Thursday, September 4, 2008

Emperor Shang of Han

Emperor Shang of Han, 漢殤帝, . Hàn Shāng dì, . Han Shang-ti, was an of the Chinese Han Dynasty and the fifth of the Chinese Eastern Han Dynasty.

The placed him on the throne when he was barely over 100 days old, despite his having an older brother, Liu Sheng , whose age was unknown but was likely to be young as well.

Empress Dowager Deng also kept Liu Hu , the twelve-year old cousin of Shangdi and future Emperor An of Han in the capital Luoyang as insurance against the baby emperor's death. Liu Hu ascended to the throne when Emperor Shang died in August or September 106; however, Dowager Deng still remained as the regent for the teenager Emperor An. A decree by Empress Dowager Deng during this reign shed light on bureaucratic inefficiency.

Family background

Then-Prince Long was born in autumn 105 to and a concubine whose identity is unknown. Because Emperor He had, during his reign, frequently lost sons due to illnesses in childhood, according to the superstitutions of the time, both Prince Long and his older brother Prince Sheng were given to foster parents outside the palace to nurture.

When Emperor He died early 106, his wife, Empress Deng Sui, retrieved the young princes back to the palace. Prince Sheng was older but regarded as frequently ill and unfit for the throne, for Empress Deng first created the infant Prince Long crown prince. The same night, he was proclaimed emperor. Empress Deng became empress dowager.


After Emperor Shang was proclaimed emperor, his brother Prince Sheng was created the Prince of Pingyuan.

Concerned that Emperor Shang might not live long, Empress Dowager Deng also kept Liu Hu, the twelve-year old cousin of Emperor Shang and future Emperor An of Han in the capital Luoyang as insurance against the infant emperor's death.

As Emperor Shang was an infant, actual and formal power were in Empress Deng's hands. Her brother Deng Zhi became the most powerful official in the imperial government. She issued a general pardon, which benefitted the people who had rights stripped from them for associating with the family of Empress Dou.

Late in 106, Emperor Shang died. The officials had by this time realized that Prince Sheng, his older brother, was not as ill as originally thought, and wanted to make him emperor. However, Empress Dowager Deng was concerned that he might bear a grudge at not being made emperor before his brother, and therefore insisted on making Emperor Shang's cousin Prince Hu emperor instead, and he took the throne as Emperor An.

Emperor Shang, having died as a toddler, was not given a separate tomb, as is customary for emperors. Rather, in order to avoid unnecessary expenses, he was buried in the same tomb complex as his father Emperor He.

Era name

* ''Yanping'' 106

Personal information

* Father
** Emperor He of Han

Marquess of Beixiang

The Marquess of Beixiang, , sometimes referred to as Emperor Shao , was an of the Chinese Han Dynasty. He was selected to succeed after Emperor An's sudden death in 125, but died soon after he became emperor, and an eunuch coup in favour of overthrew the regime of , who put him on the throne.

No historical records indicate his age, but later references to him imply that he was young, perhaps a child. As his reign was short and considered at least somewhat illegitimate, he is often omitted from the official list of emperors.

Family background

It is not known when Yi was born -- other than he was described as young at the time he ascended the throne in 125 and therefore must have been born late in the reign of . His father was Liu Shou , Prince Hui of Jibei, who was a son of , making him Emperor An's cousin. Nothing is known about his mother. He was likely created a marquess in 120, when five brothers of his oldest brother, Liu Deng , Prince Jie of Jibei, were created marquesses.

Brief reign

Empress Dowager Yan's decision was supported by other powerful people trusted by Emperor An -- his stepuncle Geng Bao , the eunuchs Jiang Jing and Fan Feng , and his wet nurse Wang Sheng . Soon, however, Empress Yan and her brother Yan Xian wanted to have full control of power, and they falsely accused Fan, Wang, and Gen of crimes. Fan was executed, while Wang and Gen, along with their families, were exiled. The Yan brothers became the most powerful officials in the capital Luoyang and ruled autocratically.

Late in the year, however, the young emperor grew gravely ill, and eunuchs loyal to Prince Bao, led by Sun Cheng , formed a conspiracy to overthrow the Yans. As soon as the emperor died, the eunuchs overthrew the Yans in a coup d'état and made Prince Bao emperor . The Yans were slaughtered, except for Empress Dowager Yan, who was however rendered powerless.

Emperor Shun, recognizing that the former Marquess of Beixiang was young and not complicit in Empress Yan's plot, did not posthumously dishonor him or carry out reprisals against his family, but nor did he recognize his predecessor as a legitimate emperor. Later in the year, he had the former emperor buried with the honors of an imperial prince -- in other words, higher than of his previous title of marquess but lower than that of an emperor. No official posthumous name was recorded for this young emperor.

