Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Emperor Wudi of Han Dynasty Liu Che -- An Aristocrat Challenger 

Liu Che (156 B.C. -- 87 B. C.), respected as Emperor Wudi of Han or Han Wu Di, was the 7th emperor of the Han Dynasty in the history of China, great grandson of the Emperor Liu Bang.

 

Che's achievements were glorious and made him sometimes comparable tothe Emperor Qin Shi Huang (Ying Zheng) of the Qin Dynasty; his flaws, however, were overt as well. 

 

Liu Che's Political Alliance with His First Queen

Che’s mother was originally an imperial concubine, but she tried to persuade the most powerful princess to marry her daughter to Che; when this political marriage was settled, Che and his future wife, who was also his first queen, were all still toddlers.

 

Consequently, with the help of this powerful princess, the current queen and crown prince were all abrogated; soon, Che’s mother became the queen and Che became heir of the Han Dynasty.

 

After he ascended to the throne when he was 15, he married to his first queen, daughter of that powerful and helpful princess.

 

Six years later, after Che's grandmother, the powerful Empress Dowager, departed, he finally gained the actual power.

 

Strong Enemy the Huns 

Che’s grandfather and father were excellent emperors in the history of China, who brought the Han Dynasty wealth and stability; especially after his father defeated the Rebellion of Seven Feudatory States and further strengthened centralized power, the kingdom was getting much stronger.

 

But the Huns (also known as Xiong Nu) on the north was expanding and kept harassing the Han Empire.

 

After Han’s first emperor Liu Bang failed in defeating the Huns, the Han Empire kept paying money and sending princesses to them.

 

Even when the King of the Huns insulted Han’s first Empress Dowager Lv and asked her to marry him in a letter of credence, Lv had to show her gratitude saying that she was old and not good enough for him.

 

Those failures, humiliation, and endless killings on borders were the most important issues for Liu Che, the Emperor Wudi of Han.

National Recruitment of Intelligent Ministers From All Classes

As long as Che gained power, he published an announcement to recruit intelligent people nationwide; many commoners were selected and promoted by Che himself.

 

Diminishing of the Feudatory States

One of them was named Zhu Fu Yan, a slum born civilian, assisted Emperor Wudi implemented a policy which further weakened remaining feudal states and strengthened centralized power.

 

This policy, a very influential one in history of China, encouraged all sons of lords of feudatory states, instead of only the first son, had the right to inherit the state; therefore, lords were required to divide their states into many smaller and less powerful ones, until they vanished generations later.

 

Emperor Wudi also used other excuses to abolish some lords who disobeyed him. 

 

Development of National Economy

Another person Sang Hong Yang, who came from a business family, became Emperor Wudi's trusted chancellor of the exchequer.

 

He implemented a series of economic policies and systems to increase revenue and well managed national treasury.

 

He was also, in the history of China, the first minister who valued industry, commerce and trade as important as agriculture.

 

His excellent work guaranteed the Empire Han run well and the Emperor Wudi never felt lack of money, even after having initiated many large scale military activities. 

 

Establishment of New Dominant Ideology

Soon, Emperor Wudi accepted and implemented a suggestion from philosopher Dong Zhong Shu that made Confucianism the only philosophy and behavioral standard officially; many Confucianism colleges were established afterwards.

 

This was another important policy that Emperor Wudi published, which had significant influence to both Chinese culture and philosophy. 

 

Also, certain numbers of talented people were required to be nominated to the central government each year, which became an important way to select officers.

 

Under Emperor Wudi's administration, ability triumphs class origin.

 

Within a few years, Liu Che, the Emperor Wudi of Han, changed the Han Dynasty from an aristocracy ruled empire to a Centralized Bureaucracy Feudal Kingdom, a significant transform in the history of China.

Encounter to His Second Queen - A Slave Born Singer

When Liu Che was 17 years old, he paid a visit to his sister’s palace, where he met a beautiful slave born singer named Wei Zifu. 

 

Liu Che liked her at the first sight and took her back to his royal palace.


Years later, this singer gave birth to Emperor Wudi's first child. Then she became his second queen after giving birth to the crown prince.

 

Zifu’s younger brother Wei Qing, a slave born hostler, was taken to the royal palace along with her. Qing then served as a guard of Emperor Wudi, soon was nominated as a general to defend the Huns.

