Han Dynasty China was vast, but the politics of the north - where the
imperial capital was always based, regardless of the exact location - was
far-reaching, as it was, above all, an empire. But one place seemed to be
gradually slipping free of the bonds: that place was the harsh,
sparsely-populated southern part of Yang Province in the southwest, which was
physically divided from the north by the Yangtze River and known colloquially
as Jiangdong - ‘East of the River’. Han influence had always been weak due to
lack of commercial interest, since industry and agriculture were lacking and
the main trade routes went north, toward the Middle East and Rome, rather than
south, which simply led to tribal territories and the vast southern seas. That
lack of influence was not always disadvantageous: the Han Empire had been
subject to a number of mostly self-inflicted crises in recent times, and being
unaffected by all but the worst of them was highly desirable.
Nowhere in the world was devoid of chaos: the Roman emperor Septimius Severus was busy trying to restore order in the wake of a damaging civil war, and that would mostly involve more resource-draining campaigns against foreign powers that were subject to Roman rule. For once, there was some similarity in situations: the Han Dynasty court was now trying to restore order in the wake of what had become known as the ‘Dong Zhuo Crisis’, the ‘Yuan Brothers Feud’, and, most recently, the ‘Pretender Crisis’ to name but three of the many disasters that had scarred the nation.