Li Chun the Emperor Xianzong of Tang — Successful 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, diligent fights, Li Chun successfully accomplished the big challenge that 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 — 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 years old.

Li Chun's grandfather, the Emperor Dezong of Tang (742 — 805) had seen the most prosperous era of the Tang Dynasty and witnessed the destructive An-Shi Rebellion that lasted for eight years and took away over 35 million lives and dramatically declined the empire, after which some disobedient, half-independent local military forces were formed. 

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. 

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

It was not sure that whether he had ever told his beloved grandson Li Chun about how prosperous their empire used to be, and the dream that he had fought for.

When Li Chun got the throne, he found that his grandfather left him a great deal of money in the exchequer and a strong, well-trained troop that only listens to the emperor.

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

It turned out that in Emperor Dezong of Tang's frustrated late years, he took the blame for collecting large amounts of money, but he gave his grandson a chance to realize their dream.

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 on Defeating Rebellious Warlords

The year when Li Chun became emperor, a warlord of Tang Empire initiated a rebel war, when other warlords staying put, observing and trying to figure out how the new emperor would handle the rebellion, and what his policies would be.

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

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

That "abrogation a strong one at a time" strategy worked very well. After some powerful warlords were defeated, others complied.

Li Chun the Emperor Xianzong of Tang didn’t fail his grandfather’s effort and expectation, and had successfully realized their dream.

Emperor Li Chun's Excellent Reign 

After having successfully defeated rebellious warlords, the emperor eliminated potential possibilities of separation of the nation, so that the Tang Empire was progressing to a better direction.

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

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

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

Additionally, Li Chun's attitude toward eunuch groups was special: he nominated and empowered some of them, but didn't treat them with any preferences either. In the emperor's mind, eunuchs were still his personal servants.

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

Reasons that 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 lots of imperial concubines.

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

But a queen and her clan might be very powerful and bring unpredictable influences to politics. He also didn’t want a queen that has the right to intervene with his sex life or manage his other women.

So he wanted to make sure that all of his women were equal and he could enjoy free love life. 

This behavior then was applied by many of the following emperors 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 named 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 that contributed significantly to the empire. 

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

Later, her son was nominated as crown prince, even 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' oppositions. 

Hence, Li Chun never gave the queen's crown to Guo either as her supporters suggested. 

Li Chun's Sudden, Controversial Death

Li Chun the Emperor Xianzong of Tang passed away out of a sudden when he was 42, which the official documents recorded that sickness caused his death. 

Others, however, questioned his powerful concubine Guo. Since at that time, Li Chun already showed intentions to remove her son from crown prince, and kept refusing 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 the 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 named Li Yan (814 — 846) was a good monarch.

In the meanwhile, with incapable emperors, warlords and nearby nomadic regimes, again, started to obtain more power and land.  

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

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