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Re: A Tang poem
Tang Ming Huang
This is a simplified story from the Tang poem
"Chang Hen Ge" by Bai Ju Yi (772AD to 846AD).
Your comment is welcomed.
In 713AD Li Long Ji was crowned as Emperor Xuan Zong of the Tang Dynasty
(618AD to 907AD). He was also known as Tang Ming Huang (regined 713AD to
755AD). The period of his rule was regarded as the second golden age of
the Tang Dynasty.
Tang Ming Huang had a passion for young, beautiful girls. Since his
coronation he had been searching, but without success, for the most
beautiful girl in the land.
A family in his empire by the surname of Yang was to play a ominous role
during his rule. The Yang family had a very beautiful teenage daughter, Yang
Yu Huan, a fact not known to many people. Since she was not about to be
bethrothed to any young man her father sent her to work as a lady-in-waiting
in the Emperor's Palace. She was the most beautiful girl ever to step foot
in the palace. One of the many sons of the Emperor soon married her.
One day, Tang Ming Huang accidentally met his daughter-in-law in the
palace. At that time Tang Ming Huang was already 61 years old and Yang Yu
Huan was only 26. He was immediately enamoured to her and snatched her
away from his son. He adored her so much that he made her a Gui Fei,
first class concubine, and Yang Yu Huan was come to be known as Yang Gui
Fei. Just a smile from her was said to be enough to enchant and enrapture
the Emperor. He loved her dearly and more than anything else in the world.
He built her a natural warm spring pool so that she could take her bath at
Spring time. After her bath in the pool her body, reputedly, would look as
smooth as jade.
During Spring time court officials were made to wait lengthy periods to
get an audience with the Emperor as Yang Gui Fei took up almost all his
time and attention.
Yang Gui Fei's brothers and sisters were appointed to high offices by
the decree of Tang Ming Huang. Gradually members of her family gained
enornomous power in the Tang Court. Her older brother, called Yang Guo
Zhong, became the Prime Minister and held more than forty portfolios.
However, he was very corrupt and amassed great fortunes. People envied the
Yang family for producing such a beautiful daughter. Due to the glory and
wealth that Yang Gui Fei had brought to her family many families preferred
to have baby girls than baby boys. They hoped that one day their daughters
could follow Yang Gui Fei's footsteps and became the favourite concubine
of an Emperor.
The Emperor's excesses and obsessions with his beloved concubine brought
about the gross neglect of affairs of the state.
An Lu Shan, the non-Han Chinese commander-in-chief and governor of Fan
Yang (present day Beijing city in Hebei province) had the occasion to
visit the capital, Chang An (present day Xi An city in Shaanxi province).
He could clearly observe the corruption among the Emperor's officials,
especially the Prime Minister and the decay of the Tang Court. He reported
the matters to the Emperor who, however, refused to believe him. The Prime
Minister came to know about this. An Lu Shan shortly went back to Fan Yang
but he had made a formidable enemy, Yang Guo Zhong, who vowed to destroy
One day, to instigate a rebellion by An Lu Shan against the Tang Court,
the Yang Guo Zhong, Prime Minister sent troops to ransack a house that
belonged An Lu Shan. In the process the soldiers also killed a few of An
Lu Shan's friends. That enraged An Lu Shan who was left with no option but
With 170,000 troops under his command An Lu Shan marched west to the
Tang capital, to take puntitive action against Yang Guo Zhong who thought
that he could take this opportunity to get rid of An Lu Shan. However, it
seemed that An Lu Shan and his forces were unstoppable. They crossed
the Yellow River, overran Luo Yang and turned west marching towards Chang
An. The Tang Court fled in panic as the Tang Ming Huang ordered a mass
evacuation. Soon after, An Lu Shan occupied the capital and razed it to
Tang Ming Huang and his Court, together with thousands upon thousands of
residents from the capital, fled southwest towards Cheng Du (present day
Cheng Du city in Sichuan province).
Arriving at a place called Ma Wei Yi (present day Xing Ping county in
Shaanxi province) about 100 kilometers from the capital, the retreating army
and the mass of people stopped and refused to go any further. They demanded
the death of the Emperor's concubine, Yang Gui Fei and her elder brother
Yang Guo Zhong, the Prime Minister. Under such extreme circumstances Tang
Ming Huang had no alternative but to issue an order to have them executed.
The execution of the Prime Minister was carried out instantly. Yang Gui
Fei was to be executed by hanging from a tree in a nearby hill. While being
led up the hill Yang Gu Fei cried and begged,
"Save me, save me, Your Majesty! Save me, save me, Your Majesty!"
However, the exodus shouted,
"Hang her! Hang her! Hang her!"
There was a big commotion and the great multitude were looking at Tang
Ming Huang awaiting for his reaction. Tang Ming Huang was powerless to
help his Gui Fei and very relunctently he gave the order to proceed.
Suddenly the crowd were quiet. Not a sound was heard when the noose was
placed around her neck. Tang Ming Huang hung his head and buried his face
in his dragon robes. He dared not look at the execution and tears welled
in his eyes. As soon as Yang Gui Fei had kicked her bucket the crowd roar.
Her jewellery was scattered all over but no one bothered to pick them up.
The people had condemned her as well as the jewellery she wore.
While the Tang Court took refuge in Cheng Du the lovelorn Emperor was
pining away. At times he could not bear to look at the full moon as it
reminded him of the joyous occasions he shared with his Gu Fei. He lost
his vitality to continue as Emperor. He abdicated the throne and his third
son, Li Heng, was installed as Emperor Su Zong.
The rebellions were eventually crushed and the Tang Court began to
move back to Chang An. On the way back to the capital at the spot where
Yang Gui Fei was hung, the ex-Emperor stopped and lingered for what seemed
like eternity. He seemed to be searching for his beautiful Gui Fei.
He could not find the place where she was buried. He recited the secret
phrases which no one knew except her and him,
"Up above the sky we wish we were a pair of birds
On earth we wish we were the two branches of a tree."
Finally when the time came to be moving on, Tang Ming Huang left behind
his tears but not his sadness.
Back at the capital, the natural warm spring pool was still there and
intact, as were the flowers and trees. It was as if he had not left the
palace at all. But reality soon hit home. His beautiful Gui Fei was no
more. He grieved and longed for her and he was losing his will to live. He
wished he could see her in his dreams every night. He engaged a soothsayer
to search for her spirit but appear it did not, not even just once.
Chang Hen Ge by Bai Ju Yi (772AD to 846AD)
CHUNG Yoon-Ngan. firstname.lastname@example.org