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During the end of the Han dynasty, the capital Chang'an fell under control of warlords Li Jue and Guo Si, who fought each other soon after. The emperor Xian escaped and eventually reached the ruins of the old capital, Luoyang. According to Chinese Wikipedia (and other sources), this trip took one year:

後來李郭二人內訌戰鬥,民不聊生,献帝与一批朝臣于兴平二年(195年)七月逃离长安,途中多次成为李傕、郭汜、张济、杨奉等军阀争夺挟制的目标。

...

汉献帝与朝臣历经一年才于建安元年(196年)七月到达旧都雒阳。

Translation:

Later, Li and Guo fought each other, the people fell upon hard times, and Emperor Xian fled Chang'an with a group of courtiers on July of the second year of Xingping (195 AD). On this trip, and on multiple occasions, they became the target of capture for Li Jue, Guo Si, Zhang Ji, Yang Feng and other warlords.

...

Emperor Xian of Han and his courtiers finally reached the old capital of Luoyang after a year in July of the first year of Jian'an (196 AD).

Here's a map showing Chang'an and Luoyang; they are < 400km / 250miles apart:

map of chang'an luoyang

From https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f4/Dufuschina.jpg/300px-Dufuschina.jpg

Although the trip passes through difficult terrain and a few mountain passes, it is also a key artery in the empire and very well travelled. The trip shouldn't take anywhere close to a year under normal circumstances.

So why did it take emperor Xian one year? What were they doing? What happened during this trip?

  • It is about 1 km/day! – axsvl77 Jul 5 '16 at 5:30
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It is entirely possible.

  • Emperor did not travel alone, he had to travel with his eunuchs, empress, concubines and etc. Lots of women made their trip extremely slow.
  • Entire China was infested by bandits, warlords, deserters and angry farmers. Emperor might need to hide for a while or even went back and forth in order to hide from danger. As you can read from your English translation above, the Emperor was a target for a number of warlords. Warlords might have blocked the road or fighting each other.
  • Their food supply was cut, no one was offering them any food or water; this would make their trip very difficult as they might need to buy (if they had any money), exchange or even beg for supply.
  • They might have traveled to a totally different destination first, but changed their mind later.
  • This story was recorded long time after it had happened, so time-wise, it might have been a bit inaccurate. The historian might want to highlight how much hardship the Emperor had to go through so he decided this trip took one year. Chinese history has been recorded not only based on facts but very often on the historian's personal political standing and view.
  • There's a lot of speculation and a lack of references. Were there any records detailing the emperor's retinue, how do you know there were lots of women? Which different destination did they go to? Why do you think Chen Shou would make up the duration, when his other records are otherwise very reliable? – congusbongus Aug 26 '16 at 3:47
  • Why would women travel more slowly than men? – Aaron Brick Jun 9 at 3:25
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Itinary as per Zizhi Tongjian 61 and 62:

July 195: The Emperor departed Changan via the Xuanping Gate. After being briefly stopped by Guo Si's men (who retired when the Emperor told them off), they arrived at Baling that night. Later, Guo Si wanted everyone to go to Gaoling, but the ministers and Zhang Ji thought Hongnong was more appropriate.

August 195: Travelled to Xinfeng. Guo Si repeatedly wanted the Emperor to return to Changan, but failing, he went with his troops to the southern mountains.

October 195: Guo Si's adherents Xia Yu and Gao Shuo tried to force the Emperor west. Yang Ding and Dong Cheng escorted the Emperor to Yang Feng's camp. Yang Ding and Yang Feng defeated Xia Yu and friends, and the Emperor was able to move to Huayin.

November-December 195: The Emperor reached Hongnong. Li Jue, Guo Si and Zhang Ji went in pursuit. There was a battle at Dongjian where the Emperor's generals Dong Cheng and Yang Feng suffered a defeat, with many officials and soldiers killed. Dong Cheng and Yang Feng sent for assistance from the White Wave leaders Li Yue, Han Xian and Hu Cai, as well as the Xiongnu Right Worthy King Qubei. Together, they defeated Li Jue and the others, killing thousands.

They resumed the journey east, with Dong Cheng and Li Yue accompanying the Emperor while the rest served as a rearguard. Li Jue pursued and inflicted a defeat similar in scale to that at Dongjian. Amongst those killed or captured and executed were Minister of the Masses Zhao Wen and six of the Nine Ministers. The Huben (Energetic Tiger) and Yulin (Feathered Forest) imperial guards numbered fewer than 100 men after the defeat. The Emperor crossed the Yellow River, losing more followers along the way.

The Emperor reached Dayang, where Li Yue had his camp. He then proceeded to Anyi in an oxcart. Governor of Henei Zhang Yang was one of those who provided assistance. Later, he came from Yewang and suggested that the Emperor go to Luoyang, but as the Emperor's generals would not agree, Zhang Yang returned to Yewang.

January 196: Dong Cheng and Zhang Yang wanted the Emperor to return to Luoyang, while Yang Feng and Li Yue opposed.

February 196: Han Xian attacked Dong Cheng, who went to Yewang. Han Xian was stationed at Wenxi, while Hu Cai and Yang Feng were at Wuxiang. Hu Cai wanted to attack Han Xian but the Emperor ordered him not to.

February-April 196: Zhang Yang sent Dong Cheng ahead to rebuild the palace in Luoyang (Dong Zhuo had sacked it in 189).

May 196: The Emperor went to the camp of Yang Feng, Li Yue and Han Xian, asking them to take him to Luoyang.

June 196: The Emperor reached Wenxi. Later, Yang Feng and Han Xian sent the Emperor east, with Zhang Yang providing provisions.

July 196: The Emperor reached Luoyang.

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