Emperor Han
Han dynasty emperor
Emperor Han
Emperor Wu of Han also known as Han Wudi That was one of his most well-known names. , personal name Liu Che(劉徹), was the seventh emperor of the Han Dynasty of China, ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC. Emperor Wu is particularly remembered for the vast territorial expansion which he accomplished during his reign, together with the strong and centralized Confucian state resulting from his governmental re-organization.
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  • -870
    Died in 87 BC.
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    Emperor Wu of Han (30 June 156BC29 March 87BC), born Liu Che, courtesy name Tong, was the seventh emperor of the Han dynasty of China, ruling from 141–87 BC.
    More Details Hide Details His reign lasted 54 years — a record not broken until the reign of the Kangxi Emperor more than 1,800 years later. His reign resulted in vast territorial expansion, development of a strong and centralized state resulting from his governmental re-organization, including his promotion of Confucian doctrines. In the field of historical social and cultural studies, Emperor Wu is known for his religious innovations and patronage of the poetic and musical arts, including development of the imperial Music Bureau into a prestigious entity. It was also during his reign that cultural contact with western Eurasia was greatly increased, directly or indirectly. Many new crops and other items were introduced to China during his reign. As a military campaigner, Emperor Wu led Han China through its greatest expansion — at its height, the Empire's borders spanned from modern Kyrgyzstan in the west, to Korea in the east, and to northern Vietnam in the south. Emperor Wu successfully repelled the nomadic Xiongnu from systematically raiding northern China, and dispatched his envoy Zhang Qian in 139 BC to seek an alliance with the Yuezhi of Kangju (Sogdia, modern Uzbekistan). This resulted in further missions to Central Asia. Although historical records do not describe him to be aware of Buddhism, emphasizing rather his interest in shamanism, the cultural exchanges that occurred as a consequence of these embassies suggest that he received Buddhist statues from Central Asia, as depicted in the murals found in the Mogao Caves.
  • -880
    By 88 BC, Emperor Wu had become seriously ill.
    More Details Hide Details With Prince Ju dead, there was no clear heir. Liu Dan, the Prince of Yan, was Emperor Wu's oldest surviving son, but Emperor Wu considered both him and his younger brother Liu Xu, the Prince of Guangling, to be unsuitable, since neither respected laws. He decided that the only suitable heir was his youngest son, Liu Fuling, who was only six at that time. He therefore also chose a potential regent in Huo Guang, whom he considered to be capable and faithful, and entrusted Huo with the regency of Fuling. Emperor Wu also ordered the execution of Prince Fuling's mother Consort Zhao, out of fear that she would become an uncontrollable empress dowager like the previous Empress Lü. At Huo's suggestion, he made ethnic Xiongnu official Jin Midi and general Shangguang Jie co-regents. He died in 87 BC, shortly after making Prince Fuling crown prince. Crown Prince Fuling then succeeded to the throne as Emperor Zhao for the next 13 years.
  • -910
    Also caught in this disaster were Crown Prince Ju's two elder sisters Princess Yangshi (陽石公主, who was said to have a romantic relationship with her cousin Gongsun Jingsheng) and Princess Zhuyi (諸邑公主), as well as his cousin Wei Kang (衛伉, the eldest son of the deceased general Wei Qing), who were all accused of witchcraft and executed in 91 BC.
    More Details Hide Details These witchcraft persecutions later became intertwined in succession struggles and erupted into a major catastrophe.
  • -920
    By this time, Emperor Wu realized that the witchcraft accusations were often false accusations, especially in relation to the crown prince rebellion. In 92 BC, when Tian Qianqiu (田千秋), then the superintendent of Emperor Gao's temple, wrote a report claiming that Emperor Gao told him in a dream that Prince Ju should have only been whipped at most, not killed, Emperor Wu had a revelation about what had led to his son's rebellion.
