Emperor Taizu of Later Liang - Xuanwu Governor - Continued Expansion

Continued Expansion

By this point, Zhu Quanzhong was also allied with the chancellor Cui Yin, such that when Emperor Zhaozong (who was then at Hua Prefecture (華州), the capital of Han Jian's Zhenguo Circuit, after Li Maozhen the military governor of Fengxiang Circuit (鳳翔, headquartered in modern Baoji, Shaanxi) attacked Chang'an) considered sending Cui out of the imperial government, Cui used Zhu's influence to force Han and Emperor Zhaozong to change their minds and retain Cui at the imperial court.

Meanwhile, the cousins Wang Ke the military governor of Huguo Circuit, an adoptive son of Wang Chongrong's (and biological nephew, as Wang Ke's biological father was Wang Chongrong's older brother Wang Chongjian (王重簡) and Wang Gong the military governor of Baoyi Circuit (保義, headquartered in modern Sanmenxia, Henan), a son of Wang Chongrong's brother Wang Chongying, who had succeeded Wang Chongrong and served until his death in 895, had been contending for the control of Huguo. Li Keyong supported Wang Ke, while Zhu supported Wang Gong. In spring 897, Zhu sent Zhang Cunjing (張存敬) and Yang Shihou to put Huguo under siege, but Li Keyong sent his nephew Li Sizhao to defeat Wang Gong's forces and forcing the Xuanwu forces to lift the siege.

In fall 897, Zhu Quanzhong decided to launch a major attack on Yang Xingmi, intending to capture Huainan, after Yang attacked Zhu's ally Du Hong the military governor of Wuchang Circuit (武昌, headquartered in modern Wuhan, Hubei), with Pang Shigu in command of the forward forces and Zhu himself commanding the main Xuanwu forces. He gathered his available forces and sent Pang with 70,000 soldiers from Xuanwu and Wuning Circuits to Qingkou (清口, in modern Huai'an, Jiangsu), posturing to head to Huainan's capital Yang Prefecture (揚州); Ge Congzhou with the forces from Tianping and Taining Circuits to Anfeng (安豐, in modern Lu'an, Anhui), posturing to head to Shou Prefecture (壽州, in modern Lu'an); and Zhu Quanzhong himself with his main forces to Su Prefecture (宿州, in modern Suzhou). The people of Huainan Circuit was greatly shocked and dismayed by Zhu's forces. However, Pang, because he had such an impressive force, underestimated Yang Xingmi's army. Yang Xingmi had Zhu Jin serve as his advance commander, and Zhu constructed a dam on the Huai River. When Yang Xingmi attacked Pang, Zhu released the waters to flood Pang's army, and then attacked Pang with Yang. Pang's army was crushed by the waters and the Huainan forces, and Pang was killed. Zhu Yanshou also defeated Ge's army. Hearing that both of his generals had been defeated, Zhu Quanzhong also retreated. This battle thus affirmed Yang's control of the territory between the Huai and the Yangtze Rivers. Meanwhile, in spring 898, at Zhu Quanzhong's insistence, Emperor Zhaozong confirmed him as the military governor of Xuanwu, Xuanyi, and Tianping. He then, in conjunction with Weibo forces, attacked three prefectures of Zhaoyi Circuit east of the Taihang Mountains that Li Keyong controlled; the three prefectures soon fell, and Zhu put Ge in charge of the prefectures as the acting military governor of Zhaoyi.

At the same time, after Zhu's defeat at Qingkou, Zhao Deyin's son and successor as military governor of Zhongyi, Zhao Kuangning, had become allied with Yang. Zhu sent Shi Shucong (氏叔琮) and Kang Huaizhen (康懷貞) to attack Zhongyi. In fear, Zhao resubmitted to Zhu as a vassal. Meanwhile, Emperor Zhaozong tried to mediate a peace between Zhu and Li Keyong. Li Keyong was receptive, but Zhu's refusal ended hopes of peace.

Zhu then discovered that another vassal, Cui Hong (崔洪) the military governor of Fengguo, was communicating with Yang. He sent Zhang Cunjing to attack Cui. Cui, in fear, sent his brother Cui Xian (崔賢) as a hostage to Zhu and offered to send troops to supplement Xuanwu forces. Zhu initially agreed and recalled Zhang. When Zhu then sent Cui Xian back to Fengguo to express Zhu's order that Fengguo forces be sent to supplement Xuanwu forces, the Fengguo forces mutinied, killed Cui Xian, and forced Cui Hong to flee to Huainan.

