Three Kingdoms History: Liu Zhao (Hedi)

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Liu Zhao (Hedi)
Ruled (AD 89-105)

Han Ruler and Emperor Biographies
Authoring and Translation by

After the emperor Zhang Di, the Han dynasty steadily declined under a succession of child-emperors. Liu Zhao, the son of Zhang Di and a consort, was nine years old on accession. The Empress-dowager Dou and her brother, Dou Xian, a powerful general, took control of the country.

He Di’s reign was plagued by natural disasters (locusts, droughts and floods between AD 92 and 100) and to avoid widespread dispossession, the government intervened actively to help peasant farmers by remitting taxes, giving grain relief and allowing the poor to hunt and fish on state land.

In AD 91, He Di, restless under the Empress-dowager Dou’s domination, had taken the fateful step of enlisting the eunuchs to rid himself of the Dou clan. The move was temporarily successful, henceforth Imperial politics became a three-way struggle. Having called consort families into play against officials, Emperors now turned to the eunuchs to protect them against their wives’ families.

Solicited by clans and Emperors alike, the eunuchs became increasingly powerful and belying their name, were given hereditary titles which could be passed to adopted sons. Consort families now had a vested interest in placing easily dominated minors on the throne and the remaining Emperors of the Han dynasty were all children. Neither of He Di’s Empresses had sons, so when he died, the Empress-dowager Deng, ignoring He Di’s two sons by other consorts, chose a three-month old baby as Heir. Her choice, the Emperor Shang Di (AD 106), died before he was one year old and was followed by He Di’s nephew, the emperor An Di (AD 106-125), aged just 12.

Copyright © 2002 - 2003
Major Sources: Hou Han shu (Fan Ye)
Ancient Chinese History and Emperors (Brian Williams)
with notes from William Ho and Quentin Tran