Yuwen Xian (宇文憲) (545–July 18, 578),Xianbei name Pihetu (毗賀突), formally Prince Yang of Qi (齊煬王), was an imperial prince of the state Northern Zhou. He was a key official and general during the reign of his brother Emperor Wu, but after Emperor Wu's death was feared on account of his ability by his nephew Emperor Xuan, who therefore falsely accused him of plotting treason and strangled him.
Yuwen Xian was born in 544, as the fifth son of Yuwen Tai, the paramount general of Western Wei. His mother was Yuwen Tai's concubine Lady Dabugan, who was ethnically Rouran. He was initially created the Duke of Fucheng and was said to be intelligent from his youth, and he and his older brother Yuwen Yong (by another concubine, Lady Chinu) studied the Shi Jing and the Zuo Zhuan together. Once, when Yuwen Tai was giving his sons horses, Yuwen Xian alone picked a multicolored horse. When Yuwen Tai asked him why he did so, he reasoned that in battle, a multicolored horse would be easier to tell apart from others. Yuwen Tai was pleased with the response, and from that point on, whenever he saw multicolored horses, he would award them to Yuwen Xian.
In 553, Western Wei seized the modern Sichuan and Chongqing region from the Liang Dynasty pretender Xiao Ji. While Yuwen Tai initially entrusted the region to his nephew Yuchi Jiong, he wanted to eventually send a son there due to the wealth and strategic importance of the region. He asked his sons who was willing to go—but none responded except Yuwen Xian. Yuwen Tai responded, "A provincial governor needs to pacify the people and rule over them, and you are too young to do that. Based on age, I will pick an older brother of yours." Yuwen Xian responded, "It should be based on ability, not age. If you let me try and I fail, I am willing to be punished." Yuwen Tai was impressed with the response, but did not send him due to his young age, but left instructions for Yuwen Xian to be eventually entrusted with the region. In 554, Yuwen Xian was promoted to the greater title of Duke of Ancheng.
In 556, Yuwen Tai, after entrusting his heir apparent and Yuwen Xian's older brother Yuwen Jue to Yuwen Xian's cousin Yuwen Hu, died. In spring 557, Yuwen Hu forced Emperor Gong of Western Wei to yield the throne to Yuwen Jue, ending Western Wei and establishing Northern Zhou. Yuwen Jue took the throne (as Emperor Xiaomin) with the alternative title of "Heavenly Prince" ( Tian Wang ), with Yuwen Hu serving as regent. Later that year, Yuwen Jue, trying to seize power from Yuwen Hu, had his plot discovered by Yuwen Hu, and Yuwen Hu deposed and then killed him, replacing him with another older brother of Yuwen Xian's, Yuwen Yu (as Emperor Ming). In 559, Emperor Ming, remembering Yuwen Tai's instruction, put Yuwen Xian in charge of the modern Sichuan and Chongqing region, with his headquarters at Yi Province (roughly modern Chengdu, Sichuan). Yuwen Xian, despite his young age of 15, was said to be a capable governor, paying attention to the people's concerns and to the important matters and making good decisions on legal cases. The people of the region favored him so much that they created monuments for him. Emperor Ming created him the greater title of Duke of Qi.
In 560, Yuwen Hu, apprehensive of Emperor Ming's intelligence, poisoned him to death. Emperor Ming, while on his deathbed, designated Yuwen Yong, then the Duke of Lu, the new emperor, and Yuwen Yong took the throne as Emperor Wu. Yuwen Hu resumed his regency. During Emperor Wu's Baoding (保定) era, Yuwen Xian was recalled from his post at Yi Province to be the governor of the capital province of Yong Province (雍州, roughly modern Xi'an, Shaanxi).
In winter 564, when Yuwen Hu, in alliance with Tujue, launched a major attack on rival Northern Qi, Yuwen Xian was sent to command part of the army attacking Luoyang, along with Yuchi Jiong, Daxi Wu (達奚武), and Wang Xiong (王雄). However, the Northern Zhou army was defeated by the Northern Qi army commanded by Duan Shao (段韶) and Hulü Guang, and Wang was killed, causing the army to panic. Yuwen Xian visited the various army camps and was able to calm the anxious army, and he wanted to resume fighting, but Daxi, as the senior general, judged the situation to be too volatile, and so ordered a withdrawal. From this point on, however, Yuwen Hu entrusted Yuwen Xian with great responsibilities, and he participated in most important decisions. Yuwen Hu often had Yuwen Xian serve as a liaison between himself and Emperor Wu, and Yuwen Xian spent much effort trying to reduce the building tension between the two. By 568, he officially became minister of the army, as well as deputy prime minister (i.e., deputy to Yuwen Hu).
