Gao Huan (simplified Chinese: 高欢; traditional Chinese: 高歡; pinyin: Gāo Huān) (496–547), nickname Heliuhun (賀六渾), formally Prince Xianwu of Qi (齊獻武王), later further formally honored by Northern Qi initially as Emperor Xianwu (獻武皇帝, literally "the wise and martial emperor"), then as Emperor Shenwu (神武皇帝, literally "the unnamable and martial emperor") with the temple name Gaozu (高祖), was the Han Chinese paramount general of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei and Northern Wei's branch successor state Eastern Wei. Though being ethnically Han, Gao was deeply affected by Xianbei culture and was often considered more Xianbei than Han by his contemporaries. During his career, he and his family became firmly in control of the government of Eastern Wei, and eventually, in 550, his son Gao Yang forced Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei to yield the throne to him, establishing the Gao clan as the imperial clan of a new Northern Qi state.
Gao Huan was born in 496, at Northern Wei's northern garrison Huaishuo (懷朔, in modern Baotou, Inner Mongolia). He was ethnically Han, but his family, having resided at Huaishuo ever since his grandfather Gao Mi (高謐) was exiled there for faults while serving as a Northern Wei official, had largely been acculturated in the Xianbei ways. (Gao Huan's nickname Heliuhun was a Xianbei name.) His father was named Gao Shu (高樹), and his mother was Lady Han, probably Gao Shu's wife, who died soon after his birth, and he was raised at the house of his older sister and her husband, Wei Jing (尉景). In his young days, his family was poor, and he became a servant at the old Northern Wei capital Pingcheng (平城, in modern Datong, Shanxi). While serving at Pingcheng, Lou Zhaojun an ethnic Xianbei, and the daughter of a wealthy house, saw him and was impressed with his appearance and behavior, and she married him despite opposition. It was only after this marriage that Gao had sufficient money to buy a horse, and he became a courier for the Pingcheng defense headquarters, often delivering official mail to and from the capital Luoyang.
In 519, Gao happened to be at Luoyang when a mob of soldiers, angry over the minister Zhang Yi (張彝)'s new policy of excluding soldiers from civil service, sieged Zhang's house and killed him. The regent Empress Dowager Hu (Emperor Xiaoming's mother) did not dare to punish them, but largely pardoned them except for eight leaders. Gao was unimpressed by Empress Dowager Hu's actions, and believed that Northern Wei was on the verge of collapse. When he returned to Pingcheng, he sold his properties and used the funds to gather associates around him, stating that if disturbances occurred, the property might not be his any more anyway. His associates around this time included, in addition to his brother-in-law Wei Jing, Sima Ziru (司馬子如), Liu Gui (劉貴), Jia Xianzhi (賈顯智), Sun Teng (孫騰), Hou Jing, and Cai Jun (蔡儁). Together they were often in the countryside, and when they saw injustices, they would seek to correct them.
In 525, in the midst of agrarian rebellions against Northern Wei rule, Gao and his associates joined one of the major rebel leaders, Du Luozhou (杜洛周). However, Gao soon became unimpressed with Du's behavior, and he escaped from Du's army. He then joined another rebel leader, Ge Rong (葛榮), but eventually went to the Northern Wei general and Xiongnu tribal leader Erzhu Rong. By this time, Liu Gui was already serving under Erzhu, and he often praised Gao's talent, but when Erzhu met Gao, he was not initially impressed. However, when Gao was able to tame a very wild horse, Erzhu became impressed, and they became closer and closer, with Gao pointing out that with the empire in disarray, it would be a good opportunity for Erzhu to seize power.
Under the Erzhus
Erzhu Rong was impressed with Gao Huan's talents, and he made Gao one of his military commanders. In 528, Emperor Xiaoming, displeased at the hold on power that Empress Dowager Hu's lover Zheng Yan (鄭儼) and Zheng's associate Xu Ge (徐紇) had, entered into a conspiracy with Erzhu to have Erzhu advance on the capital to force Empress Dowager Hu to kill Zheng and Xu. Erzhu therefore began to march on the capital, and he made Gao his forward commander. On the way, however, Emperor Xiaoming ordered him to stop, but the news of the conspiracy still leaked, and Empress Dowager Hu poisoned Emperor Xiaoming to death and declared his distant toddler nephew Yuan Zhao emperor.
