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The Xianbei, Rouran and the Northern Dynasties


The Tuoba intermarried with Xianbei clans and with prestigious lines of ... The Erzhu clan had been given a large fief by the Northern Wei as a reward for ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Xianbei, Rouran and the Northern Dynasties

The Xianbei, Rouran (??) and the Northern
  • Reading
  • Barfield, Thomas, The Perilous Frontier, Ch. 3,
    The collapse of Central Order, pp. 101-10 OR
  • Holmgren, Jennifer, Marriage, Kinship and Power
    in Northern China
  • Imperial marriage in the Native Chinese and
    non-Han State, Han to Ming OR
  • The Harem in Northern Wei Politics, 398-493 AD
    A Study of Tuoba attitudes towards the
    institution of empress dowager and regency
    governments in the Chinese dynastic system during
    early Northern Wei OR
  • Family, Marriage and Political Power in Sixth
    Century China A study of the Gao Family of the
    Northern Chi, c.520-550, in VI, pp 1-50. OR
  • Family, Marriage and Political Power in Sixth
    Century China A Study of the Kao Family of the
    Northern Chi, c.520-550, VI, pp 1-50.
  • OR
  • Dien, Albert E., ed., State and society in early
    medieval China,Politics of the Inner Court under
    the Hou-chu (Last Lord of the Northern Chi, c..
    565-73 in pp 269-330.
  • Klein, Kenneth Douglas, The contributions of the
    fourth century Xianbei States to the
    Reunification of the Chinese Empire

The Xianbei, Rouran and the Northern Dynasties
  • The Establishment of the Northern Wei (386-534)
  • Marriage Alliances of the Tuoba
  • The Sinification of the Tuoba
  • The Tuoba and the Rouran
  • The End of the Northern Wei
  • Puppet Emperors on the Wei Throne
  • The Northern Qi
  • Succession Problems
  • The end of Northern Qi (550-557)
  • The Northern Zhou (557-581)
  • The Regency of Yuwen Hu
  • The End of the Northern Zhou
  • References Northern Wei
  • The End of the Rouran
  • The Power of Foster Mothers Chang and Feng

The Establishment of the Northern Wei
  • The early Tuoba ?? kingdom was called Dai, after
    the Chinese name of the area.
  • This kingdom was never recognized as one of the
    16 kingdoms in Chinese history as it was not a
    well organized confederation of nomads.
  • During most of this period, the Tuoba paid
    allegiance to their more powerful neighbors or
    they would escape into the mountains when
  • The Tuoba began to try to conquer other steppe
    peoples when the Xiongnu Empire first divided
    into Northern and Southern Xiongnu.
  • During most of the 4th century they were quite
    strong in the steppe until they were defeated by
    the Former Qin.
  • After the fall of the Former Qin, the Tuoba had
    greater control of the steppe.
  • Tuoba Gui ??? (r.386-409) became Prince of Dai
    but changed his title to Prince of Wei and
    founded the Tuoba state of N. Wei.
  • However, for half of his reign he had no
    permanent court.
  • In 387, Tuoba Gui and Murong Chui of the Former
    Yan allied and defeated the Later Zhao.

The Establishment of the Northern Wei
  • 14 years after Tuoba Gui declared himself emperor
    of a new Wei dynasty (396) he controlled the
    entire northeastern region of China and southern
    Manchuria (By 410).
  • He defeated the Northern Yan in 436 Northern
    Yan was the successor kingdom of the Later Yan
    (Murong Gao/Gao Yun)
  • The reunification of northern China was
    accomplished by Northern Wei ?? (386-534) which
    governed it for about 100 years.
  • Tuoba Gui adopted the Yan pattern of dual
  • He allowed the Xianbei to retain their old
  • The tribal confederacy and tribesmen were
    registered as subjects of the state and organized
    as military units.
  • They were given land and forced to settle on it,
    acting as garrison communities and nomadism was
  • The Chinese were attracted to serve as they could
    gain influence by working for a dynasty that
    needed to run the civil bureaucracy.
  • The Chinese were rewarded for their service.

The Establishment of the Northern Wei (2)
  • Northern China had been divided for 135 years
    (since 304) before it was reunified under the N.
  • The Tuoba capital was established at Ping-cheng,
    a steppe area at the center of the dynastys
    military power.
  • It was described as an overgrown frontier town by
    visitors from the more sophisticated south.
  • The Tuoba renamed themselves the Yuan as a part
    of their synification (496).

