Who Founded The Sui Dynasty?-Yang Jian/Emperor Wen Of Sui

Emperor Wei of the Sui Dynasty ruled China between 541CE and 604CE. He was also known as Wen-Di, and he was born Yang Jian. Emperor Sui was the founder of China’s first Sui Dynasty.

Who Was Emperor Yang Jian/ Wen

Emperor Wen was one of the most hard-working administrators and worked as a micromanager. He was a Buddhist, and during his time, he encouraged the spread of the Buddhist religion throughout the state. His government, however, supported Confucian beliefs. He would go on to form the Sui Dynasty, where he ruled until 619CE, which was when Tang Dynastys first ruler came to power.

In childhood, Yang Jian was born into one of the powerful families in China, under the non-Chinese dynasties controlling the North and Central China when the country was undergoing fragmentation. He was brought up by a Buddhist nun and briefly attended a school that was maintained by the state. He, however, only learned the basics, including just a bit of history, the maxims of the Confucian morality, and afterward, knowledge of hunting, horsemanship, archery, falconry, and he even gained military experiences.

During the brief reign of the Sui dynasty, the Great Wall of China was rebuilt. There also were numerous land reforms made regarding the use of the land, and also the gap between the poor and the rich was largely reduced. Also, Buddhism was used by the dynasty to unify China’s very diverse groups.

Emperor Wen is also known as one of the most reputable public leaders recorded throughout Chinese history. But burdened by many responsibilities, Emperor Wen still behaved like the perfect Confucian, and he never complained. During his reign, Emperor Wen seized power not just for himself but also for the sake of the entire nation. His ambition and pursuits made him most suitable for the role of the emperor, a role that he deserved and earned by merit. He was a very visionary individual who possessed a great deal of integrity and character.

One of the things that made Emperor Wen stand out is the fact that the Emperor never allowed himself to succumb to the vices of the flesh even though his position meant he could have gotten it all. The emperor also had the ability to win really wide in public support for the reforms he initiated, which was no mean fete. Even so, Emperor Wen’s leadership was stained by a lot of bloodsheds, as it was with the reigns of many other emperors who made many big reforms. Unfortunately, his son was unable to continue the work of his dad.

Emperor Wen’s time started at the time when the Han Dynasty fell in 220AD. At the time, China was divided significantly, with many regions fighting for control over the country. There was constant war, and early in the year 500, China was ruled by two main dynasties, the Northern and the Southern Dynasties. But in the year 581, a young man called Yang Jian took over control of China’s Northern Dynasty, and he established China’s Sui Dynasty. He was consequently named the Emperor Wen of Sui.

After he gained control over Northern China, the Emperor gathered a large army and then invaded the South. And in 589, 8 years later, Emperor Wen’s rather massive army conquered the South, bringing the rest of China under one rule.

The emperor was a very strong leader throughout his reign, and he made many remarkable changes during his reign. These changes included the establishment of fair taxes, a more organized government, and even encouraged building of grain reserves.

Emperor Wen Of Sui Accomplishments

  • Creation of a centralized China

Emperor Wen set up a centralized government, and this required a lot of reforms on the existing leadership structures. His changes included the replacement of the local hereditary offices by bureaucracy, meaning that everyone was answerable to the throne. This also meant the abolishing of the hereditary rights held by officers, and officials were selected based on an examination system from which their results would determine their appointment. The power to appoint the leaders was vested on the Board of the Civil Office or the Libu. The new governance system was guided by something called the Rule of Avoidance which forbade officials from serving in the native places they were born.

Emperor Wen planned his conquest in the south with great care and a great deal of attention to detail. This featured an 8-prong assault on the land and water, overwhelming the southerners. This led to the integration of a different cultural region ruled by the Sui Empire, facilitated by the canal system.

After some years and despite his many accomplishments, the emperor was quite unhappy and was also his aging wife henpecked him. He wasn’t on the best terms with his sons either. As a result, he turned against Confucianism, embracing Buddhism more. Soon, Buddhist observances increased, and he also built shrined in the key cities and towns. The emperor also carried sealed holy relics in special jars carried by eminent delegations of the eminent monks.