Erzhu refused to recognize Yuan Zhao as emperor, and he continued his march on Luoyang, declaring Yuan Ziyou the Prince of Changle emperor (as Emperor Xiaozhuang). Luoyang's defenses collapsed, and Erzhu arrested and threw Empress Dowager Hu and Yuan Zhao into the Yellow River to drown. Believing that the imperial officials would never obey him, he massacred a large number of them (including Emperor Xiaozhuang's brothers), and Emperor Xiaozhuang, fearing what would come next, offered to yield the throne to Erzhu. Gao suggested that Erzhu accept the offer, but Erzhu hesitated and ultimatedly ruled against it. His general Heba Yue (賀拔岳), who opposed Erzhu's taking of the throne, suggested Erzhu that Gao should be executed to show his good faith, but Erzhu ruled against it. In fact, for Gao's contributions to the campaign, Emperor Xiaozhuang created him the Count of Tongdi.
Erzhu subsequently carried out a number of campaigns against agrarian rebels to try to reunify the empire. Gao thereafter participated in the campaigns against Ge Rong and Xing Gao (邢杲), as well as the rebel general Yang Kan (羊侃), serving with distinction. On one occasion, when Erzhu Rong was asking his commanders for opinions on who could succeed him as the commanding general of the army if he were no longer there, most commanders opined that Erzhu Zhao could, but Erzhu Rong himself opined that Gao Huan was the only one capable of doing so, and he warned Erzhu Zhao, "You are no match for Gao Huan, and one day he will surely pierce through your nose." Erzhu Rong thereafter made Gao the governor of Jin Province (晉州, roughly modern Linfen, Shanxi), and while governor, Gao gathered much wealth, intending for use later.
In 530, Emperor Xiaozhuang, believing that Erzhu would eventually seize the throne, ambushed and killed him in the palace. The Erzhus, led by Erzhu Zhao and Erzhu Rong's cousin Erzhu Shilong, fought against Emperor Xiaozhuang, and Erzhu Zhao was thereafter marching on Luoyang, declaring Erzhu Rong's wife the Princess Beixiang's nephew Yuan Ye emperor. Erzhu Zhao summoned Gao to aid him, but Gao declined, using the excuse that he needed to fight against local agrarian rebels. Erzhu Zhao was displeased, but for the time being did not act against Gao. Later in the year, Erzhu Zhao captured Luoyang and arrested Emperor Xiaozhuang, delivering Emperor Xiaozhuang to his headquarters at Jinyang (晉陽, in modern Taiyuan, Shanxi). Gao wrote a letter to Erzhu Zhao urging him not to harm the emperor, but Erzhu Zhao refused to answer, and subsequently strangled Emperor Xiaozhuang to death.
Despite this, Gao remained nominally under the Erzhus' command structure, and when, around the new year, the general Gedouling Bufan (紇豆陵步番), loyal to Emperor Xiaozhuang, attacked Erzhu Zhao and initially defeated him, approaching Jinyang, Gao came to Erzhu Zhao's aid, and together they defeated and killed Gedouling. After the battle, Erzhu Zhao and Gao swore themselves to be brothers. Erzhu Zhao, trusting Gao, commissioned him with Ge Rong's former troops (largely Xianbei) and, accepting his suggestion, allowed him to take his new troops east of the Taihang Mountains to seek food.
In spring 531, Gao Huan was posturing to attack his distant relative Gao Gan (高乾), who had declared a rebellion at Xindu (信都, in modern Hengshui, Hebei), against the Erzhus. However, Gao Gan and Li Yuanzhong (李元忠) were able to persuade him that the Erzhus, because of their corruption, were hated by the people, and he could overthrow them. Gao Huan thereafter stirred his troops by forging orders from Erzhu Zhao that indicated that Erzhu Zhao was about to turn them into servants for his own troops. Gao Huan's troops believed the forged orders, and when he declared a rebellion in summer 531, they supported him.
Rebellion against the Erzhus
Initially, Gao Huan's rebellion formally continued to recognize Emperor Jiemin, whom Erzhu Shilong had made emperor in spring 531 to replace Yuan Ye (whose distant imperial lineage made him appear inappropriate as emperor). However, at Sun Teng's urging, in fall 531, Gao declared another distant member of the imperial Yuan clan, Yuan Lang, emperor.
