Encyclopedia: Emperor Guangwu

Emperor Guangwu [Liu Xiu]; Emperor Kuangwu; 光武皇帝[劉秀]

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Emperor Guangwu [Liu Xiu] 光武皇帝[劉秀]

Lived: 5 BC–AD 57

None Available

Served: Han

Emperor Guangwu restored the Han Dynasty in AD 25, making him the first Emperor of the Later Han.

Officer Details

Wade-Giles: Emperor Kuangwu [Liu Hsiu]
Simplified Chinese: 光武皇帝[刘秀]
Pronunciation: Guang1wu3huang2di4 [Liu2xiu4] (Wen2shu1)
Cantonese (Yale): Gwongmouwongdai [Lausau] (Man-suk)
Cantonese (Jyutpin): Gwongmouwongdai [Lausau] (Man-suk)

Other Names: Liu Xiu, Shizu, Emperor Wu, Guangwu

Name Notes: Shizu (世祖) was his Temple Name. His style name is Wenshu (Wên-shu) (文叔).

Rank and Titles

Emperor Guangwu of Han (AD 25), Shizu [世祖] (Temple Name)

Family and Relationships

Liu Hui (Grandfather); Liu Qin (Father); Lady Fan (Mother); Guo Shengtong, Yin Lihua (Empresses); Consort Xu (Consort); Liu Jiang, Liu Yang, Liu Fu, Liu Kang, Liu Yán, Liu Yǎn, Liu Ying, Liu Cang, Liu Jing, Liu Heng, Liu Jing (Sons); Liu Yiwang, Liu Zhongli, Liu Hongfu, Liu Liliu, Liu Shou (Daughters)

Literary Appearances

Romance of the Three Kingdoms: 1, 6, 10, 12, 13, 15, 23, 29, 37, 38, 80, 120

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Collaborative Works

Emperor Guangwu, styled Wenshu and born Liu Xiu, was an emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty. He restored the dynasty in AD 25 after the Western Han was broken by Wang Man, and thus he is the founder of the Later Han or Eastern Han (the restored Han Dynasty). He ruled over parts of China at first, and through suppression and conquest of regional warlords, the whole of China was consolidated by the time of his death in 57.

Liu Xiu was one of the many descendants of the Han imperial family. Following the usurpation of the Han throne by Wang Mang and the ensuing civil war during the disintegration of Wang’s short-lived Xin Dynasty, he emerged as one of several descendants of the fallen dynasty claiming the imperial throne. After assembling forces and proclaiming himself emperor in the face of competitors, he was able to defeat his rivals, destroy the peasant army of the Chimei (Red Eyebrows, 赤眉), known for their disorganization and marauding, and finally reunify the whole of China in AD 36.

He established his capital in Luoyang, 335 kilometers (210 miles) east of the former capital Chang’an, ushering in the Later/Eastern Han Dynasty. He implemented some reforms (notably land reform, albeit not very successfully) aimed at correcting some of the structural imbalances responsible for the downfall of the Former/Western Han. His reforms gave a new 200–year lease on life to the Han Dynasty.

Emperor Guangwu’s campaigns featured many able generals, but curiously, he lacked major strategists. That may very well be because he himself appeared to be a brilliant strategist; he often instructed his generals as to strategy from afar, and his predictions generally would be accurate. This was often emulated by later emperors who fancied themselves great strategists but who actually lacked Emperor Guangwu’s brilliance—usually to great disastrous results.

Also fairly unique among emperors in Chinese history was Emperor Guangwu’s combination of decisiveness and mercy. He often sought out peaceful means rather than bellicose means of putting areas under his control. He was, in particular, one of the rare examples of a founding emperor of a dynasty who did not kill, out of jealousy or paranoia, any of the generals or officials who contributed to his victories after his rule was secure.

Source: branched from Wikipedia for local editing.



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April 10, 2023