<Previous Section>
<Next Section>


This chapter, like the other Annals, is rather a chronological summary of the reign, amplified by the more important imperial enactments of the period, than what we should today call a history. The history, in the modern sense, is to be found in the "Treatises" and "Memoirs" dealing with the period.

The chief source for this chapter, as for the preceding chapters, was probably the corresponding section of the SC, which, in this case, comprises the last part of ch. 10 ("The Annals of Emperor Wen") and the whole of ch. 11 ("The Annals of Emperor Ching"). The foregoing conclusion has however been challenged; Chang Yen, in the third century, declared that SC ch. 11 was one of the ten chapters which Pan Ku says were missing from that book; Szu-ma Cheng in the eighth century says that SC ch. 11 was taken from HS ch. 5. That skeptical view has received wide credence; Liang Ch'i-ch'ao (1873-1929) accepts it without comment in his Yao-chi Chieh-t'i Chi-ch'i Tu-fa, p. 51.

Since Chang Yen's exact statement can better be discussed in connection with the next chapter, I shall here merely refer the reader to the introduction of that chapter and the conclusions there drawn. The only sure fact is that Pan Ku found ten chapters missing from the SC; Chang Yen seems to have made little more than a poor guess concerning which ones they were. Chavannes, after discussing this matter, says flatly that SC ch. 11 is not taken from HS ch. 5: "Nous ne voyons aucune raison de mettre en doubte leur authenticité." (Mh I, cciv; cf. also id. II, p. 496, n. 1). He also says that SC ch. 11 is quite incomplete, that it is inferior to Szu-ma Ch'ien's other work, and that hence the latter doubtless did not complete it as he had planned.

With Chavannes's conclusion I am in full accord. HS ch. 5 is similar to the preceding chapters in its condensation and amplification of the material in the corresponding chapters of the SC. SC ch. 11 is rather sketchy; Pan Ku filled it out, chiefly from the collection of imperial edicts which he found in the imperial files, so that this chapter contains much that is not in the SC. Sometimes, however, Pan Ku condensed SC ch. 11. That chapter contains a long list of the alterations in official titles made by Emperor Ching. Pan Ku transferred them to his treatise dealing with the bureaucracy. Mentions of ministerial appointments are similarily transferred. The estimate of Emperor Ching in the concluding paragraph of SC ch. 11 is moreover quite different from that in this chapter, so much so that Pan Ku seems to be combating the unfavorable impression given by Szu-ma Ch'ien in that paragraph. These are precisely the phenomena we should expect if Pan Ku were basing his account upon that of Szu-ma Ch'ien.

Perhaps the most nearly conclusive evidence for the originality of SC ch. 11 is the curious mistake made in HS 5: 5a. Evidence from other parts of the HS and SC shows that the text of the HS at this point is in error (cf. n. 5.6); that error is moreover merely a condensed repetition of the corresponding passage in SC ch. 11. The SC moreover contains at this point additional statements omitted from the HS, so that the HS is plainly condensing the account in the SC and has fallen into error by copying that account. If Pan Ku had been compiling his account independently, he would hardly have made the same mistake that SC ch. 11 does, and would in more likelihood have given the correct information obtainable from other parts of his own and of Szu-ma Ch'ien's book.

There is then every reason to conclude that Pan Ku followed mainly the corresponding chapter of the SC in preparing this chapter. The sort of material he added is the same as that in ch. 4, and has been discussed in the introduction to that chapter.

The outstanding event during the reign of Emperor Ching was the rebellion of the Seven Kingdoms in 154 B.C. Because it lasted only a few months, only one paragraph is devoted to it in the Annals. Yet it was the most serious revolt during the Former Han period. The leaders of this rebellion were Liu P'i, King of Wu, and the descendants of Liu Fei, King of Ch'i. A full account is given in the relevant Memoirs, from which this abstract in condensed.