Era name

* ''Yanguang'' 125

Personal information

* Father
** Liu Shou , Prince Hui of Jibei, son of Emperor Zhang of Han

Emperor An of Han

Emperor Ān of Hàn, 漢安帝, . hàn ān dì, . Han An-ti, was an of the Chinese and the sixth emperor of the Eastern Hàn period ruling from 106 to 125. He was the grandson of .

When her infant stepson succeeded to the throne in 106, kept the eventual Emperor Ān, Prince Hu, then 12, in the capital as the successor to the throne as insurance against the infant emperor's death. Prince Hu ascended to the throne when Emperor Shang died in August or September 106; however, Empress Dowager Deng still remained as the regent until her death in 121. Thereafter, Emperor Ān removed many of her relatives from government, and many of them committed suicide, probably under duress.

Emperor Ān did little to revive the withering dynasty. He began to indulge himself in women and heavy drinking and paid little attention to affairs of state, instead leaving matters to corrupt eunuchs. In this way, he effectively became the first emperor in Hàn history to encourage corruption. He also trusted his wife Empress Yan Ji and her family deeply, despite their obvious corruption. At the same time, droughts ravaged the country while peasants rose up in arms. In 125, Emperor Ān died while travelling to Nanyang. He was only 32.

Family background and ascension to the throne

Then-Prince Hu was born in 94, to Prince Liu Qing of Qinghe and his concubine, . Prince Qing was the older brother of , and had once been crown prince under their father until the machinations of Emperor Zhang's wife led to his removal and his mother Consort Song's death. During Emperor He's reign, however, he was a trusted advisor to the emperor, and he had a major role in Emperor He's coup d'état against Empress Dou's domineering brother Dou Xian in 92.

Consort Zuǒ and her older sister Dà É were both confiscated and made court servant girls when they were young girls, because their uncle Zuǒ Shèng had been accused of and executed for making defamatory remarks against the emperor or imperial administration. As they grew older, they became known for beauty and talent and became ladies in waiting in Emperor He's palace; Xiǎo É was particularly known for her knowledge in history and poetry. When Emperor He was going to reward his brothers with some of the ladies in waiting, Prince Qing had already heard about her and therefore specifically requested her and her sister, a request that Emperor He granted. Both Consorts Zuǒ died sometime before Emperor He's death in 106 and were buried in the capital . After Consort Zuǒ's death, Prince Hu was raised by Prince Qing's wife, Consort Gěng .

When Emperor He died in 106, his infant son ascended the throne. Emperor He's brothers, most of whom had remained in the palace Luòyáng, including Prince Qing, were ordered to report to their principalities. However, as an insurance just in case something happened to the infant emperor, Emperor He's wife kept Prince Qing's son Prince Hu, then 12, and Consort Gěng in the capital. When Emperor Shang died later in 106, the officials largely wanted to make Emperor Shang's brother, Prince Shèng of Pingyuan, emperor, but Empress Deng, who had initially denied Prince Shèng the throne because she believed him to be frequently ill, was concerned that he would bear a grudge against her, and therefore insisted on making Prince Hu the emperor, and he ascended the throne as Emperor Ān.

Early reign: regency by Empress Dowager Deng

After Emperor Ān ascended the throne, however, the real power remained in Empress Dowager Deng's hands, and Emperor Ān's parents Prince Qing and Consort Gěng appeared to have no influence on the administration.

Empress Dowager Deng was generally a capable ruler, and while there were natural disasters and wars with Qiang and South , she generally coped with those emergencies well. She also carried out many criminal law reforms. During her regency, Emperor Ān appeared to have minimal input into the affairs of state. Meanwhile, he became heavily personally influenced by the eunuchs Jiāng Jīng and Lǐ Rùn , and even more so by his wet nurse Wáng Shèng . He also was heavily influenced by his favorite, , whom he created empress in 115 -- even though she had poisoned to death one of his other consorts, , who had given birth to his only son in 115. While these individuals lacked real power as long as Empress Dowager Deng lived, they were long planning to take power as soon as she would no longer be on the scene. Empress Dowager Deng was somewhat aware of these plans and was offended; she was also disappointed that Emperor Ān, who was considered a precocious and intelligent child, had neglected his studies and become only interested in drinking and women. It is suspected that at some point, she even considered replacing the emperor with his cousin Liú Yì , the Prince of Pingyuan, but then decided against it.

In 120, Emperor Ān named his only son, Prince Bǎo, crown prince.

Late reign

Empress Dowager Deng died in 121, and Emperor An, at the age of 27, finally had the reins of the imperial administration. He posthumously honored his father Prince Qing as Emperor Xiaode and his mother Consort Zuǒ as Empress Xiaode; his paternal grandmother Consort Song as Empress Jingyin; and his stepmother Consort Gěng with the unique title of "Grand Consort of Gānlíng" -- a title inferior to his mother's, even though Consort Gěng was his father's wife. He, however, was close to her and her brother Gěng Bǎo , and he quickly made his stepuncle a powerful official in his administration.