Despite Gao's reputation for being a capable soldier, his army was still weak, and initially, most key members of the Erzhu clan did not take him seriously, except Erzhu Shilonog. Soon, Erzhu Shilong's brothers Erzhu Zhongyuan (爾朱仲遠) and Erzhu Dulü (爾朱度律), as well as Erzhu Zhao, converged against Gao, but Gao successfully spread rumors to make the Erzhus suspicious of each other, due to existing conflicts that Erzhu Zhao and Erzhu Shilong already had, and Erzhu Zhongyuan and Erzhu Dulü subsequently withdrew. Gao then defeated Erzhu Zhao in battle in winter 531, forcing Erzhu Zhao to withdraw as well. In spring 532, Gao captured the important city Yecheng, and used it as a base for subsequent operations.
The Erzhus soon reconciled, and soon, Erzhu Zhao, Erzhu Zhongyuan, Erzhu Dulü, and Erzhu Tianguang converged on Yecheng. However, despite the Erzhus' numerical superiority, Gao defeated them, forcing Erzhu Zhao to flee back to Jinyang and Erzhu Zhongyuan back to his base Dong Commandery (東郡, in modern Anyang, Henan). Erzhu Tianguang and Erzhu Dulü tried to retreat to Luoyang, but at this time, the general Husi Chun rebelled against the Erzhus in Luoyang itself, killing Erzhu Shilong and another brother of Erzhu Shilong, Erzhu Yanbo (爾朱彥伯), and he also captured Erzhu Dulü and Erzhu Tianguang in battle, delivering them to Gao. Erzhu Zhongyuan soon abandoned Dong Commandery and fled to rival Liang Dynasty, leaving Erzhu Zhao as the only major surviving member of the Erzhu clan. Gao marched toward Luoyang, then controlled by Husi, with Yuan Lang.
However, Gao was beginning to believe that Yuan Lang, due to his lineage's being distant from recent emperors, to be an inappropriate choice to be emperor as well. He toyed with the idea of allowing Emperor Jiemin to remain emperor, but decided against it after his generals Wei Lan'gen (魏蘭根) and Cui Ling (name not in Unicode) advised him that Emperor Jiemin would be difficult to control in the future. He also considered Emperor Xiaowen's son Yuan Yue (元悅) the Prince of Huai'nan, and he welcomed Yuan Yue back from Liang, but he subsequently heard that Yuan Yue was arbitrary in his actions, and so decided against it as well. Instead, he offered the throne to Emperor Xiaowen's grandson Yuan Xiu the Prince of Pingyang, and Yuan Xiu accepted, taking the throne as Emperor Xiaowu. Gao became the paramount general of the empire, although the imperial government became largely run by Husi Chun and Emperor Xiaowu's associate Wang Sizheng (王思政).
During Emperor Xiaowu's reign
Emperor Xiaowu initially deferred to Gao Huan, who continued to command the largest army of the state and took over Erzhu Rong's old headquarters at Jinyang as his own, on most decisions, and Emperor Xiaowu married Gao's daughter as his empress in late 532. He also created Gao the Prince of Bohai, a title that Yuan Lang had initially created Gao in 531 but Gao continuously declined until winter 533. However, the relationship between Emperor Xiaowu and Gao soon deteriorated, over Emperor Xiaowu's suspicions that Gao had designs on the throne, and over Emperor Xiaowu's desires to reassert imperial authority. Emperor Xiaowu therefore tried to align himself with independent generals, the brothers Heba Yue (賀拔岳), who controlled the western provinces, and Heba Sheng (賀拔勝), who controlled the southern provinces. Gao tried to remain deferential to Emperor Xiaowu outwardly, but was becoming increasingly displeased with the emperor's independence.
Gao tried to undermine Emperor Xiaowu's allies. In winter 533, he sent his associate Zhai Song (翟嵩) to persuade Heba Yue's lieutenant Houmochen Yue (侯莫陳悅) to betray Heba, while in spring 534 ambushing a major tribal leader, Gedouling Yili (紇豆陵依利), whom Emperor Xiaowu had also made overtures to, taking over Gedouling's troops. Soon thereafter, Homouchen assassinated Heba Yue, but Homouchen missed an opportunity to take over Heba Yue's troops. Subsequently, those troops supported Heba Yue's assistant Yuwen Tai as their leader, and Yuwen soon defeated Houmochen, who committed suicide. Emperor Xiaowu subsequently entered into an alliance with Yuwen. When Gao tried to make overtures to Yuwen, Yuwen arrested his messengers and delivered them to Emperor Xiaowu.