Marriage Alliances of the Tuoba
  • Tuoba Gui used strategic marriages to win the
    loyalties of influential clans, particularly
    those of the conquered ruling houses.
  • The Tuoba intermarried with Xianbei clans and
    with prestigious lines of Xiongnu rulers.
  • They granting titles to members of the consort
  • Tuoba Gui married the sister of a leader of the
    Xiongnu clan and named their child as his
  • He took the daughter of the last emperor, Murong
    Bao, of the Later Yan, as his consort.
  • He also took a consort from the Duan clan (the
    long-time consort clan of the Murong).
  • The second emperor, Tuoba Si, took the daughter
    of the Later Qin, Yao Xing, as consort.
  • He also had two Murong wives.

Marriage Alliances of the Tuoba (2)
  • The third emperor, Tuoba Tao, conquered Da Xie in
    431 and took the daughter of the ruler, Helian
    Bobo, as his consort the daughters of the Da
    Xie ruling house were given to other Tuoba
    leaders in marriage.
  • His major concubines were
  • Two sisters of Empress Helian
  • The daughter of Juqu, prince of Northern Liang
  • The sister of the Khan of Rouran.
  • The daughter of Feng Hong, emperor of the
    Northern Yan.
  • Tuoba Taos heir, Tuoba Huang, had a Murong wife.
  • The fifth emperor, Tuoba Jun (r.452-465), Tuoba
    Taos grandson, took as empress the granddaughter
    of Feng Hong, emperor of the Northern Yan.
  • One of his concubines was Juqu, from the
    Northern Liang.
  • Two of Empress Fengs nieces, were married to her
    grandson, Tuoba Hong.
  • Half of the Tuoba princesses about 54 were
    given in marriage to the different clans and the
    other half to the Chinese clans.
  • The fourth emperor was assassinated after less
    than a year on the throne.

Marriage Policy of the Northern Wei
  • The Tuoba, adopted a policy that denied other
    groups access to power through marriage ties
    protect the privileges of the imperial clan.
  • Imperial wives and concubines came from outside
    the ranks of the bureaucratic and military elite.
  • Their relatives were discriminated against in
    selection for high office.
  • Daughters of princess and maternal cousins were
    not taken into the imperial harem.
  • Empresses came from the royal families of
    recently conquered non-Chinese states.
  • The naming of an empress was used to capture the
    loyalty of recently conquered peoples.
  • Their appointments hastened the integration of
    subject populations into the Northern Wei empire.
  • These women did not have influential relatives at
    court and were preferred as their families posed
    no threat to the authority of the Tuoba elite.
  • Appointment of an empress was considered
    politically dangerous and unnecessary so often no
    empress was named.
  • Marriage was not a political issue for the

Marriage Policy of the Northern Wei (2)
  • To prevent mothers from gaining power, the Tuoba
    tried to separate the wifes biological function
    of producing an heir from her political role.
  • Women were chosen as empresses on the basis of
    their previous lack of children and their low
    social status.
  • Mothers of eldest sons were never named empress
    in their lifetimes and might be made to commit
    suicide after the son was named heir to the
  • Eldest sons were taken from their natural mothers
    and assigned to the care of a concubine with few
    influential relatives at court.
  • Lady Du gave birth to Taizongs eldest son in 408
    and although she came from a high status family
    of sinicized Xianbei origins she was never
    considered for the position of empress.
  • Her son was taken from her and assigned to the
    care of a woman of slave status.
  • Tuoba Huangs eldest son, Gaozong, was taken from
    his mother and given to a slave concubine Lady
    Chang?) to raise.
  • Foster mothers then gained power (see slides on
    Chang and Feng).

The Sinification of the Northern Wei
  • The emperor was responsible for maintaining the
    balance between the Chinese and the tribal
    elites any change between these two groups had a
    critical impact on the dynasty.
  • The location of the Wei capital at Ping-cheng in
    the tribal borderlands was a compromise even
    though it was hard to supply and was not central
    for administration.
  • Chinese, Xianbei, and imported Buddhist customs
    all co-existed at the capital.
  • The balance changed when the Empress Dowager Feng
    and her grandson, Tuoba Hong (???) (Xiao Wendi
    r.471-499), began to sinify the Wei state.
  • Before sinification, the great tribal clans had
    attracted large groups of dependent households,
    who worked the land of the large manors in
    exchange for protection against heavy taxation.

