An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Wei Ao 隗囂

Feb 5, 2019 © Ulrich Theobald

Wei Ao 隗囂 (d. 33 CE), courtesy name Jimeng 季孟, was a military leader who supported the refoundation of the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) after Wang Mang's 王莽 (r. 8-23 CE) usurpation. He hailed from Jicheng 成紀 in the commandery of Tianshui 天水 (close to modern Qin'an 秦安, Gansu) and belonged to the people of the Red Di 赤狄, but had enjoyed a good education. He therefore served in the local administration as a young men and was then invited by Liu Xin 劉歆 (d. 23 CE) to become an official in the central government of the late Former Han. After Liu's death, Wei Ao returned.

In 23 CE, when Liu Xuan 劉玄 (d. 25 CE) adopted the title of emperor and began to fight against Wang Mang, Wei Ao's uncles Wei Cui 隗崔 and Wei Yi 隗義, as well as the local leaders Yang Guang 楊廣 and Zong Zhou 宗周, decided to lead a local insurgency in support of Liu Xuan. Wei Ao occupied Tianshui and proclaimed the reign motto "Revival of the Han" (Hanfu 漢復). Liu Xuan made him General to the Right (you jiangjun 右將軍).

Yet the two uncles then turned against the Han. Wei Ao notified the emperor, and the two were arrested and executed. Wei himself was appointed Censor-in-chief (yushi dafu 御史大夫). In 25 CE, Liu Xiu 劉秀 (Emperor Guangwu 漢光武帝, r. 25-57 CE) made himself emperor, and while more and more military leaders accepted him as the worthy sovereign, Wei Ao urged Liu Xuan to attack Liu Xiu, yet the former refused. Wei Ao's attempt to defect to Liu Xiu was detected, and he thereupon returned to Tianshui, where he called himself Supreme General of the Western Province (Xizhou shang jiangjun 西州上將軍) and ruled more or less autonomous.

Yet he supported Liu Xiu in his fight against the last groups of the Red Eyebow rebels 赤眉軍. Liu Xiu ignored this merit and decided in 30 CE to wipe away the last warlords of the west, namely Wei Ao in Shaanxi and Gansu, and Gongsun Shu 公孫述 (d. 36 CE) in Sichuan. Wei Ao decided to side with Gongsun Shu, who made him Prince of Ningshuo 朔寧王. In the end, Wei Ao had no further support by his former adherents, and died in a solitary position. His son Wei Chun 隗純 surrendered to the Han.

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