Han Dynasty

The Han Empire began in 206 B.C. when Liu Bang, prince of Han, defeated the Qin army in the valley of Wei. The defeat was part of a larger rebellion that began after the first Emperor’s death. The people were dissatisfied with the tyranny of the Qin leaders and their legalist form of government. However, while traditional Chinese history portrays the Han as implementing immediate changes in government, evidence shows the Han continued to rule in the tradition of the Qin, and only gradually incorporated Confucian ideals into their legalist form of government. Economic expansion, changing relationships with the people of the steppes, strengthening of the palace at the expense of the civil service, weakening of the state's hold on the peasantry, and the rise of the families of the rich and the gentry were all factors that led to the adoption of Confucian ideals.

Under this new form of Legalism and Confucianism, rewards and punishments were still used for common people. However, the administrators were judged based on Confucian principles with the justification for these different sets of standards as they were educated. As a last resort, the ruler could use punishment for both the people and the officials. It was believed that force alone was not a sufficient way to rule and so the emperor needed the help of the Confucianists to guide him morally. Evidence of rulers using their power to punish is found in the records of officials who were beheaded.

When Liu Bang conquered the Qin, he created his capital at Ch'ang-an. He kept most of the laws and regulations by the Qin and made many of his friends nobility and gave them fiefs. However, the land was still divided up into commanderies and prefectures. Even the fiefs given out were treated like commanderies. Han power was based on direct control of people by the state.

Like the Qin before them, the main goal of the Han was the unification of China. This goal led to the eventual breakup of the fiefs and the downfall of the imperial nobility. This process was finally complete during Wu Di's reign (141-87 B.C.) His reign was a period of great military expansion. He expanded the borders into Vietnam and Korea and pushed the Xiong nu south of the Gobi. Wu Di transplanted an estimated 2 million people to the northwestern region in order to colonize these areas. 

The expansion also led to trade with the people of inner Asia. Thereafter, the Silk Road was developed. The Silk Road actually consisted of more than one possible route through the mountains that the traders followed. Agriculture grew with the development of better tools. Iron tools were made of better quality, and oxen drawn ploughs were commonly used. Irrigation systems were increased to help develop the areas of North China. Crop rotation was also practiced from 85 B.C. onwards. The state attempted to monopolize the production of iron and salt, which were the two biggest sectors of the economy, but succeeded for less than a century. Silk weaving and copper work were also important activities. 

Education became more important during this period, as a new class of gentry was introduced. A result of this was the compilation of many encyclopedias. The best known is the Book of the Mountains and Seas, which contained everything known at the time about geography, natural philosophy, the animal and plant world, and popular myths. Sima Qian, considered being China's greatest historian wrote his famous Records of the Historian (Shiji) during this time. This history book became the model by which all other histories would follow. It was one of the first attempts in China to make a record of the past in a proper form. 

The Han Dynasty is actually two separate dynasties. It is considered one dynasty by the Chinese because the second dynasty was founded by a member of the former Han dynasty who declared he had restored the Han Dynasty. The original Han Dynasty (Western Han Dynasty) was overthrown when the wealthy families gained more power than the emperor. The families became allied with each other through marriages and were responsible for the selection of officials. The widow of the emperor Yuan Di succeeded in placing all of her relatives in government positions and ruling in place of her son. Her nephew, Wang Mang eventually declared himself emperor of a new dynasty, the Xing (New). His rise to emperor is unusual because he gained much public support on his rise and he began a ceremony in which a seal of precious stone was passed to the emperor. From then on, whoever held this seal was the official emperor. Wang Mang was overthrown by a secret society of peasants known as the Red Eyebrows, because they painted their eyebrows red. The descendents of the Han dynasty eventually joined in the uprising, and, it was the armies of these nobles, under the leadership of Liu Hsiu, who killed Wang Mang in 22A.D. The fighting continued until 25 A.D., when Liu Xiu became the emperor. As an emperor he was called Guang-wu Di. Millions of people died during the fighting, leaving land for the peasants, and often, the freedom of debt as the lenders had died. 

