Taishang Huang

Last updated
Taishang Huang
Chinese 太上皇
Taishang Huangdi
Chinese 太上皇帝

In Chinese history, a Taishang Huang or Taishang Huangdi is an honorific and institution of retired emperorship. [1] The former emperor had, at least in name, abdicated in favor of someone else. Although technically no longer the reigning sovereign, there are instances where the retired emperor continued to exert considerable power, if not more than the reigning emperor.

Contents

History

Origin

The honorific was first bestowed by Qin Shi Huangdi (depicted) to King Zhuangxiang of Qin Qinshihuang.jpg
The honorific was first bestowed by Qin Shi Huangdi (depicted) to King Zhuangxiang of Qin

The title Taishang Huangdi was first used when Qin Shi Huangdi bestowed it upon his deceased father, King Zhuangxiang. [2]

Development

Emperor Gaozu of Han had also bestowed the title Taishang Huangdi on his then-living father Liu Taigong. [3] He bestowed it onto his father to express filial piety. [3] It was also intended to preserve the social hierarchy between father and son, as the former was a commoner and the latter was a dynastic founder. [3]

In 301, during the War of the Eight Princes, Sima Lun became the emperor by forcing his puppet Emperor Hui of Jin to become the Taishang Huang. [3] The title had strictly served as an honorific before, but it had become a tool of political infighting over the course of this incident. [2]

Another significant occurrence of development was in 399, when Lü Guang of Later Liang abdicated. [4] Lü Guang was old and had become mortally ill, but he wished to secure the transition of imperial power to his designated heir (the eldest son from his main consort) in the presence of another son who was older and posed a threat to the legitimate succession. [4] Even though Lü Guang failed in his efforts, this incident was the earliest example where imperial retirement served as a method to secure succession. [4]

During the Northern and Southern dynasties, this institution was employed by non-Han regimes in the north as a strategy to cast away from the tradition of the horizontal succession in favor of the Han tradition of a male primogenitor pattern of succession. [5] In contrast, due to their Han heritage, the southern regimes had no need to make use and never employed the institution as a means to stabilize successions. [5]

In 617, Li Yuan (later Emperor Gaozu of Tang) bestowed the title Taishang Huang upon Emperor Yang of Sui in absentia. [3] Here, Li Yuan used the honorific as a legitimating cover for his seizure of power, in which the newly-installed Yang You served as his puppet emperor. [6] In 626 during the Xuanwu Gate Incident, Prince Li Shimin of Tang led his armed men in a coup for the throne. [3] [7] During the course of the coup, he succeeded in killing his rival brothers, Crown Prince Li Jiancheng and Prince Li Yuanji. [7] Within three days, Emperor Gaozu created Li Shimin as his heir. [7] On the ninth day of the eight month, Emperor Gaozu abdicated in favor for his son Li Shimin (who became Emperor Taizong). [7] He remained as Taishang Huang until his death in 635. [3] [7]

Modern usage

In modern Chinese history after 1949, Deng Xiaoping has been called Taishang Huang in a pejorative context because he wielded much of his power without assuming the titles normally taken on by China's paramount leader, and because he belonged to Mao Zedong's generation of leaders but wielded influence over leaders who were a generation below him. [8] The term has also been applied to other Communist Party senior officials without formal titles who were seen as meddling in the affairs of their successors, such as Chen Yun [9] and Jiang Zemin. [10]

List of Taishang Huangs

Instances of Chinese rulers who were granted the title Taishang Huang and/or Taishang Huangdi:

Early eras
Northern and Southern dynasties
Sui and Tang dynasty rulers
Yan ruler
Min ruler
Song dynasty rulers
Northern barbarian rulers
Later rulers
Vietnam

See also

Related Research Articles

Chinese sovereign

The Chinese sovereign is the ruler of a particular period in ancient China, and later imperial China. Several titles and naming schemes have been used throughout history.

Emperor of China Sovereign of Imperial China

Emperor of China, or Huáng dì was the monarch of China during the Imperial Period of Chinese history. In traditional Chinese political theory, the emperor was considered the Son of Heaven and the autocrat of All under Heaven. Under the Han dynasty, Confucianism replaced Legalism as the official political theory and succession theoretically followed agnatic primogeniture. The succession of emperors in a family line was known as a dynasty.

Emperor Taizong of Tang Chinese emperor of the Tang Dynasty (598-649) (r. 626-649)

Emperor Taizong of Tang, previously Prince of Qin, personal name Li Shimin, was the second emperor of the Tang dynasty of China, ruling from 626 to 649. He is traditionally regarded as a co-founder of the dynasty for his role in encouraging Li Yuan, his father, to rebel against the Sui dynasty at Jinyang in 617. Taizong subsequently played a pivotal role in defeating several of the dynasty's most dangerous opponents and solidifying its rule over China.

King Zhuangxiang of Qin, personal names Yiren and Zichu, was a ruler of the Qin state during the third century BC in the Warring States period of ancient China.

