Li Longji (685-762)Li Longji (685-762) - Also known as Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, Li Longji had the longest reign of the Tang Dynasty at 43 years.  He was the grandson of Empress Wu and ruled at the pinnacle of Tang power.  The first part if his reign marked a golden age in China's history, but the later years were considered a failure and contributed to the downfall of the Tang.  It ended with an uprising known as the Anshi Revolt (see Anshi Revolt - right) from which the dynasty never recovered.  Li Longji was born in 685 in the capital of Luoyang, during the reign of his grandmother, Wu Zetian.  He was the third son of Emperor Ruizong.  Ruizong succeeded his brother, Emperor Zhongzong, who succeeded their mother, Empress Wu.  But both were weak leaders and did not last long.  Zhongzong died suddenly after five years in power, thought to have been poisoned by his own wife, Empress Wei.  Ruizong became emperor but resigned after only two years, when he determined that astrological signs were pointing against his reign.  Although Li Longji was the third eldest son, he was crowned emperor after his two older brothers passed on the job (perhaps due to all the unrest engulfing the throne).  Li Longji was also considered the most accomplished of Ruizong's sons; and so became Emperor Xuanzong in 712.  After many years of violence, he finally brought stability to the crown.  The first 28 or so years are known as the Kaiyuan Era, which equates to a golden age.  Culture flourished in this period.  Art, literature, music and education all made great strides under Emperor Xuanzong.  This is the time in which Li Bai and Du Fu and many of the other great poets of China lived (see Li Bai and Du Fu above right).  Many of the vassal states which had been acting independently were brought back under central control, essentially unifying the entire state of China.  This allowed for an improvement in infrastructure.  The Silk Road, which had been disrupted for years, was operating smoothly again.  The Grand Canal, which had been falling apart, was repaired.  The Great Mosque of Xi'an was also built under his reign (see above), demonstrating a growth in religious thought.

 

Unfortunately, things started going downhill in the early 740s, and the remainder of his reign is known as the Tinbao Era (not good).  For one thing, much of his time was preoccupied with his own personal pleasure.  He was thought to have had literally tens of thousands of concubines in his court (many of them against their will), perhaps the most of any emperor ever.  Naturally this preoccupation led to his neglecting many official duties.  He began delegating more and more of his responsibilities to advisers, most of whom were corrupt or incompetent.  As a result, the efficiency which marked the Kaiyuan Era virtually disappeared.  As long as China was at peace, the effects of this neglect went largely unnoticed.  But in 751, the Tang Dynasty went to war with the Abbasid Caliphate (see Battle of Talas) and lost.  Now the effects of decline began to be felt.  This was followed by the aforementioned Anshi Revolt, which came at the very end of Li longji's reign, which led to his abdication in 756.  He lived another six years after he stepped down.