Kings of the Han dynasty

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The Kings and Princes of the Han dynasty were members of the ancient Chinese nobility.

Their Chinese titles were identical: "Wáng" (Chinese: ), the same title borne by the "emperors" of the Shang and Zhou dynasties and by the "kings" of the Warring States. However, the custom in English is to translate the Chinese distinction between the wangs of the Han clan and those of other dynasties by calling the former "princes" and the latter "kings".

During the early period of the Han in the 2nd century BC, there were no legal distinctions between these two groups and both wielded enormous power within their territories. The kings represented an obvious threat to the Han state and Liu Bang and his successors suppressed them as quickly as was practical: they had disappeared by 157 BC. The princes were originally left to their own devices but, after the Rebellion of the Seven Princes in 154 BC, their independence was curtailed. Eventually, they lost almost all of their autonomy, with their administrations staffed and monitored by the central government.


The kings from other dynasties (姓王, p yìxìng wáng) were mostly remnants of the rebellion against the Qin dynasty. Following the Dazexiang Uprising, many noblemen rose in rebellion. Heirs, pretenders, and warlords called themselves "kings" and claimed sovereignty as continuations of the six states previously suppressed by Qin. Among these, Chu was the most powerful. However, its rightful ruler Huai II was assassinated on the orders of the warlord Xiang Yu and the 18 Kingdoms Xiang had formed rose in rebellion against him. Liu Bang, king of Han, ultimately defeated Chu and established the new Han dynasty. The kings who had sided with him were then permitted to maintain their titles and lands. A few other kingdoms were also formed by Liu Bang for generals and favorites.

Although nominally under the rule of the Han, these kings were de facto independent and held considerable power within their territories, which could span several prefectures. As these kingdoms proved unruly, Liu Bang gradually subdued them through conspiracies, wars, and political maneuvering. Many were thus deposed and their kingdoms annexed by Han. As he was dying, the emperor ordered his ministers to swear an oath that only members of the royal house of Liu would be created as wangs thenceforth. This injunction was usually observed, but the Empress Dowager Lü established several. They were mostly abolished after her death. The last king was Wu Chan, King Jing of Changsha, who died without an heir in 157 BC. After that, there were no kings outside the royal clan until Cao Cao established Wei, the first of the Three Kingdoms.

Original kingdoms[edit]

Established by Liu Bang[edit]

Established by the Empress Dowager Lü[edit]


The princes of the royal dynasty (, p tóngxìng wáng) were members of the House of Liu, sons or descendants of the Han emperors. The tradition of creating royal sons as princes continued until the Qing dynasty,[citation needed] during which sons of emperors could also be created as lower nobles.[citation needed] The Han emperors initially felt that creating these principalities would strengthen the house, particularly against the other kings. However, these princes became even more dangerous, as they were eligible to succeed the throne.

Several rebellions were attempted by these powerful princes during the reigns of the emperors Jing and Wu. After the Rebellion of the Seven Princes, Emperor Wu reformed the principalities, reducing them to single prefectures and granting superior authority to prime ministers appointed by the central government. The institution continued until the very end of the dynasty, however.

Established by Liu Bang[edit]

Established by Emperor Wen[edit]

Established by Emperor Jing[edit]

Established by Emperor Wu[edit]

Established by Emperor Xuan[edit]

Established by Emperor Yuan[edit]

Established by Emperor Cheng[edit]

Established by Emperor Ai[edit]

Established by Emperor Ping[edit]

Crown Prince[edit]

Main article: Taizi

The Crown Prince in the Han dynasty was the heir apparent to the throne. The Crown Prince was normally the eldest son of the Emperor and the Empress, but not always. The power to nominate the Crown Prince lay with the throne, although the Emperor generally had to obtain the advice or consent of his high ministers. The Crown Prince would not be given a princedom but instead lived with the Emperor in the capital. When a prince became heir apparent, his principality merged with the realm and became extinct. The Crown Prince could be dismissed and this did indeed happen several times in the Han dynasty.

List of Crown Princes[edit]

See also[edit]