Liu Che (156-87 BC) became the fifth emperor of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD24) at the age of 16. He was a talented and ambitious emperor, and was known as the Emperor Wu of the Western Han Dynasty.
During his 41-year rule from 140 to 87 BC, Liu made numerous great achievements in governance, economy, education, military, and diplomacy, promoting the development of Western Han Dynasty to reach its peak.
To strengthen centralized rule, he issued edicts that weakened the power of feudal vassal kings, restricted the power of the prime minister, and dispatched 13 feudal provincial or prefectural governors. He also created new systems to select officials, and officially set Confucianism as the dominant political thought of the time.
Economically, he levied assets taxes from businessmen to crack down on the rich. The sale, transportation, and trade of salt and iron were controlled by feudal governments. Copper coins could only be made with the approval of the royal court. He also promoted water conservancy projects.
To improve education, he appointed officers to teach the Five Classics, and established schools in the capital, as well as other provinces. In addition, he recruited many talents, such as Sima Xiangru (179-118 BC), a poet and musician.
Militarily, he added more armies of services and started wars against the Xiongnu, a hostile nomadic tribe, protecting the Yellow River area.
He also unified South China’s Guangdong province and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, as well as established prefectures in Southwest China’s Yunnan and Guizhou provinces to keep close contact with ethnic groups.
In addition, he dispatched Zhang Qian, an outstanding diplomat, to visit the western regions, and opened the Silk Road stretching from Chang’an, capital of the Western Han Dynasty, to the Roman Empire in Europe, facilitating exchanges on economy and culture.