Yuan Hao

Last updated
Yuan Hao
Reign 529–529
Died 529
Full name
Era dates
Xiàojī (孝基) 529
Jiànwǔ (建武) 529
Dynasty Northern Wei

Yuan Hao (元顥) (died 529), 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.

Courtesy name name bestowed in adulthood in East Asian cultures

A courtesy name, also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

Pretender someone who claims a relation to a throne

A pretender is one who maintains or is able to maintain a claim that they are entitled to a position of honour or rank, which may be occupied by an incumbent, or whose powers may currently be exercised by another person or authority. Most often, it refers to a former monarch, or descendant thereof, whose throne is occupied or claimed by a rival or has been abolished.

History of China account of past events in the Chinese civilisation

The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty, during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was recorded as the twenty-first Shang king by the written records of Shang dynasty unearthed. Ancient historical texts such as the Records of the Grand Historian and the Bamboo Annals describe a Xia dynasty before the Shang, but no writing is known from the period, and Shang writings do not indicate the existence of the Xia. The Shang ruled in the Yellow River valley, which is commonly held to be the cradle of Chinese civilization. However, Neolithic civilizations originated at various cultural centers along both the Yellow River and Yangtze River. These Yellow River and Yangtze civilizations arose millennia before the Shang. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations, and is regarded as one of the cradles of civilization.



Yuan Hao's father Yuan Xiang (元詳) was a son of Emperor Xianwen and a younger brother of Emperor Xiaowen, and was created the Prince of Beihai early in Emperor Xiaowen's reign. Yuan Xiang became powerful, as the prime minister, during the reign of Emperor Xiaowen's son Emperor Xuanwu, but was later accused of corruption and stripped of his titles. He died in imprisonment 504, and after his death, although his titles were stripped, Yuan Hao was allowed to inherit the title of Prince of Beihai. His mother's family name was Fan (范), and she was not Yuan Xiang's wife.

Emperor Xianwen of Northern Wei ( 魏獻文帝) (454–476), personal name Tuoba Hong, was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was the first emperor in Chinese history who, after retiring in favor of his 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.

Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei Northern Wei emperor

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.

Xuanwu was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty of Northern Wei (499-515). He is known within China as Beiwei Xuanwudi (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.

Yuan Hao was considered generous and ambitious in his youth. After inhering the title he was made a general, but later was accused of unspecified crimes, and both his general status and his princely title were stripped.

During the reign of Emperor Xiaoming

After Emperor Xuanwu's death in 515, his young son Emperor Xiaoming took the throne, and the imperial government was under the successive regencies of Emperor Xiaoming's mother Empress Dowager Hu and Yuan Cha, both of whom openly tolerated corruption. As a result, the empire fell into chaos, with many agrarian rebellions dividing the empire. In 524, while Yuan Cha was regent, Yuan Hao, who was considered military capable, was restored to his princely title and commissioned with an army to fight the forces of the rebel leader Hu Chen (胡琛). Yuan Hao enjoyed some early successes, and while he was unable to destroy either Hu Chen or Hu Chen's successor Moqi Chounu (万俟醜奴), he was largely able to hold his own. As a result, he received increasingly great responsibilities. In 527, however, when fellow general Xiao Baoyin's forces were defeated by Mozhe Tiansheng (莫折天生), Yuan Hao's forces also collapsed, and he was forced to flee back to Luoyang. In spring 528, Yuan Hao was again commissioned with an army and put into the post of governor of Xiang Province (相州, roughly modern Handan, Hebei), to defend the region against the rebel leader Ge Rong (葛榮), who had by this point taken much of the territory north of the Yellow River and claimed the title of Emperor of Qi.

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.

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.