The Sinification of the Northern Wei (2)
  • The sinification program tried to bring the local
    populations into manageable administrative units
    a system that had been used in China since as
    early as the Qin-Han period and still exists
    under the bao jia ?? in China
  • Five families were to make up a neighborhood (lin
    ?) headed by an elder ?? five neighborhoods made
    up a precinct ?, headed by an elder ??, five
    precincts made up a district ? headed by an elder
  • The arrangement made it easier to impose and
    enforce tax collections and it helped the
    enactment of another important reform, the
    equitable field system ???.
  • The equitable field system, enacted in 485, was
    intended to bring uncultivated government lands
    into the tax rolls by distributing allotments to
    those who could cultivate it.
  • Adult males were to receive 40 mou of open field
    (suitable for grain crops) adult females
    received 20 mou.
  • Slaves or owners of slaves were given equal
  • Allotments were also made for cattle30 mou per
    head, up to four heads on the assumption that
    much more land could be worked with oxens plowing
    the land.

The Sinification of the Northern Wei (3)
  • The officials salaries system was reformed
  • The wearing of tribal clothes (494) was banned.
  • The use of Xianbei language at court for young
    officials (495) was not permitted.
  • The tribal and Han elites were integrated into a
    single ranking system (495).
  • The adoption of a new Chinese surname for the
    imperial family Yuan ? (496) the name Tuoba was
  • Marriages to Chinese were encouraged.
  • All Tuoba clansmen (A decade later) were ordered
    to adopt Chinese surnames and Chinese was the
    language used at court.
  • In 494, the court moved to its new capital at
  • The location of the new capital meant new supply
    sources and so many tribal chiefs who had
    supplied the old capital faced economic

The Sinification of the Northern Wei (4)
  • The move to Luoyang changed the relation of the
    frontier troops to the dynasty previously they
    had been well supplied, their leaders had
    received favor at court, and the northern border
    had imperial attention.
  • After the move, the frontier was seen as a
    marginal region tribal troops were regarded as
    politically unreliable.
  • Garrisons were cheated of their rations by
    corrupt officials who were assigned to frontier
    posts as a form of exile along with convicts
    sentenced to frontier service.
  • The Northern Wei policy of aggressive disruption
    of the Rouran was replaced by a conservative
    approach of walled defenses and tributary
  • The tribal hierarchy reacted strongly to this
    radical shift away from Tuoba traditions.
  • In 496, the crown prince led a large number of
    Xianbei back to Pingcheng in defiance the reforms
    of his father (Tuoba Hong) who had staffed the
    government almost exclusively with Chinese and
    had tried to encourage intermarriage with Chinese

The Northern Wei and the Rouran
  • According to the N. Wei history, the ancestor of
    the Rouran was a slave taken prisoner by the
    ancestor of the N. Wei in 277.
  • The Tuoba looked down on the Rouran (?? meaning
    wriggly) and thought that they had a wormlike
  • The Rouran was able to rise as there was a power
    vacuum in Mongolia when the Xianbei destroyed the
  • During the civil wars in the Jin ? dynasty, the
    Rouran (about 3-400CE) put together a new
  • They defeated the Gaoche ?? (High Carts) and
    established an empire extending all the way to
    the Korean peninsula.
  • The continued rise of the Rouran empire was due
    to the fact that the steppe people had few
    choices they could either be controlled by the
    Rouran or defect to the Northern Wei.
  • The threat of the Rouran was a constant concern
    of the N. Wei throughout their campaigns to unify
    North China.
  • Tuoba Gui had his first campaign against the
    Rouran in 391, before the N. Wei had consolidated
    its power in China.
  • The History of the Wei reported about 20 clashes
    between the Northern Wei and the Rouran in the
    first half of the 5th Century.

The Northern Wei and the Rouran (2)
  • During the Rouran power struggles, the sons of
    the defeated parties fled to the N. Wei where
    they were given titles, linked by marriages with
    the Tuoba, and then incorporated into the
  • Despite these marriage alliances, the Rouran
    continued to attack the borders of the N. Wei --
    beginning in 485, the Rouran began attacking the
    N. Wei frontier on an annual basis.
  • As the N. Wei became more sinified, it began
    relying on fixed defenses and payoffs to the
    nomads under these conditions the nomads began
    to grow in power.
  • After A-na-gui of the Rouran became khaghan in
    519 he appeared at the N. Wei court asking for
    help to regain his throne from a rival.
  • The N. Wei supported him in the hopes of dividing
    the Rouran into permanent rival factions but as
    soon as he had regained his throne he began a
    massive Rouran attack against the N. Wei.