    More Details Hide Details He had Su burned and Jiang's family executed. He also made Tian prime minister. Although he claimed to miss Prince Ju greatly (he even built a palace and an altar for his deceased son as a sign of grief and regret), he did not at this time rectify the situation where Prince Ju's only surviving progeny, Liu Bingyi, languished in prison as a child. With the political scene greatly changed, Emperor Wu publicly apologized to the whole nation about his past policy mistakes, a gesture known to history as the Repenting Edict of Luntai (輪台悔詔). The Prime Minister Tian he appointed was in favor of retiring the troops and easing hardships on the people. Tian also promoted agriculture, with several agricultural experts becoming important members of the administration. Wars and territorial expansion generally ceased. These policies and ideals were those supported by Crown Prince Ju, and were finally realised years after his death.
  • -940
    In 94 BC, Emperor Wu's youngest son Liu Fuling was born to a favorite concubine of his, Consort Zhao.
    More Details Hide Details Emperor Wu was ecstatic in having a child at such an advanced age (62 years old), and because Consort Zhao purportedly had a post-term pregnancy that lasted 14 months (the same as the mythical Emperor Yao), he named Consort Zhao's palace gate "Gate of Yao's mother." This led to speculation that the emperor, due to his favor of Consort Zhao and Prince Fuling, wanted to make Liu Fuling the crown prince instead. While there was no evidence that he actually intended to do anything as such, over the next few years, conspiracies against Crown Prince Ju and Empress Wei arose that were inspired by such rumors. Up to this point, there had been a cordial but somehow fragile relationship between Emperor Wu and his crown prince, who perhaps was not as ambitious as his father wished. As he grew older, the Emperor came to be less attracted to Ju's mother, Empress Wei Zifu, though he continued to respect her. When he left the capital, the Emperor would delegate authority to Crown Prince Ju. Eventually, however, the two began to have disagreements over policy, with Ju favoring leniency and Wu's advisers (harsh and sometimes corrupt officials) urging the opposite. After Wei Qing's death in 106 BC and Gongsun He's execution, Prince Ju had no strong allies left in the government. The other officials then began to publicly defame and plot against him.
  • -980
    He then decreed that he would return to Mount Tai every five years to repeat the ceremony, but only did so once in 98 BC.
    More Details Hide Details Many palaces were built for him and the princes to accommodate the anticipated cycles of the ceremony. It was around this time that, in reaction to the large expenditures by Emperor Wu that had exhausted the national treasury, his agricultural minister Sang Hongyang (桑弘羊) conceived of a plan that many dynasties would repeat later: creating national monopolies for salt and iron. The national treasury would further purchase other consumer goods when the prices were low and sell them when the prices were high at profit, thus replenishing the treasury while at the same time making sure the price fluctuation would not be too great.
  • FIFTIES
  • -100
    Age 55
    About 100 BC, due to the heavy taxation and military burdens imposed by Emperor Wu's incessant military campaigns and luxurious spending, there were many peasant revolts throughout the empire.
    More Details Hide Details Emperor Wu issued an edict that was intended to suppress the peasant revolts: he made officials whose commanderies saw unsuppressed peasant revolts liable with their lives. However, this edict had the exact opposite effect, since it became impossible to suppress all of the revolts, officials would merely cover up the existence of the revolts. He executed many people who made fake coins. In 96 BC, a series of witchcraft persecutions began. Emperor Wu, who was paranoid over a nightmare of being whipped by tiny stick-wielding puppets and a sighting of a traceless assassin (possibly a hallucination), ordered extensive investigations with harsh punishments. Large numbers of people, many of them high officials, were accused of witchcraft and executed, usually along with their entire clans. The first trial began with Empress Wei Zifu's elder brother-in-law Gongsun He (公孫賀, the Prime Minister at the time) and his son Gongsun Jingsheng (公孫敬聲, also an imperial official, but arrested under corruption charges), quickly leading to the execution of their entire clan.
  • -104
    Age 51
    In 104 BC, Emperor Wu built the luxurious Jianzhang Palace (建章宮) — a massive structure that was intended to make him closer to the gods.
    More Details Hide Details He later resided at that palace exclusively, rather than the traditional Weiyang Palace (未央宮), which Xiao He had built during the reign of Emperor Gao.
