2. The Han Dynasty

  By Han_Wudi
  Category: East Asia: China
History of the Han Emipre

The Qin Dynasty, the first to unify China under one ruler, collapsed amid peasant revolts, civil war and natural disasters in 210 BC after the death of its First Emperor (Qin Shihuang). Many factions emerged and warred with each other incessantly, devastating large parts of China. One was prominent: that led by Xiang Yu, the powerful leader of Chu. Allied to him was a minor warlord called Liu Bang. The two later disagreed and became enemies. Assisted by his able advisor Xiao Li and his great general Han Xin, Liu Bang managed to overthrow Xiang Yu and after years of warfare, he established the Western Han Dynasty with its capital at Chang'an. He was the first commoner to become emperor in the whole of Chinese history.

Han Gaozu ruled for less than a decade, and his main contributions were to consolidate the dynasty. He attempted to push back the Xiongnu but was defeated and forced to send yearly tributes to appease them. He ruled by Confucian principles, changing the old system of legalism.Han Gaozu died in 197 BC. His son Huidi was but a puppet and the real ruler of China was Liu Bang's wife Empress Lu. Huidi died after only three years and Empress Lu took the throne.

Han Wendi took over when she died in 179 BC. He continued his ancestor's highly sucessful policies, and China during this time was peaceful and prosperous. Population grew greatly and industry and commerce were developed. Han Jingdi took over on the death of his relative Han Wendi. He, too, continued the same policies and introduced nothing new. This period of relative peace and prosperity is known as the "administration of Emperors Wen and Jing" in Chinese history. Emperor Jindi died in 140 BC. His son Liu Che was then only 15 years old. Nonetheless, he took the throne as Emperor Wudi.
 Map of the Han Dynasty

Emperor Wudi was one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history. He expanded China's borders, opened the early Silk Road and developed the economy, establishing state monopolies on salt, liquor and rice. An able and ambitious ruler, he was a skilful military strategist with many able generals. The Xiongnu were defeated numerous times and pushed further northwards. Manchuria fell under Chinese control and Indochina up to the Red River Delta was annexed. China also wielded strong political and cultural influence over Korea and Japan. Domestically the power of the lords was reduced and a strong centralised state finally established. Buddhism arrived from India, contributing to the cultural development of China.

The Shiji, or Records of the Grand Historian, was written by Sima Qian. It was the first chronicle of China's history encompassing all events up till the reign of Emperor Wudi. Han Wudi died in 86 BC. The Western Han began to decline after his death. His wars had emptied the treasury, and heavy taxes thus had to be levied on the people. A sucession of weak and child emperors caused the court to fall under the influence of wicked officials and eunuchs. Finally, in AD 9, the usurper Wang Mang seized power and proclaimed the Xin (New) Dynasty.

The Xin Dynasty 9AD - 23 AD

Wang Mang, having usurped the throne, began widespread reforms. He nationalised the gold industry and wished to reduce the power of the upper-class nobles in favour of the common people. This earned him their enmity and was to be his downfall. Natural disasters struck and the people rose in revolt. Confronted with oppostion from both upper class and lower class, the hapless Wang Mang was dethroned and killed by the Green Woodsmen rebels in 23 AD.

The Eastern Han Dynasty 25 AD - 220 AD
A member of the Liu family, Liu Xiu, raised an army and fought his way to Chang'an after Wang Mang's death. After some years of fighting, he restored order to the country, and ascended the throne as emperor Guang Wudi. The capital was moved to the east, Luoyang, henace the name the "Eastern Han Dynasty".

The new emperor was faced with daunting challenges. China was deep in poverty and most of the Western Han infrastructure was in ruins from the war. His reaction was to put soldiers and peasants to work constructing irrigation systems and other basic necessities needed to restore the country. Agriculture was thus quickly revived, and the country began to recover.

Politically the influence of eunuchs was curtailed, and able officials were selected to aid him. Militarily the Xiongnu were again pushed back and the empire's borders were consolidated.

Guang Wudi died in 58 AD after a reign of 32 years. He was suceeded by a succession of half-able rulers, who continued his policies and consolidated his rule. China was once again prosperous, and military campaigns were undertaken. Ban Chao subdued the Western Regions (Central Asia), and the Silk Road was reopened. Culturally and scientifically the Eastern Han exceeded the achievements of the Western Han. Paper was invented, andso was a seismograph. Anesthesia was reportedly used for the first time during medical operations.