  • Land-Equalization System

Emperor Wen is also known for the creation of this land system in which land was distributed equally to all, based on the size of the household, meaning larger families got larger parcels of land. The existing landowners were, however, allowed to keep their large parcels of land, as long as they only farmed on the land and never sold it. Taxes on merchants and farmers were relaxed, too, resulting in the most productive agricultural period in Chinese history.

Other accomplishments include:

  • Reunification of all of China under one rule
  • Reconstruction of the Great Wall of China
  • Building the Grand Canal for improved trade and transportation
  • Establishment of grain reserves

Emperor Wen Of Sui Cause Of Death

It is believed that Emperor Wen might have died after he was strangled by his son, whose title was striped when he was caught raping one of the emperor’s concubines. Other people, however, claim that he died from an illness.

The Chinese Sui Dynasty was established by Yang Jian, also known as Emperor Wen of Sui. One of the most important figures in Chinese history, he ruled from 581 to 604. Historians can’t agree on what killed Emperor Wen, who passed away at age 58.

The exact cause of death of Emperor Wen is a mystery. Natural causes has been proposed as an explanation for his passing. Chronic headaches, insomnia, and stomach issues were just some of the ailments from which Emperor Wen was known to have suffered. It’s possible that his death was hastened by these health issues.

Stroke is another possible cause of death for Emperor Wen. In the months before his death, he reportedly showed signs of stroke, including numbness, weakness, and trouble speaking. However, this theory is not supported by any hard data.

Another, more contentious theory postulates that Emperor Wen was murdered by poison. Historical records from the Tang Dynasty suggest that Yang Guang, son of Emperor Wen, poisoned his father to assume power. Many historians, however, disagree with this theory due to a lack of proof.

emperor wen of sui becomes emperor

Yang Zhong, the father of Yang Jian, once rebelled with Yuwen Tai in Guanxi and was a founding hero of Western Wei and Northern Zhou. Due to his father’s contributions, at the age of fifteen, Yang Jian was awarded various titles by the Western Wei court, such as Cavalier in Attendance, General of Chariots and Cavalry, and Palace Attendant of the Third Rank, and was granted the title of Duke of Chengji County. After Yang Zhong’s death, Yang Jian inherited his father’s title as the Duke of Sui. In September of the second year of Jiande (573), Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou, Yuwen Yong, took Yang Jian’s eldest daughter, Yang Lihua, as the wife of Crown Prince Yuwen Yun. In the first year of Xuanzheng (578), Emperor Wu of Zhou passed away, and Crown Prince Yuwen Yun ascended to the throne, becoming Emperor Xuan of Northern Zhou. He appointed Yang Lihua as Empress Tianyuan and Yang Jian as the Grand Marshal and the Chief Pillar of the State.

Empress Yang Lihua was not favored by Emperor Xuan, and Yang Jian’s appearance was considered extraordinary, making him a target of suspicion. Emperor Xuan was very wary of him and sent people to monitor his words and actions. In this dangerous situation, Yang Jian kept a low profile and made many connections to ensure his safety. Until the second year of Daxiang (580), Emperor Yuwen Yun fell ill and was beyond recovery, and the new emperor, Emperor Jing of Northern Zhou, was just an eight-year-old child who needed a powerful minister to assist in governing. Although Empress Yang Lihua did not give birth to Emperor Jing, his birth mother, Empress Zhu, was a former palace maid with a humble background and no relatives suitable for assisting in politics. Therefore, under the support of the ministers, Yang Jian entered the palace to assist in governing and was appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of all military forces under a false imperial edict. Soon, under the name of Emperor Jing, he was appointed as the Grand Marshal and the Left Prime Minister, in charge of the country’s affairs.

