|Died||7 August 707|
Wu Sansi (died August 7, 707 梁宣王), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and his aunt Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, becoming an imperial prince and chancellor during the reign of Wu Zetian and subsequently, while only briefly powerful chancellor during the second reign of Wu Zetian's son and his cousin Emperor Zhongzong, becoming very powerful due to both the trust Emperor Zhongzong had in him and his affair with Emperor Zhongzong's powerful wife Empress Wei. He was killed in a rebellion by Emperor Zhongzong's son the crown prince Li Chongjun in 707.), posthumously Prince Xuan of Liang (
It is not known when Wu Sansi was born. His father Wu Yuanqing (武元慶) was a half-brother of Wu Zetian —both had, as father, the early Tang Dynasty general Wu Shihuo (武士彠), but Wu Yuanqing and his brother Wu Yuanshuang (武元爽) were born of Wu Shihuo's first wife Lady Xiangli, while Wu Zetian and her two sisters were born of Wu Shihuo's second wife Lady Yang. After Wu Zetian became empress to Emperor Gaozong in 655, despite previous intrafamily unpleasantries—Wu Yuanqing and Wu Yuanshuang, as well as Wu Shihuo's nephews Wu Weiliang (武惟良) and Wu Huaiyun (武懷運) were often disrespectful of Lady Yang previously—Empress Wu's brothers and cousins were often promoted by Emperor Gaozong, with Wu Yuanqing promoted to Zongzheng Shaoqing (宗正少卿), the deputy minister of imperial clan affairs. However, sometime before 666, Empress Wu, angry that her brothers and cousins did not appreciate the promotions, had them all demoted, with Wu Yuanqing demoted to be the prefect of Long Prefecture (龍州, roughly modern Mianyang, Sichuan). After he arrived at Long Prefecture, he, in fear that Empress Wu had further retaliation in the works, died. It is not completely clear, but it was likely that Wu Sansi went to Long Prefecture with his father Wu Yuanqing. He was later made a commanding general of the imperial guards.
Emperor Gaozong died in 683, and was initially succeeded by his and Empress Wu's son Li Zhe the Crown Prince (as Emperor Zhongzong), but Empress Wu retained power as empress dowager and regent. In spring 684, after Emperor Zhongzong showed signs of independence, she deposed him and replaced him with another son, Li Dan the Prince of Yu, but wielded power even more tightly thereafter. Sometime during her regency, Wu Sansi became minister of defense (夏官尚書, Xiaguan Shangshu). Both he and his cousin Wu Chengsi (Wu Yuanshuang's son) advised Empress Dowager Wu to find excuses to kill two senior members of the imperial Li clan—Emperor Gaozong's uncles Li Yuanjia (李元嘉) the Prince of Han and Li Lingkui (李靈夔) the Prince of Lu due to their senior status. (Eventually, after two other princes—Emperor Gaozong's brother Li Zhen the Prince of Yue and Li Zhen's son Li Chong the Prince of Langye unsuccessfully rose against Empress Dowager Wu in 688, Empress Dowager Wu took the opportunity to also force Li Yuanjia and Li Lingkui, as well as many other members of the Li clan, to commit suicide or to execute them.) Wu Sansi and Wu Chengsi were also said to be often advocating that Empress Dowager Wu take over the throne herself as "emperor."
In 690, Empress Dowager Wu had Emperor Ruizong yield the throne to her, and she took the throne as "emperor," establishing a new Zhou Dynasty and interrupting Tang. She created a number of her Wu clan relatives imperial princes, and Wu Sansi was created the Prince of Liang and made the minister of civil service affairs (天官尚書, Tianguan Shangshu). He did not appear to have as much power as Wu Chengsi (who became chancellor), but was nevertheless honored. For example, in 693, when Wu Zetian made sacrifices to heaven and earth, she offered the sacrifices herself first, followed by Wu Chengsi, and then Wu Sansi. It was said that he had done some studies in literature and history and was good at flattery. As the years went by, he often flattered Wu Zetian's successive lovers Huaiyi, Zhang Yizhi, and Zhang Changzong.
