Emperor Wu of Han

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Han Wudi

Han Wudi (漢武帝)
Family name:Liu (劉)
Given name:Zhi¹ (彘), later Che² (徹)</small>
Courtesy name (字):Tong3 (通)</small>
Dates of reign:Mar. 9, 141 BC–Mar. 29, 87 BC
Temple name:Shizong(世宗)
Posthumous name:
Emperor Wu (武帝)
Posthumous name:
Emperor Xiao Wu (孝武皇帝)
General note: Dates given here are in the proleptic Julian calendar. They are not in the proleptic Gregorian calendar.
1. Allegedly, Emperor Jing, father of Emperor Wu, had a dream in which the late Emperor Gaozu suggested this name. Zhi means "pig", "hog".
2. Had his name changed into the more suitable Che when he was officially made crown prince in April 150 BC.
3. This courtesy name is reported by Xun Yue</i> (荀悅) (148-209), the author of Records of the Han Dynasty (漢紀), but other sources
do not mention a courtesy name.

Emperor Wu of Han (156 BC*March 29, 87 BC), personal name Liu Che, was the sixth emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty, ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC. Emperor Wu is considered one of the greatest emperors throughout Chinese history, ranking alongside Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty, Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty, and Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty. He was a military campaigner, and Han China reached its greatest expansion under his reign, spanning from Kyrgyzstan in the west, Northern Korea in the Northeast, to Northern Vietnam in the south. He was best known for his role in expelling the nomadic Xiongnu from the boundary of China.

Emperor Wu adopted the principles of Confucianism as the state philosophy and code of ethics for his empire. He started a school to teach future administrators the Confucian classics.

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Emperor Wu worshipping two statues of the Buddha, Mogao Caves, Dunhuang, c.8th century CE.

Emperor Wu dispatched his envoy Zhang Qian in 139 BC to seek an alliance with the Yuezhi of modern Uzbekistan. Zhang returned in 123 BC and Emperor Wu then sent many missions per year to Central Asia. Although historical records to not describe him as a follower of Buddhism, exchanges probably occured as a consequence of these embassies, and there are suggestions that he received Buddhist statues from Central Asia, as depicted in Mogao Caves murals.

During the end of his reign, his power was severely weakened. Open war broke out between rival families of the Empress Wei and the Li clan. The Li family killed most of Empress Wei's family and forced Empress Wei to commit suicide; during this time, Wu was forced to flee. In the end, Wu was too weak to even name his own successor, who was chosen two days before Wu's death. Emperor Wu's reign lasted 54 years - a record that would not be broken until the reign of Emperor Kangxi in the 17th/18th century more than 1800 years later.

Personal information

Era names

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Emperor Wu dispatching Zhang Qian to Central Asia from 138 to 126 BCE, Mogao Caves mural, 618-712 CE.


* According to some sources, was born on August 27, 156 BC, but most sources do not provide a month and day. All agree on the year.

Preceded by:
Emperor Jing of Han
Emperor of the Han Dynasty
141 BC87 BC
Succeeded by:
Emperor Zhao of Han

Template:End boxfr:Wu Di ja:武帝 (漢) zh:汉武帝 de:Han Wudi


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