Emperor Yang of Sui

640px-Sui_Yangdi_Tang

Emperor Yang of Sui (隋煬帝, 569 – April 11, 618), personal name Yang Guang (楊廣), alternative nameYing (英), nickname Amo (阿摩), known as Emperor Ming (明帝) during the brief reign of his grandson Yang Tong), was the second son of Emperor Wen of Sui, and the second emperor of China’s Sui dynasty.

Emperor Yang’s original name was Yang Ying, but was renamed by his father, after consulting with oracles, to Yang Guang. Yang Guang was made the Prince of Jin after Emperor Wen established Sui Dynasty in 581. In 588, he was granted command of the five armies that invaded the southern Chen dynasty and was widely praised for the success of this campaign. These military achievements, as well as his machinations against his older brother Yang Yong, led to him becoming crown prince in 600. After the death of his father in 604, generally considered, though unproven, by most traditional historians to be a murder ordered by Yang Guang, he ascended the throne as Emperor Yang.

Emperor Yang, ruling from 606 to 618, committed to several large construction projects, most notably the completion of the Grand Canal. He commanded the reconstruction of the Great Wall, a project which took the lives of nearly six million workers. He also ordered several military expeditions that brought Sui to its greatest territorial extent, one of which, the conquest of Champa in what is now central and southernVietnam, resulted in the death of thousands of Sui soldiers from malaria. These expeditions, along with a series of disastrous campaigns against Goguryeo (one of the three kingdoms of Korea), left the empire bankrupt and a populace in revolt. With northern China in turmoil, Emperor Yang spent his last days in Jiangdu (江都, in modern Yangzhou, Jiangsu), where he was eventually strangled in a coup led by his generalYuwen Huaji.

Emperor Yang committed almost eight million people to constructing roads, palaces, the Grand Canal, the Great Wall and ships. The re-designing of Luoyang, designated as the eastern capital, alone required a quarter of that workforce and as did the building of the Grand Canal. Equally manpower-consuming were the three expeditions against Goguryeo, each one needing about a million men.

Despite his accomplishments, Emperor Yang was generally considered by traditional historians to be one of the worst tyrants in Chinese history and the reason for the Sui Dynasty’s relatively short rule. His failed campaigns against Goguryeo, and the conscriptions levied to man them, coupled with increased taxation to finance these wars and civil unrest as a result of this taxation ultimately led to the downfall of the dynasty.

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