The 10 Chinese Emperors with Strange Quirks

From first ruler Xia Qi to last emperor Pu Yi, China has witnessed 67 dynasties with 446 emperors. To some extent emperors would decide the fate of the country. While a few were so notorious, leaving their mark in history for being so incapable, fatuous, self-indulgent and dreadful. Here I sum up the 10 Chinese emperors with strange quirks.

1. Homosexual emperor – Liu Xin

Emperor Ai (or Liu Xin), who reigned from 6 BC to 2 BC., was the most effusive homosexual emperor of the Han Dynasty. His relationship with his homosexual lover Dong Xian was called “the passion of the cut sleeve.”  The emperor, unwilling to awaken his male lover Dong Xian, who had fallen asleep on his robes, cut off his sleeves instead. According to the “Historical Record” almost all emperors of the Western Han Dynasty had lovers of their same sex.

2. Philistine emperor – Xiao Baojuan

Xiao Baojuan (483–501) was an emperor of the Chinese dynasty Southern Qi. He liked to roam the streets and cause chaos. The emperor often went out and had no fixed destination, anyone who were spotted by the emperor would be executed. The emmeror also liked to go out in the middle of the night and enjoy the confusion he would create. So many ordinary people moved out of the capital for fearing him.

3. Bodhisattva emperor – Xiao Yan

Xiao Yan was the founding emperor of the Liang Dynasty. He believed in Buddhism and even became a monk fully four times in the Tongtai Temple, he lived in the temple, used rough crocks, cups and bowls, read and recited Buddhist scriptures daily and cleaned the temple with other monks. His worship at Buddhism earned him the nickname “The Bodhisattva Emperor”.

4. Chinese chess emperor – Li Heng

Emperor Suzong of Tang (AD 711-762), personal name Li Heng, was an emperor of the Tang Dynasty. He was declared emperor by the army during the An Shi Rebellion. He was so keen on playing Chinese chess that even disregarded battlefield reports totally during the rebellion. In order to avoid the chess sound being heard by his officials, he even changed the chessman material from metal to wood.

5. Cuju emperor – Li Xuan

tang xizong cuju

Tang Dynasty Emperor Xizong (862 – 888), personal name Li Xuan, was good at Cuju. Cuju is an ancient Chinese ball game and is seen by FIFA as the earliest form of football. He often played it for several hours that even forgotten to have meal. he also repeatedly ordered local officials to recommend players to enter the game, many of them were elevated to a higher position for good skills, and of course, some who made a mistake lost their lives.

6. Poem emperor – Li Yu

Li Houzhu (937–978), personal name Li Yu, was the last ruler of the Southern Tang Kingdom from 961 to 975. In terms of politics, Li Yu was an incompetent emperor, but he is well known as poet. He was versatile in art and such as calligraphy, painting, poems, and so on, among which his achievement in ci was especially outstanding that he was even called the “first true master” of the ci form.

7. General emperor – Zhu Houzhao

Ming Wu Zong  (1491-1521), personal name Zhu Houzhao, was the tenth emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He indulged himself everyday on activities such as shooting, riding, hunting, but did not care about court affairs. He thought that being an emperor was not fun enough, so he appointed himself as a general. While a clan called Dada in Mongolia was invating the frontier, he led the army as a general. In the battle, he killed an enemy himself. He was very satisfied with his battle achievement, so he appointed himself as a “Tai Shi“ (a kind of high offical in ancient china).

8. Painting and calligraphy emperor – Zhao Ji

Emperor Huizong (1082 – 1135), personal name Zhao Ji,  was one of the most famous emperors in Song Dynasty. He was also a skilled poet, painter, calligrapher, and musician. He sponsored many artists at his court, and the catalogue of his imperial painting collection lists over 6,000 known paintings.The primary subjects of his paintings are birds and flowers.

9. Cat emperor – Zhu Houcong

The Jiajing Emperor (1507 – 1567, personal name Zhu Houcong) was the 11th Ming Dynasty Emperor. His favorite pets are two beautiful cats called Xuemei and Shimao in Chinese. He often played with cats, and even had not handled country affairs for 20 years. The emperor also had a tombstone erected for his favorate cat Xuemei and even he wrote some lines in praise of his loyal pet.

10. Carpentry emperor – Zhu Youxiao

Emperor Xizong (1605-1627, personal name Zhu Youxiao) was the 15th emperor of the Ming dynasty. He took a fancy to the carpentry work, busy with ax, saw and plane all the day. He put all his attention on building small palaces and little carpentry, with not the slightest attention left for national affairs and becoming a “carpentry emperor”.

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