Today In History: Wu of Han Assumes the Throne of the Han Dynasty (141 BC)

Today In History: Wu of Han Assumes the Throne of the Han Dynasty (141 BC)

Jeanette Lamb - March 9, 2017

On this day in 141 BC, Emperor Wu of Han assumed the throne over the Han dynasty. His reign lasted for 54 years, ending in 87 BC. No other emperor retained power for such a stretch of time until 1,800 years later. Emperor Wu was given the name Liu Che at birth. He became known as Tong upon entering adulthood, and was referred to as Emperor Wu while serving at the head of the Han dynasty.

Today In History: Wu of Han Assumes the Throne of the Han Dynasty (141 BC)
Traditional portrait of Emperor Wu of Han. Public Domain

Under Wu’s leadership, the Han dynasty underwent a massive expansion that allowed it to develop into a stable state with a centralized government. Confucian doctrines were promoted during his rule. Confucianism grew out of the Hundred Schools of Thought; it is regarded as a both a philosophy and a religion, and is noted for its rational and humanistic undertones. Its application during Wu’s rule was ambiguous. It helped propel the arts, like music and poetry, to be regarded as prestigious entities.

Perhaps because Wu reigned for so many years, his legacy is easy to target and subject to criticism. Wu is noted for having been superstitious, which made him vulnerable to bad judgment. This was especially the case with his legal policies, which were not always in the interest of the people. The extreme punishment was given to anyone who did not live up to his standards.

He also oversaw the killing of over 10,000 people and their families as a result of the Liu An affair, which involved two sons, one born to royalty, the other to a concubine. Wu is also accused of forcing his last queen to commit suicide. Furthermore, he had three of his prime ministers executed

All this aside, Wu was considered one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history because of his ability to organize a government, obtain territory, and run one of the most powerful dynasties ever.