The Lotus and the Dagger; the Imperial Succession in Early Eighth Century China
"The Lotus and the Dagger; the Imperial Succession in Early Eighth Century China"
The aim of this talk is to explore the question of whether the records for Li Longji's 李隆基 (Tang Xuanzong's 唐玄宗）ascent to supreme power over the years 710-712 are internally consistent and reliable. The narrative preserved in the Old and New Tang Histories and in the Comprehensive Mirror suggest that he was predestined to reign, and that his progress towards the throne was both inevitable and marked by exemplary moral attitudes.
Examination of documents contemporary with this ascent to power, however, preserved in two large early Song collections, suggest that there were points in Li Longji's ascent to supreme power where the outcome was far from inevitable. These documents， written from several different points of view, amount to a discourse on the concept of the imperial succession and of emperorship that is distinct from the accounts of emperorship generated seventy years earlier under Taizong's rule. The claims made by Li Longji's supporters were also made by supporters of other protagonists in the blood-stained history of court politics in the early eighth century. The official narrative bears the imprint of later distortion.