Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Li Ye -- Penultimate Emperor of the Tang Dynasty with Ambition and Bad Luck

Ascending to Throne And Removing Power From Eunuchs 

Two emperors before Li Ye were his father and older brother, who were irresponsible and incapable, and left to him a kingdom with powerful eunuchs and warlords, as well as chaos and destructions after a large scale peasant uprising.

 

When Emperor Li Ye (867 -- 904), also respected as Tang Zhao Zong, ascended to the throne, the first thing he did was to eliminate the most powerful eunuch who had influential connections with strong warlords.

 

Emperor Li Ye carefully and secretly planned with smart ministers on how to abolish eunuch groups. Over a year later, Ye finally succeeded after some thorough fights and defeated eunuch’s uprising army.

 

Now Li Ye finally retrieved authority from extremely powerful eunuch groups and mercilessly perished them. 

 

A Fatal Faliure that Lead to More Growing Warlords 

However, an even bigger problem became more severe, the expanding of half-independent kingdoms led by powerful warlords. 

 

After Emperor Li Ye retrieved the control over the central government, he started to recruit and establish his own royal troop; then he commanded them to fight in wars toward those disloyal warlords.

 

Unfortunately, he didn’t have a talented and loyal general, especially when his own soldiers were still inexperienced.

 

Soon, his 100,000 soldiers’ royal troop was perished after two big failures. 

 

Consequently, those disloyal warlords became stronger and kept expanding their territories; gradually, their half-independent kingdoms turned into independent realms.

 

Emperor Li Ye himself was manipulated by different warlords for years, and lots of royal princes were assassinated during this chaos. 

 

Until the most powerful one named Zhu Wen won over others and took Li Ye under his own control. 

 

Assassination of Emperors and the Ending of Tang Dynasty

Emperor Li Ye was forced to nominate Zhu Wen as the most powerful minister of the Empire Tang, which made Zhu Wen the regent of the whole nation.

Zhu Wen then forced Emperor Li Ye move to another city. Before they left, Zhu Wen torn down the fancy royal palace of the Tang Empire.

The Daming Palace, which was built in the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, where Tang’s emperors lived for hundreds of years, where Emperor Li Ye was born and raised, was completely torn down and then burnt up. 

This spectacular royal palace was 3 times the size of the Chateau de Versailles, 14 times bigger than the Buckingham Palace, 4.5 times as big as the Forbidden City, then left only some relics after Zhu Wen’s destruction. 

Countless of valuable timbers and residues were thrown into the river, floating, directionlessly. 

During this journey, Zhu Wen gradually replaces all of Li Ye's servants, using people with the similar features.

When Emperor Li Ye found out, he was already completely alone, under absolutely control of the warlord Zhu Wen.

Soon, many other loyal warlords allied together to fight against Zhu Wen.

 

Zhu Wen worried that Emperor Li Ye might be fell into other loyal warlords' hands.

 

So, before he left for the war, Zhu Wen led his followers directly rushed into Emperor Li Ye’s bedroom, assassinated the emperor and his beloved concubine, cruelly. 

Then Zhu Wen supported Li Ye’s oldest 12 year old son to be the next emperor, while he slaughtered the rest of royal princes and ministers who were still loyal to the Tang Empire.

 

Three years after Emperor Li Ye’s death, Zhu Wen forced the new emperor to abdicate the throne and ended the Tang Dynasty.

 

Though there were some warlords that were still faithful to the Empire Tang, such as the Lord Li Cunxu, they couldn’t do anything while their emperor was still under the control of Zhu Wen. 

 

After Zhu Wen poisoned the Tang Empire’s last emperor to death, those loyal warlords and their armies then became independent kingdoms as well, since they had no monarchs to serve anymore. 

Then the whole nation stepped into an era of big seperation and chaos, that was the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms.

 

Emperor Li Ye's Adversity and Tragedy

Li Ye's grandfather Emperor Li Chen was the last great monarch of the Tang Dynasty, who brought prosperity to this kingdom. 

 

Emperor Li Ye’s policies in the beginning was not wrong, and he was very diligent and well planned, so he shouldn’t take the responsibility to those tragedies in the ending of the Tang Dynasty. 

Those two horrible sovereigns between Emperor Li Chen and Li Ye already had destroyed this empire, extensively. 

 

Throughout the history of China, decency, system and laws only worked in an established and stable empire; while in chaos era that was full of powerful warlords, only the intelligent monarch with strong military forces could change the situation, like those founders of each dynasty.

 

Unfortunately, Emperor Li Ye didn’t have an excellent and loyal general, by his side, to assist him to gain enough military force to take over control over his own empire. In addition, he himself had no excellent military skills either. 

 

An emperor in those chaotic and destructive situation was not lucky; an ambitious emperor who had the will to make a change and fought so intensively but failed, was even sadder.

 

After seeing his empire fell in front of him, his palace and capital city were destroyed by the horrible warlord Zhu Wen, his beloved women and other families were cruelly slaughtered, the desperation of this smart and ambitious Emperor Li Ye must be quite huge. 

 

The Only Descendant of the Royal Li Clan and His Normal Life

 

The luckiest thing in Emperor Li Ye’s life, probably was how he saved his youngest son.

 

When this baby boy was born, Li Ye was already under control of Zhu Wen; his other alive sons were captured and imprisoned separately as well.

 

So Li Ye and his queen gave this baby prince to a brave and loyal person named Hu, and asked him to take the baby away from the royal palace and escape to a far and safer place.

Under Zhu Wen’s severe monitoring, Hu successfully took the baby escaped out of the city. 

 

Months later, Emperor Li Ye was assassinated; in the next few years, Ye’s queen and other sons were all murdered by Zhu Wen. Soon, the whole royal family members, the Li Clan of the Tang Dynasty, were all slaughtered cruelly, except the baby boy. 

The baby boy, named Li Changyi, was taken to Hu’s hometown and raised up by him, peacefully.

 

He was very intelligent and won the second place in the Imperial Examination of the next dynasty, the Song Dynasty that was built by Emperor Zhao Kuangyin.

 

Then Hu, his adopted father, told him his real identity and showed him the royal keepsakes from his birth parents.

 

Li Changyi felt very sad for his birth parents and his empire; he could not be involved in politics anymore, as the only descendant of the royal family from the previous dynasty. This status would be a big threaten to both monarchs of the next dynasty, and to himself.

 

So he quit his political occupation and started to teach in the civilian’s world; also, he changed his family name to Hu, same as his adoptive father.

He respected his adoptive father very well, and commanded that all of his descendants should not try to change their family name back to Li, or to recover their former empire.

Since then, Li Changyi lived a long and wealthy life and had lots of kids, as an outstanding litterateur and educator.

Maybe this was what his father, the Emperor Li Ye, would have expected for him.