In spring 899, Zhu's forces were engaging rivals on three fronts — with Li Hanzhi recently having seized the western half of Zhaoyi after the death of Li Keyong's general Xue Jiqin (薛志勤), who had been in command of Zhaoyi, Zhu sent forces to aid him; with Liu Rengong, who had taken control of both Lulong Circuit (盧龍, headquartered in modern Beijing) and Yichang Circuit (義昌, headquartered in modern Cangzhou, Hebei), attacking Weibo, Zhu sent forces to aid Weibo's military governor Luo Shaowei (Luo Hongxin's son and successor); and with Yang and Zhu Jin attacking Wuning. Yang's attack appeared to have soon dissipated, however, while Zhu's forces were successful on both the Zhaoyi and Weibo fronts, crushing Liu's forces and forcing him to stop his attack on Weibo, and stopping Li Keyong's attack on the Zhaoyi front and retaining the control of Zhaoyi.

By 900, by which time Emperor Zhaozong had returned to Chang'an, and Cui Yin had lost his chancellor title due to pressure from the imperial eunuchs, whom Cui had been secretly planning with Emperor Zhaozong to slaughter, Cui again used Zhu's influence to return to the chancellorship and to force the deaths of fellow chancellor Wang Tuan (who had opposed Cui's plan of slaughtering the eunuchs) and the eunuchs Zhu Daobi (朱道弼) and Jing Wuxiu (景務脩).

Also in 900, Zhu Quanzhong made a major incursion to the north, inflicting heavy losses against Liu Rengong, and also forcing the submission of two circuits which had been loosely allied with Li Keyong (Chengde (成德, headquartered in modern Shijiazhuang, Hebei), ruled by Wang Rong, and Yiwu (義武, headquartered in modern Baoding, Hebei), ruled at the time by Wang Gao, who fled in face of the Xuanwu attack and was replaced by his uncle Wang Chuzhi. It was said that by this point, all of the circuits north of the Yellow River were submissive to Zhu.

In late 901, the eunuchs headed by Liu Jishu and Wang Zhongxian (王仲先), still fearing that Emperor Zhaozong and Cui were planning to slaughter them, carried out a coup against Emperor Zhaozong, forcing him to pass the throne to his crown prince Li Yu and putting him under house arrest. The eunuchs also wanted to kill Cui, but feared that if they did so, they would face Zhu's wrath, and so only had Zhu removed from his secondary post as the director of the salt and iron monopolies. Meanwhile, Cui was secretly exchanging letters with Zhu, planning to counteract against the eunuchs, and Zhu also sent his key advisor Li Zhen to Chang'an to discuss the matter with Cui. Before Zhu actually could act against the eunuchs, though, several officers of the eunuch-commanded Shence Armies, whom Cui had persuaded to turn against the eunuchs, led a mutiny against Liu and Wang in early 902, killing them and their allies and restoring Emperor Zhaozong to the throne. Apparently to reward Zhu's support of Cui in the countercoup, Emperor Zhaozong created Zhu the Prince of Dongping.

Despite this, however, Emperor Zhaozong did not turn control of the Shence Armies to Cui and his fellow chancellor Lu Yi, as Cui and Lu suggested, but gave the command of the Shence Armies to the eunuchs Han Quanhui and Zhang Yanhong (張彥弘). Cui, fearing the implications of this development, persuaded Li Maozhen, who had had a rapprochement with Emperor Zhaozong by this point, to leave a Fengxiang contingent at Chang'an to counteract against the Shence Armies, but the Fengxiang contingent soon became allied with the eunuchs as well.

While this was going on, in spring 902, Zhu launched a surprise attack on Huguo, and as part of the campaign quickly took control of the only viable path between Hedong and Huguo, so that Li Keyong could not come to Wang Ke's aid. Without Li Keyong's aid, Wang Ke was quickly forced to surrender, allowing Zhu to take control of Huguo. Despite a subsequent peace overture from Li Keyong, Zhu decided to attack Hedong to see if he could wipe out his long-term rival in one campaign. He put Hedong's capital Taiyuan under siege, but with inclement weather hindering the siege, he was soon forced to give up the siege on Taiyuan. Soon thereafter, Emperor Zhaozong confirmed him as the military governor of four circuits — Xuanwu, Xuanyi, Tianping, and Huguo.

Meanwhile, at Chang'an, the eunuchs, having established a firm alliance with Li Maozhen, were preparing to act against Cui. Cui, in fear, wrote Zhu, claiming that the eunuchs were planning to attack Zhu in alliance with Li Maozhen. Zhu thereafter prepared to launch an army to march on Chang'an. When the eunuchs received this news, they seized Emperor Zhaozong and his family, and fled to Fengxiang with them.

Read more about this topic:  Emperor Taizu Of Later Liang, Xuanwu Governor

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