Chen Youliang

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Chen Youliang
Emperor of Chen Han
SuccessorChen Li
Yuan Yanyou 7
Mianyang Prefecture, Henan Jiangbei Province
Died3 October 1363 (aged 42–43)
Yuan Zhizheng 23, 26th day of the 8th month
Chen Han Dayi 3, 26th day of the 8th month
Lake Poyang, Jiangxi Province
Tomb of Chen Youliang
Chen Youliang
Era name and dates
Dayi (大義): 1360–1363
DynastyChen Han
FatherChen Pucai
MotherLady Wu
Chen Youliang
Traditional Chinese陳友諒
Simplified Chinese陈友谅

Chen Youliang (陳友諒; 1320 – 3 October 1363[1]) was the founder and first emperor of the dynastic state of Chen Han in Chinese history. He was one of the military leaders and heroes of the people's revolution at the end of the Yuan dynasty.


Chen was born to a fishing family in Mianyang (沔陽) in present-day Hubei. Some say he was born with surname Chen (陳), while others say he was born with surname Xie (謝).[2]

Vietnamese records say that Chen Youliang was the son of Chen Yiji (陳益稷) or Trần Ích Tắc, a Trần dynasty leader who settled in the Yuan dynasty.[3][4]

In his childhood, he grew up poor, and he and his family were relatively unsuccessful fishermen. Chen once served as a district official before becoming a general under Ni Wenjun during the Red Turban Rebellion. Ni Wenjun planned to assassinate Xu Shouhui, the Red Turban rebels' leader, but Chen Youliang killed Ni Wenjun before Ni could kill Xu. At this time, Chen Youliang took over Fujian and Jiangxi. Upon hearing that Jiangxi had been captured, Xu Shouhui wished to move the capital there, but Chen Youliang feared that Xu Shouhui would threaten him there and sent an envoy to stop him. Still Xu and his troops arrived in Jiangxi, so he later turned on Xu Shouhui and assassinated him.

In 1357, Chen proclaimed himself "King of Han" in Jiangzhou (江州; present-day Jiujiang, Jiangxi), and emperor the next year after Xu Shouhui died. His era name, as well as his empire's name, was Da Han (大漢; literally "Great Han"). Chen Youliang appointed Zou Pusheng (邹普胜) as Grand Preceptor and Zhang Bixian (张必先) as prime minister (丞相).

From 1359 to 1363 Chen's fleet was the strongest on the upper Yangtze River. His power was at least as great as that of another rebel state, Wu, led by Zhu Yuanzhang, founder of the Ming dynasty.

Rebels and warlords at the end of Yuan dynasty, including the territory controlled by Chen Youliang in early 1363

In 1360 the Han fleet and army began a long war against Wu forces. At that time, the Wu forces were based in Jiqing (present-day Nanjing). The Wu was later renamed "Ming" in 1368. An attack on the Wu capital was defeated thanks to excellent Wu intelligence (likely due to the defection of part of the Han fleet earlier in the year). The war continued until the climactic Battle of Lake Poyang where the Wu fleet narrowly defeated the larger fleet of Han after three days of fighting.

A month after the battle at Lake Poyang, the Han fleet tried to break out from Lake Poyang. During the resulting ship battles Chen was killed (he was alleged to have died from an arrow wound in the head). He was 43 years old at the time of his death in 3 October 1363.[1]

As his crown prince Chen Shan (陳善) had been captured, Chen Youliang was succeeded by his second son, Chen Li, who was soon attacked by the fleet and army of Wu. The conquest of Han took an additional two years but by April 1365 the Han empire was gone and all its lands were now part of the Wu power base.


  • Grand-ancestors: Chen Qianyi (陈千一)
  • Father: Chen Pucai (陳普才) became Marquis of Cheng'en (承恩侯) by Zhu Yuanzhang after the downfall of Han
  • Mother: from the Wu clan (吴氏)
  • Brothers:
    • Chen Youfu (陈友富) would be promoted to the title Marquis of Guiren (归仁伯) by Zhu Yuanzhang
    • Chen Youzhi (陈友直) would be promoted to the title Marquis of Huaien (怀恩伯) by Zhu Yuanzhang
    • Chen Youren (陳友仁), KIA in the Battle of Poyang Lake
    • Chen Yougui (陳友貴), KIA in the Battle of Poyang Lake
  • Spouses: Chen Youliang had several concubines respectively surnamed Yang (杨), Lou (娄), Tao (陶) and Du (阇). Consort Du was captured along with Chen Shan. Concubines Yang and Lou predeceased Chen Youliang.
  • Children:
  • Grandchildren

Controversial relationship with Trần Ích Tắc[edit]

