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Han Dynasty

Han Dynasty 漢朝 (pinyin han4 chao2 202 BC - AD 220) followed the Qin Dynasty and preceded the Three Kingdoms in China.

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During the Han Dynasty, China officially became a Confucian state and prospered domestically: extending its political and cultural influence over Vietnam, Central Asia, Mongolia, and Korea before it finally collapsed under a mixture of domestic and external pressures. The first of the two periods of the dynasty, namely the Former Han Dynasty (Qian Han 前漢) or the Western Han Dynasty (Xi Han 西漢) 206 BC - AD 9 was based in Changan. The Later Han Dynasty (Hou Han 後漢) or the Eastern Han Dynasty (Dong Han 東漢) AD 25 - AD 220 was based in Luoyang. The western-eastern Han convention is used nowadays to avoid confusion with the Later Han Dynasty[?] of the Period of the Five Dynasties and the Ten Kingdoms though the earlier nomenclature was used in traditional historical texts like Si-ma Guang's Zi Zhi Tung Jian[?]. The dynasty was founded by the Liu family.

The Emergence

Within the first 3 months after Qin Dynasty emperor Qin Shi Huangdi's death at Shaqiu[?], widespread revolts by peasants, prisoners, soldiers and descendants of the nobles of the Six Warring States sprang up all over China. Chen Sheng[?] and Wu Guang[?], two in a group of about 30 soldiers assigned to defend against the Xiongnu, were the leaders of the first rebellion. Continuous insurgence finally toppled the Qin dynasty in 206 BC. The leader of all the insurgents at the time was Xiang Yu[?], an outstanding army commander without political expertise, who divided the country into 26 feudal states to his own satisfaction. The ensuing war among those states signified the 5 years of Chu Han Contention[?] with Liu Bang, the first emperor of the Han Dynasty, as the eventual winner. The beginning of the Han Dynasty can be dated either from 206 BC when the Qin dynasty crumbled or 202 BC when Liu Bang killed Xiang Yu, the leader of a competing rebellion that sought to re-instate the Zhou dynasty aristocracies.

Taoism and Feudal System

After the establishment of the Han Dynasty in 202 BC, Emperor Liu Bang divided the country into several "feudal states" to satisfy some of his wartime allies - only that he wanted to get rid of them once he had a firm grasp of his power. After his death, his successors from Emperor Hui[?] to Emperor Jing[?] tried to rule China combining the Legalist's methods with the Taoist's philosophic ideal. During this pseudo-"taoism era", a stable centralized government over China was established through revival of the agriculture sectors and fragmentations of "feudal states" after compression of the Rebel of the seven states[?].

Emperor Wu and Confucianism

During the "taoism era", China was able to maintain peace with Xiongnu by paying tribute and marrying princesses to them. When Emperor Wu[?] sat the throne, the government had accumulated enough resources to fight back. When the power of Han reached its first height, it incorporated the present-day Qinghai, Gansu and Vietnam into China and opened up the Silk Road. It would be fair to say that Rome and China were the only superpowers in those days, and hence modern Han Chinese are calling themselves the "Han" peoples.

Emperor Wu decided that Taoism is no longer suitable for China, and officially declared China to be a Confucian state; however, alike the emperors before him, he combined Legalist methods with the Confucian ideal. This official adoption of Confucianism led to the compulsory knowledge of the Confucian classics of candidates for the imperial beauracracy, a requirement that only ended in AD 1912.

To draw funds for his triumphant campaigns against the Xiongnu, Emperor Wu relinquished land control to merchants and the riches, or in order words, legalized the privatization of lands. Land taxes were then drawn based on the sizes of fields, no longer on harvest. Though the Han government guaranteed itself a steady influx of taxes, lands were accumulating into the hands of a few merchant families. More peasants were lured to sell their lands, became empolyed farmers, servants and finally slaves of the rich as they solely depended on the harvest of the land they once owned. Eventually this policy would turn against the government as the landholding families provided inaccurate informations of subordinate peasants and lands to avoid paying taxes, which had then become one reason for the collapse of the "Western Han Dynasty".