Initially, Emperor Ān continued to follow Empress Dowager Deng's policies, including leaving members of her clan in important advisorial positions. However, his own close circle of associates, including Jiang, Li, Wang, and Empress Yan, were ready to act. Late in 121, he stripped members of the Deng clan of their posts and fiefs, and many of them committed suicide, probably under duress. Later, he relented and allowed some of the survivors to return, but by that time the Deng clan had been decimated.

In the place of the Dengs, the Song clan of Emperor Ān's grandmother became honored, but wielding much more actual power were the clan of the empress, the Yáns -- particularly Empress Yán's brothers Yán Xiǎn , Yán Jǐng , and Yán Yào . Also powerful were the eunuchs Jiang and Li, who were created marquesses. They, along with several other eunuchs, as well as Wang and her daughter Bó Róng , became extremely corrupt in their ways, without any punishment from Emperor Ān, who ignored all criticism of these individuals. Emperor Ān often listened to their suggestions, while ignoring the advice of his key officials. One of the most outspoken ones, Yáng Zhèn , the commander of the armed forces, was eventually removed from his post in 124 and committed suicide in protest.

In 121, there were again Qiang and Xianbei rebellions, which would continue to plague Emperor Ān for the rest of his reign. The only border where there were Hàn accomplishments during Emperor Ān's reign was on the northwestern front -- the Xiyu -- where Ban Chao's son Bān Yǒng was able to reestablish Hàn suzerainty over a number of kingdoms.

In 124, Wang Sheng, Jiang Jing, and another eunuch Fán Fēng falsely accused Crown Prince Bǎo's wet nurse Wáng Nán and chef Bǐng Jí , and Wáng and Bǐng were executed. Crown Prince Bǎo was greatly saddened. Jiang and Fán, fearful of reprisals later, entered into a conspiracy with Empress Yán to falsely accuse Crown Prince Bǎo and his servants of crimes. Emperor Ān believed them, and demoted Crown Prince Bǎo to be the Prince of Jiyin.

In 125, Emperor Ān was on a trip to Wancheng when he suddenly felt ill and decided to return to Luòyáng. Before he could, however, he died. Empress Yán did not want to allow his son Prince Bǎo to be emperor; instead, she made Liú Yi , the Marquess of Beixiang, a grandson of and Emperor Ān's cousin, emperor. The young emperor, however, died later that year, and a number of eunuchs loyal to Prince Bǎo, led by Sun Cheng, carried out a coup d'état and made Prince Bǎo emperor . The Yáns were slaughtered, except for Empress Dowager Yán.

Era names

* ''Yongchu'' 107-113
* ''Yuanchu'' 114-120
* ''Yongning'' 120-121
* ''Jianguang'' 121-122
* ''Yanguang'' 122-125

Personal information

* Father
** Liu Qing , Prince Xiao of Qinghe, second son of Emperor Zhang of Han
* Mother
** Consort Zuo Xiao'e
* Wife
** Empress Yan Ji
* Major Concubines
** , mother of Emperor Shun
* Children
** Liu Bao , the Crown Prince , later the Prince of Jiyin , later Emperor Shun of Han

Emperor Shun of Han

Emperor Shun of Han, 漢順帝;, 漢顺帝, . hàn shùn dì, . Han Shun-ti, was an of the Chinese Han Dynasty and the seventh emperor of the Eastern Han period. He reigned from 125 AD to 144 AD.

Emperor Shun was the only son of Emperor An of Han and after Emperor An died in 125, the was childless but yearning to hold on to power, forced Prince Bao to give up the throne in favour of Liu Yi, the Marquess of Beixiang. Liu Yi died after reigning less than 7 months and eunuchs loyal to Prince Bao, led by Sun Cheng, carrying out a successful coup d'etat against the Empress Dowager, Prince Bao was finally declared emperor at age 10.

The people had great expectations for Emperor Shun, whose reign followed his incompetent and violent father. However, while Emperor Shun's personality was mild, he was just as incompetent as his father in general, and corruption continued without abatement among eunuchs and officials. He also overly entrusted government to his wife Empress Liang Na's father Liang Shang -- a mild-mannered man with integrity but little ability -- and then Liang Shang's son Liang Ji -- a corrupt and an autocratic man. In general, Emperor Shun's reign was still somewhat of an improvement over his father's, but this minor improvement was unable to stem Eastern Han Dynasty's continued degradation.

Emperor Shun died at the age of 30 after reigning for 19 years. He was succeeded by his son .

