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Li Siye

Li Siye

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Li Siye (died March 2, 759), formally Prince Zhongyong of Wuwei (武威忠勇王), was a general of the Chinese
History of China
Chinese civilization originated in various regional centers along both the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys in the Neolithic era, but the Yellow River is said to be the Cradle of Chinese Civilization. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest...

 Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 who fought in the Battle of Talas
Battle of Talas
The Battle of Talas in 751 AD was an especially notable conflict between the Arab Abbasid Caliphate and the Chinese Tang Dynasty for control not only of the Syr Darya region, but even more...

. He fought valiantly at the Battle of Talas after the defeat of the main forces commanded by Gao Xianzhi
Gao Xianzhi
Gao Xianzhi, or Ko Sōnji, was a Tang general of Korean descent. He was known as a great commander during his lifetime. He is most well known for taking part in multiple military expeditions to conquer the Xiyu region over the infamous Pamir Mountains, all the way to the Aral Sea and the Caspian...

, and his efforts allowed Gao to escape from the pursuit that Abbasid Caliphate forces made. Li Siye later died from battle injuries while fighting for Tang against rebel forces during the Anshi Rebellion.

Background


It is not known when Li Siye was born. His family was from Jingzhao Municipality (京兆) -- i.e., the area including the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 capital Chang'an
Chang'an
Chang'an is an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an literally means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese. During the short-lived Xin Dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; yet after its fall in AD 23, the old name was restored...

. He was said to be over two meters tall, and was strong and brave. Early in Emperor Xuanzong
Emperor Xuanzong of Tang
Emperor Xuanzong of Tang , also commonly known as Emperor Ming of Tang , personal name Li Longji , known as Wu Longji from 690 to 705, was the seventh emperor of the Tang dynasty in China, reigning from 712 to 756. His reign of 43 years was the longest during the Tang Dynasty...

's Tianbao era (742-756), he conscripted in the army and was stationed at Anxi Circuit (安西, headquartered in modern Aksu Prefecture
Aksu Prefecture
Aksu Prefecture is located in mid-western Xinjiang, China. It has an area of 132,500 km² and 2.19 million inhabitants .The name Aksu is Turkic for 'white water'.-Geography:...

, Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

), and soon gained much battle experience. At that time, Tang soldiers had just adopted the use of a heavy sword known as the "Mo sword" (陌刀), and it was said that Li Siye was particularly skillful at employing it. He often served as a forward commander and was usually successful in battle. The military governor (jiedushi) of Anxi, Fumeng Lingcha (夫蒙靈詧), knew of his capabilities and often had him serve in military campaigns. Because of his accomplishments, he was eventually promoted to be a commanding officer with the rank of Zhonglangjiang (中郎將).

In 748, when Gao Xianzhi
Gao Xianzhi
Gao Xianzhi, or Ko Sōnji, was a Tang general of Korean descent. He was known as a great commander during his lifetime. He is most well known for taking part in multiple military expeditions to conquer the Xiyu region over the infamous Pamir Mountains, all the way to the Aral Sea and the Caspian...

, then the deputy military governor of Anxi, led an army against Lesser Bolü (小勃律, a city state centering modern Gilgit
Gilgit
Gilgit is a city in northern PakistanGilgit may refer to other terms related with the area of the city:* Gilgit River* Gilgit Valley* Gilgit District* Gilgit Agency * Gilgit Airport...

, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

), then a vassal of Tang's rival Tufan, Gao selected Li Siye and Tian Zhen (田珍) to serve as his deputies. The Tufan army trying to aid Lesser Bolü was then stationed at Suole (娑勒), near Lesser Bolü's capital. At Gao's direction, Li Siye and Tian launched a surprise attack on Suole by leading their soldiers in climbing a cliff. They caught the Tufan army by surprise and killed 80%-90% of the Tufan soldiers. They then advanced to Lesser Bolü's capital and captured its king and queen (a Tufan princess). As a result of the battle, 72 city states in the region submitted to Tang. For this contribution, Li Siye was made a general.

During the Battle of Talas


In 751, Li Siye served under Gao Xianzhi, who had been made the military governor of Anxi by that point, in a campaign west against the Abbasid Caliphate that climaxed in the Battle of Talas
Battle of Talas
The Battle of Talas in 751 AD was an especially notable conflict between the Arab Abbasid Caliphate and the Chinese Tang Dynasty for control not only of the Syr Darya region, but even more...

. The Tang and Abbasid forces were locked in battle for several days, before Qarluq
Qarluq
The Karluks were a prominent nomadic Turkic tribe residing in the regions of Kara-Irtysh and the Tarbagatai Mountains west of the Altay Mountains...

 forces turned against Gao, causing Gao's forces to collapse, with only several thousands surviving among 20,000-30,000. Gao tried to regather his troops to battle further, but Li Siye pointed out to him that continued battle would mean annihilation of the remaining troops, urging Gao to retreat. Gao agreed, and began a retreat. Li Siye served as the rearguard and was able to successfully keep the path of flight open -- as Gao's associate Bahanna (拔汗那) forces crowded the narrow escape path, Li Siye battered the Bahanna soldiers and livestock with a staff, killing many -- and fight off Abbasid pursuers. For this valiant effort, he was promoted in his general rank under Gao's recommendation. However, Duan Xiushi
Duan Xiushi
Duan Xiushi , courtesy name Chenggong , formally Prince Zhonglie of Zhangye , was a general of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty. He was known for his strict military discipline...

, also serving under Gao, rebuked Li Siye for advocating what effectively meant the abandonment of any soldiers who might have been scattered. Li Siye, impressed with Duan's fortitude, made Duan his own assistant upon return to Anxi.)

