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Tang Studies 25 (2007) FOUR VIGNETTES FROM THE COURT OF TANG XUANZONG PAUL W. KROLL UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO During the long reign of forty-plus years that the emperor known posthumously as Xuanzong 3(* (685-762, r. 712-756; born Li Longji *~i~) ruled China, he oversaw the splendid heyday of medieval culture and power and also, in his last years, the great debacle of the An Lushan $:t~L1J rebellion which drove him from the throne and nearly destroyed the state. The sources that remain from these decades are, as we all know, a practically inexhaustible font of interest and delight pertaining to virtually every scholarly discipline. In commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Tang Studies journal, I offer herewith a small clutch of scenes from Xuanzong's court, each deriving from a different date and a discrete concern, each focusing on a text (or two) that bears close examination. I. THE EDICT ON DISMISSING SUPERFLUOUS PAlACE WOMEN Mter ascending the throne in full authority in late December 713,1 Xuanzong was at pains to suppress unwarranted influence at court, especially that of consorts and consort families, which had plagued the dynasty for several decades. A conscious attempt was made to replicate the Confucian ideals and strong central government associated with Emperor Taizong **(r. 626-649), whose reign was seen as providing the model for Tang rulership. (It was around this time that the scholar Wu Jing :!R:5tR. [670-749] began compiling the record ofTaizong's deeds and words into the soon-to-be famous Zhenguan zhengyao ~UiE)(~, a book that seems to have been meant as a hopeful guidebook for Xuanzong's conduct of affairs as much as it was meant to be an historical document.) Xuanzong's chief policy adviser in this effort was Yao Chong frJt* (651-721), a senior official who had by this stage of his career come to definite views on most questions of proper leadership.2 Under Yao's guidance and with the assistance of a group I should like to thank David R. Knechtges and Zu-yan Chen for their comments and suggestions on parts of this article. 1 For the previous sixteen months, though he held the imperial title, authority over the highest matters remained with his father (pth. Ruizong #*), the "retired" emperor. What this meant in fact was that Princess Taiping (see n. 15 below) controlled most matters. 2 Official biographies infTS, 96.3021-29 andXTS, 124.4381-88. See abbreviations, p. 27. Kroll: Four Vignettes of other, younger, men who had supported him in his struggle for ascendancy, Xuanzong decreed in 714 several reformist measures meant to show his intention to rule considerately and frugally. The first of these acts was the laicization of some twelve thousand' "counterfeit" Buddhist monks and nuns who had taken religious vows as a way to escape governmental oversight of their fortunes and activities.3 There quickly followed edicts decrying the conspicuous display of gemstones and embroidered silks in the decoration of clothing and carriages, announcing the closing of the imperial ateliers of weaving in the two capital cities of Chang' an and Luoyang, and prohibitions against the unsanctioned casting of Buddha images and copying of Buddhist scriptures, as well as interdictions against government officials and members of the imperial family having private contacts with Buddhist monks and Daoist adepts.4 Given the unfortunate impact made on the immediately preceding reigns by palace women, it is not surprising that some action would also be taken in this area. Responding to rumors-real or fabricated-that he planned to increase the number of women in the imperial harem, Xuanzong published the proclamation below, on the tenth day of the eighth month of that year (= 23 September 714). It may be noted that in doing so he was following the precedent ofTaizong who, nine days after he ascended the throne in September 626, had issued an edict reducing by more than three thousand the complement of women in the seraglio he inherited upon removing his father from rule.5 We do not know how many palace ladies Xuanzong sent away, but we may assume it was a substantial number and that he...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1759-7633
Print ISSN
0737-5034
Pages
pp. 1-27
Launched on MUSE
2021-04-08
Open Access
No
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