Han Emperors in China


The Han Empire began in 206 B.C. when Liu Bang, prince of Han, defeated the Quin army in the valley of Wei. This happened after a large rebellion that began after the First Emporer's death. People of China were discontent with the tyranny of the Quin leaders and their Legalist form of government. However, evidence shows that Han continued to rule in the leaglist form, as done by the Quins and only gradually incorporated Confucian ideals into their Legalist form of government.
Confucian ideals were adopted because of 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.

The Han Dynasty was established when Liu Bang won the battle against Xiang Yu in 202 BC. The Han period is divided into two periods: the Former Han, which ruled from 202 BC to AD 9, and the Later Han which ruled from 23 AD until its end in 220 AD. It is considered to be one of the most prosperous ages of China. The Former Han had several rulers, including Liu Bang (his founder), Empress Lu (Liu Bang's wife) and Wudi (Liu Bang's great-grandson).

Of all these, Wudi was probably the most significant, because the empire experienced great growrth under his influence. Wudi conquered several areas which expanded the empire, including present-day Vietnam and Korea.

Chinese social structure was similar to other societies' in which te empreror had the highest rank of all. However, in China farmers held a higher rank than other members, such as soldiers. This was due to agriculture being one of the most honorables and respected jobs in China because of the great amount of people that had to be fed (about 60 million at the time).

Confucianism had a very important role in Han Life, for its knowledge was required for getting most important jobs. Emperor Wudi even set up a school in China in order to educate people on Confucianism. However, this school could only be attended by the rich, since it was pretty expensive.

Several techonological and scientific advances were made during this period, such as paper, which is one of the most important technological inventions we use today. Since they didn't have much techonology, paper was made out of bamboo, which was very common in China and easy to use. Other advances included the use of the negative numbers, the raised relief map and the invention of the seismometer.

Women during the Han Dynasty held important roles in society, unlike other women at the time. Here, women were writers and historians, besides helping their husbands on their work. They even had an Empress at one time, Empress Lu. This social development was probably due to the whole dynasty being very developed in general.

However, the unfair distributement of land between rich landowners made poverty in China increase very much. Rich landowners usually took away small farmers land in oder for the farmers to "pay their debts", but instead they got into bigger debts they could not afford to pay later.

The emergence of the Han Dynasty represents the full confluence of two seemingly contradictory
trends that had been increasingly paired since the time of Shang Yang: meritocracy and autocracy.
The First Emperor, through his conscious exaltation of his throne and his thorough rejection of
Zhou feudalism and hereditary privilege, had created the conditions for the institutionalization of
these forces.
The founder of the Han Dynasty, Liu Pang, was from a peasant family; during the Qin he
served as a petty official in a peripheral region of China. He succeeded to the imperial throne only
by prevailing in a civil war that lasted for over four years after the surrender of Zi-ying, the last
ruler of the Qin.
His principal opponent during that period was a man named Xiang Yu, who represented
everything that Liu Bang was not. Xiang Yu was of patrician stock, a scion of the house of Chu,
and the model of a Zhou-style warrior: brave, skillful, elegant, and bloodthirsty. Xiang Yu began
as the leader of the very forces that brought Liu Bang to power, and was, for a time, acknowledged
by all, including Liu, to be the founder of the successor dynasty to the Qin. Yet he was destroyed
by the supporters of a subordinate from the peasant class. Liu Bang ascended the throne in 202
B.C.,* less than twenty years after the end of the Warring States period. How confounding it must
have been to the elder generation to see a peasant occupying the seat of power!
This picture shows the Hun Dynasty in 100 B.C

Under the reign of Shi Huangdi, the Qin Dynasty had unified China. he established a strong government through conquered lands from rival kings throughout China. after Shi Huangdi died, his son took over, but he was not fit to be an able ruler. The people under this new ruler began to complain over high taxes, harsh labor, and a severe penal system. they rebelled and the rival kings were eager to regain control over their land that was taken away from them. they raised forces and fought over territory.


picture of Shi Huangdi

During the civil war, two powerful leaders emerged. Xiang Yu, aristocratic general, and Liu Bang, one of Xiang Yu's generals. Over time, Liu Bang grew tired of being under Xiang Yu, he turned against him and fought a final battle in 202 B.C. Liu Bang won and declred himself the first emperor of the Han Dynasty. Liu Bang's first goal was to destroy the rival kings power. He continued Shi Huangdi's policy of establishing centralized government. to win the support of the people, Liulowered taxes and softened harsh punishments.

