The Red Eyebrows (
The rebellion, initially active in the modern
Circa 17 AD, due to Wang Mang's incompetence in ruling—particularly in his implementation of his land reform policy—and a major
The case of
Fan Chong (樊崇, who would eventually become the leader of the Red Eyebrows, albeit in a collective leadership) had his own rebellion in 18, also in the Ju and Langya counties (near modern
In 19, at the behest of his official Tian Kuang (田況), Wang Mang oddly reacted to the agrarian rebellions by raising taxes. This only aggravated the agrarian rebels. In 21, Wang sent vice generals Jing Shang (景尚) and Wang Dang (王黨) to try to put down the rebellions, but Jing and Wang's soldiers were so lacking in military discipline that they further angered the populace which had not rebelled, which caused them to join or help the rebels in greater earnest. Tian, who had earlier aggravated the rebellions, however, had some success against them, and he advocated a policy where the villagers would be evacuated to the cities to trap the rebels into attacking fortifications. Wang, who by this point had distrusted Tian due to his military successes, refused and summoned him back to the capital
About this time, Mother Lü died, and her followers joined forces with Fan Chong's forces.
It should be noted that by this point, Fan and the other rebel leaders still lacked any real political ambition—even as they were showing genuine military abilities. The only rules of law that they had among the rebels was that one who murders would die, and one who wounds would be responsible for the care of the victim until he or she heals. The only titles for the rebel leaders were "county educator" (三老, sanlao), "county clerk" (從事, congshi), and "sheriff" (卒史, zushi) -- not more grandiose titles as "general" or "prince".
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. Fan and the other rebel leaders, concerned that during battles it would become impossible to tell friend or foe, ordered that their men color their eyebrows red—and this is where the name Chimei (which literally means "red eyebrows") came from.
Wang and Lian, while capable generals on the battlefield, also failed to maintain proper military discipline. This led to a famous lament by the people victimized by their forces:
In winter 22, Wang and Lian had some successes against the Chimei leader Suolu Hui (索盧恢), capturing the city of Wuyan (無鹽, in modern