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.

Read more about Wang MangEarly Life and Career, First Tenure As The Commander of The Armed Forces, Retirement During Emperor Ai's Reign, Regency and Buildup of Personality Cult, As Acting Emperor, Early Reign: Mistakes, Middle Reign: Agrarian Rebellions, Reasons For Wang Mang's Failure, Personal Information, Wang Mang in Popular Culture

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Late Chinese Empire - Imperial China - Han Dynasty (202 BC–AD 220) - Xin Dynasty
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... By 22, the forces that Jing and Wang led against Fan and other rebel generals were in shambles, and in 22, Fan killed Jing in battle ... Wang Mang reacted by sending two of his senior generals, Wang Kuang (王匡) and Lian Dan (廉丹) with a massive (100,000+ men) regular force, against these rebels ... Wang and Lian, while capable generals on the battlefield, also failed to maintain proper military discipline ...
Wang Mang in Popular Culture
... Wang Mang is a character in the 2011 historical fantasy novel, The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh, where he is treated admiringly and heroically ... whom we'd been waiting," one character says of Wang Mang, after his death, "the one for whom we still wait." ...
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... half-Xiongnu noble Yituzhiyashi (伊屠智牙師), son of Huhanye Chanyu and Wang Zhaojun, became a vocal partisan for Han China within the Xiongnu realm ... The moment came when Wang Mang assumed the throne and demoted the Chanyu to a lesser rank this became a pretext for war ... During the winter of 10–11 CE, Wang amassed 300,000 troops along the northern border of Han China, a show of force which led the Xiongnu to back down ...