After taking power, Yang Jian removed Yan Zhiyi, the imperial censor who opposed him, from the court and appointed him as the Governor of Western Regions. Yuwen Xian, Emperor Xuan’s cousin and Yang Jian’s biggest threat, was killed by Yang Jian. The governors of Xiangzhou, Yunzhou, and Yizhou, Wei Chijiong, Sima Xiaonan, and Wang Qian, respectively, coordinated with each other to rebel against Yang Jian. Yang Jian sent troops to suppress them, and they were subsequently defeated one after another. During his reign, Yang Jian also recruited many talented individuals, such as Gao Feng, Su Wei, and Li Delin, who played important roles in the subsequent Sui dynasty’s rule. Yang Jian controlled both the court and the common people and began planning for a peaceful transition of power. In February of the third year of Daxiang (581), Emperor Jing of Zhou announced the edict of “Following the will of Heaven, passing the throne to Sui,” marking the beginning of a new dynasty. As Yang Jian was the Duke of Sui, the dynasty was named after his title, and the character “Sui” was chosen as it had the same pronunciation as his name, and the character “隋” carried a negative connotation of “walking” which was considered inauspicious.

Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty vs. Turks

In the first year of Emperor Yang Jian’s reign (581 AD), also known as the Kaihuang era, Gao Baoning, who controlled Yingzhou (now Chaoyang City, Liaoning Province), rebelled against the Sui dynasty. At the same time, the powerful nomadic empire of the Turks, led by their ruler Shaobo Khan, had been attempting to invade Sui territory from the northwest and north. Gao Baoning joined forces with the Turks and captured Linyu Town (now Shanhaiguan). Yang Jian immediately ordered the construction of the Great Wall and deployed troops to the northern borders. He stationed Yin Shou in Youzhou (now Beijing) and Yu Qingze in Bingzhou (now Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province) with tens of thousands of soldiers to defend against any southern invasion by the Turks.

Yang Jian adopted a policy of “making distant friends and attacking close enemies, and uniting the weak against the strong.” He instigated discord among the Turkic leaders and officials, isolating Shaobo Khan and forcing him to submit to Sui rule. Gao Baoning was killed by his subordinates after his defeat. Meanwhile, Tuguhun invaded the western border. Yang Jian dispatched Grand General Yuan Xie as the commander-in-chief, leading tens of thousands of troops to counterattack. Yuan Xie won a great victory, and “seventeen kings and thirteen dukes surrendered, each leading their own followers” (from the Biography of Yuan Xie in the Book of Sui).

Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty unified China

At the time of the establishment of the Sui Dynasty, there was still a divided situation between the north and the south. To the south of the Yangtze River, there were two other regimes, the Western Liang and Southern Chen. Among them, Southern Chen had a larger territory, occupying the provinces of the lower Yangtze River and the Pearl River Basin. After the national power became strong, in September of the seventh year of the Kaihuang era (587 AD), Yang Jian summoned the Western Liang lord, Xiao Cong, to the court. Just after Xiao Cong left Jiangling, Yang Jian ordered General Cuī Hóngdù to lead his troops to capture the Western Liang capital. After Xiao Cong’s submission, Yang Jian appointed him as a high-ranking official and granted him the title of Duke of Jǔ. Western Liang was thus destroyed.

In March of the eighth year of Kaihuang (588 AD), Yang Jian issued an edict to destroy the Chen Dynasty. In October, he held a grand ceremony in the Temple of Heaven to declare war. He then sent eight armies to simultaneously attack the Chen regime from the upper, middle, and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. In January of the ninth year, the Sui army entered Jiankang (today’s Nanjing), captured Chen Houzhu (Chen Shubao) who was hiding in a well, and thus destroyed the Chen Dynasty.

With this, Yang Jian ended China’s more than 270 years of the north-south division since the Western Jin Dynasty and established the Sui Dynasty, a great unified empire with a territory stretching from the east and south to the sea, to the west of today’s Xinjiang, southwest to Yunnan, Guangxi and northern Vietnam, to the north to the Great Desert, and to the northeast to the Liao River.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top