Emperor Xiaowu soon prepared a campaign against Gao, and he, trying to catch Gao by surprise, issued a secret edict to Gao claiming to be actually planning to attack Yuwen and Heba Sheng. Gao, however, saw through Emperor Xiaowu's plot, and marched toward Luoyang. Wang Sizheng, believing that the imperial troops were not strong enough to resist Gao's, suggested Emperor Xiaowu to flee to Yuwen's territory, and Emperor Xiaowu decided to do so, rejecting Husi Chun's offer to take one final stand at Luoyang, particularly when Heba Sheng failed to come to the emperor's aid and when Yuwen's troops failed to arrive quickly. It took Gao only a month to reach Luoyang, and Emperor Xiaowu fled west, encountering Yuwen's troops on the way, and had them escort him back to Yuwen's headquarters at Chang'an, where he reestablished the imperial government and made Yuwen prime minister.
Meanwhile, Gao Huan took over the Luoyang region, and soon also defeated Heba Sheng, taking over his territory and forcing him to flee to Liang. Gao then wrote repeated petitions to Emperor Xiaowu, requesting that he return to Luoyang and indicating that he was willing to return to the status quo ante. Emperor Xiaowu did not respond to any of Gao's overtures. Gao therefore made Yuan Shanjian, the son and heir apparent of Emperor Xiaowu's cousin Yuan Dan (元亶) the Prince of Qinghe emperor (as Emperor Xiaojing) and moving the capital from Luoyang to Yecheng, thus formally dividing the empire into two (Eastern Wei under Emperor Xiaojing and Western Wei under Emperor Xiaowu), albeit with each claiming to be the rightful one.
During Emperor Xiaojing's reign
Eastern Wei's territorial size and military strength was far stronger than Western Wei's, and Gao made a number of attempts to try to end the division by conquering Western Wei, but the battles largely proved to be inconclusive, allowing Western Wei to stand. Periodically, Western Wei generals who had prior relationships with Gao would defect to Eastern Wei, and Gao at times carried out campaigns deep within Western Wei territory. However, Western Wei was able to portray Gao as a renegade general who expelled the emperor, and often during campaigns, local populace would assist Western Wei troops because they believed Western Wei's characterization. During this period, Gao also tried to foster harmony between the ethnic Xianbei and Han, persuading the Xianbei that they needed the Han to practice agriculture to be fed, and persuading the Han that they needed the Xianbei's military aptitude to protect them. He saw Emperor Xiaowu's flight as a blot on his personal history, so he treated Emperor Xiaojing with great formal respect, deferring to Emperor Xiaojing in all public occasions.
in spring 535, Gao Huan learned that around the new year 535, Emperor Xiaowu, who had a falling out with Yuwen Tai over Yuwen's refusal to condone his incestuous relationships with his cousins, had been poisoned to death by Yuwen. Gao suggested that an official mourning period be held for Emperor Xiaowu, and while there were disagreements, eventually a mourning period was held.
Also in spring 535, a sex scandal affected Gao's household. Gao's heir apparent Gao Cheng, born of his wife Princess Lou, had an affair with Gao Huan's concubine Zheng Dache (鄭大車), and the affair was discovered. Gao Huan caned Gao Cheng and put him under house arrest, and refused to meet with Gao Cheng's mother Princess Lou. He also considered replacing Gao Cheng as heir apparent with Gao You (高浟), the son of his concubine Erzhu Ying'e, the daughter of Erzhu Rong who had previously been Emperor Xiaozhuang's empress. After intercession by Gao Huan's friend Sima Ziru, who reminded him how much Princess Lou had done for him before he had accomplished great things and who used violent methods to force the servant girls who were witnesses to the affair to recant, Gao Huan calmed down and did not replace Gao Cheng.
Around the new year 536, Gao Huan tried to make an alliance with Rouran against Western Wei, by marrying a princess to Rouran's Chiliantoubingdoufa Khan Yujiulü Anagui. However, Yujiulü Anagui soon took a Western Wei princess as consort as well, and the alliance did not materialize.
In spring 536, Gao made a deep incursion into Western Wei territory, capturing Xia Province (夏州, roughly modern Yulin, Shaanxi), while also rescuing his ally Cao Ni (曹泥) the governor of Ling Province (靈州, roughly modern Yinchuan, Ningxia), who had been trapped behind Western Wei lines. The Western Wei general Moqi Pu (万俟普), his son Moqi Shouluogan (万俟受洛干), and other generals Chigan Baole (叱干寶樂) and Poliuhan Chang (破六韓常), who were stationed in the western Western Wei territory, also joined Gao and returned to Eastern Wei with him.
