Zhan outside the capital to be provincial governors, but Emperor Fei initially disagreed. Yang wrote a submission to Empress Dowager Li to ask her to consider, and she consulted her lady in waiting Li Changyi (李昌儀), who leaked the news to Grand Empress Dowager Lou. She informed the two princes, and they set up an ambush, with Gao Guiyan and the generals Heba Ren (賀拔仁) and Hulü Jin (斛律金), at a ceremony where Gao Yan was to be named to a ceremonial post. Yang, Kezhuhun, Yan, Zheng, and Song Qindao (宋欽道) were all captured and severely battered. Gao Yan and Gao Zhan then entered the palace and publicly accused Yang and his associates of crimes; Yang and his associates were executed, and Gao Yan took control of the government. He soon went to take up post at Jinyang, controlling the government remotely.
Gao Yan's advisors, headed by Wang Xi and Zhao Yanshen (趙彥深), then suggested that he take the throne himself—noting to him that his actions in killing Yang and his associates meant that when Emperor Fei was grown, he would never be able to have a cordial relationship with Emperor Fei. Gao Yan agreed, and although initially Grand Empress Dowager Lou found the action inadvisable, she finally agreed. In fall 560, she issued an edict deposing Emperor Fei and making Gao Yan emperor (as Emperor Xiaozhao); however, in the edict, she sternly warned Emperor Xiaozhao to make sure that nothing would happen to Emperor Fei, who was demoted to the rank of Prince of Ji'nan. Grand Empress Dowager Lou became again known as Empress Dowager Lou, while Empress Dowager Li was given the title of Empress Wenxuan.
Emperor Xiaozhao was said to be diligent in his actions, and after he became emperor, he spent all day looking at laws and regulations of Emperor Wenxuan, seeking to revise the laws that were inappropriate or too harsh. He was praised for his diligence, but also criticized for being overly obsessed with details. He was also said to be filial pious toward Empress Dowager Lou and loving to his brothers. One brother who was dissatisfied with him, however, was Gao Zhan, whom Emperor Xiaozhao had previously agreed to make crown prince—but who was passed over in favor of Emperor Xiaozhao's own son Gao Bainian, whom Emperor Xiaozhao created crown prince in winter 560, when he also created Princess Yuan empress. He also started long-term strategic planning against rival Northern Zhou, planning to gradually seize Northern Zhou territory east of the Yellow River bit by bit. He entrusted much of his decision-making to Wang Xi, Yang Xiuzhi (陽休之), and Cui Jie (崔劼), often having them stay in the palace all day to examine the laws and regulations.
In spring 561, Emperor Xiaozhao had the former Liang Dynasty general Wang Lin (who had fled to Northern Qi in 560 after his failed attempt, supported by Northern Qi, to let Xiao Zhuang rule as Liang's emperor, against Chen Dynasty and the Northern Zhou-supported Western Liang), take up position at Hefei (合肥, in modern Hefei, Anhui), to plan a campaign against Chen. Later, he made Wang the governor of Yang Province (揚州, modern central Anhui).
Emperor Xiaozhao, throughout his reign, stayed at the secondary capital Jinyang and did not stay at Yecheng, leaving Yecheng in Gao Zhan's control. In fall 561, Emperor Xiaozhao, concerned that Gao Zhan was becoming too powerful, tried to transfer some of Gao Zhan's authority to the general Hulü Xian (斛律羨, Hulü Jin's son), but Gao Zhan refused to transfer any of his authority. Meanwhile, sorcerers informed Emperor Xiaozhao that the imperial aura was still at Yecheng, making Emperor Xiaozhao concerned. Gao Guiyan, who was concerned that Gao Yin would one day take the throne again and retaliate against him, persuaded Emperor Xiaozhao that his nephew had to be removed, and so Emperor Xiaozhao issued an edict to summon the Prince of Ji'nan to Jinyang. Gao Zhan, was disappointed at Emperor Xiaozhao not created him crown prince, briefly considered redeclaring Gao Yin emperor and starting a rebellion against Emperor Xiaozhao, but ultimately chose not to do it, as his own sorcerers informed him that they believed that he would become emperor one day anyway. He therefore sent Gao Yin to Jinyang. Soon, Emperor Xiaozhao sent assassins to deliver poisoned wine to Gao Yin. Gao Yin refused to drink it, and the assassins strangled him. Emperor Xiaozhao soon regretted killing his nephew.
