Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Emperor Yuan of Han -- Monarch With Sad Love Stories and Supporter of Eunuchs

A Talented Prince and An Incapable Heir

Liu Shi (74 B. C. -- 33 B. C.), the Emperor Yuan of Han, was the only son of great Emperor Liu Xun and his beloved wife Xu Pingjun.

 

His father, Emperor Liu Xun realized that Shi won’t be a good monarch of a huge empire, because of his credulity and recreance; but thinking of Xu Pingjun’s love and accompany and how she was poisoned to death at a young age, Xun still gave the throne to Shi, though there were some other princes who were more capable and decisive.

 

Just as his father expected, Liu Shi’s weakness, not only declined the Han Dynasty, but also aggrieved himself in his love life. 

 

As a prince, Liu Shi was quite outstanding and talented. He was well educated, kind and knowledgeable; his scholarship in history and Confucianism was quite excellent in the history of China.


Moreover, he was a genius musician who could master many kinds of instruments and composition, as well as a great calligrapher. 

 

Emperor Yuan of Han - A Soft Monarch Losing Power 

After Liu Shi ascended to the throne as Emperor Yuan of Han, he was very respectful to ministers that his father left him, but also very credulous to close eunuchs.

 

He always had difficulty deciding whose suggestion he should listen to and which side he should support; thus, he barely had a concrete political principle or ambition.

 

Soon, eunuchs allied some powerful aristocrats won over upstanding ministers, which made the most intelligent regent that Liu Shi's father chose for him committed suicide out of desperate and disappointment. 

 

Liu Shi, the Emperor Yuan of Han, was very sad about losing the minister that his father had trusted most, but he didn’t punish people who were responsible for this tragedy either.

 

Gradually, he lost centralized power to eunuchs and powerful clans, who in the end made nearly all decisions for the emperor.

 

Though nothing destructive actually happened under his ruling, which mainly because of the solid and strong foundation his brilliant father and other ancestors built, he's losing control was a turning point of the Han Dynasty.

Eunuch group, for the first time in the history of China, started to obtain a great deal of power and manipulate politics. ​

Emperor Yuan of Han's Unhappy Love Lives  

Liu Shi's personality was unlike any of his ancestor emperors of the Han Dynasty, which also made his love life unhappy. 

 

When he was still a talented crown prince and legal heir of the prosperous empire, he only loved one girl. Though his father assigned him many beautiful women, he only loved a concubine he married when he was very young.

But his beloved girl passed away young, because of sickness; when she was dying, she told Shi that she was cursed by his other women who were jealous of her, though no one could tell if that was the truth.

 

Liu Shi believed her completely and stopped seeing his queen and other concubines because of hatred. 

 

But as an heir, he had to have heirs; so his father found more women for him.

 

Liu Shi couldn’t disobey his father’s command, so he randomly pointed to a woman named Wang and spent a night with her. This woman then got pregnant and gave birth to Shi’s first baby boy. Shi’s father was very happy and finally relieved.

 

No one could expect that this single night brought the Han Dynasty a crown prince, a queen, a very powerful clan the House of  Wang, also a person from that clan named Wang Mang who ended Han’s empire. 

 

A Brave General Under Emperor Yuan of Han's Governance 

After Shi's father, Emperor Liu Xun, successfully took control of northwest China and further weakened the Huns, many forces within the Huns kept fighting against each other. In the end, there were two main regimes left in the Huns. 

 

One regime migrated to West Asia and allied a country there by marriage. King of that regime, then claimed Han as their enemy and killed Han’s diplomatic envoys.

 

This made an assistant general named Chen Tang quite outrageous; so he started to ally other countries nearby which had been bullied by the Huns. Then Chen commanded this army to attack the Huns, when his general in charge was ill. 

 

When they were about to march off, Chen sent his emperor Liu Shi a report, telling what they would be doing.

 

Before the central government of Han realized what exactly happened, Chen has already led his 40, 000 soldiers perished the regime that had moved to West Asia; their king, queen, crown prince and all the aristocrats were killed in that war, some of their land was rewarded to those supportive ally countries. 

 

Initiating a war without emperor’s command was a serious crime in the history of China, especially Chen’s "assistant general" position was not even qualified to be a commander of an army; but the huge success was quite thrilling, and Chen used few of Han’s resources, thanks to his allies.

 

It took Emperor Yuan of Han a long time to decide if Chen should be punished or rewarded.

 

Finally, Liu Shi decided to give Chen awards of a noble title and money, for successfully perished a regime of the Huns decisively, with his exceptional intelligence and courage. 

 

Missing of A Beautiful and Brave Woman

Another regime of the Huns complied to Han and pursued a political alliance by marriage.

 

Liu Shi didn’t want to marry a real princess to this king, like previous emperors of Han did when the Huns was quite strong and powerful; so he decided to select a woman from his royal maids.

 

Then a maid named Wang Qiang, also called as Wang Zhaojun, volunteered and then was rewarded a princess title.

 

When Qiang was officially dressed up in the farewell ceremony, Emperor Liu Shi met her for the first time and fell in love with her the moment he saw her.

 

Since Liu Shi’s beloved concubine passed away years ago, it was the first time he was so impressed and attracted by a woman; unfortunately, he couldn’t regret on this important political alliance. 

In the end, he had to see her off, reluctantly.

 

Wang Zhaojun, one of the Four Beauties in the history of China, a gorgeous and brave woman, brought peace and better communication between Han and the Huns for over half a centenary. Her courage and dedication had been eulogized for generations. 

 

Liu Shi, the Emperor Yuan of Han, was indeed a kind person, who barely blamed anyone. When he was crown prince, he always disagreed with his father for being too strict and potent; he believed that many people his father had punished were innocent.

 

It turned out credulous and unconditional forgiving, however, were not quite necessary qualities for monarch of a big empire. 

 

This nice, modest and talented person, thus, was considered an incapable monarch in the history of China, who lost centralized power and discombobulated his kingdom.

 

Though he never intended to hurt anyone, his indecisive and nonfeasance gradually declined prosperity of the Han Dynasty.