Vietnamese historical annals such as Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư recorded that Chen Youliang sent a diplomatic delegate to Đại Việt to ask for alliance, claiming that he had biological relationship with Trần dynasty (Trần is the Vietnamese pronunciation of Chen 陳). Chen claimed to be the biological son of Trần Ích Tắc, a Trần royal member who defected to the Yuan forces during the second invasion of Vietnam. However, Chinese history annals did not record any such relationship, instead claimed that Chen Youliang's ancestor originally have the family name as "Xiè" (謝), later was married into a certain Chen clan and changed his name to the maternal family. Chen Youliang also descended from a fishermen family in Hubei, meanwhile Trần Ích Tắc was appointed as a court magistrate in Huguang, hence it was unlikely that a high-rank magistrate like Ích Tắc had a fishermen son. It is suspected that Chen Youliang pretended to be a Vietnamese royal family to earn support from Đại Việt.[5]

The Trần dynasty, however, did not to respond to Chen's request. Trần Ích Tắc was considered a traitor and was legally removed from the Trần royal family, it is unlikely for Đại Việt to ally with a traitor's descendant. Đại Việt also had no reason to intervene into the affairs of her northern neighbor.[5]


Through his established empire Chen Han, Chen Youliang is remembered as a revolutionary, even hero, who helped resist Yuan rule and pave the way for the new Ming dynasty.

  • Liu Ji: "Youliang's territory included Rao Prefecture and Xin Prefecture; and spanned from the Jing to the Xiang, nearing half of the world. Shicheng is occupied with defending himself against the barbarians, hence he is not a worry to us. Youliang betrayed his lord and threatens his subordinates; he has no legitimacy. He occupies the upriver territory, and we are always on his mind; hence, we should take him first. After the Chen family is eliminated, the Zhang family is isolated, and can be eliminated with one fell swoop."[6]
  • Zhu Yuanzhang: "After Youliang's death, the world was not difficult to pacify." "I find Youliang to be arrogant and Shicheng to be narrow-minded; the arrogant are prone to conflicts, while the narrow-minded lack far-sighted plans."[7]
  • Yang Jing: "In the past Chen and Zhang occupied the Wu and Chu regions, built boats to plug rivers, accumulated grain to cross mountains, built their armies and called themselves invincible. However, after the battle in Poyang, Youliang was killed, and Chen turned his army toward the east, while Zhang surrendered. This is not man's choice; it is in fact destiny. " [8]
  • Rao Hanxiang: "Vanguard of the Jiang-Han, awe-inspiring man of the Three Chu regions." (“江汉先英、三楚雄风。”) [9]
  • Cai Dongfan: "I said that Youliang caused his own defeat. Jiangzhou was lost, his base was gone, and he fled to Wuchang; at this point he should build his army and bid his time. But he was impatient, put all his eggs in one basket, lost his children, lost his favorite mistress, and even died himself, becoming a mockery for the world. It is obvious that the rise and fall of a state is really related to man's choices. One should not be like Xiang Yu who, at the moment of his suicide in Wujiang, claimed that he had never lost a battle."[10]
  • Historian Wu Han: "Although Chen Youliang failed, he was, after all, a hero who opposed the rule of the Mongolian and Han landlord classes in the Yuan dynasty. He played a role in history. At that time, people sympathized with him and missed him. His grave is still preserved under the newly built Yangzi River Bridge for visitors to mourn."[11]


Also see Tomb of Chen Youliang (陈友谅墓), a cenotaph (衣冠冢).


On 3 October 1363, after Chen Youliang died in the Battle of Poyang Lake, his real remains disappeared. His clothes were taken back by his subordinates in a boat and sent to the south slope of Sheshan, approaching the Wuchang Bridge Head (武昌桥头) of Yangtze River Bridge in Wuhan City, Hubei Province (next to the Yellow Crane Tower, a famous scenic spot in Wuhan, Hubei Province) for burial.

It faces south, has a rectangle with rounded corners and a height of 2.2 meters. The tomb base is 12 meters long. The tomb is built on the mountain. Here is There is a hexagonal unknown pavilion nearby, and the pillars of the pavilion are engraved with handwriting.

In the Qing dynasty, this place became a part of the garden "Naiyuan" (乃园) of Hubei Provincial Bureau of Supervision, and few people visited it. In 1908, Wan Yaohuang and Geng Zhongzhao discovered this tomb in the thirty-fourth year of Guangxu in Qing dynasty.

In 1912, Hubei Provincial Department of Internal Affairs requested renovation, and built a 16-step tomb road and a tall archway in front of the tomb (between the archway and the tomb). On the forehead of the memorial archway, "Jiang Han Xian Ying" ("江汉先英”), and on the back, "San Chu Xiongfeng" (“三楚雄风"), a monument was erected in front of the tomb, "Da Han Chen Youliang Tomb", and Rao Hanxiang of Guangji made an inscription. There is also a tablet pavilion on each side of the tomb. In 1913, the cemetery was renovated and surrounded by pines and cypresses.