In winter 561, while hunting, Emperor Xiaozhao's horse was spooked by a rabbit, and he fell off the horse and suffered broken ribs. When Empress Dowager Lou came to see him, she asked him where Gao Yin was, and he could not answer. Empress Dowager Lou angrily stated, "Did you not kill him? Because you did not listen to me, you should die!" and left without seeing him again. Soon, believing himself to be near death, he issued an edict stating that Gao Bainian was too young to take the throne, and that the throne was instead to be passed to Gao Zhan. He also wrote a letter to Gao Zhan, stating, "Bainian is innocent. You can do anything with him, but please do not kill him!" He died later that day, while lamenting that he was unable to serve his mother for the rest of her life. Gao Zhan soon arrived at Jinyang and took the throne (as Emperor Wucheng).
Consorts and Issue:
Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei ( 魏孝靜帝) (524–552), personal name Yuan Shanjian (元善見), was the only emperor of the Eastern Wei – a branch successor state to Northern Wei. In 524 Emperor Xiaowu had fled the capital Luoyang to reestablish the imperial government at Chang'an. Northern Wei's paramount general Gao Huan made Emperor Xiaojing emperor as Emperor Xiaowu's replacement. Gao Huan moved the capital from Luoyang to Yecheng, thus dividing Northern Wei into two. Emperor Xiaojing's state became known as Eastern Wei. Although Gao Huan treated him with respect, real power was in the hands of Gao Huan, and then Gao Huan's sons Gao Cheng and Gao Yang. In 550, Gao Yang forced Emperor Xiaojing to yield the throne to him, ending Eastern Wei and establishing Northern Qi. Around the new year 552, the former Emperor Xiaojing was poisoned to death on the orders of the new emperor.
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.
Emperor Wenxuan of (Northern) Qi ( 齊文宣帝) (526–559), personal name Gao Yang, courtesy name Zijin (子進), Xianbei name Hounigan (侯尼干), was the first emperor of the Northern Qi. He was the second son of Eastern Wei's paramount general Gao Huan. Following the death of his brother and Gao Huan's designated successor Gao Cheng in 549, Gao Yang became the regent of Eastern Wei. In 550, he forced Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei to yield the throne to him, ending Eastern Wei and starting Northern Qi.
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.
Empress Li Zu'e was an empress of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi, known at times semi-formally as Empress Zhaoxin (昭信皇后). Her husband was Emperor Wenxuan, the first emperor of Northern Qi.
Emperor Fei of Northern Qi ( 齊廢帝) (545–561), personal name Gao Yin (高殷), courtesy name Zhengdao (正道), posthumously Prince Mindao of Ji'nan (濟南閔悼王), was briefly an emperor of the Northern Qi. He was the oldest son of the first emperor, Emperor Wenxuan, and he became emperor after Emperor Wenxuan's death in 559. However, in his young age, the officials fought over power, and in 560, Emperor Fei's uncle Gao Yan the Prince of Changshan killed the prime minister Yang Yin and took over power, soon deposing Emperor Fei and taking the throne himself as Emperor Xiaozhao. In 561, fearful of prophecies that Emperor Fei would return to the throne, Emperor Xiaozhao had him put to death.
Empress Yuan was an empress of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi, known at times semi-formally as Empress Shuncheng (順成皇后). Her husband was Emperor Xiaozhao.
Gao Bainian (高百年) (556–564) was a crown prince of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi.
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.
Gao Yan (558–571), courtesy name Renwei (仁威), posthumously honored Emperor Gong'ai of Chu (楚恭哀帝), was an imperial prince of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. He was a son of Emperor Wucheng, and was much favored by both Emperor Wucheng and Empress Hu. In 571, during the reign of his older brother Gao Wei, he tried to seize power and killed Gao Wei's trusted official He Shikai, but his uprising subsequently collapsed when he hesitated at taking further action. Later that year, Gao Wei put him to death.
Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou ( 周武帝) (543–578), personal name Yuwen Yong (宇文邕), Xianbei name Miluotu (禰羅突), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. As was the case of the reigns of his brothers Emperor Xiaomin and Emperor Ming, the early part of his reign was dominated by his cousin Yuwen Hu, but in 572 he ambushed Yuwen Hu and seized power personally. He thereafter ruled ably and built up the power of his military, destroying rival Northern Qi in 577 and annexing its territory. His death the next year, however, ended his ambitions of uniting China, and under the reign of his erratic son Emperor Xuan, Northern Zhou itself soon deteriorated and was usurped by Yang Jian in 581.
