Liu Ju

Liu Ju (Traditional Chinese: 劉據) (128 BC – 91 BC), formally Crown Prince Li (戾太子, literally, "the Unrepentant Crown Prince") was crown prince during the reign of his father, Emperor Wu of Han, during China's han dynasty. Contrary to his posthumous name, he was regarded as a well-mannered, considerate man who, by circumstances out of his control, was forced to rebel against his father and who died as a consequence of the rebellion.

Family background and birth

Crown Prince Ju's mother, Empress Wei Zifu, eventually would be Emperor Wu's second wife. (She had gotten favor over his first wife, Empress Chen Jiao, after Chen was unable to bear Emperor Wu any children. Empress Chen was deposed in 130 BC.) She probably became a consort of his circa 139 BC. However, despite her favored status, she also did not bear him a son—Ju—until 128 BC. Only after she was able to bear this imperial heir was she created empress. Prince Ju was created crown prince in 122 BC, at age 6.

As crown prince

It is unclear when Crown Prince Ju became involved in government, but as he matured and his father became more and more often absent from the capital about 113 BC, his father entrusted him with more governmental responsibility, acting as regent while Emperor Wu was not in the capital. Unlike Emperor Wu, who was at times megalomanic and always looking for territorial expansion who burdened his people to the limit, Crown Prince Ju was regarded as a man of peace, interested in allowing the people to rest. Even as Emperor Wu started to favor other consorts than Empress Wei, she and Crown Prince Ju remained respected by him. Crown Prince Ju was well known for his hospitality and desire to listen to different opinions, and he maintained a large group of advisors and friends at his palace. Because Crown Prince Ju favored being lenient, he often came into conflict with some of his father's officials who favored harshness in dealing with the people.

In 113 BC, he would marry the only well-known consort of his, Consort Shi (史良娣). She bore him a son, Liu Jin (劉進). He had two other sons and a daughter.

While Crown Prince Ju's well-respected uncle, the great general Wei Qing was alive, Crown Prince Ju was secure politically. After Wei died in 106 BC, however, the officials who disagreed with him politically began to plot against him.

Being forced into rebellion

Near the end of his reign, Emperor Wu became paranoid, fearful of the use of witchcraft against him, and those who were suspected of witchcraft were often summarily executed. Many important people, including his own daughters Princesses Yangshi and Zhuyi and Wei Qing's son Wei Kang (衛忼) became victims of this witch hunt, in 91 BC. In the same year, the witchcraft investigations would ensnare Crown Prince Ju and not allow him to escape.

One of the conspirators against Prince Ju would be Jiang Chong (江充), the head of the secret intelligence, who once had a run-in with Prince Ju after arresting one of Prince Ju's assistants for improper use of an imperial right of way. It appears likely that Jiang was behind many of the witchcraft accusations against important persons. One other conspirator was Emperor Wu's guard Su Wen (蘇文), who had falsely accused Prince Ju of committing adultery with Emperor Wu's junior concubines.

Jiang and Su decided on using witchcraft as the excuse to move against Prince Ju. Jiang, with approval from Emperor Wu, who was then at his summer palace in Ganquan (甘泉, in modern Xianyang, Shaanxi ), searched through various palaces, ostensibly for witchcraft items, eventually reaching Prince Ju's palace. He planted dolls and a piece of cloth with mysterious writing in Prince Ju's palace, and then announced that he found them there. Prince Ju was shocked. He considered his options, and his teacher Shi De (石德), invoking the story of Ying Fusu and raising the possibility that Emperor Wu might already be deceased, suggested that Prince Ju start an uprising. Prince Ju initially hesitated and wanted to speedily proceed to Ganquan to try to see his father to explain himself, but he found out that Jiang's messengers were already on their way. He decided to accept Shi's suggestion.

Prince Ju then sent an individual to impersonate a messenger from Emperor Wu to arrest Jiang and his coconspirators—except for Su, who escaped. After they were arrested, Prince Ju personally killed Jiang. He then led the guards of his and Empress Wei's palaces and prepared to defend himself. Su fled to Ganquan and accused Prince Ju of treason. Emperor Wu, not believing it to be true and correctly (at this point) believing that Prince Ju had merely been angry at Jiang, send a messenger back to the capital Chang'an to summon Prince Ju. The messenger did not dare to proceed to Chang'an, but instead returned and falsely reported to Emperor Wu that he fled because Prince Ju was going to kill him. By now enraged, Emperor Wu ordered his nephew, Prime Minister Liu Qumao (劉屈犛), to put down the rebellion. The forces battled for five days, but Liu Qumao's forces prevailed after it became clear that Prince Ju did not have his father's authorization. Prince Ju fled the capital.

Emperor Wu continued to be enraged and ordered that Prince Ju be tracked down, but after a junior official risked his life and spoke on Prince Ju's behalf, Emperor Wu's anger began to subside, but he had not yet issued a pardon for Prince Ju when Prince Ju, having fled to Hu (湖縣, in modern Sanmenxia, Henan ) and surrounded by troops, committed suicide by hanging. His two sons died with him. Consort Shi, her son Liu Jin and his wife Consort Wang died in the capital in the same incident, but it is not clear how they died—whether by their own hands or by execution. Liu Ju's only daughter also died, although it is similarly unknown whether or not she was executed or committed suicide, or if she was one of the victims of Emperor Wu's witchcraft trials. Empress Wei committed suicide after it became clear she would be deposed.

Post death developments

Eventually, Emperor Wu had begun to realize that the witchcraft accusations were often false accusations. In 89 BC, when Tian Qianqiu (田千秋), then the superintendent of Emperor Gao's temple, wrote a report claiming that Emperor Gao told him in a dream that Prince Ju should have only been whipped, not killed, Emperor Wu had a revelation about what happened, and he had Su killed by burning and Jiang's family executed. He also made Tian prime minister. However, although he claimed to miss Prince Ju greatly, he did not at this time rectify the situation where Prince Ju's surviving progeny, a grandson, Liu Bingyi, languished in prison as a child. Nor did he officially restore Crown Prince Ju's honor.

By some twist of fate, however, Liu Bingyi would eventually become emperor (as Emperor Xuan) in 74 BC following the death of Crown Prince Ju's younger brother Emperor Zhao and a brief reign by their nephew, Prince He of Changyi. Out of respect for Emperor Zhao (and fearful that he would suffer the same consequence as Prince He), Emperor Xuan did not initially attempt to restore the honor of his grandfather. It was not until 73 BC when he restored Crown Prince Ju's title (but with the rather unflattering posthumous name of "Li") and reburied his grandparents and parents.

Last update 07-06-2012

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