In 1923 (after the Revolution of 1911), the Republic of China rebuilt it.

In 1949, after the founding of the People's Republic of China, it was slightly repaired.

In 1956, the tomb was listed as a cultural relic protection unit in Hubei Province.

It was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. In 1981, the local government allocated funds to restore it. In June 1998, it was completely renovated, with brick cement tomb walls and the monument of "Rebuilding Dahan Chen Youliang Tomb".[12]

Memorial Palace[edit]

At 9:00 on 18 December 2013, the local government opened the "Chen Youliang Memorial Hall" (陈友谅纪念馆) at 90 Pier, Mian Street, Xiantao City, Hubei Province (formerly Mianyang, Hubei Province). This memorial hall has three floors of antique buildings, covering an area of 3,891 square meters, with a total construction area of 1,615 square meters. The first two floors have an exhibition hall of 920 square meters, and the last floor is an office rest area.[13][14]


Yuan Mei's "Zi Bu Yu" (袁枚《子不語》), Volume 10, contains an article "Destroying Chen Youliang Temple", which tells the story of the ruined Jingzhou Chen Youliang Temple when Zhao Xili (赵锡礼) was appointed as a county magistrate. Zhao only knew that it was an unknown Wangye Temple, and thought it was an obscene temple and destroyed the temple, but he didn't know that the temple was dedicated to Chen Youliang, and he didn't know it until he asked Zhang Tianshi (张天师).[15][16]

Cultural portrayals[edit]

Film and TV[edit]

  • 1978 Heavenly Sword and Dragon Slaying Sabre《倚天屠龙记》 by Long Tiansheng (龙天生)
  • 1984 《倚天屠龙记》 by Chen Xiang (陈祥)
  • 1986 《倚天屠龙记》 何贵林
  • 1987 《大明群英》 刘青云 Liu Qingyun
  • 1993 《朱元璋》 张矩 Zhang Ju
  • 1994 《倚天屠龙记》 郑平君
  • 1998 《乞丐皇帝传奇》 李志希
  • 2001 《倚天屠龙记》 陈荣峻 Chen Rongjun
  • 2003 《倚天屠龙记》 孙斌
  • 2004 《武当》 刘旭 Liu Xu
  • 2006 《传奇皇帝朱元璋》李庆祥
  • 2006 《朱元璋》李明
  • 2008 《飞天舞》 沉浮
  • 2009 《倚天屠龙记》 周晓滨
  • 2009 《真命天子》 季肖冰
  • 2015 《乞丐皇帝与大脚皇后传奇》 季晨
  • 2019 《倚天屠龍記》侯瑞祥


