Li Keyong - During Emperor Zhaozong's and Emperor Ai's Reigns - Contraction of Power

Contraction of Power

This would mark the apex of Li Keyong's status as far as the Tang imperial government was concerned, however. As Li Keyong was waging his campaign in the west, Zhu Quanzhong was repeatedly defeating Zhu Xuan and Zhu Jing, and Li Keyong made repeated attempts to aid Zhu Xuan and Zhu Jing. In late 895, he sent Shi Yan and Li Chengsi (李承嗣), through Weibo territory, to rendezvous with Zhu Xuan and Zhu Jing. In spring 896, he again tried to send Li Cunxin to aid Zhu Xuan and Zhu Jing, but Zhu Quanzhong warned Weibo's military governor Luo Hongxin that Li Keyong had designs on the entire region north of Yellow River, including Weibo. Further, Li Cunxin's army had poor discipline and was pillaging the Weibo people as it went through Weibo, angering Luo. Luo thus launched a surprise attack at night against Li Cunxin, defeating him and forcing him to withdraw to Ming Prefecture. Thereafter, Luo no longer permitted Hedong forces passage through Weibo, causing Shi and Li Chengsi to be stuck at Tianping and no longer able to return to Hedong, and Luo thereafter became an ally of Zhu Quanzhong's.

In summer 896, Li Keyong tried to react by attacking Luo, and he enjoyed initial successes in his attack on Luo's capital Wei Prefecture (魏州). Zhu Quanzhong summoned Ge Congzhou, who was then attacking Zhu Xuan at Zhu Xuan's capital Yun Prefecture (鄆州) and sent him to aid Luo. Ge had his soldiers dig pit traps on the battlefield, and during the subsequent battle, Li Keyong's son Li Luoluo (李落落) fell into a pit and was captured, and when Li Keyong tried to rescue Li Luoluo, he himself fell into a pit and was almost captured as well, barely escaping with his life. Li Keyong tried to sue for peace with Zhu Quanzhong, hoping to ransom Li Luoluo; Zhu Quanzhong refused, and instead gave Li Luoluo to Luo, who executed him. Li Keyong was not able to again engage Luo, and withdrew. (Without Li Keyong's further aid, Zhu Xuan and Zhu Jing were not able to stand up to Zhu Quanzhong's repeated attacks, and by spring 897, Zhu Xuan would be captured and executed by Zhu Quanzhong, while Zhu Jing, Shi, and Li Chengsi would be forced to flee south to the territory of Yang Xingmi, who controlled Huainan by that point.)

Meanwhile, after Li Keyong's withdrawal from the Chang'an region, Li Maozhen and Han Jian continued their arrogance toward Emperor Zhaozong's court. In summer 896, Li Maozhen, believing that Emperor Zhaozong's attempt to reorganize the imperial guards and putting the imperial princes Li Jiepi (李戒丕) the Prince of Yan and Li Sizhou (李嗣周) the Prince of Qin in charge of them were intended to target him. He thus launched an attack against Chang'an. Li Jiepi initially advised Emperor Zhaozong to flee to Hedong to join Li Keyong, but after Emperor Zhaozong left Chang'an, Han made repeated overtures to Emperor Zhaozong, and Emperor Zhaozong, whose officials feared the long journey to Taiyuan, relented, and went to Hua Prefecture to join Han. Li Maozhen entered Chang'an and burned it. Meanwhile, Han, after initially showing deference to Emperor Zhaozong, essentially put Emperor Zhaozong under arrest, and put the imperial princes whom Emperor Zhaozong had trusted to death.

Meanwhile, Li Keyong prepared for another campaign to rescue Emperor Zhaozong. He ordered Liu Rengong to contribute troops, while also inviting Wang Rong and Wang Chucun's son and successor (Wang Chucun having died in 895) Wang Gao to join in the campaign as well. Liu claimed that he could not spare troops because he needed to defend against Khitan incursions, despite Li Keyong's repeated orders. Eventually, on one occasion, Liu threw Li Keyong's order onto the ground and tried to assassinate officers that Li Keyong had left at Lulong; they barely fled with their lives. In anger, Li Keyong launched a major attack against Liu in fall 897, but with him taking Lulong forces under Liu's son-in-law Dan Keji (單可及) lightly, he was defeated at Mugua Creek (木瓜澗, in modern Baoding), losing half of his troops, and the Lulong forces were only forced to withdraw due to a storm. After this battle, Liu became independent and was no longer under Li Keyong's command, entering into an alliance with Zhu Quanzhong instead.

