Study of Wright’s Paper Sui Yang-Ti

Free «Study of Wright's Paper Sui Yang-Ti» Essay Sample

Yang-Ti has been considered throughout history as a political figure, a historical subject, and a bad-last-ruler personality. Arthur Wright, with the help of early literature, discusses the life of Yang-Ti as an ambitious young man born to the emperor and the empress of the Sui, who by means of hard work and scheming, ascended to power. The article further presents Yang-Ti through his glorious achievements as a ruler, from the lowest position to his considerable conquers and unification of the northern and southern empires. However, the failure that was unpredictable also forms a basis for analyzing the emperor in the light of the three traits, Wright argues in the article. Yang-Ti was a successful ruler, mostly in his early years of the regime, but his uncouth deeds superseded his contribution to the success of the Sui people. The information about Yang-Ti’s reign is available from the histories of the Tang historians, and later fiction novels and traditional entertainment stories. This article will elaborate Arthur Wright’s approach to detailing Yang-Ti as a historical individuality, political figure as well as a moral villain. Taking into consideration Wright’s main argument, evidence and the sources he uses, this essay will analyze his work.

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Historical Background

From the time of Han around 220 AD China was under the rule of different dynasties. The northern part was under the reign of invaders from central Asia, while the southern part was sparsely occupied by the natives. The invaders disintegrated the Confucius’ religion and social order as well as the Confucius’ system of education. In its place, confusion was replaced by the spread of Buddhism, mostly in the northern part. In the southern part, although Buddhism was also spreading rapidly, the roots of Taoism and Confucianism were apparent. Thus, the cultural practices and the way of life of the people of the north and the south were very different. Yang-Ti’s father, a former Northern Chou official, had started the Chinese reuniting endeavor, when he rose to power as the emperor in the 581. His quest to reunite China led him to invade the southern part and other dynasties so as to form one Chinese empire.

The Author’s Question

In this article, Wright addresses the broader topic of men and power, narrowing it down to Yang-Ti and his regime, just as the title suggests. Wright focuses his discussion on how well Yang-Ti performed as a ruler from early stages through to viceroy, to crown prince, and to the emperor, building for himself a name, historical image, and political position. The victory and failure of Yang-Ti as a ruler and a fiasco as a social figure were a result of his being a man. The ambition to be an emperor and his determination as well as industrious nature lift him up the ladder of authority; at the same time, those qualities led to his downfall since they blinded him from his social responsibility towards his ruling nature. Therefore, Yang-Ti was a triumphant ruler, a remarkable historical image but a social misfit, which the subjects could not endure.


In support of his arguments, Wright borrows arguments from different literary sources. The author derives most of his evidence from the Sui-Shu, a primary historical source, documented during the Tang Dynasty. This document details the occurrences and incidents of the Yang-Ti regime from the rich memory of the historians. The documents of the Tang Dynasty were trying to justify the Tang succession proving Yang-Ti as a wrong ruler but maintaining the integrity of evidence and the value of history. The writer also refers to fiction works such as Ch’i HsiaWu I and HsiaoWu I, Sui Yang-ti Yen-shih and Mi-lou Chi, Yang-Ti among others as primary sources of evidence to support his arguments. In these fiction books, the character of Yang-Ti is exemplified as immoral and debauched among other qualities, which support his figure as a societal villain. Drawing evidence from such primary sources, Wright also takes into consideration other secondary sources to enhance his arguments. He derives most of his ideas from previous works on the same topics such as Chinese Historical Criticism by Edwin C. Pulleyblank and Chung-kuo I-Isiao-shuo Shih by Kuo Chen-i among many others. The list of the secondary sources Wright uses in the development of his article is long, crediting his assumptions and conclusions on the subject in question. From these sources, Wright derives examples, evidence, and implications, which further support his arguments that Yang-Ti developed historical and political personalities and turned into a societal villain or the immoral figure, which led to his downfall. The use of a vast works cited makes Wright’s argument reliable and credible since the readers can see evidence from other literature.

