Emperor Jingdi was born in 188 BCE. His name at birth was Liu Qi. He was the fifth son of the Western Han dynasty emperor, Wendi, and his mother was Emperor Wendi’s wife, Empress Dou.
Upon the death of his father, Emperor Wendi in 157 BCE, Liu Qi became the fourth emperor of the Western Han dynasty. Jingdi (Ching-ti) means “Admired Emperor”.
Emperor Jingdi, believing in the same philosophies as his father, Emperor Wendi, strengthened the use of Confucianism as the means to a healthy government that worked for its people. He continued to subdue neighboring areas and kingdoms, making them a part of his empire.
Emperor Jingdi’s government also continued the economic reforms started by his grandfather, Emperor Gaodi, and by his father, Emperor Wendi.
Life under Emperor Jingdi
The majority of the people during the Western Han dynasty lived outside of the cities as farmers or laborers. Although they had many freedoms, during Jingdi’s rule, they were required to give two years of military service. They also were required to provide public works labor for one month on such tasks as building or repairing roads.
Emperor Jingdi’s family
Emperor Jingdi had two wives, empress Bo and empress Wang, and numerous concubines. He had 14 children.
Tomb of Emperor Jingdi
Emperor Jingdi died in 141 BCE. Having grown up with his father’s Confucian beliefs of duty and his mother’s Daoist beliefs of harmony, Emperor Jingdi practiced what he preached – frugality and living in peace with what one had been given in this life. Or did he?
Emperor Jingdi’s tomb (see photo at top of page) is in Yangling and has more than 40,000 clay figures dressed in silks and hemp. The number of figures and the area covered by the tomb is much greater than that of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi, which is well known for its terracotta army. Bronze and jade work were found in the tomb as well. Not bad for a frugal emperor, but possibly only an emperor who used his Daoist teachings to provide a means to immortality.
His son, Emperor Wudi, succeeded him as emperor of the Western Han dynasty.