Yuan Yong

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Yuan Yong (元雍) (died May 17, 528 [1] ), 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 (河陰, in modern Luoyang, Henan).

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.

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.

Xianbei ancient people in Manchuria and Mongolia

The Xianbei were originally a nomadic tribal confederation residing in what is today's eastern Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Northeast China. Along with the Xiongnu, they were one of the major nomadic groups in northern China from the Han Dynasty to the Northern and Southern dynasties. They eventually established their own northern dynasties such as the Northern Wei founded in the 4th century AD by the Tuoba clan. During the Uprising of the Five Barbarians they became categorized as one of the Five Barbarians by the Han Chinese.



It is not known when Tuoba Yong was born; what is known is that he was the sixth of seven sons of Emperor Xianwen, and that his mother was Emperor Xianwen's concubine Consort Han, who was also the mother of one of his older brothers, Tuoba Gan (拓拔幹). Emperor Xianwen yielded the throne to Tuoba Yong's oldest brother, Emperor Xiaowen, in 471, and died subsequently in 476, probably murdered by Tuoba Yong's stepgrandmother, Empress Dowager Feng, who then proceeded to assume regency over Emperor Xiaowen. Emperor Xiaowen liked Tuoba Yong for his lack of inhibitions, and while Yuan Yong did not display much talent while young, he believed that Yuan Yong might show those talents later. In 485, Tuoba Yong was created the Prince of Yingchuan. In 494, when Emperor Xiaowen moved the capital from Pingcheng (平城, in modern Datong, Shanxi), Tuoba Yong's title was changed to the Prince of Gaoyang. In 496, when Emperor Xiaowen changed the name of the imperial clan from Tuoba to Yuan, Tuoba Yong's name was changed to Yuan Yong. Subsequently, when Emperor Xiaowen conducted his campaigns against rival Southern Qi, Yuan Yong was put in charge of the important Xiang Province (相州), but he, unlike most of his other brothers, was not given any greater authority during Emperor Xiaowen's reign.

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.

During Emperor Xuanwu's reign

Yuan Yong was honored, but not particularly powerful, after Emperor Xiaowen's death in 499 and succession by his oldest son Emperor Xuanwu, unlike his brothers Yuan Xi (元禧) the Prince of Xianyang, Yuan Xie the Prince of Pengcheng, and Yuan Xiang (元詳) the Prince of Beihai, each of whom received substantial powers. After Yuan Yong served a further stint as the governor of Ji Province (冀州, modern central Hebei), Emperor Xuanwu recalled him to the capital. He participated in Yuan Xiang's corruption trial in 504. Whenever Emperor Xuanwu visited Yuan Yong's mansion, Emperor Xuanwu would pay proper respect to him as an uncle, rather than allowing Yuan Yong to bow to him as a subject to an emperor.

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 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.

Hebei Province

Hebei is a province of China in the North China region. The modern province was established in 1911 as Zhili Province or Chihli Province. Its one-character abbreviation is "冀" (Jì), named after Ji Province, a Han dynasty province (zhou) that included what is now southern Hebei. The name Hebei literally means "north of the river", referring to its location entirely to the north of the Yellow River.

During Emperor Xiaoming's reign

Emperor Xuanwu died suddenly in 515. The officials Yu Zhong and Cui Guang (崔光) quickly proclaimed Emperor Xuanwu's young crown prince Yuan Xu emperor (as Emperor Xiaoming) and seized power away from Emperor Xuanwu's wife Empress Gao, whose uncle Gao Zhao, who was also Emperor Xuanwu's uncle, was extremely powerful. In order to counteract Gao Zhao, Yu and Cui forced Empress Gao to yield regent powers to Yuan Yong and Emperor Xiaowen's cousin Yuan Cheng (元澄) the Prince of Rencheng, and then, Yu and Yuan Yong ambushed Gao Zhao and killed him. Empress Gao was also removed and replaced as empress dowager by Emperor Xiaoming's mother Consort Hu.

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.

Crown prince heir to the throne

A crown prince is the male heir apparent to the throne in a royal or imperial monarchy. Its female form is crown princess, which may refer either to an heir apparent or, especially in earlier times, the wife of the person styled crown prince.

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.

Although Yuan Yong and Yuan Cheng were titular regents, real regency powers were in Yu's hands, and Yu quickly grew exceedingly arrogant and autocratic. The officials Pei Zhi (裴植) and Guo Zuo (郭祚) secretly suggested to Yuan Yong to have Yu's power stripped. When Yu found out about this, he falsely accused Pei and Guo of crimes, and they were put to death. Yu also wanted to kill Yuan Yong, but Cui resisted, so Yuan Yong was only removed from his posts. Later in 515, however, Empress Dowager Hu assumed regency powers and quickly stripped Yu of most of his posts, making Yu the governor of Ji Province. As soon as Yu left the capital, most of his acts were reversed, and Yuan Yong accused him of crimes and asked that he be punished. However, Empress Dowager Hu, because Yu had saved her life before, refused to act against Yu, although she recalled Yuan Yong back to the administration to serve in high capacity.

During Empress Dowager Hu's regency, she tolerated officials' corruption and wealth-gathering, and often added to the wealth-gathering herself by awarding them money and luxuries out of the imperial treasury. Yuan Yong became exceedingly rich at this time, and historians described his wealth as being so great as like a nation's treasury, and he had 6,000 male servants and 500 female servants. While two other princes, Yuan Chen (元琛) the Prince of Hejian and Yuan Rong (元融) the Prince of Zhangwu tried to compete with him, they could not, and it was commonly recognized that Yuan Yong was the richest official at the time. This type of corruption among high-level officials had a corrosive effect on Northern Wei's rule, and it was about this time that there began to be large-scale agrarian revolts throughout the empire.

In 520, Empress Dowager Hu's brother-in-law, the general Yuan Cha, along with the eunuch Liu Teng (劉騰) and the palace attendant Hou Gang (侯剛), carried out a coup against her, putting her under house arrest. Yuan Cha, however, was respectful of Yuan Yong, and he remained in a position of power, although Yuan Cha was effectively the regent. In 525, Yuan Yong plotted with both Empress Dowager Hu and Emperor Xiaoming to restore Empress Dowager Hu, and later that year she seized power back from Yuan Cha and forced Yuan Cha to commit suicide. Yuan Yong, as one who participated in her plan, continued in his position of power.

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.


In 528, with Empress Dowager Hu and Emperor Xiaoming in a conflict after Emperor Xiaoming wanted to put Empress Dowager Hu's lover Zheng Yan (鄭儼) to death by conspiring with the general Erzhu Rong, Empress Dowager Hu poisoned Emperor Xiaoming and put the young child Yuan Zhao, a great-grandson of Emperor Xiaowen from a collateral line, on the throne. Erzhu refused to recognize Yuan Zhao's imperial authority and advanced on Luoyang, quickly capturing it. He made Yuan Xie's son Yuan Ziyou emperor (as Emperor Xiaozhuang) and threw Empress Dowager Hu and Yuan Zhao into the Yellow River to drown.

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.

Erzhu then believed that, in order to show his might, he needed to massacre the high-level officials, whom the people viewed as corrupt. Under guise that they were needed to attend Emperor Xiaozhuang in sacrificing to heaven, he had them, led by Yuan Yong, report to Heyin, near Luoyang. Then, he had his cavalry surround them and massacre them. Erzhu would later regret this action, and he had Yuan Yong and the other officials killed buried with honor.


  1. 兩千年中西曆轉換

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