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|Crown Prince of the Tang Dynasty|
|Died||July 2, 626(aged 37)|
|House||House of Li|
|Father||Emperor Gaozu of Tang|
Li Jiancheng (Chinese: ; pinyin: ; 589 - July 2, 626, formally Crown Prince Yin (Chinese: ; pinyin: , literally, "the hidden crown prince"), nickname Pishamen (Chinese: ; pinyin: ; Sanskrit: Vai?rava?a), was the first crown prince of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. He was the oldest son of the founding emperor Emperor Gaozu (Li Yuan) and the crown prince after the founding of the dynasty in 618 CE.
Li Jiancheng was murdered by his younger brother, Li Shimin, the Prince of Qin, in the Xuanwu Gate indident in 626. His sons were subsequently executed or excluded from the imperial clan. After Li Shimin took the throne, Li Jiancheng was posthumously stripped of his crown prince status and granted the title "Prince Yin of Xi" (). Later, he was buried with the ceremonies due to an imperial prince. In 642, Li Jiancheng's title of Crown Prince Yin () was restored.
Li Jiancheng was born in 589 during the reign of Emperor Wen of Sui. He was the oldest son of Li Yuan, then Duke of Tang, who was a hereditary noble, and Li Yuan's wife Duchess Dou, who was the daughter of Dou Yi (), the Duke of Shenwu and Northern Zhou's Princess Xiangyang. Duchess Dou would subsequently give birth to three of Li Jiancheng's younger brothers: Li Shimin, Li Xuanba (, who died in 614), and Li Yuanji. She also gave birth to a girl child who eventually became Princess Pingyang, although it is not clear whether she was older or younger than Li Jiancheng. At some point, Li Jiancheng received the title of Heir Apparent of Tang.
In 616, with rebellions beginning to engulf northern China and frequent Eastern Tujue incursions across the border, Emperor Yang of Sui commissioned Li Yuan to be the commander of Taiyuan, guarding it against both rebels and the Eastern Tujue. As the chief commander of Taiyuan, Li Yuan was obligated by law to leave his family behind. Li Jiancheng was therefore put in charge of the estate and became the head of the house of Hedong (, in modern Yuncheng, Shanxi) while Li Yuan was away. Li Yuan took his younger son Li Shimin with him to the city Jinyang, which was the administrative center of Taiyuan.
According to the traditional narrative in the official historical records, in 617 Li Yuan was persuaded by Li Shimin to rebel against Sui rule (see "Historical sources" below). Another source, Wen Daya ()'s Da Tang Chuangye Qijuzhu (?), attributes the decision to revolt to Li Yuan himself. When Li Yuan was initially assigned to Jinyang in 616, he was pleased and regarded his assignment as a divinely-granted opportunity. But just one year later, in 617, Li Yuan said to Li Shimin: "The Sui Empire is about to collapse and the next family to rule this country will be us. The only reason I haven't yet started a rebellion is because your brothers are still in Hedong". Li Yuan sent secret messengers to Hedong to transfer his family to Jinyang. During the journey one of Li Jiancheng's younger brothers, Li Zhiyun, died. He also summoned his son-in-law Chai Shao from Chang'an. At the urging of Li Yuan's daughter, Chai Shao left Chang'an on his own while she went into hiding.
Even before Li Jiancheng, Li Yuanji, and Chai Shao arrived at Jinyang, Li Yuan rebelled, declaring that he intended to support Emperor Yang's grandson Yang You, the Prince of Dai, as emperor, while honoring Emperor Yang as Taishang Huang (retired emperor). Yang You was nominally in charge of the capital city Chang'an at the time.
Li Yuan made both Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin key generals, and in nine days they captured Xihe Commandery (, roughly modern Lüliang, Shanxi), impressing their father. Subsequently, Li Yuan divided his forces into six armies, giving Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin command of three armies each. He also made Li Jiancheng the Duke of Longxi and Li Shimin the Duke of Dunhuang. Li Yuan then advanced toward Chang'an. As he approached Hedong, torrential rains prevented his army from advancing further. With rumors running rampant that Liu Wuzhou and the Eastern Tujue were about to attack Taiyuan, Li Yuan initially ordered a retreat back to Taiyuan. However, Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin argued that this would mean sure defeat, and Li Yuan changed his mind.
Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin then captured the fortress of Huoyi (, in modern Linfen, Shanxi), eventually convincing Li Yuan to bypass Hedong and directly advance toward Chang'an. After he crossed the Yellow River into Guanzhong (i.e., the Chang'an region), he sent Li Jiancheng with Liu Wenjing () east to guard Tong Pass and Yongfeng Storage () and to stop any potential Sui reinforcements from the eastern capital Luoyang. He also sent Li Shimin north of the Wei River to seize territory. Once Li Yuan himself approached Chang'an, he summoned both Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin to join him in a siege of Chang'an. In the winter of 617, Li Yuan captured Chang'an and declared Yang You emperor (as Emperor Gong). He was created Prince of Tang, and became the regent for Yang You.
In the spring of 618, Li Yuan sent Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin toward Luoyang, which was then under attack by the rebel leader Li Mi, Duke of Wei, ostensibly to help the Sui forces there. The Sui forces rejected the overture, and Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin returned to Chang'an.
Later in the spring of 618, Emperor Yang, then at Jiangdu (, in modern Yangzhou, Jiangsu), was killed in a coup led by the general Yuwen Huaji. When this news arrived at Chang'an, Li Yuan had Yang You yield the throne to him. He established the Tang Dynasty, and declared himself the Emperor Gaozu. He also made Li Jiancheng crown prince.
In 619, Li Yuan sent Li Jiancheng to attack the peasant rebel leader Zhu Shanhai (), the Duke of Huxiang. Li Jiancheng defeated Zhu. Later that year Li Gui, the Emperor of Liang, was captured in a coup by his official An Xinggui (), who then surrendered to Tang. Li Yuan sent Li Jiancheng to welcome An and to escort Li Gui to Chang'an, where An was executed by Li Yuan.
Meanwhile, Li Jiancheng was developing a reputation for leniency but was addicted to drinking and hunting. Li Yuan was worried that he was ignorant about politics and uninterested in working for the state. He added his key ministers Li Gang () and Zheng Shanguo () to Li Jiancheng's staff.
On July 1, 620, Li Shimin was sent to fight Wang Shichong. In the fall of 620, reports came in that Li Zhongwen (), who was then in charge at Taiyuan, was planning to rebel. Li Yuan sent Li Jiancheng to Pufan (, i.e., Hedong) to guard against Li Zhongwen, while summoning Li Zhongwen back to the capital. Li Zhongwen complied and was later executed.
In spring 621 the Xiongnu chieftain Liu Xiancheng () harassed Tang's border territory. Li Yuan sent Li Jiancheng to attack Liu. Li Jiancheng captured a number of the Xiongnu and released their leaders. This led them to surrender in large numbers, and he then massacred them. Only Liu escaped and fled to Liang Shidu, the Emperor of Liang. In 622, Li Jiancheng was one of the commanders that Li Yuan sent, along with Li Shimin, Li Zihe (), and Duan Decao (), to counter an Eastern Tujue incursion.
Meanwhile, an intense rivalry had developed between Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin, who now carried the title Prince of Qin. Although Li Jiancheng had made contributions towards Tang's reunification of China, Li Shimin had defeated a number of the most important contenders including Xue Rengao, the Emperor of Qin, Wang Shichong, the Emperor of Zheng, and Dou Jiande, the Prince of Xia. Li Shimin therefore had a stronger reputation in the army. Li Yuanji was also often relied on by Li Yuan as a general and had been created the Prince of Qi. He supported Li Jiancheng in his rivalry with Li Shimin, and often pushed Li Jiancheng toward a more hard-line position, wanting to be crown prince when Li Jiancheng became emperor. Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji had better relations with Li Yuan's favored young concubines than Li Shimin did (their mother Duchess Dou had died before Tang's establishment), and those concubines helped rehabilitate Li Jiancheng's standing before Li Yuan. Li Yuan had considered making Li Shimin crown prince instead of Li Jiancheng, but his concubines persuaded him not to.
By winter 622, the only remaining major threat against Tang rule was Liu Heita, the Prince of Handong. He had been a Xia general, and rose against Tang after Li Yuan had executed Dou Jiande. He had been defeated by Li Shimin earlier in the year. Li Jiancheng's staff members Wang Gui and Wei Zheng argued to him that he needed some victories to establish his reputation, and Li Jiancheng volunteered to command the army against Liu Heita. Li Yuan sent Li Jiancheng to attack Liu, assisted by Li Yuanji. Around the turn of the year, Liu's forces were bogged down while attacking Tang's Wei Prefecture (, in modern Handan, Hebei). Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji engaged him at Guantao (, in modern Handan), crushing him. Liu fled north toward the Eastern Tujue, but was ambushed and captured by his own official Zhuge Dewei (?), who delivered him to Li Jiancheng. Li Jiancheng executed Liu. China was by this point almost completely unified by Tang.
