Coming to power in 141 BC, Emperor Wu Di shares his legacy with the Han Dynasty. He is known for numerous accomplishments during his 54-year reign, the most noteworthy, and perhaps most influential, being the development of the Silk Road. The following page will provide some information about this powerful and famous ruler.
Known as the "Martial Emperor," Wu Di was a fierce ruler. He had harsh punishments, and internally, and condemning court members for crimes was not beneath him. Outwardly, in his pursuit for more territory, Wu Di showed the same indifference. He allowed his irritation with the Xiong-nu invasions to turn into a military campaign against them (Beck, par. 3). It would not be until 119 BC that the Xiong-nu's territory would be taken by the Han dynasty.
Sketch of Emperor Wu Di
The man Wu Di chose to lead the campaign, Chang Ch'ien, though he was not successful in his goal of finding an alliance to fight the Xiong-nu, he was able to provide a great deal of information about Central Asia and the Western world. Armed with this information, Wu Di decided to pursue ties with the Western world, and began offering gifts of silk, cattle, gold, and other similar items to Western diplomats. Soon, "the diplomatic missions were dispatched regularly along with commercial trading [and] the traffic on the Silk Road began to flourish as never before" (Silkroad Foundation, pars. 4-6).
With the Silk Road's success, it soon grew both eastward and westward, and the Chinese began to import horses, cattle, cucumber, walnut, and even grapes for wine (Silkroad Foundation, par. 12). The trade the Silk Road fostered truly was a remarkable development in Chinese history because the Chinese civilization was not only introduced to different cultures, but also was able to spread its knowledge and influence to other parts of the continent.
Aside from his success with the Silk Road, Wu Di joined the Yellow River to Chang'an, connecting two main centers of trade in China. He also created a network of granaries, which "were designed to store excess grain in order to prevent starvation in times of flood or drought" (Hooker, par. 8). Projects and innovations such as these that were completed during Wu Di's reign really helped to bolster China's economy.
Though he was a powerful and terrible ruler, Wu Di did much to enhance China's civilization, whether by expanding her territory or by providing means in which economy and trade could flourish.
Beck, Sanderson. "Wu Di's Reign 141-87 BC". Retrieved 11 November 2001. http://www.san.beck.org/EC16-Legalism.html
Hooker, Richard. "The Chinese Empire: The Former Han". Retrieved 11 November 2001. http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/CHEMPIRE/FORMHAN.htm
The Silk Road Foundation."Han Emperor Wu-ti's Interest in central Asia and Chang Chien's Expeditions". Retrieved 11 November 2001. http://www.silk-road.com/artl/wuti.shtml