Picture of Liu Bang

´´He re-modeled China based on Qín's example. He gradually replaced the original vassals, granting their lands to his relatives. Since the economy had been devastated by the war following the demise of the Qín Dynasty, he reduced taxes and corvée, developed agriculture and restricted spending. However, in response to what he saw as the decadence of Qín merchants, he restricted commerce by levying heavy taxes and legal restrictions on merchants. He also made peace with the Xiongnu. Under Gāozǔ's reign, Confucian thought gradually replaced Legalist thought; Confucian scholars were welcomed into his government, while the harsh Legalist laws were lessened.´´

when Liu Bang died in 195 B.C. , his son became emperor, but in name only. His mother, Empress Lu, was the one that actually ruled. The empress outlived her son and retained control of the throne by naming first one infant and then another as emperor. because they were so young to rule, she remained in control.When Empress Lu dies in 180 B.C., people who were still loyal to Liu Bang's family, rather than to Lu's family, came back into power. they got rid of of the palaces old empress's relatives by executig them.

when Liu Bang's great-grandson took the throne, he continued Liu Bang's centralizing politics. Wudi, who reigned from 141 to 87 B.C., held the throne longer than any other emperor. He is called the "Martial Emperor" because he adopted the policy of expanding the Chinese empire through war.

picture of Wudi

Hang technology and culture

The official belief system of China was Confucianism. They also setup a Civil Service Exam based on Confucianism. This exam was required to enter service in the government. The Confucian system of government was used in China for most of the last 2000 years.´´
Han scientist invented the process to make paper from wood pulp They were advanced astronomers, which enabled them to create more accurate clocks and the development of the theory that the earth was round Han advanced scientists also wrote textbooks on subjects from zoology to botany and chemistry.

The typical ancient Chinese writing materials were bronze wares and animal bones.

One of the Han's greatest mathematical advancements was that they were the first in the world using negative numbers. Also Han Chinese astronomers made star catalogue, they believe that the Moon, Sun, and the planet were spherical and not plane like other believed it was. They also believed that the illumination of the Moon and planets was caused by sunlight. And that the lunar eclipses occurred when the Earth blocks the sunlight falling onto the Moon, they also that a solar eclipse occurred when the Moon blocks sunlight from reaching the Earth



´´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.´´


Economically, the Ming Dynasty was a period during which the feudal society began to show the declining trend while the capitalism started to originate. In agriculture, both the food output and the implements of production surpassed that of the Song and Yuan Dynasties. From the early period of the Ming Dynasty, the handicraft industry in the southern areas developed rapidly. Especially, the porcelain making industry reached an unprecedented level. Since the reign of Zhu Yuanzhang, it had been a major source of the state finance. The currently famous Jindezhen kiln was once the imperial kiln in that period.
The development of the handicraft industry promoted market economy and urbanization. During the reign of Emperor Shizong and Emperor Shenzong, a great amount of commodities including silk, alcohol, porcelain, tobacco, crops, vegetable and fruits was sold in the market. Meanwhile, many foreign commodities such as clocks from Europe and tobacco from America were on sale in many cities of China. Also, a series of commercial metropolises including Beijing, Nanjing, Yangzhou, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Xian and Chengdu were successively formed. However, the later policy of restraining commerce and the stringent ban on shipping greatly hampered commercial development.

Culture and Science

The culture of the Ming Dynasty developed rapidly, especially in literature. Three of the four great classical masterpieces of Chinese literature - Journey to the West, Outlaws of the Marsh, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms were written in the Ming Dynasty. Besides, another two well-known novels - Peony Pavilion and The Plum in the Golden Vase were also excellent works in that period. Meanwhile, folk literature prospered, represented by a group of writers such as Tang Yin, Song Lian, Zhang Dai, Wu Weiye and Yuan Hongdao. In philosophy, Wang Yangming's new thoughts called 'philosophy of the mind' formed a new thinking wave which helped shape a new social trend.
Before the 16th century, the scientific development of the Ming Dynasty had been in the forefront of the world.Many scientific books appeared in the early and middle period, namely, medical book Compendium of Materia Medica by Li Shizhen, Song Yingxing's Heavenly Creations about handicraft industry, Xu Guangqi's Complete Treatise on Agriculture and Xu Xiake's Travels of Xu Xiake. All these have been the precious documents for today's study of the ancient technology. Additionally, the military technology was relatively advanced in that period. A kind of gun called 'huochong gun' and powerful artillery were invented in the late period of the Ming Dynasty. It is said that a man named Wan Hoo even tried to fly to the sky by sitting in a chair propelled by gunpowder sticks. Unfortunately, he failed and became the first sacrifice in human conquest of the sky.

