Yuan Zhao

Last updated
(Bei) Wei Youzhu ((北)魏幼主)
Family name:Yuan (元, yuán)
Given name:Zhao (釗, zhāo)
Posthumous name:None

Yuan Zhao (元釗) (526 – May 17, 528 [1] ), also known in history as Youzhu (幼主, literally "the young lord"), was briefly an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei.

Contents

Background

Yuan Zhao was a son of Yuan Baohui (元寶暉) the Prince of Lintao, who was a grandson of Emperor Xiaowen and therefore cousin to Emperor Xiaoming, the reigning emperor at the time of Yuan Zhao's birth in 526.

Reign

In 528, Emperor Xiaoming was poisoned to death by his mother Empress Dowager Hu after trying to curb her power and trying to kill her lover Zheng Yan (鄭儼). Emperor Xiaoming was sonless, and while Empress Dowager Hu initially tried to pretend that Emperor Xiaoming's daughter, by his concubine Consort Pan, was actually a son, she soon realized that she could not carry on the deception, and she named Yuan Zhao emperor—selecting him due to his young age so that she could control him.

The general Erzhu Rong, with whom Emperor Xiaoming had conspired against Empress Dowager Hu, refused to recognize Yuan Zhao as emperor, quickly descending on the capital Luoyang with his troops and declaring a son of Emperor Xiaowen's brother Yuan Xie, Yuan Ziyou, emperor (as Emperor Xiaozhuang). Less than two months after Yuan Zhao was declared emperor, Erzhu had captured Luoyang and put Empress Dowager Hu and Yuan Zhao under arrest. After Empress Dowager Hu tried, unsuccessfully, to defend her actions before Erzhu, Erzhu had her and Yuan Zhao thrown into the Yellow River to drown.

Legacy

Traditional historians treat Yuan Zhao ambiguously, and subsequent Northern Wei emperors never explicitly officially declared whether he was an emperor or not. He was not given an imperial posthumous name or temple name, but neither was his imperial status declared null. The official history of Northern Wei, the Book of Wei , written during the succeeding Northern Qi, did not list Yuan Zhao in its imperial biographies (and indeed, did not have a biography for him or his father at all), listing the events during his brief reign under the biography of Emperor Xiaoming, but used the term beng (崩) to describe his death, [2] a term reserved for the deaths of emperors and empresses.

Family

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Northern Wei

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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.

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Xiao Baoyin (蕭寶寅) (487–530), courtesy name Zhiliang (智亮), was an imperial prince of the Chinese dynasty Southern Qi. In 502, as Southern Qi was on the edge of being taken over by the general Xiao Yan, who was preparing by killing the imperial princes, Xiao Baoyin fled to rival Northern Wei and became an official and general in the Northern Wei government. In 527, as Northern Wei was embroiled in agrarian rebellions, Xiao Baoyin rebelled and tried to reestablish Southern Qi, but was soon defeated and forced to flee to a rebel leader, Moqi Chounu (万俟醜奴), and he served under Moqi until both were captured in 530 by the paramount general Erzhu Rong's nephew Erzhu Tianguang. He was forced to commit suicide.

Yuan Ye (元曄), courtesy name Huaxing (華興), nickname Penzi (盆子), often known as the Prince of Changguang (長廣王), was briefly an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was declared emperor by members of the paramount general Erzhu Rong's clan in 530 after Emperor Xiaozhuang had killed Erzhu Rong, and he carried imperial title for several months. However, as a member of the imperial clan who was distant from the lineage of recent emperors (as a descendant of Emperor Wencheng's brother Yuan Zhen the Prince of Nan'an, he was not a credible emperor, and in 531, after the Erzhus had prevailed over Emperor Xiaozhuang and put him to death, they forced Yuan Ye to yield the throne to Emperor Xiaozhuang's cousin Yuan Gong the Prince of Guangling, who took the throne as Emperor Jiemin. Emperor Jiemin treated Yuan Ye with respect and created him the Prince of Donghai, a higher title than his prior title of Prince of Changguang, but after Emperor Jiemin and the Erzhus were in turn overthrown by a coalition led by the general Gao Huan and replaced with Emperor Xiaowu, Emperor Xiaowu forced Yuan Ye to commit suicide.

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.

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Erzhu Shilong (爾朱世隆) (500–532), courtesy name Rongzong (榮宗), was an official of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He first became prominent when after his cousin Erzhu Rong overthrew Emperor Xiaoming's mother Empress Dowager Hu and made Emperor Xiaozhuang emperor. Later, when Emperor Xiaozhuang killed Erzhu Rong in 530, Erzhu Shilong participated in the counterattack that overthrew Emperor Xiaozhuang, and thereafter controlled the imperial government during the reign of Emperor Jiemin. When the general Gao Huan, in turn, rebelled in response to Emperor Xiaozhuang's death, the officials in the imperial capital Luoyang rebelled against the Erzhus, and Erzhu Shilong was executed after failing to flee Luoyang.

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.

Husi Chun (斛斯椿) (495–537), courtesy name Fashou (法壽), Xianbei name Daidun (貸敦), formally Prince Wenxuan of Changshan (常山文宣王), was a general and official of the Chinese/Xianbei state Northern Wei and Northern Wei's branch successor state Western Wei.

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.

The daughter of Emperor Xiaoming of Northern Wei, whose given name is unknown, was briefly the emperor of Northern Wei (386–534), a Xianbei dynasty that ruled Northern China from the late fourth to the early sixth century AD. She bore the surname Yuan, originally Tuoba. Yuan was the only child of Emperor Xiaoming, born to his concubine Consort Pan. Soon after her birth, her grandmother the Empress Dowager Hu, who was also Xiaoming's regent, falsely declared that she was a boy and ordered a general pardon. Emperor Xiaoming died soon afterwards. On 1 April 528, Empress Dowager Hu installed the infant on the throne for a matter of hours before replacing her with Yuan Zhao the next day. Xiaoming's daughter was not recognised as an emperor (huangdi) by later generations. No further information about her is available.

References

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Daughter of Emperor Xiaoming
Emperor of Northern Wei
528
Succeeded by
Emperor Xiaozhuang of Northern Wei