Xiaowen Huangdi (孝文皇帝) EMPEROR WEN
FATHER Emperor Gaozu of Han (4th son of)
MOTHER Empress Dowager Bo
EMPEROR WEN OF HAN (202–157 BC) was the fifth emperor of the Han
After Empress Dowager Lü 's death, the officials eliminated the powerful Lü clan , and deliberately chose the Prince of Dai as the emperor, since his mother, Consort Bo, had no powerful relatives, and her family was known for its humility and thoughtfulness. His reign brought a much needed political stability that laid the groundwork for prosperity under his grandson Emperor Wu . According to historians, Emperor Wen trusted and consulted with ministers on state affairs; under the influence of his Taoist wife, Empress Dou , the emperor also sought to avoid wasteful expenditures.
Historians noted that the tax rates were at a ratio of "1 out of 30"
and "1 out of 60", corresponding to 3.33% and 1.67%, respectively.
(These rates are not for income taxes , but property taxes , as the
only ancient Chinese attempt to levy an income tax would come in the
Wen was said by
* 1 Era names * 2 Early life and career as Prince of Dai * 3 Accession to the throne * 4 Early reign * 5 Middle reign * 6 Late reign * 7 Impact on history * 8 Personal information * 9 See also * 10 References
These "era names" are not true "era names", but are retrospective, in the sense that the era-name system, as instituted by Emperor Wen's grandson Emperor Wu, had not yet come into effect. Emperor Wen, in accordance with prior imperial calendrical systems, would have simply referred to the number of years in his reign. But he reset the calendar once at the persuasion of the sorcerer Xinyuan Ping (新垣平), thus historians need to refer to the eras before and after the resetting separately.
* Qianyuan (前元 qían yuán) 179 BC-164 BC * Houyuan (後元 hòu yúan) 163 BC-157 BC
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER AS PRINCE OF DAI
In 196 BC, after Emperor Gao defeated the Chen Xi (陳豨) rebellion
in the Dai region, he made
In 181 BC, after Prince Heng's brother, Prince
During these years, the Principality of Dai did in fact become a key position in the defense against Xiongnu, and Prince Heng became well-acquainted with Xiongnu customs and military strategies, although the extent of his own participation in military actions was unknown.
ACCESSION TO THE THRONE
In 180 BC, after Grand
Empress Dowager Lü died and the officials
made a coup d\'etat against her clan and slaughtered them (during the
Lü Clan Disturbance ), after some deliberation, the officials offered
the imperial throne to Prince Heng, rather than Prince
Emperor Wen quickly showed an aptitude to govern the empire with diligence, and appeared to be genuinely concerned for the people's welfare. Heavily influenced by his wife Empress Dou , who was an adherent of Taoism , Emperor Wen governed the country with the general policies of non-interference with the people and relaxed laws. His personal life was marked by thriftiness and general willingness to forgive. He was initially very deferential to Zhou Bo, Chen Ping , and Guan Ying (灌嬰), who were instrumental in his accession, and they served as successive prime ministers.
Examples of Emperor Wen's policies that showed kindness and concern for the people include the following:
* In 179 BC, he abolished the law that permitted the arrest and
imprisonment of parents, wives, and siblings of criminals, with the
exception of the crime of treason .
* In 179 BC, he created a governmental assistance program for those
in need. Loans or tax exemptions were offered to widowers, widows,
orphans, and seniors without children. He also ordered that monthly
stipends of rice, wine, and meat be given to seniors over 80 years of
age, and that additional stipends of cloth and cotton be given to
seniors over 90 years of age.
* In 179 BC, he made peace with
In 179 BC, after some hesitation (during which he, apparently
influenced by the theory of chanrang (禪讓), thought that maybe it
would be more proper for him to find the wisest person in the empire
and offer the throne to him, or that he should consider offering the
throne to his uncle
In addition to Empress Dou, Emperor Wen also favored Consort Shen (慎夫人). Despite her favored state, however, she only wore simple dresses rather than elaborate designs, as a means of savings.
Emperor Wen, during the early part of his reign, was often impressed with suggestions tendered by a young official, Jia Yi , but opposed by senior officials, he did not promote Jia to particularly high positions; rather, Jia was put into a rotation as a teacher for various princes. Jia proposed dividing the larger principalities ruled by branch lines of the imperial family, a proposal that Emperor Wen agreed with but hesitated to actually carry out, and he did not actually implement Jia's proposal, which later might have prevented the Rebellion of the Seven States .
