Emperor Mingyuan of Northern Wei - Middle Reign

Middle Reign

In 414, Emperor Mingyuan sent ambassadors to Later Qin, Northern Yan, Jin, and Rouran, to try to establish peaceful relationships. The Later Qin and Jin missions were apparently largely successful, but his ambassador Huniuyu Shimen (忽忸于什門) had a conflict with the Northern Yan emperor Feng Ba over Feng Ba's insistence that Huniuyu kneel to him, and Feng Ba detained Huniuyu and refused to establish relations with Northern Wei. How successful the Rouran mission was is harder to gauge, for although initially it appeared to be successful, by new year 415 the Rouran Khan Yujiulü Datan (郁久閭大檀) invaded, and Emperor Mingyuan was forced to respond, chasing Yujiulü Datan back to his territory, but when Emperor Mingyuan sent his advisor Daxi Jin (達奚斤) to pursue Yujiulü Datan, the Northern Wei forces ran into severe weather and suffered many casualties based on frostbite. This would start a theme that would last for centuries—often, Rouran would attack, and Northern Wei would counter-attack successfully, but then become unable to have decisive victories over Rouran.

Late in 414, Emperor Mingyuan began to have his official Cui Hao (the son of his key advisor Cui Hong (崔宏)) teach him the ancient texts of I Ching and Hong Fan (洪範) – both mystical texts. He also often asked Cui Hao to make predictions based on those texts, which often came true. Cui Hao therefore became increasingly trusted and consulted by Emperor Mingyuan for important decisions.

In 415, the northern regions of Northern Wei suffered a major famine, causing Emperor Mingyuan to consider moving the capital southward to Yecheng (鄴城, in modern Handan, Hebei), but at the advice of Cui Hao and the official Zhou Dan (周澹), who believed that such a move would quickly expose the actual numerical inferiority of the Xianbei to the Han, he kept the capital at Pingcheng, but also pursuant to Cui and Zhou's suggestion, moved a number of impoverished Xianbei to the modern Hebei region.

In winter 415, pursuant to a peace agreement they had reached earlier, Later Qin's emperor Yao Xing sent his daughter the Princess Xiping to Northern Wei to be married to Emperor Mingyuan. He welcomed her with ceremony fitting an empress. However, Tuoba customs dictated that only a consort who was able to craft a gold statue by her hands could be empress, and Princess Xiping was unable to, so Emperor Mingyuan only created her an imperial consort, but within the palace honored her as wife and empress.

In 416, the Jin general Liu Yu launched a major attack on Later Qin, intending to destroy it. As part of Liu Yu's force, a fleet commanded by the general Wang Zhongde (王仲德), approached Northern Wei's only main outpost south of the Yellow River, Huatai (滑台, in modern Anyang, Henan), the Northern Wei general Weichi Jian (尉遲建), apprehensive of the Jin forces, abandoned Huatai and fled back north of the Yellow River. Emperor Mingyuan executed Weichi and then sent messengers to rebuke Liu Yu and Wang Zhongde, both of whom restated that the target was Later Qin, not Northern Wei, and that the city would be returned as soon as the campaign was over. (However, Jin did not actually return Huatai, and Northern Wei would not have a major presence south of the Yellow River again until 422.)

Jin forces quickly captured Later Qin's major city Luoyang and then headed toward the Later Qin capital Chang'an. In spring 417, The Later Qin emperor Yao Hong (Yao Xing's son) requested emergency assistance. Emperor Mingyuan summoned his council to consider whether to launch armies to try to stop Jin advances to try to save Later Qin. Most of his advisors, apprehensive at whether Liu Yu actually intended to attack Northern Wei as well, suggested that Emperor Mingyuan try to intercept Liu Yu's forces. However, Cui Hao opined that this would precisely make Northern Wei the target of Jin attacks, and Emperor Mingyuan partially agreed, but still sent some 100,000 men, commanded by Baba Song, to guard the northern bank of the Yellow River to prepare for battle. If a Jin ship were blown by the wind to the northern bank, Northern Wei forces would seize the ship and kill or capture its crew, and when Jin forces then landed on the northern banks, Northern Wei forces would temporarily retreat, and then re-establish the northern bank defensive posture as soon as Jin forces reboarded their ships. Angry at this harassment, Liu Yu sent his general Ding Wu (丁旿) to land on the northern bank and deal Northern Wei forces a major defeat. This ended Emperor Mingyuan's attempts to save Later Qin, and there were no further Jin/Northern Wei battles throughout the campaign, as while Emperor Mingyuan still planned to cut off Liu Yu's path if he were stopped by Later Qin forces, Liu Yu was able to capture Chang'an and destroy Later Qin by fall 417, and Emperor Mingyuan's planned attacks never materialized. Many former Jin officials who opposed Liu Yu who had taken refuge with Later Qin fled to Northern Wei, and Emperor Mingyuan further ordered that anyone who could save and deliver members of the Yao imperial clan to Pingcheng would be greatly rewarded. (How effectively this order was is not known, and most members of the Yao clan were captured and killed by Liu Yu.)

Read more about this topic:  Emperor Mingyuan Of Northern Wei

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