There had previously been serious trouble between Liu P'i and the imperial family. When Emperor Ching was still Heir-apparent, while playing an ancient game, resembling dice, he had a drunken quarrel over precedence with his second cousin, Liu Hsien, who was the son and heir of Liu P'i. The future Emperor took up the dice board, struck, and killed Liu Hsien. The Heir-apparent seems to have been in the right, for he was not punished, and the body was sent to Wu for burial. But Liu P'i was angry and sent the body back to Ch'ang-an. Emperor Wen smoothed the matter over and buried the murdered prince. Liu P'i thereafter alleged that he was ill and refused to come annually to Ch'ang-an to pay court as was required. Such conduct was almost equivalent to rebellion, but Emperor Wen, after investigation, again smoothed matters over, granting to the offended King a stool and cane, symbols of age, and excusing him from attendance because of his infirmities. Liu P'i then maintained peace as long as Emperor Wen was alive.

There had also been bad feeling between the royal family of Ch'i and the imperial family. That royal family had descended from Kao-tsu's eldest son, Liu Fei, who did not succeed Kao-tsu because he was the child of a concubine. When the Empress of Kao-tsu died, Liu Fei's eldest son, Liu Hsiang, naturally thought that he would be given the imperial throne, but Kao-tsu's followers selected Emperor Wen, a son of Kao-tsu by another concubine. Liu Hsiang had put into the field his army and that of the oldest active member of the imperial clan, while the future Emperor Wen had done nothing. Hence Liu Hsiang and his clan thought the selection unjust and were bitterly disappointed.

Chia Yi, perhaps the greatest statesman of Former Han times, warned Emperor Wen about the possibility of rebellion by the various vassal kingdoms, and urged weakening their power. Emperor Wen saw the cogency of his reasoning, but also had the wisdom to see that if he tried to take any territory from the feudal princes, such action would induce, rather than avoid, rebellion. He rejected Chia Yi's advice and sent him away to Ch'ang-sha, far from the court, thus placating the vassal kings. When Liu Tse, King of Ch'i and son of Liu Hsiang, died without heirs in 164 B.C., Emperor Wen put into practise Chia Yi's advice, dividing the large kingdom of Ch'i into seven kingdoms, which were given to Liu Hsiang's six brothers who had not yet been given kingdoms. Another kingdom, Ch'eng-yang, had also previously been made out of a section from Ch'i.

Emperor Ching favored Ch'ao Ts'o greatly, and, soon after he ascended the throne, made the latter his Grandee Secretary. Like Chia Yi, Ch'ao Ts'o realized the danger to the throne from the vassal kingdoms. The strongest kingdom was Wu, rich in copper ore. Its king, Liu P'i, minted cash and made salt from sea-water in the southern part of his kingdom. These two enterprises produced so much revenue that he dispensed with taxation. Ch'ao Ts'o was not willing to wait to enfeeble Wu until the death of this king, who was already over sixty, for he had heard that Liu P'i was making preparations for rebellion and would rebel as soon as those preparations were complete. So Ch'ao Ts'o urged upon Emperor Ching the importance of curtailing immediately the power of the various vassal kings.

In doing so, he took advantage of the Han laws, which seem to have been so numerous and flexible that hardly anyone could avoid violating some of them. The King of Ch'u was first charged with having broken the rule requiring continence during mourning. Ch'ao Ts'o reported his crime and suggested that he be sentenced to execution so that Emperor Ching might take away a large slice of his territory in commutation of his sentence. Ch'ao Ts'o next made other accusations against the King of Chao, part of whose territory was likewise confiscated. The same treatment was given to the kingdom of Chiao-hsi. Thus the vassal kings were thrown into consternation, wondering who would suffer next.

The King of Wu knew that, as the richest and strongest of the vassal kings, he would undoubtedly be attacked, and seems to have had private information that the officials in the capital were planning to take away most of his territory. He took the lead in arousing the vassal kings against the imperial government, especially the descendants of the King of Ch'i. His messengers arranged a coalition against the Emperor. He especially sought the King of Chiao-hsi, who was known for his military prowess. When a order arrived in Wu, commanding that his fairest provinces, including the copper region, should be taken from him, the King of Wu mobilized his army and six other kingdoms followed suit.

The news of the revolt threw Emperor Ching into a panic. Urged by his ministers, he however promptly made arrangements to meet the rebellion. The Han dynasty kept a very large body of troops, numbering many tens of thousands, at the capital (cf. p. 206, n. 4). Emperor Ching selected his father's ablest generals to lead the three armies sent against the three groups of rebels, and made his maternal cousin, Tou Ying, the Commander-in-chief, putting him in charge of the reserve army to be stationed at Jung-yang.

