Quick Facts about Emperor Wang Mang
- Emperor Wang Mang was born in 45 BCE.
- His name at birth was Wang Mang.
- He was the nephew of Emperor Yuandi’s empress, Wang.
- His father was Wang Wan, Empress Wang Mang’s brother.
- His titles before he became emperor were Marquis of Xindu and regent.
- After the removal of Emperor Ruzi, in 9 CE, Wang Mang became the thirteenth emperor of the Western Han dynasty.
- Wang Mang wanted his reign to be known as the Xin (Hsin) dynasty. However, historians continue to have his reign be a part of the Western Han dynasty or they sometimes use the Wang Mang Interregnum as a name for his reign.
How Emperor Wang Mang became Emperor
Having acted as regent for the child emperor Pingdi, Wang Mang took control of the government when the Liu imperial family rebelled against his regency and against his placement of the infant emperor, Ruzi (Liu Ying) on the throne. With this bold stroke, Wang Mang ended the power of a family that had been in control of the Chinese empire for over 200 years.
China under Emperor Wang Mang
Wang Mang became emperor of a weakened empire. Excessively high tax rates were in place and few people paid them.
His reforms included taking land away from wealthy landowners and giving it to those who had no land. He taxed landowners who held slaves and forbade them from selling their land and slaves.He exchanged the type of money used from gold coins to bronze coins. As the government made the coin exchange, its treasury grew rich with gold.
He returned to the earlier rule of the government owning the mines of salt and iron, controlling grain stores, and taxing merchants.
He believed in the Confucian form of classical rule and had dormitories built in the capital at Chang’an (Xi’an, Shaanxi) to house students.
Although he changed the laws, he did not change how the government worked. Many of his ministers and officials resented his reforms and resented him for his role at the end of the Western Han dynasty.
Natural disasters such as the twice flooding of the Yellow River caused much loss of life. The people began moving south to avoid government rule and continued hardship.
The Fall of the Western Han Dynasty
As Emperor Gaodi had begun the Western Han dynasty after a peasant rebellion, the end of the Western Han dynasty came when wealthy landowners rebelled against Wang Mang’s reforms and peasants rebelled from the famine resulting from the Yellow River flooding. With some known as the Red Eyebrows (they painted their foreheads red) and the Green Woodsmen, these rebellious landowners and peasants were looking for a return to life under former Western Han emperors.
Another group soon inserted themselves into the rebellion, the Liu clan. The clan, from Nanyang, Henan, claimed to be descended from the imperial Liu family of the Western Han. Working against both Wang Mang and the rebellious landowners and peasants, the Liu clan emerged victorious in 25 CE. Emperor Wang Mang was killed when rebels took control of the capital at Chang’an. With his death, the Western Han dynasty ended.
Emperor Wang Mang had at least one daughter who was married to child emperor, Pingdi. Wang Mang died in 23 CE. Liu Xiu, Emperor Guang Wudi, succeeded him as emperor of a new dynasty, the Eastern Han dynasty.
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