Emperor Cheng of Han — A Bisexual Monarch that Ended Up in A Woman’s Bed

Emperor Cheng of Han (51 BC — 7 BC), named Liu Ao, was the 12th monarch of the Han Dynasty.

He was an ordinary monarch at the beginning, later spent more time enjoying lives with his lovers, which made his mother's clan obtained centralized power. 


Besides having declined the empire, Emperor Cheng of Han was quite famous for being bisexual and ended up in a concubine's bed.

Blue Glaze Decoration of the Han Dynasty — Changsha Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

From A Decent Crown Prince to A Smart Monarch

Liu Ao was an adorable, polite kid when he was little, and his grandfather Emperor Xuan of Han, one of the best monarchs of the Han Dynasty, liked him a lot.

Therefore, even Liu Ao and his mother were not appreciated by his father the Emperor Yuan of Han, he had been the crown prince safely.    

After Liu Ao ascended to the throne as Emperor Cheng of Han, he realized that his father had already lost power over the eunuch group and some powerful aristocratic clans, which made it difficult for him to reign the empire.

Jade Figurine and Horse Unearthed from Mausoleum of the Emperor Yuan of Han — Xianyang Museum

In the beginning, he used some noble clans to crack down the strong eunuch group and annihilated their power, then he assigned his mother’s Wang clan to abate other aristocrats.

Afterward, he and his mother’s clan obtained the absolute authority of the Han Empire. 

Emperor Cheng of Han Liu Ao, then, selected some excellent officials that efficiently promoted the development of agriculture. 

He also commanded to collect and edit books nationwide, which made great contributions to the preservation and dissemination of Chinese culture, bibliography, and library science.

During his ruling period, borders were stable and people were living in peace.

Censer Inlaid with Gold (Cuo Jin Bo Shan Lu) of the Han Dynasty — Hebei Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

First Queen and Male Lover of the Emperor Cheng of Han

When Liu Ao was young, he truly loved his queen, a beautiful and talented girl from his grandmother's Xu clan.

Years later, when his queen got older, he transferred his affection to an imperial concubine named Ban, who was famous for her literary achievements and decency; there are still some writings of her now. 

Till then, he was still a good emperor, who retrieved power, made contributions to agriculture and culture, kept peace in borders, and was in love with women with a good reputation and elegancy.

No one knows what exactly happened; his love life afterward, however, was frequently criticized in the history of China. 

Beautiful, Talented Ban, Respected As Ban Jieyu

According to historical documents, Liu Ao the Emperor Cheng of Han was a bisexual person who used to be deeply in love with a handsome young man named Zhang Fang. 

To promote his lover's status, the emperor married his queen's niece to him. Afterward, they had more time and excuses to be together. 

However, Empress Dowager Wang Zhengjun (71 BC — 13 AD), also the emperor's birth mother, was angry about him being indifferent to politics, having no kids but spent all of the time with a man. 

So she commanded some people of her clan framed Zhang Fang up and expelled him far away.

Emperor Cheng of Han was very sad, but he didn't dare to ask his mother to change her decision. During this period, they could only write their affections in letters, or meet for a few days when the emperor got opportunities to summon him back.

Deer Shaped Bronze Artifact (Tong Zhen) of the Han Dynasty Decorated with Shell that was used to Press Sitting Mat — National Museum of China  (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Years later, the emperor met and obsessed with his second queen and her sister, afterward, he stopped seeing Zhang Fang, who later got sick and passed away. 


Emperor Cheng of Han and His Dancer Queen Zhao Feiyan

One day, when Emperor Cheng of Han was having dinner at his sister's place, a beautiful dancer named Zhao Feiyan got his full attention. 

He brought Zhao Feiyan back, as well as her gorgeous younger sister named Zhao Hede.

Afterward, he was only obsessed with these two and spent most of his time having fun with them.

Later, the emperor abolished his first queen, and gave the crown to Zhao Feiyan, despite his mother, the empress dowager's strong opposition. 

If a good monarch needs to stay responsible as long as he was wearing the crown, then Liu Ao, the Emperor Cheng of Han, was not one. 

Gradually, he paid less attention to reign the empire, and became more addicted to alcohol and beautiful women, while his mother and her clan did most of the administrative jobs and obtained more and more power.

Feiyan and Hede’s clan also occupied some political power and were given many privileges to manipulate the royal family, and the emperor always fully condoned them.

Ending Up On A Beautiful Imperial Concubine's Bed

Liu Ao, the Emperor Cheng of Han, died in Zhao Hede’s bed out of a sudden at his 40s; Zhao Hede then committed suicide after hearing the empress dowager wanted to question her about the emperor’s death.

Liu Ao’s kids that he had with other women all died young; Feiyan and Hede never had a baby. Consequently, Emperor Cheng of Han left his empire with no sons to inherit the throne.

One of his nephews ascended to the throne, while many social problems already existed and the extremely powerful Wang clan kept expanding.

People from this clan listened to Liu Ao, because of their family bond and his remaining authority.

As for the following emperors that were much younger and distant, however, they were not that lucky. 

Therefore, 16 years after Liu Ao's death, his mother's nephew, a person from the Wang Clan named Wang Mang (45 BC — 23 AD), usurped the throne. 

Mirror of the Han Dynasty with Inscriptions, Praising Wang Mang's Enthronement and His Replacement of the Royal Liu Clan — Fuyang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

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