The Northern Wei and the Rouran (3)
  • The N. Wei had established six major garrisons
    bordering the Rouran and so sent them against the
  • But, the garrisons had been neglected and badly
    administered so they were unsuccessful and
    instead revolted after a corrupt official refused
    to issue grain to starving troops.
  • A-na-gui destroyed the frontier and put down the
    rebellion for the N. Wei -- the emperor sent
    letters of praise to A-na-gui and recognized him
    as an equal.
  • Marriage alliances were then arranged between the
    N. Wei and the Rouran.
  • A-na-gui and his brother married N. Wei
    princesses and their sister became the wife of
    the N. Wei emperor Xiaowudi (r.500-515).
  • In 520, A-na-gui, was ousted by a contender and
    the two took different domains A-na-gui took the
    eastern domain and the contender went further
  • Divided, the Rouran were less likely to cause
    trouble for the N. Wei.

The End of the N. Wei
  • N. Wei was then divided into two states
  • Eastern Wei (534-550), in the north-east, which
    became the Northern Qi, (550-577) in 550 --
    Northern Qi was defeated by the Northern Zhou and
    northern China was united under Northern Zhou
    dynasty in 577.
  • Western Wei (535-556) which became the Northern
    Zhou, (557-581) in 557.
  • One of the major forces that caused the end of
    the Northern Wei was the Erzhu clan of Jie
  • The Erzhu clan had been given a large fief by the
    Northern Wei as a reward for helping the Tuoba at
    the end of the 4th century.
  • The Erzhu and the Tuoba royal families were blood
    relatives through intermarriage beginning from
    the time of Tuoba Huang, father of Emperor
    Gaozong (r.453-465).
  • The Erzhu controlled the major source of supply
    of animals and fodder for the N. Wei armies and
    became very wealthy by the end of the 5th
  • The Erzhu conquered areas in the name of the
    court at Luoyang during the rebellion against the
    N. Wei sinification program.

The End of the N. Wei (2)
  • The last emperor of the Northern Wei asked (528)
    Erzhu Rong to march on Luoyang to free him from
    the Chinese advisors of his mother (Empress
    Dowager Ling).
  • On arrival, Erzhu Rong murdered the entire N. Wei
    court and over 2,000 officials and their families
    most of whom were Chinese.
  • Erzhu Rong then placed his son-in-law, Tuoba
    Ziyu, a grandson of the Northern Wei Emperor,
    Xianzu (r.515-528), as his puppet on the N. Wei
  • While Erzhu Rong was away on campaigns in the
    north in 529, the Liang armies took Luoyang and
    put their own puppet, Tuoba Hao, on the throne.
  • Erzhu Rong defeated the Liang forces and his
    puppet, returned to the throne.
  • In 530, the puppet murdered Erzu Rong.

The End of the N. Wei (3)
  • Erzhu Rongs nephew, Erzhu Zhao, assisted by Gao
    Huan (founder of the Northern Qi), avenged Erzhu
    Rongs death and put another puppet, Tuoba Ye, on
    the throne.
  • Erzhu Zhang rewarded Gao Huan by giving him Erzhu
    Rong's daughter for his harem she had been
    married to the former puppet -- as son-in-law to
    Erzhu Rong, Gao Huan gained recognition as an
    heir to the Erzhu armies.
  • Erzhu Zhao left the capital on a northern
    campaign and while gone, a relative forced Zhaos
    puppet to abdicate and placed his own puppet on
    the throne.
  • To appease Tuoba Zhao, Zhaos daughter was
    married to the new puppet and was made empress.
  • Meanwhile Gao Huan had made friends with men who
    hated the Erzhu clan, and by 531 he was in a
    position to place his own puppet, Tuoba Lang, on
    the Northern Wei throne.
  • He took the Erzhu Zhaos daughter, into his harem.

The End of the N. Wei (4)
  • In 532, Gao Huan deposed his former puppet and
    placed Tuoba Xiu, a grandson of N. Wei emperor,
    Gaozu (r.471-499), on the throne.
  • He married his eldest daughter, born of his
    primary wife, Lou, to the new puppet emperor.
  • While Gao Huan was away in battle, his puppet
    rebelled and abandoned Gaos daughter and Gao
    Huan had to return and depose him.
  • The puppet escaped, and Gao Huan remarried his
    daughter to Tuoba Shao, nephew of the first
    puppet, Tuoba Ziyu.
  • Gao Huan then put Tuoba Shanjian on the throne
    and married another of his daughters to the
    puppet emperor.
  • Gao Deng, Gao Huans son, was married to Tuoba
    Shanjians sister.
  • Gao Huan never declared himself emperor his son,
    Gao Yang (r.550-559) established the Northern Qi
    (550-577) in 550.