In 623, when the Eastern Tujue made another incursion into Tang territory, Li Yuan again sent Li Jiancheng and Li Shimin to guard against the attack. Meanwhile Li Yuanji suggested to Li Jiancheng that he could have Li Shimin assassinated when Li Shimin was visiting Li Yuanji's mansion, but Li Jiancheng refused, not having the heart to kill a brother.
In 624, Li Jiancheng requisitioned a number of soldiers from the general Li Yi, the Prince of Yan, to supplement his guard corps. This was against Li Yuan's regulations. Li Yuan rebuked Li Jiancheng when he found out, and exiled his guard commander Keda Zhi (). Nevertheless, Li Jiancheng later requested the commandant at Qing Prefecture (, in modern Qingyang, Gansu), Yang Wen'gan () to conscript troops, presumably to guard against Li Shimin. The officers Erzhu Huan () and Qiao Gongshan () informed Li Yuan that Li Jiancheng was encouraging Yang to start a rebellion so that they could seize power together. Li Yuan, then at Renzhi Palace (, in modern Tongchuan, Shaanxi), was incensed, and summoned Li Jiancheng, then at Chang'an, to Renzhi Palace. Li Jiancheng briefly flirted with the idea of occupying Chang'an instead of accepting the order, but eventually reported to Renzhi Palace to request forgiveness. Li Yuan put him under arrest. When Yang heard this, Yang rebelled, and Li Yuan sent Li Shimin to attack Yang. Li Yuan promised Li Shimin that he would replace Li Jiancheng as crown prince, and that Li Jiancheng would be sent to the modern Sichuan region as the Prince of Shu. After Li Shimin left, however, Li Yuanji, Li Yuan's concubines, and the chancellor Feng Deyi, all spoke on Li Jiancheng's behalf, and Li Yuan changed his mind, released Li Jiancheng, and allowed him to return to Chang'an as crown prince. Li Yuan then blamed the discord between his sons on Li Jiancheng's staff members Wang Gui and Wei Ting (), and Li Shimin's staff member Du Yan, exiling them. Yang was subsequently assassinated by his own subordinates.
Later that year, Li Yuan, troubled by repeated Eastern Tujue incursions, seriously considered burning Chang'an to the ground and moving the capital to Fancheng, a suggestion that Li Jiancheng, Li Yuanji, and the chancellor Pei Ji agreed with. Li Shimin opposed the plan, however, and it was not carried out. Meanwhile, Li Shimin sent his confidants to Luoyang to build up personal control of the army there.
According to Zizhi Tongjian, on the first day of the 6th lunar month of 626, three days before the Xuanwu Gate incident, Li Jiancheng hosted a banquet for Li Shimin and Li Yuanji at his residence, the Eastern Palace. Li Shimin was carried back home after a night of drinking. Li Shimin reported through officials at his residence that he started vomiting a lot of a blood after returning home. Li Yuan sent a royal decree to Li Jiancheng: "The prince of Qin (Li Shimin) has a low alcohol tolerance, therefore, he is forbidden to go out drinking at night." Li Shimin apparently interpreted the wine as an assassination attempt, but Li Yuan did not mention poison in his decree to Li Jiancheng. Li Yuan considered sending Li Shimin to guard Luoyang to prevent further conflict, but Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji opposed the plan because they believed that this would give Li Shimin an opportunity to build up his personal power. They expressed their concerns to Li Yuan's ministers, who explained to him that this plan could escalate a brotherly rivalry into a civil conflict. Li Yuan therefore did not carry out the plan.
The date and the veracity of this event are both disputed. According to Zizhi Tongjian, it happened 3 days before the Xuanwu Gate incident. In Li Jiancheng's biography from the Old Book of Tang and the New Book of Tang, it took place after the Yang Wen'gan incident but several months before the Xuanwu Gate incident. However, in Fang Xuanling's biography from the Old Book of Tang, it happened before the founding of Tang, and wine was not mentioned. It remains a mystery whether or not someone attempted to poison Li Shimin at the Eastern Palace.d
By 626, Li Shimin was fearful that he would be killed by Li Jiancheng, and his staff members Fang Xuanling, Du Ruhui, and Zhangsun Wuji were encouraging Li Shimin to attack Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji first. Similarly, Wei Zheng was encouraging Li Jiancheng to attack Li Shimin first. Li Jiancheng persuaded Li Yuan to remove Fang and Du, as well as Li Shimin's trusted guard officers Yuchi Gong and Cheng Zhijie (), from Li Shimin's staff. Zhangsun, who remained on Li Shimin's staff, continued to try to persuade Li Shimin to attack first.