  • -105
    Age 50
    In 105 BC, Emperor Wu gave a princess from a remote collateral imperial line to Kunmo (昆莫), the King of Wusun (Issyk Kol Basin) in marriage, and she later married his grandson and successor Qinqu (芩娶), creating a strong and stable alliance between Han and Wusun.
    More Details Hide Details The various Xiyu kingdoms also strengthened their relationships with Han. An infamous Han war against the nearby Kingdom of Dayuan (Kokand) erupted in 104 BC. Dayuan refused to give in to Emperor Wu's commands to surrender its best horses, Emperor Wu's ambassadors were then executed when they insulted the King of Dayuan after his refusal. Emperor Wu commissioned Li Guangli (李廣利), the brother of a favorite concubine Consort Li, as a general to direct the war against Dayuan. In 103 BC, Li Guangli's army of 26,000 men (20,000 Chinese & 6,000 steppe cavalry), without adequate supplies, suffered a humiliating loss against Dayuan, but in 102 BC, Li with a new army of 60,000 men, was able to put a devastating siege on its capital by cutting off water supplies to the city, forcing Dayuan's surrender 3,000 of its prized horses. This Han victory further intimidated the Xiyu kingdoms into submission.
  • FORTIES
  • -108
    Age 47
    In 108 BC, Emperor Wu sent general Zhao Ponu (趙破奴) on a campaign to Xiyu, and he forced the Kingdoms of Loulan on northeast border of the Taklamakan Desert and Cheshi (modern Turpan, Xinjiang) into submission.
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  • -109
    Age 46
    Also in 109 BC, Emperor Wu sent an expeditionary force against the Kingdom of Dian (modern eastern Yunnan), planning on conquering it.
    More Details Hide Details When the King of Dian surrendered, it was incorporated into Han territory with the King of Dian being permitted to keep his traditional authority and title. Emperor Wu established five commanderies over Dian and the other nearby kingdoms.
    In 109 BC, Emperor Wu started yet another territorial expansion campaign.
    More Details Hide Details Nearly a century earlier, a Chinese General named Wiman had taken the throne of Gojoseon and had established Wiman Joseon at Wanggeom-seong (王險), modern Pyongyang), which became a nominal Han vassal. When Wiman's grandson King Ugeo (衛右渠, 위우거) refused to permit Jin's ambassadors to reach China through his territories, Emperor Wei sent an ambassador She He (涉何) to Wanggeom to negotiate a right of passage with King Ugeo, but King Ugeo refused and had a general escort She back to Han territory. When they got close to Han borders, She assassinated the general and claimed to Emperor Wu that he had defeated Joseon in battle. Emperor Wu, unaware of his deception, made him the military commander of the Commandery of Liaodong (modern central Liaoning). King Ugeo, offended, made a raid on Liaodong and killed She. In response, Emperor Wu commissioned a two-pronged attack (one by land and one by sea) against Joseon. Initially, Joseon offered to become a vassal, but peace negotiations broke down by the Chinese forces' refusal to let a Joseon force escort its crown prince to Chang'an to pay tribute to Emperor Wu. Han took over the Joseon lands in 108 BC and established four commanderies.
  • -110
    Age 45
    In 110 BC, under Han military pressure, Luo Yushan's co-king Luo Jugu (駱居古) assassinated him and surrendered the kingdom to Han.
    More Details Hide Details However, Emperor Wu did not establish commanderies in Minyue's former territory; instead, he moved its people to the region between the Yangtze and Huai Rivers. Later that year, Emperor Wu, at great expense, carried out the ancient ceremony of fengshan (封禪) at Mount Tai; this involved the worship of heaven and earth and presumably a secret petition to the gods of heaven and earth to seek immortality.
  • -112
    Age 43
    In 112 BC, a crisis in the Kingdom of Nanyue (modern Guangdong, Guangxi, and northern Vietnam) erupted, leading to military intervention.
