Li Sujie

Li Sujie (李素節) (646[1] – 690-692[2]), formally the Prince of Xu (許王), was an imperial prince of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty. He was the fourth son of Emperor Gaozong, born of his one-time favorite Consort Xiao. After Consort Xiao and Emperor Gaozong's wife Empress Wang were deposed and executed due to the machinations of Emperor Gaozong's second wife Empress Wu (later known as Wu Zetian), Li Sujie was under the watchful eyes of Empress Wu, and was several times demoted on false accusations of misbehavior, In particular, as Emperor Gaozong's health deteriorated and government affairs fell to Empress Wu, Li's grief increased. During the Tianshou era, with Wu finally establishing her own dynasty, she continued to massacre Tang imperial clan members as she perceived them as threats, and she summoned Li Sujie and his older brother Li Shangjin (李上金) to the then-capital Luoyang. When they arrived near Luoyang, Empress Dowager Wu had him strangled, while Li Shangjin committed suicide.

Before Consort Xiao's deathEdit

Li Sujie was born in 646, when his father Li Zhi was crown prince under his grandfather Emperor Taizong. He was Li Zhi's fourth son, and he was born of Li Zhi's then-favorite concubine, Consort Xiao. After Emperor Taizong's death in 649, Li Zhi succeeded him (as Emperor Gaozong), and in 651 created Li Sujie the Prince of Yong and gave him titularly the important post of prefect of the capital prefecture, Yong Prefecture (雍州, roughly modern Xi'an, Shaanxi). It was said that Li Sujie could recite 500-word ancient poems, and was studious in studying under the scholar Xu Qidan (徐齊聃). He was said to be much loved by Emperor Gaozong. When he grew older, he was made the prefect of Qi Prefecture (岐州, roughly modern Baoji, Shaanxi).

Meanwhile, Li Sujie's mother Consort Xiao was locked in a fierce battle with Consort Wu (later known as Wu Zetian) for the affections of Emperor Gaozong, in which she allied herself with the emperor's primary wife Empress Wang. In 655, Consort Wu accused Empress Wang and her mother Lady Liu (sister of Liu Shi) of engaging in witchcraft; in response, Emperor Gaozong deposed and imprisoned not only Empress Wang, but also Consort Xiao, on 16 November,[3] replacing Empress Wang with Consort Wu. Soon thereafter (within the same lunar month of their deposition), the deposed Empress Wang and Consort Xiao were executed on Empress Wu's orders. [4]

After Consort Xiao's deathEdit

After Consort Xiao's death, Li Sujie drew Empress Wu's suspicions because he was born of Consort Xiao. In 657, with the beginning of the elimination of the main political rivals by Empress Wu, Li Sujie's title was changed to the lesser title of Prince of Xun, and around the same time, he was demoted from Qian Prefecture to the less important Shen Prefecture (申州, roughly modern Xinyang, Henan). Early in Emperor Gaozong's Qianfeng era (666-668), by Empress Wu's controller influence and instigation, Emperor Gaozong further issued an edict that stated, "Because Sujie is chronically ill, he is not required to attend imperial gatherings at the capital," even though, in reality, Li Sujie was not ill, and effectively, the edict barred Li Sujie from the capital Chang'an. Saddened that he was not allowed to see his father, Li Sujie wrote an essay entitled, Commentary on Faithfulness and Filial Piety (忠孝論, which was already lost by the Five Dynasties period). His cashier Zhang Jianzhi secretly submitted the essay to Emperor Gaozong. After Empress Wu read it, it drew her ire, and she falsely accused Li Sujie of corruption. In 676, Li Sujie was demoted to the title of Prince of Poyang, exiled to Yuan Prefecture (袁州, roughly modern Yichun, Jiangxi), and put under house arrest.

In 681, Empress Wu submitted a petition for Li Sujie and his older brother Li Shangjin the Prince of Qi to be forgiven their crimes. (Li Shangjin had been previously accused of similar offenses as Li Sujie's and was similarly put under house arrest.) Emperor Gaozong made Li Sujie the prefect of Yue Prefecture (岳州, roughly modern Yueyang, Hunan), but still disallowed him and Li Shangjin to visit the capital.


On 27 December 683,[5] Emperor Gaozong died and was succeeded by Empress Wu's third son Li Xiǎn (as Emperor Zhongzong), but Empress Wu took on actual regent powers as empress dowager. On 27 February 684,[6] after Emperor Zhongzong showed signs of disobeying her, she deposed him and replaced him with her fourth son Li Dan (as Emperor Ruizong), but held even firmer grip on power thereafter. In spring 684, she created Li Sujie the greater title of Prince of Ge and soon thereafter changed his title to Prince of Xu, making him the prefect of Jiang Prefecture (絳州, part of modern Yuncheng, Shanxi).