Family background

Then-Prince Bao was born to and his concubine in 115, apparently shortly after Emperor An had created his favorite empress. Empress Yan herself was sonless, and in jealousy, she poisoned Consort Li to death, an act that went unpunished. Empress Yan would continue to hold a grudge against Prince Bao, despite his youth.

In 120, Emperor An created Prince Bao crown prince, as he continued to be Emperor An's only son.

Removal as crown prince and enthronement

In 124, some of the people trusted by Emperor An -- eunuchs Jiang Jing and Fan Feng and his wet nurse Wang Sheng , for reasons no longer known, falsely accused Crown Prince Bao's wet nurse Wang Nan and chef Bing Ji of unspecified crimes. Emperor An executed Wang and Bing and exiled their families. The nine-year-old crown prince was greatly saddened. Jiang and Fan, fearful of reprisals later, entered into a conspiracy with Empress Yan to falsely accuse Crown Prince Bao and his servants of crimes. Emperor An believed them, and demoted Crown Prince Bao to be the Prince of Jiyin.

In 125, Emperor An died suddenly while on a trip to Wancheng . Empress Yan, although Prince Bao was Emperor An's only son and therefore logical heir, resolved to make someone younger to be the emperor so that she could better control him. She therefore made Liu Yi , the Marquess of Beixiang, emperor. The 10-year-old Prince Bao was excluded not only from succession but even from the official mourning for his father. Empress Dowager Yan and her brothers dominated the political scene.

Later that year, the young emperor was gravely ill. The eunuch Sun Cheng, loyal to Prince Bao, entered into a conspiracy with Prince Bao's head of household Changxing Qu and other eunuchs to restore Prince Bao. After the young emperor died, Sun and 18 of his fellow eunuchs made a surprise attack on the palace, killing Jiang and forcing Jiang's colleague Li Run to join them. They then welcomed Prince Bao to the palace and declared him emperor. For several days, the eunuchs' forces battled with the empress dowager's forces, finally defeating the empress dowager and her brothers. The Yan clan was slaughtered, while Empress Dowager Yan was confined to her palace until her death in 126.

Early reign

At the start of Emperor Shun's reign, the people were hopeful that he would reform the political situation from the pervasive corruption under the Yans. The teenage emperor proved to be a kind but weak ruler, however, and while he trusted certain honest officials, he also trusted many corrupt eunuchs, who quickly grabbed power. In 126, Sun tried to encourage the young emperor to carry out extensive reforms, but was instead removed from the capital for his audacity, although Sun was recalled to the capital in 128, but continued to lack actual influence to affectuate reforms. Another major influence on Emperor Shun was his wet nurse Song E , who was described as a kind woman who, however, also lacked abilities, and as she was effectively in the stead of an empress dowager, she was influential but not much of an actual help for Emperor Shun.

Early in Emperor Shun's reign, Ban Chao's son Ban Yong was able to effectively restore Han suzerainty over Xiyu kingdoms, but in 127, Ban Yong was falsely accused of being late in a military action and removed from his office. After Ban Yong's removal, the situation in Xiyu gradually deteriorated.

Other than these, however, the time of Emperor Shun was generally one during which the empire rested from previous periods of political turmoil. Although the emperor lacked capability, and corruption continued to run unchecked, his personal kindness allowed the people a measurement of peace.

In 131, Emperor Shun was going to create an empress, and not wanting to play favorites, he considered drawing lots before gods to determine who should be the empress. After his officials discouraged him from this action, he finally selected one of his consorts, , as the one he considered most virtuous and most rational, and he created her empress in 132. She was 16 and he was 19. Her father Liang Shang became an honored official and was gradually promoted to increasingly important posts.

Late reign

In 135, two major political changes occurred -- eunuch-marquesses began to be allowed to pass their marches to their adopted sons, and Liang Shang became the commander of the armed forces and effectively the most powerful individual in the imperial government. Neither of these developments appeared at the time to be major, but had great implications; the former demonstrated that the power of the eunuchs was becoming systemic, and the latter led to the start of the Liangs controlling the imperial government for several administrations.

Liang Shang was, much like his son-in-law, a kind man who lacked real political abilities, even though he himself appeared to be honest and clean. For example, in 138, when there was a conspiracy by some eunuchs to undermine him that Emperor Shun discovered, he advocated leniency, and while Emperor Shun did not completely agree with him, Liang's intercession clearly saved many lives. However, both he and Emperor Shun trusted his son Liang Ji who, unlike his father, was corrupt and violent.