 

Exceptional Military Success in Defeating the Huns

Surprisingly, Wei Qing, this former hosteler with no military experiences, became the first general in the Han Dynasty who obtained large area of land from the Huns.

 

Qing soon established Han’s strong cavalry troop; then with his nephew Huo Qubing, another exceptional general, they defeated the Huns for several times and largely extended Han’s territory northward and northwestward.

 

Since then, the former powerful Huns never had the ability to invade Han again.

 

Meanwhile, Han’s realm largely extended southward and westward too, through warfare and opening up of the Silk Road by Zhang Qian; most of the livable places within sight in China were under Emperor Wudi's dominance. 

 

For those newly occupied large amounts of territories, Emperor Wudi migrated tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians to open up and cultivate those land for farming.

 

This then became an important policy of feudal kingdoms in the history of China, which proved very efficient on stabilizing new territory, increasing food supply and people’s well being.

 

Land that was conquered by military forces, from that time on, gradually integrated and harmonized into the middle kingdom. 

Wars of Expansion and Injustice 

But not all of Emperor Wudi's military activities were successful.

 

After great generals Wei Qing and Huo Qubing all departed, Emperor Wudi nominated his favorite concubine’s brother as general and initiated some wars against small countries on the west of Han and the Huns.

 

But this general was quite ordinary and unfaithful; he wasted lots of resources and good soldiers’ lives, but barely achieved success. In the end, he even surrendered to the Huns.

 

He proved the emperor that a general should be trusted with his military achievement, not kinsfolk to any beautiful concubine. 

 

In addition, some of those wars that Emperor Wudi initiated in his later years were not justice. For instance, a king of a small country refused to sell Han their national treasure, the Akhal-teke horses; so Liu Che sent an army and invaded this country twice.

 

Soon, aristocrats of this country assassinated this king and surrendered to Han and tributes many Akhal-teke horses.

 

Then Han supported a lord of this country to be the new king, who respected and surrendered to Han.

 

Unlike wars with the Huns that defended Han’s country and people, those wars for treasure brought Emperor Wudi many criticisms. 

 

Losing of His Crown Prince and His Second Queen 

When Emperor Wudi got older, he started to pursue for immortal; thus, he was surrounded by many people who claimed themselves with magical power.

 

However, tens of thousands people were killed because Emperor Wudi believed that someone wanted to kill him through evil witchcraft, included his queen Wei Zifu and crown prince and their entire clan.

 

Years later, Liu Che finally found out that his queen and son were set up by someone with unspeakable political purposes; so he cleared their names and never nominated any other queens afterwards. 

 

After serious consideration, Emperor Wudi published an Edict of Introspection, an article of self-criticism, in which he admitted and apologized for all the wrong things he had done in his entire life.

 

It was also the first time in the history of China that a powerful emperor who completely admitted his own faults to his people and sincerely apologized for everything.

 

Then Emperor Wudi righted his wrongs and tried hard to amend damages he brought to his people in his late years. 

 

Killing the Mother and Giving the Throne

Emperor Wudi met a beautiful woman on his tour in his older years, who gave birth to a baby boy soon.

 

One year before Emperor Wudi departed, he nominated this boy as the new crown prince, but he sentenced this woman to death.

 

He believed that a child emperor with a young mother would jeopardize the empire, especially a beautiful young woman with no political experiences at all.

 

Then Emperor Wudi nominated four of his trusted ministers as regents together, to assist his young crown prince.

 

Emperor Wudi of Han, Liu Che, passed away later and left his seven-year-old son a huge kingdom with some talented and loyal regents.

 

As he had expected, his smart crown prince and those loyal regents did a good job; they brought stability and peaceful lives to their people.

 

​Achievemtns and Faults of the Emperor Wudi of Han

Under Emperor Wudi's dominance, the Han Dynasty stepped into a more prosperous era and the territory was expanded unprecedentedly.

 

He made almost every nearby regime surrendered or defeated, while most of those regimes later melted into Han’s culture.

 

Emperor Wudi of Han was quite a challenger in the history of China, to aristocrat policy and theory of the bloodline. Slaves could be his queen and marshal, slum born people could be his powerful prime ministers.

 

Aristocrat clans were largely weakened, while the class origin was no longer a concern in his government.

 

He has been criticized for having initiated some unnecessary wars, and killed many people because of his belief in witchcraft in his later years.

 

Those negative flaws, however, still could not outweigh his extraordinary achievements in the history of China.