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Shu Han

The territories of Shu Han (in red), AD 262
Capital Chengdu
Language(s) Chinese
Religion Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion
Government Monarchy
 - 221 - 223 Liu Bei
 - 223 - 263 Liu Shan
Historical era Three Kingdoms
 - Establishment 221
 - Conquest of Shu by Wei 263
 -  est. 1,300,000[citation needed] 
Currency Chinese coin, Chinese cash

Shu Han (traditional Chinese: 蜀漢simplified Chinese: 蜀汉pinyin: Shǔ Hàn), sometimes known as the Kingdom of Shu (蜀 shǔ) was one of the Three Kingdoms competing for control of China after the fall of the Han Dynasty, based on areas around Sichuan which was then known as Shu. Some historians argue it was the last Han Dynasty because Liu Bei was directly related to the Han sovereignty. The other two states were Cao Wei in central and northern China and Eastern Wu in southern and southeastern China.



During the decline of the Han Dynasty, Liu Bei, a distant relative of the emperor, gathered together many capable men, and with Zhuge Liang's advice, took parts of Jing province at first, then Yi province and Hanzhong. From these territories, he established a place for himself in China during Han's final years. In 219, Lü Meng attacked and conquered Jing province for Sun Quan. Subsequently, Liu Bei's trusted general Guan Yu was executed by Sun Quan. After Cao Pi seized the imperial throne in 220 from Emperor Xian and proclaimed the Wei Dynasty, Liu Bei proclaimed himself to be the next Han emperor and the real ruler of China in 221. Although Liu Bei is said to be the founder of the Shu Han Dynasty, he himself never claimed to be the founder of a new dynasty; rather, he claimed to continue the heritage of the earlier Han Emperors.

In 222, the first major conflict of the Three Kingdoms period began. Liu Bei initiated an attack of over 40,000 men upon Sun Quan's state of Eastern Wu in the Battle of Yiling to retake Jing province. However, because of a grave tactical mistake, his line of camps was burned to the ground and his already numerically inferior troops were decimated. He survived the attack and fled to Baidicheng, but one year later he became ill and died there. He was succeeded by his son, Liu Shan.

The Chancellor of Shu, Zhuge Liang, made peace with Wu instead of taking revenge. He decided that it was more important to conquer Cao Wei and not only gain the fertile lands of the north but also to topple the Wei government and restore legitimacy to the Shu-Han Dynasty. He made several invasions to the north but failed each time due to lack of supplies or incompetence of his officers, finally dying of sickness during his sixth attempt to conquer Wei. Jiang Wei, his eventual successor, also tried many times but was pushed back each time.

In 263, Wei took advantage of Shu's weakness and attacked. The brilliant strategies of the Wei generals, Zhong Hui and Deng Ai led to the quick conquest of Hanzhong and the subsequent conquest of the capital Chengdu. Jiang Wei surrendered to Zhong Hui and tried to incite Zhong Hui to rebel against Deng Ai, hoping to revive Shu Han by trying to take advantage of the ensuing chaos and bringing back the Emperor Liu Shan. However, his plan failed and he was killed along with Zhong Hui and Deng Ai by their soldiers. Afterwards, the Emperor Liu Shan was taken to the capital of Wei, Luoyang, where he was given the title Duke of Anle (安樂公; meaning Duke of Comfort) and retired in peace. Many refugees such as nobles and troops fled west to Sasanian Persia when Shu Han fell in 263AD.[1]

However, Shu was not simply a nation of war. During times of peace, Shu began many irrigation and road-building projects designed to improve the economy of Shu. Many of these public works still exist and are widely used. For example, the Nine-Mile Dam (Zipungpu Water Control Project) is still present near Chengdu in Sichuan province. These works helped improve the economy of Southwest China and can be credited with beginning the history of economic activity in the Sichuan area. It also allowed trade with Southern China, ruled by Eastern Wu.

Notable figures

Rulers of Shu Han 221 – 263

Posthumous names Family name (in bold) and first names Durations of reigns Era names and their ranges of years
Convention: use family and first names
Zhaolie (昭烈 Zhāoliè) Liu Bei (劉備) 221-223 Zhāngwǔ (章武) 220-223
Xiaohuai (孝懷 Xiàohuái) Liu Shan (劉禪) 223-263 Jiànxīng (建興) 223-237

Yánxī (延熙) 238-257
Jǐngyào (景耀) 258-263
Yánxīng (炎興) 263

See also


  1. ^ HISTORICAL ATLAS OF THE CLASSICAL WORLD 500 BC AD600, by John Haywood, copyright 1998 Andromeda Oxford Ltd, ISBN 0-7607-1973-X(casbound), ISBN 0-7607-1974-8(paperback), section 2.25


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