Chen Youliang

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Chen Youliang
Reign 1360 - 1363
Predecessor (none)
Successor Chen Li
Born 1320
Died 23 August 1363
Full name
Family name: Chen (陳)
Given name: Youliang (友諒)
House Dahan
House House
Father Chen Pucai
Chen Youliang
Traditional Chinese 陳友諒
Simplified Chinese 陈友谅

Chen Youliang (1320 – August 23, 1363) was the founder of the insurgent state of Dahan (大漢; literally: "Great Han") in the late Yuan Dynasty period of Chinese history.


Chen was born with the surname Xie (謝) to a fishing family in Mianyang (沔陽; in present-day Hubei). He once served as a district official before becoming a general under Ni Wenjun during the Red Turban Rebellion. Chen later killed Ni Wenjun on the excuse that Ni planned to assassinate Xu Shouhui, the Red Turban rebels' leader. Chen later turned on Xu Shouhui and killed 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 "Dahan" (大漢; literally "Great Han"). For 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.

In 1360 the Dahan fleet and army began a long war against Wu forces - based at that time in Jiqing (present-day Nanjing) and 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 Dahan fleet earlier in the year). The war continued till the climactic Battle of Lake Poyang where the Wu fleet narrowly defeated the larger fleet of Dahan after three days of fighting.

A month after the battle at Lake Poyang, the Dahan 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.

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 Dahan took an additional two years but by April 1365 the Dahan empire was gone and all its lands were now part of now part the Wu power base.

Era names

  • Dayi (大義) 1360
  • Dading (大定) 1361-1363


  • Father: Chen Pucai (陳普才) - created a count by Zhu Yuanzhang after the downfall of Han
  • Brothers:
  • Chen Youren (陳友仁) - killed in the Battle of Poyang Lake
  • Chen Yougui (陳友貴) - killed in the Battle of Poyang Lake
  • Two other brothers would also be created counts by Zhu Yuanzhang after the downfall of Han
  • Spouses:
Chen Youliang had several concubines respectively surnamed Yang, Lou, Tao and Du (阇). Consort Du was captured along with Chen Shan. Concubines Yang and Lou predeceased Chen Youliang.
  • Children:
    • Chen Shan, crown prince
    • Chen Li, his successor

In fiction

Chen Youliang is featured as a character in Louis Cha's wuxia novel The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber as a minor antagonist.