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An Lushan (安祿山; c. 703 – 757) was a Turkic jiedushi of the Tang dynasty who unleashed a devastating civil war during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong. Originally a secret member of the Golden Turtles, the Chinese branch of the Order of the Ancients, his bitter feud with Yang Guozhong over leadership of the Golden Turtles spilled out into court politics even while their conspiratorial allegiances continued to remain hidden.

By 754, Guozhong had become the prime minister, a position that the Golden Turtle elders had come to treat as a prerequisite to heading their own organization. In the meantime, Lushan amassed power in the northeast via his military triumphs in the frontier. On the eve of his uprising, he was jiedushi of three military commands: Fanyang, Pinglu, and Hedong. Guozhong, conscious that Lushan coveted his position, repeatedly warned Emperor Xuanzong that Lushan was plotting treason, but these were dismissed due the tremendous favour Lushan enjoyed with the Emperor.

Denied any opportunity to succeed as prime minister, the infuriated Lushan became determined to wrest power by force, breaking from the Golden Turtles to found a splinter faction called the Yeluohe that became the public face of his elite forces. In late 755, he gathered his army in Fanyang and declared war under the fragile pretext that he was not a rebel but a loyal subject who was saving the Tang from Guozhong's corruption. This act dragged the entire nation into what had originally been a schism within his own secret society.

His onslaught was catastrophic for the people of China from the outset, but after his eldest son An Qingzong was executed in the capital of Chang'an, he magnified his atrocities, turning to a scorched-earth strategy out of pure vengeance and ordering entire cities to be put to the sword. Through meteorology disguised as witchcraft taught by his mother, he was able to lead his army across the Yellow River to threaten the eastern capital of Luoyang, seizing it in 756. Thereupon, he declared himself emperor of the new state of Yan in rival to the Tang.

Despite the fall of Chang'an later in the year, Lushan's victory proved short-lived. In 757, he was assassinated by the Hidden One Li E in Luoyang, and he was succeeded by his son An Qingxu.

Biography

Early life

An Lushan was born to a witch and a father whom he never came to know.[1][2] When his father was gone, his mother remarried but never ever spoke of her past so that Lushan would spend his entire life never learning about his father's name or fate. She instead always told him that he was a gift bestowed by Zhaluoshan (軋犖山),[2] the god of war of the Göktürks.[3] The absence of his father from his childhood was a source of sorrow for Lushan even late in life, and he attributed his own inability to be a proper father to it.[2]

When his first son, An Qingzong, was born, his vocation involved trading in a market 500 li away from home. Hoping to earn a bit more money before returning home that day, he missed his son's birth. He continued to be absent throughout Qingzong's childhood, from when he spoke his first words, to when he first learned to ride a horse. Neither was he there when Qingzong was old enough to grow a beard nor when he first learned archery and entered academic society. Nonetheless, Qingzong fared well without his father's presence and eventually became a respected member of high society at Chang'an. After Qingzong, Lushan had many other sons, the most notable being the second eldest, An Qingxu, but Qingzong remained his favourite ironically because his qualities resembled him the least, and he prayed for his well-being and success everyday.[2]

Blood sacrifices for the Golden Turtles

Prior to joining the Tang military,[4] he operated illicit activities on behalf of the Golden Turtles, the regional branch of the Order of the Ancients. On one occasion, he secretly led a band of thirty-one masked marauders to steal sheep from a village in Youzhou, a capital crime in a region where sheep were essential to many a livelihood. When the theft was reported to the local government, Lushan's agents returned to the village in the middle of the night and abducted every person and every animal, including the two soldiers who had been sent to investigate the case. This gave the eerie appearance that the entire village had mysteriously evaporated overnight.[1]

In a nearby dense forest, the Golden Turtles conducted a ritual wherein they sacrificed all the sheep, piled their skulls around a bowl of blood, and hung their headless carcasses from the trees. However, they had not erased their tracks, and Pei Min, the general in charge of the case, was able to trail them into their den. They were aware of his intrusion in advance and used their ritual site at the centre of a hollow in the ground to ambush him. All thirty-one of Lushan's agents flung at Pei Min simultaneously while Lushan himself hid deeper in the forest to watch from afar. Miraculously, the general cut them all down from atop his horse. For a moment, Lushan remained, glaring and seething with such animalistic malice that Pei Min would describe him as a great beast in later retellings. The great swordsman sensed the lingering threat behind and shot an arrow at Lushan, but Lushan merely evaded it and retreated into the shadowy mists of the mountain.[1]