Around the new year 570, Yuwen Xian was sent to try to capture the Northern Qi city of Yiyang (宜陽), near Luoyang, and while he was not successful against Hulü, the armies stalemated. In winter 570, Hulü changed tactics and headed north, encroaching onto Northern Zhou territory north of the Fen River (汾水, flowing through modern Linfen, Shanxi) and seizing substantial amount of territory. Yuwen Hu requested Yuwen Xian's opinion, and Yuwen Xian opined that Yuwen Hu should personally lead an army but stay some distance away from the front, while Yuwen Xian himself would advance and engage Hulü. Yuwen Hu agreed, and Yuwen Xian subsequently won some minor battles against Hulü, eventually causing the armies to again stalemate, although by that point territory had been lost.
In 572, Emperor Wu, apprehensive of Yuwen Hu, conspired with his brother by the same mother, Yuwen Zhi (宇文直) the Duke of Wei, and they ambushed and killed Yuwen Hu. After Yuwen Hu's death was announced, Yuwen Xian personally met Emperor Wu to apologize for having served under Yuwen Hu. Emperor Wu comforted him and had him take over Yuwen Hu's post of Da Zhongzhai (大冢宰) -- but reduced the power of the post from being prime minister to only being minister of palace affairs, therefore reducing Yuwen Xian's authority while ostensibly promoting him. Yuwen Zhi was still jealous of Yuwen Xian, and several times advised Emperor Wu to execute Yuwen Xian. Emperor Wu refused. In 574, Yuwen Xian's title was changed to Prince of Qi. That year, Yuwen Xian authored a five-volume work on military strategies and offered it to Emperor Wu, and Emperor Wu was pleased with the work.
In fall 574, while Emperor Wu and Yuwen Xian were at Yunyang Palace (雲陽, in modern Xianyang, Shaanxi), Yuwen Zhi took the opportunity to rebel at the capital Chang'an. Emperor Wu commissioned Yuwen Xian with an army to suppress Yuwen Zhi's rebellion, although before Yuwen Xian could get back to Chang'an the rebellion was already put down by the official Yuchi Yun (尉遲運).
In 575, Emperor Wu, secretly planning a major attack on Northern Qi, only conferred with Wang Yi (王誼) and Yuwen Xian while making his plans, and Yuwen Xian greatly supported the plan. Emperor Wu personally attacked Luoyang, but after sieging it for 20 days without capturing it, he grew ill and was forced to withdraw. While Yuwen Xian made some gains on another front, he abandoned the gains and retreated with Emperor Wu.
In winter 576, Emperor Wu again attacked Northern Qi, with Yuwen Xian as one of his major generals. The attack, while initially repelled by Northern Qi, was very successful, and Yuwen Xian greatly contributed to the eventual seizure, around new year 577, of Northern Qi's secondary capital Jinyang (晉陽, in modern Taiyuan, Shanxi). Emperor Wu put Yuwen Xian in charge of the operation against Northern Qi's capital Yecheng (鄴城, in modern Handan, Hebei), although by the time Yuwen Xian arrived at Yecheng, the Northern Qi emperor Gao Wei had already abandoned Yecheng and fled. Subsequently, Northern Zhou forces were able to capture Gao Wei. Yuwen Xian's army was said to be so disciplined that the people of Northern Qi were barely disturbed by them.
Meanwhile, however, Gao Wei's uncle Gao Jie (高湝) the Prince of Rencheng and cousin Gao Xiaoheng (高孝珩) the Prince of Guangning were still at Xindu (信都, in modern Hengshui, Hebei) and resisting Northern Zhou forces. Emperor Wu sent Yuwen Xian to attack Xindu. Yuwen Xian sent a letter from Gao Wei and wrote a letter himself, both trying to persuade Gao Jie to surrender, but Gao Jie refused. Yuwen Xian, however, was able to defeat Gao Jie and Gao Xiaoheng, capturing them. Impressed with their bravery, he personally treated them with respect, even personally attending to Gao Xiaoheng's wounds. Subsequently, Yuwen Xian also defeated the Xiongnu tribal chief Liu Moduo (劉沒鐸), who had claimed imperial title, and captured Liu.
