Dou Xian

Dou Xian

Dou Xian (Chinese: 窦宪; Wade-Giles:Tou Hsien, d. AD 92) was a prominent Chinese general and statesman of the Eastern Han Dynasty. A native of modern-day Xianyang, Shaanxi Province, he was part of the powerful Dou clan which dominated court politics during his tenure. However, his father Dou Xun fell into disgrace and died in 70, leaving Dou Xian an orphan. His fortunes were greatly enhanced, though, when his two sisters entered the imperial harem in 77. In the following year, the eldest of these two sisters became Empress Zhangde, the wife of Emperor Zhang of Han, and lasted briefly as empress dowager and regent during the early reign of Emperor He of Han.[1]

"In the first Yongyuan year [89 CE], during the reign of Emperor He, the General-in-Chief Dou Xian had a great victory over the Xiongnu. In the second year [90 CE], [Dou] Xian sent Senior Colonel Yan Pan, at the head of more than 2,000 cavalry, on a surprise attack against Yiwu [Hami], which he conquered."[2]

However, a vacuum of power was made for the Xianbei people to occupy Xiongnu lands and incorporate Xiongnu into their forces, allowing the Xianbei to perpetuate their rule over the northern steppe for centuries.[3]

The biography of Dou Xian can be found in Chapter LIII of the Hou Hanshu.[4]


  1. ^ Crespigny, 170.
  2. ^ From the 'Chapter on the Western Regions' of the Hou Hanshu Hill (2009), p. 5.
  3. ^ Yü (1967), 56.
  4. ^ Chavannes (1907), p. 158, n. 3.


  • Chavannes, Édouard (1907): "Les pays d’Occident d’après le Heou Han chou." T’oung pao 8, (1907) pp. 149-244.
  • de Crespigny, Rafe. (2007). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-220 AD). Leiden: Koninklijke Brill. ISBN 9004156054.
  • Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
  • Yü, Ying-shih. (1967). Trade and Expansion in Han China: A Study in the Structure of Sino-Barbarian Economic Relations. Berkeley: University of California Press.