Wang Mang | as acting emperor
Because the young Emperor Ping had not had any children by his wife Empress Wang or any of his concubines, there was no heir. Further, by that point, Emperor Ping's grandfather, Emperor Yuan had no surviving male issue. The progeny of Emperor Ping's great-grandfather
There were 53 great-grandsons of Emperor Xuan then still living by this stage, but they were all adults, and Wang Mang disliked that fact—he wanted a child whom he could control. Therefore, he declared that it was inappropriate for members of the same generation to succeed each other (even though Emperor Ping had succeeded his cousin Emperor Ai several years earlier). He then examined the 23 great-great-grandsons of Emperor Xuan—all of whom were infants or toddlers.
While the examination process was proceeding, the mayor of South Chang'an submitted a rock with a mysterious red writing on it – "Wang Mang, the Duke of Anhan, should be emperor." In May, Wang had his political allies force Grand Empress Dowager Wang to issue an edict granting him the title of "Acting Emperor" (假皇帝), with the commission to rule as emperor until a great-great-grandson of Emperor Xuan could be selected and raised. To further bolster his claims, Wang also faked his genealogy, declaring himself a descendant of the
In the spring of 6, Acting Emperor Wang selected the child Ying—then just one year old—as the designated successor to Emperor Ping, claiming that soothsayers told him that Ying was the candidate most favored by the gods. He gave Ying the epithet Ruzi – the same epithet that King Cheng of Zhou had when he was in his minority and under the regency of the
As acting emperor, Wang reinstituted the Zhou system of five grades of nobility—duke (公, gong), marquess (侯, hou), earl (伯, bo), viscount (子, zi), and baron (男, nan).
Several members of the imperial Liu clan were naturally suspicious of Acting Emperor Wang's intentions. They started or assisted in several failed rebellions against Wang:
After Zhai and Liu Xin were defeated, Wang became even more convinced that the empire was entirely under his control, and decided to finally seize the throne and start a new dynasty. In the winter of 8, after receiving a false prophecy written by the hoodlum Ai Zhang (哀章) which pretended to be a divine decree from