Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei
Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei ((北)魏孝文帝) (467–499), personal name né Tuoba Hong (拓拔宏), later Yuan Hong (元宏), was an emperor of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei.
Emperor Xiaowen implemented a drastic policy of sinicization, intending to centralize the government and make the multi-ethnic state more easy to govern. These policies included changing artistic styles to reflect Chinese preferences and forcing the population to speak the language and to wear Chinese clothes. He compelled his own Xianbei people and others to adopt Chinese surnames, and changed his own family surname from Tuoba to Yuan. He also encouraged intermarriage between Xianbei and Han.
In 494, Emperor Xiaowen moved the Northern Wei capital from Pingcheng (平城, in modern Datong, Shanxi) to Luoyang, a city long acknowledged as a major center in Chinese history. The shift in the capital was mirrored by a shift in tactics from active defense to passive defense against the Rouran. While the capital was moved to Luoyang, the military elite remained centered at the old capital, widening the differences between the administration and the military. The population at the old capital remained fiercely conservative, while the population at Luoyang were much more eager to adopt Xiaowen's policies of sinicization. His reforms were met with resistance by the Xianbei elite. In 496, two plots by Xianbei nobles, one centered around his crown prince Yuan Xun, and one centered around his distant uncle Yuan Yi (元颐). By 497, Xiaowen had destroyed the conspiracies and forced Yuan Xun to commit suicide.
Unfortunately for Emperor Xiaowen, his sinicization policies had their downsides—namely, he adopted the Jin Dynasty social stratification methods, leading to incompetent nobles being put into positions of power while capable men of low birth not being able to advance in his government. Further, his wholesale adoption of Han culture and fine arts caused the nobles to be corrupt in order to afford the lifestyles of the Han elite, leading to further erosion to effective rule. By the time of his grandson Emperor Xiaoming, Northern Wei was in substantial upheaval due to agrarian revolts, and by 534 had been divided into two halves, each of which would soon be taken over by warlords.
One of Xiaowen's enduring legacies was the establishment of the equal-field system in China, a system of government-allotted land that would last until the An Shi Rebellion in the mid Tang Dynasty (618-907).