Military rise

Many years later[1] in 732,[4] Lushan was recruited into the military as a zhuōshēngjiàng (捉生將, lit. 'officer who captures lives') by the jiedushi of Youzhou.[1] This was a reconnaissance officer in charge of infiltrating enemy territory and capturing enemies.[1][5] Because of this new position, Lushan was an attendee at Pei Min's retirement party held at a military camp. There, he socialized with other officers of various linguistic backgrounds, ingratiating himself with them through humour and all around enjoying himself. Despite his attempts to blend in, his odour and physique was unmistakable to Pei Min, who recognized him as the very shadow he had encountered in the forest all those years ago.[1]

Over the years, Lushan rose through the ranks in the Tang military and became a fearsome general.[6] He boasted excellent rapport with Emperor Xuanzong, eventually becoming a jiedushi in his own right. By 754, he held the military governorship of three commands simultaneously: Pinglu, Youzhou (renamed Fanyang after its capital), and Hedong.[6] Together, they spanned a wide swathe of territory in northeast China.[7]

Power struggle

An Lushan had a counterpart within the imperial court's highest echelons of power; Yang Guozhong, the head of the Golden Turtles, had become prime minister by 754. Together, the order wielded vast control over both the civil and military spheres of the Tang, but this produced frictions rather than foster cooperation. Lushan coveted Guozhong's leadership of their order, but Guozhong despised him for what he regarded as barbaric mannerisms. A convention had developed among the elders of the Golden Turtles that they would only support a member as their leader if the individual had managed to attain chancellorship in the Tang government.[8] Owing to the deep adoration that Lushan had curried with the Emperor, he was within reach of fulfilling this prerequisite.[9]

As recorded in the Zizhi Tongjian, the Emperor was prepared to append to Lushan's titles the status of "Equal to Those who Order Affairs" (同平章事),[9] an accolade which would have certified him to attend the meetings of chancellors and be regarded as one among their ranks.[10][11][12][13] Upon instructing the scribe Zhang Ji (張垍) to draw up the document, he was met with Guozhong's remonstrance: "Though Lushan has military prowess, his eyes cannot know books... how can he become a chancellor?"[9] These exact words, heard by Lushan's spies at court,[8] caused the Emperor to waver and to later confer upon Lushan the promotion of Left Deputy to the Secretary of State Affairs (尚書左僕射) instead.[9] Though this office had once been the de facto head of the Department of State Affairs (尚書省), effectively being one of the three original chancellorships, it had been stripped of this honour in the time of one of Emperor Xuanzong's predecessors and so it came out to a weaker title that could not have satisfied Lushan's goal.[14]

Lushan's discontent hardened upon receiving the news from his spies. Realizing that he could never succeed as the order's head so long as Guozhong was alive, he resolved to establish a new group of Golden Turtles loyal to him which would forcibly wrest power away from Guozhong and supplant the old Golden Turtles.[8] Simultaneously, Guozhong began to incessantly warn the Emperor that Lushan was plotting treason, eventually claiming that should the Emperor summon Lushan to the capital, he certainly would not come.[6][9] The Emperor agreed to the test and issued the summons for Lushan,[6][9] in accordance with the logic that should Lushan be a traitor, he would fear that his plot had been discovered and that he was being lured to the capital to be arrested and executed. By this junction, the feud between Lushan and Guozhong had leaked to the public, becoming the topic of popular gossip, and even the nature of this test itself was known to the commoners of Chang'an.[6]

Likewise, Lushan detected the test for what it was and promptly set off from Fanyang with a detachment of his personal guards upon receiving the summons. In the first month of Tianbao year 13 (754 CE), Lushan arrived unexpectedly in Chang'an on the very morning of that year's Flower Banquet.[6]

Appearances

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Assassin's Creed: DynastyBeacon (Part 7)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Assassin's Creed: DynastyGolden Turtles (Part 1)
  3. 轧荦山(汉语词语). Baidu Baike. Accessed 2 June 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Wikipedia-W-visual-balanced.svg An Lushan on Wikipedia
  5. 捉生将. Baidu Baike. Accessed 4 June 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Assassin's Creed: DynastyThe Flower Banquet (Part 2)
  7. Wikipedia-W-visual-balanced.svg Administrative divisions of the Tang dynasty on Wikipedia
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Assassin's Creed: DynastyThe Flower Banquet (Part 7)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Assassin's Creed: DynastySpecial 1
  10. Wikipedia-W-visual-balanced.svg 宰相 on Wikipedia
  11. Wikipedia-W-visual-balanced.svg 參知政事 on Wikipedia
  12. Wikipedia-W-visual-balanced.svg 同平章事 on Wikipedia
  13. 同中书门下平章事 (中国古代官职). Baidu Baike. Accessed 9 June 2021.
  14. Wikipedia-W-visual-balanced.svg 尚書僕射 on Wikipedia

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