An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Li Shang 酈商

Mar 8, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Li Shang 酈商 (died 180 BCE) was a high minister of the early decades of the Former Han dynasty 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE).

He hailed from Gaoyang 高陽 (modern Qixian 杞縣, Henan) and joined the rebellion of Chen Sheng 陳勝 to topple the Qin dynasty 秦 (221-206 BCE) . Li Shang followed the suggestion of his older brother Li Yiji (sic!) 酈食其 and offered his support to Liu Bang 劉邦 who made him assistant general (pijiang 裨將). For the audacity he displayed during the conquest of the city of Changshe 長社 he was given the title of Lord of Xincheng 信成君.

After his conquest of Wan 宛 he was promoted to a full general. After the downfall of the Qin dynasty he was appointed commandant (duwei 都尉) of Longxi 隴西 in the far west. Li Shang still continued supporting Liu Bang and secured the old metropolitan region of Guanzhong 關中 (at that time called Sanqin 三秦) for him, defeating the former Qin general Zhang Han 章邯, Zhou Lei 周類 and Su Zang 蘇駔.

He then advanced to the east and crushed Zhongli Mei 鍾離眛, a general of the hegemonial king Xiang Yu 項羽 at Julu 巨鹿 (modern Pingxiang 平鄉, Hebei). Liu Bang appointed him as princely counsellor (xiang 相) of Liang 梁.

After Liu Bang's proclamation of the Han dynasty, Li Shang led a campaign against Zang Tu 臧荼, the king of Yan 燕. For his victory he was granted the honorific title of right Counsellor-in-chief (you chengxiang 右丞相) and was granted the title of Marquis of Zhuo 涿侯.

Together with general Wang Ling 王陵, he conquered the region of Dai 代 and Zhao 趙 (approx. modern Shanxi) and was finally appointed Chamberlain for the palace garrison (weiwei 衛尉) with the task to protect the ancestral temple of Liu Bang's father. Li Sheng furthermore crushed the rebellions of Chen Xi 陳豨 and Ying Bu 英布, a success for which he was rewarded with the title of Marquis of Quzhou 曲周侯.

After the death of Liu Bang in 188, Li Shang played a decisive role in appeasing Empress Dowager Lü 呂太后 who feared the rebellion of the various strongmen of the empire and planned to kill a lot of them. Li used his connections with Empress Lü's trusted advisor Shen Yiji 審食其 (sic!) to avert these plans. Yet he retired from official life during the reign of Emperor Hui 漢惠帝 (r. 195-188) and the time of the regency of the Empress Dowager. When she died in 180, Li Shang again flashed into action and used his connections to distract the Empress Dowager's nephews from the grip to power. Li Shang's son Li Ji 酈寄 enticed Lü Lu 呂祿 away from the command of the northern metropolitan army so that Wang Ling was able to seize the capital and to arrest and execute all members of the Lü family.

Li Shang died in the same year. His posthumous title is Marquis Jing 景侯.

Cang Xiuliang 倉修良, ed. (1996). Hanshu cidian 漢書辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 1134.