chapter  12
The Han restoration, the Eastern Han dynasty, and the Three Kingdoms Period
Pages 22

The Xin dynasty came to an end with the death of Wang Mang in 23 CE, but the legitimacy of the restored Han dynasty was by no means assured at that point. Liu Xuan, known as the Gengshi Emperor, claimed the throne but could not unite the country behind him, and is not recognized in the History of the Latter Han Dynasty ( Hou Han shu ) as the restored dynasty’s fi rst ruler. Liu Xiu, recognized by historians as the founder of the Latter Han and known as Emperor Guangwu, proclaimed himself the Son of Heaven in 25 CE, but another decade of civil war would ensue before he was secure on his throne as the unchallenged ruler of all of China. His dynasty would endure for nearly two centuries, but it never matched the stability and prosperity of the Former Han, despite a fairly promising start. Four rulers-Emperor Guangwu and his three successors-reigned during the fi rst eight decades of the Eastern Han. With the exception of the fourth sovereign, Emperor He, they were adults when they mounted the imperial throne, and their comparatively long reigns ensured the continuity of the dynasty and some measure of stability. But they were followed, for over a century, by a succession of ten childemperors who were puppets in the hands of one powerful family or another. The second century of the Eastern Han was marred by the rise (and, usually, also the fall) of the great families, the growth of factionalism as inner-palace eunuchs and members of the imperial civil administration vied, sometimes bloodily, for control of the government, and peasant uprisings that morphed into great rebel armies which threatened the dynasty’s survival.