Wang Mang

Wang Mang (Chinese: 王莽; pinyin: Wáng Măng) (c. 45 BC – 6 October 23 AD), courtesy name Jujun (巨君), was a han dynasty official who seized the throne from the Liu family and founded the Xin (or Hsin, meaning "new") Dynasty (新朝), ruling AD 9–23. The han dynasty was restored after his overthrow and his rule marks the separation between the Western han dynasty (before Xin) and Eastern han dynasty (after Xin). Some historians have traditionally viewed Wang as a usurper, while others have portrayed him as a visionary and selfless social reformer. Though a learned Confucian scholar who sought to implement the harmonious society he saw in the classics, his efforts ended in chaos.


Wang was born into a distinguished family, but his father died when he was young and he held only minor posts until being made a marquess in 16 BC. His father's half sister was the powerful Grand Empress Dowager Wang who had been the consort of Emperor Yuan and mother of Emperor Cheng. In 8 BC Wang was appointed regent for Emperor Cheng, but Emperor Cheng died in 7 or 6 BC and was succeeded by Emperor Ai, who was not related to the Empress Dowager. Wang Mang thereupon resigned.


However, in 1 BC, Emperor Ai died and Empress Dowager Wang immediately had Wang Mang appointed regent for the new Emperor Ping. Wang consolidated his power by having his own daughter made the Emperor Ping's empress. When Emperor Ping died as a child in AD 6, Wang Mang chose (to his own advantage) an infant successor, the Emperor Ruzi, who had only been born in AD 5. At this time, Wang claimed for himself the title of acting emperor (假皇帝) and engaged in a propaganda campaign to convince others that the han dynasty no longer held the mandate of heaven and was to be replaced. Finally, in January AD 9, he ascended the throne and declared the xin dynasty.


As regent, Wang had gained a reputation as a competent administrator and his accession was at first seen in a good light. He sought to refill the imperial coffers by instituting government monopolies and restoring the well-field system. His decision to nationalize gold and keep issuing new currencies caused hardship and discontent among merchants. In AD 9 he decreed that all large estates, which had gradually grown larger and threatened imperial power, be dissolved and their lands distributed among tax-paying peasants. This did not sit well with the aristocracy, which forced Wang to rescind his decree in AD 12.


Another major reason for the deterioration of Wang's reign was that in the diplomatic arena he was prone to extreme arrogance and faux pas when dealing with allies and tributary states. In particular, with the Xiongnu, he denigrated their Chanyu (king) and tried to interfere in their internal affairs. This led to the breakdown of diplomatic relations and prolonged wars with Xiongnu and many other tributary states, further adding to the tax and human costs of his administration.


Between AD 2 and AD 5 and again in AD 11, the Yellow River changed course to flow south (instead of north) of the Shandong Peninsula, causing famine, epidemics, and migration among the peasants. Peasants banded together in protest of Wang Mang's reign. They were joined by powerful members of the aristocracy and even disgruntled parts of the military, which led larger and larger rebellions - such as the Chimei, or Red Eyebrow Rebellion. Eventually, members of the nobility reconstituted the han dynasty, and much of the military defected to them. In October of AD 23, the capital Chang'an was attacked and the imperial palace ransacked. Wang Mang and his 1,000 courtiers made their last stand and fought until they were completely obliterated. Wang Mang died in the battle.


The han dynasty was reestablished in AD 25 when Liu Xiu (Emperor Guangwu) took the throne.


Early life and career

Wang Mang was the son of Wang Man (王曼), the younger brother of Empress Wang Zhengjun, and his wife Qu (渠, family name unknown), born in 45 BC. Wang Man died early, while Wang Mang was young, before Emperor Cheng took the throne and his mother Empress Wang became empress dowager. Unlike most of his brothers, Wang Mang did not have the opportunity to become a marquess. Empress Wang took pity on his family, and after she herself was widowed, had Qu moved to the imperial palace to live with her.


