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|Emperor Xuanwu of Northern Wei|
|Family name:|| Tuoba (拓拔, Tuòbá),|
changed to Yuan (元, Yuán) in 496
|Given name:||Ke (恪, Kè)|
|Temple name:||Shizong (世宗, Shìxōng)|
|Posthumous name:||Xuanwu (宣武, Xuānwǔ, lit. "Responsible & Martial")|
Xuanwu (483 – February 9, 515 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.) was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty of Northern Wei (499-515). He is known within China as Beiwei Xuanwudi (
Xuanwu was an avid Buddhist and often personally lectured on the Buddhist sutras. During his reign, Buddhism effectively[ clarification needed ] became the state religion.
Tuoba Ke was born in 483, as the second son of Emperor Xiaowen. His mother was Xiaowen's concubine Consort, Gao Zhaorong. (As he was born the same year as his older brother Tuoba Xun, he was probably born just briefly after Tuoba Xun, whose mother was Consort Lin.) Little is known about his childhood, including whether he was raised by his mother Gao or not. In 496, Xiaowen changed the name of the imperial clan from Tuoba to Yuan, and thereafter he would be known as Yuan Ke.
In fall 496, Yuan Xun, who was then crown prince, but who could not endure the hot weather of the capital Luoyang after Xiaowen moved the capital there from Pingcheng (平城, in modern Datong, Shanxi) in 494, plotted to flee back to Pingcheng with his followers, but his plot was discovered. Xiaowen deposed him, and in 497 created Yuan Ke crown prince to replace Yuan Xun. (The creation was in Luoyang, but it is unclear whether prior to his creation, Yuan Xun was at Luoyang or Pingcheng.) Later that year, Gao, who was in Pingcheng, travelled south to rejoin her son in Luoyang, but she died on the way. Historians generally believe that she was murdered by Xiaowen's wife, Empress Feng Run, who wanted to raise Yuan Ke herself. Whether she was actually able to do so is unclear, but after she was discovered to have carried on an affair with her attendant Gao Pusa (高菩薩) in 499, she was put under house arrest, and Xiaowen ordered Yuan Ke to have no more contact with her.
Later in 499, Xiaowen, while on a campaign against rival Southern Qi, grew ill and died. Xiaowen's brother Yuan Xie the Prince of Pengcheng was put into command of the withdrawing army on an emergency basis, and Yuan Xie kept Xiaowen's death a secret while summoning Yuan Ke to join the army. Yuan Ke's attendants largely suspected Yuan Xie of wanting to take the throne himself, but Yuan Xie, once he met Yuan Ke, showed great deference to Yuan Ke, convincing Yuan Ke of his loyalty. Yuan Ke, at age 16, then took the throne as Xuanwu at Luyang (魯陽, in modern Pingdingshan, Henan), before the army could return to Luoyang.
Xuanwu initially wanted to make Yuan Xie, who was popular and well-regarded, prime minister, but Yuan Xie refused, and was made a provincial governor instead. The governmental affairs were largely in the hands of six officials: Xiaowen's brothers Yuan Xi (元禧) the Prince of Xianyang and Yuan Xiang (元詳) the Prince of Beihai, Xiaowen's cousin Yuan Cheng (元澄) the Prince of Rencheng, Xiaowen's distant uncle Yuan Jia (元嘉) the Prince of Guangyang, and the officials Wang Su (王肅) and Song Bian (宋弁), although Yuan Cheng was soon stripped of his post because he falsely arrested Wang on suspicion of treason. By 500, Xuanwu recalled Yuan Xie to be prime minister.
Xuanwu, once he returned to Luoyang, posthumously honored his mother Gao as an empress, and he created his maternal uncles Gao Zhao and Gao Xian (高顯), as well as his cousin Gao Meng (高猛), none of whom he had previously met, dukes. Gao Zhao, in particular, became increasingly powerful during Xuanwu's reign.
