Helian Bobo - Early Reign

Early Reign

Despite Liu Bobo's stated hatred for Northern Wei, however, he concentrated his efforts on undermining Later Qin, continually harassing Later Qin's northern territories and draining Later Qin's resources. He therefore did not settle in a capital city; rather, he roved about with his mobile cavalry, constantly looking for Later Qin cities to pillage.

Also in 407, Liu Bobo sought marriage with a daughter of the Southern Liang prince Tufa Rutan, but Tufa Rutan refused. In anger, Liu Bobo launched a punitive raid against Southern Liang but then retreated. Tufa Rutan gave chase and, believing that he greatly outpowered Liu Bobo, was careless in his military actions. Liu Bobo led him into a canyon and then blocked the exit with ice and wagons, and then ambushed him—and the defeat was such that it was said that 60% to 70% of Southern Liang's famed officials and generals died in the battle. Tufa Rutan barely escaped capture.

In 408, Yao Xing sent his general Qi Nan (齊難) to launch a major attack on Liu Bobo. Liu Bobo initially withdraw to let Qi believe that he feared Qi, and Liu Bobo made a surprise counter-attack and captured Qi. Subsequently, much of Later Qin's northern territories fell into Xia hands.

In 409, Yao Xing himself launched an attack on Liu Bobo, but when he reached Ercheng (貳城, in modern Yan'an, Shaanxi), he was nearly trapped by Liu Bobo, and escaped only after major casualties. This defeat forced Yao Xing to cancel a mission, commanded by his general Yao Qiang (姚強), to try to save Southern Yan from being destroyed by Jin. (Without Later Qin aid, Southern Yan fell in 410.) For the next several years, Xia and Later Qin forces battled constantly, often inconclusively, but with the wars becoming much more costly to Later Qin than Xia, with Southern Liang and Western Qin no longer being willing to be Later Qin vassals as a result. In 412, when Western Qin's prince Qifu Gangui was assassinated by his nephew Qifu Gongfu (乞伏公府), Liu Bobo considered attacking Western Qin despite its status as an ally, but at the counsel of his advisor Wang Maide (王買德) did not do so.

By 413, Liu Bobo finally resolved to build a capital—one that he wanted to make absolutely impenetrable. He commissioned his cruel general Chigan Ali (叱干阿利) as the chief architect of the capital, which he named Tongwan—because, as he stated, he wanted to unite China and be the lord of 10,000 states. ("Tong" means "unite," while "wan" means 10,000.) Chigan ordered that the soil used in constructing the wall be steamed, so that it would be hardened and difficult to attack, and he often tested the walls during its construction; if an iron wedge were able to insert even one inch deep into the wall, the workmen who were in charge of that section of wall would be executed, and their bodies would be stuffed into the wall. Further, Liu Bobo himself ordered that when weapons and armors are made, that some of the metalsmiths would be executed—because his orders were, for example, that arrows should be shot at armors; if the arrows could penetrate the armors, the smiths who forged the armors would be executed, and if the arrows could not penetrate the armors, then the smiths who made the arrows would be executed. As a result of this bloodshed, however, Tongwan became a highly defensible city, and the weapons and armors that he had were all of exceedingly high quality.

Also in 413, Liu Bobo believed that his family name should be changed—since his ancestors took on the Liu family name from the Han Dynasty imperial house, believing that one of their female ancestors was a Han princess, but Liu Bobo believed this to be improper. He therefore changed his family name to Helian—intending it to mean that his might was so great that it would, alas (赫 hè) be connected (連 lián) to the heavens. He also ordered the nobles to change their family name to Tiefa (鐵伐), intending it to mean that they were as strong as iron (鐵 tiě) and be able to attack (伐 fá) others.

In 414, Helian Bobo created his wife Lady Liang "Heavenly Princess." (No further reference to the fate of his wife, Lady Mo, was recorded in history, after he killed her father.) He created his son Helian Gui (赫連璝) crown prince, and created his other sons dukes.

In 415, Helian Bobo entered into an alliance with Juqu Mengxun, the prince of Northern Liang.

In 416, with Later Qin, now under the rule of Yao Xing's son Yao Hong, under a major attack by the Jin general Liu Yu, Helian Bobo believed that Later Qin would fall to Jin, but that Jin would not be easily able to hold Later Qin's capital region -- Guanzhong. He therefore intensified his own attacks on Later Qin as well, and preparing to use the opportunity of Later Qin's destruction to seize more territory. As Later Qin neared destruction, Helian Bobo seized its western territory, centering Anding (安定, in modern Pingliang, Gansu), and then prepared for an eventual confrontation with Jin forces, which destroyed Later Qin in 417 and captured its capital Chang'an.

In winter 417, Liu Yu, intent on wanting to seize the Jin throne, left Chang'an under the command of his 11-year-old son Liu Yizhen (劉義真), and while he left several able generals to assist Liu Yizhen, those generals soon conflicted with each other and were killing each other—and eventually, LIu Yizhen, believing that the main assistant Liu Yu left him, Wang Xiu (王脩), to be about to rebel, had Wang executed. Meanwhile, Helian Bobo sent his crown prince Helian Gui, another son Helian Chang, and Wang Maide to command armies south, not initially engaging Jin forces but isolating Chang'an from the rest of Jin territory—a task made easier when Liu Yizhen recalled Jin forces near Chang'an all to Chang'an. Liu Yu, hearing this, sent his general Zhu Lingshi (朱齡石) to replace Liu Yizhen and recalled Liu Yizhen, but as soon as Liu Yizhen and his troops left Chang'an, they were intercepted and crushed by Xia forces under Helian Gui. Liu Yizhen barely escaped, but the vast majority of the army was captured. Helian Bobo stacked the skulls of the Jin dead into a hill-like structure. Meanwhile, the people of Chang'an, who were angry that Liu Yizhen's forces pillaged the city before leaving, expelled Zhu, allowing Helian Bobo to enter Chang'an easily. Helian Bobo then claimed the title of emperor.

Read more about this topic:  Helian Bobo

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