While Wang Mang was obviously well-connected to the imperial family, he did not have nearly the luxuries that his cousins enjoyed. Indeed, unlike his relatives who lived expensively and competed with each other on how they could spend more, Wang Mang was praised for his humility, thriftiness, and desire to study. He wore not the clothes of young nobles but those of a young Confucian scholar. He was also praised on how filial he was to his mother and how caring he was to his deceased brother Wang Yong (王永)'s wife and son Wang Guang (王光). Wang Mang befriended many capable people and served his uncles carefully.


When Wang Mang's powerful uncle Wang Feng (王鳳, commander of the armed forces 33 BC-22 BC) grew ill, Wang Mang cared for him near his sick bed day and night, and attended to his medical and personal needs. Wang Feng was greatly touched, and before his death, he asked Empress Dowager Wang and Emperor Cheng to take good care of Wang Mang. Wang Mang was therefore given the post of imperial attendant (黃門郎) and later promoted to be one of the subcommanders of the imperial guards (射聲校尉).


In 16 BC, another of Wang Mang's uncles, Wang Shang (王商) the Marquess of Chengdu, submitted a petition to divide part of his march) and to create Wang Mang a marquess. Several well-regarded officials concurred in this request, and Emperor Cheng was impressed with Wang Mang's reputation. He therefore created Wang Mang the Marquess of Xindu and promoted him to minister without portfolio (光祿大夫). It was described by historians that the greater the posts that Wang was promoted to, the more humble he grew. He did not accumulate wealth, but used the money to support scholars and to give gifts to colleagues, so he gained more and more praise.


Another thing that Wang Mang made himself known for was that he had only a wife, Lady Wang, and no concubines. (Note that she had the same family name as Wang Mang—strong evidence that at this point the taboo against endogamy based on the same family name was not firmly in place in Chinese culture.) However, as later events would show, Wang was not completely faithful to his wife, even at this time.


Emperor Cheng appointed his uncles, one after another, to be commander of the armed forces (the most powerful court official) (see here for more information), and speculation grew on who would succeed Wang Mang's youngest surviving uncle, Wang Gen (王根, commander 12 BC-8 BC). Wang Mang was considered one of the possibilities, while another was his cousin Chunyu Zhang (the son of Empress Dowager Wang's sister), who had a much closer personal relationship to Emperor Cheng than Wang Mang did. Chunyu also had friendly relations with both Emperor Cheng's wife Empress Zhao Feiyan and his deposed former wife Empress Xu.


To overcome Chunyu's presumptive hold on succeeding Wang Gen, Wang Mang took action. He collected evidence that Chunyu, a frivolous man in his words and deeds, had secretly received bribes from the deposed Empress Xu and had promised to help her become "left empress", and that he had promised his associates great posts once he would succeed Wang Gen. In 8 BC, He informed Wang Gen and Empress Dowager Wang of the evidence, and both Wang Gen and Empress Dowager Wang were greatly displeased. They exiled Chunyu back to his march. Chunyu, before he left the capital, gave his horses and luxurious carriages to his cousin Wang Rong (王融) -- the son of his uncle Wang Li (王立), with whom he had a running feud. Wang Li, happy with Chunyu's gift, submitted a petition requesting that Chunyu be allowed to remain at the capital—which drew Emperor Cheng's suspicion, because he knew of the feud between Wang Li and Chunyu. He ordered Wang Rong be arrested, and Wang Li, in his panic, ordered his son to commit suicide—which in turn caused Emperor Cheng to become even more suspicious. He therefore had Chunyu arrested and interrogated. Chunyu admitted to deceiving Empress Xu and receiving bribes from her, and he was executed.


Also in 8 BC, Wang Gen, by then seriously ill, submitted his resignation and requested that Wang Mang succeed him. In winter 8 BC, Emperor Cheng made Wang Mang the commander of the armed forces (大司馬), at the age of 37.


First tenure as the commander of the armed forces

After Wang Mang was promoted to this position—effectively the highest in the imperial government—he became even better known for his self-discipline and promotion of capable individuals than before. As a result, the people's perception of the Wang clan as arrogant, wasteful, and petty, began to be reversed.