In 500, with Southern Qi in disarray because of the tyrannical rule of its emperor Xiao Baojuan, Northern Wei annexed the important city of Shouyang (壽陽, in modern Lu'an, Anhui) when the Southern Qi general Pei Shuye (裴叔業) surrendered the city to Northern Wei in fear of adverse actions by Xiao Baojuan. However, Northern Wei did not take further actions when Southern Qi was subsequently thrown into civil war during the rebellions of the generals Cui Huijing (崔慧景) and Xiao Yan.
In 501, the general Yu Lie (于烈) and Yuan Xiang warned Xuanwu that Yuan Xi was growing corrupt and Yuan Xie was growing too popular, and suggested that they be relieved of their posts. Xuanwu did so, and formally personally took over governmental matters, but at his age, he could not actually properly handle governmental affairs himself, so his trusted attendants and Gao Zhao began to become more powerful and corrupt. Traditional historians generally regard this as the starting point of Northern Wei's decline. Late in 501, Yuan Xi, displeased that his power wa being stripped and fearful that he would be killed, plotted a rebellion to secede with the provinces south of the Yellow River. His plot was discovered, however, and he was executed. From this point on, Xuanwu grew increasingly suspicious of members of the imperial clan.
Later in 501, Xuanwu created Yu Lie's niece, Consort Yu, empress.
Later that year, with Xiao Yan's forces crushing Xiao Baojuan's, Xuanwu's general Yuan Ying (元英) suggested that a major attack be launched against Southern Qi to take advantage of Southern Qi's civil war. However, Xuanwu only authorized small scale attacks, which were generally fruitless. Xiao Yan soon defeated Xiao Baojuan and by 502 had overthrown Southern Qi and established Liang Dynasty as its Emperor Wu. The Liang general Chen Bozhi (陳伯之) subsequently tried to surrender Jiang Province (江州, modern Jiangxi and Fujian) to Northern Wei, but Liang forces defeated both Chen and the Northern Wei forces sent to reinforce him, and Chen fled to Northern Wei. For the next few years, however, there would continually be war between the two rivals, particularly with Northern Wei creating Southern Qi's prince Xiao Baoyin, who fled Southern Qi as Xiao Yan was beginning to kill members of the Southern Qi imperial clan, as the Prince of Qi and announcing that it would help him reestablish Southern Qi.
In 504, Xuan Xiang, who had taken over Yuan Xi's posts, was accused by Gao Zhao of corruption. He was demoted to commoner rank, and died soon thereafter. At Gao's suggestion and despite Yuan Xie's opposition, Xuanwu subsequently put the imperial princes under heavy guard, effectively putting them under house arrest.
Meanwhile, the wars with Liang continued, and while both sides had gains and losses, Northern Wei made a substantial gain in 505 when the Liang general Xiaohou Daoqian (夏侯道遷) surrendered Nanzheng (南鄭, in modern Hanzhong, Shaanxi), as well as the surrounding region, to Northern Wei, which further annexed the semi-independent state Chouchi in spring 506. In winter 505, Liang launched a major counterattack on the eastern part of the border, commanded by Emperor Wu's brother Xiao Hong (蕭宏) the Prince of Linchuan, but with Xiao Hong being an incompetent general, who mishandled a night terror situation in summer 506, while his army was at Luokou (洛口, in modern Bengbu, Anhui), the Liang forces collapsed by themselves without engaging Northern Wei forces. Yuan Ying and Xiao Baoyin followed up by attacking the Liang fortress Zhongli (鍾離, in modern Chuzhou, Anhui), but were dealt a crushing defeat by the Liang general Wei Rui (韋叡) in spring 507. The two states largely stopped their military activities against each other after that point.
In winter 507, Empress Yu died suddenly, and in early 508, her young son Yuan Chang (元昌), Xuanwu's only son by that point, died suddenly as well. Because Gao Zhao was exceeding powerful by that point, and his niece Consort Gao was Xuanwu's favorite concubine, it was largely suspected that Gao Zhao and Gao murdered them, but there was no conclusive proof. In 508, Xuanwu created Gao as Empress to replace Yu, despite opposition by Yuan Xie, and from this point on Gao Zhao became resentful of Yuan Xie.
