Wang Mang

  • Reign: c. 9 BCE - 23 CE

Wang Mang was an imperial regent who seized power from the emperors of the Han Dynasty, forming his own 32-year Xin Dynasty, an interruption between the Western and Eastern Han Dynasties.

Seizing power in 8 or 9 BCE, Wang Mang attempted a series of reforms, including ones aimed at reducing the wealth gap which allowed him and other regional landlord magnates to gain power in the first place. This began with an effort to implement the well-field system described by Mencius, in which all land is gathered up by the state and then redistributed equally, such that every family has its own plot of land, and each group of eight families works a ninth plot collectively. Wang Mang also banned slavery, reintroduced government monopolies on salt and iron, and tried to establish set standard prices for certain goods; he also established a system of government loans for small farmers, in an attempt to limit the power of large landlords. All of these policies met great resistance from the large landlords, and were ultimately unsuccessful.

In the end, Wang Mang was overthrown and killed by one such landlord, Liu Xiu, who reestablished the Han Dynasty in 25 CE and took the throne himself as the Guangwu Emperor.


  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 68-69.