The King of Wu had sent a letter to all the vassal kings, blaming Ch'ao Ts'o for the conditions which led to the revolt, and urging them to join in executing Ch'ao Ts'o. A private enemy of this powerful minister secured an imperial audience and told Emperor Ching that if Ch'ao Ts'o were executed and the territory of the rebels were restored to them, they would submit. The Emperor was ready to catch at a straw. His ablest advisors, who could have corrected him, were away with the armies; when Emperor Ching secretly proposed the matter to three of his high ministers, they servilly agreed and prepared a secret memorial accusing Ch'ao Ts'o of capital crimes and begging for his execution, together with that of his relatives. Emperor Ching secretly approved this memorial and sent his Military Commander at the Capital to arrest Ch'ao Ts'o. The latter had no suspicion of the plot; when summoned, he dressed in his court garb and mounted his chariot to attend court. At the market-place he was stopped, was made to get down, and was cut in two at the waist.

This cowardly sacrifice of a loyal minister helped Emperor Ching not at all. Some days later an aged colonel told him that Liu P'i had visions of setting up an independent empire with himself as Eastern Emperor; Ch'ao Ts'o's death had merely aided the rebels by removing a faithful and far-seeing servant of the Emperor and by discouraging bold and loyal imperial subjects.

The rebelling kingdoms included four of the seven kingdoms that had been made out of Ch'i, viz. Chiao-hsi, Chi-nan, Tzu-ch'uan, and Chiao-tung, together with the three other kingdoms that had been curtailed, Wu, Chao, and Ch'u. The three other kingdoms formed from Ch'i remained loyal. The King of Ch'i went back on his agreement to rebel and guarded his cities. The King of Chi-pei said that his city-wall was broken and needed to be repaired. Nothing is said about the King of Ch'eng-yang. The King of Huai-nan, the famous Liu An, had also planned to rebel, but his plan was thwarted by his Lieutenant Chancellor. The high officials of the vassal kings were all appointed by the Emperor and were expected to watch their kings; in Ch'u and Chao four loyal officials lost their lives in attempting to prevent the revolt (cf. n. 6.5). In Huai-nan the Lieutenant Chancellor induced his King to make him General-in-Chief. In time of war, by custom, even a king had to obey his General-in-chief. This official then closed the gates of the cities and declared for the Han dynasty! An imperial general was sent to aid him; thus revolt was averted and the king kept his throne.

Thus of the ten or more kingdoms that planned to rebel, only seven actually put their forces into the field. The rebels were located in three regions: Wu and Ch'u in the lower Yangtze valley, the four kingdoms made out of Ch'i in the present Shantung, and Chao in the present western Hopei. Chao was isolated; it sent its troops to its western border, intending to join with the forces of Wu and Ch'u when they came north, secure aid from the Huns, and advance upon the imperial capital. Chao was unable to take any active part in the campaign.

The kingdoms formed from Ch'i were held back by the defections in their ranks. They gathered to besiege the capital of Ch'i. Its king sent a palace official to the Emperor for aid. Just when, against the wishes of his officials, the King of Ch'i was arranging to surrender, this palace official returned. He was captured by the besiegers and was allowed to speak to his King from the foot of the city-wall, on condition that he would falsely report the defeat of the relieving army. The man agreed, but, when he had his opportunity to speak, he sacrificed his life in order to give his message that the relieving force had been victorious and would soon arrive. Thus surrender was prevented. The troops of these four kingdoms were thus held near their bases and did little to aid the revolt.

The brunt of the fighting fell upon the troops of Wu and Ch'u. The King of Wu assembled his troops at Kuang-ling, crossed the Huai River, went west, made a junction with the troops of Ch'u, and attacked the kingdom of Liang, which was ruled by Emperor Ching's full brother, Liu Wu. The forces of Liang were routed at Chi-pi, where it is said that several tens of thousands were killed. The King of Liang sent another army against the rebels, but it was also defeated, so his troops fled into his capital, Sui-yang, which was defended.