In 136 to 138, there were a number of native rebellions in various parts of southern China. While these were generally put down with relative ease , these would foreshadow the much more serious rebellions that would come in the next few decades. Further, in 139, the Qiang again rebelled, and this time the rebellion would not be put down easily and would plague Emperor Shun for the rest of his reign. Indeed, in 141, the Qiang forces annihilated a Han force led by Ma Xian and set fire to the tomb-gardens of a number of Western han emperors in the Chang'an region. Further, eventually, the agrarian rebellions started again in Jing and Yang Provinces and would not be pacified for the rest of Emperor Shun's reign.

Also in 141, Liang Shang died. Inexplicably, Emperor Shun gave his post to his son Liang Ji and gave Liang Ji's post to his younger brother Liang Buyi . Liang Ji proceeded to seize power at every opportunity, and even though Liang Buyi tried to encourage his brother to be moderate in behavior, his pleas fell on deaf ears.

In 144, apparently already ill, Emperor Shun created his only son Liu Bing , born of his concubine Consort Yu in 143, crown prince. Later that year, Emperor Shun died, and Crown Prince Bing succeeded him as . Empress Dowager Liang served as regent, and while she personally appeared capable, her trust in her brother Liang Ji would lead to a major decline of Eastern Han.

Era names

* ''Yongjian'' 126-132
* ''Yangjia'' 132-135
* ''Yonghe'' 136-141
* ''Hanan'' 142-144
* ''Jiankang'' 144

Personal information

* Father
** Emperor An of Han
* Mother
* Wife
** Empress Liang Na
* Major Concubines
** Consort Yu, mother of Emperor Chong and Princess Sheng
* Children
** Liu Bing , the Crown Prince , later Emperor Chong of Han
** Liu Sheng , the Princess Wuyang
** Liu Chengnan , the Princess Guanjun
** Liu Guang , the Princess Ruyang

Emperor Chong of Han

Emperor Chong of Han, 漢冲帝, . hàn chōng dì, . Han Ch'ung-ti, was an of the Chinese Han Dynasty and the eighth emperor of the Eastern Han period.

Emperor Chong was the only son of . He ascended the throne at the age of one and reigned less than six months. During his reign, and her brother Liang Ji presided over all government affairs. While the empress dowager herself appeared to be open-minded and honest, she overly trusted her corrupt brother, and this led to corruptions and as a result the peasants suffered greatly.

Emperor Chong died in 145. He was less than three years old.

Family background

Then-Prince Bing was born to and his concubine Consort Yu in 143. He was Emperor Shun's only son.

In 144, Emperor Shun, apparently already ill, created Prince Bing crown prince. Less than four months later, Emperor Shun died, and Crown Prince Bing, at the age of one, ascended the throne as Emperor Chong.

Brief reign

As Emperor Chong was only a toddler, Emperor Shun's wife served as regent. She apparently was fairly diligent and open-minded in her duties, but her major fault was in trusting her corrupt and violent brother Liang Ji , who was the most powerful official in the administration. When the young and capable official Huangfu Gui submitted a report that, in circumspect language, suggested that Liang Ji and his brother Liang Buyi be humble and live more thriftly, Liang removed Huangfu from his post and tried several times to falsely accuse him of capital crimes.

During Emperor Chong's reign, agrarian revolts, which were already a problem late in Emperor Shun's reign, became more serious -- and even the tomb of Emperor Shun was dug up by bandits.

Early in 145, Emperor Chong died. Empress Dowager Liang was initially going to keep Emperor Chong's death a secret until she would decide on who the successor would be, but she listened to the key official Li Gu and decided to properly and publicly announce Emperor Chong's death immediately. She summoned Emperor Chong's third cousins Liu Suan , the Prince of Qinghe, and Liu Zuan , the son of Liu Hong , Prince Xiao of Bohai, to the capital, and considered the two of them. Liu Suan was apparently an adult and was described as solemn and proper, and the officials largely favored him. However, Liang Ji wanted a younger emperor so that he could remain in absolute control longer, and he persuaded Empress Dowager Liang to make the seven-year-old Prince Zuan as emperor .

Emperor Chong, having died in young childhood, was buried in his father's tomb complex in order to save costs.

Long after Emperor Chong's death, in 175, bestowed on Emperor Chong's mother Consort Yu a more elevated imperial consort title than her original title in recognition of her status as an emperor's mother.

Era name

* ''Yongxi'' 145

Personal information

* Father
** Emperor Shun of Han
* Mother
** Consort Yu

Emperor Zhi of Han

Emperor Zhi of Han was an of the Chinese Han Dynasty. He was a great-great-grandson of . His reign was dominated by Liang Ji, the brother of , who eventually poisoned the young emperor.

Emperor Zhi ascended the throne when he was seven when his third cousin, two-year-old died, and although he was still a child, Emperor Zhi was remarkably intelligent and he knew and was offended by the immense power Liang Ji had over the government -- leading to him once commenting that Liang Ji was "an arrogant general." This act of defiance angered Liang Ji, who proceeded to poison the emperor. Emperor Zhi was only eight when he died.