Establishment of Eastern Han Dynasty

The economic situation deteriorated at the end of Western Han Dynasty. Wang Mang, a Confucian member of the landholding families, believed the Liu family had lost the Mandate of Heaven and it was now his turn to take over the country. His turned the clock back in vigorous monetery and land reforms, and hurted the economy even further. A distance relative of Liu royalty, Liu Xiu, led the revolt against Wang Mang with the support of the landholding families and merhcnats. He "re-established" the Han Dynasty at Luoyang, which is to be called "Eastern Han Dynasty" by historians to separate from the first Han Dynasty.

Rise and Fall of Eastern Han Dynasty

Liu Xiu, the future Emperor Guangwu, was then able to "restore" China to its height again.

During Eastern Han Dynasty, paper was invented and helped to lower the cost of education. Cai Lun, a Chinese eunuch who lived around AD 105, is conventionally regarded as the inventor.

Nevertheless the Eastern Han emperors did not even attempt to put forward any groundbreaking land reforms after the failure of its predecent dynasty. Adverse consequences of land privatizations lingered throught the dynasty and creeped into the bureaucrat corruption. Prestige of a newly founded dynasty during the reigns of first three emperors were able to hindered the corruption; however Confucian scholar gentry turned on eunuches for their corrupted authorities when consort clans and eunuches struggled for power in subsequent reigns. None of these three parties able to improve the harsh livelihood of peasants under the landnholding families.

Taiping Taoist ideals of equal rights and equal land distributions quickly spread within the peasants. As a result the peasant insurgents of the Yellow Turban Rebellion swarmed the North China Plain, the main agricultural sector of the country. Power of the Liu royalty fell into the hands of local governors and warlords, despite supression of the main upraising by Zhang Jue[?] and his brothers. Finally, three overlords were able to control the whole China, ushering in the period of the Three Kingdoms. The figurehead role of Emperor Xian remained until AD 220 when Cao Pi forced his abdication.

In 311, around one hundred years after the fall of the Eastern Han, its capital Luoyang was sacked by barbarians.

