Before Emperor (Qin Er Shi committed suicide he named his nephew Ziying to become Emperor. Emperor Ziying or Qin San Shi Huangdi ruled less than one year. He had to face chaos made by Qin Er Shi. Emperor lost authority completely and regional vassals declared themselves as kings. Country broke apart on 18 kingdoms. Leaders of Han and Chu armies Liu Bang and Xian Yu captured Xianyang burnt it and killed Emperor Ziying. Former allies started a new civil war for supremacy in Chinese empire. Leader of Han clan Liu Bang won war and reunited kingdoms again. In 202BC era of Han dynasty started. It is one of most significant dynasties of Imperial China. It is divided on Western and later Eastern Han. Han dynasty was one of most successful dynasties as it brought big prosperity( in economy, trade, culture and philosophy) and territorial expansion to China
Key figures key events: Liu Bang became first emperor of China from Han dynasty. He gave vassal status to those who kept tittles of kings and allowed them some autonomy in taxes and local governance only if they recognize supremacy of Emperor. He established new capital on place of former Xianyang. He named it Changan what means Perpetual Peace. Fact that Liu Bang was from peasant family says enough about his governance. He reduced taxes and gave more freedom of expression and freedom in philosophy. First Han Emperor didn’t want to govern on its own but he worked with ministries and state councils to make important decisions in country. He supported development of trade and economy and highly respected hard work and peasants. Liu Bang tried to be as just ruler as possible. He evaluated peoples abilities not status and wealth. Liu Bang died in 195BC. While being kind to people he built at the same time grand palace. It was called Weiyang Palace( what means Endless Palace). It was largest palace on Earth ever built which is 10 times bigger than Vatican city and 7 times bigger than Forbidden City. It was later burnt during Tang dynasty and was never restored. Some of its maps were preserved and on its model but much smaller Forbidden City was built.
Next few emperors of Han dynasty followed his example. Especially careful about prosperity of society was Wen Di Emperor who ruled between 180BC and 157BC. He promoted trade and brought prosperity to Chinese Empire and more wealth to people. Emperor Wen Di was acting kindly to peasants liberating them from taxes even more than Liu Bang. He didn’t attempt to bring strict pressure over lives of people and burden them with too strict laws. Emperor Wen Dis rule is often described as generous and with spontaneous functioning of society. Wen Di promoted and supported production in all spheres of economy Even with big involvement in economy he wasn’t famous in enjoying luxury and is described as most modest Emperor in Chinese history.
Peak of Western Han dynasty was reached during rule of Emperor Wu Di. He ruled between 141BC and 87BC. Emperor Wu Di did very useful things for China. He is often described as emperor who built large palaces and liked luxury. Anyway he did a lot of useful things for China He made of China the most powerful state of that period in world. State system and society were stable and period in China was peaceful. Emperor also wanted to expand territories and increase trade influence of China. Wu Di started conquest of areas of todays Central, Western China and parts of todays Mongolia. It was with aim to secure trade routes. At the end of his reign territory of China was doubled. Wu Di fought a lot of wars against nomadic tribes at West and North. Chinese army stopped invasions of Huns and also entered territories of other nomadic tribes. After expansion on North and West Emperor aimed expansion on South and East. So by year 100BC Chinese Empire included areas of todays Chinas Provinces of Yunnan, Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Also it included territories of todays North Korea,Mongolia and Vietnam.
Except conquests of territories Emperor Wu Di did significant things in international politics and trade. He sent best diplomats to other countries to Persian Empire, Indo-Greek states in Asia and even further to made trade agreements. Zhang Qian was most famous diplomat in his administration. About 130BC was established Silk Road that became main route of connection between China, Central Asia and Europe for many centuries..
By end of his life Wu Di became a bit paranoid about his death and was oppressing and killing suspects who plotted a trap against him. He was searching for magicians that could make him immortal. Anyway it didn’t help him and he died in 87BC. Before his death Wu Di published Puntai Edict of Repentance. With this edict he wanted to express repentance on all bad things that he did so he could pass away in peace. His mausoleum was built nearby Xian.
Later 3 more emperors changed and one empress regent until 9CE. Confucianism in state apparatus became more present since Wu Di favored Confucian thought unlike Wen Di who preferred Taoist thought. In 9CE Wang Mang a cousin of imperial family seized throne and proclaimed his own Xin dynasty. It was only dynasty in China that had only one Emperor and isn’t often seen as real dynasty but rather a ruler between two periods of Han dynasty. Also this period is seen as Han dynasty with an usurpation. He tried to reestablish idea that was banned by Qin dynasty that all land belongs to Empire. Wang Mang tried to act like Zhou Kings and reinstalled serfdom that was eased and almost extinct since Qin dynasty which privatized land and focused on ranks instead of land. This irrational moves caused anger and rebellions. Finally Wang Mang was defeated in 23CE year when forces of Liu Xiu ( an legitimate successor of Han imperial family) captured Changan and killed him. Liu Xiu declared continuation of Han dynasty and reestablished its governance and got recognition among majority of vassal rulers in 25CE. With this moment period of Eastern Han starts and lasted until 220CE.
New lineage of Han dynasty started with Emperor Liu Xiu who moved capital eastwards to Luoyang in todays Henan Province. Because of irrational rule of Wang Mang uprisings in Korean Kingdom and Vietnam occurred. By year of 47CE new emperor managed to finalize these rebellions. Even bigger achievements in economy, culture and science occurred during second Han period. Emperor Liu Xiu to died in 57CE. His successors Ming of Han and Zhang of Han used to foster prosperity of country but were more authoritarian than previous emperors.
They appointed more ministers who would be loyal to them as they didn’t want to give chance of other fractions of their family and aristocracy to try to usurp power. In 88CE there was new invasion of Xiongnu barbarian tribes from north and it was stopped successfully. However they were allowed to inhabit some areas within territory protected by Great Wall. Silk Road had increased number of caravans and trade was well maintained. Diplomacy also developed during this period as more than 50 ambassadors from Central Asia came to China for official visit. Two diplomatic delegations from Japan came as well one in 57CE and another in 107CE. In 166CE first direct contact with Roman Empire occurred when Roman delegation came and brought ivory and rhino horns as gifts. First 3 emperors of Eastern Han had high moral and were kind to people and favored Confucian ideology of moral, harmony and respect. In next part we will deal about fall of Han dynasty and analyze society of Han period.
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