Emperor Ai of Han
2022 – 2022
Who was Emperor Ai of Han?
Emperor Ai of Han was an emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty. He ascended the throne when he was 20, having been made heir by his uncle Emperor Cheng, who was childless, and he reigned from 7 BC to 1 BC.
The people and the officials were initially excited about his ascension, as he was viewed by them to be intelligent, articulate, and capable. However, under Emperor Ai, corruption became even more prevalent and heavy taxes were levied on the people. Furthermore, Emperor Ai was highly controlled by his grandmother Consort Fu, who improperly demanded the title of Grand Empress Dowager -- even though she had never been an empress previously and therefore did not properly have that title, and this led to the unprecedented and unrepeated situation of four women possessing empress dowager titles at the same time—Empress Wang, Empress Zhao Feiyan, Consort Fu, and Consort Ding.
Consort Fu's control of the political scene extended until her death in 2 BC, and due to her jealousy of Consort Feng Yuan, another consort of Emperor Yuan's and the grandmother of the future Emperor Ping, was falsely accused of witchcraft, and Consort Feng was forced to commit suicide. During Emperor Ai's reign, he also stripped the Wang clan, which had been powerful during Emperor Cheng's reign, of much of their power, and substituted members of the Fu and Ding clans in their stead. In an unpopular act, Emperor Ai had his prime minister Wang Jia put to death for criticizing him, an act that made him appear tyrannical. Emperor Ai's shortcomings quickly led to the demoralization of the people towards the government and the acquisition of power by Wang Mang, in a backlash, after Ai died in 1 BC.
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