Compiled from Infamous Chinese Emperors
Some quick facts about this infamous emperor:
- He was the second child among his siblings
- He founded the Northern Qi Dynasty.
- Reigned from 550-559.
- Started out as a capable ruler who degenerated into a despot.
- He was noted for his extreme punishments.
- His dynasty had six rulers.
Who was he?
He was Gao Yang, who later ruled as Emperor Wenxuan. Gao Yang. Gao Yang’s father was Gao Huan, the prime minister and de facto ruler of the Eastern jin Dynasty. After Gao Huan’s death, his eldest son Gao Cheng took over. Gao Cheng had wanted to get rid of Gao Yang, but that never happened as he was assassinated by a subordinate. Emperor Xiaojing of the Eastern Wei Dynasty, who had been reduced to a puppet by Gao Cheng, had been waiting for the opportunity to make a comeback.
Gao Yang entered the fray at this critical juncture. He was not taken seriously in the past, as he always wore a dubious look on his face. He had the assassin killed and declared to the public that Gao Cheng had merely been wounded. This helped reduce tension in the court and soothe public fears and put their minds at ease. He then succeeded his brother and soon dethroned Emperor Xiaojing.
During the first few years of his reign, Gao Yang worked in harmony with his ministers and concerned himself with the hardships and sufferings of the common people. He set up schools, encouraged farming and did many things to win the support of the people. He even successfully trained a strong army and launched expeditions to the north. The
Qi Dynasty became the most powerful state during the Northern and
Southern Dynasties. In less than six or seven years, however, dazed by his own
success, Gao Yang began to indulge in alcohol and women and behaved peevishly.
He often went on killing sprees when he was drunk. In fact, many eunuchs, maids and prisoners died during his reign. When his two younger brothers, Gao Jun, the king of Jianping and Gao Huan, the king of Gangsu came to see Gao Yang and pleaded with him to drink less and stop killing people for pleasure, he had both of them arrested and locked in the iron cage. He tried to kill them and when that failed, he burnt them to death.
In 559, Gao Yang fell ill from excessive drinking and sexual activities. On his dying bed, he summoned Gao Yan, his sixth brother, who was the King of Zhongshan to see him. He begged Gao Yan not to kill his son, Gao Yin. In 560, one year after Gao Yang’s death, Gao Yang dethroned Gao Yin and proclaimed himself the emperor. He killed Gao Yin soon after.