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Retired Emperor (title)
Chinese name
Chinese 太上皇
Japanese name
Kanji 太上天皇
Korean name
Hangul 상황
Vietnamese name
Quốc ngữ Thái thượng hoàng

Retired Emperor, Grand Emperor, or Emperor Emeritus is a title occasionally used throughout East Asian feudal regimes for former emperors who had (at least in name) abdicated voluntarily to their sons. This title appeared in the history of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Although technically no longer the reigning sovereign, there are instances like the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty in China or several emperors of the Trần Dynasty in Vietnam, where the emperor continued to exert considerable if not more power than the reigning emperor.

Contents

China

The title was name in Chinese as Taishang Huang (Chinese: 太上皇pinyin: tàishàng huáng). The title originated, however, from Liu Bang (Emperor Gao of Han)'s father Liu Taigong[1], who was honored as such after Liu Bang declared himself emperor in 202, even though Liu Taigong was never emperor himself.

Instances of Chinese rulers who were granted the title Taishang Huang:

  • Emperor Gaozu of the Tang, who abdicated in 626 and was made Taishang Huang until his death in 635.
  • Emperor Ruizong of Tang, who abdicated in 712 and was made Taishang Huang until his death in 716.
  • Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, who abdicated in 756 and was made Taishang Huang until his death in 762.
  • Zhengtong Emperor (Yingzong) of the Ming from his capture by the Mongols in 1449 until his return to the throne in 1457.
  • Qianlong Emperor (Gaozong) of the Qing who abdicated in 1796 and was made Taishang Huang until his death in 1799.

Japan

In Japan the title was Daijō-tennō (kanji: 太上天皇 Hepburn: daijō-tennō), or just Jōkō (kanji: 上皇; Hepburn: jōkō). In Japan, there was a political system called Cloistered rule, in which Jōkō exerted power and influence from behind the scenes even after retirement.

Korea

In Korean the title was Sang-hwang (Hangul: 상황; Hanja: 上皇), or sometimes even Taesang-hwang (hangul: 태상황; hanja: 太上皇). After 1897, when Korean Joseon Dynasty became the Korean Empire, there was only two emperor ascend the throne: Emperor Gojong, who was forced to abdicate by the Japanese in 1907. However, he was given the title Tae-hwangje (Hangul: 태황제; Hanja: 太皇帝). also another emperor was Emperor Sunjong. but after the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty of 1910, the Imperial Household was demoted by the Empire of Japan.

Vietnam

In Vietnam the title was Thai thuong hoang (quoc ngu: Thái thượng hoàng; chu nom: 太上皇), or just Thuong hoang (quoc ngu: Thượng hoàng; chu nom: 上皇).

Notes

  1. ^ Liu Taigong is a common reference to him, but not his name. His name is disputed.
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