In summer 626, the Eastern Tujue were making another attack. Li Yuan was initially inclined to send Li Shimin to resist them, but at Li Jiancheng's suggestion sent Li Yuanji instead. Li Yuanji was given command of much of the army previously under Li Shimin's control. This further troubled Li Shimin, who believed that with the army in Li Yuanji's hands he would be unable to resist an attack. Li Shimin had Yuchi secretly summon Fang and Du back to his mansion, then sent an accusation to Li Yuan that Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji were committing adultery with Li Yuan's concubines. Li Yuan responded by issuing summonses to Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji for the next morning, convening the senior officials Pei Ji, Xiao Yu, and Chen Shuda to examine Li Shimin's accusations. As Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji approached the central gate leading to Li Yuan's palace, Xuanwu Gate (), Li Shimin ambushed them. He personally fired the arrow that killed Li Jiancheng, and Yuchi killed Li Yuanji. Li Shimin's forces entered the palace and, under this intimidation, Li Yuan agreed to make Li Shimin crown prince. Two months later, Li Shimin succeeded to the throne. Li Jiancheng's five sons were all executed.
Li Jiancheng was initially reduced to commoner rank. After Emperor Taizong took the throne, he posthumously granted Li Jiancheng the title of Prince of Xi and assigned his own son Li Fu () into Li Jiancheng's lineage as Li Jiancheng's heir. He also buried Li Jiancheng with the ceremonies due to an imperial prince. In 642, he restored Li Jiancheng's crown prince title. However, Li Jiancheng was never fully rehabilitated and his daughters still had the status of daughters of a common prince, rather than a crown prince.
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"Qijuzhu" is a type of imperial diary which records the emperor's daily activities that appeared as early as the Han dynasty. The purpose of Qijuzhu is to help govern the emperor's behavior by faithfully recording the actions and words of the Emperor in court. The emperor must not read or ask about the Qijuzhu. In the Tang dynasty, imperial diarists were in charge of the Qijuzhu. According to convention, the Qijuzhu should be edited and the original diary destroyed after the death of the emperor.
The author of Da Tang Chuangye Qijuzhu (?, "Imperial diary of the foundation of the Great Tang") was Wen Daya (c. 572 - 629 CE). He served as Li Yuan's staff of records and witnessed the establishment of Tang dynasty in 618. Da Tang Chuangye Qijuzhu was a three-chapter book with a detailed narrative and a firsthand account of the 357 days of insurrection. His work was finished before Li Shimin began censoring the official imperial records. Since Wen Daya was a supporter of Li Shimin, he did not feel a need to exaggerate Li Jiancheng's contribution to Tang's founding. As the only complete original court diary left from pre-Qing times, Da Tang Chuangye Qijuzhu is now generally considered a more reliable source on early Tang Dynasty.[clarification needed].
Da Tang Chuangye Qijuzhu emphasizes that Li Yuan was the mastermind of the revolt against the Sui. Li Shimin, who was a teenager at the time, served only a secondary role in these events. Li Shimin made no greater contribution than Li Jiancheng to the founding of the Tang empire. In the official histories, Li Jiancheng was described as an incompetent crown prince, alcoholic spendthrift and playboy, spending most of his time hunting for fun. Li Yuan was also described as incompetent, a mediocre coward lacking ambition in the official histories. However, Wen Daya portrayed a different Li Jiancheng: a capable leader, generous and open-minded. He knew how to recruit talented people and did well in his early political career as a crown prince. Li Yuan, in Wen Daya's narrative, was a fearless leader with vision, courage and strategic planning.
In recent years historians have re-examined the evidence for events contained in the official histories (the Old Book of Tang, the New Book of Tang and Zizhi Tongjian) and have concluded that important elements were probably fabricated during the reign of Li Shimin at his order. On the basis of other material, most importantly Da-Tang Chuangye Qijuzhu, historians have been able to correct some of the bias and distortions of the official histories about the founding of the Tang dynasty.Da Tang Chuangye Qijuzhu provides a clear example of how Li Shimin, who murdered his own brothers and deposed his father, had history rewritten in his own favor. It also explains many self-contradictions found in the official histories. The truth that had intentionally been distorted and ignored by later official historians can be found in the Da Tang Chuangye Qijuzhu.[need quotation to verify]
Li Jiancheng's tombstone was lost for many years. It was recovered in 2013, and the inscription was released to the public on June 8, 2013.
There are 55 words in total, as follows: ""