The Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE)

By: Jaxon Gatons and Kyle Foster


The Han Dynasty came to power after rebelling against the Qin Dynasty. The reason the people rebelled was they started the building of the Great Wall of China. This project took a lot of human sacrifice to build. The battle for power lasted four years until the Han finally prevailed. Lui Bang ( aka Emperor Gao) was the first emperor of the Han Dynasty. The seventh and longest ruler of the Han was Emperor Wudi. He reigned for 54 years! The emperors of the Han Dynasty changed how political members were recruited. It was based on their skill and not their birthright or wealth. They also reduced peoples tax burdens. But, as all great things must come to an end, this great dynasty did too. There were many internal and external reasons for the fall of the Han Dynasty. One of the internal reasons that helped the fall of the Dynasty was the court had grown weak. The people that lived in China's villages knew when the tax collectors were coming to their town so they hid from them and did not pay the taxes. This made the government financially weaker and not be able to pay the army. One of the external reasons why the Han Dynasty fell was the nomads (tribes of people living around China's borders, example The Mongols) which had previously been bribed with money to maintain the peace were now invading China, as the Han government was not able to pay them due to the lack tax money. Although the biggest reason why the Han Dynasty fell was the Sino-Xiongnu wars. China has been fighting this war for over 200 years. This war damaged the silk road trade route and damaged the economic system within China. Even though the Han Dynasty eventually won this war it was the fatal blow to the military and the economic system of the Dynasty that left China devastated beyond repair. After the Han Dynasty, China would not unify as a country or dynasty for over 400 years.

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Court being held during the Han Dynasty.


The Han economic system was known for success . They lowered taxes. The Han Dynasty also had silk which made a great trade and was essential in making their dynasty great. They also had very efficient farming because of the major advances in farming tools. This brought in good agriculture taxes which made the government even stronger. In the Han Dynasty the main occupation was a pheasant farmer. This was true because most of the people were poor and could not afford an education to have a better job. The Han Dynasty used the silk road to trade goods. The silk road ran through parts of Europe, India and almost all of China. So those are the places where they traded because it was easy. This Dynasty contributed to trade by constructing the silk road which made trading and traveling much easier with China's rugged terrain. Some of the products that were important during this time was silk. All of China's Dynasties kept the secret of how to create silk from cocoons a secret since it was their biggest trading item. The Han Dynasty also had a lot of pottery and precious metals that they used for trade. One of the precious metals the Han traded was copper. The economics in the Han Dynasty helped the government earn a lot of money and stay in power because they could afford a strong military to keep a firm grip on China.
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A coin used in ancient China.

Science and inventions

There were many important inventions during the Han Dynasty. One of the main foods in China during this time was rice. They invented many tools to improve rice farming. They crafted a tool to better clean rice and a tool to assist in the planting and watering of the rice plants. For the army they invented the crossbow. The crossbow was a weapon that shot arrows and was very accurate and powerful. The soldiers in the Han army were also armed with iron and steel swords. Some of the inventions that improved daily life included paper, the compass and the seismograph. The seismograph is a machine that detects an earthquake and what direction it is coming from. Paper was used to record information. Before the invention of paper people used turtle shells and animal bone to record information. The compass was used by sailors to find their way at sea. There was a lot of architectural improvements in the Han Dynasty as well. They extended the Great Wall of China for better protection from the Mongols. They also created the silk road which was a long trade route. The silk road increased the ability to trade among the Chinese villages and even the Middle East and Europe by allowing easier access to them. Traded items included silk, pottery, fabrics, precious metals, food and wine. Also in the Han Dynasty the architects experimented with more complicated roofs and baked bricks. They also had new religions from India so they also built Buddhist temples for the first time in China's history. The Han Dynasty began an extraordinary age of creativity and inventions.
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The compass invented during the Han Dynasty.

Religion, Culture and Social Life

The Han Dynasty encouraged the two main religions of Daoism and Confucianism. Confucianism was the belief in moral behavior and how to treat others. Daoism was a group that wanted to live in harmony with nature and their inner feelings and not take credit for what they do. The Han Dynasty rulers discouraged the belief system of legalism because it was too strict to the people of China. There are two instruments that are still being played today that were invented in the Han Dynasty. The two instruments are the pipa which is an instrument that looks like a banjo. The other instrument the Han invented was the sheng which is a kind of mouth organ. The Han had busy market places where rich and poor shared city life while buying goods. In the City there were good and bad parts of the city where people had money and others did not. The Cities were the centers of trade in the Han Dynasty, where traders traded many things, including silk. During the Han Dynasty pottery was very popular. The first good quality piece of pottery came from the Han Dynasty. Some of the greatest works in pottery came from the Han Dynasty. One of the designs of pottery from the Han Dynasty is the Hill Jar. It is a jar that has a lid with mounds that look like mountains on it. The Han Dynasty had a very good religion which kept them "in office" a long time. The social life in the Han Dynasty helped the Dynasty stay together and not fight and to be one of the longest lasting dynasties in China.
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Work of pottery from the Han Dynasty.