An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Deng Tong 鄧通

Sep 27, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Deng Tong 鄧通 was an official of the early Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE).

He hailed from Nan'an 南安 (modern Leshan 樂山, Sichuan) and was famous for his good appearance. Under Emperor Wen 漢文帝 (r. 180-157 BCE), he rose from Yellow-helmeted gentleman (huangtoulang 黃頭郎 to Senior Grand Master (shang dafu 上大夫) and was regularly presented by the emperor with precious gifts and was granted to exploit the revenue of a copper mine in Yandao 嚴道 in Sichuan. He was even granted the permission to coin his own money that circulated through the whole empire.

Deng Tong was probably the richest individual of early Han China. Under Emperor Jing 漢景帝 (r. 157-141 BCE) he lost favour and all his assets and revenue was confiscated by the state. He died as a poor man.

Cang Xiuliang 倉修良, ed. (1996). Hanshu cidian 漢書辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 998.