Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Li Yan -- Buddhism Terminator of the Tang Dynasty 

The Carefree Prince Li Yan and His Happy Ealy Life

Li Yan (814 -- 846) was one of the Emperor Li Chun’s grandsons, but he was never considered as the heir of the throne, since he was not the oldest or most talented prince.

 

This allowed him to have a free and wealthy life before he was 26, as a rich and noble prince.

 

During this period, he made some friends outside of the political world, and travelled around many places in China; he also met the love of his life, a beautiful and smart singer, during his trip and brought her back to his palace. 

 

Li Yan's father was a ridiculous and irresponsible monarch, who only enjoyed various games and luxury lives, and passed away at a young age.

 

Then, Li Yan’s oldest brother, another horrible emperor, ascended to the throne; but this emperor soon was assassinated by a powerful eunuch Qiu.

 

So Yan’s second oldest brother became the next emperor, a diligent and righteous monarch. However, he soon became the puppet of Qiu after he tried to kill Qiu but failed.

 

Getting the Throne For Being Weak and Incapable 

After his second oldest brother departed, Qiu forged a will and supported Yan as the new emperor. At that time, no one was supporting the Prince Li Yan, who was never considered to be brave or intelligent, nor had any powerful political resources. 

 

Qiu believed that Li Yan would be super grateful and easy to manipulate. 

 

In the beginning, as Qiu expected, young Emperor Li Yan respected him and almost followed all his suggestions. But in the meantime, Li Yan also extremely trusted an intelligent politician named Li Deyu and nominated him as the most powerful prime minister.

 

When Qiu found out that Li Yan was actually quite decisive and talented, it was already too late.

 

Emperor Li Yan deprived all the power from Qiu, and efficiently suppressed the whole eunuch group, only three years after he ascended to the throne. 

The Decisive Emperor Li Yan and His Good Governance 

 

Emperor Li Yan, also respected as Tang Wu Zong, after having eliminated those powerful and manipulative eunuchs, started to deal with the increasingly powerful warlords and nomadic regimes nearby, which were all solved successfully with the assistance of his excellent and trusted minister Deyu.

 

Li Yan and Deyu published some strict policies to manage officers, included forbidding them to be involved in business activities, raising of salary of officers in remote or poverty areas, punishing or expelling unqualified and inefficient ones, and increasing the numbers of officers that were selected from the Imperial Examination.

 

Deyu played a significant role in all of those achievements and was always trusted by Emperor Li Yan; their closeness and great cooperative relationship perfectly improved the Tang Empire’s economy and people's lives. 

 

Abolishment of Buddhism 

Emperor Li Yan also implemented a controversial policy that was not suggested by Deyu, which was aimed at restricting and abolishing Buddhism.

 

Li Yan himself believed in Taoism, as most of other emperors in the Tang Dynasty. 

 

He found that Buddhists were occupying lots of people and lands, because they didn’t need tp pay for tax, and had absolute control over all of their properties.

 

So Emperor Li Yan commanded to reduce the numbers of Buddhist monks and nuns, and dismantled many small scale temples.

 

This policy made almost a million people got back to agricultural production and became taxpayers; the national treasury was largely enriched since then.  

 

Li Yan - A Good Monarch and A Modest Person

Li Yan passed away six years after he became the emperor, at a very young age. The singer whom he met on his trip committed suicide, and left the world with him together.

 

Though Li Yan was not the most glorious and famous monarchs in the history of China, he was quite smart in selecting intelligent ministers, and was always modest.

 

When ministers told him that he was wrong or he should do something important, Li Yan always would apologize and then follow their advises, which was a very valuable character as an emperor with great centralized power.