Liu Che 劉徹, Emperor Wu of Han

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About Liu Che 劉徹, Emperor Wu of Han

156-87? B.C.

Chinese Emperor

During Wu-ti's reign, he expanded China's borders and influence through most of the world known to China. Because of this, he went down in history as one of the greatest emperors of China's Han Dynasty. After his death he was given the name Wu-ti, which means "martial emperor," in honor of his victories.

Wu-ti was born Liu Ch'e about 156 B.C., the son of Emperor Ching-ti. He was definitely not the eldest son of the emperor, in fact he is believed to have been son number 11, making him far from first in line to ascend to the throne. However, by his seventh birthday relatives assured his status as heir apparent, and he succeeded the throne in 140 or 141 about the age of 15.

For the first several years of his reign, Wu-ti was heavily influenced by his relatives, who urged a more moderate, defensive approach to national security. By about 133, he launched the first of many attacks against threatening neighbors, attempting to both secure and expand China's borders. In this first attack, he decided to secure China's northern border by attacking the Hsing-nu, a nomadic tribe that constitutedChina's primary threat from that direction. Successful in this endeavor, Wu-ti set about an era of national expansion.

Wu-ti next looked east, conquering northern and central Korea, which had slipped from Chinese control before his reign. He continued southward, bringing Vietnam and what is now southern China under his control by 128. Wu-ti continued this series of conquests, driving his armies with ruthless determination and little tolerance for error.

At its greatest extent, Wu-ti's empire reached into Fergana, today's Uzbekistan, and controlled most of the world known to China. His exploits resembled those of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.), except that Alexander personally led his troops while Wu-ti remained in his capital. However, with a greater population at his command, Wu-ti controlled larger armies of up to 100,000 men plus the supply and support need to keep such a large army in the field. Of course paying for such a huge army was difficult, and Wu-ti reorganized the Chinese bureaucracy and raised taxes to more effectively administer his realm and pay for his government.

In addition to his military and administrative exploits, Wu-ti dispatched missions of exploration and discovery, sent Chinese settlers into newly acquired territories, and helped foster trade with neighboring states. He also attempted to make political and military alliances with western nations against the Huns, another group that threatened China at the time.

Although his attempts to ally China with western nations were unsuccessful, Wu-ti was instrumental in establishing the Silk Road, a major source of transcontinental trade during subsequent centuries. Other initiatives were somewhat less successful. Obsessed with immortality, Wu-ti sent expeditions in search of a purported island of the immortals, but to no avail, of course. Another expedition was sent to bring "blood sweating" horses from central Asia, feeling that their presence would signify heaven's grace for his empire. However, Wu-ti was almost entirely responsible for making Confucianism China's official religion, opening Confucian universities and other centers for Confucian teachings.

Wu-ti's expeditions and military campaigns cost more than even his new taxes could raise. During the final years of his reign, China's expenses far outstripped her income, and Wu-ti was forced to retrench, giving up some of his conquered territories. In spite of this, China reached her greatest territorial extent during Wu-ti's reign, and he is considered to have been one of China's greatest leaders. Wu-ti died in 87 or 86 B.C. at about the age of 70.

This is the complete article, containing 588 words (approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page).