Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 49
Also Known As: Yang Guang, Ying, Amo, Emperor Ming
Famous as: Emperor of China’s Sui dynasty
Spouse/Ex-: Consort Cai, Consort Chen, Consort Chen Chou, Consort Wang, Consort Xiao, Empress Xiao
father: Emperor Wen of Sui
mother: Dugu Qieluo
siblings: Yang Lihua
children: Princess Nanyang, Yang Gao, Yang Jian, Yang Zhao
Died on: April 11, 618
place of death: Danyang, Jiangsu
Cause of Death: Assassination
Yangdi, also known as Emperor Yang of Sui, was the second emperor of China's Sui dynasty who ruled from 604 until his death in 618. Born as the second son of Emperor Wen of Sui, he was named Yang Ying at birth. However, he was renamed as Yang Guang after his father consulted the oracles which advised a change of name. Courageous and valiant from a young age, he commanded five armies in the invasion of the southern Chen dynasty while he was still a young price and received much praise for his bravery. After becoming the emperor he embarked on extensive military campaigns that vastly expanded his territories. During his reign several major construction projects were undertaken which included the building of large canals, roads, and palaces. He also ordered the reconstruction of the Great Wall, a project which resulted in the deaths of six million workers and nearly depleted the royal treasury. He spent lavishly on the construction projects which severely affected the country’s financial resources. Highly ambitious, the emperor was also very arrogant and cruel. It is generally believed that he ascended the throne after ordering the murder of his elder brother and father though his claim is unproven. Historians often consider him to be one of the worst tyrants in Chinese history
Childhood & Early Life
Yang Guang was born in 569 to Yang Jian, the Duke of Sui and Yang Jian's wife Duchess Dugu Qieluo. He was their second son.
He grew up to be a bright and handsome boy, and was considered to be his parents’ favorite son.
His father Yang Jian seized power as the regent after the death of Emperor Xuan in 580. By the next year, he had forced the emperor’s son to give up the throne in his favor. He then established the Sui Dynasty and became its Emperor Wen.
Emperor Wen launched a major attack on rival Chen Dynasty in the winter of 588. Yang Guang, along with his brother Yang Jun and the general Yang Su were in command of the different prongs of the operation. Yang Guang displayed great bravery in the campaign and played a pivotal role in its ultimate success.
Yang Guang had always been his parents’ favorite son. By 600, his elder brother the Crown Prince Yang Yong had lost the favors of his parents due to his wastefulness and having many concubines. Yang Guang, on the other hand, pretended to be frugal and faithful to his wife.
Yang Guang also hatched conspiracies against his brother to defame him further in the emperor’s eyes. He was eventually successful in leading the emperor to depose his elder son and name Yang Guang as the Crown Prince instead.
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Accession & Reign
Emperor Wen died suddenly in 604. It is widely believed that Yang Guang had ordered his murder though this claim has no proof. Yang Guang then had his elder brother killed and took the throne as Emperor Yang.
Almost immediately upon becoming the emperor he started undertaking major construction projects. He built the Tongji Canal connecting Luoyang with the Yellow River and connecting the Yellow River with the Huai River. He also rebuilt the Han canal. The construction of these two canals resulted in considerable loss of lives as 40% to 50% of the men employed in the works died during the constructions.
The emperor spent lavishly on the construction of luxurious palaces. He also ordered the construction of two massive food storages, the Luokou Storage and the Huiluo Storage near Luoyang.
He launched several military campaigns in order to bring more territories into his control and further consolidate his power. Eventually he was able to extend the Chinese empire to include present-day Vietnam in the south and Inner Asia in the north. However, some of his costly expeditions also proved to be major disasters.
Due to his extravagant spending, he imposed excessive taxes on the people and exploited every opportunity to get money flowing into the royal treasury. By the mid-610s, the people were getting increasingly frustrated by Emperor Yang’s administration because of his ruthlessness and extravagance.
Several major rebellions sprung up in the country and by 618, the emperor realized that his end was near.
Emperor Yang is best remembered for the massive construction projects undertaken during his reign. The most famous of these is the construction of the Grand Canal which during his time linked the systems of the Qiantang River, the Yangtze River, the Huai River, the Yellow River, the Wei River and the Hai River. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a famous tourist destination.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 582, Emperor Wen chose one of the daughters of Emperor Ming of Western Liang to be Yang Guang’s wife. She was made Empress Xiao in 605. She was an intelligent and talented woman who gave birth to Crown Prince Zhao, Prince Jian, and Princess Nanyang.
Emperor Yang also had several concubines, the most notable ones being Consort Xiao, Consort Chen, Consort Cai, and Consort Chen Chou. He had many children through his concubines.
In 618 rebellious army officers launched a coup and attacked the palace. The entered the palace and found the emperor. Realizing that he would be killed, Emperor Yang offered to swallow poison in order to escape a more painful death. But no poison could be found and thus he took off his scarf and gave it to a soldier who strangled him with it. Along with the emperor, several of his high-level officials and relatives were also killed.