An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Emperor Han Jingdi 漢景帝 Liu Qi 劉啟

Mar 8, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Emperor Jingdi 漢景帝 (188-141, r. 157-141 BCE), personal name Liu Qi 劉啟, was a ruler of the Former Han dynasty 前漢 (206 BC-8 CE). He was a son of Emperor Wen 漢文帝 (r. 180-157) and Empress Dou 竇皇后.

He continued the politics of relaxation his father had inherited from the reign of Empress Dowager Lü 呂太后 (r. 188-180). Taxes were held at a very low level, canals, dams and dykes were constructed, and corvée labour was required sparingly. The reigns of Emperor Jing and his father (Wen-Jing zhi zhi 文景之治) are remembered by historians as a peaceful era when China recovered from the sufferings of the late Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221), the Qin period 秦 (221-206) and the ensuing decade of war.

The peaceful decades of the Emperors Wen and Jing were only disturbed by the rebellion of the Seven Princes in 154, an uprising of some members of the imperial house against attempts of the court to curtail their economical base and political influence. Censor-in-chief (yushi dafu 御史大夫) Chao Cuo 晁錯 suggested reducing the size of the commanderies (jun 郡) of Donghai 東海 in Chu 楚, Yuzhang 豫章 and Guiji 會稽 in Wu 吳, and thereby cause the rebellion of the seven princes of Wu, Chu, Zhao 趙, Jiaodong 胶東, Jiaoxi 胶西, Zichuan 菑川 and Jinan 濟南. The empire was brought into such a precarious situation that Yuan Ang 袁盎 proposed executing Chao Cuo in order to appease the princes, but without success.

Emperor Jing thereupon sent out general Zhou Yafu 周亞夫 who finally brought down the rebels. The princes were henceforth stripped off their right to appoint and dismiss local officials. In 150 BCE the heir apparent Liu Rong 劉榮 was demoted to Prince of Linchuan 臨江. Instead, the new Prince of Jiaodong, Liu Che 劉徹, was named heir apparent, and his mother Lady Wang 王夫人 was promoted to empress.

In 143 BCE the emperor dismissed the poet Sima Xiangru 司馬相如 from the court.

Emperor Jing was given the posthumous honorific title of Emperor Xiaojing 漢孝景皇帝. He is buried in the tomb mound Yangling 漢陽陵. He was succeeded by his son Liu Che, known as Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87).

Chen Quanli 陳全力, Hou Xinyi 侯欣一, ed. (1988). Diwang cidian 帝王辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin jiaoyu chubanshe), 34.