As Military Governor
While the military governors of the region were generally ruling their circuits de facto independently from the imperial regime at the time, Liu Ji was said to treat Emperor Dezong with respect, often offering tributes, and Emperor Dezong also treated him with respect, making him honorary minister of defense. Soon, however, he was embroiled in a dispute with his brother Liu Yong. When he succeeded Liu Peng with Liu Yong's support, he made Liu Yong the prefect of Ying Prefecture (瀛州, in modern Cangzhou) and promised to let Liu Yong succeed him. However, Liu Ji soon made his oldest son Liu Gun (劉緄) deputy military governor, apparently designating Liu Gun as his successor. By 792, Liu Yong, displeased, directly submitted to Emperor Dezong and contributed soldiers to the winter defense against Tufan to the west of Chang'an. Liu Ji, in anger, attacked Liu Yong. By 794, Liu Yong, unable to stand against Liu Ji, abandoned Ying Prefecture and took his soldiers and people west to the region directly under imperial control. In 796, as part of a large number of honorary titles given to military governors, Liu Ji was made honorary chancellor with the designation Tong Zhongshu Menxia Pingzhangshi (同中書門下平章事). In 800, another brother, Liu Yuan, then the prefect of Zhuo Prefecture (涿州, in modern Baoding, Hebei), was resistant of Liu Ji's orders, and Liu Ji defeated and captured him. Liu Ji then delivered him to Chang'an, where Emperor Dezong gave him a minor office and let him stay in Chang'an.
In 806, by which time Emperor Dezong's grandson Emperor Xianzong was emperor, Liu Ji was given the greater honorary chancellor title of Shizhong (侍中). In 807, he had disputes with his neighboring military governors — Wang Shizhen the military governor of Chengde Circuit and Zhang Maozhao (張茂昭) the military governor of Yiwu Circuit (義武, headquartered in modern Baoding), and Emperor Xianzong had to dispatch the imperial attendant Fang Shi (房式) to mediate.
In 809, Wang Shizhen died, and Emperor Xianzhong initially refused to follow Emperor Dezong's precedent and allow Wang Shizhen's son Wang Chengzong to succeed as military governor of Chengde, until he extracted from Wang Chengzong a promise to surrender two of Chengde's prefectures to imperial control. Wang Chengzong soon reneged on the promise, however, and Emperor Xianzong ordered a campaign against Chengde. Liu Ji's emissary to Weibo Circuit (魏博, headquartered in modern Handan, Hebei), Tan Zhong (譚忠), was able to persuade Weibo's military governor Tian Ji'an not to join Chengde's cause, and then persuaded Liu Ji himself to attack Chengde — pointing out that if he did not, Emperor Xianzong would believe that he was complicit in Wang Chengzong's resistance. In spring 810, Liu Ji thus launched his own campaign against Chengde, capturing a number of towns. Emperor Xianzong gave him the honorary chancellor title of Zhongshu Ling (中書令).
Meanwhile, Liu Ji had his second son Liu Zong accompany him on the campaign, while leaving Liu Gun in charge at headquarters. As Liu Ji was at Raoyang (饒陽, in modern Hengshui, Hebei), he grew ill. In Liu Ji's illness, Liu Zong conspired with the staff members Zhang Qi (張玘) and Cheng Guobao (成國寶), forging orders that indicated that Emperor Xianzong was displeased with Liu Ji's lack of progress and read to replace him with Liu Gun. Liu Ji, in shock and anger, executed tens of officers who were friendly to Liu Gun and issued an order summoning Liu Gun. Liu Zong then poisoned Liu Ji's drink, and Liu Ji died of poisoning. Liu Zong then, in Liu Ji's name, caned Liu Gun to death, and took over control of the circuit and the army. Emperor Xianzong posthumously honored Liu Ji and gave him the posthumous name Zhuangwu (莊武, meaning "combative and martial").
Read more about this topic: Liu Ji (general)
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