Emperor Gaozu of Tang Founding emperor of the Tang Dynasty (566-635) (r. 618–626)

Emperor Gaozu of Tang, born Li Yuan, courtesy name Shude, was the founder of the Tang dynasty of China, and the first emperor of this dynasty from 618 to 626. Under the Sui dynasty, Li Yuan was the governor in the area of modern-day Shanxi, and was based in Taiyuan.

Northern Qi

The Northern Qi, also called Later Qi and Gao Qi, was one of the Northern dynasties of imperial China history and ruled northeastern China from 550 to 577. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Wenxuan, and it was ended following attacks from Northern Zhou.

Emperor Gong of Sui (隋恭帝), personal name Yang You (楊侑), was an emperor of the Chinese Sui Dynasty. He was Li Yuan's puppet emperor, and after Emperor Yang of Sui died, Li then became the founding emperor of the Tang dynasty and had Yang You executed.

Wang Shichong, courtesy name Xingman (行滿), was a general of Sui dynasty who deposed Sui's last emperor Yang Tong and briefly ruled as the emperor of a succeeding state of Zheng. He first became prominent during the reign of Emperor Yang of Sui as one of the few Sui generals having success against rebel generals, and during Yang Tong's brief reign, he was able to defeat the rebel general Li Mi and seize Li Mi's territory. After becoming emperor, however, he was unable to withstand military pressure from Tang dynasty forces, forcing him to seek aid from Dou Jiande the Prince of Xia. After Dou was defeated and captured by the Tang general Li Shimin, Wang surrendered. Emperor Gaozu of Tang spared him, but the Tang official Dugu Xiude (獨孤修德), whose father Dugu Ji (獨孤機) had been executed by Wang, assassinated him.

Pei Ji (570-629), courtesy name Xuanzhen, formally Duke of Hedong, was an important official and one-time chancellor of the Tang dynasty. He initially served as an official of the Sui dynasty and was one of the driving forces in persuading the general Li Yuan to rebel against Emperor Yang of Sui. He eventually assisted Li Yuan in founding the Tang dynasty as its Emperor Gaozu and was greatly honored in Emperor Gaozu's reign. After Emperor Gaozu's son Emperor Taizong became emperor in 626, Pei began to be accused of corruption and associations with witchcraft and was exiled. Emperor Taizong soon remembered Pei's contributions to Tang's founding and tried to recall him, but Pei died before he could do so.

Empress Zhangsun (長孫皇后, personal name unknown, presumably Wugou, formally Empress Wendeshunsheng or, in short, Empress Wende, was a Chinese essayist and empress of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. She was the wife of Emperor Taizong and the mother of Emperor Gaozong. She was well educated, and her ancestors were of Xianbei nationality. Their original surname was Tuoba, later changed to Zhangsun.

Liu Wuzhou was a rebel leader who rose against the rule of the Chinese dynasty Sui Dynasty late in the dynasty's history, and he took imperial style—although it was not completely clear whether the title he took was khan or tianzi. He was initially only able to take control of modern northern Shanxi and parts of central Inner Mongolia, but after Li Yuan established Tang Dynasty at Chang'an as its Emperor Gaozu in 618, he, with support from Eastern Tujue, briefly captured Li Yuan's initial power base of Taiyuan in 619, posing a major threat to Li Yuan's rule. In 620, Li Yuan's son Li Shimin counterattacked, and not only recaptured Taiyuan but further captured Liu's power base Mayi, forcing Liu to flee to Eastern Tujue. When Liu subsequently tried to flee back to Mayi, Eastern Tujue executed him.

Luo Yi, known during service to Tang Dynasty as Li Yi (李藝), courtesy name Ziyan (子延) or Ziting (子廷), was a Sui Dynasty official who rose against the rule of Emperor Yang of Sui and occupied the modern Beijing region. He subsequently submitted to Emperor Gaozu of Tang and was created the Prince of Yan and granted the imperial surname of Li. He subsequently, in the struggle between Emperor Gaozu's sons Li Jiancheng the Crown Prince and Li Shimin the Prince of Qin, joined Li Jiancheng's faction. After Li Shimin killed Li Jiancheng in 626 and forced Emperor Gaozu to yield the throne to him, Li Yi was fearful, and he rebelled against Emperor Taizong in 627. He was soon defeated and killed.

Transition from Sui to Tang Period in Chinese history

The transition from Sui to Tang (613-628) refers to the period between the end of the Sui dynasty and the start of the Tang dynasty. The Sui dynasty's territories were carved into a handful of short-lived states by its officials, generals, and agrarian rebel leaders. A process of elimination and annexation followed that ultimately culminated in the consolidation of the Tang dynasty by the former Sui general Li Yuan. Near the end of the Sui, Li Yuan installed the puppet child emperor Yang You. Li later executed Yang and proclaimed himself emperor of the new Tang dynasty.

