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Prince Lan-Ling of Northern Qi, the masked prince


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Prince Lan-Ling was one of my favorites in Chinese history. I learned about him by accident many years ago when I was reading how Japan had kept some old Chinese songs and dances in their No Theater. "Prince Lan-Ling Entering the Battle Field" 《陵王入陣曲》 was the one of the examples. Since then, I have collected some information about him. He was not very well known among Chinese because his dynasty was not one of the important ones. However, I think his story was an interesting one, and I would like to share them with you.

The following is the quote from wikipedia.org:



"Gan Changgong, also named Gao Xiaoguan, He was a prince and a general in Northern Qi dynasty, and he was called the prince of "Lan Ling". He was the grandson of Gao Huan, and the 4th son of Gao Cheng. In the legend, he was femininely beautiful. In order to scare his enemies on the battle fields, he wore a mask when he fought in battles."

Also, "日本的雅樂的曲目有《陵王》、《陵王入陣曲》。"

Also, "The No theater of Japan still have the programs of and ."

About Gao Huan 高歡, the following is the quote from wikipedia.org:


"高歡是北齊高祖神武皇帝, 為鮮卑化的漢人."

"Gao Huan was the Gao Zu Shen Wu Emperor of the Northern Qi dynasty, and he was a Han Chinese who behaved like a XianBei. "

Gao Huan was also the father of the founding emperor or Northern Qi dynasty, Gao Yang 高洋. Gao Huan was the prime minister of Eastern Wei, and his status in court was like Cao Cao in the court of Han; i.e. he was the power behind the throne. His eldest son, Gao Cheng, inherited that position, but Gao Cheng was killed by a slave. Then, Gao Huan's 2nd son, Gao Yang (the brother with the same mother as Gao Cheng) inherited GAo Cheng's position and took over the throne of Eastern Wei and became the founding emperor of the Northern Qi dynasty.

Gao Cheng, Gao Ganggong's father, raped Gao Yang's wife when Gao Cheng was in power. After Gao Cheng was dead, Gao Yang raped Gao Cheng's wife Princess Feng2 Yi4 馮翊公主 (the sister to the last emperor in Eatern Wei dynasty) in revenge. I am not sure whether she was Gao Changgong's mother or not.

In http://baike.baidu.com/view/48253.htm, it mentioned Gao Cheng had 6 sons, and Gao Chenggong was his 4th son. The other 5 sons' mothers were all recorded in the proper historical records, except for Gao Chenggong --- "兰陵王长恭不得母氏姓” There was no last name for Prince Lan-Ling's mother. Baidu said that there was probably some hidden reasons. It was probably true. The Gao's families were known for rape and incest, so .......you never know.

However, in this horrible family, Gao Chenggong had pretty good personality. The emperor gave him 20 concubines, and he only accepted one. He accepted one concubine because he didn't want to offend the emperor. Otherwise, he didn't want any.

His famous battle was the rescue of city of Luo Yang 洛阳. He led 500 cavalries went through the surrounding Northern Zhou's army to the outside of Lo Yang. The soldiers in Luo Yang couldn't recognize him, so he took off his helmet (not the mask - mask was supposed to be the legend part) to show the soldiers his face. Then, the soldiers knew that was him, and dropped several hundred archers from the top of the city gate to help him. Soon, the army of Northern Zhou was defeated. In order to celebrate his victory, the warriors came up with the dance and song of the , and they wore masks to dance.

The history recorded that he was tenderly handsome and had beautiful voice. When he was a general, he paid attentions to details. Whenever he got something good, he shared them with his soldiers. Basically, he was a wonderful general.

However, he was known to love money and took a lot of bribery. One of his assistant asked him whether his reason for taking the bribery was to avoid being suspected by the emperor. He said, "Yes." The assistant suggested that the better way was to retire and stay away from the politics. However, he was still very young at the time -- about 20ish. He didn't retire, but he did pretend he was sick and stayed home a lot.

The last emperor of Northern Qi heard the "Song of Prince Lan-Ling Entering the Battle Field", and he told Gao Chenggong not to get deep into the enemy formation in battle because it was too dangerous. Gao Chenggong said, "Because it was our family business, I let myself go." When the emperor heard that, he got nervous and sent over a cup of poisoned wine later to order Gao Chenggong to kill himself. Gao Chenggong was probably in his early 30's. It was 573 A.D. Four years after he was dead, Northern Qi was destroyed by the family of Yuwen. All Gao's family members were killed.

When I first found out Prince Lan-Ling 蘭陵王 was born into the worst family ever in the history of China, I was very surprised. From what I know about this family, almost all of them were monsters and beasts who could not even stay away from their own female relatives. After studied his life, I felt he was doubly good for he did not learn from his grandfather, father, and uncles. I felt sad that such a good man had to die so young and so meaninglessly. I wished he had die in battle instead of being killed by his emperor.

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