Also in spring 536, Gao Huan, at Gao Cheng's request, made Gao Cheng the Eastern Wei prime minister, despite the fact that Gao Cheng was only 14 at this point. Gao Cheng was sent to Yecheng, and he took over actual reign of the Eastern Wei imperial government.
In spring 537, Gao Huan launched a major attack three-pronged on Western Wei, commanded by himself and his key generals Dou Tai (竇泰) and Gao Aocao (高敖曹), intending to draw Yuwen's troops to himself while having Dou advance deep into Western Wei territory. Yuwen, pretending to be ready to abandon Chang'an to withdraw to modern eastern Gansu, instead launched a surprise attack on Dou's troops, slaughtering most of them. Dou committed suicide. Gao Huan and Gao Aocao were forced to withdraw. In counterattacks, Western Wei took modern western Henan and southwestern Shanxi.
In winter 537, after news that the Guanzhong region (the heart of the Western Wei state) was suffering from a major famine, Gao Huan launched another major attack on Western Wei. He encountered Yuwen at Shawan (沙苑, in modern Weinan, Shaanxi), and, believing that he had overwhelming numerical advantage, rejected the strategy of Hulü Qiangju (斛律羌舉) to bypass Yuwen and make a direct attack on Chang'an, and his own initial inclination to set fire to the grass fields at Shawan to have it burn Yuwen's troops, instead directly engaging Yuwen in battle. Yuwen's troops, however, fought hard, and they defeated Gao's troops, forcing Gao to withdraw. In light of his defeat, the southern provinces and Luoyang area largely rebelled and declared allegiance to Western Wei, but in spring 538 Gao sent Hou Jing against the southern provinces, recapturing them.
In 538, after Emperor Wen of Western Wei married Yujiulü Anagui's daughter as his empress, Yujiulü Anagui cut off relations between Rouran and Eastern Wei.
In fall 538, Gao Huan, assisted by Hou Jing and Gao Aocao, put Luoyang under siege. Yuwen and Emperor Wen led the Western Wei troops to aid Luoyang's defender, the general Dugu Xin (獨孤信), and a largely inconclusive battle with heavy losses on both sides occurred—with Western Wei being able to kill Gao Aocao, and Yuwen nearly killed in the battle as well. However, eventually Western Wei troops were forced to abandon Luoyang and withdraw, and at the same time, the Eastern Wei general Zhao Qingque (趙青雀), who had been captured by Western Wei in the Battle of Shawan, rebelled against Western Wei at Chang'an, forcing the Western Wei officials who remained in Chang'an to escort the crown prince Yuan Qin out of Chang'an. However, Gao Huan was unable to take advantage of the disturbance that Zhao caused, and Yuwen was able to return to Chang'an to suppress Zhao's rebellion. Meanwhile, Western Wei also recaptured some of the southern provinces. For the next few years, while there continued to be border battles, no major campaigns was initiated by either Eastern Wei or Western Wei.
In summer 539, Gao Huan gave his second daughter to Emperor Xiaojing in marriage as Emperor Xiaojing's wife and empress.
In winter 541, Gao Huan had Emperor Xiaojing issue an edict standardizing measurement units for cloth, to avoid the populace's being unfairly taxed.
In winter 542, Gao Huan launched a major attack on the Western Wei border city of Yubi (玉壁, in modern Yuncheng, Shanxi), but the Western Wei defenses, with Wang Sizheng commanding, held, and Gao was forced to withdraw.
In spring 543, another sexual wrongdoing by Gao Cheng would lead to a new campaign between Eastern Wei and Western Wei. The official Gao Zhongmi (高仲密, Gao Aocao's brother), already fearful over his situation because one of Gao Cheng's major assistants, Cui Xian (崔暹), had tried to pick his faults after he divorced Cui Xian's sister, was further aggravated when Gao Cheng tried to rape his second wife, Li Changyi (李昌儀). He therefore surrendered the important garrison of Hulao (虎牢, in modern Zhengzhou, Henan) to Western Wei. Yuwen led his troops to try to come to Gao Zhongmi's aid and further again seize the entire Luoyang region, but was repelled in a major battle near Luoyang, during which both Yuwen and Gao Huan were nearly killed in battle, with Heba Sheng, then a Western Wei general, nearly killing Gao with a spear. (In retaliation, Gao Huan later had all of Heba's sons who remained in Eastern Wei territory executed.) By summer 543, the Western Wei forces had withdrawn, and the entire Luoyang region was again under Eastern Wei control.