Family background and ascension to the throne

Liu Zuan, the future Emperor Zhi was born to Liu Hong , the Prince of Le'an, and his wife Consort Chen, in 138. Prince Hong was a great-grandson of . Other than these facts, virtually nothing else is known about Prince Hong or his wife.

In 145, when the two-year-old died, he had no close male relative to inherit his throne. His stepmother therefore summoned two of his third cousins -- Liu Suan , the Prince of Qinghe, and Liu Zuan, then seven-years-old, to the capital, to examine them as potential heir to the throne. Liu Suan was apparently an adult and was described as solemn and proper, and the officials largely favored him. However, Empress Dowager Liang's autocratic and violent brother Liang Ji wanted a younger emperor so that he could remain in absolute control longer, and he persuaded Empress Dowager Liang to make the seven-year-old Zuan as emperor. To avoid having a person without an official title becoming emperor directly, he was first created the Marquess of Jianping, and then the same day he ascended the throne as Emperor Zhi.

Brief reign

Empress Dowager Liang served as Emperor Zhi's regent, and while she overly trusted her brother Liang Ji, who was violent and corrupt, she herself was diligent and interested in governing the country well -- in particular, entrusting much of the important matters to the honest official Li Gu . For example, the agrarian rebellions that started during Emperors Shun and Chong's reigns were largely quelled in 145, after she selected the right generals to lead the armies. She also encouraged the young scholars from over the empire to come to the capital Luoyang to study at the national university.

Emperor Zhi, as young as he was, was keenly aware of how much Liang Ji was abusing power , and on one occasion, at an imperial gathering, he blinked at Liang Ji and referred to him as "an arrogant general." Liang Ji became angry and concerned. In the summer of 146, he poisoned a bowl of pastry soup and had it given to the emperor. After the young emperor consumed the soup, he quickly suffered great pain, and he summoned Li immediately and also requested water, believing that water would save him. However, Liang immediately ordered that the emperor not be given any water, and , the young emperor immediately died. Li advocated a full investigation, but Liang was able to have the investigation efforts suppressed.

After Emperor Zhi's death, Liang Ji, under pressure by the key officials, was forced to summon a meeting of the officials to decide whom to enthrone as the new emperor. The officials were again largely in favor of Prince Suan, but Liang Ji was still concerned about how he would be difficult to control. Rather, he persuaded Empress Dowager Liang to make the 14-year-old Liu Zhi , the Marquess of Liwu, a great-grandson of Emperor Zhang, to whom Liang Ji's younger sister was betrothed, emperor .

Long after Emperor Zhi's death, in 175, bestowed on Emperor Zhi's mother Consort Chen the honorific title of Princess Xiao of Bohai, in recognition of her status as mother of an emperor.

Era name

* ''Benchu'' 146

Personal information

* Father
** Liu Hong , Prince Xiao of Bohai, son of Liu Chong Prince Yi of Le'an, son of Liu Kang Prince Zhen of Qiancheng, son of Emperor Zhang of Han
* Mother
** Consort Chen

Emperor Huan of Han

Emperor Huan of Han, 漢桓帝, . hàn húan dì, . Han Huan-ti, was an of the Chinese Han Dynasty. He was a great-grandson of .

After Emperor Zhi was poisoned to death by the powerful official Liang Ji in 146, Liang Ji persuaded his sister, the regent to make the 14-year-old Liu Zhi, the Marquess of Liwu, who was betrothed to their sister , emperor. As the years went by, Emperor Huan, offended by Liang Ji's autocratic and violent nature, became determined to eliminate the Liang family with the help of eunuchs. Emperor Huan succeeded in removing Liang Ji in 159 but this only caused to increase the influence of the eunuchs over all aspect of government. Corruption during this period had reached a boiling point and in 166 university students rose up in protest against the government and called on Emperor Huan to eliminate all corrupt officials. Instead of listening, Emperor Huan ordered the arrest of all students involved. In all, Emperor Huan has largely been viewed as an emperor who might have had some intelligence but lacked wisdom in governing his empire, and his reign contributed greatly to the downfall of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

''Hou Hanshu'' recounted that one reached the Chinese capital Luoyang in 166 and was greeted by Emperor Huan.

Emperor Huan died in 168 after reigning for 22 years. He was 36.

Family background and ascension

Liu Zhi was born in 132, to Liu Yi , the Marquess of Liwu, and his concubine .

Liu Yi was the son of Liu Kai the Prince of Hejian , and he had initially been made the Prince of Pingyuan as the heir of his cousin Liu Sheng by , the regent for , who was impressed with his abilities. That led to rumors that Empress Deng was looking to replace Emperor An, Prince Yi's cousin, with Prince Yi. After Empress Dowager Deng died in 121, Emperor An, bearing a grudge against Prince Yi, demoted him to the rank of Marquess of Duxiang and exiled him to his father's principality. During the reign of , Prince Kai requested that he be allowed to give Liwu County, part of his principality, to his son, and Emperor Shun permitted it, so Marquess Yi became the Marquess of Liwu.

