Empress Lü Raising Tensions
After seven years of the reign of Emperor Hui, Empress Dowager Lü came to power. In the beginning everything went on as usual. But in 183 BCE, she suddenly declared to restrict the trade of Han with others, this included useful products such as iron tools and horses to Nanyue territory. This was because Wu Rui, King of Changsha, who was the only non-Liu king in Han territory, who was treated well by the Empress (Gao Zu removed all non-Liu kings except Wu Rui since his state was not much of power, and the empress wanted to appoint Lü kings). The blockade had a great impact on the Nanyue economy, since Nanyue needed iron plow tools, and people were unhappy about the blockade.
Zhao Tuo thought that this must be the trickery of the Prince of Changsha. He realized that the Han Dynasty was powerful, so he sent messengers to the Chinese capital of Chang'an to request to release the blockade. But Prince of Changsha Wu Rui made the messengers prisoners in Chang'an. Wu Rui further said bad things about Zhao Tuo, which made Empress Dowager Lü angry. Then she killed Zhao Tuo's relatives in the Central Plains and destroyed Zhao Tuo's ancestral tomb (destruction of ancestral tombs was in ancient times viewed as a very serious thing). Zhao Tuo realised that political approach would no longer succeed.
So, in 183 BC, he declared himself Martial Emperor of Nanyue (Chinese: 南越武帝; Jyutping: Nām⁴yūd⁶ Mou⁵-Dei³). He had been long in conflict with Prince of Changsha Wu Rui, so he sacked Changsha country to the North. The Empress of China ordered an attack on Nanyue, but most of the army died by diseases and could not march to Nanyue successfully. The military conflict did not stop until the Empress of China died. As the victor, Zhao Tuo also extended his territory by conquering towns near the boundary. He also established relationships with Minyue, Xi'ou, and Luoyue. The war almost wiped out the trade relationship between the Central Plains and Nanyue.
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