Chou Ya-fu, who was made the imperial general against the armies of Wu and Ch'u, proposed, as his plan of campaign, to cut their communications and allow them to wear themselves out before he attacked them. They came from the Yangtze valley, where horses were scarce, hence were weak in light soldiers and cavalry, while the imperial force was strong in cavalry. Chou Ya-fu sent his cavalry to cut the communications by which food was brought to these armies.

The King of Liang sent a messenger to Chou Ya-fu for aid. But Emperor Ching was jealous of his brother, for Liu Wu was the favorite child of his mother, the Empress Dowager née Tou. The Emperor could not openly oppose his mother, but he would not have been sorry if his brother had suffered harm, for, probably by prearrangement with the Emperor, Chou Ya-fu refused to send aid to Liang. When Liu Wu got Emperor Ching to order that Chou Ya-fu should send aid to Liang, Chou Ya-fu did not pay any attention to the order, yet he was never called to account for his disobedience of an imperial edict.

Time was with the imperial forces, and Chou Ya-fu's plan of campaign proved wise. It was winter and the rebels had little food, for they could not capture the cities, in which food was stored, and their communications were interrupted. The rebels were finally defeated by Liang and came to Hsia-yi, where Chou Ya-fu had concentrated his troops, but Chou Ya-fu would not come out of his entrenchments to fight. Not until more than a month after the rebellion had begun, when the troops of Wu were scattered, had lost many through desertion, and were famished, did Chou Ya-fu fight a pitched battle. He routed the troops of Wu and Ch'u. The King of Wu fled from the army by night and the King of Ch'u committed suicide.

Liu P'i fled across his kingdom to the south, where he took refuge with the barbarians of Eastern Yüeh and attempted to gather troops for another attempt. But the emissaries of Emperor Ching induced the people of Tan-t'u to stab Liu P'i as he was out encouraging his troops. His head was sent to Ch'ang-an.

When the imperial forces had routed the besiegers of the capital of Ch'i and relieved its siege, it was discovered that the King of Ch'i had originally agreed to revolt. He committed suicide. Emperor Ching however pardoned his heir and appointed him to succeed his father. The kings of the four revolting kingdoms made from Ch'i either committed suicide or were executed; their kingdoms were abolished and made into commanderies.

When the Huns heard that Wu and Ch'u had been defeated, they did not come to the aid of Chao. Its king retreated to his capital, Han-tan, where he was besieged. The river was finally used to breach the city-wall, and the King of Chao committed suicide.

Thus the imperial line was firmly established on the throne and a break-up of the empire was prevented. Thereafter it became the set policy of the dynasty to enfeeble the vassal kingdoms by dividing the territory of a kingdom among all the heirs of a king, and by taking away some territory whenever a king committed a misstep. The vassal kings were carefully watched and supervised by their own officials (who were appointed by the imperial court). These kings became so unimportant that the Emperor could utterly disregard their wishes and Wang Mang could reduce them to private life without difficulty.

The reign of Emperor Ching shows the deterioration in character that was inevitable when an emperor had been raised in a harem and protected from close contact with the world of action. The decay and fall of the dynasty was eventually produced by this deterioration. Emperor Ching indulged his petty personal feelings, allowing his likes and dislikes to guide him in his choice and treatment of his ministers. He showed in practise an acute distaste for frank admonitions, and allowed palace intrigues to influence the government.

Chou Ya-fu was the most distinguished general and official in the reign. He was a faithful and capable servant, who put down the rebellion of the Seven Kingdoms and in reward was made Lieutenant 298CHAPTER V Chancellor, the highest position in the government. But he did not always trouble to bring himself into accord with Emperor Ching's likes and dislikes. After the Emperor had divorced his first Empress and had appointed his second Empress, the Emperor's mother suggested that the new Empress's brother, Wang Hsin, should be made a marquis. The procedure of ennobling the close relatives of an empress or even those of a favorite concubine, which later became common, had not yet become a custom, and Chou Ya-fu protested. He is reported to have said, "Emperor Kao-tsu made a covenant with his generals that, except for members of the Liu clan, no one should be made a king, and, except for those who have done distinguished [military] service, no one should be made a marquis. Now, although Wang Hsin is the older brother of the Empress, he has done no distinguished service; to make him a marquis would be contrary to the covenant." Emperor Ching had accordingly to drop the matter. Later Chou Ya-fu also protested against enfeoffing as marquises five Hun kings and nobles who surrendered to the Chinese: "These people have turned traitor to their king and have surrendered to your Majesty; if your Majesty makes marquises of them, then how will you be able to reprove your subjects who do not keep faith with you?" Emperor Ching did not think his arguments were apposite. He enfeoffed the lot, and Chou Ya-fu resigned his position on account of illness.