By 146, Liu Zhi had inherited his father's title, and was betrothed to , the younger sister of the regent and her violent and corrupt brother, Grand Marshall Liang Ji. That year, Liang Ji, bearing grudge against the eight-year-old for calling him an "arrogant general," murdered the young emperor by poison. The officials largely favored Emperor Zhi's first cousin Liu Suan the Prince of Qinghe, who was described as a solemn and proper man. However, Liang Ji was hesitant to yield authority to an able emperor, and, because Marquess Zhi was betrothed to his sister and relatively young, he felt that he could control him, and so insisted on making him emperor. Marquess Zhi took the throne later that year as Emperor Huan.

Early reign: under Liang Ji's shadow

After Emperor Huan's ascension at age 14, Empress Dowager Liang continued to serve as regent. However, her brother Liang Ji became more and more in effective control, even over the empress dowager. Emperor Huan posthumously honored his grandfather and father as emperors, but because the empress dowager was regent, did not honor his mother Yan Ming as an empress dowager; rather, she was given the title of an imperial consort. In 147, he married Empress Dowager Liang and Liang Ji's sister Liang Nüying and created her empress. It appeared that while the Liangs were in control, Emperor Huan was not a complete puppet -- but instead, in a bad sign of things to come, trusted eunuchs in his decision-making.

In 147 as well, Liang Ji, in conjunction with the eunuchs Tang Heng and Zuo Guan , but with Emperor Huan's clear approval, falsely accused the honest officials Li Gu and Du Qiao of conspiring to overthrow Emperor Huan and replace him with Prince Suan. Li and Du were executed, while Prince Suan was demoted to marquess status and committed suicide.

In 150, Empress Dowager Liang announced that she was retiring and returning imperial authority to Emperor Huan. Later that year, she died. Emperor Huan then honored his mother as an empress dowager. However, Liang Ji remained powerful -- and perhaps even more powerful than before, without his sister curbing his power. He became ever more violent and corrupt, stamping out all dissent with threats of death. He even threw his humble and peace-loving brother Liang Buyi out of government.

In 152, Empress Dowager Yan died. Because Emperor Huan had inherited the throne through a collateral line, he was not permitted by customs to be the mourner, but instead his brother Liu Shi the Prince of Pingyuan served as chief mourner.

In 153, the first major public confrontation between an official and a powerful eunuch occurred -- foreshadowing many to come. Zhu Mu , the governor of Ji Province had found out that the father of the powerful eunuch Zhao Zhong had been improperly buried in a jade vest -- an honor that was reserved to imperial princes, and he ordered an investigation. Zhao's father was exhumed, and the jade vest was stripped away -- an act that angered Zhao and Emperor Huan. Zhu was not only removed from his post but was sentenced to hard labor.

Coup d'etat against Liang Ji

As the years went by, Emperor Huan became increasingly disgruntled at Liang Ji's control of the government, and was also angered by Empress Liang's behavior. Because of her position as Empress Dowager Liang and Liang Ji's sister, Empress Liang was wasteful in her luxurious living, far exceeding any past empress, and was exceedingly jealous. She did not have a son, and because she did not want any other imperial consorts to have sons, if one became pregnant, Empress Liang would find some way to murder her. Emperor Huan did not dare to react to her due to Liang Ji's power, but rarely had sexual relations with her. In 159, angry and depressed that she had lost her husband's favor, Empress Liang died.

That would start a chain of events that would lead to Liang Ji's downfall later that year. Liang, in order to continue to control Emperor Huan, had adopted his wife's beautiful cousin , , as his own daughter, changing her family name to Liang. He and Sun gave Liang Mengnü to Emperor Huan as an imperial consort, and, after Empress Liang's death, they hoped that she would be eventually created empress. To completely control her, Liang Ji planned to have her mother, Lady Xuan , killed, and in fact sent assassins against her, but the assassination was foiled by the powerful eunuch Yuan She , a neighbor of Lady Xuan.