Yuan Cha (元叉), courtesy name Bojun (伯雋), nickname Yecha (夜叉), was an official of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei, who initially came to power as the brother-in-law of Emperor Xiaoming's mother and regent Empress Dowager Hu. In 520, after a conflict with her lover Yuan Yi (元懌) the Prince of Qinghe, he killed Yuan Yi and put Empress Dowager Hu under house arrest, effectively taking over as regent. In 525, a countercoup by Empress Dowager Hu restored her, and bowing to public pressure, she forced him to commit suicide.

Flight to Liang

Less than two months after Yuan Hao was posted to Xiang Province, Emperor Xiaoming and Empress Dowager Hu, who had been restored as regent in 525, were in serious dispute over Emperor Xiaoming's displeasure at Empress Dowager Hu's overtolerance of corruption by her lover Zheng Yan (鄭儼) and Zheng's associate Xu Ge (徐紇). Emperor Xiaoming conspired with the general Erzhu Rong to have Erzhu advance on Luoyang to force Empress Dowager to give up power and to kill Zheng and Xu. When this plot was discovered, Empress Dowager Hu poisoned Emperor Xiaoming and installed Yuan Zhao, a young child of an imperial prince, as emperor. Erzhu refused to recognize Yuan Zhao as emperor, and he advanced on Luoyang, capturing and then drowning Empress Dowager Hu and Yuan Zhao in the Yellow River. He made Yuan Hao's cousin Yuan Ziyou the Prince of Changle emperor instead (as Emperor Xiaozhuang). Erzhu subsequently carried out a great massacre of the imperial officials at Heyin (河陰, near Luoyang), and while he subsequently regretted that action, the surviving imperial officials became distrustful of him. He tried to appease other generals and officials who were out in the provinces by promoting them, and Yuan Hao was promoted to a high honorary post as Taifu (太傅, "imperial professor"). Apprehensive of both Erzhu Rong and Ge Rong's power, however, Yuan Hao considered seizing the region around Xiang Province and becoming independent. He tried to commission his uncle Fan Zhun (范遵) as the governor of the neighboring Yin Province (殷州, roughly modern Xingtai, Hebei), but this move was resisted by the local officials who suspected his intentions. When he could not receive cooperation from those local officials, he abandoned his army and fled to Liang.

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 Zhao (元釗), also known in history as Youzhu, was briefly an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei.

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.

Campaign back north

When Yuan Hao met Emperor Wu of Liang, he made an impassioned plea in which he displayed both mournfulness and ambition. Emperor Wu was impressed, and in winter 528 he created Yuan Hao the Prince of Wei, with the intention that Yuan Hao seize the Northern Wei throne and serve as a vassal to Liang. Emperor Wu also commissioned the well-regarded general Chen Qingzhi to escort and support Yuan Hao on his campaign. Chen, however, was only given 7,000 men.

Emperor Wu of Liang Liang Dynasty emperor

Emperor Wu of Liang (梁武帝) (464–549), personal name Xiao Yan (蕭衍), courtesy name Shuda (叔達), nickname Lian'er (練兒), was the founding emperor of the Liang Dynasty of Chinese history. His reign, until the end, was one of the most stable and prosperous during the Southern Dynasties. He came from the same family that ruled Southern Qi, but from a different branch.

Vassal person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe

A vassal is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch, in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support by knights in exchange for certain privileges, usually including land held as a tenant or fief. The term is applied to similar arrangements in other feudal societies.

Chen Qingzhi was a prominent general of the Liang dynasty. He is best known for his campaign in 530 to crush Northern Wei. With only 7,000 troops, he invaded Northern Wei and conquered the regions of Henan and Shandong. However, he lost them again after being counterattacked by a Wei force ten times larger. Despite this, his success in conquering Northern China, albeit briefly, with only 7,000 troops made him a famous commander in Chinese history.