In 578, Emperor Wu was launching a campaign against Tujue, but Yuwen Xian, apprehensive of his own successes on the battlefield, declined a commission from Emperor Wu to lead the army, making an excuse that he had a skin disorder that made it difficult for him to attend to the army. Before Emperor Wu actually launched the campaign, however, he fell ill and died, and was succeeded by his son and crown prince Yuwen Yun (as Emperor Xuan).
Emperor Xuan, who was erratic in his behavior, greatly suspected Yuwen Xian on account of his ability. He initially asked the official Yuwen Xiaobo (宇文孝伯) to ambush Yuwen Xian, but Yuwen Xiaobo refused, he instead plotted with his associates Yu Zhi (于智) and Zheng Yi (鄭譯). One month after Emperor Wu's death, Emperor Xuan summoned his uncles to the palace under the pretense of giving them new commissions, but took the opportunity to ambush and capture Yuwen Xian. Emperor Xuan then had Yu accuse Yuwen Xian of treason. Yuwen Xian refuted each accusation, but was still strangled to death. Yuwen Xian's friends Wang Xing (王興), Dugu Xiong (獨孤雄), and Doulu Shao (豆盧紹) were also executed under false accusations of conspiring with Yuwen Xian, as were Yuwen Xian's sons.
Emperor Wen of Sui, personal name Yang Jian (楊堅), Xianbei name Puliuru Jian (普六茹堅), nickname Narayana deriving from Buddhist terms, was the founder and first emperor of China's Sui dynasty. He was a hard-working administrator and a micromanager. The Sui Shu records him as having withdrawn his favour from the Confucians, giving it to "the group advocating Xing-Ming and authoritarian government." As a Buddhist, he encouraged the spread of Buddhism through the state. He is regarded as one of the most important emperors in ancient China history, reunifying China in 589 after centuries of division since the fall of the Western Jin dynasty in 316. During his reign, the construction of the Grand Canal began.
The Northern Zhou followed the Western Wei, and ruled northern China from 557 to 581 AD. The last of the Northern Dynasties of China's Northern and Southern dynasties period, it was eventually overthrown by the Sui Dynasty. Like the preceding Western and Northern Wei dynasties, the Northern Zhou emperors were of Xianbei descent.
Emperor Ming of (Western) Liang ( 梁明帝) (542–585), personal name Xiao Kui (蕭巋), courtesy name Renyuan (仁遠), was an emperor of the Chinese Western Liang dynasty. He, like his father Emperor Xuan and his son Emperor Jing, controlled little territory and relied heavily on military support from Northern Zhou and Northern Zhou's successor state Sui dynasty.
Yuwen Tai (507–556), nickname Heita (黑獺), formally Duke Wen of Anding (安定文公), later further posthumously honored by Northern Zhou initially as Prince Wen (文王) then as Emperor Wen (文皇帝) with the temple name Taizu (太祖), was the paramount general of the Chinese/Xianbei state Western Wei, a branch successor state of Northern Wei. In 534, Emperor Xiaowu of Northern Wei, seeking to assert power independent of the paramount general Gao Huan, fled to Yuwen's domain, and when Gao subsequently proclaimed Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei emperor, a split of Northern Wei was effected, and when Yuwen subsequently poisoned Emperor Xiaowu to death around the new year 535 and declared his cousin Yuan Baoju emperor, the split was formalized, with the part under Gao's and Emperor Xiaojing's control known as Eastern Wei and the part under Yuwen's and Emperor Wen's control known as Western Wei. For the rest of his life, Yuwen endeavored to make Western Wei, then much weaker than its eastern counterpart, a strong state, and after his death, his son Yuwen Jue seized the throne from Emperor Gong of Western Wei, establishing Northern Zhou.
Emperor Gong of Western Wei ( 魏恭帝) (537–557), personal name né Yuan Kuo (元廓), later changed to Tuoba Kuo (拓拔廓), was the last emperor of the Western Wei -- a rump state of and successor to Northern Wei. He was made emperor in 554 after his older brother Emperor Fei was deposed by the paramount general Yuwen Tai. He carried little actual power, and in 556, after Yuwen Tai's death, Yuwen Tai's nephew Yuwen Hu, serving as guardian to Yuwen Tai's son Yuwen Jue, forced Emperor Gong to yield the throne to Yuwen Jue, ending Western Wei and starting Northern Zhou. The former emperor was killed in 557. Because Northern Wei's other branch successor state, Eastern Wei, had fallen in 550, Emperor Gong can be regarded as Northern Wei's final emperor as well.
Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou ( 周孝閔帝) (542–557), personal name Yuwen Jue (宇文覺), nickname Tuoluoni (陀羅尼), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou (although he used the alternative title "Heavenly Prince". He was the heir of Western Wei's paramount general Yuwen Tai, and after Yuwen Tai's death in 556, his cousin Yuwen Hu, serving as his guardian, forced Emperor Gong of Western Wei to yield the throne to Yuwen Jue in spring 557, establishing Northern Zhou. Later in 557, however, Yuwen Jue, wanting to assume power personally, plotted to kill Yuwen Hu, who in turn deposed him and replaced him with his brother Yuwen Yu. Later that year, Yuwen Hu had Yuwen Jue executed.
Yuwen Hu (宇文護) (513–572), courtesy name Sabao, formally Duke Dang of Jin (晉蕩公), was a regent of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou in China. He first came into prominence as the nephew of Western Wei's paramount general Yuwen Tai, and after Yuwen Tai's death in 556, he became the guardian to Yuwen Tai's son Yuwen Jue. In 557, he forced Emperor Gong of Western Wei to yield the throne to Yuwen Jue, establishing Northern Zhou. However, Yuwen Hu dominated the political scene, and after Emperor Xiaomin tried to seize power later that year, he killed Emperor Xiaomin and replaced him with another son of Yuwen Tai, Emperor Ming. In 560, he poisoned Emperor Ming, who was succeeded by another son of Yuwen Tai, Emperor Wu. In 572, Emperor Wu ambushed Yuwen Hu and killed him, personally taking power.
Emperor Ming of Northern Zhou ( 周明帝) (534–560), personal name Yuwen Yu (宇文毓), Xianbei name Tongwantu (統萬突), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou, although at the start of his reign he used the alternative title "Heavenly Prince". He was made emperor after his younger brother Emperor Xiaomin was deposed and killed by the regent Yuwen Hu. Emperor Ming himself assumed some, but not all, powers from Yuwen Hu, and was generally considered able. Because of this, Yuwen Hu became apprehensive, and in 560, he poisoned Emperor Ming to death. While near death, however, Emperor Ming appointed his brother Yuwen Yong as his successor, believing Yuwen Yong to be intelligent and capable, and in 572, Yuwen Yong was finally able to kill Yuwen Hu and assume full imperial powers.
Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou ( 周武帝) (543–578), personal name Yuwen Yong (宇文邕), Xianbei name Miluotu (禰羅突), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. As was the case of the reigns of his brothers Emperor Xiaomin and Emperor Ming, the early part of his reign was dominated by his cousin Yuwen Hu, but in 572 he ambushed Yuwen Hu and seized power personally. He thereafter ruled ably and built up the power of his military, destroying rival Northern Qi in 577 and annexing its territory. His death the next year, however, ended his ambitions of uniting China, and under the reign of his erratic son Emperor Xuan, Northern Zhou itself soon deteriorated and was usurped by Yang Jian in 581.
Empress Dowager Chinu, formally Empress Xuan, was an empress dowager of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. She was the mother of Emperor Wu.
Emperor Wucheng of Northern Qi ( 齊武成帝) (537–569), personal name Gao Zhan, nickname Buluoji (步落稽), was an emperor of Northern Qi. In traditional Chinese historiography, he was presented as a minimally competent ruler who devoted much of his time to feasting and pleasure-seeking, neglecting the affairs of the state. The state was governed with assistance from his adviser He Shikai and other appointed administrators. In 565, he passed the throne to his young son Gao Wei, taking the title Taishang Huang, but continued to make key decisions. He died in 569, and the Northern Qi would fall in 577.
Gao Wei (高緯) (557–577), often known in history as Houzhu of Northern Qi ( 齊後主), courtesy name Rengang (仁綱), sometimes referred to by his later Northern Zhou-created title of Duke of Wen (溫公), was an emperor of Northern Qi. During his reign, Northern Qi's imperial administration was plunged into severe corruption and wastefulness, with the military suffering after Gao Wei killed the great general Hulü Guang in 572. Rival Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou launched a major attack in 576, and Northern Qi forces collapsed. Gao Wei, who formally passed the throne to his son Gao Heng, was captured while trying to flee to Chen Dynasty, and later that year, the Northern Zhou emperor executed him and almost all members of his clan.