The most common staple crops consumed during Han were wheat, barley, rice, foxtail millet, proso millet and beans. Commonly-eaten fruits and vegetables included chestnuts, pears, plums, peaches, melons, apricots, strawberries, red bayberries, jujubes, calabash, bamboo shoots, mustard plant and taro. Domesticated animals that were also eaten included chickens, Mandarin ducks, geese, cows, sheep, pigs, camels and dogs. Turtles and fish were taken from streams and lakes. Commonly-hunted game, such as owl, pheasant, magpie, sika deer, and Chinese Bamboo Partridge were consumed. Seasonings included sugar, honey, salt and soy sauce. Beer and wine were regularly consumed.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_Dynasty

Han Introduction: This was not the Golden Age of China, but life was very good for many of the people because of the demand for Chinese silk. The creation of the "silk road" - the trade routes across the fierce deserts - allowed trade to flourish more easily with the Roman Empire. People bonded together into one civilization during Han times. They had a common culture. Even in remote sections, district officials copied the manner of the imperial court. Peasants built homes and plowed their fields in the same way all over China.

Han writing tells us little about their daily life. Han tombs, however, tell us quite a lot. The Hans buried clay models of their homes and belongings, in their tombs. Models included details like little clay furniture and little bronze oil lamps.

The Arts & Sciences: So much was lost during the book burnings of the Qin Dynasty. The Han people tried very hard to replace the literature that was lost during Qin times, especially the works of Confucius. They created new works of literature and music. Beautiful murals were painted on the walls of palaces. Scroll painting began. Craftsmen made jade jewelry and carvings, gold ornaments and belt hooks, delicate paintings with wire thin brush strokes. Iron was used for making plows and other cast iron objects. Glazed pottery was brightly painted with lively hunting scenes, mountains, trees, clouds, dragons, tigers, and bears. Their medicine was advanced. They invented acupuncture. Their science was also advanced. During Han times, these ancient people invented paper. They also invented an instrument that told them when an earthquake was happening, somewhere in the Empire, so they could send troops and food to help.

Public Schools: One of the Han emperors (Emperor Wudi), around 100 CE, agreed with Confucius that education was the key to good government. He started a system of public schools, for boys only, taught by Confucian teachers. The teachings of Confucius were nationally honored. Schools were set up in each providence. There was a major school, called the Grand School, in the capital. In the beginning, only 50 students were allowed to study at the Grand School. In less than 100 years, enrollment at the Grand School was over 30,000 students.

Jobs: Jobs were given to educated people, as well as nobles. People were paid for their work.

Life in the Cities: Only about 10% of the population (1 out of 10 people) lived in the cities. Cities were neatly laid out with main streets and alleyways. Each city was surrounded by a strong wall, made of earth and stone. As cities are today, the ancient Han cities were centers of government, education, and trade. Most marketplaces, throughout the city, had free entertainment. Musicians played bells, drums, and string instruments, and jugglers and acrobats performed.

The Poor: The poor lived in houses packed together. They had very little food, and little to no sanitation. Many of the young males joined street gangs. Gangs wore distinctive clothes and armor, that identified their gang. Teen gangs roamed the cities, terrorizing people.

The Rich: The rich rushed to imitate the imperial palace. They built elaborate homes, decorated with drapery, and cashmere carpets. They furnished family tombs with stone lions. On the lions, and on other sculpture, they added inscriptions mentioning how much each item had cost!

The rich lived in comfortable, large houses with many rooms and fireplaces. Each home was built around a central courtyard. They had elaborately carved furniture that showed Greek and Roman influence, and painted stuccoed walls with floral designs. Other walls were left bare to display paintings or bronze mirrors. Dinner was elaborate. Kids were tutored in science, math, literature, art, religion, and music. Some studied in their homes, and some at the home of their tutor. The rich did not use the public schools. They wore belted robes with long sleeves lined with silk. When it was cold, they wore warm fur coats, made of squirrel and fox skins and leather slippers.