In 694, Wu Sansi led a group of non-Han chieftains in requesting that a massive iron pillar be erected to commemorate Wu Zetian's reign with text on it to deprecate Tang and to praise Zhou, and Wu Zetian agreed, putting the chancellor Yao Shu in charge of the project. It was said that the chieftains gathered up their wealth and bought iron, but the iron they bought was not enough, and so the people's farm equipment were requisitioned and melted for the project.
In 695, Wu Sansi was made the Minister of Rites and was put in charge of editing the imperial history.
In 696, when Khitan attacked under the leadership of Li Jinzhong and Sun Wanrong, Wu Sansi was put in command of one of the major armies defending against the Khitan attack, assisted by Yao.
In 697, Wu Sansi was given the designation Tong Fengge Luantai Sanpin (同鳳閣鸞臺三品), making him a chancellor de facto, but about a month later, he was stripped of the chancellor designation. It was said that he and Wu Chengsi both had designs on being crown prince, and often had their associates try to persuade Wu Zetian that in ages past, there had never been an emperor who had, as his heir, someone with a different family name. (At that time, Wu Zetian's crown prince was her son Li Dan (the former Emperor Ruizong).) In 698, however, at the suggestion of the chancellor Di Renjie, concurred in by Wang Jishan and Wang Fangqing, as well as Wu Zetian's close advisor Ji Xu and her lovers Zhang Yizhi and Zhang Changzong, Wu Zetian recalled Li Zhe the Prince of Luling (the former Emperor Zhongzong) from exile and soon, after Li Dan offered to yield the position of crown prince to him, created him crown prince and changed his name to Li Xian and then to Wu Xian.
In 698, Wu Zetian made Wu Sansi acting Neishi (內史), the head of the legislative bureau of government (鳳閣, Fengge); the next year, he was made full Neishi. In 700, however, he was no longer chancellor and was made an advisor to Li Xian. He received the honorific title of Tejin (特進).
In 702, Wu Zetian considered launching a major attack against Eastern Tujue and she initially put Wu Sansi in command, assisted by Jing Hui. She later changed the orders to have Li Dan in command, assisted by Wu Sansi, his cousin Wu Youning the prince of Jiancheng, and the chancellor Wei Yuanzhong. However, the army was eventually not launched.
In 704, at Wu Sansi's suggestion, Wu Zetian constructed the vacation palace Xingtai (興泰宮) at Mount Wan'an (萬安山, near the capital Luoyang), at much expense and labor.
Wu Zetian was overthrown in a coup in 705 led by the officials Zhang Jianzhi, Cui Xuanwei, Jing Hui, Huan Yanfan, and Yuan Shuji. Zhang Yizhi and Zhang Changzong were killed in the coup, and Emperor Zhongzong was restored to the throne; Wu Zetian was sent to a secondary palace under heavy guard, and while she also retained the title of "emperor," no longer had power. By that time, Wu Sansi had been carrying out an affair with Wu Zetian's secretary and Emperor Zhongzong's concubine Consort Shangguan Wan'er. Through her introduction, Wu Sansi began an affair with Emperor Zhongzong's wife Empress Wei as well and also became a trusted advisor to Emperor Zhongzong who, while he was restored through the efforts of Zhang Jianzhi and his colleagues, feared them. In addition, Wu Sansi's son Wu Chongxun (武崇訓) had been married to Emperor Zhongzong's and Empress Wei's daughter Li Guo'er the Princess Anle, who also had much power in her father's administration.
Meanwhile, the coup leaders initially did not regard Wu Sansi as a threat, and they brushed aside suggestions by two lower level officials participating in the coup, Xue Jichang (薛季昶) and Liu Youqiu. However, they soon realized that Wu Sansi's power was on the rise, and they unsuccessfully suggested Emperor Zhongzong to kill some of the more powerful Wu clan members (which would have included Wu Sansi) or to demote them—and indeed, he made Wu Sansi Sikong (司空, one of the Three Excellencies) and chancellor again with the designation Tong Zhongshu Menxia Sanpin (同中書門下三品, a modification of the Tong Fengge Luantai Sanpin designation that Wu Zetian used), although Wu Sansi declined the titles. Meanwhile, Emperor Zhongzong designated 16 officials, including the coup leaders but also Wu Sansi and his cousin Wu Youji (the husband of Emperor Zhongzong's sister Princess Taiping), as contributors to his return to the throne and gave them iron certificates that were supposed to guarantee that they would be spared of death penalties 10 times except for treason.
