Tang Gaozu

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Li Yuan, the founder of the Tang Dynasty

The title Tang Gaozu (唐 高祖, Táng Gāozǔ; * 566 ; † June 25, 635 ) denotes the founder of the Tang Dynasty . His original name was Li Yuan (李渊, Lǐ Yuān), overthrew the Sui dynasty in 618 and ruled until his abdication in September 626.


Li Yuan belonged to the aristocracy of the Northwest and his family was known - as is not unusual in these parts of the country - for their marital relations with the "barbarians".

The Sui Empire has been shaken by repeated rebellions since 610 , a total of about 200 in seven years. A first reason was famines caused by floods on the lower Huanghe (Yellow River). In the midst of this situation, the imperial levies for three loss-making Korean Wars (612/13/14) fell. The peasant revolts that followed were supported by the nobility of the north-west, and with the emperor's reactions, relations with the Eastern Turks deteriorated .

As a general of the Sui dynasty, Li Yuan put down some of these peasant uprisings in 615/16. His son Li Shimin helped 615 the Sui Emperor Yang Di in a sudden attack of the Turks Khan Shibi (r. 609-21) during an inspection tour. Finally, Li Yuan was appointed governor of Taiyuan in Shanxi (617). At the same time, the Sui emperor retired to the south on a pleasure trip, leaving the rebellious north alone. That was a serious mistake.

It is now said that Li Shimin used a harem intrigue to force his indecisive father to revolt against the Sui. However, Li Yuan rose, formed an alliance with the Turkenkhan to cover his back, and then sent his troops under his sons Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin to the capital, Chang'an , which was occupied in September 617. Then he first installed a grandson of Yang Dis as a puppet emperor and ascended the throne himself on June 18, 618 (after the murder of Yang Dis).

But that did not mean that he had power in the country, as there were several rebel leaders fighting for supremacy. So he set about pacifying China, which the Tang succeeded in until 624/28. The measures taken included strict penalties to maintain discipline among the troops, the immediate distribution of the stored grain to alleviate the famine, a reorganization of the administration to include former rebel leaders and, last but not least, the new version of the criminal laws (624 ff.). Even many harem ladies have been "fired" in the interests of popularity.

The Emperor Gaozu was considered reticent, generous and gracious. It is said that his son Li Shimin did all of his work for him. Soon after Li Shimin's murder of Crown Prince Li Jiancheng during family disputes, he abdicated in his favor.


  • Mark Edward Lewis: China's Cosmopolitan Empire. The Tang Dynasty. Belknap, London / Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2009.
predecessor Office successor
gong Emperor of China