in 544, with Gao Huan believing that four key officials who were close to him—Sun Teng, Sima Ziru, his cousin Gao Yue (高岳), and his sworn "brother" Gao Longzhi (高隆之) -- were wielding too much power, he gave the 22-year-old Gao Cheng additional authorities, and Gao Cheng increasingly asserted authorities over these officials and others. For example, once when Sun visited Gao Cheng but was acting insufficiently deferentially, Gao Cheng had his attendants throw Sun on the ground and pound him with the sword hilts. Gao Cheng also made one of his close assistants, Cui Jishu (崔季舒, Cui Xian's uncle) an assistant to Emperor Xiaojing, in order to keep a closer eye on Emperor Xiaojing. Gao Cheng soon greatly enhanced the authorities of both Cui Xian and Song Youdao (宋遊道) and charged them with the responsibilities of stamping out corruption among officials—which Gao Huan himself had been reluctant to do so. Based on Cui Xian's and Song's recommendations, Sima was arrested and reduced to commoner rank, while Yuan Tan (元坦) the Prince of Xianyang was relieved of all governmental posts.
In spring 545, Erzhu Ying'e's brother Erzhu Wenchang (爾朱文暢) and Zheng Dache's brother Zheng Zhongli (鄭仲禮), along with Ren Zhou (任冑), conspired to assassinate Gao Huan and support Erzhu Wenchang as leader, but the conspiracy was discovered, and the conspirators were put to death, along with their families. However, because of Gao Huan's favors for Erzhu Ying'e and Zheng Dache, he spared their brothers.
Lou Zhaojun supported and assisted Gao Huan when he married more women, wanting to expand his power.
In fall 545, due to an alliance between Western Wei and Rouran to attack Eastern Wei, Gao Huan sued for peace with Rouran by requesting a marriage between a daughter of Yujiulü Anagui and Gao Cheng. Yujiulü Anagui refused, stating that it would only be sufficient if Gao Huan himself married her. Gao Huan himself initially refused, but Princess Lou, Gao Cheng, and Wei Jing all persuaded him otherwise, and he married Yujiulü Anagui's daughter, referring to her as the Princess Ruru (蠕蠕公主). To facilitate this marriage, Princess Lou moved out of the mansion, but Gao Huan and Princess Lou were not formally divorced.
In fall 546, Gao Huan launched another major attack on Western Wei, apparently to make one final attempt to destroy it. He put Yubi under siege, intending to attract Western Wei forces to Yubi in order to destroy it, but Western Wei did not respond. The general in charge of defending Yubi, Wei Xiaokuan, however, defended against all kinds of siege tactics that Gao Huan tried, for 50 days, and Eastern Wei forces suffered 70,000 deaths from the battle and the illnesses. Gao Huan himself was physically and emotionally drained, and he became ill, and he was forced to withdraw. Western Wei subsequently declared that Wei had killed Gao Huan with a powerful crossbow, and Gao Huan, in order to dispel the rumor, appeared before his army to sing Chile songs with Hulü Jin. As he did, he wept bitterly.
Gao's illness continued to progress once he returned to Jinyang, and he recalled Gao Cheng to Jinyang to give him final instructions. Gao Cheng became increasingly concerned that Hou Jing, who was then defending Luoyang and in charge of the provinces south of the Yellow River, would rebel, particularly after Hou refused a recall order. Gao Huan left Gao Cheng instructions not to announce his death, gave a list of officials that he could depend on, and orders to put Murong Shaozong (慕容紹宗) -- a capable general that Gao Huan had intentionally not promoted in order to allow Gao Cheng to do so—in charge of an army against Hou. He died in spring 547, and while a false casket was buried publicly, he was buried at a secret location in Cheng'an (成安, in modern Handan, Hebei).