The End of the N. Wei (5)
  • In the meantime, Erzhu Tianguang, the brother of
    Erzhu Rong returned east to stop the growing
    power of Gao Huan.
  • Shortly after, Erzhu Tianguang died in battle and
    Gao Huan eliminated the power of the Erzhu
  • Erzhu Tianguang had left a large army back in
    Guanzhong and his principal generals met to
    choose a new leader and Yuwen Tai was elected.
  • In 534, when the Northern Wei court was defeated
    by Gao Huan they escaped to Yuwen Tai who
    absorbed the newly arrived refugees --
    military-political elite.
  • In the following year, he named Tuoba Baoju
    (d.551) as his puppet and as the first emperor of
    the Western Wei.
  • From 537-47, Yuwen Tais regime had to fight for
    its survival against the Gao Huan regime.
  • The end of the N. Wei showed that as a foreign
    dynasty became sinified it left itself vulnerable
    both to unhappy tribal elements and to a north
    Chinese elite which hates and fears the non-Han
    tribal leaders.
  • The tribal military felt betrayed when the
    dynasty reduced its importance by promoting
    Chinese to the most powerful positions in court
    and reduced the economic and political benefits
    that had previously been taken for granted by the
    tribal leaders.

Puppet Emperors on the Wei Throne
Puppet Emperors on the Wei Throne (2)
Puppet Emperors on the Wei Throne (3)
The Northern Qi (550-557)
  • Gao Huan consolidated his power through marriage
  • His first wife, Lou, had given him the initial
    money to buy a horse and a position so he could
    join the Erzhu forces.
  • His marriage to Erzhu Rongs daughter gave him
    claim to the Erzhu forces and territories.
  • He also took Erzhu Zhaos daughter into his harem
    two empresses of the puppet emperors.
  • Lady Li gave him some access to the Chinese
    official class.
  • Lady Cheng gave him contacts with clans who had
    held important posts during ED Lings rule.
  • Lady Feng gave him access to the Feng clan which
    had dominated the Northern Wei rule for many
  • Lady Yu gave him knowledge of the rites for
    ceremonial occasions.
  • Lady Mu gave him access to the Northern Wei
  • The princess of Rouran allied him with her
  • Northern Qi soldier

The Northern Qi (2)
  • To ensure that his sons and grandsons would be
    recognized as de facto rulers of the new empire,
    Gao Huan arranged marriages for them with the
    Tuoba royal family.
  • He also arranged marriages for them with the
    former elite.
  • For
  • Gao Yang, he found a woman from the prestigious
    Li clan.
  • Gao Zhan, a Rouran woman and one from the Chinese
    Hu clan.
  • Gao Wei, the last ruler was married to the
    daughter of Hulu Guang, possibly of Turkic
  • The marriages successfully secured Gao legitimacy
    but had little effect on the racial hatred
    between the Chinese and Xianbei families as well
    as within the Gao family.
  • Racial tension was a problem of major personal
    and political proportions which Gao Huan and his
    successor, Gao Yang, recognized but were
    powerless to deal with.

Succession Problems
  • Gao Huan had at least 15 sons six were the
    offspring of the main consort, Empress Dowager
  • Fraternal succession dominated the early years of
    the Northern Qi until the retirement of the
    fourth emperor, Wuchengdi (561-565).
  • After Gao Huans death, in 547, his eldest son,
    Gao Cheng controlled the puppet Eastern Wei
    regime and
  • Gao Cheng was able to hold the loyalty of most of
    the Eastern Wei leadership and expand the domains
    of the empire.
  • Gao Cheng was assassinated -- his brother Gao
    Yang executed the assassins although the
    assassination might have been planned by Gao Yang
    (Wenxuandi r.550-9).
  • Two of Gao Chengs advisors fled the murder scene
    and became close advisors of Gao Yang.

Succession Problems (2)
  • In 550, Gao Yang ordered the abdication of the
    last Eastern Wei puppet and became the first
    Northern Qi emperor.
  • Gao Yang executed two of his older and more
    influential half-brothers the other
    half-brothers were not serious contenders for the
  • All the brothers had numerous sons, some of whom
    felt themselves to be rightfully entitled to the
  • Violent political problems developed between the
    full brothers and also with the descendants of
    the line of Gao Cheng.
  • Before his death in 559, Gao Yang asked his next
    brother, the future Xiaozhaodi (r. 560-1), not to
    kill Gao Yangs son should Xiaozhaodi decided to
    seize the throne.
  • When Gao Yang died, his son ascended the throne
    but the grandmother, Grand Empress Dowager Lou
    preferred that her next eldest son be emperor and
    so deposed her grandson.

