- Li Xian
Li Xian (李賢) (653–684),
courtesy nameMingyun (明允), formally Crown Prince Zhanghuai (章懷太子), named Li De (李德) from 672 to 674, was a crown princeof the Chinese Tang Dynasty. He was the sixth son of Emperor Gaozong, and the second son of his second wife Empress Wu (later known as Wu Zetian). He was known for writing commentaries for the " Book of Later Han", the official history of the Eastern Han Dynasty. He became crown prince in 675 after his older brother Li Hong's death (which traditional historians believed to be a poisoning by Empress Wu), but soon fell out of favor with Empress Wu himself. In 680, Empress Wu had her associates accuse Li Xian of treason, and he was demoted to commoner rank and exiled. In 684, after Emperor Gaozong's death, Empress Wu, then empress dowager, had her associate Qiu Shenji (丘神勣) visit Li Xian to force him to commit suicide.
In 706, his younger brother Emperor Zhongzong provided Li Xian with an honorable burial by interring his remains at the
Li Xian was born in 653, as the sixth son of Emperor Gaozong and the second son of his then-favorite concubine Consort Wu (later known as Wu Zetian). There were, however, persistent rumors inside the palace that he was not actually born of Consort Wu but of her older sister (who was later created the Lady of Han). In 655, the same year that his mother Consort Wu displaced Emperor Gaozong's first wife Empress Wang as
empress, Li Xian was created the Prince of Lu. In 656, he was initially titularly given the post of prefect of Qi Prefecture (岐州, roughly modern Baoji, Shaanxi), and then the dual posts as prefect of the capital prefecture Yong Prefecture (雍州, roughly modern Xi'an, Shaanxi) and commandant at You Prefecture (幽州, roughly modern Beijing). It was said that his behavior was elegant, even in his youth, and, according to a comment that Emperor Gaozong made to the chancellor Li Ji, he studied the " Classic of History", " Classic of Rites", " Analects", and a number of ancient poems and could remember them clearly. In 661, his title was changed to Prince of Pei, and he was given the titles of commandant at Yang Prefecture (揚州, roughly modern Yangzhou, Jiangsu) and major general, but continued to also serve as prefect of Yong Prefecture. At this time, he had the literarily-talented official Wang Boon staff. Around this time, the princes were apparently often engaged in cockfighting. Wang Bo wrote a playful piece entitled the "Declaration Against the Prince of Zhou's Cock" (檄周王雞文) (the Prince of Zhou was Li Xian's brother Li Xiǎn (note different tone), later named Li Zhe), which, however, when Emperor Gaozong read it, caused Emperor Gaozong to be angry, as he believed this would cause discord between his sons, and therefore expelled Wang from the Pei mansion. In 672, Li Xian's title was changed to Prince of Yong, and he was given the titles of commandant at Liang Prefecture (涼州, roughly modern Wuwei, Gansu), but continued to also serve as general and prefect of Yong Prefecture. His name was also changed to Li De. In 674, his name was changed back to Li Xian.
As crown prince
In 675, Li Xian's older brother
Li Hongthe crown princedied -- a death that traditional historians generally believed to be a poisoning ordered by Empress Wu. On July 3, [ [http://www.sinica.edu.tw/ftms-bin/kiwi1/luso.sh?lstype=2&dyna=%AD%F0&king=%B0%AA%A9v&reign=%A4W%A4%B8&yy=2&ycanzi=&mm=6&dd=5&dcanzi= 兩千年中西曆轉換 ] ] Li Xian was created crown prince to replace Li Hong. Emperor Gaozong soon ordered that much of government matters be ruled on by Li Xian, and Li Xian was praised for making good decisions. Also around this time, Li Xian led a group of scholars, including Zhang Da'an, Liu Nayan (劉訥言), Ge Xiyuan (格希元), Xu Shuya (許叔牙), Cheng Xuanyi (成玄一), Shi Cangzhu (史藏諸), and Zhou Baoning (周寶寧), in writing commentaries for the " Book of Later Han", the official history of the Eastern Han Dynasty, written by the Liu Songscholar Fan Ye.
