Han–Nanyue War

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Han–Nanyue War
Part of the southward expansion of the Han dynasty
Date 111 BC
Location Nanyue
Result Decisive Han victory
Han empire Nanyue kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Lu Bode
Yang Pu
Zhao Jiande
Lü Jia

The Han–Nanyue War was a military conflict between the Han empire and Nanyue kingdom. During the reign of Emperor Wu, the Han forces launched a punitive campaign towards Nanyue and conquered it in 111 BC as part of its expansion southward.


To the regions south of China, Zhao Tuo had established himself as the King of Nanyue.[1][2] Although, Zhao's ancestors originated from Zhengding, China.[2] The Han frontier in the south was not threatened and there was no indication that Zhao Tuo would encroach on Han territory.[1] Eventually, in 196 BC, Emperor Gaozu sent Lu Jia on a diplomatic mission to Nanyue to recognize Zhao Tuo.[1] Nevertheless, relations between Han and Nanyue were sometimes strained.[3] Zhao Tuo resented Empress Lü's ban on exports of metal wares and female stock animals to Nanyue.[3] He eventually proclaimed himself an emperor on his own right.[3] More specifically, in 183 BC, he retorted by proclaiming himself the "Martial Emperor of the South" (南武帝), which implied a status on equal footing with the emperor of China.[4] Two years later, Nanyue attacked the Changsha kingdom, territory belonging to the Han empire.[4] In 180 BC, Lu Jia led a diplomatic mission to Nanyue.[3] During negotiations, he succeeded in convincing Zhao Tuo to give up on his title as emperor and pay homage to Han as a nominal vassal.[3]

In 135 BC, King Zhao Mo of Nanyue appealed to the Han court for help against attacking Minyue forces.[5] The Han court responded swiftly and this led to Zhao Mo's agreement for sending his son to serve palace duties in Chang'an.[5] Even though Nanyue neglected on paying regular homage to the Han court, the court had their attention to other commitments and was not set on forcing the issue.[5] At the Nanyue court in 113 BC, the Queen Dowager of Nanyue brought forth the suggestion to incorporate Nanyue as a kingdom under the reign of the Han empire, thus formally integrating the kingdom with the same terms as the other kingdoms of the Han empire.[6] She was Chinese herself and was married to the king who once served at Chang'an during his princehood as mentioned earlier.[6] However, many Nanyue ministers opposed the suggestion to incorporate Nanyue into the Han empire.[6] Lü Jia was the primary Nanyue official that opposed the idea and led the opposition against the Queen Dowager.[5] In 112 BC, the opposition retaliated violently and executed the Queen Dowager,[5] King Zhao Xing, and several Han emissaries.


This provocation would trigger the mobilization of a large Han naval force into Nanyue.[5] The forces comprised six armies, who traveled by sea, directly southward, or from Sichuan along the Xi River.[7] In 111 BC, General Lu Bode and General Yang Pu advanced towards Panyu (present-day Guangzhou).[5] It resulted in the surrender of Nanyue to the Han empire later in that year.[5]


After the conquest of Nanyue in 111 BC, the Han empire established nine new commanderies to administer the former Nanyue territories.[5] Han control proceeded to expand further southwestward by military means after the conquest.[8] The conquest also made it possible to extend Han maritime trade further to countries in Southeast Asia and around the Indian Ocean.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Loewe 1987a, 128.
  2. ^ a b Yü 1987, 451–452.
  3. ^ a b c d e Yü 1987, 452.
  4. ^ a b Loewe 1987a, 136.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Yü 1987, 453.
  6. ^ a b c Yü 1987, 452–453.
  7. ^ Morton & Lewis 2004, 56.
  8. ^ Yü 1987, 458.
  9. ^ Loewe 1987b, 579.


  • Loewe, Michael (1987a). "The Former Han Dynasty". The Cambridge History of China, Volume 1: The Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C.–A.D. 220. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521243278. 
  • Loewe, Michael (1987b). "The Structure and Practice of Government". The Cambridge History of China, Volume 1: The Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C.–A.D. 220. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521243278. 
  • Morton, W. Scott; Lewis, Charlton M. (2004). China: Its History and Culture (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-141279-4. 
  • Yü, Ying-shih (1987). "Han Foreign Relations". The Cambridge History of China, Volume 1: The Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C.–A.D. 220. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521243278.