Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Power Struggles – Emperor Yangdi

Compiled from Secrets of the Chinese Palace
        According to historical records, the founder of the Sui Dynasty, Emperor Wendi, had a ‘sudden death’. He died suddenly of unknown causes, but it is often said that he was murdered by his own son, the future Emperor Yangdi.
        Yang Guang, who became Emperor Yangdi, was the second son of Emperor Wendi. His heart was set upon supplanting his eldest brother, Yang Yong, as the Crown Prince. Yang Yong’s extravagant lifestyle did not win the approval of Emperor Wendi and Empress Dugu. Yang Guang, on the other hand, pretended to lead a very simple lifestyle. When Emperor Wendi went to visit him, he would hide his concubines and call upon some old women to serve him. He also threw out his musical instrument to show that he was not interested in sex and music.
        Yang Guang colluded with Prime Minister Yang Su to cast aspersions on Yang Yong in the presence of Emperor Wendi and Empress Dugu. Emperor Wendi eventually demoted Yang Yong from the position of Crown Prince and installed Yang Guang instead. In AD 604, Emperor Wendi became seriously ill. Yang Guang could not wait for his father to die, and wrote the succession edict and even flirted with Emperor Wen’s favourite concubine, Lady Xuanhua. When Emperor Wendi found out about this, he finally realized that he had been a victim of Yang Guang’s deceit. He instructed his ministers to issue an edict deposing Yang Guang and installing Yang Yong as Crown Prince.

        When Yang Guang received this news, he led troops to the palace and surrounded the palace where Emperor Wendi lived, sending soldiers to kill him. Yang Yong was also murdered. Yang Guang’s patricide and fratricide made the throne accessible to him. He went on to become one of the most tyrannical rulers in Chinese history. However, there is another story regarding Emperor Wendi’s death - after Empress Dugu died, he indulged excessively in sex. His health deteriorated and he eventually died of an illness.

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