Emperor Wu of Han

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  • Reign: 141-87 BCE
  • Chinese/Japanese: 漢武帝 (Hàn Wǔdì / Kan Bu tei)

Emperor Wu of Han, or Hàn Wǔdì, was one of the more prominent emperors of the Han Dynasty, reigning from 141 to 87 BCE. He is known for a number of wide-ranging economic policies, and territorial expansion.

He established "ever-level" granaries in order to help protect against famine; these government storehouses would maintain a certain amount of grain at all times, which could then be doled out when necessary to needy peasants. He also sought to combat the runaway wealth of merchants by establishing state monopolies on untaxed goods such as copper coins, iron, salt, and wine. In order to raise government revenues, he also expanded taxes on merchants, allowed some government offices to be purchased, and debased the currency.

Under Hàn Wǔdì, the Chinese state also expanded north, into Manchuria and northern Korea, territory it would continue to hold until 313 CE, as well as expanding southward into Vietnam, where it would continue to hold territory for over 1000 years. Hàn Wǔdì also fought several campaigns against the nomadic Xiongnu people of the north, sending armies of roughly 100,000 men into Xiongnu territory several times between 129-119 BCE, expanding the Great Wall, and establishing new settlements in Gansu province. This new colony, originally settled by a group of roughly 700,000, would develop into a major outpost along the Silk Road.

Following his death in 87 BCE, Emperor Wu was succeeded by his young son, who ruled as Emperor Zhao of Han, with Huo Guang as regent.[1]

Preceded by:
Emperor Jing of Han
Emperor of the Han Dynasty
141-87 BCE
Succeeded by:
Emperor Zhao of Han


  • Albert Craig, The Heritage of Chinese Civilization, Third Edition, Prentice Hall (2011), 33.
  1. Burton Watson (trans.), Courtiers and Commoners in Ancient China: Selections from the History of the Former Han by Pan Ku, Columbia University Press (1974), 123.