Chen Youliang features as a character in the wuxia novel The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber by Louis Cha.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b For those cross-referencing the Mingshi, in the old Chinese calendar 至正二十三年 refers to the year 1363 CE, 七月二十日 refers to 8月29日 or 29 August, and 八月二十六日 refers to 10月3日 or 3 October.
  2. ^ 童承叙的《平漢錄》記載:「陳友諒,沔陽人,本姓謝,祖千一,贅於陳,遂從其姓。父普才,黃蓬漁子也。」陳友諒本姓謝,祖父時入贅陳家,改姓陳。此說被《明史》採納,流傳廣泛。
  3. ^ 《大越史記全書》本紀卷之七:“甲午(紹豐)十四年元至正十四年春二月,北邊帥臣驛奏,元陳友諒起兵,遣使來乞和親友諒,陳益稷子。”、“辛丑(大治)四年元至正二十一年二月,明太祖攻江州。陳友諒退居武昌,使人來乞師,不許。”
  4. ^ Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 251
  5. ^ a b Hậu duệ nhà Trần của Đại Việt trở thành Hoàng đế Trung Hoa? Văn Hiến Plus, 8 April 2019
  6. ^ 刘基:“友谅包饶、信,跨荆、襄,几天下半。士诚自守虏,不足虑。友谅劫主胁下,名号不正,地据上流,其心无日忘我,宜先图之。陈氏灭,张氏势孤,一举可定。”
  7. ^ 朱元璋:“友谅亡,天下不难定也。”“朕以友谅志骄、士诚器小,志骄则好生事,器小则无远图。”
  8. ^ 杨璟:“向者如陈、张之属,窃据吴、楚,造舟塞江河,积粮过山岳,强将劲兵,自谓无敌。然鄱阳一战,友谅授首,旋师东讨,张氏面缚。此非人力,实天命也。”
  9. ^ 饶汉祥:“江汉先英、三楚雄风。”
  10. ^ 蔡东藩:「吾谓友谅亦有自败之道,江州失守,根本之重地已去,及奔至武昌,正宜敛兵蓄锐,徐图再举,乃迫不及待,孤注一掷,丧子弟,失爱妃,甚至身死人手,为天下笑,是可见国之兴亡,实关人谋,不得如项羽之刎首乌江,自诿为非战之罪也。”
  11. ^ 历史学家吴晗:“陈友谅虽然失败了,但他毕竟是反对元朝蒙汉地主阶级统治的英雄人物,在历史上起过作用,当时人们对他是同情的、怀念的,他的坟墓,到今天还在新建的长江大桥下被保存着,供来往游人悼念。”
  12. ^ 武汉地方志编纂委员会办公室. 武昌区志-第三篇 名城胜迹-第三章 遗迹 遗址. 2014-05-30 [2017-01-05] (中文(中国大陆)). 陈友谅墓位于长江大桥武昌引桥南侧。元至正十八年(1358年)陈友谅自称汉王;至正二十年称帝,国号为“汉”;至正二十三年八月在鄱阳湖中流矢身亡。其部下以舟载其尸还武昌,葬于黄鹄山南麓,即今址。次年,朱元璋攻克武昌后来墓前祭奠,题“人修天定”4字于墓前,以后墓园渐荒芜。清代成为湖北按察使署的花园——“乃园”之一部分,少有人往。清光绪三十四年(1908年)万耀煌、耿仲钊等发现此墓。辛亥革命胜利后,湖北省内务司于1912年议请整修,次年完工,广济饶汉祥作碑铭。解放后曾维修,“文化大革命”中墓堆被毁。1981年修复,1998年6月全面整修。墓坐北朝南,长方形,圆角,高2米余,有砖砌水泥墓墙,墓前立花岗岩墓碑,高2米余,上书“大汉陈友谅墓”。墓后有2米宽水泥平台,两侧有碑亭,分立“大汉皇帝陈友谅墓碑铭”和“重修大汉陈友谅墓”碑石。墓前有高大洗麻石牌坊,前额书“江汉先英”,后额书“三楚雄风”,牌坊与墓之间有16级台阶的墓道。墓地周围苍松翠柏环抱,气氛肃穆。1956年湖北省人民委员会公布为省级文物保护单位。
  13. ^ 人民日报 (30 May 2014). "陈友谅纪念馆观史" (in Chinese (China)). 熊泽民. Archived from the original on 6 January 2017. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 在湖北仙桃市沔街中段,新建了一个"陈友谅纪念馆"。不久前的一天,我来到这里,听讲解,看实物,历史的风云在眼前展开…… 关于陈友谅的传说很多,比如他有三口神奇的行军锅,他常常骑白马出征,他降生时有"三奇",他从小习武,臂力过人……在纪念馆里看到,陈友谅建都旧遗址处古柏参天,环境十分幽静,青石台阶伸向密林幽静处。
  14. ^ 2013年12月18日9时,当地政府在湖北省仙桃市(原湖北沔阳)沔街九十墩开设“陈友谅纪念馆”。这个纪念馆内有三层仿古式建筑,占地3891平方米,总建筑面积达到1615平方米。前两层设有920平方米的展厅,最后一层为办公休息区。
  15. ^ 袁枚《子不語》卷十收錄一篇《毀陳友諒廟》,講清朝趙錫禮任縣令時,毁了荊州陳友諒廟改奉關帝君的佚事。趙只知道是不明的王爺廟,認為是淫祠而毀廟,但並不知該廟是奉祀陳友諒,直到向張天師詢問之後,方才得知。
  16. ^ 《子不語·卷十·毀陳友諒廟》,「赵公锡礼,浙之兰溪人,初选竹山令,调繁监利。下车之日,例应谒文庙及城隍神。吏启:“有某庙者,当拈香。”公往视:庙有神像三人,雁行坐,俱王者衣冠,状貌颇庄严。问:“何神?”竟无知者。公欲毁其庙,吏不可,曰:“神素号显赫,历任官参谒颇肃,毁之恐触神怒,祸且不测。”公归搜志、乘,祀典不载此神,乃择日朝吏民于庙,手铁锁系神颈曳之。神像瑰伟,非掊击不能去。公曳之,应手而倒,三像碎于庭中。新其屋宇,改奉关帝。久之,竟无他异。公心终不释,乃行文天师府查之。得报牒云:神係元末偽漢王陳友諒弟兄三人,兵敗,死鄱陽湖,部曲散去,為立廟荊州。建於元至正某年,毀於國朝雍正某年趙大夫之手,合享血食四百年。」