In spring 898, when Wang Ke went to Taiyuan to marry Li Keyong's daughter, Li Keyong had his adoptive nephew Li Sizhao defend Hezhong (which by this point had been renamed Huguo (護國)) on Wang's behalf. Meanwhile, with Zhu repairing the Luoyang palace and announcing that he would like to invite Emperor Zhaozong to move the capital to Luoyang, Li Maozhen became fearful of a potential attack by Zhu, and therefore repaired the palace at Chang'an and invited Emperor Zhaozong to return to Chang'an, which Emperor Zhaozong did so in summer 898. At the same time, Zhu rendezvoused with Weibo troops and launched an attack on the three Zhaoyi prefectures formerly controlled by Li Cunxiao (Xing, Ming, and Ci); by summer 898, they had fallen to Zhu, who put Ge in command of them. Li Keyong thus lost his last foothold east of the Taihang Mountains. Therefore, by fall 898, when Emperor Zhaozong sent the imperial official Zhang Youfu (張有孚) to mediate the enmity between Li Keyong and Zhu, Li Keyong became willing to seek peace, and he tried to use Wang Rong as an intermediary to relay his hope for peace, but Zhu rejected the overture, and the enmity continued. In fall 898, Li Keyong sent Li Sizhao, Zhou Dewei, and Li Siyuan to try to recapture Xing, but they were defeated by Ge and forced to withdraw. Subsequently, Wang Gong, with aid from Zhu, attacked Wang Ke again, but Wang Ke was able to fend off the attack with aid from Li Sizhao.

Yet another blow would come to Li Keyong around the new year 899, however, when Xue Zhiqin (薛志勤), who was then serving as the military governor of Zhaoyi, died. Li Hanzhi, who was then the prefect of Ze Prefecture, had long wished to control a circuit again, and he took his troops and seized Zhaoyi's headquarters at Lu Prefecture. Li Keyong, in anger, sent emissaries to rebuke Li Hanzhi, who reacted by arresting Li Keyong's officers at Zhaoyi and delivering them to Zhu, seeking to ally with Zhu. While Li Sizhao almost immediately thereafter captured Ze Prefecture and arrested Li Hanzhi's relatives, Li Hanzhi was able to hold Lu with aid from Zhu's officers Zhang Cunjing (張存敬) and Ding Hui. Meanwhile, at the same time, Zhu assisted Luo in fending off a major attack by Liu, and in light of the victory, Ge made an incursion into Hedong territory, but was fought off by Zhou. Li Keyong was able to recapture Lu after Li Hanzhi's death in fall 899, but only with great difficulty.

In 900, when Zhu tried to attack north to capture Yichang, which was then under control by Liu's son Liu Shouwen, Li Keyong decided to come to the Lius' aid by having Zhou again attack Xing and Ming Prefectures, but Zhou was unsuccessful in capturing them. Meanwhile, Zhu also attacked Wang Rong and Wang Gao in fall 900, forcing Wang Rong to agree to terminate his relationship with Hedong, while Wang Gao fled to Hedong. Wang Gao's uncle (Wang Chucun's brother) Wang Chuzhi took over Yiwu Circuit and also agreed to cut off relations with Hedong.

In spring 901, Zhu further wanted to capture Huguo to put a stranglehold on Li Keyong. He thus had Zhang Cunjing attack and capture Jin and Jiang (絳州, in modern Yuncheng) Prefectures to cut off the potential aid from Li Keyong, while he himself attacked Huguo's capital Hezhong Municipality directly. Wang Ke sought aid from Li Keyong, but with Zhang in control of Jin and Jiang, Li Keyong was unable to aid him, and when he sought aid from Li Maozhen, Li Maozhen made no response. Wang Ke was forced to surrender, and Zhu took over Huguo. Li Keyong sent peace emissaries to Zhu, and while Zhu initially received them and sent emissaries of his own, decided against peace afterwards. Zhu thus launched a five-pronged attack on Hedong's capital Taiyuan commanded by Shi Shucong (氏叔琮), putting Taiyuan under siege and nearly capturing it. Only torrential rains that caused disease and the dwindling supplies for Zhu's army caused Zhu to order a retreat. However, during the campaign, Meng Qian, whom Li Keyong had given Zhaoyi, surrendered Zhaoyi to Zhu, and Zhu was thereafter able to retain Zhaoyi.