From the middle of the Eastern Han era onwards, the dynasty began to decline. Weak or infant emperor were manipulated by eunuchs and powerful court officials to their own means, and the peasants, burdened heavily with taxation, rose in revolt. Prominent among these was the Yellow Turban uprising, which had several hundred thousand followers. Powerful regional warlords seized large chunks of the empire, and centralised authority quickly disintegrated.

The later Han emperors were all puppets, and the puppet-masters were the mighty warlords, Dong Zhuo and later Cao Cao. The former was assasinated in 192; the latter established the state of Wei. Many factions vied for control, but three major contenders eventually emerged: Wei, controlling central China, Dong Wu, controlling the north, and Shu Han, controlling the rest of the country. The last emperor, Han Xiandi, abdicated in 220 AD, bringing the 400-year old Han Dynasty to an end and ushering in China's Three Kingdoms Period.

Gao Zu - Liu Bang 206 BC - 197 BC
Hui Di - Liu Ying 197 BC - 194 BC
Empress Lu 194 BC - 179 BC
Wen Di - Liu Heng, 179 BC - 156 BC
Jing Di - Liu Qi, 156 BC - 140 BC
Wu Di - Liu Che, 140 BC - 86 BC
Zhao Di - Liu Fuling, 86 BC - 73 BC
Xuan Di - Liu Xun, 73 BC - 48 BC
Yuan Di - Liu Shi, 48 BC - 32 BC
Cheng Di - Liu Ao, 32 BC - 6 BC
Ai Di - Liu Xin, 6 BC - 1 AD
Ping Di - Liu Kan, 1 AD - 6 AD
Ru Ziying, 6 AD - 9 AD
Wang Mang (Xin Dynasty) , 9 AD - 23 AD

List of emperors for Eastern Han Dynasty 25 AD - 220 AD
Guang Wudi - Liu Xiu, 25 - 58 AD
Ming Di - Liu Zhuang, 58 AD - 76 AD
Zhang Di - Liu Da, 76 AD - 89 AD
He Di - Liu Zhao, 89 AD - 106 AD
Shang Di - Liu Long, 106 AD - 107 AD
An Di - Liu Hu, 107 AD - 126 AD
Shun Di - Liu Bao, 126 AD - 145 AD
Chong Di - Liu Bing, 145 AD - 146 AD
Zhi Di - Liu Zuan, 146 AD - 147 AD
Huan Di - Liu Zhi, 147 AD - 168 AD
Ling Di - Liu Hong, 168 AD - 190 AD
Xian Di - Liu Xie 190 AD - 220 AD

200 BC: Xiong-nu lay siege to the emperor.
191 BC: End of the prohibition against books.
155-130 BC: Liu Teh develops a library of old, especially Taoist, texts.
140-87 BC: Reign of Emperor Wu Ti.
Beginnings of the Chinese Civil Service.
136 BC: Doctors of the Five Classics established.
Expansion of the empire:
121-119 BC: Hsiung-nu are driven north of the Gobi desert.
The Great Wall is extended to the Jade Gate.
Colonists are sent to Kansu.
Silk Road opens between China and the Parthian empire.
111-110 BC: Eastern and Southern Yueh are brought under Chinese control.
108: Ch'ao Hsien (Korea) conquered.
c. 87 BC: Ssu-ma Ch'ien writes the first general history of China.
The Later, or Eastern, Han Dynasty (AD 25-220)
c. 25: Buddhisn is introduced to China.
25-57: Kuang Wu Ti founds the Later Han Dynasty.
43: Tonkin and Annam are conquered.
32-92: Pan Ku, author of History of the Former Han.
74-94: The states of Turkestan submit to Chinese suzreignty.
89: Hsiung-Nu submit to Chinese authroity.
105-121: Reign of Empress Teng.
105: Paper is introduced at court by Ts'ai Lun.
156: Death of Chang Ling, one of the founders of religious Taoism.
166: Traders from the Roman Empire arrive in Tonkin
190-220: Reign of Emperor Hsein