Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty

His Life, Times, and Legacy

By Victor Cunrui Xiong

Subjects: Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791465882, 372 pages, June 2006
Hardcover : 9780791465875, 372 pages, February 2006

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Table of contents

Weights and Measures
Dynastic Powers of the Han-Tang Period

Part I. From Prince to Sovereign


1. The Making of a Crown Prince

2. Yangdi and His Reign

3. The Collapse of the Sui

Part II. Yangdi and His Empire

4. Luoyang and the Grand Canal

5. The Palace Network

6. The Bureaucracy

7. The Educational, Ritual and Legal Institutions

8. Religions

9. Economic Order

10. Foreign Policy

11. Epilogue

Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Chronology of Sui Yangdi (569–618)


A reappraisal of Emperor Yang of the Sui dynasty, finding that his legacy provided the foundation for the celebrated civilization of the Tang dynasty.


Looking at the life and legacy of Emperor Yang (569–618) of the brief Sui dynasty in a new light, this book presents a compelling case for his importance to Chinese history. Author Victor Cunrui Xiong utilizes traditional scholarship and secondary literature from China, Japan, and the West to go beyond the common perception of Emperor Yang as merely a profligate tyrant. Xiong accepts neither the traditional verdict against Emperor Yang nor the apologist effort to revise it, and instead offers a reassessment of Emperor Yang by exploring the larger political, economic, military, religious, and diplomatic contexts of Sui society. This reconstruction of the life of Emperor Yang reveals an astute visionary with literary, administrative, and reformist accomplishments. While a series of strategic blunders resulting from the darker side of his personality led to the collapse of the socioeconomic order and to his own death, the Sui legacy that Emperor Yang left behind lived on to provide the foundation for the rise of the Tang dynasty, the pinnacle of medieval Chinese civilization.

Victor Cunrui Xiong is Professor of History at Western Michigan University and the author of Sui-Tang Chang'an: A Study in the Urban History of Late Medieval China.


"Historians who cannot read Chinese will benefit from the book's abundant data, and Xiong nicely explains the 'first contact' between the incipient Japanese state and the much older Chinese empire. " — Religious Studies Review

"This is a detailed study of a vital, yet (in English) virtually unknown, period of medieval Chinese history. Traditional Chinese historians usually castigate Emperor Yang, and the author has successfully cut through this invective to reveal much about the man, his policies, and his achievements. The result is a work that will change the way both Chinese and Western historians regard the Sui dynasty and its importance to overall Chinese history. " — Charles Hartman, author of Han Yü and the T'ang Search for Unity

"This book marks a new phase in the study of this pivotal period in Chinese history, and what Xiong says here must be addressed by anyone who studies the Sui dynasty. " — Albert E. Dien, editor of State and Society in Early Medieval China