Li Yuanji (李元吉), formally Prince La of Chao (巢剌王), more commonly known by the title of Prince of Qi (齊王), nickname Sanhu (三胡), was an imperial prince of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. He was a son of the dynasty's founder Emperor Gaozu of Tang, and in the intense rivalry developed between his older brothers Li Jiancheng the Crown Prince and Li Shimin the Prince of Qin, he sided with Li Jiancheng and often advocated drastic actions against Li Shimin, including assassination. In 626, Li Shimin, fearing that Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji were about to kill him, laid an ambush for them at Xuanwu Gate outside the palace and killed them. Li Shimin then effectively forced Emperor Gaozu to yield the throne to him.

Xuanwu Gate Incident

The Xuanwu Gate Incident was a palace coup for the throne of the Tang dynasty on 2 July 626, when Prince Li Shimin and his followers assassinated Crown Prince Li Jiancheng and Prince Li Yuanji. Li Shimin, the second son of Emperor Gaozu, was in an intense rivalry with his elder brother Li Jiancheng and younger brother Li Yuanji. He took control and set up an ambush at Xuanwu Gate, the northern gate leading to the Palace City of the imperial capital Chang'an. There, Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji were murdered by Li Shimin and his men. Within three days after the coup, Li Shimin was installed as the crown prince. Emperor Gaozu abdicated another sixty days later and passed the throne to Li Shimin, who would become known as Emperor Taizong.

Pei Ju (547-627), birth name Pei Shiju, courtesy name Hongda, formally Duke Jing of Anyi, was a Chinese cartographer, diplomat, politician, and writer who lived in the Sui and Tang dynasties, briefly serving as a chancellor during the reign of Emperor Gaozu of Tang. He was praised by traditional Chinese historians for his ability and lack of corruption, but blamed for flattering Emperor Yang of Sui and practically directly contributing to Sui's downfall by encouraging many external military campaigns that drained Sui's resources. Modern historians have questioned these assessments: Arthur F. Wright labelled the latter judgement in the Zizhi tongjian a "particularly blatant piece of editorializing" and "absurd ... beyond doubt".

Xiao Yu

Xiao Yu (574–647), courtesy name Shiwen, posthumously known as Duke Zhenbian of Song, was an imperial prince of the Western Liang dynasty who later became an official under the Sui and Tang dynasties. He served as a chancellor during the reigns of the emperors Gaozu and Taizong in the early Tang dynasty.

Murong Shun (慕容順), regal title Zhugulüwugandou Khan (趉故呂烏甘豆可汗) or, in short, Gandou Khan (甘豆可汗), Tang Dynasty noble title Prince of Xiping (西平王), was briefly a khan of the Xianbei state Tuyuhun. He would have been expected to be the crown prince of his father, the Busabo Khan Murong Fuyun, as the oldest son of his wife Princess Guanghua of Sui Dynasty, but was bypassed, and in 635, with Tuyuhun under attack by Tang, he headed a group of nobles who surrendered to Tang and was subsequently created khan to succeed his father. However, he did not receive support from his people and was assassinated later that year. He was succeeded by his son Murong Nuohebo.

Yao Silian, courtesy name Jianzhi (簡之), formally Baron Kang of Fengcheng (豐成康男), was an official of the Chinese dynasties Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty and was the lead author of the Book of Liang and Book of Chen, official histories of Liang Dynasty and Chen Dynasty, which his father Yao Cha (姚察), a Chen official, had begun but did not finish.

Prince or King of Yan was a Chinese feudal title referring to the ancient Chinese State of Yan and to its fiefs including the capital Yanjing.

References

  1. Eisenberg, Andrew (2008). Kingship in Early Medieval China. Leiden: Brill. pp. 23–28. ISBN   9789004163812.
  2. 1 2 Eisenberg, Andrew (2008). Kingship in Early Medieval China. Leiden: Brill. pp. 24–25. ISBN   9789004163812.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Eisenberg, Andrew (2008). Kingship in Early Medieval China. Leiden: Brill. p. 25. ISBN   9789004163812.
  4. 1 2 3 Eisenberg, Andrew (2008). Kingship in Early Medieval China. Leiden: Brill. p. 26. ISBN   9789004163812.
  5. 1 2 Eisenberg, Andrew (2008). Kingship in Early Medieval China. Leiden: Brill. pp. 25–27. ISBN   9789004163812.
  6. Eisenberg, Andrew (2008). Kingship in Early Medieval China. Leiden: Brill. pp. 167–168. ISBN   9789004163812.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wenchsler, Howard J. (1979). "The founding of the T'ang dynasty: Kao-tsu (reign 618–26)". The Cambridge history of China, Volume 3: Sui and T'ang China, 589–906, Part 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 186. ISBN   0-521-21446-7.
  8. "叶剑英与邓小平的恩怨". Duowei History.
  9. "另一"太上皇"陈云赞军队六四镇压". Canyu.
  10. "太上皇纷纷亮相,足见中共内斗惨烈 (林保华)". Radio Free Asia. October 11, 2012.