Han Dynasty Sovereigns
Posthumous Names ( Shi Hao 諡號) Born Names Period of Reigns Era Names (Nian Hao 年號) and their according range of years
Convention: "Han" + posthumous name
Western Han Dynasty 206 BC-AD 9, 23-25
Emperor Gao (chinese: Gaozu 高祖 gao1 zu3) Liu Bang (劉邦 liu3 bang1) 206 BC-195 BC Did not exist
Emperor Hui (chinese: Huidi 惠帝 hui4 di4)[?] Liu Ying (劉盈 liu3 ying2) 194 BC-188 BC Did not exist
Shao Di (少帝 shao4 di4) Liu Gong|劉恭 liu3 gong1 188 BC-184 BC Did not exist
Shao Di (少帝 shao4 di4) Liu Hong|劉弘 liu3 hong2 184 BC-180 BC Did not exist
Emperor Wen (Chinese: Wendi 文帝 wen2 di4)[?] Liu Heng (劉恆 liu3 heng2) 179 BC-157 BC Houyuan (後元 hou4 yuan2) 163 BC-156 BC
Emperor Jing (Chinese: Jingdi 景帝 jing3 di4)[?] Liu Qi (劉啟 liu3 qi3) 156 BC-141 BC Chngyuan (中元 zhong1 yuan2) 149 BC-143 BC
Houyuan (後元 hou4 yuan2) 143 BC-141 BC
Emperor Wu (Chinese: Wudi 武帝 wu3 di4)[?] Liu Che (劉徹 liu3 che4) 140 BC-87 BC Jianyuan (建元 jian4 yuan2) 140 BC-135 BC
Yuanguang(元光 yuan2 guang1) 134 BC-129 BC
Yuanshuo (元朔 yuan2 shuo4) 128 BC-123 BC
Yuanshou (元狩 yuan2 shou4) 122 BC-117 BC
Yuanding (元鼎 yuan2 ding3) 116 BC-111 BC
Yuanfeng (元封 yuan2 feng1) 110 BC-105 BC
Taichu (太初 tai4 chu1) 104 BC-101 BC
Tianhan (天漢 tian1 han4) 100 BC-97 BC
Taishi (太始 tai4 shi3) 96 BC-93 BC
Zhenghe (征和 zheng1 he2) 92 BC-89 BC
Houyuan (後元 hou4 yuan2) 88 BC-87 BC
Emperor Zhao (Chinese: Zhaodi 昭帝 zhao1 di4)[?] Liu Fu Ling (劉弗陵 liu3 fu2 ling2) 86 BC-74 BC Shiyuan (始元 shi3 yuan2) 86 BC-80 BC
Yuanfeng (元鳳 yuan2 feng4) 80 BC-75 BC
Yuanping(元平 yuan2 ping2) 74 BC
Prince Changyi (Chinese: Chang Yi Wang 昌邑王 chang1 yi2 wang2)[?] Liu He (劉賀 liu3 he4) 74 BC Yuanping(元平 yuan2 ping2) 74 BC
Emperor Xuan (Chinese: Xuandi 宣帝 xuan1 di4)[?] Liu Xun (劉詢 liu3 xun2) 73 BC-49 BC Benshi (本始 ben3 shi3) 73 BC-70 BC
Dijie (地節 di4 jie2) 69 BC-66 BC
Yuankang (元康 yuan2 kang1) 65 BC-61 BC
Shenjue (神爵 shen2 jue2) 61 BC-58 BC
Wufeng (五鳳 wu3 feng4) 57 BC-54 BC
Ganlu (甘露 gan1 lu4) 53 BC-50 BC
Huanglong (黃龍 hunag2 long2) 49 BC
Emperor Yuan (Chinese: Yuandi 元帝 yuan2 di4)[?] Liu Shi (劉奭 liu3 shi4) 48 BC-33 BC Chuyuan (初元 chu1 yuan2) 48 BC-44 BC
Yongguang (永光 yong3 guang1) 43 BC-39 BC
Jianzhao (建昭 jian4 zhao1) 38 BC-34 BC
Jingning (竟寧 jing4 ning2) 33 BC
Emperor Cheng (Chinese: Chengdi 成帝 cheng2 di4)[?] Liu Ao (劉驁 liu3 ao2) 32 BC-7 BC Jianshi (建始 jian4 shi3) 32 BC-28 BC
Heping (河平 he2 ping2) 28 BC-25 BC
Yangshuo(陽朔 yang2 shuo4) 24 BC-21 BC
Hongjia (鴻嘉 hong2 jia1) 20 BC-17 BC
Yongshi (永始 yong3 shi3) 16 BC-13 BC
Yuanyan (元延 yuan2 yan2) 12 BC-9 BC
Suihe (綏和 sui1 he2) 8 BC-7 BC
Emperor Ai (Chinese: Aidi 哀帝 ai1 di4)[?] Liu Xin (劉欣 liu3 xin1) 6 BC-1 BC Jianping (建平 jian4 ping2) 6 BC-3 BC
Yuanshou (元壽 yuan2 shou4) 2 BC-1 BC
Emperor Ping (Chinese: Pingdi 平帝 ping2 di4)[?] Liu Kan (劉衎 liu3 kan4) 1-5 Yuanshi (元始 yuan2 shi3) 1-5
Ru Zi Ying (孺子嬰 ru2 zi5 ying1) Liu Ying (劉嬰 liu3 ying1) 6-8 Jushe (居攝 ju1 she4) 6- October 8
Chushi (初始 chu1 shi3) November 8-December 8