Succession Problems (3)
  • In late 560, Xiaozhaodi made his son his heir and
    it upset his brother, Gao Zhan, who had expected
    to succeed him.
  • In 561, Xiaozhao was critically injured after
    falling from a horse and Xiaozhao asked his
    brother Gao Zhan to take the throne and not to
    kill his son.
  • When Gao Zhan ascended the throne as Wuchengdi,
    the dynasty had a history of aborted primogenital
    successions and successful fraternal successions.
  • From late 563 through mid 565 Wuchengdi put in a
    series of institutional reforms designed to get
    resources for the imperial center, strengthen
    border defenses and stabilize the succession.
  • He retired in 565 making his son the emperor but
    retained power in his own hands as the Retired
    Emperor he hoped that this would make it more
    difficult to topple his son.
  • After Wuchengdi died, Houzhu ?? (r.567-577)
    reigned until the sudden collapse of the dynasty
    in 576, a full 7 years.
  • Houzhus succession was the only successful
    primogenital succession in the history of the
    dynasty -- except for Gao Huans eldest son who
    had inherited power from him before the
    establishment of Northern Qi.

The End of the Northern Qi
  • The Northern Qi had problems with both the
    Northern Zhou (557-581) and the Turks.
  • In late 563, the Northern Zhou, in alliance with
    the Turks, broke through the Great Wall defenses
    and Wuchengdi and his general, Hulu Gaung, were
    both shocked that the Northern Zhou was so
    militarily strong.
  • In late 564 the Turks raided the northern border.
  • In mid-565, the Turks opened diplomatic relations
    with the Northern Qi and stopped allying
    themselves with the Northern Zhou.
  • The Northern Qi was destroyed by Northern Zhou in
    577 and northern China was again unified.
  • However, the dynasty was destroyed in 581 and a
    new dynasty Sui was established that eventually
    unified all of China.

The Northern Zhou (557-581)
  • When Gao Han established the Eastern Wei in 534,
    the area under Yuwen Tai became the Western Wei.
  • Yuwen Tai (506-556) had inherited the armies of
    Erzhu Rongs brother, ruled Western Wei through
    his puppet who had escaped from Gao Huans
  • Yuwen Tai spent much of his effort against
    repeated attacks led by Gao Huan.
  • He stabilized the eastern border and bribed the
    Turks with tribute to keep peace on his western
    and northern borders.
  • He reversed the hated law of 496 requiring
    everyone to have Chinese surnames and ordered the
    reestablishment of Xianbei surnames.
  • When he lay dying he decided to name his nephew,
    Yuwen Hu, the son of Yuwen Tais eldest brother
    as regent.
  • After his death in 556, Yuwen Hu, deposed the
    puppet emperor and enthroned a 14 year old son of
    Yuwen Tai, Yuwen Jue (542-57) son of the
    principal wife -- as ruler of a revived Zhou
    dynasty -- tracing the non-Han group to the
    legendary Shennong ??, who was associated with
    the Tibetan Qiang people, the marriage partners
    of the Zhou dynasty.

The Regency of Yuwen Hu
  • Yuwen Hu was the son of Yuwen Tais eldest
    brother Yuwen Hao who had died early.
  • He dominated the first emperors although he was
    of the same generation (first cousin) ?? and so
    did not command as much respect.
  • When the young emperor tried to get rid of Yuwen
    Hu he had the young emperor killed and made Tais
    eldest son, Mingdi son of a concubine --
    emperor at the age.
  • Since Mingdi was 23 and an adult, Hu formally
    abolished the regency and handed state powers to
    him but continued to keep full authority over
    the military.
  • When Mingdi began to name his own people in
    important offices, Hu was had him poisoned in
  • He then made Wudi (r.561-578), Tais fourth
    eldest son, emperor at the age of 17 and
    appointed himself chief commander of the
    military and made it very clear that he was in
    full control of all state affairs.

The Regency of Yuwen Hu (2)
  • Five years later, Wudi and his brother decided to
    get rid of Yuwen Hu.
  • During a private audience with the Empress
    Dowager, Wudi hit Hu over the head with the
    imperial scepter and then Wudis full brother,
    beheaded Hu.
  • Also executed were all of Hus children who were
    politically active and Hus closest advisers.
  • Yuwen Hu had maintained power from 556 until his
    death by in 572 covering the reign of 2.5
  • Yuwen Hu, as regent, relied on the support of
    older men who maintained their loyalty to the
    deceased Yuwen Tai he also maintained an iron
    grip over the palace guard.
  • A Yuwen Hu never took over the throne and always
    installed emperors from among the sons of Yuwen
    Tai, in accordance with their age seniority, and
    so these mature emperors were difficult to
    control and he had to kill them.
  • He did not try to install any of Yuwen Tais
    younger sons nor the young sons of the two
    emperors whom he had killed.
  • Wudi said that he had to kill Yumen Hu as it was
    not possible for a 30 year old emperor to submit
    to the control of another.

