An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Wang Feng 王鳳

Jan 10, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Wang Feng 王鳳 (died 22 BCE) was a high minister of the late Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE). He was the older brother of Wang Zhengjun 王政君 (Empress Yuan 元后), the main consort of Emperor Yuan 漢元帝 (r. 49-33 BCE). In 42 BCE he inherited the title of Marquis of Yangping from his father.

When Emperor Cheng 漢成帝 (r. 33-7 BCE) mounted the throne, he was, as brother of the Empress Dowager, appointed General-in-chief serving as commander-in-chief (da sima da jiangjun 大司馬大將軍) and so was master of both the highest military and civilian post. He soon started expelling all persons from the court that were opposed to him and took a tight grip on the young emperor.

In 25 BCE he slandered Counsellor-in-chief (chengxiang 丞相) Wang Shang 王商 and forced the emperor to order Wang Shang to submit his seal. In the next year, on the occasion of a solar eclipse, he convinced Emperor Cheng to send Prince Gong of Dingtao 定陶共王 to his territory, in order to prevent him from conspiring at the court in Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi). Wang Zhang 王章, magistrate of the capital (Jingzhao yin 京兆尹), therepon remonstrated against Wang Feng and suggested replacing him with Feng Yewang 馮野王. Wang Feng thereupon announced to retire if Wang Zhang would not be punished. The emperor, puppet of Wang Feng, condemned Wang Zhang to the death penalty.

Without any further critics, Wang Feng had all his five brothers granted the title of marquis. His half-brother Wang Yin 王音 was appointed Censor-in-chief (yushi dafu 御史大夫), and all other male members of the family of Wang Feng occupied the highest and most powerful posts in the central government. The "five marquesses" became known for their luxurious way of life, living of hundreds of slaves and enjoying dozens of concubines. One nephew of Wang Feng, Wang Mang 王莽, was later to end the Han dynasty and to found the short-lived Xin dynasty 新 (8-23 CE).

Tian Renlong 田人隆 (1992). "Wang Feng 王鳳", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Part Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 3, 1191.