Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Emperor Wen of Sui -- Inaugurator of A Unified and Prosperous Dynasty 

Yang Jian (541 — 604), also respected as Emperor Wen of Sui, was the founder of the Sui Dynasty in the history of China.

He ended the centuries of separation and chaos, established a unified empire that brought people stable and wealthy lives, innovated a series of advanced systems that set the political foundation for the next millennium of Chinese history, and promoted national amalgamation.

Hence, despite the intense way of his snatching the throne, and a love affair in his late years, Yang Jian always was considered as one of the greatest emperors in the history of China. 

Yang Jian’s Dormancy Era and Severe Political Struggles 

Yang Jian married to Dugu Jialuo (or Qieluo), the love of his life, when he was a teenager. At that time, his wife’s father failed in a political struggle and was forced to commit suicide. Therefore, he and his wife together suffered from many life and death crisis.

Luckily, Yang Jian’s father kept winning in wars, and his brothers married to other noble girls from strong clans. Their increasing power not only protected Yang Jian and his love Dugu in the next few years, but also facilitated the marriage of Yang’s first daughter Lihua to the current crown prince.

Later, the crown prince ascended to the throne, and Yang’s daughter became the queen. Gradually, Yang Jian obtained more power and support, because of his exceptional talent in both military and governance.

However, the new king, also Yang Jian’s son-in-law, never trusted him and felt threatened by his intelligence and reputation; so this king demoted Yang Jian to a remote city, after having tried but failed to assassinate him. 

Soon, this king passed away at a very young age, and his 6-year-old son ascended to the throne.

Yang Jian’s daughter Lihua then was honored as the empress dowager, hence, Yang Jian was nominated as the regent to rule the kingdom.

Unearthed Artifacts from Mausoleum of Granddaughter of Lihua — National Museum of China

An Exceptional General and A Cruel Usurper 

However, in the next few months, many powerful lords attacked Yang Jian, for disagreeing him to be the regent that was in power. 

Encouraged by his wife Dugu Jialuo, Yang Jian and his followers decisively defeated all of these opponents on the battlefields. Then he tricked and assassinated six princes that were the legal heirs of the kingdom, and again vanquished another talented marshal who wanted to revenge for those princes.

Less than a year later, all of Yang Jian’s political enemies were eliminated. 

Then, he forced the 8-year-old king to abdicate the throne, and changed his empire's name to the Sui.

This former king and his two younger brothers, were soon assassinated in the same year. 

 

Establishment of the Sui Dynasty and Wars of Unification 

Outside of the Great Wall, however, the Turkic Khaganate sent over 500, 000 soldiers to invade Yang Jian in the second year that Sui Dynasty was established, only because he refused to offer tributes. 

Then Yang Jian sent his best generals to fight bravely with Tujue, while trying to alienate them at the same time.

Around a decade later, the Turkic Khaganate divided into two regimes; the west one moved further away, the other one on the east complied to the Sui Empire and respected Yang Jian as their honorable monarch.

At the same time, Yang Jian commanded his second son Yang Guang defeated the kingdoms in the south and unified the whole of the nation. 

Since then, the Sui Dynasty has brought prosperity and unification again, after nearly 300 years of separation. 

Indeed, Yang Jian was a cruel usurper; however, he was widely considered as a great emperor that worth countless praises. 

Besides the contribution of having put hundreds years of separation to an end, one of the most important reasons was those innovative policies and systems that he had established.

Exceptional Accomplishments of the Emperor Wen of Sui 

The political system of Three Provinces and Six Ministries, which was applied for the next 1,500 years in the history of China, was established in order to consolidate the centralized power.

Yang Jian also published a new law which included abrogation of cruel corporal punishment, and three independent trials about the death penalty. 

Then Yang Jian, the Emperor Wen of Sui, commanded to construct the 83 square kilometers’ big Da Xing city, the largest one at that time; many granaries were constructed across the whole country as well.

He changed the population registration system, which released tens of thousands of slaves. 

Those newly freed people, together with other civilians, were distributed with farmland soon.

Afterwards, the Emperor Wen of Sui tried his best to collect, preserve books, and to promote Han culture nationwide. 

When he passed away, the population of the Sui Empire reached nearly 50 million, foods in all the granaries were able to support the whole nation for another 60 years.

Within only 23 years ruling period, Yang Jian the Emperor Wen of Sui has not only unified the whole of the nation and defeated the powerful Turkic Khaganate, but also established an effective and solid administrative foundation for the following millennium of Chinese history, and brought his people wealthy and stable lives.

​Reproduced Picture of Da Xing City of Sui Dynasty in History of China

Great Love with Queen Dugu and His Love Affair

Yang Jian's love story with his queen Dugu was famous and beautiful. Besides being a remarkable emperor, Yang Jian was also quite famous for being "hen-pecked".

They got married when they were teenagers and lived happily ever after. From his early dormancy, unstable era, to a great emperor, Dugu accompanied him all the time and played significant roles in all of his big decisions. 

In Yang Jian’s late years, he one day saw a beautiful girl serving in the royal palace who also was the granddaughter of his former biggest enemy. Then he slept with this gorgeous young woman for once, but soon was found out by Queen Dugu.  

After hearing that Dugu killed this girl, Yang Jian was quite angry and sad; he rushed out of the royal palace, wondering why as a powerful emperor of a polygamous society, he couldn’t be with a beautiful maid. 

Later, he calmed down and came back, and made peace with his queen again. 

Not long after this affair, his queen Dugu passed away. 

As a very frugal emperor, Yang Jian commanded his talented prime minister to build a big mausoleum, construct large memorial palaces, and held a series of worship ceremonies about his beloved woman. 

Around one year after Queen Dugu’s departure, Yang Jian the Emperor Wen of Sui got sick and passed away. Before his death, he commanded his crown prince to bury him and Dugu together, hoping they could meet again in another world.

Calligraphy Work of Yang Jian the Emperor Wen of Sui

Alteration of the Crown Prince and the Profound Influences

 

Emperor Wen of Sui and Queen Dugu raised 5 boys and 5 girls together. Their first son Yong was nominated as the crown prince, a talented young man, but who also lived a luxurious life with many imperial concubines.  

Their second son Guang, however, only had one wife that he loved, lived an unadorned life, and played an important role in subduing the southern kingdom. 

Under strong suggestion of Queen Dugu, the challenger of polygamy, Emperor Wen of Sui finally decided to abolish his first son, and nominated the second as the new crown prince. 

This decision in the end buried the big Sui Empire; though, from another perspective, also pointed a certain direction of the Chinese history. 

Unearthed Clay Warrior of Sui — Shaanxi History Museum

Their first son Yong was the representative of the old powerful clans in the north, most of which came from the former kingdom that Yang Jian used to serve.

 

Their second son Guang, on the contrary, was the delegate of the new landlord class, especially those from the southern kingdom that he conquered and managed for a long time. 

All reasons combined, Emperor Wen of Sui and Queen Dugu chose the second son, favored a bigger country and the new landlord class. 

Hence, the era of separation when powerful clans manipulating politics, was about to end.

A new epoch that one's talent triumph the family name would be coming soon, though at expensive costs.  

Even Emperor Wen of Sui gained the throne illegally and deviously killed some decent ministers, he was still highly respected as one of the greatest emperors in China, not only because he used a prosperous empire to put centuries of separation and chaos to an end, but also pointed a direction, and set a political foundation for the next millennium of Chinese history. 

Coloured Glaze Chess Piece of Sui — Shaanxi History Museum