Red Eyebrow Rebellion

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Red Eyebrow Rebellion


a popular uprising between A.D. 17 and 27 in China. The Red Eyebrow Rebellion received its name from the rebels’ custom of coloring their eyebrows red.

The Red Eyebrow Rebellion was caused by the popular masses’ grave predicament, which had further deteriorated as a result of Emperor Wang Mang’s reforms. The immediate causes of the rebellion were the imperial authorities’ brutal oppression and a famine resulting from floods and a change in the course of the Huang Ho. The rebellion began in Shantung Province under the leadership of a peasant, Fan Chung. Fan Chung’s detachments consisted of poor peasants, hired workers, and slaves. In the year 21 the rebels defeated the government troops. Emperor Wang Mang sent a 100,000-man army to Shantung. However, in an engagement near Chengchang, the Red Eyebrows, supported by the Bronze Horses and other peasant rebel detachments, defeated Wang Mang’s army. In the same period the Green Forest, Forest on the Plain, and other rebel detachments were battling government troops. In 23 and 24 the Red Eyebrows advanced toward the imperial capital of Changan.

At the same time other detachments were moving toward the capital, including those under the leadership of Liu Hsiian, a member of the Han dynasty who was seeking to capitalize on the rebel movement in his struggle against Wang Mang. In 23 the detachments of Liu Hsiian, who had been proclaimed emperor under the name of Keng Shih, took control of Changan, and Wang Mang was beheaded. However, the other rebel detachments refused to recognize Keng Shih. In early 25 the Red Eyebrows smashed Keng Shih’s troops and in the summer entered Changan and placed a shepherd, Liu Peng-tzu, on the imperial throne.

In early 27, in a battle near Hsiaoti (west of Loyang), the Red Eyebrows suffered a serious defeat at the hands of Liu Hsiu, a member of the aristocratic nobility, who in 25 had adopted the title of Han emperor under the name of Kuang Wu-ti; several months later, nearly the entire army of the Red Eyebrows along with Liu Peng-tzu surrendered to Kuang Wu-ti. The remnants of the Red Eyebrows were destroyed in the summer of 27.


Gorbacheva, Z. I. Krest’ianskoe vosstanie “krasnobrovykh” ν Kitae ν I v. n. e. Leningrad, 1935.
Kudrin, V. I. “O nekotorykh storonakh sotsial’nogo krizisa imperii Vostochnaia Khan’ nakanune vosstania ‘Zheltykh poviazok’.” In Uch. zap. LGU, 1962, no. 304, issue 14.


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