Jing, fearful of Wu Sansi's power, retained the mid-level official Cui Shi to watch for Wu Sansi's moves—but Cui Shi, realizing that Emperor Zhongzong trusted Wu Sansi and feared the coup leaders, instead became Wu Sansi's associate, along with Zheng Yin, who suggested that Wu Sansi find some way to remove the five coup leaders, now all chancellors, from their posts. Wu Sansi and Empress Wei, in turn, argued to Emperor Zhongzong that the five coup leaders were overpowering in the government and should be given honorific titles but be removed from office. At their suggestion, Emperor Zhongzong created the five coup leaders princes and awarded them much wealth, but removed them from governmental posts, including chancellor positions—and soon sent Zhang Jianzhi and Cui Xuanwei out of the capital. Wu Sansi, now in power, had much of Wu Zetian's policies, which the five coup leaders had reversed, reinstated. Meanwhile, to diffuse some of the popular sentiment against the Wu clan, Emperor Zhongzong demoted their titles slightly, and Wu Sansi's title was reduced from Prince of Liang to the lesser title of Prince of Dejing. As Emperor Zhongzong also trusted Wei Yuanzhong (whom Wu Zetian had exiled in 703 but whom Emperor Zhongzong recalled upon his restoration to the throne), when Wu Zetian died in late 705, Wu Sansi tried to ingratiate Wei by writing into Wu Zetian's will a provision giving Wei an additional fief of 100 households. Wei, in gratitude, did not oppose the Wu clan further from that point.
In spring 706, Wu Sansi, fearful that Jing, Huan, and Yuan were still in the capital, sent them out of the capital to serve as prefectural prefects. Meanwhile, an incident occurred that allowed Wu Sansi to act further against the five coup leaders—as Emperor Zhongzong's son-in-law Wang Tongjiao (王同皎), himself a participant in the coup, was accused of plotting with Zhang Zhongzhi (張仲之), Zu Yanqing (祖延慶), and Zhou Jing (周璟) to kill Wu Sansi and deposing Empress Wei. The alleged plotters were all killed, and Wu Sansi and Empress Wei thereafter accused the five coup leaders of having been part of Wang Tongjiao's plot, and the five were demoted further, to more distant prefecture, with no possibility of return from exile. Meanwhile, Wu Sansi, knowing that Emperor Zhongzong was very sensitive about any accusation of adultery by Empress Wei, intentionally had people post public accusations that she had been involved in adultery—and then framed the five coup leaders of doing so, and the five coup leaders, already in exile, were stripped of all of their titles and honors. Wu Sansi, at Cui Shi's suggestion, then sent the secret police official Zhou Lizhen (周利貞) to the Lingnan region, where the five had been exiled, to survey the area, but with instructions to have the five killed. When Zhou reached Lingnan, Zhang Jianzhi and Cui Xuanwei had already died, but he killed Huan, Jing, and Yuan in cruel manners. It was said that after news of the five coup leaders' deaths reached Wu Sansi, he commented, "I do not know who are good people and who are bad people on this earth. I only know that people who are good to me are good, and people who are bad to me are bad."
In spring 707, with an ongoing drought, Emperor Zhongzong sent Wu Sansi and Wu Youji to Emperor Gaozong's and Wu Zetian's tomb to pray for rain, and when rain came, Emperor Zhongzong restored Wu Zetian's ancestral temple to near-imperial ancestral temple status.
