Emperor Ling of Han

Emperor Ling of Han
Emperor of the Han dynasty
Reign168 – 189
PredecessorEmperor Huan of Han
SuccessorEmperor Shao of Han
Marquis of Jiedu Village (解瀆亭侯)
Tenure? - 168
PredecessorLiu Chang (劉萇)
DiedMay 13, 189(189-05-13) (aged 32–33)
IssueLiu Bian
Liu Xie
Princess Wannian
Full name
Era dates
  • Jianning (建寧) 168–172
  • Xiping (熹平) 172–178
  • Guanghe (光和) 178–184
  • Zhongping (中平) 184–189
Posthumous name
Xiaoling (孝靈)
DynastyHan dynasty
FatherLiu Chang
MotherLady Dong
Emperor Ling of Han
Traditional Chinese漢靈帝
Simplified Chinese汉灵帝
Liu Hong
Traditional Chinese劉宏
Simplified Chinese刘宏

Emperor Ling of Han (156 – 13 May 189), personal name Liu Hong,[1] was the 12th emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty. Born the son of a lesser marquis who descended directly from Emperor Zhang (the third Eastern Han emperor), Liu Hong was chosen to be emperor in 168 around age 12 after the death of his predecessor, Emperor Huan, who had no son to succeed him. He reigned for about 21 years until his death in 189.

Emperor Ling's reign saw another repetition of corrupt eunuchs dominating the Han central government, as was the case during his predecessor's reign. Zhang Rang, the leader of the eunuch faction, managed to dominate the political scene after defeating a faction led by Empress Dowager Dou's father, Dou Wu, and the Confucian scholar-official Chen Fan in 168. After reaching adulthood, Emperor Ling was not interested in state affairs and preferred to indulge in women and a decadent lifestyle. At the same time, corrupt officials in the Han government levied heavy taxes on the peasants. He exacerbated the situation by introducing a practice of selling political offices for money; this practice severely damaged the Han civil service system and led to widespread corruption. Mounting grievances against the Han government led to the outbreak of the peasant-led Yellow Turban Rebellion in 184.

Emperor Ling's reign left the Eastern Han dynasty weak and on the verge of collapse. After his death, the Han Empire disintegrated in chaos for the subsequent decades as various regional warlords fought for power and dominance. (See End of the Han dynasty.) The Han dynasty ended in 220 when Emperor Ling's son, Emperor Xian, abdicated his throne – an event leading to the start of the Three Kingdoms period in China.

Family background and accession to the throne

Women dressed in Hanfu silk robes
A woman with an Eastern Han hairstyle
Detail of a banquet scene
Women dressed in Hanfu robes
Murals of the Dahuting Tomb (Chinese: 打虎亭汉墓, Pinyin: Dahuting Han mu) of the late Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), located in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China, showing scenes of daily life.

Liu Hong was a hereditary marquis – the Marquis of Jiedu Village (解瀆亭侯). In the Han dynasty, a village marquis's marquisate usually comprised only one village or, in rarer cases, two or three villages. He was the third person in his family to hold this title; his father Liu Chang (劉萇) and grandfather Liu Shu (劉淑) were also formerly Marquis of Jiedu Village. His great-grandfather, Liu Kai (劉開), the Prince of Hejian (河間王), was the sixth son of Emperor Zhang, the third emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty. His mother, Lady Dong, was Liu Chang's formal spouse.

When Emperor Huan died in 168 without a son to succeed him, his empress, Empress Dou, became empress dowager, and she examined the genealogy of the imperial clan to choose a candidate to be the next emperor. For reasons unknown, her assistant Liu Shu (劉儵) recommended Liu Hong, the Marquis of Jiedu Village. After consulting with her father Dou Wu and the Confucian scholar-official Chen Fan, Empress Dowager Dou installed a 12-year-old Liu Hong on the throne, and continued ruling on his behalf as regent. The newly enthroned Emperor Ling bestowed posthumous titles on his grandfather, father and grandmother, honouring them as emperors and an empress respectively. His mother, Lady Dong, did not become empress dowager and instead received the title of an Honoured Lady.

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Hàn Lêng-tè
Deutsch: Han Lingdi
français: Han Lingdi
한국어: 후한 영제
Bahasa Indonesia: Kaisar Ling dari Han
Nederlands: Han Lingdi
日本語: 霊帝 (漢)
norsk: Han Lingdi
português: Lingdi
русский: Лин-ди (Хань)
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Car Ling od Hana
українська: Лю Хун (Хань)
Tiếng Việt: Hán Linh Đế
吴语: 汉灵帝
粵語: 劉宏
中文: 汉灵帝