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Li Chun the Emperor Xianzong of Tang — Eliminator of Warlords and Monarch With No Queen

Li Chun (778 — 820), respected as Emperor Xianzong of Tang, was considered one of the most successful monarchs in the mid to late Tang Dynasty

He inherited his grandfather's throne, ambition, assets, and unfinished dream. 

After years of difficult fights, Li Chun accomplished the big challenge his grandfather didn't finish and flourished the empire. 

Meanwhile, he had never nominated a queen for some reason and ended up controversially in his late years.  

Golden Dragons (Zou Long) that used as Ritual Implements of Taoism Religion Ceremony in the Tang Dynasty

Golden Dragons (Zou Long) that used as Ritual Implements of Taoism Religion Ceremony in the Tang Dynasty — Shaanxi History Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Surprising Assets From His Controversial Grandfather

Li Chun's grandfather and father passed away in the same year, and he ascended to the throne when he was 27.

Li Chun's grandfather, Emperor Dezong of Tang (742 — 805), presided over the most prosperous era of the Tang Dynasty but also endured the devastating An-Shi Rebellion, an eight-year conflict that claimed over 35 million lives and significantly weakened the empire.


As a consequence, semi-independent local military forces emerged, challenging central authority. 

Therefore, Emperor Dezong spent his life fighting against those strong warlords but failed and then implemented a series of self-contradicted, controversial policies in his late years. 

Unearthed Gilding Silver Wine Cup (Yu Shang) of the Tang Dynasty

Gilding Silver Wine Cup (Yu Shang) of the Tang Dynasty — Shaanxi History Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

It was uncertain whether he had ever told his beloved grandson Li Chun about how prosperous their empire used to be and the dream he had fought for.

When Li Chun ascended the throne, he discovered that his grandfather had left him a substantial sum of money in the treasury and a well-trained army that remained loyal to the emperor's commands.

The enlarged royal troop became a powerful weapon of Emperor Li Chun.

It turned out that in Emperor Dezong of Tang's later years, amidst frustration, he bore the blame for accumulating substantial wealth.


However, this decision inadvertently provided his grandson with the means to pursue their shared aspirations.

Inscriptions on Mount Tai, Written by Emperor Xuanzong of Tang

Inscriptions on Mount Tai, Written by Emperor Xuanzong of Tang to Memorize the Grand Fengshan (the most significant and honorable sacrificial rite in ancient Chinese history) Ceremony (the Gold Characters on the Right) and his Great Reign.

Big Victories in Defeating Rebellious Warlords

The year when Li Chun became emperor, a warlord of the Tang Empire initiated a rebel war.


Other warlords remained cautious, observing closely to discern the new emperor's approach to the rebellion and anticipate his policies.

Li Chun decisively organized his royal troops to fight back and achieved absolute success soon.

In the following years, Emperor Li Chun defeated powerful warlords one by one, resolutely and smartly.

The strategy of eliminating one strong warlord at a time proved effective. After the defeat of some powerful warlords, others acquiesced.

Li Chun, Emperor Xianzong of Tang, didn't fail his grandfather's effort and expectations and successfully realized their dream.

Emperor Li Chun's Reign of Excellence

After successfully defeating rebellious warlords, the emperor eliminated the potential possibility of separation of the nation, ensuring that the Tang Empire was progressing in a better direction.

Besides, Emperor Li Chun nominated and trusted many intelligent, honest, and righteous officials who supported his political conceptions.

Under their governance, the economy and agriculture recovered gradually, and people lived in peace and wealth again.

Though the empire never reached the prosperity it used to be in the first century of the Tang Dynasty, everything was recovering and flourishing. 

Additionally, Li Chun's attitude toward eunuch groups was unique: he nominated and empowered some of them but didn't show them any preferential treatment. In the emperor's view, eunuchs were still his servants.

Unearthed Tri-coloured Glazed Pottery Horse (Tang San Cai) of the Tang Dynasty

Tri-coloured Glazed Pottery Horse (Tang San Cai) of the Tang Dynasty — Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Reasons Emperor Li Chun Never Wanted a Queen

Emperor Li Chun never nominated a queen in his entire life.


That didn’t mean he was not interested in women; on the contrary, he had many imperial concubines.

He highly valued centralized and absolute power, especially after he gained it after so many brutal wars.

But a queen and her clan might wield significant power and exert unpredictable political influence. He also didn't want a queen to have authority over his personal life, including his relationships with other women.

He aimed to ensure equality among his consorts and maintain autonomy in his romantic relationships.

This behavior was then applied by many of the following emperors of the Tang Dynasty.

Jade Flying Deity of the Tang Dynasty

Jade Flying Deity of the Tang Dynasty — Shanghai Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

However, there was never absolute equality. 

One of his concubines, Guo, was way nobler than the emperor's other women. 

Her mother was an honorable royal princess, and her grandfather was the great general Guo Ziyi, who contributed significantly to the empire. 

Therefore, she obtained support from the royals, nobles, officials, and generals.  

Later, her son was nominated as crown prince, even though he wasn't the oldest nor Li Chun's favorite. 

Afterward, Li Chun tried to nominate another son as the crown prince but failed because of Guo's strong supporters' opposition. 

But Li Chun didn't give the queen's crown to Guo either.

Sudden and Controversial Death of Emperor Li Chun

Li Chun, Emperor Xianzong of Tang, passed away suddenly when he was 42, and the official documents recorded that sickness caused his death. 

Others, however, questioned his influential concubine Guo.


At that time, Li Chun intended to remove her son from the crown prince and refused to nominate her as the queen.

Another saying was that some eunuchs that were badly treated poisoned the emperor.

After Emperor Li Chun's death, the force of Guo, now Empress Yi'an (779 — 848), immediately eliminated their political enemies and obtained control over the government. 

Her son and three grandsons became emperors of Tang in a row, but only the last one, Li Yan (814 — 846), was a good monarch.

Meanwhile, with incapable emperors reigning the empire, warlords and nearby nomadic regimes again started to obtain more power and land.

Painted Figurine of Tang Dynasty

Painted Figurine of Tang Dynasty — Art Institute of Chicago (Photo by Dongmaiying)

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