Lady Xuan reported the assassination attempt to Emperor Huan, who was greatly angered. He entered into a conspiracy with eunuchs Tang Heng, Zuo Guan, Dan Chao , Xu Huang , and Ju Yuan to overthrow Liang -- sealing the oath by biting open Dan's arm and swearing by his blood. Liang Ji had some suspicions about what Emperor Huan and the eunuchs were up to, and he investigated. The five eunuchs quickly reacted. They had Emperor Huan openly announce that he was taking back power from Liang Ji and mobilized the imperial guards to defend the palace against a counterattack by Liang, and then surrounding Liang's house and forcing him to surrender. Liang and Sun were unable to respond and committed suicide. The entire Liang and Sun clans were arrested and slaughtered. A large number of officials were executed or deposed for close association with Liang -- so many that the government was almost unable to function for some time. Liang and Sun's properties were confiscated by the imperial treasury, which allowed the taxes to be reduced by 50% for one year. The people greatly celebrated Liang Ji's death. What they did not know at that point was that this would not be an improvement of the political situation.

Late reign: empowerment of the eunuchs

After Liang Ji's death, Emperor Huan created Liang Mengnü empress, but disliked her family name, and therefore ordered her to take the family name Bo . Later, he found out that her original family name was actually Deng, and therefore had her family name restored.

The people had great expectations for Emperor Huan's administration after the death of Liang Ji. However, having been able to overthrow Liang Ji with the five eunuchs' help, Emperor Huan greatly rewarded them, creating them and several other eunuchs who participated in the coup d'état marquesses and further gave them governmental posts that conferred tremendous power. Further, the five eunuch-marquesses openly engaged in massive corruption and became extremely wealthy, with Emperor Huan's approval. A song written about four remaining eunuch-marquesses, after Dan's death, described them in this way:

:''Zuo can reverse heaven's decision. Ju sits by himself without match. Xu is a lying wolf. Tang's power is as prevalent as the falling rain.''

Emperor Huan himself was also corrupt and unwilling to accept any criticism. In 159, when the honest county magistrate Li Yun submitted a petition urging him to curb the power of the eunuchs, Emperor Huan was deeply offended that he included the phrase, "Is the emperor turning blind?" and, despite intercessions by a number of officials and even some fairly-minded eunuchs, had Li and his friend Du Zhong both executed.

In 161, apparently in reaction to spending due to renewed Qiang rebellions and new agrarian revolts, Emperor Huan issued an edict offering minor offices for sale -- including imperial guard officer positions. While Emperor Huan actually appeared to have a knack for finding good generals to suppress the rebellions or to persuade the rebels to surrender, the rampant corruption would cause new rebellions as soon as the old ones are quelled.

In 165, perhaps finally fed up with the eunuchs' excess, Emperor Huan demoted the only remaining of the five -- Ju. Several other corrupt eunuchs were also demoted or deposed. However, soon thereafter, the eunuchs' powers were restored again. For the rest of Emperor Huan's reign, there would be a cycle of rise and fall of power of the eunuchs after conflicts with officials, but inexorably the eunuchs would return, becoming more powerful than before.

Later that year, apparently tired of Empress Deng and sick of her disputes with a favorite consort of his, Consort Guo, Emperor Huan deposed and imprisoned her. She died in anger, and several of her family members were executed. He wanted to create another consort, Tian Sheng empress, but officials opposed on the basis that she was of lowly birth, and recommended that he create , the daughter of Dou Wu , a Confucian scholar and a descendant of Dou Rong , who had contributed much to the establishment of the Eastern Han Dynasty, empress. Even though he did not favor Consort Dou, Emperor Huan gave in to pressure and created her empress.

In 166, a major public confrontation between university students and eunuchs evolved into a major incident. The governor of the capital province , Li Ying, had arrested and executed a fortuneteller named Zhang Cheng , who had had his son kill a man, having predicted that a general pardon was coming. Li was arrested, and 200 some university students signed a petition requesting his release -- which further angered Emperor Huan, who had the students arrested. Only after about a year and Dou Wu's intercession were Li and the university students released, but all of them had their citizenship rights stripped. This incident was later known as the first .

In 168, Emperor Huan died without a son. Empress Dou, jealous of how he favored Consort Tian, had her immediately put to death. She conducted a survey among the members of the imperial clan, and decided on the 11-year-old Liu Hong , the Marquess of Jieduting, who then ascended the throne as Emperor Ling.

Era names

*''Jianhe'' 147-149
*''Heping'' 150
*''Yuanjia'' 151-153
*''Yongxing'' 153-154
*''Yongshou'' 155-158
*''Yanxi'' 158-167
*''Yongkang'' 167

Personal information

* Father
** Liu Yi , the Marquess of Liwu, son of Liu Kai Prince Xiao of Hejian, son of Emperor Zhang of Han
* Mother
** , Marquess Yi's concubine
* Wives
** Empress Liang Nüying , sister of Empress Liang Na and Liang Ji
** Empress Deng Mengnü
** Empress Dou Miao
* Major concubines
** Consort Guo
** Consort Tian Sheng
** Consort Feng
* Children
** Liu Hua , the Princess Yang'an
** Liu Jian , the Princess Yingyin
** Liu Xiu , the Princess Yanzhai