The second Han Dynasty (Eastern Han Dynasty) had much success with their foreign policy. Part of this success was due more to luck than to anything the Han did. The Xiong nu who had previously been one of the most dangerous enemies of the Chinese was defeated by the Xian-bei and the Wu-huan. Half of the Xiong nu moved south, and became part of the Chinese empire. The Xiong nu appeared to be trying to reunite and form a large empire comprising all of Turkestan. Thus, in 73 A.D. the Chinese began a campaign in Turkestan. The whole of Turkestan was quickly conquered which would have ensured a trading monopoly, however, the emperor Ming Di died and Zhang Di became emperor. He favored an isolationist policy so that much of what was gained in Turkestan was now lost. Ban Ch'ao, the deputy commander who had led the invasion, stayed in Turkestan to try and hold onto what had been won, and eventually in 89 A.D. a new emperor came to power with a renewed interest in holding Turkestan. Despite this military success, economic and political struggles arose within China. Internal struggles for power taxed the peasants, until in 184 A.D. when another peasant uprising occurred. This movement was begun by the Yellow Turbans. This uprising served to unite the factions who had previously been fighting one another because they needed to unite to defeat the Yellow Turbans. Despite conquering them, China did not return to a united state. Rather, three kingdoms emerged and the Han dynasty came to an end.

List of Emperors of the Han Dynasty

Posthumous

name

Personal name

Period of reign

Era name

Range of years

Western Han Dynasty 202BC – 9 AD

Gaozu

高祖

Liu Bang

劉邦

202195 BC

Did not exist

Huidi

惠帝

Liu Ying

劉盈

195188 BC   

Did not exist

Shaodi

(Shaodi Gong)

少帝

Liu Gong

劉恭

188 – 184 BC   

Did not exist

Shaodi (Shaodi hong)