The Emperor could not forget criticism and resolved to even the score. He summoned Chou Ya-fu to a feast in the forbidden apartments of the palace and had set before him large slices of meat without having them cut up and without any chopsticks wherewith to eat. Chou Ya-fu fell into the trap, and, with the easy familiarity of one who was used to command, turned to the Master of the Mats, saying, "Bring some chopsticks." Such a request however implied criticism of the imperial arrangements, and Emperor Ching looked at him, laughing sarcastically, "This too cannot be unsatisfactory to you, sir?" Chou Ya-fu begged pardon, but the Emperor merely said, "Rise," whereupon Chou Ya-fu hastened out. Emperor Ching looked after him and said, "This man is tormented by desire; he cannot be a satisfactory official for the young lord my successor."

After such an imperial condemnation, the officials merely awaited a pretext to end his career. Before long his son purchased five hundred suits of armor from the imperial Department of Works for use in his father's funeral. A mistreated workman informed against the son, and Chou Ya-fu was arrested. He proudly refused to answer the questions put him by the officials. When Emperor Ching heard of it, he cursed him, saying, "I have no more use for him," and sent him to the Commandant of Justice's jail. There he was again questioned and charged with planning rebellion. Chou Ya-fu answered that these arms were merely burial articles, whereupon an official replied, "If you, sir, do not intend to rebel on earth, then you merely intend to rebel below the earth." The officials pressed him harshly; he refused to eat and died in five days. Thus was rewarded a faithful servant of the dynasty who had opposed the imperial will for the good of the empire.

Although Emperor Ching continued the practise of his father in his edicts, asking the officials to recommend for the bureaucracy persons who "can speak frankly and admonish unflinchingly," yet by his actions he tacitly encouraged sycophancy and discouraged any opposition to his will. A century later advice contrary to the imperial will could be denominated a crime and punished. Chou Ya-fu was the outstanding example of the Emperor's indulgence in petty dislikes; the able and proud Tou Ying was kept from high office all through the reign because he had opposed the Emperor's change of his Heir. Emperor Ching tolerated no opposition.

Intrigue showed itself most prominently in the change of the imperial heir. Emperor Ching had fourteen sons (and numerous daughters) by six different women of his harem, the largest number of children by any emperor of the Former Han dynasty. He first chose as his Heir-apparent his oldest son, Liu Jung, a son of the Concubine née Li. His other sons, including Liu Ch'ê, the future Emperor Wu, were made kings.

The first Empress, née Po, had been appointed through the influence of Emperior Ching's grandmother, the Grand Dowager Empress née Po, to whose clan the Empress belonged. But the Empress had no children and lost her husband's favor; four years after the death of the Grand Empress Dowager, the Empress née Po was dismissed. The favorite women of the Emperor thereupon intrigued for the vacant position.

Emperor Ching's eldest sister, Liu Piao, who was entitled an Elder Princess, recommended to him the women of his harem whom he favored with his attentions. She wanted to marry her daughter to the Heir-apparent, as was often done, for the two children were of different surnames. But the Heir-apparent's mother, the concubine née Li, was jealous of the Elder Princess's influence with the Emperor and refused to consent to the marriage.

