An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Zhao Tuo 趙佗

Feb 12, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhao Tuo 趙佗 (Vietn. Triệu Đà, d. 137 BCE), also written Zhao Ta 趙它 or 趙他, was an autonomous regional ruler of southern China during the early Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE).

He hailed from Zhending 真定 (modern Shijiazhuang 石家莊, Hebei) and was magistrate (ling 令) of Longchuan 龍川 (modern Longchuan, Guangdong) during the Qin period 秦 (221-206 BCE). Because he concurrently held a civilian and a military position he was called Wei Tuo 尉佗 "Commander Tuo".

When the Qin dynasty collapsed he proclaimed himself king of Southern Yue 南越. Emperor Gaozu 漢高祖 (r. 206-195 BCE), founder of the Han dynasty, acknowledged that Zhao Tuo had been neutral during his fight for power with the hegemonial king Xiang Yu 項羽 and reconfirmed his title of king through his envoy Lu Jia 陸賈.

Because of his military campaigns that ensured the peace of the region he adopted the title of King Wu 武王 "the Martial" already during his lifetime. Empress Dowager Lü 呂太后, who reigned over the Han empire from 188 to 180, sent out an army to force Zhao Tuo into submission, but the Han army was defeated.

Under the reign of Emperor Wen 漢文帝 (r. 180-157 BCE), Lu Jia was sent out a second time to ask Zhao Tuo if he was willing to accept the suzerainty of the Han empire, and this time Zhao Tuo acceded.

Emperor Wu (Zhao Wudi, Triệu Vũ Đế 趙武帝) is also Zhao Tuo's posthumous title.

Cang Xiuliang 倉修良, ed. (1996). Hanshu cidian 漢書辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 847.