Wang Fangqing - Background


It is not known when Wang Fangqing was born, but it is known that his family was from Tang Dynasty's capital prefecture Yong Prefecture (雍州, roughly modern Xi'an, Shaanxi). He came from a line of officials who had served during Jin Dynasty (265-420) and the subsequent Southern Dynasties Liu Song, Southern Qi, and Liang Dynasty, until his great-grandfather Wang Bao (王褒) surrendered to Northern Zhou when Northern Zhou forces captured the then-Liang capital Jiangling in 554. Wang Bao and his descendants thereafter served as officials of Northern Zhou and its successors Sui Dynasty and Tang. Wang Fangqing's father Wang Hongzhi (王弘直) successively served as advisor to Li Yuanchang (李元昌) the Prince of Han and Li Yuanjing (李元景) the Prince of Jing, sons of Tang's founder Emperor Gaozu.

Wang Fangqing himself started his official service at age 15, when he served on the military staff of Li Zhen the Prince of Yue, a son of Emperor Taizong (Emperor Gaozu's son and successor). He studied the Records of the Grand Historian and Book of Han under Li Zhen's secretary Ren Xigu (任希古), and later, when Ren became a staff member of the crown prince, Wang followed him and continued to study under him. During Emperor Taizong's successor Emperor Gaozong's Yongchun era (682-683), Wang was promoted to be the deputy minister of husbandry (太僕少卿, Taipu Shaoqing), and on one occasion, when Emperor Gaozong was considering creating his grandson Li Chongzhao the unprecedented title of deputy crown prince (皇太孫, Huang Taisun), he consulted Wang, who opined that the action was unprecedented and yet Emperor Gaozong could, if he so wanted, create a new tradition. After Emperor Gaozong's death later in 683, his powerful wife Empress Wu (later known as Wu Zetian) became empress dowager and regent successively over their sons Emperor Zhongzong (whom she deposed in 684) and Emperor Ruizong. During her regency, Wang became the commandant at Guang Prefecture (廣州, roughly modern Guangzhou, Guangdong). Guang Prefecture was at that point becoming increasingly important as a port of international trade, and Wang's predecessor Lu Yuanrui (路元睿) was assassinated in 684 by Malay merchants after he had improperly seized their merchandise. After Wang succeeded Lu, he was said to be honest and clean, never taking bribes. Moreover, within his territory, there had long been tribal leaders who had received special treatment and who were corrupt, who in turn kept their corruption going by bribing the officials. Wang ordered the officials to stop associating with the tribal leaders and arrested the most corrupt of the tribal leaders. The public sentiment at the time believed that since the start of Tang, there had not been anyone who had governed Guang Prefecture better than Wang, and Empress Dowager Wu issued an edict honoring his achievements.

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