Meanwhile, Li Xian's relationship with Empress Wu began to deteriorate, as Li Xian had heard the rumors that he was actually the son of Lady of Han, and had become fearful. Empress Wu, detecting this, had her literary staff write two works entitled, "Good Examples for Shaoyang" (少陽正範, "Shaoyang" being an oblique term for a crown prince) and "Biographies of Filial Sons" (孝子傳) and gave them to Li Xian, and further wrote a number of letters rebuking Li Xian, making him more fearful. Further, when the sorcerer Ming Chongyan (明崇儼), who was well-trusted by Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu, was assassinated in 679, Empress Wu suspected Li Xian -- as Ming had been known to repeatedly make comments to Empress Wu that included, "The Crown Prince cannot bear the responsibilitiies of state. The Prince of Ying [(i.e., Li Xian's younger brother Li Zhe, later Emperor Zhongzong] has an appearance most similar to Emperor Taizong ( [Emperor Gaozong's father] )," and "The Prince of Xiang [(i.e., Li Xian's younger brother Li Dan, later Emperor Ruizong)] has the most honorable appearance."
Meanwhile, Li Xian was also known for his liking of music and women. (Some historians, pointing to oblique references that he was "particularly close" to a number of male servants, also believe that he liked sexual relations with both women and men.) When Empress Wu heard this, she had people report this to Emperor Gaozong, who ordered an investigation led by the officials
Xue Yuanchao, Pei Yan, and Gao Zhizhou. When they searched the crown prince's stables, they found several hundred black armors, and they believed this to be evidence of a coup, and after interrogation, one of Li Xian's favorite servants, Zhao Daosheng (趙道生), admitted to assassinating Ming on Li Xian's orders. Emperor Gaozong, who had favored Li Xian, considered pardoning him, but Empress Wu refused. On September 20, 680, [ [http://www.sinica.edu.tw/ftms-bin/kiwi1/luso.sh?lstype=2&dyna=%AD%F0&king=%B0%AA%A9v&reign=%A5%C3%B6%A9&yy=1&ycanzi=&mm=8&dd=22&dcanzi= 兩千年中西曆轉換 ] ] Emperor Gaozong deposed Li Xian and reduced him to commoner rank, delivering him from the eastern capital Luoyang(where Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu had long taken up residence) to the capital Chang'anto be imprisoned there. His close associates were executed, and the armors seized were publicly burned to show the people that, in fact, Li Xian had committed treason. Li Zhe was created crown prince to replace him.
in 683, Li Xian was moved from Chang'an to Ba Prefecture (巴州, roughly modern
Bazhong, Sichuan). In 684, after Emperor Gaozong's death, Li Zhe initially took the throne (as Emperor Zhongzong), but soon was deposed himself due to signs of disobedience to Empress Wu (now empress dowager), and Li Dan became emperor instead (as Emperor Ruizong), although Empress Dowager Wu retained all powers as regent. In spring 684, she sent the general Qiu Shenji to Ba Prefecture with the order of, "Examine the house of Li Xian the former crown prince to prevent external attacks." However, she hinted to him that he should have Li Xian killed. When he got to Ba Prefecture, he placed Li Xian into a small room and forced him to commit suicide. When news of Li Xian's death arrived at Luoyang, Empress Wu publicly blamed Qiu and demoted him to the post of prefect of Die Prefecture (疊州, roughly modern Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu), while publicly morning Li Xian and posthumously creating him the title of Prince of Yong. (Qiu was soon recalled to Luoyang to again be general.) After Empress Wu's death in 705 and the restoration of Emperor Zhongzong to the throne, Emperor Zhongzong had Li Xian's casket returned to Chang'an, to be buried near the tomb of Emperor Gaozong. After Emperor Ruizong became emperor again in 710, he had Li Xian's crown prince title restored.
Notes and references
Book of Tang", [http://www.sidneyluo.net/a/a16/086.htm vol. 86] .
New Book of Tang", [http://www.sidneyluo.net/a/a17/081.htm vol. 81] .
Zizhi Tongjian", vols. 200, 202, 203.
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