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Li Longji -- Controversial Emperor with Extreme Achievements and Destruction in History of China 

Emperor Li Longji (685 -- 762), also respected as Tang Xuan Zong or Tang Ming Huang, was another controversial emperor of the Tang Dynasty in the history of China.


Li Longji was quite a handsome and talented monarch with excellent governance and military skills, an outstanding calligrapher and poet with masterpieces, and a great musician who expertized in many types of instruments and left many amazing compositions behind.

His perseverance and courage brought his empire one of the most prosperous eras in the history of China. 


But an eight year long destructive war, the An-Shi Rebellion, which brought countless disasters and miseries to civilians, also happened under his dominance.

This made Li Longji both a very good and very bad emperor, as well as a very good and bad husband. 

Ambitious, Brave Prince Who Got the Throne for His Father

Li Longji’s father was the fourth son of Empress Wu Zetian and Emperor Li Zhi.


When Li Longji was born, his father had already ascended to the throne, but was half imprisoned by Empress Wu.


Five years later, Wu Zetian claimed herself emperor; Longji’s father was abrogated and his whole family was isolated in a palace. When he was 8 years old, his mother was framed up and then secretly executed by Empress Wu.


Prince Li Longji was set free when he was 14; afterwards, he was able to meet with more people and had been assigned some political positions. Though Empress Wu didn’t quite appreciate her own sons, she liked her grandson Li Longji a lot.


Years later, Empress Wu was forced to abdicate the throne in a coup, and gave it to her third son, Longji’s uncle. 


However, after his uncle was poisoned to death, his aunt (his uncle’s queen) and her daughter Li Guoer were actually in charge of the empire. His aunt wanted to be the second female emperor like Wu Zetian, but didn’t have the ability and intelligence, and brought chaos to the society.


So Li Longji and his father’s sister initiated a coup, in which most of the imperial guards assisted him voluntarily.


After Longji executed his aunt and her daughter, his father became the new emperor. 


His older brother, who was supposed to be the crown prince, insisted that Li Longji was more talented and contributive; therefore, Longji was nominated as the heir of Empire Tang.


Remarkable Emperor Li Longji Who Brought the Best Time 

As one of Empress Wu Zetian’s sons, Longji's father always lived in caution and fear, and even had some life and death moments. So he didn’t care or desire the emperor’s power.


Few years later he resigned and gave Longji the throne.


Soon, Li Longji decisively defeated another powerful enemy, the Princess Taiping, the favorite and smartest daughter of Empress Wu Zetian.


Afterwards, he achieved all the power and then led his kingdom stepped into an extremely prosperous stage in the history of China. 


When Emperor Li Longji ascended to the throne,  it was only 7 years after Empress Wu’s death; so he inherited a prosperous empire that his grandparents left to him. 


He immediately nominated many talented ministers who made great contributions flourishing the kingdom, regardless of their original families. He also hired and examined magistrates of local counties by himself to make sure they were qualified and capable to do a good job.


Large numbers of officers were reduced, especially those useless positions which were set up during his uncle and aunt’s ruling period. Afterwards, the political system was much more efficient and energetic.


Emperor Li Longji established professional armies and military sites, which improved their military skills. He also took back farmlands from powerful aristocratic clans and redistributed them to civilians.


Science (especially Chinese astronomy and calendar) and collections and edit of books all achieved remarkable developments during his ruling period. 


Tang Empire’s prosperity under his ruling reached its peak, when its population reached 80 million and the territory extended to 10.76 million square kilometers.


The cultivated land per person back then was about 6.5 times of it in today’s China; minorities and foreign neighbors were communicating kindly and were living in peace. 


Art, poem, agriculture, economy, transportation, commerce, handicrafts and Taoism Religion all developed unprecedentedly.

Li Longji's Love Story with Yang Guifei

Emperor Li Longji once banished and executed 3 of his own sons, only because his favorite concubine said that they were planning to rebel. Soon this woman died and Longji felt depressed.