    More Details Hide Details At that time, the King Zhao Xing (趙興) and his mother Queen Dowager Jiu (樛太后) — a Chinese woman whom Zhao Xing's father Zhao Yingqi (趙嬰齊) had married while he served as an ambassador to Han — were both in favor of becoming incorporated into Han. This was opposed by the senior prime minister, Lü Jia (呂嘉), who wanted to maintain the kingdom's independence. Queen Dowager Jiu tried to goad the Chinese ambassadors into killing Lü, but the Chinese ambassadors were hesitant to do so. When Emperor Wu sent a 2,000-man force led by Han Qianqiu (韓千秋) and Queen Dowager Jiu's brother Jiu Le (樛樂) to try to assist the king and the queen dowager, Lü staged a coup d'etat and had the king and the queen dowager killed. Lü then made another son of Zhao Yingqi, Zhao Jiande (趙建德), king and went on to annihilate the Han forces under Han and Jiu. Several months later, Emperor Wu commissioned a five-pronged attack against Nanyue. In 111 BC, the Han forces captured the Nanyue capital Panyu (番禺, modern Guangzhou) and annexed the entire Nanyue territory into Han, establishing ten commanderies.
  • -113
    Age 42
    Starting about 113 BC, Emperor Wu began to display further signs of abusing his power.
    More Details Hide Details He began to incessantly tour the commanderies, initially nearby Chang'an, but later extending to much farther places, worshipping the various gods on the way, perhaps again in search of immortality. He also had a succession of magicians whom he honored with great things. In one case, he even made one a marquess and married a daughter to him; that magician, Luan Da (欒大), was later exposed as a fraud and executed. Emperor Wu's expenditures on these tours and magical adventures put a great strain on the national treasury and caused difficulties on the locales that he visited, twice causing the governors of commanderies to commit suicide after they were unable to supply the emperor's entire train.
  • THIRTIES
  • -117
    Age 38
    A famous wrongful execution happened in 117 BC, when the minister of agriculture Yan Yi (顏異), was falsely accused of committing a crime, though he was actually targeted because he had previously offended the emperor by opposing a plan to effectively extort double tributes out of princes and marquesses.
    More Details Hide Details Yan was executed for "internal defamation" of the emperor, and this caused the officials to be fearful and willing to flatter the emperor.
  • -119
    Age 36
    In 119 BC, Emperor Wu launched a new effort to permanently defeat the Xiongnu empire by making a major excursion against the Xiongnu's headquarters.
    More Details Hide Details The forces of his most prominent generals, Wei and Huo, were able to make a direct assault on Chanyu Yizhixie's forces, nearly capturing him and annihilating his army. It was at this battle, however, that the famous general Li Guang, whose fortunes had been effectively sabotaged by a strategic plan of Wei's, committed suicide after being told that he would be court-martialed for his failures. Even though both Wei and Huo were successful, Emperor Wu particularly praised Huo and rewarded him with many others; it was from this point on that Huo began to receive greater favor over his uncle Wei. After the Xiongnu suffered these heavy losses, the Chanyu sought heqin peace with Han again, but broke off peace talks after Han made it clear that it wanted Xiongnu to become a vassal instead. Around the same time, perhaps as a sign of what would come to be, Emperor Wu began to trust governing officials who were harsh in their punishment, believing that such harshness would be the most effective method to maintain social order and so placing these officials in power. For example, one such official, Yi Zong (義縱), became the governor of the Commandery of Dingxiang (part of modern Hohhot, Inner Mongolia) and executed 200 prisoners, even though they had not committed capital crimes; he then executed their friends who happened to have been visiting.
  • -122
    Age 33
    In 122 BC, Liu An, the Prince of Huainan (a previously trusted adviser of Emperor Wu, and closely enough related to have imperial pretensions) and his brother Liu Ci (劉賜), the Prince of Hengshan, were accused of plotting treason.
    More Details Hide Details They committed suicide; their families and many alleged co-conspirators were executed.
    Encouraged by the report, Emperor Wu sent ambassadors in 122 BC to try to persuade Yelang and Dian (滇, modern eastern Yunnan) into submission again.
