Murong XI - Reign


Murong Xi was cruel and arbitrary as a ruler, willing to strike out at anyone who disobeyed him or whom he viewed as a potential threat. The first victim was Murong Yuán, whom he ordered to commit suicide just a few days after he took the throne. When a plot involving the generals Murong Ti (慕容提) and Zhang Fo (張佛)'s attempt to put the former crown prince Murong Ding on the throne was discovered less a month later, Murong Xi ordered his young grandnephew to commit suicide as well.

In 402, Murong Xi took two daughters of the deceased official Fu Mo (苻謨) as concubines -- Fu Song'e (苻娀娥) and Fu Xunying. He favored both greatly, and particularly Fu Xunying. He therefore neglected Empress Dowager Ding, who became jealous and angry, and she plotted with her nephew Ding Xin (丁信) to overthrow Murong Xi and replace him with Murong Bao's son Murong Yuān (慕容淵, note different tone from his brother) the Duke of Zhangwu. The plot was discovered, and Murong Xi executed Ding Xin and Murong Yuān and forced Empress Dowager Ding to commit suicide, although he still buried her with honors due an empress.

Murong Xi soon started a number of heavy construction projects. In 403, he built Longteng Chateau (龍騰苑) within his imperial garden, described as occupying over two square kilometers and requiring forced labor from 20,000 men. He further built an artificial hill within the chateau that was described as 500 steps wide and 57 meters high. Later that year, he honored his mother Consort Duan as empress dowager, and he created Consort Fu Xunying as empress.

In summer 404, Murong Xi built Xiaoyao Palace (逍遙宮) at Longteng Chateau, with hundreds of rooms, and also constructed an artificial lake. The soldiers used as labor could not get any rest, and it was described that more than half of them died from the heat and the exhaustion.

In fall 404, Consort Fu Song'e grew ill. The physician Wang Rong (王榮) claimed that he could cure her, but ultimately he could not, and she died. Murong Xi tied Wang to a palace gate and executed him by drawing and quartering, and then burned his body. He posthumoustly honored Consort Fu as Empress Min.

After Consort Fu's death, Murong Xi grew even more doting of Empress Fu, who favored huntings and journeys. In winter 404, they went on a long hunt and tour that took them as north as Bailu Mountain (白鹿山, in modern Tongliao, Inner Mongolia), as east as Qingling (青嶺, described as about 100 kilometers east of the capital Longcheng (龍城, in modern Jinzhou, Liaoning)), and as south as Haiyang (海陽, in modern Qinhuangdao, Hebei) before returning to Longcheng. On this winter journey, it was described that more than 5,000 escorting soldiers died from attacks by tigers or wolves or exposure to the cold. In other known events, she was described to be demanding to have jellied fish in the summer and fresh Rehmannia roots in the winter—neither of which could be obtainable—and Murong Xi executed officials in charge of supplying the palace for their failures.

In spring 405, Murong Xi, with Emperor Fu with him, attacked Goguryeo's major city Liaodong (遼東, in modern Liaoyang, Liaoning), and had almost captured it. However, he ordered his soldiers to flatten the wall so that he could enter with Empress Fu on an imperial wagon. The delay allowed the Goguryeo forces to refortify the city, and he was unable to capture it.

Around the new year 406, Murong Xi, with Empress Fu with him, was making a surprise attack on Khitan tribes when he decided that the Khitan were too strong to be attacked and wanted to withdraw. However, at Empress Fu's insistence that she wanted to observe a battle, he abandoned his heavy guard and took his faster cavalry to attack Goguryeo. The attack was unsuccessful, and he was forced to withdraw. The general Murong Yun the Duke of Xiyang (Murong Bao's adopted son, whose original name was Gao Yun) suffered an arrow wound during the battle, and, because he feared Murong Xi's cruelty, used this opportunity to resign his post and remain in his home.

In 407, Murong Xi built a new palace for Empress Fu, Chenghua Palace (承華殿), using so much dirt in the project that dirt was described to become as expensive as grain. In summer 407, Empress Fu died. Murong Xi mourned her so much that he ordered that a magnificent tomb be built for her, and also forced his sister-in-law, Princess Zhang of Gaoyang (Murong Long's wife) to commit suicide so that she could be buried with Empress Fu. The officials were all forced to weep for Empress Fu, with those who could not shed tears punished severely, so they put chili peppers in their mouths to stimulate tear production. Eventually, Murong Xi accompanied Empress Fu's funeral procession out of Longcheng.

After Murong Xi left Longcheng, the general Feng Ba and his brother Feng Sufu (馮素弗), who had hidden themselves since Murong Xi had previously wanted to have them executed, conspired with their cousin Feng Wani (馮萬泥) to start a rebellion. They did so with the help with the general Zhang Xing (張興) and those who had previously conspired with the general Fu Jin (苻進) in a failed coup attempt earlier that year. Because Feng Ba was friendly with Murong Yun, he persuaded Murong Yun to become their leader, and they quickly captured the palace and closed the city gates. Murong Yun was declared the Heavenly Prince.

Murong Xi returned to Longcheng and settled in outside, at Longteng Chateau, preparing an assault on the city. At this time, the imperial guard soldier Chu Tou (褚頭) fled to him and informed him that the imperial guards were ready to turn against Murong Yun as soon as Murong Xi attacked. However, for reasons unknown, Murong Xi panicked at this news and fled. His general Murong Ba (慕容拔) tried to maintain the assault against Longcheng and was initially successful, but as the troops began to realize that Murong Xi had fled, they collapsed, and Murong Ba was killed by Feng Ba's soldiers.

Later that day, Murong Xi was found, wearing civilian clothes, in a forest, and he was captured and delivered to Murong Yun. Murong Yun personally read him his crimes, and then beheaded him and his sons.

Read more about this topic:  Murong Xi

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