the Xin Dynasty[?] by Wang Mang[?] 9-23 Shijianguo (始建國 shi3 jian4 guo1) 9- 13
Tianfeng (天鳳 tian1 feng1) 14-19
Dihuang (地皇 di4 huang2) 20-23
Emperor Gengshi (Chinese: Gengshidi 更始帝 gang4 shi3 di4)[?] Liu Xuan (劉玄 liu3 xuan2) 23-25 Gengshi (更始 geng4 shi3) 23-25
Eastern Han Dynasty AD25 - AD 220
Emperor Guangwu (Chinese: Guangwudi 光武帝 guang1 wu3 di4)[?] Liu Xiu (劉秀 liu3 xiu4) 25-57 Jianwu (建武 jian4 wu3) 25-56
Jianwuzhongyuan (建武中元 jian4 wu3 zhong1 yuan2) 56-57
Emperor Ming (Chinese: Mingdi 明帝 ming2 di4)[?] Liu Zhuang (劉莊 liu3 zhuang1) 58-75 Yongping (永平 yong3 ping2) 58-75
Emperor Zhang (Chinese: Zhangdi 章帝 zhang1 di4)[?] Liu Da (劉炟 liu3 da2) 76-88 Jianchu (建初 jian4 chu1) 76-84
Yuanhe (元和 yuan2 he2) 84-87
Zhanghe (章和 zhang1 he2) 87-88
Emperor He (Chinese: Hedi 和帝 he2 di4)[?] Liu Zhao (劉肇 liu3 zhao4) 89-105 Yongyuan (永元 yong3 yuan2) 89-105
Yuanxing (元興 yuan2 xing1) 105
Emperor Shang (Chinese: Shangdi 殤帝 shang1 di4) Liu Long (劉隆 liu3 long2) 106 Yanping (延平 yan2 ping2) 9 months in 106
Emperor An (Chinese: Andi 安帝 an1 di4)[?] Liu Hu (劉祜 liu3 hu4) 106-125 Yongchu (永初 yong3 chu1) 107-113
Yuanchu (元初 yuan2 chu1) 114-120
Yongning (永寧 yong3 ning2) 120-121
Jianguang (建光 jian4 guang1) 121-122
Yanguang (延光 yan2 guang1) 122-125
Emperor Shao (Shaodi 少帝 shao4 di4) or Bei Xiang Hou (北鄉侯 bei3 xiang1 hou2) Liu Yi (劉懿 liu3 yi4) 125 Yanguang (延光 yan2 guang1) 125
Emperor Shun (Chinese: Shundi 順帝 shun4 di4)[?] Liu Bao (劉保 liu3 bao2) 125-144 Yongjian (永建 yong3 jian4) 126-132
Yangjia (陽嘉 yang2 jia1) 132-135
Yonghe (永和 yong3 he2) 136-141
Hanan (漢安 han4 an1) 142-144
Jiankang (建康 jian4 kang1) 144
Emperor Chong (Chinese: Chongdi 沖帝 chong1 di4)[?] Liu Bing (劉炳 liu3 bing3) 144-145 Yongxi (永熹 yong1 xi1) 145
Emperor Zhi (Chinese: Zhidi 質帝 zhi2 di4)[?] Liu Zuan (劉纘 liu3 zuan3) 145-146 Benchu (本初 ben3 chu1) 146
Emperor Huan (Chinese: Huandi 桓帝 huan2 di4)[?] Liu Zhi (劉志 liu3 zhi3) 146-168 Jianhe (建和 jian4 he2) 147-149
Heping (和平 he2 ping2) 150
Yuanjia (元嘉 yuan2 jia1) 151-153
Yongxing (永興 yong3 xing1) 153-154
Yongshou (永壽 yong3 shou4) 155-158
Yanxi (延熹 yan2 xi1) 158-167
Yongkang (永康 yong3 kang1) 167
Emperor Ling (Chinese: Lingdi 靈帝 ling2 di4)[?] Liu Hong (劉宏 liu2 hong2) 168-189 Jianning (建寧 jian4 ning2) 168-172
Xiping (熹平 xi1 ping2) 172-178
Guanghe (光和 guang1 he2) 178-184
Zhongping(中平 zhong1 ping2) 184-189
Shao Di (少帝 shao4 di4) or Hong Nong Wang (弘農王 hong2 nong2 wang2) Liu Bian (劉辯 liu3 bian4) 189 Guangxi (光熹 guang1 xi1) 189
Zhaoning (昭寧 zhao1 ning2) 189
Emperor Xian (Chinese: Xiandi 獻帝 xian4 di4)[?] Liu Xie (劉協 liu3 xie2) 189-220 Yonghan (永漢 yong3 han4) 189
Chuping (初平 chu1 ping2) 190-193
Xingping (興平 xing1 ping2) 194-195
Jianan (建安 jian4 an1) 196-220
Yankang (延康 yan2 kang1) 220

For a complete list of Chinese sovereigns, check Chinese sovereign.

See also: Chinese history, Wu Hu, Huns, Silk, Pepper, Paper

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