Meanwhile, Emperor Zhongzong had created his son Li Chongjun, by a concubine, crown prince, as Empress Wei's only son Li Chongrun had been killed by Wu Zetian in 701, but Li Guo'er, encouraged by Wu Chongxun, had designs on becoming crown princess, and repeatedly asked Emperor Zhongzong to make her crown princess. Both she and Wu Chongxun also repeatedly insulted Li Chongjun, sometimes calling him "slave." In fall 707, Li Chongjun, in anger, started a rebellion with the generals Li Duozuo, Li Sichong (李思沖), Li Chengkuang (李承況), Dugu Yizhi (獨孤禕之), and Shazha Zhongyi (沙吒忠義), as well as Emperor Zhongzong's cousin Li Qianli (李千里) the Prince of Cheng and Li Qianli's son Li Xi (李禧) the Prince of Tianshui. They attacked Wu Sansi's mansion and killed Wu Sansi, Wu Chongxun, and some of their relatives. Li Chongjun's subsequent attempt to reach the palace and arrest Consort Shangguan, Empress Wei, and Li Guo'er, however, were unsuccessful, and his troops collapsed; he was killed. Li Chongjun was beheaded, and his head was presented to Wu Sansi's and Wu Chongxun's caskets. Wu Sansi and Wu Chongxun were buried in grand funerals, and Wu Sansi was posthumously recreated the Prince of Liang with the posthumous name of Xuan (宣, "responsible"). After Emperor Zhongzong's death in 710, a coup led by Princess Taiping and Li Dan's son Li Longji the Prince of Linzi overthrew Empress Wei and restored Emperor Ruizong to the throne, and Wu Sansi's tomb was destroyed.
Li Jiao, courtesy name Jushan (巨山), formally the Duke of Zhao (趙公), was an official of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as chancellor during the reigns of Wu Zetian, her sons Emperor Zhongzong and Emperor Ruizong, and her grandson Emperor Shang.
Emperor Zhongzong of Tang, personal name Li Xian, and at other times Li Zhe or Wu Xian, was the fourth Emperor of the Tang dynasty of China, ruling briefly in 684 and again from 705 to 710. During the first period, he did not rule, and the entire government was in the hands of his mother, Empress Wu Zetian and was effectively overthrown by her imperial power after opposing his mother. In the second reign period, most of the government was in the hands of his beloved wife Empress Wei.
Princess Taiping was a royal princess during the Tang dynasty and her mother Wu Zetian's Zhou dynasty. She was the youngest daughter of Wu Zetian and Emperor Gaozong and was powerful during the reigns of her mother and her elder brothers Emperor Zhongzong and Emperor Ruizong, particularly during Emperor Ruizong's second reign, when for three years until her death, she was the real power behind the throne.
Song Jing (宋璟), formally Duke Wenzhen of Guangping (廣平文貞公), was an official of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as the chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Ruizong and Emperor Xuanzong. He was praised by historians for his insistence on being morally upright, and for being a just administrator of the law during his time as Xuanzong's senior chancellor.
Emperor Ruizong of Tang, personal name Li Dan, also known at times during his life as Li Xulun, Li Lun, Wu Lun, and Wu Dan, was the fifth and ninth emperor of Tang Dynasty. He was the eighth son of Emperor Gaozong and the fourth son of Emperor Gaozong's second wife Empress Wu. He was wholly a figurehead during his first reign when he was controlled by his mother, and he was the titular and puppet ruler of the Tang Empire from 684 to 690. During his second reign after his mother's death, significant power was exercised by his sister Princess Taiping.
Zhang Jianzhi (張柬之) (625-706), courtesy name Mengjiang (孟將), formally Prince Wenzhen of Hanyang (漢陽文貞王), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as chancellor during the reigns of Wu Zetian and her son Emperor Zhongzong. He was a key figure in the coup that overthrew Wu Zetian and restored Emperor Zhongzong in 705, but was later exiled due to false accusations instigated by Wu Zetian's nephew Wu Sansi and died in exile.
Shangguan Wan'er was a concubine/imperial consort to two emperors of the Tang dynasty. Although caught up in court intrigues and executed in 710, she is famous for her talent as a poet, writer and politician. She has been described as the country's "female prime minister".
Empress Wei was an empress of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. She was the second wife of Emperor Zhongzong, who reigned twice, and during his second reign, she tried to emulate the example of her mother-in-law Wu Zetian and seize power. She was in charge of government affairs during her husband's reign. Emperor Zhongzong's death in 710—a death traditionally believed to be a poisoning she carried out together with her daughter Li Guo'er the Princess Anle—gave her the power to become the empress dowager and regent, but in short order was overthrown and killed in a coup led by Emperor Zhongzong's nephew Li Longji and Emperor Zhongzong's sister Princess Taiping.