In fall 508, Xuanwu's younger brother Yuan Yu (元愉) the Prince of Jingzhao, who had just been demoted by Xuanwu for corruption, became angry at both his demotion and that his favorite consort Lady Li had been severely battered by Empress Yu briefly before Empress Yu's death (because Yuan Yu's wife was Empress Yu's sister but was unfavored by him), declared a rebellion at his provincial post of Xindu (信都, in modern Hengshui, Hebei) and proclaimed himself emperor. Gao Zhao used this opportunity to falsely accuse Yuan Xie of acting in concert with both Yuan Yu (because Yuan Yu had forced Yuan Xie's uncle Pan Senggu (潘僧固) into joining his rebellion) and Liang Dynasty. Xuanwu believed Gao, and forced Yuan Xie to commit suicide. The populace and the officials greatly mourned Yuan Xie's death, and grew increasingly resentful of Gao. Soon, Yuan Yu's rebellion was defeated, and while Xuanwu contemplated not putting Yuan Yu to death, Yuan Yu was killed on Gao's orders.
In 510, Xuanwu's concubine Consort Hu gave birth to a son, Yuan Xu. Because Xuanwu had lost multiple sons in childhood by that point, he carefully selected several experienced mothers to serve as Yuan Xu's wet nurses, and disallowed both Gao and Hu from seeing him. In winter 512, Xuanwu created Yuan Xu crown prince, and, abolishing the Northern Wei custom that the crown prince's mother must be forced to commit suicide, he did not force Hu to commit suicide.
During these years, Northern Wei and Liang continued to have relatively minor border battles, with each side having gains and losses. In 514, however, Xuanwu commissioned Gao Zhao to launch a major attack against Liang's Yi Province (modern Sichuan and Chongqing). Soon thereafter, however, in spring 515, he died suddenly, and Yuan Xu succeeded him (as Emperor Xiaoming). Yuan Cheng, Xuanwu's brother Yuan Yong the Prince of Gaoyang, and Yu Lie's son Yu Zhong seized power and, after recalling Gao, put him to death, and Gao was removed. Xiaoming's mother Hu became empress dowager and regent.
Xuanwu was buried north of Luoyang. His tomb is now open to the public as part of the Luoyang Ancient Tombs Museum.
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 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), personal name Tuoba Hong, Xianbei name Didouyin (第豆胤), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was the first emperor in Chinese history who, after retiring at age 17 in favor of his 4-year old 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.
Empress Gao Ying was an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. She was the second empress of Emperor Xuanwu.
Yuan Xun (元恂) (483–497), né Tuoba Xun, courtesy name originally Yuandao (元道), then Xuandao, was a crown prince of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei.
Yuan Xie (元勰), né Tuoba Xie, courtesy name Yanhe (彥和), formally Prince Wuxuan of Pengcheng (彭城武宣王), later posthumously honored as Emperor Wenmu (文穆皇帝) with the temple name of Suzu (肅祖), was an imperial prince of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was a son of Emperor Xianwen, and he often assisted his brother Emperor Xiaowen both in military and governmental matters. After Emperor Xiaowen's death, he briefly served as regent for Emperor Xiaowen's son Emperor Xuanwu. Eventually, due to suspicions and jealousy of Emperor Xuanwu's uncle Gao Zhao, Emperor Xuanwu believed false reports that Yuan Xie was going to rebel, and forced him to commit suicide. He was later posthumously honored as an emperor by his son Emperor Xiaozhuang, although subsequently Emperor Jiemin retracted the honors.
Gao Zhao (高肇), courtesy name Shouwen (首文), was a high-level official of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was a maternal uncle of Emperor Xuanwu, and he became increasingly powerful during Emperor Xuanwu's reign, drawing anger from other high-level officials not only for his powerplay and corruption, but also because he was a mere commoner before Emperor Xuanwu's reign and not from the aristocracy and might have been Korean in origin. After Emperor Xuanwu died in 515, the other officials set a trap for Gao Zhao and had him killed.
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.
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.
Yu Zhong (于忠) (452–518), né Wuniuyu Qiannian (勿忸于千年), courtesy name Sixian (思賢), formally Duke Wujing of Lingshou (靈壽武敬公), was an official of the Northern Wei dynasty. He briefly served as a regent during the reign of Emperor Xiaoming.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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