Later he fell in love with wife of one of his sons' (Yang Yuhuan), took her away from his son and nominated her as his own imperial concubine.


This meeting with his true love became a huge turning point for both Tang Dynasty and himself.


Yang Yuhuan, also respected as Lady Yang or Yang Guifei, was a beautiful girl from a noble family, who was also an excellent dancer and genius musician in the history of China.


Everybody believed that Emperor Li Longji truly loved Yang.


He did almost everything he could to make her happy, and nominated nearly all of her relatives to make her smile. Longji and Yang, a couple of great musicians, created many amazing musical masterpieces and made great contributions to Chinese music history.


Later, Yang’s brother became the most powerful minister of the Tang Empire, who was also the worst one in that period. 


After Emperor Li Longji was living with Yang, and nominated her brother to be the prime minister, he cared less about politics and spent more time enjoying life with Yang. 


From his perspective, his empire was powerful and prosperous, his people were living in peace and wealthy, he himself was living happily with the amazing woman that he loves.


Everything was too perfect to realize that a huge disaster was coming.

Erupting of A Destructive War -- the An-Shi Rebellion

Two warlords named An Lushan and Shi Siming initiated a big rebel war. 

They were commanders of three huge troops in the border of the Tang Empire, which were supposed to guard the central government from nomadic regimes. This meant those rebel armies were quite experienced and strong. 


On the other side, soldiers and civilians of the Tang Empire had been living in peace and wealth for too long. In the beginning, they even couldn’t believe that there was a war approaching, until they actually saw the blood and dead bodies.


Tang's army lost many cities to the rebel troop in the first few years; tens of thousands of people lost their homes and lives.


Emperor Li Longji now was already old, and lost the bravery and courage he had when he was young.


Even though he was an outstanding emperor with good military skill and all of his people’s support and loyalty, he chose to escape from his capital city.


He took Yang and her brother, planned to run to a safer place in China, while leaving his crown prince to keep fighting with the rebel army.

Forcing His Beloved to Suicide and Losing of the Throne


During his escape journey, his imperial guards killed Yang’s brother, and forced Emperor Li Longji to kill Yang.


They blamed Yang and her brother as an important reason for turning such a wonderful empire into the one with wars and chaos.


After Yang passed away, these soldiers continued to protect Li Longji to a safe city. 


Li Longji came back to the capital city 8 years later, after his son having defeated the revolting army, with the assistance of some remarkable generals and loyal soldiers and large numbers of brave civilians who wanted their stable lives back. 


However, Li Longji found that his crown prince already claimed the throne. 

Li Longji's Miserable and Heartbroken Later Years

In Li Longji’s later years, he was half imprisoned in a small palace, but still had some freedom to talk to his sister and some old servants.


He spent lots of time missing Yang, the woman he loved so much, but also died for his own fault.


A few years later, because of some instigations, all the people that Li Longji was familiar with were expelled and killed by his emperor son; some new servants were sent to both serve and monitor him.


In the end, Li Longji passed away there, sick and alone. 


The Complex Monarch Li Longji

As an emperor, Li Longji brought to his people the most prosperous era of the Tang Dynasty; also, however, brought to his empire the cruel war and irreversible destruction, which weakened the Tang Dynasty dramatically.

Around 36 million people in the north lost their lives because of this An-Shi Rebellion.


After that eight-year-long war, the Empire Tang started to decline gradually, and had never got back the lost prosperity. 


Li Longji's love story with Yang was widespread and eulogized for generations. As a husband, he truly loved her and tried his best to give her everything he could.


However, his beloved woman was frequently criticized and blamed for having hold him up, which caused both the war and the huge decline of the Tang Empire in the history of China; furthermore, he couldn’t protect her, and commanded her to die.


His achievements and faults were all extreme and controversial; maybe these complexities also made history more provoking and attractive.