Tang Gaozong

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Tang Gaozong (* 628 , † December 683 ) was a Chinese emperor of the Tang Dynasty . He ruled from 649 to 683.

Gaozong (or Kao Tsung ) was born Prince Li Zhi, son of Emperor Tang Taizong . Li Zhi was considered to be a calm and docile person without much initiative. These traits must have been decisive when Li Zhi was made crown prince in 643, although he was only the ninth-born son of Emperor Taizong. Previously, the Crown Prince Li Chengqian's way of life made it impossible for him to assume the dignity of emperor. After intrigues among the Tang princes, a majority of ministers favored Li Zhi as the future heir to the throne.

In the year 649 (some studies also assume the year 650), Li Zhi became Emperor of China under the temple name of Gaozong after the death of his father. In his first few years in office, influential ministers ran state affairs, although Gaozong did not show initiative in any major decision.

The expansion policy of the Tang Dynasty resulted in a steady deficit in its early phase. Under Gaozong, however, the state reserves were still large enough due to the extreme taxation of households under the previous Sui dynasty , so that the large expenditures had no further consequences.

In the West there had been violent conflicts with the Arabs under Gaozong's predecessor . For this reason, the imperial court tried to forge an alliance with Eastern Europe in the early 660s . Negotiations did take place, but a direct alliance agreement is nowhere mentioned. There seem to have been no further initiatives in this direction. The reason for this is an interruption in the expansionary phase of Islam from the beginning of the 660s.

Domestic politics under Gaozong was significantly influenced by the influential concubine and later Empress Wu Zetian . In 640 she came to the imperial court as a low-ranking concubine, but became his lover even before Li Zhi's accession to the throne. In 651 she bore him a son. Soon after, she had Empress Wang , who belonged to one of the most influential families in the empire, killed on the pretext that she had murdered her daughter. She then rose to become empress herself.

Wu Zetian had the majority of the ministers removed and murdered. Changsun Wuji , one of the emperor's closest advisers, was exiled to Guizhou. The gentry in the areas of Henan , Hebei and on the Yangzi served as her support . She benefited from the reorganization of the state examination system in the 660s and 670s and rose to the highest state offices through the newly introduced jinshi degree. The relocation of the capital to Luoyang in 657 should also be seen as an attempt to bind the gentry of these areas to Wu Zetian .

Harvest failures occurred towards the end of Gaozong's rule. In the late years of Gaozong's reign, Wu Zetian began securing the succession for one of her sons. In 675 she is said to have murdered Crown Prince Li Hong . In 679 the new Crown Prince, Li Xian , was accused of plotting against the emperor and forced to commit suicide. Other sons of Gaozong were sent into exile. So when Gaozong died in December 683, Wu Zetian's son was able to take over the government as Emperor Zhongzong .


  • Mark Edward Lewis: China's Cosmopolitan Empire. The Tang Dynasty. Belknap, London / Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2009.
  • Denis C. Twitchett , John K. Fairbank (Eds.): The Cambridge History of China . Vol. 3 ( Sui and T'Ang China, 589-906 AD ), Cambridge 1979, p. 242ff.
predecessor Office successor
Tang Taizong Emperor of China
Tang Zhongzong