Quick Facts about Emperor Lingdi
- Emperor Lingdi was born in 156 CE.
- His name at birth was Liu Hong.
- He was a great-great-grandson of the Eastern Han dynasty emperor, Zhangdi.
- His father was Liu Changdong.
- After his relative, Emperor Huandi’s death in 168 CE, Liu Hong became the eleventh emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty.
- Lingdi means “Quick-witted Emperor”.
China and the Role of Eunuchs During Emperor Lingdi’s Reign
As a minor, Lingdi’s court was ruled at first by a regent. During the early years, the regent, enlisting the help of government officials, tried unsuccessfully to remove the eunuchs from the court. The eunuchs were able to defend their positions at court, eventually winning their place at court by working with Emperor Lingdi and by having the regent commit suicide.
The eunuchs became all powerful after this. They removed government officials by removing them or killing them. The officials’ families were no longer shown as important people and could no longer hold government positions. This changed the way in which the government worked as those who understood that a government was there to take in money in order to give it out again when times were bad were no longer allowed to practice these ideals.
The eunuchs, working with Emperor Lingdi, sold what before were hereditary titles to those who could afford to pay to receive them.
Money, which before went directly into the central treasury, went instead into a private account for the emperor. This left the country vulnerable. Natural disasters continued to plague the empire. Famine and widespread poverty left many homeless and without food. The government provided no support as what little money was left in the central treasury was not provided to help the people.
The Yellow Turban Rebellion and the Rise of Sichuan
In 184 CE, peasants believing in Daoist traditions, began what is known as the Yellow Turban rebellion. Starting in the eastern part of the empire, the Yellow Turbans moved west with almost 500,000 armed people.
Also during this time, another group called the Five Pecks of Rice grew tired of Emperor Lingdi’s oppression and started their own government and state, Sichuan. The armies of Emperor Lingdi became less and less useful to those in the outlying areas of the empire. The provincial governments raised their own armies to fight those who had taken up arms against the government.
Emperor Lingdi’s Legacy and Death
Emperor Lingdi’s had two wives, Empresses Song and He. He had at least two children.
Upon his death in 189 CE, one of his sons, Xiandi, succeeded him as emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty.
* Photo by Bernard Goldbach