After being selected for his talent and intelligence by the previous emperor rather than his heritage; everyone was feeling pretty positive about Aidi when he took the throne. However Aidi didn’t give the Han Dynasty the kickstart it needed after several sub-par emperors, and instead is the emperor that some say sealed the fate of the struggling dynasty once and for all.
Perhaps due to suffering from a long-term illness and constantly having the possibility of death overhead, Aidi ruled by a series of hasty snap judgements. These included giving out harsh punishments to people he didn’t like, being too generous to those he did… and then taking those privileges right back when he decided he didn’t actually think the person was that great.
The biggest recipient of Aidi’s affection was his male companion and lover Dong Xian, who was quickly promoted to important positions in the government and military. A famous story that shows Aidi’s affection to Dong Xian is ‘the cutting of the sleeve’: Aidi was relaxing with Dong Xian when he was needed elsewhere, but immediately realised Dong Xian was asleep on his robes, stopping him from leaving. Rather than pull the sleeve out from under Dong Xian’s head and risk waking him up, Aidi cut the sleeve free with a knife, attending his next meeting wearing the torn garment.
After 6 years of rule Aidi finally lost the battle against his ill health and died. Having no children at all, he instead demanded that the next emperor was… you guessed it; Dong Xian. However, with Aidi dead and buried this idea didn’t get very far at all, leaving officials to once again hunt for who should be the next emperor.
Although nobody knew it at the time, it was at this exact moment that the Western Han dynasty was doomed; as Aidi’s death was the first event needed to kick off one man’s master plan to become the emperor of China.
The Western Han Dynasty is now only 9 years from destruction.
Emperor’s are renamed after they die, so their official names can be based on their actions while emperor. It is this name that often goes down in history and is used in history books. Aidi or ‘哀帝’ in Chinese means “Regrettable Emperor” or “Sorrowful Emperor”. It seems even at the time, someone knew the late emperor had set some very bad events in motion.