Cui Hao - During Emperor Daowu and Emperor Mingyuan's Reigns

During Emperor Daowu and Emperor Mingyuan's Reigns

It is not known when Cui Hao was born. He was the oldest son of the ethnic Han Cui Hong (崔宏), a high level official under Emperor Daowu, who carried the title of Marquess of Baima. In Cui Hao's youth, he was said to have studied a broad number of books, but was particularly known for his literary abilities, as well as his astrological prophecies. The first historical reference to Cui Hao was in 409, when he was a low-level official in Emperor Daowu's administration. At that time, Emperor Daowu was often violent and arbitrary in his actions, because of poisoning from pills he received from alchemists, and the imperial officials often found excuses to stay away from him lest that they be stricken by his anger. However, Cui Hong and Cui Hao were described of having served Emperor Daowu diligently despite this, and they were among the few officials who never received any punishment from him.

Later in 409, Emperor Daowu was assassinated by his son Tuoba Shao (拓拔紹) the Prince of Qinghe, who then tried to take over the regime, but was defeated and killed by his older brother Tuoba Si the Crown Prince, who then took the throne as Emperor Mingyuan. During Tuoba Shao's coup, he tried to get officials to follow him by awarding them with many things, but Cui Hong declined them all, and Cui Hong was therefore praised by Emperor Mingyuan and created the Duke of Baima. In 414, Cui Hao started teaching Emperor Mingyuan the mystical texts I Ching and Hong Fan (洪範), and because of this and the accuracy of a number of Cui Hao's predictions, Emperor Mingyuan began to trust him greatly. In 415, during the middle of a severe famine, it was at the advice of Cui Hao and Zhou Dan (周澹) that Emperor Mingyuan stopped the plan of moving the capital from Pingcheng (平城, in modern Datong, Shanxi) to Yecheng, as Cui and Zhou were concerned that moving the capital would quickly expose the Xianbei's numerical inferiority to the Han, leading to rebellions. Later that year, when an unusual astrological sign that portended the destruction of a state appeared, it was Cui Hao who made the prediction that it foretold Later Qin's destruction, and after Later Qin fell in 417, not only the emperor but the other officials became impressed at Cui Hao's abilities.

One matter at which Emperor Mingyuan did not listen to Cui Hao, however, was in his attempt to stop the Jin general Liu Yu from destroying Later Qin, as his wife Consort Yao was the Later Qin emperor Yao Hong's sister. In 416, when Liu Yu tried to advance his main fleet west on the Yellow River, Emperor Mingyuan ordered his army to harass the Jin fleet, against Cui's suggestion that doing so would make Northern Wei bear the brunt of Jin attack. Indeed, after some limited success in Northern Wei's harassment campaign, Liu Yu had his general Ding Wu (丁旿) land on the northern bank and deal Northern Wei a major defeat, before resuming the advancement. This ended Emperor Mingyuan's attempt to save Later Qin, and he regretted not listening to Cui in this matter. It was also around this time that Cui Hao made the perceptive observation that after Liu Yu destroyed Later Qin, he would return to the Jin capital Jiankang and usurp the throne, and that the troops that he left to hold Later Qin territory would become trapped. He also suggested that Northern Wei should be patient, and that one day the territory would be Northern Wei's. Pleased with Cui's analysis, Emperor Mingyuan awarded him wine and salt, stating to him, "Your words are just as like wine and salt, and therefore I want to share these with you." In 418, after another astrological sign appeared showing the end of a state, Cui publicly stated that it meant the end of Jin, and when Liu Yu seized the Jin throne in 419 and established Liu Song, Cui was shown to be correct. Also in 419, Cui Hao's father Cui Hong died. Cui Hao inherited his father's title of Duke of Baima.

In 422, Emperor Mingyuan suffered a major illness, apparently caused by medicines that alchemists had given him that were supposedly capable of extending lifespans. He consulted Cui Hao on what he should do to prepare for events after his death. Cui Hao predicted that he would recover, but advised him to create his oldest son, 14-year-old Tuoba Tao the Prince of Taiping, crown prince, and then transfer some of the authorities to the crown prince so that his own burdens could be lessened. The senior official Baba Song (拔拔嵩) also agreed, and Emperor Mingyuan created Tuoba Tao crown prince, and further had Crown Prince Tao take the throne to serve as the secondary emperor. He commissioned his key advisors Baba, Cui, Daxi Jin, Anchi Tong (安遲同), Qiumuling Guan (丘穆陵觀), and Qiudun Dui (丘敦堆) to serve as the Crown Prince's advisor. From this point on, most matters, particularly domestic matters, were ruled on by Crown Prince Tao, while Emperor Mingyuan himself only ruled on important matters. It was at this time that Emperor Mingyuan made positive remarks about each of the officials that he so charged with advising the crown prince, and as to Cui Hao, he stated, "Cui Hao is exceptionally knowledgeable and able to discern the will of Heaven and men."

Later in 422, after Liu Yu's death, Emperor Mingyuan decided to launch a major attack on Liu Song. Cui Hao opposed this, believing that Liu Song could not be conquered. However, this was one instance that Cui only appeared to be partially correct, as the armies under Emperor Mingyuan were able to capture Liu Song's northern regions, directly south of the Yellow River, although Emperor Mingyuan's original lofty goal of destroying Liu Song was nowhere close to being met.

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