    More Details Hide Details Han Gaozu, founder of the Han dynasty, had installed shaman cultists from the area of the former state of Jin (in the area of the modern province of Shanxi) as official religious functionaries of his new empire. Emperor Wu worshiped the divinity Tai Yi (or, Dong Huang Tai Yi), a deity to whom he was introduced by his shaman advisers, who were able to provide him with the experience of having this god (and other spiritual entities, such as the Master of Fate, Si Ming) summoned into his presence; the emperor even went so far as to construct a "House of Life" (shou gong) chapel at his Ganquan palace complex (甘泉, in modern Xianyang, Shaanxi) specifically for this purpose, in 118 BC. One of the religious rituals that Emperor Wu organized was the Suburban Sacrifice, and the nineteen hymns entitled Hymns for Use in the Suburban Sacrifice were written in connection with these religious rites and published during Wu's reign.
  • TWENTIES
  • -126
    Age 29
    Zhang was able to deliver his report to Emperor Wu when he arrived back in the capital Chang'an in 126 BC after a second and shorter captivity by Xiongnu.
    More Details Hide Details After the Prince of Hunxie surrendered the Gansu region, the path to Xiyu became clear and regular embassies between Han and the Xiyu kingdoms commenced. Another expansion plan, this one aimed at the southwest, was aimed at the eventual conquest of Nanyue, which was viewed as an unreliable vassal. The plan was to first obtain submission of the southwestern tribal kingdoms — the largest of which was Yelang (modern Zunyi, Guizhou) — so that a route for a potential back-stabbing attack on Nanyue could be made. The Han ambassador Tang Meng (唐蒙) was able to secure the submission of these tribal kingdoms by giving their kings gifts; Emperor Wu established the Commandery of Jianwei (犍為, headquarters in modern Yibin, Sichuan) to govern over the tribes, but eventually abandoned it after being unable to cope with local revolts. Later, after Zhang Qian returned from the western region, part of his report indicated that embassies could more easily reach Shendu (India) and Anxi (Parthia) by going through the southwestern kingdoms.
  • -129
    Age 26
    Zhang was immediately captured by Xiongnu once he ventured into the desert, but was able to escape around 129 BC and eventually made it to Yuezhi, which by then had relocated to Samarkand.
    More Details Hide Details While Yuezhi refused to return, it and several other kingdoms in the area, including Dayuan (Kokand) and Kangju, established diplomatic relations with Han.
  • -133
    Age 22
    He first ended the official policy of peace with the Battle of Mayi in 133 BC, which involved a failed plan to trick a force of 30,000 Xiongnu into an ambush of 300,000 Han soldiers.
    More Details Hide Details While neither side suffered any casualties, the Xiongnu retaliated by increasing their border attacks, leading many in the Han court to abandon the hope for peace with the Xiongnu. The failure of the Mayi operation prompted Emperor Wu to switch the Han army's doctrine from the traditionally more defensive chariot–infantry warfare to a highly mobile and offensive cavalry-against-cavalry warfare. At the same time, he expanded and trained officers from his royal guards. After a series of defeats by Wei Qing (the half-brother of Emperor Wu's favorite concubine) and Wei's nephew, Huo Qubing between 127 and 119 BC, the Xiongnu were expelled from the Ordos Desert and Qilian Mountains. As a result of these territorial acquisitions, the Han Dynasty successfully opened up the Northern Silk Road, allowing direct access to trade with Central Asia. This also provided a new supply of high-quality horse breeds from Central Asia, including the famed Ferghana horse (ancestors of the modern Akhal-Teke), further strengthening the Han army. Emperor Wu then reinforced this strategic asset by establishing five commanderies and constructing a length of fortified wall along the border of the Hexi Corridor, colonizing the area with 700,000 Chinese soldier-settlers.
  • -135
    Age 20
    In 135 BC, when Minyue attacked Nanyue, Nanyue also sought assistance from Han even though it probably had enough strength to defend itself.
