10 Weird Facts About Chinese Emperors

Chinese call monarchy “Huang Di” or “Emperor”, which means the heaven and earth, a supreme name. The title “Huang Di” was created by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. According to statistics, from 221 BC the first emperor Qin Shi Huang to 1912 the last emperor Pu Yi, there are a total of 495 Chinese emperors within these 2132 years. Among them, we can find many interesting and weird facts about the emperors.

1. Zhao Tuo – the oldest emperor

zhao tuoZhao Tuo (203–137 BC) was a famous general in Qin Dynasty and when the dynasty collapsed he founded the kingdom of Nanyue and became the kingdom’s first emperor. During the reign, he promoted the integration of Chinese and Vietnamese peoples, and brought advanced Chinese culture to the land. He died at the age of 103, which is considered a very old person even today.

2. Sima Yan – the most amorous emperor

sima yanSima Yan (236-290), the Emperor Wu of Jin, was the founder of Jin Dynasty. It was said that he had as much as 10,000 concubines. He once issued an imperial edict to “prohibit marriage” for years and carried out large-scale beauty pageants to select women for him, which increased his harem concubines by more than 5,000 beautiful women. He had so many concubines that it was difficult for him to decide which concubine to spend the night with. So he thought of a weird way, he sat in a cart drawn by sheep and let them walk randomly in the palace, he would spent night with the lucky girl inside the room where the sheep stopped.

3. Zhu Youtang – with only one empress and no concubines

zhu youtangAn emperor usually owns a lot of concubines, or at least several wives such as Emperor Guangxu who had one empress and two concubines. It seems impossible to link emperor with monogamy. But in fact there was an exception, Zhu Youtang (1470-1505), Emperor Xiaozong of Ming Dynasty, was the only emperor who had only one wife. He only married a empress surnamed Zhang and had no concubines. They lived together like living life of ordinary people. It was not easy to do so as an emperor. It is said that he also invented the world’s first toothbrush.

4. Yang Guang – the most handsome emperor

yang guangYang Guang (569-618), the second emperor of Sui Dynasty had both outstanding achievements and notorious tyrannies. He presided over the construction of the Grand Canal, opened the Silk Road and improved the examination system. But he also extorted heavy taxes and hard larbors which finally caused the collapse of the dynasty. However, he was really a good-looking man. The history book records that: He was “handsome and very clever during his young age”.

5. Qianlong Emperor – composing the most poems in the world

qianlong emperorQianlong Emperor (1711 – 1799) of Qing Dynasty is familiar to Chinese people, but he also has another status – poet. He is the poet with the most poems in the world. According to records, he composed 41863 poems in his life. While the poem collection “Quan Tang Shi” (Complete Tang Poems), the largest collection of Tang poetry, had only 48,000 from more than 2200 authors. Qianlong`s life span was 89 years which was equivalent to around 32,000 days. Removing his childhood, he had less than 30,000 days to write poetry. It means that he created more than one poem per day.

6. Li Longji – the most artistic emperor

li longjiLi Longji (685-762), the Emperor Xuanzong of Tang Dynasty, was good at calligraphy and was one of the famous imperial calligraphers. He also had a fine grasp of drama, dance, music. He was a good composer and created lots of tunes. He also founded a drama acting center – Li Yuan, so he was acknowledged as the founder of the Chinese theatre.

7. Liu He – the most mischievous emperor

liu heLiu He (? – 59 BC), an emperor of Han Dynasty became emperor at 19 years old, but he was very mischievous. During his 27 days reign, he actually did 1127 ridiculous things, creating great pandemonium in the palace. Driven beyond endurance, the powerful minister Huo Guang finally deposed him.

8. Wang Mang – the most enthusiastic emperor about science

emperor wang mangWang Mang (45 BC – 23 AD) was the founder and first and last emperor of the Xin Dynasty. He was an enthusiast about science. He ordered the doctor to carry out the first human anatomy in Chinese history. He supported the earliest flying test and wanted to create aircraft for attacking cities. It was said that he invented the world’s vernier caliper which is quite similar to its modern-day counterparts in terms of structure and function. He was the first artificial food researcher and conducted producing of artificial milk.

9. Yang Jian – the most influential emperor in Chinese history

yang jian

No one had thought that he would be so influential, but let’s look at what he had done, you will know why. Yang Jian (585-618) successfully unified the country which had been in split situation for hundreds of years. The political unity established by him was maintained for centuries, making China become one of powerful countries in the world. He was revered as “Saint Khan”. He established the Three Departments and Six Ministries system, amended the law and carried out currency reform and created the imperial examination system. In the US scholar Michael · H · Hart 1978 book “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History,” Yang Jian ranked No. 82.

10. Daoguang Emperor – the most frugal emperor

daoguang emperorAfter the Opium War, the Qing government signed a series of humiliating treaties, ceded lost of territories and paid a large amount of indemnities, which caused financial difficulties of the Qing Dynasty. The Daoguang
Emperor (1782 – 1850) skimped on his food and other necessities and wore clothes with patches. It is said that “one soup and four courses” meal tradition was handed down from him.

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