Quick Facts about Emperor Gaozong
- Emperor Gaozong was born in 628 CE.
- His name at birth was Li Zhi.
- He was the ninth son of the Tang dynasty emperor, Taizong.
- His mother was Emperor Taizong’s wife, Empress Wende.
- After his father died in 649 CE, Li Zhi became the third emperor of the Tang dynasty.
- Gaozong means “High Ancestor”.
China under Emperor Gaozong
Emperor Gaozong was in ill health for most of his reign. He continued to manage his government as his father and grandfather before. His reforms, notably on laws on crime and punishment, stayed in place in China for many centuries.
Although, the military spent much time routing out those who had supported one of Emperor Gaozong’s brothers in his attempt to take the throne, there was much peace and contentment during Gaozong’s reign. His people were prosperous and he did not impose hardship with higher taxes or forced labor.
Central Asian Turkish tribes to the west of Chinese territory were subdued in 657 CE and Emperor Gaozong’s kingdom now included territory to the Persian border. An invasion into northern Korea was successful and for the first time, China’s territory included those lands.
How Empress Wu Zetian took over
One of Emperor Gaozong’s concubines (Wu Zhao), who had also been a concubine to his father, Emperor Taizong, heavily influenced him.
Murdering her own daughter and blaming it on Emperor Gaozong’s empress, Wang, Wu Zhao began to take more power in the court.
She eventually murdered Empress Wang and in turn, became Empress Wu Zetian. Wu Zetian effectively ruled China during much of Emperor Gaozong’s reign and became the de facto ruler when Gaozong suffered a stroke in 660 CE.
Emperor Gaozong’s Family and Succession
Emperor Gaozong’s wives were Empress Wende and Empress Wu Zetian. He had at least eight children.
Emperor Gaozong died in 683 CE. His tomb is in Qianling, Qian county, Shaanxi.
His son, Emperor Zhongzong, succeeded him as the fourth emperor of the Tang dynasty.