Hulü Guang (斛律光) (515–572), courtesy name Mingyue (明月), was a general of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. During the late years of the dynasty—the reigns of Emperor Wucheng and Gao Wei, traditionally viewed as a period of corruption and debauchery when Northern Qi's once-powerful status was deteriorating—Hulü was viewed as the key pillar to the state and its army, maintaining the army's strength against rivals Northern Zhou and Chen Dynasty. The powerful officials Zu Ting and Mu Tipo, who had disagreements with him, however, falsely accused him of plotting treason, and in 572, Gao Wei believed those accusations and killed Hulü. Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou was very glad over the news and declared a general pardon, and in 578, Northern Qi fell to Northern Zhou.
Wei Xiaokuan (韋孝寬) (509–580), formal personal name Wei Shuyu (韋叔裕), known by the Xianbei name Yuwen Xiaokuan (宇文孝寬) during late Western Wei and Northern Zhou, formally Duke Xiang of Xun (勛襄公), was a general of the Chinese/Xianbei states Western Wei and Northern Zhou. He first became a prominent general during Western Wei as he defended the fortress of Yubi against a vastly larger army commanded by rival Eastern Wei's paramount general Gao Huan, and he eventually contributed greatly to the destruction of Eastern Wei's successor state Northern Qi by Northern Zhou. His final campaign, in 580, saw him siding with the regent Yang Jian against the general Yuchi Jiong in Northern Zhou's civil war, allowing Yang to defeat Yuchi and take over the throne as Sui Dynasty's Emperor Wen.
Yuchi Jiong (尉遲迥), courtesy name Bojuluo (薄居羅), was a general of the Chinese/Xianbei states Western Wei and Northern Zhou. He first came to prominence while his uncle Yuwen Tai served as the paramount general of Western Wei, and subsequently served Northern Zhou after the Yuwen clan established the state after Yuwen Tai's death. In 580, believing that the regent Yang Jian had designs on the throne, Yuchi rose against Yang but was soon defeated. He committed suicide.
Gao Heng, often known in history as the Youzhu of Northern Qi ( 齊幼主), was briefly an emperor of Northern Qi. In 577, with Northern Qi under a major attack by rival Northern Zhou, Gao Heng's father Gao Wei, then emperor, wanted to try to deflect ill omens that portended a change in imperial status, and therefore passed the throne to Gao Heng. Later that year, after they fled in face of Northern Zhou forces' arrival, they were captured and taken to the Northern Zhou capital Chang'an, where, in winter 577, Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou ordered them, as well as other members of the Gao clan, to commit suicide. Northern Qi territory was seized by Northern Zhou, although for several years Gao Wei's cousin Gao Shaoyi claimed imperial title in exile under Tujue's protection.
Gao Shaoyi (高紹義), often known by his princely title of Prince of Fanyang (范陽王), was an imperial prince of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi, who claimed the Northern Qi throne in exile under the protection of Tujue after rival Northern Zhou seized nearly all of Northern Qi territory and captured the emperors, Gao Shaoyi's cousin Gao Wei and Gao Wei's son Gao Heng in 577. In 580, Tujue, after negotiating a peace treaty with Northern Zhou, turned Gao Shaoyi over to Northern Zhou, and he was exiled to modern Sichuan, ending his claim on the Northern Qi imperial title. Most traditional historians do not consider Gao Shaoyi a true emperor of Northern Qi.
Consort Feng Xiaolian (馮小憐) was an imperial consort of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. She was a concubine of the penultimate Gao Wei, and his infatuation with her caused her to be, fairly or unfairly, often stated by traditional historians as a reason for Northern Qi's downfall.
Emperor Xuan of Northern Zhou ( 周宣帝) (559–580), personal name Yuwen Yun (宇文贇), courtesy name Qianbo (乾伯), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. He was known in history as an erratic and wasteful ruler, whose actions greatly weakened the Northern Zhou regime. As part of that erratic behavior, he passed the throne to his son Emperor Jing in 579, less than a year after taking the throne, and subsequently entitled not only his wife Yang Lihua empress, but four additional concubines as empresses. After his death in 580, the government was taken over by his father-in-law Yang Jian, who soon deposed his son Emperor Jing, ending Northern Zhou and establishing Sui Dynasty.
Prince of Lan Ling is a 2013 Chinese television series that is set during the lifetime of the Northern Qi Dynasty prince Gao Changgong. It starred Chinese actor Feng Shaofeng as the titular Prince of Lan Ling, alongside Taiwanese actress singer Ariel Lin and Hong Kong actor singer Daniel Chan.