Merchants & Craftsmen: As in Shang times, merchants were hardly recognized as men. Once the canals were built, some merchants and craftsmen became rich. A really successful merchant might ride in a cart with a coachman, buy a title from an emperor, and built a mansion surrounded by pools and gardens. This absolutely infuriated officials and peasants. (The merchants didn't till the soil. They weren't nobles. There ought to be a law, to stop them from doing this, and for a while, there was a law, forbidding them from riding in carts and chariots.)

Life in the Country: Country folk were farmers. They lived in one or two story mud houses with tiled or thatched roofs. They had curtains on the windows. Barns and other buildings surrounded the house. Several families lived in one house to allow them to work their fields together. They still did not own their farms, but farms were larger in size, because families had learned to team up. This solved a major problem. Together, they were able to produce more food, some years, than they needed, which allowed them to trade food for other items. They still worked very hard. They went to bed at dark and got up at dawn. They dressed in simple clothes. Both men and women wore shirts and pants made of scratchy cloth, and sandals made of straw. They stuffed their clothes with paper and cloth, to stay warm in the winter. They steamed much of their food over boiling water on stoves. In the south, they ate rice, steamed dumplings, and fish, flavored with garlic and onions. In the north, they ate much the same, only they ate wheat instead of rice.

Below, there is a list of emperors that ruled China during the Han Dynasty and a brief description of them:
(From this source: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/history/han/)
Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 8 AD)

1. Han Gaozu(Liu Bang)
Son of a peasant family; He revolted against the rule of Qin. After defeating Xiangyu (his rival) during a four-year war, he established the Western Han Dynasty in 202 BC and ruled the country for 12 years. 206 BC - 195 BC
2. Han Huidi(Liu Ying)
Son of Liu Bang; Because he was inept to be an emperor, the power was held in the hand of his mother, Lvhou. 195 BC - 188 BC
3. Han Lvhou(Lv Zhi)
Wife of Liu Bang; After Liu Bang died, she was in the seat of power although Liu Ying, Liu Gong and Liu Hong were the emperors in succession. 188 BC - 180 BC
4. Han Wendi(Liu Heng)
The fourth son of Liu Bang; He lightened the taxes and paid great importance to production thus promoting the development of society. Also he was a famously frugal emperor. 180 BC - 157 BC
5. Han Jingdi(Liu Qi)
Son of Han Wendi; He carried out serious measures like Wendi had done and obtained good results. 157 BC - 141 BC
6. Han Wudi(Liu Che)
The ninth son of Han Jingdi; He subdued the ethnic Xiongnu (Hun) invaders by wars. The Western Han Dynasty was in its most powerful period during the reign of the Han Wudi. 141 BC - 87 BC
7. Han Zhaodi(Liu Fuling)
The youngest son of Han Wudi; He lightened the burden of the peasants and was on good terms with Xiongnu (Hun). 87 BC - 74 BC
8. Han Xuandi(Liu Xun)
Also called Liu Bingyi and the great grandson of Han Wudi; During his reign, the ruling position of Confucianism was strengthened and burdens of the people were reduced greatly. 74 BC - 49 BC
9. Han Yuandi(Liu Shi)
Son of Han Xuandi; The Western Han Dynasty began to decline during his reign. 49 BC - 33 BC
10. Han Chengdi(Liu Ao)
Son of Han Yuandi; He squandered the countries wealth, which caused the country to decline. 33 BC - 7 BC
11. Han Aidi(Liu Xin)
Nephew of Han Chengdi; Although all kinds of social contradictions were sharp, he only believed in ghosts and gods to solve all the problems with the result that Wang Mang stole power. 7 BC - 1 BC
12. Han Pingdi(Liu Kan)
Grandson of Han Yuandi; was really a puppet of Wang Mang. Later, he was poisoned to death by Wang Mang. 1 BC - 5 AD
13. Ruzi(Liu Ying)
He came to the throne when he was two years old. In 8 AD, Wang Mang claimed himself as the emperor and killed Ruzi in 25 AD. 6 - 8

Xin Dynasty (9 - 23)

14. Wang Mang
Nephew of the queen of Han Yuandi. In 8 AD, he became the emperor of the Western Han Dynasty and changed the country's name to 'Xin' the next year. Although he carried out a series of measures, the society was in great disarray. The dynasty was finally overthrown by a peasant revolt. 9 - 23

Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220)

15. Guang Wudi(Liu Xiu)
He joined the troops to rebel against the Xin Dynasty. After defeating the army of Wang Mang, he re-established the Han Dynasty making Luoyang its capital city. 25 - 57
16. Mingdi(Liu Zhuang)
The fourth son of Guang Wudi; People lived a stable life during his reign. The famous White Horse Temple was built under his order. 57 - 75
17. Zhangdi (Liu Da)
The fifth son of Mingdi; He was also regarded as a calligraphist adept at cursive scripts. 75 - 88
18. Hedi(Liu Zhao)
The fourth son of Zhangdi 88 - 105
19. Shangdi (Liu Long)
The youngest son of Hedi 105 - 106
20. Andi (Liu Hu)
Grandson of Zhangdi; The social divide was increased and all kinds of social contradictions became sharp under his rule. 106 - 125
21. Shundi (Liu Bao)
Son of Andi; Eunuch grasped the power to deal with the state affairs under his reign. 125 - 144
22. Chongdi(Liu Bing)
Son of Shundi 144 - 145
23. Zhidi(Liu Zuan)
Great grandson of Zhangdi 145 - 146
24. Huandi(Liu Zhi)
Great grandson of Zhangdi 146 - 167
25. Lingdi(Liu Hong)
Great-great-grandson of Zhangdi; the country was again in great disarray, meaning that people lived a very hard life. The rule of Lingdi intensified all kinds of social (divides) contradictions that caused the insurgence led by Zhang Jiao. 168 - 189
26. Xiandi (Liu Xie)
Son of Lingdi; the Han Dynasty perished under his reign. 189 - 220

{Ely Perez}


Chinese society under the Han Dynasty was highly structured.At the top was the emperor, who was considered semidivine. Next came the kings & governors, both appointed by the emperor. They governed with the help from state officials, nobles, and scholars. Peasant farmers came next. Their production of food was considered vital to the existence of the empire. Artisans and merchants were below them.Near the bottom were the soldiers, who guarded the empire's frontiers. At the bottom were enslaved persons, who were usually conquered peoples.

The Chinese emperor relies on a complex bureaucracy to help him rule. Running the bureaucracy & maintaining the imperial army were expensive, so to raise money, the government put taxes. Chinese peasants owed the government part of their yearly crops to the government. Merchants also paid taxes.Besides the taxes, the peasants also owed a month's worth of labor or military service every year. With this source of labor, the Han emperors built roads and dug canals and irrigation ditches.

Emperor Wu decided that Taoism was no longer suitable for China, and officially declared China to be a Confucian state; however, like the emperors before him, he combined Legalist methods with the Confucian ideal. This official adoption of Confucianism led to not only a civil service nomination system, but also the compulsory knowledge of Confucian classics of candidates for the imperial bureaucracy, a requirement that lasted up to the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912 . Confucian scholars gained prominent status as the core of the civil service.

This encouraging of eduacation and jobs, gave oportunities and wisdom to people of all clases,to work for their government, which is to work for their people. People felt good to know that the people running and helping the kings and governors, were well- educaed, not based on any simple teachings but Confucianism, which was and is considered in China,almost the best ethical system to follow . These civil service jobs were what most caught my attention and made me think that Wudi was a great emperor who tried his best to developand improve many important areas( commerce, education,jobs,etc..) of the empire.

World Histroy - Patterns of Interaction By: McDougal Littell

Education, literature and philosophy

The early Western court accepted the teachings of Confucianism, Legalism, and Huang-Lao Daoism in making governmental decisions. Emperor Wu eliminated academics chairs that didnt have to do with Confucian Five Classics in 136 bc. Private schools and commander-level schools with a Confucian-base education opened in small towns. Philosophical works written by Yang Xiong, Huan Tan, and Wang Chong questioned if human nature was good or evil. Gentry men wrote biographies of important figures. Popular forms of literature among gentry were poems and rhapsodies.


Buddhism entered the Han Dynasty during the Eastern Han. During Emperor Min Of Han's reign the first Buddhist temple, the White Horse Temple, was built. important Buddhists canons were translated to Chinese during the second century.

Han Tombs

In their tombs the Hans buried clay models of their home and belongings. Models included every single detail of the house like lamps and stuff.

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