The Reign of Wudi
  • When Wudi ascended the throne in 560 the
    international situation had become intensely
  • Initially, the Northern Zhou was seen to be
    militarily and economically weaker than the
    Northern Qi.
  • Beginning in 561 the Chen regime (557-589) in the
    south was becoming more assertive and had forced
    the Northern Zhou to withdraw from the southern
    bank of the Middle Yangzi.
  • The Tuks had put together a powerful steppe
    empire by the 560s and tried to play off the two
    Chinese states Northern Qi and Northern Zhou --
    against each other for tributes.
  • They Turks did not wish to immediately conquer
    China but to ensure the indefinite continuance of
    a weakened and divided North China.
  • In 563 an agreement was reached that a Turkish
    princess would be sent to the Northern Zhou only
    after the Northern Qi had been destroyed.
  • The 563 agreement was a clever device that
    ensured continuous warfare between the Northern
    Zhou and the Northern Qi.
  • The Turks temporarily abandoned this policy in
    576 after the Northern Qi had been conquered.

The Reign of Wudi (2)
  • The Northern Zhou continued to regard the Turks
    as a threat along the northern border.
  • In 563 the Turks and the Northern Zhou staged a
    large scale mixed cavalry and infantry invasion
    of the Northern Qi.
  • The joint forces broke through the Great Wall
    defenses of the Northern Qi and penetrated to the
    walls of Jinyang (modern Taiyuan).
  • The Northern Qi released Yuwen Hus mother and
    aunt, whome they had kept as hostages, in the
    Fall of 564 to establish friendly relations with
    the Zhou.
  • After the release, the Turks called on the Zhou
    to begin another winter campaign against the
    Northern Qi.
  • After Wudi conquered Northern Qi, it reinforced
    his authority as emperor.
  • Wudi died suddenly after a 17 year reign and his
    son, Xuandi (r.579), ascended the throne.

The End of the Northern Zhou
  • Unlike his father who had solicited court opinion
    and the views of his close paternal relatives,
    Xuandi made all decisions in conjunction with his
    close personal advisers.
  • He replaced his fathers style of co-opting
    rivals for confrontational politics.
  • He killed his influential uncle and scattered his
    five surviving uncles throughout the empire.
  • He executed all the members of Wudis innermost
  • He adopted a divide and rule tactic for his
    maternal relatives and the different women as
    empresses, ranked in order of seniority.
  • The daughter of Yang Jian, the future founder of
    the Sui dynasty, was the senior empress and was
    given to him in 573 when he was first named heir
  • The middle three were all from families of little
    or no influence in Zhou political circles.
  • In 580, Xuandi seduced the wife of an imperial
    prince after he had got her drunk. made the wife
    of an imperial prince she was the daughter of
    the senior official, son of Yuwan Tais sister --
    It was said that he made her drunk and seduced
  • He was insulted and rebelled but was killed.

The End of the Northern Zhou (2)
  • Xuandi wanted to name his new favorite Empress
    but to do so he had to eliminate his principal
    wife, the daughter of Yang Jian (541-604), and
    exterminate the entire Yang family.
  • When Xuandi became ill, Yangs friends forged an
    edict summoning Yang Jian to the bedside when
    Xuandi died, Yang kept it secret until he became
    regent of the young emperor.
  • Yang Jian then invited the five senior princes to
    the capital to take part in the wedding ceremony
    of one of their daughters.
  • Three days later, most of Xuandis palace women
    -- except for the Empress Dowager and Yangs
    daughter -- were forced to become Buddhist nuns.
  • Yang Jian won the struggle for power against the
    senior princes and in 581 and proclaimed a new
    Sui dynasty (581-618).
  • By the end of the following summer the last of
    the Northern Zhou princes was murdered and a coup
    from the Zhou loyalists was no longer possible.