- Gao Shu (高樹)
- Lady Han, likely Gao Shu's wife
- Major Concubines
- Lady Erzhu Ying'e (d. 556), daughter of Erzhu Rong, formerly the empress of Emperor Xiaozhuang of Northern Wei, mother of Gao You and Gao Ning
- Lady Erzhu, daughter of Erzhu Zhao, formerly the empress of Yuan Ye, mother of Gao Jie
- Lady Han, mother of Gao Huan
- Lady Zheng Dache (鄭大車), mother of Gao Run
- Lady You, mother of Gao Shi
- Lady Li
- Lady Wang, mother of Gao Jun
- Lady Mu, mother of Gao Yān
- Lady Feng, mother of Gao Qia and Princess Fuyang
- Gao Cheng (高澄), the Heir Apparent, later the Prince of Bohai, posthumously honored as Emperor Wenxiang
- Gao Yang (高洋), initially the Duke of Taiyuan, later the Prince of Qi, later Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi
- Gao Jun (高浚), initially the Duke of Yong'an, later Prince Jianping of Yong'an (created 550, killed by Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi 558)
- Gao Yān (高淹) (note different tone from his brother), initially the Duke of Pingyang, later Prince Jingyi of Pingyang (created 550, d. 564)
- Gao You (高浟) (b. 533), initially the Duke of Changle, later Prince Jingsi of Pengcheng (created 550, killed by bandits 564)
- Gao Yǎn (高演) (note different tone from his brother), initially the Duke of Changshan, later the Prince of Changshan (created 550), later Emperor Xiaozhao of Northern Qi
- Gao Huan (高渙) (b. 533), initially the Duke of Pingyuan, later Prince Gangsu of Shangdang (created 550, killed by Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi 558)
- Gao Yu (高淯), initially the Duke of Zhangwu, later Prince Jing of Xiangcheng (created 550, d. 551)
- Gao Dan (高湛), initially the Duke of Changguang, later the Prince of Changguang (created 550), later Emperor Wucheng of Northern Qi
- Gao Jie (高湝), the Prince of Rencheng (created 550, killed by Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou 577)
- Gao Shi (高湜), Prince Kangmu of Gaoyang (created 550, killed by Empress Dowager Lou Zhaojun 560)
- Gao Ji (高濟), Prince Wenjian of Boling (created 550, killed by Gao Wei 569)
- Gao Ning (高凝), initially the Prince of Xinping (created 550), later the Prince of Anding (created 558), later the Prince of Huashan (created 559)
- Gao Run (高潤), the Prince of Fengyi (created 550)
- Gao Qia (高洽) (b. 542), Prince Jinghuai of Hanyang (created 550, d. 554)
- Empress Gao of Emperor Xiaowu of Northern Wei
- Princess Taiyuan, empress of Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei
- Princess Yingchuan
- Princess Yining
- Princess of unknown title
- Princess Yangzhai
- Princess Fuyang
- Princess Dongping
- Lily Xiao Hong Lee, A. D. Stefanowska, Sue Wiles, ed. (2007). Biographical dictionary of Chinese women: antiquity through Sui, 1600 B.C.E.-618 C.E.. Volume 3 of Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Lily Xiao Hong Lee Volume 21 of Publications, University Libraries (Hong Kong. M.E. Sharpe. p. 314. ISBN 0-7656-1750-1. Retrieved 2012 February ninth. "Lou Zhaojun, 501-562, was the principal wife of Gao Huan, 496-547; their son Emperor Wenxuan (Gao Yang, 529-559; r. 550-559) was the founding emperor of Northern Qi. While neither was appointed emperor or empress during their lifetime, as the de facto founder of the Northern Qi dynasty Gao Huan was posthumously titled Emperor Shenwu of Northern Qi and Lou Zhaojun was posthumously title Empress Ming of Northern Qi.. . . Lou Zhaojun was from a wealthy Xianbei family that had served as officials under the Former Yan dynasty (located in the area of present-day Chaoyang in Liaoning Province). Her clan had Sinicized its name to Lou toward the end of the fifth century. Gao Huan, on the other hand, was from a Han-Chinese family from Bohai (present-day Hebei Province); they had lived for several generations in the area that is now Inner Mongolia and had consequently adopted a largely Xianbei way of life. Despite Gao Huan's lack of means and low social status, Lou Zhaojun is said to have set her heart on him almost from the moment she saw him. She dispatched a maid to tell him of her interest and to give him some money; then she married him, against the wishes of her parents."
