An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Emperor Han Hedi 漢和帝 Liu Zhao 劉肇

Dec 26, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Emperor Han Hedi 漢和帝 (r. 88-105 CE), personal name Liu Zhao 劉肇, courtesy name Shi 始, was an emperor of the Later Han dynasty 後漢 (25-220 CE). He was the fourth son of Emperor Zhang 漢章帝 (r. 76-88 CE) and succeeded his father to the throne. His mother, Lady Liang 梁貴人, had been incarcerated by Empress Dou 竇皇后 and died soon, so that Liu Zhao was raised up by the Empress like her own child.

When he mounted the throne, he was only 10-sui old, which made it necessary that the Empress Dowager took over regency for him, while her brother Dou Xian 竇憲 managed the governmental affairs. Emperor He's first empress was Lady Yin 陰貴人, and later Lady Deng 鄧氏.

In the first year of his reign, the khan (chanyu 單于) of the Southern Xiongnu 南匈奴 asked for military support against the Northern Xiongnu 北匈奴. Dou Xian had been charged with the murder of Liu Chang 劉暢, Marquis of Duxiang 都鄉侯, and offered to take over command of the campaign as a means of retribution. The highest ministers contradicted this proposal because they feared a larger military conflict, but Empress Dowager Dou rebutted them and sent out her brother on campaign. The general was highly successful and defeated the Northern Xiongnu decisively. He even climb their sacred mountain Mt. Yanran 燕然山 (modern Mt. Kang'ai 杭愛山 in Mongolia), where he erected a stele reporting the victory.

Deng Xian's military success opened the Deng family all gates, and the Empress Dowager's relatives became the most powerful officials in the empire. They controlled the emperor to such an exent that he was not allowed to have personal contact with the state officials. Yet in 92 CE he was able to find allies in the court eunuchs and entrusted Zheng Zhong 鄭眾 to deprive Dou Xian of his general's seal. He was given the title of Marquis of Guanjun 冠軍侯 and was sent to take over rulership over his territory. On the way, Dou Xian committed suicide because he perceived that he had lost all power.

Zheng Zhong was ennobled as Marquis of Chaoxiang 鄛鄉侯. This was the first time that a eunuch was granted a title of nobility under the Han. In 97 CE Ban Chao 班超, protector of the Western Territories, sent out Gan Ying 甘英 as an emabassador to the country of Daqin 大秦 (by some historians identified with Rome). He arrived at the Persian Gulf but then returned because he was said that it would be too troublesome to go on.

Emperor He was buried in the tomb mound Shenling 慎陵 (or Shunling 順陵). Empress Dowager Deng proclaimed that Emperor He's son Liu Sheng 劉勝 was too sick to reign and enthroned Liu Long 劉隆, who was still a baby. He is known as Emperor Shang 殤帝 (r. 105-106 CE).

Chen Quanli 陳全力, Hou Xinyi 侯欣一, ed. (1988). Diwang cidian 帝王辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin jiaoyu chubanshe), 44.