An incident otherwise uncharacteristic of Emperor Wen occurred in 176
BC. Zhou Bo, who had been instrumental in Emperor Wen's becoming
emperor and who had by that point retired to his March of Jiang (絳,
In 175 BC, over the objections of Jia Yi, Emperor Wen issued an edict
permitting any person to mint money (then only in the form of coins)
out of copper and tin. The main beneficiaries of this policy were
those with access to copper, including the court official Deng Tong
(鄧通) (see also below ), to whom Emperor Wen had given a major
copper mine in Yandao (嚴道, in modern
In 174 BC, a major incident occurred involving
Also in 174 BC, when the Xiongnu's new chanyu Laoshang came to power, Emperor Wen continued the heqin policy by giving him a prince's daughter in marriage.
In 170 BC, Emperor Wen's uncle Bo Zhao, who had been instrumental in his administration, killed an imperial messenger. Emperor Wen forced him to commit suicide. This incident drew criticism from later historians, who believed that he should have curbed Bo's powers earlier and saved his life in that manner.
In 169 BC, Chao Cuo (晁錯), then a low-level official, offered Emperor Wen a number of suggestions for dealing with the Xiongnu. Emperor Wen was impressed, and made him a member of Crown Prince Qi's household. At Chao's suggestion, in 168 BC, Emperor Wen instituted the policy that if people contributed food for use by the northern defense force against Xiongnu, they could receive titles or have their crimes pardoned.
In 167 BC, Emperor Wen banned the corporal punishments of facial tattoo and cutting off the nose or a foot, and replaced them with whipping . These punishments would not be instituted again as a matter of formal legal sentencing for the rest of Chinese history. (However, as was later noted, this actually caused more deaths, and so the amount of whipping was further reduced in 156 BC by Emperor Jing.)
Later in his reign, Emperor Wen became superstitious and started to search for supernatural events. In 165 BC, at the instigation of the sorcerer Xinyuan Ping (新垣平), he built a temple north of Wei River dedicated to five gods. He then promoted Xinyuan and awarded him with much treasure. At Xinyuan's suggestion, Emperor Wen planned a thorough revision of the governmental system and the building of many temples. In 164 BC, Xinyuan Ping had an associate place a jade cup outside the imperial palace with mysterious writings on them, and also predicted a regression in the path of the sun. (This phenomenon has never been adequately explained, but might have actually been a partial solar eclipse.) In response, Emperor Wen joyously proclaimed an empire-wide festival and also restarted the calendaring for his reign. (Therefore, the years 163 BC and on, for the rest of his reign, were known as the later era of his reign.) However, in winter 164 BC, Xinyuan was exposed to be a fraud, and he and his clan were executed. That ended Emperor Wen's period of supernatural fascination.
In 158 BC, when the
Xiongnu made a major incursion into the
Commanderies of Shang (上, modern northern
Emperor Wen died in summer 157 BC. He was succeeded by Crown Prince Qi. Emperor Wen, in his will, reduced the usual mourning period to three days, contrary to the previous lengthy periods of mourning in which weddings, sacrifices, drinking, and the consumption of meat were disallowed, thus greatly reducing the burden on the people. He also ordered that his concubines be allowed to return home. (Before and after Emperor Wen, generally, imperial concubines without children were required to guard the emperor's tomb for the rest of their lives.)
IMPACT ON HISTORY
Emperor Wen was considered one of the most benevolent rulers in Chinese history. His reign was marked by thriftiness and attempts to reduce burdens on the people. His reign and that of his son Emperor Jing were often collectively known together as the "Rule of Wen and Jing ", renowned for general stability and relaxed laws.
During the reign of Emperor Wen, one of the lowest tax rate in Chinese history was recorded. Two years after his death, the tax rate was as low as 3.3% of one's personal income.
The benevolent way of ruling of Emperor Wen was influenced by the philosophy of Confucianism . Confucian scholar Jia Yi was the mastermind behind Emperor Wen's policy. He strongly empathized the importance of agriculture as well as the egalitarian way of wealth distribution according to the doctrines of Confucius.
Emperor Wen was also noted for his filial piety , and he was listed
as one of
The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars
* Consort Bo
* Empress Dou , mother of Emperor Jing, Prince Wu and Princess Piao
* Major Concubines
* Consort Shen * Consort Ji
* Rule of Wen and Jing * Prince of Dai
* ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 87 * ^ Book of Han.vol.24.后十三岁，孝景二年，令民半出田租，三十而税一也。 * ^ Book of Han.vol.24.民不足而可治者，自古及今，未之尝闻。古之人曰：“一夫不耕，或受之饥；一女不织，或受之寒。”生之有时，而用之亡度，则物力必屈。古之治天下，至孅至悉也，故其畜积足恃。今背本而趋末，食者甚众，是天下之大残也。
Emperor Wen of Han
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* WorldCat Identities * VIAF : 36393329 * LCCN : n2008058917
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