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Wang Mang

Wang Mang (wäng mäng) [key], 45 B.C.–A.D. 23, Chinese Han dynasty regent who usurped the throne and ruled (A.D. 8–23) as emperor of the Hsin [new] court, carrying out many reforms. Although he portrayed his government as a revival of the idealized state of early Chou times, his reforms were aimed essentially at strengthening the bureaucracy and solving the current financial crisis. To refill the imperial coffers, Wang Mang instituted government monopolies, debased the currency, and introduced agricultural reforms. In his most famous reform he decreed (A.D. 9) that the large tax-free estates be dissolved and that the land be redistributed to the peasants, who were to pay taxes. Pressure from the aristocracy, however, forced him (A.D. 12) to rescind the measure. Wang Mang's control ultimately collapsed in the face of the social disorder and rebellion that spread following a disastrous change in the lower course of the Huang He. He died at the hands of rebels when his capital, Chang'an (Xi'an), was sacked; his centralized bureaucracy was destroyed at the same time. A battle for the throne continued until A.D. 25, when Liu Hsiu restored the Han and began the long process of rebuilding the central administration.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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