Lu Hou: Western Han Dynasty Empress or Regent?

empress lu hou zhi

Empress Lu Hou, the wife of the Western Han dynasty emperor, Gaodi, and mother of the Western Han dynasty emperor, Huidi, became regent after Huidi’s death in 188 BCE. Her birth name was Lu Zhi, but her date of birth is not known.

Not much is known about Lu Hou from when she was the wife of Emperor Gaodi. It is, however, after his death that her true nature became known.

Having strong ambitions for her Lu family clan, Lu Hou tried many ways to eliminate opposition to her control of the government and the empire. She murdered some of her husband Emperor Gaodi’s sons, the mother of one of his sons, and her granddaughter born to Emperor Huidi.

Said to have terrorized Emperor Huidi who retreated from her menacing ways, Lu Hou appears to have had the power in the empire rather than her son.

In an attempt to expand the empire and gain more control, Lu Hou, working with her family and their troops, fought those peoples living to the west and south. The campaign was unsuccessful, but it did not deter Lu Hou from continuing to push the Lu family into a higher state.

Upon Emperor Huidi’s death in 188 BCE, Lu Hou placed two of her husband Emperor Gaodi’s infant sons, Shaodi Kong and Shaodi Hong, on the throne as emperors. This tactic gave Lu Hou ultimate control and although she could not claim to be emperor, she had complete rule as regent from 188 BCE until her death in 180 BCE.

After her death, her family attempted to take control of the government and claim the throne for the Lu family, but the remaining sons of Emperor Gaodi stopped them. The Lu family were killed in the attempted takeover or murdered out right to stop any further attempts on taking over the dynasty. The Western Han dynasty remained in place and Emperor Gaodi’s son, Liu Heng (Wendi), became emperor.

Even though she never proclaimed herself empress, Lu hou is recognized as one today.

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