Han Dynasty (202 CE - 256)

Maya and Liana - PD 6


After the harsh Qin Dynasty, a minor official/ peasant named Liu Bang rose to power and took the throne. He became Emperor Gaozu and began the Han Dynasty. The capital was in the western part of the empire, in the Earlier Han Dynasty. It was located in the city of Chang'an. The first emperor's empress brought a lot of problems, and started her wrath by murdering Emperor Gaozu's favorite mistress. She replaced the royal family with loyal guards and supporters. After that, Liu Bang's lineage hunted down and killed all relatives and member's of the empress's (Lu Zh's) clan. Another emperor who played a huge role in expanding the empire was named Emperor Wudi (136 BCE). He expanded the Han territory into North Vietnam, Inner Mongolia, South Manchuria, and most of Korea. He also allowed Confucianism into the government, and led by example, not by force and punishment. This lead to a more fair and peaceful government. But, of course, the peace didn't last. A reformer born to a distinguished family, named Wang Mang, rose to power as the "Usurper", or a person who rises to power illegally. He declared a new "dynasty" named the Xin Dynasty, which means "new". He tried to establish a fair land trading system, breaking up the land of rich people and distributing them to the peasants. This amounted in confusion and anger, and soon the peasants had a huge uprising and sacked the city of Chang'an, then decapitated Wang Mang. The peasants who rebelled were named the "Red Eyebrows" thanks to the smears of red paint on their foreheads. This greatly weakened the empire, and lead to about 15 years of turmoil. Soon enough, earthquakes, grasshopper plagues, and floods became more common, and were interpreted as a manifestation of the anger of heaven. Then, too add onto that, a another peasant uprising called the "Yellow Turban Rebellion" weakened the empire even more. Wars between states and warlords caused a huge civil war, leaving China un-unified for another 350 years.
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Wang Mang, the reformer and "Usurper"
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China during the Han dynasty


The Han dynasty had many jobs. There were lots of farmers that helped with the crops and food. There were also teachers. They taught in schools like Confucius. They had a very important job too. Merchants traded and sold things like silk. Merchants traded with Rome for valuable metals like silver, bronze, and gold. Rome would trade their gold for China's silk and Syria traded their glassware for China's silk. Silk was very important in China. It was traded with many places on the silk road. The silk road is a road going through the Middle East and many people traded on the silk road. Paper was important too. It was used for lots of things like rewriting the books that were burned during the Qin dynasty.
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Chinese coins

Inventions/ Technology/ Science & Architecture

Many things were invented and discovered during the Han dynasty. One major invention of the Chinese was paper. Paper was made and used to write down books that were burned. Another invention was a colorful glaze for painting colorful images of daily life on pottery. The last invention was an important one. A seismograph was a sculpture of dragons and frogs and it was used to predict earthquakes. The Chinese learned about Buddhism from India so they built Buddhism temples. They also built watchtowers so they could see farther away to watch for enemies. To build some things, the Chinese used new materials and new ways of building roofs.
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A seismograph, used to predict earthquakes

Religion/ Culture/ Social Life

The main religion was called Confucianism, based on the teachings of a famous philosopher named Confucius. Another religion, also made in China was called Taoism, and believed in unity through opposing forces, or opposites; this made the famous symbol of the yin yang. Buddhism also became popular because of North Indian traders from the Silk Road. The Chinese Han people did ancestral worship, but also made sacrifices to spirits and deities. During this time of different thinking and beliefs, great pieces of art and literature were made. Over the course of the dynasty, writers enhanced the list of characters from 3,000 to 9,000. Great writers like Ban Zhao and Sima Qian wrote brilliant pieces of poetry, essays, and books about China's history. A new genre of poetry was even made- fu. This is the combination of rhyme and prose. Also, ceramics and pottery were introduced, along with lacquerware, a kind of glaze that forms a protective coating for wood, etc. Sometimes, even the lacquerware was inlaid with jade and other gems! Only skilled workers could make art and lacquerware, which brings us to the topic of social class- first was the emperor, then aristocrats, then the skilled laborers (farmers, iron workers), and then unskilled laborers (slaves, servants). These were clearly determined. For example: a wealthy farmer could afford oxen to plow fields, and poor farmers hauled water to their fields in yokes and worked with wooden tools. Clothing wise,the people of China usually wore scratchy cloths and sandals made of straw. They cooked in box-like stoves, and steamed most of their food. Northern Chinese people ate millet, while the Southerns ate rice. Their cities were busy with street performers and clogged marketplaces. All together, the Han Dynasty provided a rich religion, and culture, and social structure to its people.
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A model of a horse made in ancient China