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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Li Hsün faction and the Sweet Dew Incident in 835 : a study of a climactic episode in late T’ang politics Preston, Jennifer Wei-Yen Jay


After the crippling An-Shih chaos of 755-?62,the attempts of post-rebellion T'ang to revitalize . the dynasty were continuously hindered by four inter-related factors! foreign incursions, fan-chen provincialism, bureaucratic factionalism, and eunuch domination of the court. The Sweet Dew Incident of 835 was a palace coup in Ch'ang-an launched against the power-entrenched court eunuchs by the Li Hsun faction in the central bureaucracy. Li Hsun's supporters included the emperor Wen-tsung, who played an active role in the initial planning and final launching of the coup. The coup failed, and the Li Hsiin men suffered a tragic end, with the city of Ch'ang-an being thrown into chaos and terror. The historiography of the incident in the standard histories of the period is marked throughout with the moralizing bias of the Sung historiogmphers and does not provide an . adequate interpretation of the Li Hsun faction. Through a critical study of the standard histories of the period and using supplementary sources, this thesis is an attempt to review the events of the Sweet Dew Incident and the Li Hsun faction in the context of the historical realities of post-rebellion T'ang and their developments during the reign of Wen-tsung. Chapter One is an introduction to the problem under study. The events and participants of the Sweet Dew Incident as recorded by the standard histories are briefly described. In this chapter the sources of these standard histories are examined for the period under study, and the discrepancies and consistencies within these standard histories are explained. The next chapter deals with the four historical realities of post-rebellion T'ang and their respective developments during the reign of Wen-tsung. The incursions of the Uighur, T'u-fan, and Nan-chao tribes are first examined, then the recalcitrancy of the northeast provinces.. Next, the several domains of eunuch interference in the court of Ch'ang-an, including imperial succession and military control, are discussed. Lastly, this chapter describes the controversial issues surrounding the Niu and Li factional strife, the infamous factional feud which penetrated the central bureaucracy for over forty years. In this chapter an attempt is also made to see whether the proposed strategy of the Li Hsun faction was appropriate for dealing with these four problems of the central government. Chapter Three is essentially a reconstruction of the Li Hsun faction. The seventeen members of the faction are traced and studied in a composite biography based on their family backgrounds and political careers. This chapter also probes the circumstances under which the key personalities of the faction, Li Hsun, Shu Yuan-yu, Wang Yai and Chia Su, made each other's acquaintance and formed a secret alignment in Lo-yang. Chapter Four deals with the rise to power of Li Hsiin. Li Hsun's political methods, particularly the divide and rule tactic applied to the resolution of the eunuch problem and factionalism, are examined. In this chapter Li Hsun's manipulations from within the Han-lin Academy and the transformation of his secret alignment in Lo-yang to a; dominant faction in Ch'ang-an are also observed. The final chapter provides a narration of the events of the Sweet Dew Incident of 835. It concludes/the study with an examination of the aftermath and repercussions of the coup on the emperor Wen-tsung and on the T'ang central government.

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