Emperor Guang Wudi Facts
- Emperor Guang Wudi was born in 5 BCE.
- His name at birth was Liu Xiu.
- He was a ninth-generation descendant of the Western Han dynasty’s Emperor Gaodi and a cousin of the Emperor Wang Mang.
- Little is known of his parents.
- After his cousin Wang Mang’s death in 23 CE, Liu Xiu became emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty.
- Guang Wudi (Kuang-Wu-ti) means “Shining Martial Emperor”.
How Guang Wudi became Emperor
Guang Wudi was a military strategist. With the troops of the Liu family, he spent three years fighting against the troops of Emperor Wang Mang of the Western Han dynasty and the Red Eyebrows and other rebellious landowners and peasants. He proclaimed himself emperor of the Eastern (or Later) Han dynasty in 25 CE. His troops continued to fight over the next ten years to stop the rebellion.
Where previous emperors had installed wealthy families in government offices, Emperor Guang Wudi looked to the middle class to find his supporters and government officials.
He appointed his sons to head the kingdoms surrounding the capital ensuring they had something to do other than plotting to overthrow the empire.
China under Emperor Guang Wudi
The capital of the Eastern Han dynasty was in Luoyang, which was 200 miles east of the Western Han dynasty capital in Chang’an. More than 500,000 people lived in or near the new capital at Luoyang making it the largest city at this time anywhere in the world.
The invention and use of iron ploughshares helped farmers and landowners farm more land, which provided more food to the government storehouses and the people.
Public works were in evidence, as money was available to build bridges and roads.
The military were strong and continued to be of service because of issues arising in the north with the Xiongnu and in the south with the Vietnamese.
Laws allowing the keeping and use of slaves were repealed.
Emperor Guang Wudi restored the state run control of the iron and salt mines, and the making of alcohol. He reduced taxes and gave more land to peasants. He continued to view Confucianism as important to the government and created more schools to train men for government jobs.
Emperor Guang Wudi’s Downfall
Emperor Guang Wudi’s main downfall and that of successive Eastern Han dynasty emperors was using wives and their families as political pawns. Guang Wudi’s first wife, Guo Shentong, was from the north and their marriage created a partnership with the northern provinces. When Emperor Guang Wudi no longer needed the support of the northern provinces, he removed Guo Shentong as his wife and took as his wife, Yin Lihua, who was a concubine from a southern province.
Emperor Guang Wudi’s wives were Empress Guo Shengtong and Empress Yin Lihua. He had at least ten children. Upon his death in 57 CE, one of his sons, Mingdi, succeeded him as emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty. His tomb is in Luoyang, Henan.