Quick Facts about Emperor Wudi
- Emperor Wudi was born in 236 CE.
- His name at birth was Sima Yan (Ssu-ma Yan).
- His father was General Sima Zhao (Ssu-ma Chao).
- Sima Yan was the first emperor of the Western Jin dynasty.
- His title Wudi (Wu-ti) means “Martial Emperor”.
How Wudi became Emperor of China
Sima Yan was ruler of the kingdom of Wei by 250 CE.
After his father, General Sima Zhao attacked the southwestern kingdom of Shu Han and caused the downfall of the ruler, Hou Zhu in 263 CE, Sima Yan took control of southwest China.
In 265 CE, Sima Yan’s armies defeated the ruler of the kingdom of Wu, which gave Sima Yan power over the Chinese empire.
In 265 CE, Sima Yan declared himself emperor of the newly established Western Jin dynasty.
Emperor Wudi’s Achievements
Emperor Wudi increased agricultural production by many methods, including one which provided land to his soldiers. He opened western trading routes and increased water transportation. These achievements gave his people and his armies food to eat, goods to sale, and the ability to transport food, goods, and people quickly.
Emperor Wudi opened the northern territories, on the Chinese side of the Great Wall, to settlement by the Xiongnu (Hsiung-nu) and Xianbei (Hsien-pei) tribes.
He restored the imperial library which, during his reign, included more than 30,000 volumes.
What Emperor Wudi failed to achieve
Unfortunately, for Emperor Wudi, his tactics were not enough to rebuild the Chinese government’s treasury. Large estates now controlled land and people. Peasants were no longer required to work for the government but instead, they worked directly for a landowner. Taxes and labor that had in the past come from peasants, was no longer possible.
Landowners, as well, held many government offices and could change laws to help their own cause rather than that of the larger Chinese empire.
Emperor Wudi’s death and the decline of the Western Jin Dynasty
Emperor Wudi had at least twenty-five children. Upon his death in 289 CE, his son, Huidi, succeeded him as emperor of the Western Jin dynasty.
When Emperor Wudi died, his empire was driven into chaos by twenty-five of his sons who he had given certain areas to rule. These sons, unable to remain petty rulers, warred against each other.