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Han Dynasty


15 facts about the Han dynasty

Han's Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) was a turning point in the history of China as it reunited China and brought many reforms in the administration and Chinese culture and civilization which were reigning supreme in the lives of people under Qin Shihuangdi's rule.

Peasant rebellion of 206 BC overthrew Qin leading to a struggle for power between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu. In the battle, Liu Bang won crowning as the ruler and founder of Han dynasty in China. He made Chang'an as the capital of the Han dynasty, which was considered to be one of the largest among all the cities of the world during the era.

Historians have divided Han dynasty in two timeline: the Western or Former Han which ruled from 206 BC to 9 AD and the Eastern or Later Han which reigned from 25 AD to 220 AD. The boundaries as were laid by Qin and later retained by the Han dynasty are what make Chinese nation to this day.


The Expansion of China.

China under the rule of Wudi reacquired the control of territories which were once part of Qin Shihuangdi's regime.

Ferghana's conquest along with the neighboring areas in 101 BC provided an opportunity for the Han to take possession of many long legged horses. The horses were considered as most valuable for cavalry maneuvers. It also gave control of the trade routes extending north and south of the Taklamakan Desert which proved economically more profitable for the Han dynasty. They traded spices, wine, woolen fabrics, pomegranates, grapes, alfalfa, broad beans, sesame, silk and gold.

The centralized tax system and well established and unified military force enthused China to lead many expeditions towards West, South Vietnam and Korea expanding their empire even further. Han rulers also forged into new relationships with the people of the Western areas of Central Asia, which had the most important impact on the history of the world. At the same time, Hun nomads were also posing a severe threat to the rulers. To prevent them, emperor Wudi conquered several areas that lay towards the end of the Great Wall of China making their presence felt in many parts of Central Asia and different parts of the Silk route.

Administrative Reforms.

Si nan first compass in the world -chinese compass Han dynasty
Reproduction first compass

Though historical records show Han dynasty brought about numerous reforms in the administrative setup yet according to the evidences, Hans followed Qin tradition in their day-to-day administrative functionaries and slowly and articulately adopted Confucian principles into their legal frame work. Economic growth, building good rapport with the subjects, providing freedom to the peasants, and appointing of the civil servants in the daily administrative works were the main facets of the Confucian ideology which the Han rulers openly adopted.

Under the new legal set up, punishments were still levied on the similar lines as that of Qin but Confucian laws were implemented. Many recorded evidences show emperor beheading corrupt officials as a form of punishment. Han rulers often sought Confucians advice for moral guidance and the most crucial step was the initiation of civil service examinations.

This period not only marked the revival of art, craft and literature but science and technology also made significant strides under the Han rulers. Paper, porcelain, compass and seismograph were the most important Han dynasty inventions. In fact, credit of the invention of gun powder and manufacturing of steel also goes to China.

Trade Route. (Silk Route)

As the Han dynasty expanded, the economic history of China continued to show signs of growth. It began to develop good trading relationships with the people of the inner Asian regions. This led to the creation of a silk route. It was more than one route pursued by the traders through the difficult terrains of mountains to export Chinese silk in Rome.

At the time, Han dynasty was expanding towards the West, the Roman Empire was also increasing its trade relationships with the East. The Parthian Empire acted as a mediator; they established a strong trade relation between the two empires. For the first time in history, it was possible to secure the trade routes from the Mediterranean that led towards China.

The nation was now no more isolated as it not only developed trade relationships with the other nations but also became culturally associated with them. China adopted new technologies and concepts from the alien cultures giving a further boost to the development of science, literature and religion. The most crucial change was the influence of Buddhism on the Chinese religion and culture. In spite of these changes on the Chinese soil, Confucian thoughts were still the norm among the Han rulers.

As the control of the Han dynasty over the peripheral regions had its own share of hardships and risks, the Han court took the initiative by creating a joint profitable “tributary system”. This step was taken to ensure peace with non Chinese rulers and to give a boost to the trade.

Agricultural Reforms.

Reforms in the agriculture sector encouraged farmers to grow quality crops. Best quality iron tools and ploughs drawn with the help of oxen were most often used by farmers. Irrigation system was further developed in Northern areas of China and crop rotation became very popular. The state tried to have a monopolistic control over the iron and salt, but this was only for a limited period. Besides silk weaving, copper work was yet another most important occupation of the villagers.