少帝

Liu Hong

劉弘

184 – 180 BC

Did not exist

Wendi

文帝

Liu Heng

劉恆

180 – 157 BC

Qíanyuán

前元

179–164 BC

Hòuyuán

後元

163–156 BC

Jingdi

景帝

Liu Qi

劉啟

157 – 141 BC

Qíanyuán

前元

156–150 BC

Zhōngyuán

中元

 149–143 BC

Hòuyuán

後元

143–141 BC

Wudi

武帝

Liu Che

劉徹        

141–87 BC

Jiànyuán

建元

 141–135 BC

Yuánguāng

元光

 134–129 BC

Yuánshuò

元朔

 128–123 BC

Yuánshòu

元狩

 122–117 BC

Yuándǐng

元鼎

 116–111 BC

Yuánfēng

元封

 110–105 BC

Tàichū

太初

 104–101 BC

Tiānhàn

天漢

 100–97 BC

Tàishǐ

太始

 96–93 BC

Zhēnghé

征和

 92–89 BC

Hòuyuán

後元

 88–87 BC

Zhaodi

昭帝

Liu Fuling

劉弗陵

87–74 BC

Shǐyuán

始元

 86–80 BC

Yuánfèng

元鳳

 80–75 BC

Yuánpíng

元平

 74 BC

The Prince of Changyi

昌邑王 or海昏侯

Liu He

劉賀

74 BC

Yuánpíng

元平

 74 BC

Xuandi

宣帝

Liu Bingyi

劉病已

74–49 BC

Běnshǐ

本始

73–70 BC

Dìjié

地節

 69–66 BC

Yuánkāng

元康

 65–61 BC

Shénjué

神爵

 61–58 BC

Wǔfèng

五鳳

 57–54 BC

Gānlù

甘露

 53–50 BC

Huánglóng

黃龍

 49 BC

Yuandi

元帝

Liu Shi

劉奭

49–33 BC

Chūyuán

初元

 48–44 BC

Yǒngguāng

永光

 43–39 BC

Jiànzhāo

建昭

 38–34 BC

Jìngníng

竟寧

 33 BC

Chengdi

成帝

Liu Ao

劉驁

33–7 BC

Jiànshǐ

建始

 32–28 BC

Hépíng

河平

 28–25 BC

Yángshuò

陽朔

 24–21 BC

Hóngjiā

鴻嘉

 20–17 BC

Yǒngshǐ

永始

 16–13 BC

Yuányán

元延

 12–9 BC

Suīhé

綏和

 8–7 BC

Aidi

哀帝

Liu Xin

劉欣

7–1 BC

Jiànpíng

建平

 6–3 BC

Yuánshòu

元壽

 2–1 BC

Pingdi

平帝

Liu Kan

劉衎

1–6 AD

Yuánshǐ

元始

 1–5 AD

Ruzi

孺子

Liu Ying

劉嬰

6–9 AD

Jùshè

居攝

 6–8 AD

Chūshǐ

初始

 8–9 AD

Xin Dynasty (9-23 AD)

Xin Dynasty of Wang Mang (王莽)

9–23 AD

Shǐjiànguó

始建國

9–13 AD

Tiānfēng

天鳳

 14–19 AD

Dìhuáng

地皇

 20–23 AD

Continuation of Han Dynasty

Gengshi-di

更始帝

Liu Xuan

劉玄

23–25 AD

Gēngshǐ

更始

 23–25 AD

Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD)

Guangwu-di

光武帝

Liu Xiu

劉秀

25–57 AD

Jiànwǔ

建武

 25–56 AD

Jiànwǔzhōngyuán

建武中元

56–57 AD

Mingdi

明帝

Liu Yang

劉陽

57–75 AD

Yǒngpíng

永平

 57–75 AD

Zhangdi

章帝

Liu Da

劉炟

75–88 AD

Jiànchū

建初

 76–84 AD

Yuánhé

元和

 84–87 AD

Zhānghé

章和

 87–88 AD

Hedi

和帝

Liu Zhao

劉肇

88–106 AD

Yǒngyuán

永元

 89–105 AD

Yuánxīng

元興

 105 AD

Shangdi

殤帝

Liu Long

劉隆

106 AD

Yánpíng

延平

 9 months in 106 AD

Andi

安帝

Liu Hu

劉祜

106–125 AD

Yǒngchū

永初

 107–113 AD

Yuánchū

元初

 114–120 AD

Yǒngníng

永寧

 120–121 AD

Jiànguāng

建光

 121–122 AD

Yánguāng

延光

 122–125 AD

Shaodi, the Marquess of Beixiang

少帝 or 北鄉侯

Liu Yi

劉懿

125 AD

Yánguāng

延光

125 AD

Shundi

順帝

Liu Bao

劉保

125–144 AD

Yǒngjiàn

永建

 126–132 AD

Yángjiā

陽嘉

 132–135 AD

Yǒnghé

永和

 136–141 AD

Hàn'ān

漢安

 142–144 AD

Jiànkāng

建康

 144 AD

Chongdi

沖帝

Liu Bing

劉炳

144–145 AD

Yōngxī

永熹

 145 AD

Zhidi

質帝

Liu Zuan

劉纘

145–146 AD

Běnchū

本初

 146 AD

Huandi

桓帝

Liu Zhi

劉志

146–168 AD

Jiànhé      

建和

 147–149 AD

Hépíng

和平

 150 AD

Yuánjiā

元嘉

 151–153 AD

Yǒngxīng

永興

 153–154 AD

Yǒngshòu

永壽

 155–158 AD

Yánxī

延熹

 158–167 AD

Yǒngkāng

永康

 167 AD

Lingdi

靈帝

Liu Hong

劉宏

168–189 AD

Jiànníng

建寧

 168–172 AD

Xīpíng

熹平

 172–178 AD

Guānghé

光和

 178–184 AD

Zhōngpíng

中平

 184–189 AD

Shaodi, the Prince of Hongnong

少帝 or 弘農王

Liu Bian

劉辯

189 AD

Guāngxī

光熹

 189 AD

Zhàoníng

昭寧

 189 AD

Xiandi

獻帝

Liu Xie

劉協

189–220 AD

Yǒnghàn

永漢

 189 AD

Chūpíng

初平

 190–193 AD

Xīngpíng

興平

 194–195 AD

Jiàn'ān

建安

 196–220 AD

Yánkāng

延康

 220 AD


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