An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Emperor Han Shundi 漢順帝 Liu Bao 劉保

Dec 26, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Emperor Han Shundi 漢順帝 (r. 125-144), personal name Liu Bao 劉保, courtesy name Shou 守, was an emperor of the Later Han dynasty 後漢 (25-220 CE). He was the oldest son of Emperor An 漢安帝 (r. 106-125 CE) and and succeeded the child emperor Liu Yi 劉懿 to the throne. His mother, Lady Li 李氏, was killed by Empress Yan 閻皇后, main consort of his father.

Liu Bao was nominated heir apparent (taizi 太子), but was later demoted to Prince of Jiyin 濟陰 because his father's nurse had slandered him. When Emperor Liu Yin died, the court eunuchs led by Sun Cheng 孫程 enthroned Liu Bao as the new emperor. At that time he was not older than 11 sui. Empress Dowager Yan's 閻太后 brother Yan Xian 閻顯, who opposed this step, was simply killed by the eunuchs, and his sister was incarcerated.

Emperor Shun thus ruled with the help of the eunuch faction around Sun Cheng, all of which were ennobled as marquesses. In the question of the empress, Liu Biao, in history known as Emperor Shun, liked to lay the decision into the hands of an oracle. Vice director of the imperial secretariat (shangshu puye 尚書僕射) Hu Guang 胡廣 opposed this plan because it contradicted the custom to select consorts by way of examining their moral virtue. The emperor conseded and selected Liang Shang's 梁商 daughter as his empress, later known as the infamous Empress Liang 梁后. This choice gave Liang Shang the right to act as regent for the underage emperor.

In 131 CE, a National University (taixue 太學) was founded with a large complex of more than 1,800 rooms. In the next year, following the suggestion of Zuo Xiong 左雄, an empire-wide selection of students was made. "Filial and Incorruptible" (xiaolian 孝廉) persons that were well-versed in reading and writing and the composition of texts, were qualified for application. It was also during that time that Grand Astrologer (taishi ling 太史令) Zhang Heng 張衡 constructed his famous instruments to measure weather and earthquakes.

In 141, Liang Shang died and his son was given the title of Great general (da jiangjun 大將軍) and regent. The members of the all-powerful Liang family were notorious for their immoral and arrogant behaviour. Liang Ji ordered an empire-wide inspection of the local officials. Yet Zhang Gang 張綱 refused to undertake this task with the argument that "foxes" (i.e. bad local officials) should not be cared for as long as "wolves" were present (in the central government, pointing at the Liang family), and suggested first investigating the offials belonging to the Liang family.

In 144 Emperor Shun's son Liu Bing 劉炳 was named heir apparent, and his father died in the same year. Emperor Shun is buried in the tomb mound Xianling 憲陵. He was succeeded by Liu Bing, known as Emperor Chong 漢沖帝 (r. 144-145 CE).

Chen Quanli 陳全力, Hou Xinyi 侯欣一, ed. (1988). Diwang cidian 帝王辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin jiaoyu chubanshe), 46.