During the Anshi Rebellion


In 755, the general An Lushan
An Lushan
An Lushan was a general who rebelled against the Tang Dynasty in China.His name was also transcribed into Chinese as Āluòshān or Gáluòshān ,...

 rebelled against Emperor Xuanzong's rule, and by 756, the forces of his state of Yan
Yan (Anshi)
Yan , also known as the Great Yan , was a state established in 756 by the Tang Dynasty general An Lushan, after he rebelled against the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang in 755. The state was extinguished in 763, with the death of An Lushan's former subordinate, Shi Siming's son, Shi Chaoyi, who...

 were approaching the Tang capital Chang'an
Chang'an
Chang'an is an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an literally means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese. During the short-lived Xin Dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; yet after its fall in AD 23, the old name was restored...

, forcing Emperor Xuanzong to flee to Jiannan Circuit (劍南, headquartered in modern Chengdu
Chengdu
Chengdu , formerly transliterated Chengtu, is the capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China. It holds sub-provincial administrative status...

, Sichuan
Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

). Emperor Xuanzong's son and crown prince
Crown Prince
A crown prince or crown princess is the heir or heiress apparent to the throne in a royal or imperial monarchy. The wife of a crown prince is also titled crown princess....

 Li Heng
Emperor Suzong of Tang
Emperor Suzong of Tang , personal name Li Heng , né Li Sisheng , known as Li Jun from 725 to 736, known as Li Yu from 736 to 738, known briefly as Li Shao in 738, was an emperor of the Tang Dynasty and the son of Emperor Xuanzong...

 fled to Lingwu and was declared emperor there (as Emperor Suzong). Emperor Suzong summoned forces from various border outposts, including from Anxi. Li Siye was then the deputy military governor of Anxi, and he initially suggested to the military governor Liang Zai (梁宰) that they wait for more information. Duan Xiushi, however, rebuked him, pointing out that Emperor Suzong's position was desperate. Li Siye changed his mind and agreed with Duan, and Liang subsequently commissioned Li Siye to lead the Anxi forces to rendezvous with Emperor Suzong at Fengxiang (鳳翔, in modern Baoji
Baoji
Baoji is a prefecture-level city in Shaanxi province, China.-Geography:The prefecture-level city of Baoji has a population of 3,716,731 according to the 2010 Chinese census, inhabiting an area of . The city itself has a population of approximately 800,000. Surrounded on three sides by hills,...

, Shaanxi
Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

), with Duan as his deputy. On the way, under LI Siye's orders, the army followed strict discipline and did not cause damage to the people. When LI Siye's army arrived at Fengxiang, Emperor Suzong was very pleased, and had LI Siye serve as a commander of the imperial forces, along with Guo Ziyi
Guo Ziyi
Guo Ziyi , formally Prince Zhongwu of Fenyang , was a general during the Tang Dynasty who ended the An Shi Rebellion, and participated in expeditions against the peoples of Huihe and Tubo...

 and Pugu Huai'en
Pugu Huai'en
Pugu Huai'en , formally the Prince of Da'ning , was a general of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty, of Tiele ancestry. He was instrumental in the final suppression of the Anshi Rebellion, but rebelled against Emperor Daizong in fear that he was being accused of treason...

. At this time, it was said that Li Siye's weapon of choice was still his staff, and that he would lead his forces into battle, charging while swinging his staff, and was without rival. He was made the commander of the expedition forces from Anxi and Beiting (北庭, headquartered in modern Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture
Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture
Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture ) is an autonomous prefecture of Xinjiang in the People's Republic of China. It is located in the northeastern part of Xinjiang...

, Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

).

In fall 757, with joint forces of Tang, under overall command by Emperor Suzong's son Li Chu
Emperor Daizong of Tang
Emperor Daizong of Tang , personal name Li Yu , né Li Chu , was an emperor of the Chinese Tang Dynasty....

 the Prince of Guangping, and Tang's ally Huige, poised to attack Chang'an to recapture it from Yan forces. When the forces battled west of Chang'an, Tang forces initially were suffering losses and about to collapse. Li Siye, seeing this situation, took off his upper body clothing and rode on his horse, battering fleeing soldiers with his staff, to stop the panic. With the panic under control, Tang forces counterattacked and defeated Yan forces, forcing them out of Chang'an and allowing Tang to recapture Chang'an. He subsequently also contributed greatly to the recapture of the eastern capital Louyang from An Lushan's son An Qingxu
An Qingxu
An Qingxu , né An Renzhi , was a son of An Lushan, a general of the Chinese Tang Dynasty who rebelled and took imperial title of his own state of Yan. An Qingxu serves as the Prince of Jin from 756 - 757, and later killed his father and took imperial title for himself. He was eventually defeated...

 (who had assassinated An Lushan earlier in 757 and become the emperor of Yan). For Li Siye contributions, he was made the minister of army supplies (衛尉卿, Weiwei Qing) and created the Duke of Guo. He was also given the rank of military governor.

An Qingxu withdrew to Yecheng
Ye, China
Ye or Yecheng was an ancient Chinese city located in what is now Linzhang County, Hebei and the neighbouring Anyang County, Henan....

and took up defensive position there. Tang forces converged on Yecheng and put it under siege, but with the Tang forces under 10 different military governors, the attack was disorganized. Li Siye was often a leader in the assaults on Yecheng. In spring 759, during one of the attacks on Yecheng's defenses, he was hit by a stray arrow. He rested in the camp, and for some time it appeared that his wound would heal. However, when Tang forces launched a subsequent attack, when Li Siye heard the war drums being played, he yelled out in a loud voice, and suddenly, he bled profusely from his wound and died. When the news reached Emperor Suzong, he was shocked, and issued an edict praising Li Siye. He posthumously created Li Siye the Prince of Wuwei and allowed Li Siye's son Li Zuoguo (李佐國) to inherit the title.