Wei Zheng : biography
Wei Zheng () (580–643), courtesy name Xuancheng (玄成), formally Duke Wenzhen of Zheng (鄭文貞公), was a Chinese politician and the lead editor of the Book of Sui, composed in 636. He served as a chancellor of Tang Dynasty for about 13 years, during the reign of Emperor Taizong.
Wei was born to a poor family in modern Hebei, and joined Li Mi's rebellion against Sui Dynasty during his youth. After Li Mi's submission to Tang Dynasty, Wei became a Tang official and eventually served on the staff of Li Jiancheng the Crown Prince, the oldest son of Tang's founding emperor Emperor Gaozu. As such, he served against the interests of Li Jiancheng's younger brother Li Shimin the Prince of Qin, with whom Li Jiancheng was locked in an intense rivalry. In 626, Li Shimin ambushed and killed Li Jiancheng, and then effectively forced Emperor Gaozu to yield the throne to him. Rather than punishing Wei, however, he was impressed with Wei's faithfulness to Li Jiancheng, and he made Wei an important official, eventually a chancellor. Wei's promotion to this position gave him far broader freedom to criticise others, particularly the emperor, than other officers of the court. He emphasized propriety and opposed overextending the state. His advice and criticism were not always accepted, but in accordance with Confucian etiquette, the emperor would concede to his suggestions with some regularity.
After Wei's death in 643, the emperor commented that he was a mirror to show the mistakes of the court, and built an elaborate tomb for him near his own imperial tomb and betrothed one of his daughters, Princess Hengshan, to Wei Shuyu (魏叔玉), son of Wei Zheng. Subsequently, as a result of false accusations made by others in the court, the stone monument that Emperor Taizong had built for Wei was destroyed, and Emperor Taizong cancelled the planned marriage between Princess Hengshan and Wei Shuyu. However, after the failure of the campaign against Goguryeo in 646, Emperor Taizong, believing that Wei would have stopped him from going on the campaign had he lived longer, restored the stone monument. Wei's effect and influence has been examined by many historians long after his death. Wei Zheng is also revered as a minor god of doorways in parts of Taiwan.
Service under Li Mi
At the end of Emperor Yang's reign, there were many rebellions against Sui rule. One of the major ones was led by Li Mi the Duke of Wei. In 617, the secretary general of Wuyang Commandery (武陽, part of modern Handan, Hebei), Yuan Baozang (元寶藏), rebelled against Sui as well and submitted to Li Mi. He invited Wei Zheng to serve on his staff, as his secretary. Wei subsequently drafted submissions from Yuan to Li Mi, suggesting that Li Mi attack and seize nearby Wei Commandery (魏郡, also part of modern Handan) and a large food storage that Emperor Yang built, Liyang Storage (黎陽倉, in modern Hebi, Henan). Li Mi was impressed, and when he found out that Wei wrote the submissions, he requested Yuan send Wei to him. He subsequently made Wei his secretary.
In 618, Li Mi was ready for a major confrontation with the Sui general Wang Shichong, who had seized power at the eastern capital Luoyang as the regent to Sui's last emperor Yang Tong (Emperor Yang's grandson). Wei spoke with Li Mi's secretary general Zheng Ting (鄭頲), advocating that Li Mi take a defensive stance, refusing to engage Wang and draining Wang's food supplies. Zheng rejected the proposal, and the proposal apparently was never submitted to Li Mi. Subsequently, when Li Mi engaged Wang, Wang defeated him. Believing that he could no longer hold out against Wang, Li Mi fled to Tang Dynasty territory and surrendered to Emperor Gaozu of Tang. Wei followed him to Tang territory. Subsequently, with Li Mi's major general Xu Shiji (later known as Li Shiji) still holding the Liyang region, Wei requested that Emperor Gaozu send him to Liyang to persuade Xu to submit to Tang as well. Xu did so.
Emperor Gaozu's reign
In spring 619, with Yuan Baozang being attacked by Yuwen Huaji the Emperor of Xu (who had led the coup that killed Emperor Yang in 618), Wei went to Yuan to persuade him to submit to Tang. Yuan did so. Wei apparently subsequently went back to Liyang. In winter 619, when Dou Jiande the Prince of Xia, one of Tang's major rivals, attacked and captured Liyang, Wei was among the people captured by Dou, along with Emperor Gaozu's cousin Li Shentong (李神通) the Prince of Huai'an, Emperor Gaozu's sister Princess Tong'an, and Li Shiji's father Li Gai (李蓋). (Li Shiji was not captured, but several days later felt compelled to surrender to Dou as well, as his father had become a captive.) Dou made Wei his secretary.
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