Emperor Han Zhaodi 漢昭帝

Emperor Han Zhaodi 漢昭帝

(r. 87-74 BCE)

Personal name Liu Fuling 劉弗陵, courtesy name Liu Bu 劉不, was a ruler of the Former Han dynasty 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE). He was a minor son of Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE) and Lady Zhao 趙婕妤 and succeeded his father to the throne with the age of no more than 8 sui, so that he was assisted by a trio of advisors;

  1. General-in-chief serving as commander-in-chief (da sima da jiangjun 大司馬大將軍) Huo Guang 霍光.
  2. General of cavarly and chariots (cheji jiangjun 車騎將軍) Jin Midi 金日磾
  3. General to the left (zuo jiangjun 左將軍) Shangguan Jie 上官桀.


In 83 BCE Shangguan Jie’s six sui old daughter was made the main consort of Emperor Zhao. He was officially capped – and so reached manhood – in 77 BCE. At that time a half-brother of his, Prince Liu Dan 劉旦 of Yan 燕 rebelled.

Shangguan Jie, Sang Hongyang 桑弘羊 and Princess Gaichang 蓋长公主, an older sister of Emperor Zhao, used this chance to slender Huo Guang of high treason, yet the emperor did not believe their accusations. Not long after, Shangguan Jie planned to overthrow the emperor and to enthrone Prince Dan, but the plot was reveiled. Shangguan Jie was executed, and the Princess and her half-brother committed sucicide.

Emperor Zhao continued the politics of his father, settled down peasants to open new fields in remote areas, undertook military campaigns against the Xiongnu 匈奴 and Wuhuan 烏桓, and in 81 BCE proclaimed an empire-wide search for excellent scholars to enter the service oft his state.

He also opened a conference on the state monopoly of salt and iron, where he first became aware of the hardships of the people caused by the exploitation of the state-commissioned salt merchants.

Emperor Zhao also concluded with the Xiongnu peace by marriage (heqin 和親, so that the Chinese embasssador Su Wu 蘇武 who was kept prisoner by the Xiongnu for more than a decade was relased.

Emperor Zhao is buried in the tomb mound Pingling 平陵.

He was succeeded by his nephew Liu He 劉賀, the Prince of Yichang 昌邑, who was replaced after a short time by Emperor Xuan 漢宣帝 (r. 74-49 BCE).


Chen Quanli 陳全力, Hou Xinyi 侯欣一 (ed. 1988), Diwang cidian帝王辭典 (Xi’an: Shaanxi renmin jiaoyu chubanshe), p. 35.

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