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Emperor Gao (256 BC or 247 BC – 1 June 195 BC), commonly known inside Chinamarker by his Temple Name, Gaozu ( , Wade-Giles: Kao Tsu), personal name Liu Bang (Wade-Giles: Liu Pang), was the first emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty, ruling over Chinamarker from 202 BC until 195 BC, and one of only a few dynasty founders who emerged from the peasant class (the other major example being Zhu Yuanzhang founder of the Míng Dynastymarker). Before becoming an emperor, he was also called Duke of Pei (沛公) after his birthplace. He was also created the Prince of Hàn by Xiàng Yŭ, the Grand Prince of Western Chu, following the collapse of the Qín Dynasty, and was known by this title before becoming emperor.

Early life

Liú Bāng was born into a lower class farming family in Pei (present Pei County in Jiangsu Provincemarker). At the time, Pei was part of the State of Chu. He relied on his brother's family for food.After he grew up, Liú Bāng served as a patrol officer in his county. Once he was responsible for transporting a group of prisoners to Mount Li in present Shaanximarker province. During the trip many prisoners fled. Fearful that he would be punished for the prisoners' flight, Liú Bāng offered the remaining prisoners their freedom if they would fight for him. In legend, the released prisoners fled, met with a cobra snake and went back the way they came, running into Liú Bāng. Hearing their story, he went and killed the cobra himself. The cobra was supposedly larger than a full grown tree, and its breath was poisonous, killing many prisoners. Liu Bang was brave enough to kill the snake at dawn. From then on, the prisoners respected him and made him their leader, hence Liú Bāng became the leader of a band of brigands. On one of his raids, he met a county magistrate who became impressed with his leadership skills and gave his daughter Lü Zhi to him in marriage.

Chu-Han Contention

Now considering the whole former Qín Empire under his domination, Xiang Yu realigned the territories of not only the remaining parts of Qín but also the rebel states, dividing the territories into 19 principalities. Xiang Yu did not honor the promise by Xin, Prince Huai of Chu, who would soon himself be assassinated by Xiang's orders. Instead, he gave Guanzhong to the princes of three Qins. Liú Bāng was only awarded the Principality of Hàn (modern Sichuanmarker, Chongqingmarker, and southern Shaanximarker).

In Hanzhong, Liú Bāng focused his efforts on developing agriculture methods and training an army, through which he reinforced his resource accumulation and military power. Before long, Liú broke out of his principality, deposed the kings of three Qins and occupied Guanzhong, where he launched a war now known as the Chu-Han War, against Xiang Yu. He is quoted in his biography, Establishment of the Great, that "Those who earn their status by war are the most honorable of all."

Although Xiang Yu won most of his battles against Liú Bāng, his ruthlessness put him at a political disadvantage. Xiang Yu kept defeating Liú in the battlefield, but each of his victories drove more people to support Liú. When Xiang Yu was finally defeated in the Battle of Gaixia, he could not recover and committed suicide.

The war lasted five years (206–202 BC) and ended with Liú Bāng's victory. Having defeated Xiang Yu, Liú proclaimed himself emperor and established the Hàn Dynasty in 202 BC, making Cháng'ānmarker (present-day city of Xi'anmarker) his capital. Liú became known historically as Emperor Gāo of Hàn.


After Liu Bāng came into power, he re-modeled China based on Qín's example. He gradually replaced the original vassals, granting their lands to his relatives. Since the economy had been devastated by the war following the demise of the Qín Dynasty, he reduced taxes and corvée, developed agriculture and restricted spending. However, in response to what he saw as the decadence of Qín merchants, he restricted commerce by levying heavy taxes and legal restrictions on merchants. He also made peace with the Xiongnu. Under Gāozǔ's reign, Confucian thought gradually replaced Legalist thought; Confucian scholars were welcomed into his government, while the harsh Legalist laws were lessened. Emperor Gāozǔ's efforts laid a solid foundation for the over four-hundred-year reign of the Hàn Dynasty.

Liú Bāng also devoted to subduing the unruly kings. He soon annexed most of the kingdoms and established principalities, with his sons and relatives as princes. By doing so he consolidated his new-born empire.

Personal information

  • Father:
  • Mother:
    • Wang Hanshi (王含始)
  • Wife:
  • Major Concubines:
    • Consort Cao, mother of Prince Fei—initially Emperor Gao's mistress
    • Consort Qi, mother of Prince Ruyi
    • Consort Zhang
    • Consort Wei
    • Consort Bo, mother of Emperor Wen
    • Consort Zhao, mother of Prince Chang
  • Children
    • Liu Fei (劉肥), Prince Daohui of Qi (created 202 BC, d. 195 BC)
    • Liu Ying (劉盈), Crown Prince (created 202 BC, d. 188 BC), later Emperor Hui
    • Liu Jian (劉健), Prince Ling of Yan (created 202 BC, d. 181 BC)
    • Liu Ruyi (劉如意), Prince Yin of Zhao (created 198 BC, d. 195 BC)
    • Liu Heng (劉恆), Prince of Dai (b. 202 BC, created 196 BC, d. 157 BC), later Emperor Wen
    • Liu Hui (劉惠), Prince of Liang (created 196 BC), later Prince Gong of Zhao (created 180 BC,, committed suicide 179 BC)
    • Liu You, Prince of Huaiyang (created 196 BC), later Prince You of Zhao (created 194 BC), starved to death by Empress Dowager Lü 180 BC)
    • Liu Chang (劉長), Prince Li of Huainan (b. 198 BC, created 196 BC, deposed and died in exile 174 BC, possibly by suicide)
    • Princess Luyuan (魯元公主)
  • Grandchildren
    • Liu Xiang (劉襄), Prince Ai of Qi (齊哀王) (d. 179 BC), son to Liu Fei (劉肥), Prince Daohui of Qi by Consort Si
    • Liu Zhang (劉章), Prince Jing of Chengyang (城陽景王) (d. 177 BC), son to Liu Fei (劉肥), Prince Daohui of Qi
    • Liu Xingju (劉興居), Marquess of Dongmou (d. 177 BC), son to Liu Fei (劉肥), Prince Daohui of Qi
    • Liu Qi (劉啟), Crown Prince (created 179 BC d. 141 BC), later Emperor Jing of Han, son to Liu Heng (劉恆), Prince of Dai

See also


Despite the name "Han," the Dragon Emperor in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has nothing to do with Emperor Gaozu of Han, but rather is meant to be Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin Dynasty.


  • Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Part 2. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.

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