    More Details Hide Details Emperor Wu was greatly pleased by this gesture, and he dispatched an expedition force to attack Minyue, over the objection of one of his key advisors, Liu An, a royal relative and the Prince of Huainan. Minyue nobles, fearful of the massive Chinese force, assassinated their king Luo Ying (駱郢) and sought peace. Emperor Wu then imposed a dual-monarchy system on Minyue by creating kings out of Luo Ying's brother Luo Yushan (雒餘善) and nobleman Zou Chou (騶丑), thus ensuring internal discord in Minyue. Although initially launched as a punitive expedition by Emperor Wu against the autonomous kingdom of Nanyue, the entire Nanyue territory (which includes modern Guangdong, Guanxi, and North Vietnam) had been conquered by Emperor's military forces and annexed to the Han Empire by 111 BC. Military tension had long existed between ancient China and the northern "barbarians", mainly because the fertile lands of the prosperous agricultural civilization presented attractive targets for the poorer but more militaristic horseback nomads. The threat posed to the Xiongnu by the northward expansion of the Qin Empire ultimately led to the consolidation of the many tribes into a confederacy. Following the end of the Chu-Han Contention, Emperor Gao of Han realized that the nation was not yet strong enough to confront the Xiongnu. He therefore resorted to the so-called "marriage alliance", or heqin (和親), in order to ease hostility and buy time for the nation to "rest and recover" (休養生息).
    After the death of Grand Empress Dowager Dou in 135 BC, Emperor Wu had full control of the government.
    More Details Hide Details While his mother, Empress Dowager Wang, and his uncle Tian Fen were still influential, they lacked the ability to restrain the Emperor's actions. Emperor Wu began a military campaign of territorial expansion, nearly destroying his empire, in the early part of the process. Reacting to border incursions by sending out the troops, Emperor Wu sent his armies in all directions but the sea. Following the successful maneuver against Minyue in 138 BC, Emperor Wu resettled the people of Dang'an into the region between the Yangtze and Huai Rivers. In 135 BC, Minyue saw an opportunity with Zhao Mo (趙眜), the new and inexperienced king of Nanyue (南越國, in modern-day Two Guangs and part of Fujian): Minyue invaded its southwestern neighbor and Zhao Mo sought help from the Han court. Emperor Wu dispatched an amphibious expedition force led by Wang Hui (王恢) and Han Anguo (韓安國) to address the Minyue threat. Again fearing the Han intervention, the younger brother of Minyue's King Ying, Luo Yushan (雒余善), orchestrated a coup with other Minyue nobles, killed his brother with a spear, decapitated the corpse and sent the severed head to Wang. Following the campaign, Minyue was split into a dual monarchy: Minyue was controlled by a Han proxy ruler, Zou Chou (騶丑), and Dongyue (東越) was ruled by Luo Yushan.
    In 135 BC, Grand Empress Dowager Dou died, removing the last obstacle against Emperor Wu's ambition for reform.
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  • TEENAGE
  • -141
    Age 14
    Unlike the emperors before him, the young and vigorous Emperor Wu was unwilling to put up with the status quo. Only a year into his reign in late 141 BC, Emperor Wu took the advice of Confucian scholars and launched an ambitious reform, known in history as the Jianyuan Reforms (建元新政).
    More Details Hide Details The reforms pursued the following new policies: However, Emperor Wu's reforms threatened the interests of the existing class of nobles, and was swiftly defeated by his grandmother Grand Empress Dowager Dou, who held real political power in the Han court. Most of the reformists were punished: Emperor Wu's two noble supporters Dou Ying (竇嬰) and Tian Fen (田蚡, Empress Dowager Wang's half-brother) both had their positions stripped, and his two mentors Wang Zang (王臧) and Zhao Wan (趙綰) were impeached, arrested, and forced to commit suicide in prison. Emperor Wu, now deprived of any allies, was subject to conspiracies to have him removed from the throne. At this point, Empress Chen had already married Emperor Wu for years but failed to become pregnant. In an attempt to dominate his love, she also prohibited him from keeping other concubines. Emperor Wu's political enemies used his childlessness as an excuse to depose him, as the inability of an emperor to propagate a royal bloodline was a serious matter. These enemies wished to replace him with his distant uncle Liu An (劉安), the King of Huainan (淮南王), who was a renowned figure of Taoist ideology. Even Emperor Wu's own maternal uncle Tian Fen switched camp and went to appease Liu An, as he predicted the young emperor would not be in power for long. Emperor Wu's political survival now relied heavily on the lobbying of his aunt/mother-in-law, Princess Guantao, who served as a mediator for the Emperor's reconciliation with his powerful grandmother.
