Who’s Wang Mang?

Wang Mang was an ambitious official of the Han Dynasty who seized power from the Liu family, who were the legitimate rulers and founded the Xin (“New”) Dynasty, ruling from 9 AD to 23 AD. His usurpation of power marked the end of the Western Han Dynasty and the start of a brief interregnum before the establishment of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Born into the powerful Wang clan, Wang Mang was a nephew of Empress Dowager Wang Zhengjun, who held great influence in the Han court. During the reign of the child Emperor Ping, Wang Mang was appointed regent, and he used this position to consolidate his power.

Wang Mang is known for his radical reforms which aimed to redistribute land among the peasants and to restore the old Confucian social and economic norms from the Zhou Dynasty. However, these reforms were poorly implemented and led to widespread social unrest, economic disruption, and ultimately, rebellion. His reign was marked by corruption, ineptitude, and national disasters like flooding, which led to the massive peasant rebellion known as the Red Eyebrows Rebellion.

Wang Mang’s rule came to an end when he was overthrown and killed during this rebellion, and the Han Dynasty was restored. His reign is often regarded as a failed attempt at social reform and his legacy in Chinese history is generally negative.