Quick Facts about Emperor Yangdi
- Emperor Yangdi was born in 569 CE.
- His name at birth was Yang Guang.
- His father was Emperor Wendi.
- His mother was Empress Wenxian.
- After his father’s, Emperor Wendi’s death in 604 CE, Yang Guang became the second emperor of the Sui dynasty.
- Yangdi means “Arbitrary Emperor”.
Emperor Yangdi as a Ruler
Emperor Yangdi spent much of his youth in southern China. He was a Buddhist, but also believed in Confucianism and Daoism. He commissioned literary writings and increased library holdings. He did not have the same drive as his father, Emperor Wendi. Early in his reign, he began to spend more of his time in his palaces and less time involved in government affairs.
The Opening of the Grand Canal
During Emperor Yangdi’s reign the Grand Canal continued to flourish and was expanded to 1,250 miles (2,000 km). The Grand Canal was officially opened in a grand procession of boats such as dragon-boats, phoenix vessels, war boats, battle cruisers, and so on. Emperor Yangdi’s boat had four decks and included 120 rooms and a throne room.
Stretching over 60 miles, the procession of boats were moved on the water by 80,000 men walking on the banks of the canal and pulling on green silk ropes. Additionally, musicians and guards on horseback accompanied the boats on either side of the canal banks.
The first spandrel (space between an arch and a rectangular area) bridge, Anyi bridge, was built. It took 11 years and was made from over 1,000 stones weighing one ton (2,000 pounds) each. Spandrels used in bridge construction make the bridge stronger especially if the area is prone to flooding. The water flows through the holes made by the spandrel rather than pushing against the stonework and toppling the bridge.
The Grand Canal took a toll on the populace with over 5,000,000 people mobilized to work or supply food for the workers.
China under Emperor Yangdi
Emperor Yangdi centralized and streamlined the government system that his father, Emperor Wendi had worked on. He introduced legal codes that allowed plotting to kill or sell relatives to go unpunished, but that allowed for execution of those caught stealing a roof beam or picking a melon.
Prior to Emperor Yangdi, it was difficult to hire government officials who were not relatives of someone already in office. Emperor Yangdi set-up a Board of Civil Office to review the selection and hiring processes. Potential candidates had to pass examinations including subjects such as jinshi. This system of examinations would be further expanded and perfected in the Tang and Song dynasties.
Tax systems were in place to assure that all possible monies would come into the government’s treasury. Each household was submitted to a census that required that all people including servants, livestock, land, corps, and other property be reported. The information was reviewed, entered into accounts, and the taxes levied.
Although Chang’an was the official capital of the Sui dynasty, Emperor Yangdi rebuilt Luoyang (modern day Yangzhou) as a second capital. He doubled the size of the capital. It took more than 2,000,000 men to rebuild the capital, which included artificial lakes and a pleasure park, which covered 60 square miles. Even in winter, the park was at its best for the emperor, as silk flowers and leaves were placed in the bare branches of trees.
Envoys from Japan, including Buddhist monks, began arriving in China during Emperor Yandi’s reign. Likewise, envoys left China and reached Japan. This sharing of religious and ambassadorial ideas was the start of a relationship that listed for some time.
Emperor Yangdi thought the Japanese saw his dynasty and leadership as holding extreme power over Japan, that Japan’s culture was changed to match Chinese culture, and that Japan saw China’s Buddhist scholarship as superior. He also thought that the gifts made by the envoys were a tribute to his leadership and government. Japan, however, thought the exact opposite of all these things.
The work on the Grand Canal, the capital at Luoyang, the failed attempts at bringing Korea under Chinese control, and failed naval attempts against neighboring islands began to take a toll on the Chinese people. The people began to revolt, government officials who criticized the emperor were killed, and challengers to the emperor began to mobilize.
Starting in 614 CE and lasting for 10 years, more than 200 rebellions were reported. Those with the surname, Li, were most often leaders of the rebels. Emperor Yangdi had many people with that surname killed, but saved those who had shown some loyalty to him. One of those he spared, was Li Yaun, who was duke of Tang.
Emperor Yangdi’s Succession
Emperor Yangdi left the capital of Chang’an, after it had been captured by the military, and moved his palace to Luoyang. He was murdered in 618 CE.
Emperor Yangdi’s wife was Empress Xiao. He had at least one child. Upon his death in 618 CE, his grandson, Gongdi, succeeded him as the third emperor of the Sui dynasty.
Quick Facts about Emperor Gongdi
- Emperor Gongdi was born about 611 CE.
- His name at birth was Yang Yu.
- After his grandfather’s, Emperor Yangdi’s death in 617 CE, Yang Yu became the third emperor of the Chen dynasty in 618 CE.
- Gongdi means “Respectful Emperor”.
During Emperor Gongdi’s reign, a regent governed the Sui dynasty. The regent, Li Yuan, took control of the capital at Luoyang in 618 CE. Emperor Yangdi had spared this same Li Yuan during the rebellions prior to Yangdi’s death. Li Yuan deposed Emperor Gongdi and declared himself to be the first emperor of the Tang dynasty.
Emperor Gongdi died in 618 CE.