Emperor Guangwu 劉 秀

Emperor Guangwu 劉 秀

born Liu Xiu;

13 January 5 BC – 29 March AD 57

Han_Guangwu_Di

By Yan Li-pen – Taken from Original collection can be viewed at Museum of Fine Arts., Public Domain.

Wenshu was an emperor of the Chinese Han Eastern dynasty, restorer of the dynasty in AD 25 and thus founder of the Later Han or Eastern Han (the restored Han Dynasty). He ruled over parts of China at first, and through suppression and conquest of regional warlords, the whole of China was consolidated by the time of his death in 57.

Liu Xiu was one of the many descendants of the Han imperial family. Following the usurpation of the Han throne by Wang Mang and the ensuing civil war during the disintegration of Wang’s short-lived Xin Dynasty, he emerged as one of several descendants of the fallen dynasty claiming the imperial throne. After assembling forces and proclaiming himself emperor in the face of competitors, he was able to defeat his rivals, destroy the peasant army of the Chimei, known for their disorganization and marauding, and finally reunify the whole of China in AD 36.

He established his capital in Luoyang, 335 kilometers (208 mi) east of the former capital Chang’an, ushering in the Later/Eastern Han Dynasty. He implemented some reforms (notably land reform, albeit not very successfully) aimed at correcting some of the structural imbalances responsible for the downfall of the Former/Western Han. His reforms gave a new 200-year lease on life to the Han Dynasty.

Emperor Guangwu’s campaigns featured many able generals, but curiously, he lacked major strategists. That may very well be because he himself appeared to be a brilliant strategist; he often instructed his generals as to strategy from afar, and his predictions generally would be accurate. This was often emulated by later emperors who fancied themselves great strategists but who actually lacked Emperor Guangwu’s brilliance—usually to great disastrous results.

Also unique among emperors in Chinese history was Emperor Guangwu’s combination of decisiveness and mercy. He often sought out peaceful means rather than bellicose means of putting areas under his control. He was, in particular, one of the rare examples of a founding emperor of a dynasty who did not kill, out of jealousy or paranoia, any of the generals or officials who contributed to his victories after his rule was secure.

References

  • Bielenstein, Hans. (1986). “Wang Mang, the Restoration of the Han Dynasty, and Later Han”, in The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch’in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220, 223–290. Edited by Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-24327-0.
  • Zizhi Tongjian by Sima Guang, vols. 38–44 (original available at zh:s:資治通鑑), and Modern Chinese Edition edited by Bo Yang (Taipei, 1982–1989).
  • Hou Han Shu by Fan Ye, vol. 1 (Biography of Emperor Guangwu).

 

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