During the Tianshou era, Empress Dowager Wu was carrying out massacres of Tang imperial clan members and others whom she perceived to be threats, using a number of secret police officers to carry out tortures and executions. Her powerful nephew Wu Chengsi instructed one of the secret police officers, Zhou Xing (周興), to falsely accuse Li Sujie and Li Shangjin of treason. She ordered them to report to Luoyang, which she had made capital. Li Sujie was heading to Luoyang from his then-post Shu Prefecture (舒州, roughly modern Anqing, Anhui), when he heard family members mourning a person's death crying bitterly, and he made the comment, "Dying of illness is fortunate and difficult to get. Why do they cry?" As he was in Luoyang's vicinity, Empress Dowager Wu ordered that he be strangled. (Li Shangjin committed suicide.) Empress Dowager Wu also killed nine of Li Sujie's sons (Li Jing, Li Ying, Li Qi, Li Wan, Li Zan, Li Yang, Li Yuan, Li Chen and Li Tangchen, in Chinese 李璟、李瑛、李琪、李琬、李瓚、李瑒、李瑗、李琛、李唐臣), but four youngest sons were spared and imprisoned at Lei Prefecture (雷州, roughly modern Zhanjiang, Guangdong). After her death in 705, Emperor Zhongzong was restored to the throne, and Li Sujie was posthumously honored the Prince of Xu and reburied with honor near Emperor Gaozong's (and Empress Wu's) tomb. His son Li Guan (李瓘) was created the Prince of Xu to succeed him, and later, during the reign of Li Sujie's nephew Emperor Xuanzong, two other sons, Li Lin (李琳) and Li Qiu (李璆) were created princes as well.


16. Li Bing, Duke Ren of Tang
8. Emperor Gaozu
17. Duchess Dugu
4. Emperor Taizong
18. Dou Yi, Duke of Shenwu
9. Empress Taimushunsheng
19. Princess Xiangyang of Northern Zhou
2. Emperor Gaozong
20. Zhangsun Si
10. Zhangsun Sheng
5. Empress Wendeshunsheng
22. Gao Jingde or Gao Mai
11. Lady Gao
1. Li Sujie
3. Consort Xiao


  1. ^ The Old Book of Tang indicated that Li Sujie was six (by East Asian reckoning) when he was created the Prince of Yong in 651 (the 2nd year of the Yonghui era of Tang Gaozong's reign); if that is correct, he was born in 646. However, the Old Book of Tang also indicated that he was 43 (by East Asian reckoning) when he died, which would make his birth year 648 or later (as he died during the Tianshou era). (年六岁,永徽二年,封雍王......天授中...行至都城南龙门驿,被缢死,年四十三) Old Book of Tang, vol. 86. The death age of 43 was also given in the New Book of Tang, vol. 81 (至龙门驿被缢,年四十三)
  2. ^ Li's biography in volume 86 of the Old Book of Tang recorded that he died during the Tianshou era of Wu Zetian's reign.
  3. ^ Volume 200 of Zizhi Tongjian recorded that the deposition of the two women took place on the jiyou day of the 10th month of the 6th year of the Yonghui era of Tang Gaozong's reign, which corresponds to 16 Nov 655 on the Gregorian calendar. ((永徽六年)冬,十月,己酉,下诏称:“王皇后、萧淑妃谋行鸩毒,废为庶人,母及兄弟,并除名,流岭南。”)
  4. ^ Volume 51 of the Old Book of Tang recorded that both women were strangled in the 10th month of the 6th year of the Yonghui era of Tang Gaozong's reign; said month ends on 3 December 655 in the Gregorian calendar. (永徽六年十月,废后及萧良娣皆为庶人,囚之别院。武昭仪令人皆缢杀之)
  5. ^ Volume 203 of Zizhi Tongjian recorded that Gaozong died in the night of the dingsi day of the 12th month of the 1st year of the Hongdao era of his reign. This date corresponds to 27 Dec 683 in the Gregorian calendar. [(弘道元年)十二月,丁巳,...。是夜,....,上崩于贞观殿。] Zizhi Tongjian, vol.203.
  6. ^ Volume 203 of the Zizhi Tongjian recorded that Ruizong was made emperor under Wu Zetian on the jiwei day of the 2nd month of the 1st year of the Guangzhai era of his reign. This date corresponds to 27 Feb 684 in the Gregorian calendar. [(光宅元年二月)己未,立雍州牧豫王旦為皇帝。] Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 203.