- Lily Xiao Hong Lee, A. D. Stefanowska, Sue Wiles, ed. (2007). Biographical dictionary of Chinese women: antiquity through Sui, 1600 B.C.E.-618 C.E.. Volume 3 of Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Lily Xiao Hong Lee Volume 21 of Publications, University Libraries (Hong Kong. M.E. Sharpe. p. 315. Retrieved 2012 February ninth. "began to crumble, he became a general for Erzhu Rong (493-530) of Xiurong (in present-day Shanxi Province). Erzhu Rong belonged to the Jie people, possibly a branch of the Xiongnu, who came from the western regions, perhaps as far away as ancient Persia. As allies of the Northern Wei Tuoba, the Erzhu clan had been give a large fied that enabled them to control the major private sources of supply of animals and fodder for the Northern Wei armies. By the end of the fifth century they had become extremely wealthy, while the rapid disintegration of Tuoba power and the outbreak of rebellion along the northern borders in 524 further extended their influence. By the late 520s, they had become the most effective military force in the empire. . . Then, in a lethal series of moves and coutnermoves, Gao Huan outwitted Erzhu Rong in their struggle for control of the Northern Wei throne (vide Hu, Consort of Emperor Xuanwu of Northern Wei). Erzhu rong's puppet emperor (Yuan Ziyou, r.528-530) murdered him in 530; then Gao Huan had Yuan Ziyou murdered before installing his own puppet emperor (Yuan Ye, r. 530)."
- Lily Xiao Hong Lee, A. D. Stefanowska, Sue Wiles, ed. (2007). Biographical dictionary of Chinese women: antiquity through Sui, 1600 B.C.E.-618 C.E.. Volume 3 of Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Lily Xiao Hong Lee Volume 21 of Publications, University Libraries (Hong Kong. M.E. Sharpe. p. 316. ISBN 0-7656-1750-1. Retrieved 2012 February ninth. "She wove the material from which a long gown and a pair of trousers were made for each of his sons,; in order to set an example, she had clothes made for warriors who were loyal to Gao Huan. Things did not always go smoothly between Lou Zhaojun and Gao Huan, however, and he banished her in 538 after discovering that their eldest son, Gao Cheng, had had an affair with one of his concubines. Lou Zhaojun and her son each received 100 strokes in punishment and Lou Zhaojun remained in disfavor until Gao Huan's companion Sima Ziru (488-551) reimnded him of the contribution Lou Zhaojun had made."
- Lily Xiao Hong Lee, A. D. Stefanowska, Sue Wiles, ed. (2007). Biographical dictionary of Chinese women: antiquity through Sui, 1600 B.C.E.-618 C.E.. Volume 3 of Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Lily Xiao Hong Lee Volume 21 of Publications, University Libraries (Hong Kong. M.E. Sharpe. p. 315. ISBN 0-7656-1750-1. Retrieved 2012 February ninth. "As Gao Huan's power grew, he took more wives. Lou Zhaojun encouraged him in this, understanding the importance of consolidating his already considerable influence through marriage alliances with powerful families. She herself bore six of Gao Huan's fifteen sons and she harbored ambitions for all of them; three of her sons were named emperor before she died and she helped stage a coup that deposed one of her grandsons from the Northern Qi throne."
- Lily Xiao Hong Lee, A. D. Stefanowska, Sue Wiles, ed. (2007). Biographical dictionary of Chinese women: antiquity through Sui, 1600 B.C.E.-618 C.E.. Volume 3 of Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Lily Xiao Hong Lee Volume 21 of Publications, University Libraries (Hong Kong. M.E. Sharpe. p. 316. ISBN 0-7656-1750-1. Retrieved 2012 February ninth. "Lou Zhaojun is said to have been a resolute and intelligent woman and the record confirms this. She remained impartial, never asking her husband to appoint her relatives to high-ranking positions but instead expecting them to earn any such privilege. Such was her ambition for her husband that she encouraged him to enter into several marriage alliances and treated these consorts as her own sisters. She even stepped down from her position as principal consort, ceding it to a Rouran princess in order to ensure her people's cooperation (the Rouran were a nomadic group located in present-day Outer Mongolia; they controlled the eastern section of the area now known as the Silk Road). She managed the inner palaces for her husband and is said to have regarded all of Gao Huan's sons as her own."
- Gao Huan, as demanded by Yujiulü Anagui as one of the peace terms between Eastern Wei and Rouran, married the Princess Ruru in 545, and had her take the place of Princess Lou as his wife, but never formally divorced Princess Lou. After Gao Huan's death, pursuant to Rouran customs, the Princess Ruru became married to Gao Huan's son Gao Cheng, who also, however, did not formally divorce his wife.