Li Chongjun (李重俊), formally Crown Prince Jiemin (節愍太子), was a crown prince of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty, during the second reign of his father Emperor Zhongzong. He was made crown prince because the only son of his father's wife Empress Wei, Li Chongrun, had been killed before his father's return to the throne, but on account of his mother's low birth, he was often humiliated by Empress Wei's daughter Li Guo'er the Princess Anle and her husband Wu Chongxun (武崇訓). In 707, in anger, he started a coup and killed Wu Chongxun and his father Wu Sansi the Prince of Dejing, but his subsequent attempt to arrest Empress Wei, Li Guo'er, and Consort Shangguan Wan'er was thwarted, and he was killed in flight.
Princess Anle, personal name Li Guo'er (李裹兒), was a princess of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty. She was the youngest daughter of Emperor Zhongzong and his wife Empress Wei. Popular history holds that she was doted upon heavily by her parents and siblings, which contributed to her later drive for power.
Wu Chengsi, formally Prince Xuan of Wei (魏宣王), was a nephew of Chinese sovereign Wu Zetian and an imperial prince during her Zhou Dynasty. He participated in her planning in taking the throne and had wanted to become crown prince after she claimed the throne in 690, but his attempts were repeatedly rebuffed, and after she showed her intent to eventually return the throne to her son Li Zhe by recalling Li Zhe from exile in 698, Wu Chengsi died in disappointment.
Wu Youji (武攸暨), formally Prince Zhongjian of Ding (定忠簡王), was an imperial prince of Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty and an official of Tang Dynasty. He is best known as the second husband of Wu Zetian's powerful daughter Princess Taiping.
Zong Chuke (宗楚客), courtesy name Shu'ao (叔敖), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as chancellor during the reigns of Wu Zetian, her son Emperor Zhongzong, and her grandson Emperor Shang.
Wei Yuanzhong (魏元忠), né Wei Zhenzai (魏真宰), formally Duke Zhen of Qi (齊貞公), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as chancellor during the reigns of Wu Zetian and her son Emperor Zhongzong.
Yuan Shuji (袁恕己), formally Prince Zhenlie of Nanyang (南陽貞烈王), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as chancellor during the reign of Emperor Zhongzong. He was a key figure in the coup that overthrew Wu Zetian and restored Emperor Zhongzong in 705, but was later exiled due to false accusations instigated by Wu Zetian's nephew Wu Sansi and killed in exile in a cruel manner.
Li Duozuo, formally the Prince of Liaoyang (遼陽王), was an ethnically Mohe general of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty. He is mostly known for his participation in the successful coup of 705 that overthrew Wu Zetian and returned her son Emperor Zhongzong to the throne, and the failed coup of 707 in which Emperor Zhongzong's son Li Chongjun tried to overthrow Emperor Zhongzong's wife Empress Wei.
Huan Yanfan (桓彥範) (653–706), courtesy name Shize (士則), formally Prince Zhonglie of Fuyang (扶陽忠烈王), briefly known during the reign of Emperor Zhongzong of Tang as Wei Yanfan (韋彥範), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as chancellor during the reign of Emperor Zhongzong. He was a key figure in the coup that overthrew Wu Zetian and restored Emperor Zhongzong in 705, but was later exiled due to false accusations instigated by Wu Zetian's nephew Wu Sansi and killed in exile in a cruel manner.
Cui Shi, courtesy name Chenglan (澄瀾), was a Chinese writer and politician. He served as an official of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Wu Zetian's sons Emperor Zhongzong and Emperor Ruizong and grandsons Emperor Shang and Emperor Xuanzong. In 713, with Emperor Xuanzong locked in a rivalry with his aunt Princess Taiping, Cui chose to side with Princess Taiping, and after Emperor Xuanzong suppressed Princess Taiping's party, Cui was exiled and ordered to commit suicide in exile.
Zheng Yin (鄭愔), courtesy name Wenjing (文靖), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, briefly serving as chancellor during the reign of Emperor Zhongzong.
Cen Xi, courtesy name Bohua (伯華), was an official of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Shang, Emperor Ruizong, and Emperor Xuanzong. He was known for his integrity as an official in charge of civil service affairs, but was later implicated as a partisan of Emperor Xuanzong's aunt Princess Taiping in 713 and was executed when Emperor Xuanzong suppressed Princess Taiping's party.