Emperor Wucheng of Northern Qi ( 齊武成帝) (537–569), personal name Gao Zhan, nickname Buluoji (步落稽), was an emperor of Northern Qi. In traditional Chinese historiography, he was presented as a minimally competent ruler who devoted much of his time to feasting and pleasure-seeking, neglecting the affairs of the state. The state was governed with assistance from his adviser He Shikai and other appointed administrators. In 565, he passed the throne to his young son Gao Wei, taking the title Taishang Huang, but continued to make key decisions. He died in 569, and the Northern Qi would fall in 577.
Empress Hu was an empress consort and empress dowager of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. Her husband was Emperor Wucheng. She was the empress dowager during the reign of her son Gao Wei.
He Shikai (和士開) (524–571), courtesy name Yantong (彥通), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. He was a close associate of Emperor Wucheng prior to Emperor Wucheng's accession to the throne, and he became a powerful official during Emperor Wucheng's reign. He was criticized in traditional histories as a corrupt and incompetent official. After Emperor Wucheng's death, Emperor Wucheng's son Gao Yan the Prince of Langye was displeased with the authority that He Shikai was still wielding, and killed him in a coup in 571, but subsequently was himself killed.
Gao Wei (高緯) (557–577), often known in history as Houzhu of Northern Qi ( 齊後主), courtesy name Rengang (仁綱), sometimes referred to by his later Northern Zhou-created title of Duke of Wen (溫公), was an emperor of Northern Qi. During his reign, Northern Qi's imperial administration was plunged into severe corruption and wastefulness, with the military suffering after Gao Wei killed the great general Hulü Guang in 572. Rival Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou launched a major attack in 576, and Northern Qi forces collapsed. Gao Wei, who formally passed the throne to his son Gao Heng, was captured while trying to flee to Chen Dynasty, and later that year, the Northern Zhou emperor executed him and almost all members of his clan.
Hulü Guang (斛律光) (515–572), courtesy name Mingyue (明月), was a general of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. During the late years of the dynasty—the reigns of Emperor Wucheng and Gao Wei, traditionally viewed as a period of corruption and debauchery when Northern Qi's once-powerful status was deteriorating—Hulü was viewed as the key pillar to the state and its army, maintaining the army's strength against rivals Northern Zhou and Chen Dynasty. The powerful officials Zu Ting and Mu Tipo, who had disagreements with him, however, falsely accused him of plotting treason, and in 572, Gao Wei believed those accusations and killed Hulü. Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou was very glad over the news and declared a general pardon, and in 578, Northern Qi fell to Northern Zhou.
Zu Ting, courtesy name Xiaozheng (孝徵), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi (550–577). He was renowned for his literary and administrative talents.
Gao Yanzong (高延宗), often known by his princely title of Prince of Ande (安德王), was an imperial prince of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi who briefly claimed imperial title in 577 for three days as his cousin, the emperor Gao Wei fled in the face of an attack by rival Northern Zhou. Traditional historians usually did not consider him an emperor of Northern Qi.
Gao Heng, often known in history as the Youzhu of Northern Qi ( 齊幼主), was briefly an emperor of Northern Qi. In 577, Northern Qi was under a major attack by rival Northern Zhou. Gao Heng's father Gao Wei, then emperor, wanted to try to deflect ill omens that portended a change in imperial status. He and therefore passed the throne to Gao Heng. Later that year, after they fled in face of Northern Zhou forces' arrival, they were captured and taken to the Northern Zhou capital Chang'an. There in winter 577, Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou ordered them, as well as other members of the Gao clan, to commit suicide. Northern Qi territory was seized by Northern Zhou, although for several years Gao Wei's cousin Gao Shaoyi claimed the imperial title in exile, under Tujue's protection.
Gao Shaoyi (高紹義), often known by his princely title of Prince of Fanyang (范陽王), was an imperial prince of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi, who claimed the Northern Qi throne in exile under the protection of Tujue after rival Northern Zhou seized nearly all of Northern Qi territory and captured the emperors, Gao Shaoyi's cousin Gao Wei and Gao Wei's son Gao Heng in 577. In 580, Tujue, after negotiating a peace treaty with Northern Zhou, turned Gao Shaoyi over to Northern Zhou, and he was exiled to modern Sichuan, ending his claim on the Northern Qi imperial title. Most traditional historians do not consider Gao Shaoyi a true emperor of Northern Qi.
Emperor Fei of Northern Qi
| Emperor of Northern Qi |
Emperor Wucheng of Northern Qi