Meanwhile, at Chang'an, Emperor Zhaozong, who had been deposed by the powerful eunuchs in late 900 and replaced by his son Li Yu the Crown Prince, but returned to the throne in spring 901 after being rescued by Shence Army officers loyal to him, had been considering a proposal by the chancellor Cui Yin to slaughter the eunuchs. The powerful eunuch Han Quanhui thus considered preemptively assassinating Cui. Cui, finding this out, invited Zhu to bring troops to Chang'an to kill the eunuchs, and when the eunuchs found out, they, who were by this point allied with Li Maozhen, in turn seized Emperor Zhaozong and forced him to flee to Fengxiang. Zhu quickly arrived at Chang'an and then headed to Fengxiang, putting it under siege. Li Maozhen sought aid from Li Keyong. Li Keyong sent Li Sizhao and Zhou to attack the Jin/Jiang region, but by 902, they had been defeated by Shi Shucong and Zhu's nephew Zhu Youning (朱友寧), who then put Taiyuan under siege again. Li Keyong's situation became desperate enough that he considered a proposal by Li Cunxin to abandon Taiyuan and flee to Yun Prefecture. He only decided against the proposal due to the urging of Lady Liu, Li Sizhao, Li Siyuan, and Zhou. Shi and Zhu Youning eventually withdrew when their army was stricken by illnesses, and it was said that thereafter, for several years, Li Keyong did not dare to again confront Zhu Quanzhong. When Wang Shifan the military governor of Pinglu Circuit (平盧, headquartered in modern Weifang, Shandong) did rise against Zhu in 903 at the urging of Han and Li Maozhen, Li Keyong wrote him and praised his actions, but made only minor exploratory attacks against Jin Prefecture thereafter before terminating his own campaign after hearing that Zhu had already forced Li Maozhen to surrender Emperor Zhaozong to him and returned to Chang'an with Emperor Zhaozong. Subsequently, when Emperor Zhaozong, under Zhu's pressure, issued an edict that all eunuchs in the empire be slaughtered, Li Keyong saved the eunuch monitor to Hedong, Zhang Chengye, and executed another inmate in Zhang's stead.

In spring 904, Zhu killed Cui and forced Emperor Zhaozong to move the capital to Luoyang. On the way to Luoyang, Emperor Zhaozong made a final attempt to seek aid from Li Keyong, as well as Yang Xingmi and Wang Jian the military governor of Xichuan Circuit, sending secret emissaries to them, but neither Li Keyong nor Wang Jian acted on the call for aid. (Yang did, but after making some exploratory attacks gave up on the campaign as well.) Later in 904, Zhu assassinated Emperor Zhaozong and replaced him with his son Li Zuo the Prince of Hui (as Emperor Ai), and the Tang court came under Zhu's complete control.

In 906, Zhu launched a major attack on Liu Shouwen, and Liu Rengong sought aid from Li Keyong. Li Keyong initially refused to aid Liu, but after advice by his son Li Cunxu, who pointed out that if Zhu destroyed the Lius, no one else could stand up against Zhu. Li Keyong thus requisitioned troops from Liu Rengong and attacked Lu Prefecture. When he reached Lu, Ding Hui, whom Zhu had given the command of Zhaoyi but who had mourned Emperor Zhaozong's death bitterly, surrendered, allowing Li Keyong to regain control of Zhaoyi, whose command he gave to Li Sizhao. Hearing that Ding had surrendered Zhaoyi, Zhu gave up the campaign against Liu Shouwen and withdrew.

Read more about this topic:  Li Keyong, During Emperor Zhaozong's and Emperor Ai's Reigns

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