Liu Rengui - During Empress Dowager Wu's Regency

During Empress Dowager Wu's Regency

After Emperor Zhongzong's ascension, Liu Rengui was again made Pushe, and he continued to be in charge at Chang'an, formally assisting Li Chongzhao. Just two months after Emperor Zhongzong took the throne, he had a dispute with Pei Yan over his desire to make his father-in-law Wei Xuanzhen (韋玄貞), the father of his wife Empress Wei, a chancellor, and Empress Dowager Wu, viewing this as a sign of his refusal to submit to her, deposed him and replaced him with his younger brother Li Dan (as Emperor Ruizong) -- but the reins of government were by now even more firmly in her hands and not the new emperor's. As part of this move, Li Chongzhao was also deposed, and Liu became in charge of Chang'an in title as well, and Empress Dowager Wu wrote him a letter stating that she was entrusting the Guanzhong region (i.e., Chang'an) to him, just as how Emperor Gao of Han had done so to his prime minister Xiao He. Liu wrote back, offering to resign and citing old age, and further suggested to her that she should return her authorities to the new emperor, pointing out the example of Emperor Gao of Han's wife Empress Lü Zhi -- who had controlled the government after his death but whose clan was slaughtered after her death. Empress Dowager Wu wrote back with encouraging words but did not accept his resignation or his suggestion.

In 684, after Li Ji's grandson Li Jingye had started a rebellion and accused Empress Dowager Wu of various crimes, Pei tried to use this as reason to advise Empress Dowager Wu to return imperial authorities to Emperor Ruizong. Instead, Empress Dowager Wu, angry over what she saw as Pei's betrayal, accused him of treason and put him to death. After Pei's death, it happened that a low level official, Jiang Sizong (姜嗣宗), was in Chang'an, and when Liu asked him about what was happening in Luoyang, Jiang made the remarks, "I had long thought that there was something unusual about Pei." Liu thereafter wrote a petition and gave it to Jiang, asking him to deliver it to Empress Dowager Wu when he returned to Luoyang. Jiang did so, and when Empress Dowager Wu opened up the petition, the petition said, "Jiang Sizong knew that Pei Yan was plotting treason, but did not report it." Empress Dowager Wu immediately had Jiang's limbs broken, and then strangled him. (Ouyang Xiu and Bo Yang both commented on this incident and were critical of Liu—Bo more so than Ouyang, and Bo particularly believed that this showed that Liu's good reputation came from his treachery.) Liu died in spring 685 and was buried with high honors. Empress Dowager Wu had the imperial officials attend his funeral, and had him buried near Emperor Gaozong's tomb.

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