In spring and early summer 529, Liang troops under Chen pushed into Northern Wei territory. Not far away was a large Northern Wei army commanded by the general Yuan Tianmu (元天穆) the Prince of Shangdang. However, Yuan Tianmu did not consider Yuan Hao a threat, and he instead proceeded to attack another rebel leader, Xing Gao (邢杲), who had claimed the title of Prince of Han. Yuan Tianmu and Erzhu Rong's nephew Erzhu Zhao were able to crush Xing and capture him. Meanwhile, however, Chen was able to win battle after battle against Northern Wei generals with much larger forces, and after Chen captured Suiyang, Yuan Hao declared himself emperor there. Chen's army then proceeded to capture Yingyang (滎陽, in modern Zhengzhou, Henan), not far from Luoyang, and when Yuan Tianmu, realizing the seriousness of the Yuan Hao threat, advanced on Yingyang, intending to crush Chen's army, Chen defeated him, forcing him to flee. Yuan Hao then approached Luoyang. Emperor Xiaozhuang, fearful of Yuan Hao's army, fled Luoyang north of the Yellow River to rendezvous with Erzhu Rong and Yuan Tianmu. Yuan Hao was welcomed into Luoyang, whose people were resentful of Erzhu Rong and therefore hoped that Yuan Hao could deliver them. Most of the provinces south of the Yellow River also declared allegiance to him, while most of the provinces north of the Yellow River continued to recognize Emperor Xiaozhuang.

Erzhu Zhao (爾朱兆), courtesy name Wanren (萬仁), 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.

Suiyang District District in Henan, Peoples Republic of China

Suiyang District is one of the two districts of the city of Shangqiu, Henan, China.

Zhengzhou Prefecture-level city in Henan, Peoples Republic of China

Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan Province in the central part of the People's Republic of China. It is one of the National Central Cities in China, the centre of Central Plains area and serves as the political, economic, technological, and educational center of the province, as well as a major transportation hub in China. The Zhengzhou metropolitan area is the core area of the Central Plains Economic Zone.

Brief reign and death

Yuan Hao, once he entered Luoyang, became complacent and believed that he was favored by the gods, and therefore grew arrogant and lazy. He put his old friends and associates into high posts, and he spent his days feasting, not caring about the matters of state. The Liang forces escorting him bullied the local populace, and the populace began to turn against Yuan Hao. Meanwhile, Yuan Hao, believing that he had already succeeded, began to secretly plot with Yuan Yu (元彧) the Prince of Linhuai and Yuan Yanming (元延明) the Prince of Anfeng to consider how to throw off the Liang yoke. When Chen, whose army was badly outnumbered, petitioned Emperor Wu of Liang for reinforcements, Yuan Hao preemptorily petitioned Emperor Wu, arguing that additional Liang troops would merely cause more shock to the Northern Wei people. Emperor Wu therefore stopped sending reinforcements. At one point, Chen considered assassinating Yuan Hao and seizing Luoyang himself, but decided against the idea.

Meanwhile, Erzhu Rong's forces, as well as other forces loyal to Emperor Xiaozhuang, had arrived at the northern bank of the Yellow River opposite Luoyang. When they made exploratory attacks, Chen repelled each one. Erzhu Rong was so frustrated that he considered withdrawing, but after suggestions by the officials Yang Kan (楊侃) and Gao Daomu (高道穆) that doing so would only allow Yuan Hao to be entrenched, he prepared a surprise attack at night, crossing the Yellow River and capturing Yuan Hao's son Yuan Guanshou. Yuan Hao's forces subsequently collapsed, and Yuan Hao fled with his guards. Chen tried to withdraw in an orderly fashion, but his forces were trapped by the Songshan River (嵩山水, east of Luoyang) and crushed. Chen himself was able to flee back to Liang. Meanwhile, Yuan Hao's guards began to desert, and a local policeman of Linyin County (臨穎, in modern Luohe, Henan), Jiang Feng (江豐), killed him and delivered his head to Luoyang.

Yuan Hao was never officially recognized as an emperor, although, for reasons unknown, Emperor Xiaowu later restored his title of Prince of Beihai and posthumously honored him with a number of honors.

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