The Elder Princess thereupon suggested marrying her daughter to Liu Ch'ê, the Emperor's son by a Lady née Wang. The Lady née Wang agreed, although her son was then less than four years old. From that time on, the Elder Princess slandered the Concubine née Li to Emperor Ching and praised the Lady née Wang. When the latter knew that the Concubine née Li was definitely out of favor with Emperor Ching, she moved to crystallize his feelings by sending someone to urge upon the officials the propriety of asking for the appointment of a new Empress. An official promptly suggested the mother of the Heir-apparent, the Concubine née Li, as the Empress. Emperor Ching became thoroughly wrathful at this idea and had the official who had made the suggestion tried and executed. Then he dismissed from his position as Heir-apparent the son of the Concubine née Li, Liu Jung, for it was the custom that the mother of the Heir-apparent should become the Empress. Emperor Ching next appointed as Empress his favorite, the Lady née Wang, and then made her son, Liu Ch'ê, the Imperial Heir-apparent. Three years later, the first Heir-apparent, Liu Jung, was imprisoned for usurping temple land and committed suicide. Thus Emperor Wu came to the throne because of palace intrigues.

There were other such palace intrigues: the memoirs of the important personages of the reign are full of them. Liu Wu, Emperor Ching's younger brother, was the favorite son of Emperor Ching's mother, and she tried to have Liu Wu made the Heir-apparent of Emperor Ching. Her nephew, the bold Tou Ying, advised Emperor Ching against such a move, thus incurring the enmity of the Empress Dowager, who banished him from the court. Later she renewed her entreaties for Liu Wu, but Yüan Ang opposed the move. In revenge Liu Wu had Yüan Ang assassinated. Emperor Ching was enraged and had the assassins traced to Liu Wu's palace. The Empress Dowager wept incessantly and refused to eat for fear that her younger son would be executed. Emperor Ching was told by the official sent to investigate, "If now Liu Wu is not executed, the law of the Han dynasty will not be carried out; if he is executed, the Empress Dowager's food will be tasteless and her sleep troubled. This trouble will come upon your Majesty." Filial piety thus kept Emperor Ching from carrying out the law, and Liu Wu was finally pardoned in spite of the Emperor's dislike for him.

Such incidents throw deep shadows upon Emperor Ching's reign. They seem quite inevitable when the ruler has grown up in the luxury and indulgence of an imperial harem. These intrigues are not told in the "Imperial Annals," because they belong to the private life of the individuals concerned, rather than to the official actions of the government, which latter were alone thought to belong in the "Annals." They are mentioned here to show the extraordinary wealth of information contained in this encyclopedic history and to urge the reader to go behind the "Annals" to the real history of the reign, which is often to be found in the "Memoirs." An abstract of the pertinent "Memoirs" will be found in the Glossary.

Szu-ma Ch'ien, in his summary of this reign (Mh II, 509), does not award the slightest praise to Emperor Ching; Wieger, in his Textes historiques, I, 452 f, condemns the Emperor roundly. Pan Ku, in his eulogy (5: 10b), on the other hand equates Emperors Wen and Ching with Kings Ch'eng and K'ang of the Chou dynasty, which seems to be high praise. Many of the additions made by Pan Ku to Szu-ma Ch'ien's "Annals," especially those in the latter years of the reign, seem designed to counteract the low impression of Emperor Ching given in the SC--- these additions show an attempt on the part of the Emperor to be a beneficent ruler over his people, limiting severities, punishing wrongdoing, and improving the administration. Emperor Ching does not deserve Wieger's condemnation. In spite of the fact that many of his deeds cannot bear scrutiny, and that his self-indulgence of petty whims sometimes brought calamity to the highest personages, yet in general the administration of the government was good, and the Emperor attempted to continue the beneficence and economy of Emperor Wen.

Szu-ma Kuang, in his Tzu-chih T'ung-chien 15: 19b ff, quotes Pan Ku's eulogy and points out that the period of Emperors Wen and Ching was in general a time of peace and plenty, when wealth accumulated and properity was restored, but when growing wealth also brought about the beginning of the extravagance and luxury that was, together with continual military expeditions, to result in the economic collapse under Emperor Wu. The SC says little of King K'ang except that his reign was a period of peace, so that, during his reign and that of his father, "the mutilating punishments were set aside and not used for a period of forty years." Inasmuch as Emperor Ching's reign was largely a period of peace (the revolt of the Seven Kingdoms lasted only a few months), and inasmuch as he attempted to continue the excellent tradition left by his father, Pan Ku's comparison of Emperor Ching with King K'ang seems quite apt.

<Previous Section>
<Next Section>
IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia