An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Emperor Han Pingdi 漢平帝 Liu Kan 劉衎

Dec 26, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Emperor Han Pingdi 漢平帝 (r. 1 BCE-5 CE), personal name Liu Kan 劉衎, courtesy name Le 樂, was one of the last rulers of the Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE). He was a grandson of Emperor Yuan 漢元帝 (r. 49-33 BCE) and a son of the Prince of Zhongshan 中山王 and Lady Wei 衛姬.

When he succeeded Emperor Ai 漢哀帝 (r. 7-1 BCE) to the throne, he was only 9-sui old, so that the Grand Empress Dowager Wang 王太皇太后 took over regency.

Her nephew Wang Mang 王莽 held the title of Minister of War (da sima 大司馬) and controlled the imperial secretariat. In a very intelligent way, Wang Mang prepared his gradual rise of power. The presentation of two strange pheasants to the court was interpreteted as an omen of Wang Mang's virtuous government that resembled that of the Duke of Zhou 周公 (11th cent. BCE) in the ancient past. He was therefore granted the title of Duke Anhan 安漢公 "Stabilizing the Han dynasty" and was assisted by the "four supports" (sifu 四輔) Kong Guang 孔光, Wang Shun 王舜, Zhen Feng 甄豐 and Yin Han 鄄邯.

Because his aunt was already in a great age, Wang Mang had proclaimed her an edict that laid all power into his own hands. He continued to revere Confucian scholars and conferred upon Kong Jun 孔均, a descendant of Confucius, the title of Marquis of Baocheng 褒成侯 and bestowed Confucius himself the honorific title of Duke Xuan Ni of Baocheng 褒成宣尼公.

In 3 CE, Wang Mang made his own daughter consort of Emperor Ping. In order to satisfy the relatives of Emperor Ping's mother, he likewise bestowed them honorific titles of marquisates and forced them to remain in their domains that were all located far away from the capital. The Emperor was very discontent with this situation and expressed these feelings to Wang Mang.

In 5 CE the all-powerful minister decided to kill Emperor Ping and poisoned him. He was buried in the tomb mound Kangling 康陵. Wang Mang proclaimed himself "Regent Emperor" (she huangdi 摄皇帝) and for a short time enthroned a small child, Ruzi Ying 孺子嬰, as a pro-forma emperor, before he officially ended the (Former) Han dynasty in 8 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), 38.