9. Han Zhaodi – A Last-Minute Choice

ZhaodiZhaodi Reign Card

Eight year old Zhaodi, clearly too young to rule alone, was given not one, but three regents/teachers from different families, perhaps to avoid any one person gaining too much power, and causing another the ‘puppet emperor’ situation, like the one that had nearly brought the Han dynasty to its knees nearly a century earlier.

However, with three people acting as stand-in emperors, paranoia and jealously soon began to splinter the three. Not only that, rival families and Zhaodi’s own brothers who had been denied the promotion to emperor were also cooking up plots to get rid of the child who’d stolen their destiny. As the final spark in the power-keg that was Zhaodi’s reign, Zhaodi and his advisors had begun to reverse some of the warlike Wudi’s laws that had allowed people to abuse the market and gain very valuable monopolies.

Needless to say, a lot of people had reasons to start killing those in power. From his coronation at age 8 until his eventual end, Zhaodi and those close to him were faced with constant conspiracies and assassination attempts. This continued until Zhaodi was 21 years old, when he suddenly and mysteriously died. Did he have an accident, did he get sick, or was he assassinated at last? Nobody knows, all we know is that his death meant it was back to square one in the new emperor search. Wudi had forbidden many of the best candidates from becoming emperor as part of selecting Zhaodi, and Zhaodi’s wife (who was only 14) had been too young to have had any children to continue his family line.

In quite a conundrum, those selecting the next emperor had to think a little outside the box, and stumbled upon Wudi’s grandson (and Zhaodi’s nephew) Liu He.

How bad could he be?