    In 141 BC, Emperor Jing died and Crown Prince Liu Che ascended to the throne as Emperor Wu at the age of 15.
    More Details Hide Details His grandmother Empress Dowager Dou became the grand empress dowager, and his mother became Empress Dowager Wang. His older cousin and wife from the political marriage also officially became Empress Chen (陳皇后). The Han dynasty up to this point was run according to a Taoist wu wei (無為而治) ideology, championing economic freedom and government decentralization. Foreign policy-wise, periodic heqin was used to maintain a de jure "peace" with the powerful Xiongnu confederacy to the north. These policies were important in stimulating economic recovery following the post-Qin dynasty civil war, but not without drawbacks. The non-interventionist policies resulted in loss of monetary regulation and political control by the central government, allowing the feudal vassal states to become powerful and unruly, culminating in the Rebellion of the Seven States during Emperor Jing's reign. Nepotism among the ruling class also stagnated social mobility and encouraged nobles' rampant disregard of laws, leading to the rise of local despots who bullied and oppressed other civilians. The heqin policy also failed to protect the Han borders against nomadic raids, with Xiongnu cavalries invading as close as 300 li (100 miles, 160 km) from the capital during Emperor Wen's reign, and over 10,000 border residents abducted or enslaved during Emperor Jing's reign. Prominent politicians like Jia Yi (賈誼) and Chao Cuo (晁錯) had both previously advised on the necessity of important policy reforms, but neither Emperor Wen nor Emperor Jing was willing to risk implementing such changes.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • -151
    Age 4
    As Empress Bo had been deposed one year earlier in 151 BC, the position of empress was open and Emperor Jing made Consort Wang empress merely four months later.
    More Details Hide Details The seven-year-old Liu Che, now legally the oldest son of the Empress, was later made crown prince in 149 BC.
  • -153
    Age 2
    Emperor Jing's formal wife, Empress Bo, was childless. As a result, Emperor Jing's oldest son Liu Rong (劉榮), born of his favorite concubine Lady Li (栗姬), was made crown prince in 153 BC.
    More Details Hide Details Lady Li, feeling certain that her son would become the emperor, grew arrogant and intolerant, and frequently threw tantrums at Emperor Jing out of jealousy over his favor towards other concubines. Her lack of tact proved to be the chance for Consort Wang and the young Liu Che. When Emperor Jing's older sister, Eldest Princess Guantao (館陶長公主) Liu Piao (劉嫖), offered to marry her daughter to Liu Rong, Lady Li rudely rejected the proposal out of her grudge over Princess Guantao often pimping new concubines for Emperor Jing and siphoning away her favor. Frustrated by the rejection, Princess Guantao then approached another of Emperor Jing's favored concubines: Consort Wang, who had been observing quietly from the sidelines. Guantao offered to marry her daughter to the consort's underage son, Liu Che. Seizing the opportunity, Consort Wang accepted the offer with open arms, securing a political alliance with Princess Guantao. Because of the age difference, Emperor Jing did not initially approve of this union. During a royal gathering, however, Princess Guantao alluded to the Wei-Jin era pseudohistoric fable Hanwu Stories (漢武故事): she held the 5-year-old Liu Che in her arms and asked him whether he wanted to marry her daughter A'Jiao (阿嬌), the young prince boasted that he would "build a golden house for her" if they were married. Princess Guantao then used the tale to convince Emperor Jing to finally agree to the arranged marriage.
    Emperor Jing was ecstatic over the divine implication, and made the young Liu Che the Prince of Jiaodong (膠東王) in 153 BC.
    More Details Hide Details An intelligent boy, Liu Che was considered to be Emperor Jing's favorite son from a very young age.
  • -156
    Born
    On the day of Liu Qi's accession to the throne as Emperor Jing of Han upon the death of his father Emperor Wen in 156 BC, Wang Zhi gave birth to Liu Che, and was promoted to a consort for giving birth to a royal prince.
    More Details Hide Details While she was pregnant, she claimed that she dreamed of a sun falling into her womb.
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