- Emperor Wuzong of Tang
notes="General note: Dates given here are in the
"They are not in the
proleptic Gregorian calendar".
Emperor Tang Wuzong (ca 810 [Gisela Gottschalk: "Chinas große Kaiser". Pawlak 1985, ISBN 3-88199-229-4, page 116 (German)] – 846), born Li Yan, was the fifteenth emperor of the
Tang dynastyof China, reigning from 840 to 846. Wuzong is remembered mainly for the religious persecutionthat occurred during his reign.
Wuzong ascended to the throne in a time of economic and political crisis. Military eunuchs had controlled the government for some time. They had put the previous emperor, Wuzong's older brother Wenzong, under house arrest, where he apparently drank himself to death. The eunuchs had also murdered the last two emperors before him, Jingzong and Muzong. Meanwhile, the Uyghur Khanate was attacking China from the northwest. Imperial finances were in trouble as most provinces were not paying any taxes to the central government. With the help of his uncle, the future Emperor Xuānzong, Wuzong was able to stage a coup against the eunuchs and ascend to the throne. He and his prime minister Li Deyu were able to curb the eunuchs' power. Li Deyu took personal command of the war against the Uyghurs and won an important victory in 843.
Wuzong's solution to the financial crisis was to seize the property of
Buddhistmonasteries. Buddhism had flourished into a major religious force in China during the Tang period, and its monasteries enjoyed tax-exempt status. He closed many Buddhist shrines, confiscated their property, and sent the monks and nuns home to lay life. However, Wuzong's reasons for doing so were not purely economic. A zealous Taoist, Wuzong considered Buddhism a foreign religion that was harmful to Chinese society. He went after other foreign religions as well. He all but destroyed Zoroastrianismand Manichaeismin China, and his persecution of the growing Nestorian Christian churches sent Chinese Christianity into a decline from which it never recovered. At the same time, Wuzong went far to promote Taoist worship in China through religious regulations and the construction of the Temple for Viewing Immortalsin the Imperial court.
Tang Wuzong was one of the last Tang emperors and ruled China during a long period of decline; despite his reforms, he was unable to revive the empire through his religious persecutions. After his death, with the help of his son Wenzong, Buddhism was able to recover from the persecution; but Christianity, Manichaeism, and Zoroastrianism, however, never again played as significant a role in Chinese religious life.
Buddhism in China
Christianity in China
Islam in China
Persecution of Buddhists
Persecution of Christians
Persecution of Muslims
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