Yang Tong

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About Emperor Gongdi

Reign Years:618-619 A.D

Given Name: Tyang Tong

Reign Name:Yang Tong

Yang Tong – Sui Dynasty

Yang Tong of the Sui Dynasty is traditionally known for his princely title of Prince of Yue (other aliases: Lord Huangtai or Gongdi). The fourth Sui Dynasty emperor, he was made an emperor by the Sui officials in the capital Luoyang. He was left in charge by his grandfather, Emperor Yang.

There are some questions about his ambiguous status as a Sui dynasty emperor. However, his short reign is as important as the events of the Sui dynasty’s conclusion and the rise of the Tang Dynasty.

The Sui Dynasty (581-618 C.E) started bright and ended in darkness. Its ruling was as brief as the day. Though it lasted for only 37 years, the dynasty played a critical role in China’s development socially, politically, economically, and culturally.

This Chinese dynasty and its two acknowledged emperors were known for their great reformations and downfall. However, it does not give much limelight to its last young emperor, who was caught between the war, politics, and China’s modernization.

Who is the Yang Tong of the Sui Dynasty?

Yang Tong was the grandson of Emperor Yang, the second Sui Dynasty emperor. He was born the second of three sons, the older brother of Emperor Gong. He was also a son of a concubine. History indicated that he was handsome, loving, and had a solemn personality.

Before Yang Tong became an imperial prince like his brothers, his fate was unknown. In addition to the fact that his grandfather did not create him nor his brothers the Crown Prince after their father died, he was also not a legitimate heir-presumptive since his mother was a concubine.

Eventually, Emperor Yang created Yang Tong as an imperial prince with the title of Prince of Yue.

At eight years old, Yang Tong was left in charge of the eastern capital of Luoyang. Since it was the time of disturbance against Emperor Yang’s ruling, he needed help from an official named Fan Zigai.

This was also the same time that his brother, Yang You or Emperor Gong, was left in charge of the capital Chang’an. Together, they defeated Yang Xuangan, a general who rebelled near Luoyang.

Leading the Capital

As soon as Emperor Yang departed from the capital, rebel leaders took advantage of the emperor’s absence. They attacked Luoyang and its food storage, causing its food supplies to decline.

Yang Tong sent generals to combat these rebels,but they were repeatedly defeated. This prompted him to seek aid from Emperor Yang. However, his plea for aid was declined because his grandfather believed the situation was not severe.

Yang Tong’s generals eventually surrendered to the rebels, which moved the capital of Luoyang into a bad position. Soon enough, aid from Yang arrived, allowing Luoyang to recuperate from the declining food supply and war. But it did not last long as rebels were able to attack again by the fall of 617.

When Emperor Yang was killed, his brother, who was also an emperor under the puppet government of Li Yuan, abdicated the throne. On the other hand, in Luoyang, Yang Tong was declared by the loyal Sui officials an emperor.

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Prince of Yue – His Short Reign

Yang Tong of the Sui Dynasty led a government with a collective leadership of seven officials known as the “Seven Nobles.” It consisted of Yuan Wendu, Duan Da, Wang Shichong, Guo Wenyi, Huangfu Wuyi, Lu Chu and Zhao Changwen.

As the rebels led by Yuwen Huaji threaten Luoyang, Yuan and Lu suggested to make peace with Li Mi (another rebel leader) by bestowing him official Sui honors and creating him the Duke of Wei.

The two rebels fought their way to the dukedom, where Li Mi won. Though this plan pleased the officials of Luoyang, Wang was wary that the “Seven Nobles” were awarding honors to a rebel like Li Mi. This eventually caused distrust between the “Seven Nobles” as Wang might just be surrendering the capital to Yuwen.

Wang incited a coup against the government, killing Yuan and Lu. Yang Tong may be displeased with what happened, but still invited Wang into the palace, who pledged his loyalty to him and the empire. Though Wang surrendered himself to Yang Tong, it was all part of Wang’s plan to assert the throne.

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The End of the Sui Dynasty

When Li Mi broke off relations with Yang Tong, Wang attacked him. Li Mi’s former territories eventually surrendered to Wang in the face of Yang Tong.

Wang was then made the Prince of Zheng. More schemes came into play, persuading Yang Tong to abdicate the throne. Wang even promised to return it once Yang Tong was older. However, Wang forcefully issued a verdict in Yang Tong’s name ,making himself the new Chinese emperor of Zheng.

As assassination attempts by Wang became obvious to Yang Tong, he decided to kill himself but failed. Yang Tong was eventually killed by strangulation on Wang’s orders, ending the Sui dynasty.

Wang honored Yang Tong as “Emperor Gong”, the same name that the Tang Dynasty gave Yang Tong’s brother Yang You. However, the “Book of Sui” only recognized Yang You as Emperor Gong.

Yang Tong’s emperorship was still in question in traditional Chinese history.