The Turks, the Uighurs and China
  • Readings
  • Barfield, Thomas, The Perilous Frontier, Ch 4
    pp131-163 OR
  • Drompp, Michael, The Uighur Chinese Conflict of
    840-848, in Di Cosmo, Nicola, Warfare in Inner
    Asian History (500-1800), pp73-96 OR
  • Sinor, Denis, Sending princesses to nomads,
    Uighur Empire in Studies in Medieval Inner Asia,
    Part V.

  • The End of the Rouran
  • The Power of Foster Mothers Empress Dowager
  • The Power of Foster Mothers Empress Dowager Feng

The End of the Rouran
  • In 546, the Turks defeated the Gao-che for the
    Rouran and their leader, Tu-men , asked for a
    marriage alliance as a reward.
  • But the Rouran despised the Turks who were
    employed by the Rouran in metal works and
    A-na-gui rejected the request.
  • Angered, Tu-men received a princess from the
    Western Wei (535-557), a successor state of the
    Northern Wei allied with them and attacked and
    defeated the Rouran.
  • In 552, there was a revolt against A-na-gui who
    then committed suicide.
  • When Tu-men died, his successors continued
    attacking the Rouran in 555, 3000 Rouran were
    beheaded and the Rouran disappeared.

The Power of Foster MothersEmpress Dowager Chang
  • Gaozongs foster mother, Lady Chang ?, was a
    captive concubine from the Northern Yan with few
    relatives of influence at court.
  • Gaozongs biological mother was a member of the
    Rouran aristocracy which was the only northern
    threat to Tuoba security so she was kept away
    from her son during his formative years.
  • As Gaozongs foster mother, Lady Chang arranged
    for him to marry another captive woman from the
    Northern Yan, Lady Feng, who would later become
    empress would rule twice as regent.
  • The naming of consort from the Feng family may
    have been Lady Changs strategies to maintain her
    privileged position in the harem and to protect
    the interests of Northern Yan.
  • Lady Chang may have helped Gaozong get support
    for the throne after he had been passed over
  • Lady Chang was said to have been responsible for
    the reintroduction of the law on forced suicide
    for the mother of the heir.

The Power of Foster Mothers The Empress Dowager
  • Empress Dowager Feng Wentong (442-490CE), from
    the Northern Yan, was the consort of Tuoba Jun
    she ruled the Northern Wei as regent for both her
    son and her grandson, Tuoba Hong ? , the 7th
    emperor (r.471-499) the sinification of the
    Northern Wei was carried out under her guidance.
  • In 456, Gaozongs infant son, aged 2, was
    formally proclaimed heir and Feng was named
    empress and the natural mother of the heir was
    forced to commit suicide.
  • After the death of Gaozong, Empress Feng, at the
    age of 23, made her first bid for power as regent
    for the new emperor, Xianzu, who was only 11.
  • Feng was able to dominate court policy for less
    than a year before being made to retire by
  • Xianzu named his 2 year old son, Hung, whose
    mother had died as heir who was fostered by
    Empress Dowager Feng.
  • Xianzu started a tradition of Retired Emperors
    in order to protect the interests of his young
  • At first he said he would retire in favor of one
    of his brothers but when the brother declined, he
    was persuaded to retire and be a co-regent,
    together with the ED Feng, for the Gaozu.

The Power of Foster Mothers The Empress Dowager
Feng (cont.)
  • Gaozu was only 9 when he succeeded to the throne.
  • Although Feng could officially rule for only a
    few years but she has had nine years of
    psychological control over the young emperor so
    her position at the court was very secure.
  • As Gaozu grew older, her influence did not
    decline but instead increased.
  • Throughout her life, she tutored, counseled and
    even physically punished Gaozu.
  • She maintained her position of authority by
    promoting respected and capable officials who
    were not from her family.
  • Her brother was her only close relative and she
    was able to share the traditional positions for
    relatives at court between him and members of the
    Chang clan.
  • She kept Gaozus maternal relatives from power
    his mother, Lady Li, had been given the
    posthumous title of empress in 476, the year of
    Xianzus death.

The Power of Foster Mothers The Empress Dowager
Feng (cont.)
  • Feng filled the key positions in Gaozus harem
    with her brothers daughters and brought his sons
    into the palace as companions for Gaozu.
  • The nephews were later married to Tuoba
  • She also forced Gaozu to order the suicide of the
    mother of his heir whom she then fostered.
  • Even after Fengs death in 490 he was unable to
    escape her influence
  • His harem was filled with her nieces.
  • His ministers had been chosen by her.
  • His eldest son had been brought up by her.
  • She even ordered him to build his tomb next to
    hers but he was not buried there.
  • Gaozu, on his death bed, ordered the suicide of
    his consort, one of the nieces of ED Feng.
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