In 7 BC, Wang's cousin Emperor Cheng died suddenly, apparently from a stroke (although historians also report the possibility of an overdosage of aphrodisiacs given to him by his favorite, Consort Zhao Hede). Emperor Cheng's nephew Crown Prince Liu Xin (劉欣) (the son of his brother Prince Kang of Dingtao (劉康)) became emperor (as Emperor Ai). For the time being, Wang remained in his post and continued to be powerful, as his aunt became grand empress dowager and was influential.


However, that would soon change. Emperor Ai's grandmother, Princess Dowager Fu of Dingtao (concubine of Grand Empress Dowager Wang's husband Emperor Yuan) was a domineering woman who ruled her grandson. She greatly wanted the title of empress dowager as well. Initially, Grand Empress Dowager Wang decreed that Princess Dowager Fu and Emperor Ai's mother Consort Ding see him periodically, every 10 days. However, Princess Dowager Fu quickly began to visit her grandson every day, and she insisted that two things be done: that she receive an empress dowager title, and that her relatives be granted titles, like the Wangs. Grand Empress Dowager Wang, sympathetic of the bind that Emperor Ai was in, first granted Prince Kang the unusual title of "Emperor Gong of Dingtao" (定陶共皇) and then, under the rationale of that title, granted Princess Dowager Fu the title "Empress Dowager Gong of Dingtao" (定陶共皇太后) and Consort Ding the title "Empress Gong of Dingtao" (定陶共皇后). Several members of the Fu and Ding clans were created marquesses. Grand Empress Dowager Wang also ordered Wang Mang to resign and transfer power to the Fu and Ding relatives. Emperor Ai declined and begged Wang Mang to stay in his administration.


Several months later, however, Wang Mang came into direct confrontation with now-Empress Dowager Fu. At a major imperial banquet, the official in charge of seating placed Empress Dowager Fu's seat next to Grand Empress Dowager Wang's. When Wang Mang saw this, he rebuked the official and ordered that Empress Dowager Fu's seat be moved to the side, which drew great ire from Empress Dowager Fu, who then refused to attend the banquet. To sooth her anger, Wang Mang resigned, and Emperor Ai approved his resignation. After this event, the Wangs gradually and inexorably began to lose their power.


Retirement during Emperor Ai's reign

After Wang Mang's resignation, he was initially requested by Emperor Ai to remain at the capital Chang'an and periodically meet him to give advice. However, in 5 BC, after Empress Dowager Fu was more successful in her quest for titles—Emperor Ai removed the qualification "of Dingtao" from his father's posthumous title (thus making him simply "Emperor Gong"), and then gave his grandmother a variation of the grand empress dowager title (ditaitaihou (帝太太后), compared to Grand Empress Dowager Wang's title taihuangtaihou (太皇太后)) and his mother a variation of the empress dowager title (ditaihou (帝太后), compared to Empress Dowager Zhao's title huangtaihou (皇太后)) -- the prime minister Zhu Bo (朱博) and vice prime minister Zhao Xuan (趙玄), at her behest, submitted a petition to have Wang demoted to commoner status for having opposed Grand Empress Fu previously. Emperor Ai did not do so, but sent Wang back to his march Xindu (in modern Nanyang, Henan ).


While in Xindu, Wang was careful not to associate with many people (to prevent false accusations that he was planning a rebellion). In 5 BC, when his son Wang Huo killed a household servant, Wang Mang ordered him to commit suicide. By 2 BC, there had been several hundred petitions by commoners and officials to request Wang Mang's return to the capital. Emperor Ai, who also respected Wang Mang, summoned him and his cousin Wang Ren (王仁), the son of Wang Gen, back to the capital to assist Grand Empress Dowager Wang. However, Wang Mang would have no official posts and would exert little influence on politics for the time being.


Read More About Wang Mang

     

Last update 01-06-2012

Site Search

News

Random Articals


Join Our Newsletter

 

Subscribe

Unsubscribe

Send This Page to Friend

To Email this page to a friend

1. Use Your Default Email Client
2. Use Our Recommend Page

Online Contact

nouahsark@hotmail.com

nouahsark@yahoo.com

nouahsark

1438084734

If you like this article please feel free to share it to your favorite site listed below:

Choose A Style:

Font Family

Font Colors
black Blue Green Purple Red Default
Font Size

Site Options Help


control panel