Emperor Taizong's Campaign Against Eastern Tujue - Background

Background

The Eastern Turkic Khaganate, which had been a vassal to Tang Dynasty's predecessor Sui Dynasty, had turned against Sui during the reign of Emperor Yang of Sui (r. 604-618) and subsequently, during Sui's breakup late in Emperor Yang's reign, had intervened in the process by supporting various claimants of the right to succeed Sui -- including Tang's founder Emperor Gaozu, Xue Ju the Emperor of Qin, Liang Shidu the Emperor of Liang, Liu Wuzhou the Dingyang Khan, Gao Kaidao the Prince of Yan, Dou Jiande the Prince of Xia, and Liu Heita the Prince of Handong, playing them off against each other to try to make them subservient to the Eastern Turkic Khaganate. After China had largely become reunited under Tang rule in 623 after Liu Heita, the last major challenger to Tang rule, was captured and killed by Emperor Gaozu's crown prince Li Jiancheng, the Eastern Turkic Khaganate, to whom Emperor Gaozu still paid allegiance and tributes, began a campaign of routine pillaging incursions into Tang territory, effectively asserting authority over Tang territory in that manner, while continuing to protect Liang, who remained as the sole Chinese claimant of imperial authority against Tang, and also fostering the aspirations of Emperor Yang's young grandson Yang Zhengdao (楊政道), who was in the Eastern Turkic Khaganate with his grandmother Empress Xiao carried the title of Prince of Sui. The Eastern Turkic Khaganate incursions were causing so much problems for Tang that Emperor Gaozu considered burning the capital Chang'an to the ground and moving the capital to the modern southwestern Henan region to avoid Turkic incursions, a proposal that was supported by Li Jiancheng, another son Li Yuanji the Prince of Qi, and the chancellor Pei Ji, but vehemently opposed by another son Li Shimin the Prince of Qin. Due to Li Shimin's opposition (and guarantee that eventually he would be able to defeat the Eastern Turkic Khaganate), Emperor Gaozu abandoned the proposal.

In 626, Li Shimin, who had been locked in an intense rivalry with Li Jiancheng, ambushed and killed both Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji (who supported Li Jiancheng) at Xuanwu Gate, and then effectively forced Emperor Gaozu to first make him crown prince and then yield the throne to him. He took the throne as Emperor Taizong. Less than a month after Emperor Taizong took the throne, Eastern Turkic Khaganate's Illig Qaghan (Ashina Duobi) and his nephew, the subordinate Tölis Qaghan (Ashina Shibobi, 阿史那什鉢苾), made a major incursion into Tang territory, this time advancing all the way to Chang'an, shocking the Tang officials. Emperor Taizong was forced to personally meet them, give them and major Eastern Turkic officials gifts, and promise further tributes. Only after he did so did Ashina Duobi and Ashina Shibobi withdraw (渭水之盟).

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