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Types of Arguments

In the article Sui Yang-Ti: Personality and Stereotype, Wright broadly discusses the period of the rise of power of Yang-Ti from his childhood as a prince to his fall after a defeat by the eastern Turks. The author argues that Yang-Ti was a historical figure because he was the second, last ruler of the Sui during the disunity of the Chinese people (Wright, n.d.). Furthermore, his achievements while in authority qualify him to be a historical figure in the Chinese political history. Also, Wright presents Yang-Ti as a moral villain. On this note, Yang-Ti violated all moral rationale in his ascending to power during his reign resulting in his downfall. As a moral villain, Yang-Ti advanced atrocities of all kinds to his subjects for the purpose of his ambitions. Additionally, he misused his position to exploit his subjects, and neither their welfare nor death meant to him. Consequently, he lost his ambition and empire to the same commoners through dying by their hands. Besides, his failure to follow religious principles, which he earlier adored, contributed to his image as a social villain (Jing-Shen, 2009). Lastly, Wright argues that Yang-Ti builds his political personality through hard work, fate, and scheming (Wright, n.d.). He was naturally ambitious and dedicated to seeing his father’s empire grow. As he grew in ambition, he could not stop at anything, even killing his relatives, to ascend higher and higher in power. His political development happened due to multiple factors, which worked in his favor. His untimely fall was as a result of the political image he had created over the years of the regime. These three aspects of Yang-Ti are subjects to further studies, but there is evidence that supports their form and existence.

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Most Convincing Argument

The most convincing argument in the article is Yang-Ti as a social villain. Yang-Ti was very successful in most of the political adventures and conquest, but he failed to uphold the integrity of humanity. Most of Yang-Ti’s political achievements were at the expense of human life. Yang-Ti pursued political success through direct execution of punishment for the commoners, indirect execution of schemes and killings of millions during advancement constructions. The murdering, not in the battlefield, of so many people to attain high political position and power was the worst autocratic governance that Yang-Ti could have done (Lorge, 2005). From the political and development perspective, Yang-Ti was very successful, and he had a power to reckon with and admire. However, in the course of his success, Yang-Ti led to the death of most of his subjects, while the majority spent their lives in misery. In his pursuit of a luxurious life, Yang-Ti depleted the resources his father had left in the store which could have been of help to the subjects. Additionally, he continually increases taxes and levies encumbering the subjects with unbearable financial burdens. The lives of the subjects worsened under the regime of Yang-Ti. For every construction that took place in the dynasty, Yang-Ti would recruit numerous workers, but approximately half would die under pressure and poor conditions (Jing-Shen, 2009). The capital in the northern east, the canals connecting the northern and the southern parts of the dynasty, among many other developmental projects, all led to the death of many workers. The burying of people living along a shallow canal while alive was among the most heinous crimes that Yang-Ti committed. As a political leader, Yang-Ti could not easily accept the defeat by the Turks, and he was justified to try attacking again. However, considering the financial and human resources of his empire, it was irrational for the emperor to commence an attack soon after. His yearning to rebuild his lost reputation and defeat the enemy added to his atrocities against his subjects. He was forcing them to go to battle while unprepared and levying more taxes to supplement his huge budgets. The subjects, who were already living in constrained conditions, could hardly take in more pressure. Although the bad-last-ruler persona is mostly painted from fiction sources, the deeds of the emperor, as presented in the argument by Wright, apparently make him the social villain.

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Arthur Wright successfully details Yang-Ti as a historical personality, political figure, and a moral villain. The author proves his argument by evidence derived from primary and secondary sources. From a young prince to a viceroy, to the crown prince and later the emperor, Yang-Ti was a successful political figure. Wright emphasizes Yang-Ti’s ability as a leader and a military commander in conquering, integrating, and expanding his father’s empire. The way Yang-Ti conducted his rule through culminating the support of the southerners, the Confucians, and Taos proves his ability as a political figure. Also, through all his achievements, as well as failures, Yang-Ti earns his position as a historical persona. Wright makes this presentation of Yang-Ti as an immoral individual very convincing. Even if Yang-Ti was outstanding in his political quest and made credible development, his atrocities towards his subjects would supersede the rest. He did more evil to his subjects than any other previous ruler, which overlaps his achievements. Wright employs a variety of both primary and secondary sources, supporting his argument and providing specific evident in support of those facts. The credibility of his evidence and the article is attributable to the wide range of sources that he uses.


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