Quick Facts about Tang Dynasty Emperor Gaozu
- Emperor Gaozu was born in 566 CE.
- His name at birth was Li Yuan.
- His father was Li Bing.
- His mother was a sister of the Sui dynasty emperor, Wendi.
- After he deposed Sui dynasty emperor, Gongdi, in 618 CE, Li Yuan became the first emperor of the Tang dynasty.
- Gaozu means “High Progenitor”.
How the Tang Dynasty began…How Gaozu became Emperor
Emperor Gaozu was from the northern China territory of Shanxi. His people rode horses, were loyal to their families, and open to new thoughts and change. In 617 CE, he led a revolt on the southern Sui dynasty capital at Chang’an. The revolt was successful. He installed a 6-year old on the throne as emperor and named himself regent. Within a year, the young emperor was dead and Li Yuan declared himself as emperor of the Tang dynasty.
China under Emperor Gaozu
Many of the Sui dynasty family and government officials were allowed to remain in the capital and continue as they had during the previous dynasty.
This open mindedness, by Emperor Gaozu, kept the government functioning during the transition and avoided a civil war between the north and the south.
The financial, military, administrative, and judicial systems were mostly left in place and were run by the same people.
One change that Emperor Gaozu made was to spend less. The remaining Sui officials or families did not favor the change, but it helped restore the government treasuries and assure continued prosperity of the people.
Tang Dynasty rebellions and bankruptcy
Although the government remained largely unchanged, Emperor Gaozu spent the first six years of his reign subduing rebellions by rival factions. Rebellions that had started in 614 CE continued unabated until 624 CE. Overall, more than 200 rebellions were put down during this time.
Many non-Chinese from beyond the northern frontier were lured south to help in the rebellions. Emperor Gaozu used bribery to keep some of the northern Turkish peoples from continuing to invade the Chinese empire. At one point during this time, there was so much going on in the government that it ran out of paper.
Changes Emperor Gaozu made to China
During Emperor Gaozu’s reign, a new currency was established, new coins minted, and China’s Compilation of Official History was begun.
As in the Sui dynasty before him, Emperor Gaozu’s Tang dynasty was established on northern government practices, however, Gaozu did incorporate some southern practices as well. He included the southern practice of examination and testing to receive many government positions.
He disregarded Buddhist tenants and reestablished Daoism and Confucianism as the official state religions.
Emperor Gaozu’s family and death
Emperor Gaozu’s wife was Empress Dou. He had at least twenty-two children. He abdicated the throne in 626 to his son, Li Shimin, who became Emperor Taizong and the second emperor of the Tang dynasty. Emperor Gaozu died in 635 CE. His tomb is in Xianling, San Yuan county, Shaanxi.