An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Emperor Han Lingdi 漢靈帝 Liu Hong 劉宏

Mar 8, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Emperor Han Lingdi 漢靈帝 (156-189, r. 167-189), personal name Liu Hong 劉宏, was a great-grandson of Emperor Zhang of the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) and one of the last rulers of the Later Han 後漢 (25-220). His father was Liu Chang 劉萇, Marquis of Xieduting 解瀆亭侯, his mother was Lady Dong 董夫人.

When Emperor Ling acceded to the throne, the government was led by the regent Dou Wu 竇武, a brother of Empress Dowager Dou 竇太后, consort of Emperor Huan 漢桓帝 (146-167). Dou Wu planned to get rid of the powerful eunuch clique at the court by massacring all eunuchus. The plot was reveiled and Dou Wu was killed.

Emperor Ling was thereupon tighly observed by the eunuchs, especially by Cao Jie 曹節, who instantly had searched out callaborators of Dou Wu among the courtiers. Li Ying 李膺, Du Mi 杜密 and Chen Fan 陳蕃, leaders of the anti-eunuch faction, were put into jail and were executed. There were also many scholars of the National University (taixue 太學) killed by the eunuchs.

In 176 the emperor was forced to issue an edict ordering all relatives and retainers of members of the anti-eunuch clique to leave their posts and retire.

During the reign of Emperor Ling, prices were fixed for selling offices. He had furthermore repaired the imperial palace.

At the end of his reign, the large-scale rebellion of the Yellow Turbans 黃巾起義 broke out that would shake the foundations of the empire.

Emperor Ling was buried in the tomb mound Wenling 漢文陵. His posthumous title is Emperor Xiaoling 漢孝靈帝. His son Liu Bian 劉辯 suceeded to the throne, yet the powerful general Dong Zhuo 董卓 who took over the court after the final extinction of the eunuch clique in 189, dethroned the 17 years old Liu Bian and made the nine-years old Prince of Bohai 勃海王 (or Chenliu 陳留), Liu Xie 劉協, emperor (known as Emperor Xian 漢獻帝, r. 189-220).

Zhang Shunhui 張舜徽, ed. (1994). Houhanshu cidian 後漢書辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 582.