22 terms

Han Dynasty

Setting the Stage
Under Qin Shihuang, the Qin dynasty united China
Established a strong centralized government
Died in 210 BC
Son was an ineffective leader
China's government fell apart
Restoring Unity
Many were discontent during the Qin dynasty
Bitter over years of high taxes, harsh labor and severe penal system
Rival kings were eager to regain control of the regions they had held before Qin Shihuang united them
Raised armies to fight over the territory
Founding the Dynasty
Two powerful leaders emerged
Xiang Yu- aristocratic general, willing to let feudal lords keep their territories if they said he was the feudal lord
Liu Bang- one of Xiang Yu's generals
The Han Dynasty ruled for over 400 years- divided into two periods
Former Han ruled from 202 BC- 9 AD
The Han lost power for brief period, then regained power and ruled for another two hundred years
Liu Bang
Liu Bang- one of Xiang Yu's generals
Liu Bang turned against Xiang Yu
Fought until 202 BC and Liu Bang won
Declared himself the first emperor of the Han Dynasty
Liu Bang destroyed the rival kings' power (former feudal kings)
Followed Qin Shihuang's model of a centralized government
Used local provincials called commanderies to help control the prefectures
To win popular support, Liu Bang relaxed Qin Shihuang's strict legalist.
When Liu Bang's great-grandson took the throne, he continued Liu Bang's centralizing policies
141-87 BC, Wudi held the throne longer than any other Han emperor
Wudi had to fight the Xiangnu (nomads from the north/west)
Xiangnu were great archers on horses
Took hostages, stole grain, livestock, etc
continues Lui Bang's centralized policies and expands the empire through war
Strengthening the Dynasty
Early Han emperors tried to buy off the Xiangnu
Xiangnu took the bribes and continued to pillage
Wudi realized the bribes were making the Xiangnu stronger
Wudi made alliances with their enemies to help destroy the Xiangnu
Wudi also was able to conquer the areas to the northeast (now Manchuria and Korea)
Top: Emperor
King, Governor
State Officials, Nobles and Scholars
Middle- Peasants
Artisans, Merchants
Lowest- Slaves
Complex bureaucratic government
Very expensive
Also maintained an imperial army
To raise money, the gov't levied taxes
Peasants owed part of their yearly crops to the gov't
Also owed a month of military or labor service every year
Merchants paid taxes
Wudi's gov't employed 130,000 years
Bureaucracy included 18 ranks of civil service jobs
Government jobs that civilians obtained by taking examinations
Testing involved applying Confucian teachings
Wudi favored Confucian scholars as court advisors
Set up schools all over China so people could study Confucius's works
Civil Service Exams existed in China until 1912
Paper was invented in 105 AD
Helped spread education in China, cheaper to print on paper than silk
Also helped to expand the gov't
Collar harness for horses
Allowed horses to pull much heavier loads than other used at the time (esp in Europe)
More efficient plow with two blades
Agriculture and Commerce
Population of China swelled to 60 million
Because there were so many people, agriculture was unbelievable important
Manufacturing and commerce were also very important
The government established monopolies on mining of slat, forging of iron, minting of coins, and brewing alcohol
a group has exclusive control over the production and distribution of certain goods
Unifying Culture
Through trade, the Chinese began to learn about foods and fashions from other lands
To unify the empire, the Chinese government encouraged assimilation
Made conquered peoples part of the Chinese culture
Encouraged them to intermarry with local peoples
Sima Qian
(145-85 BC)
The Grand Historian
Worked on compiling a history of China from the ancient dynasties to Emperor Wudi
He visited historical sites, interviewed people, researched official records, and examined artifacts
Book is called Records of the Grand Historian
Ban Biao
(3-54 AD)
Wrote History of the Former Han Dynasty
After his death, his son Ban Gu and his daughter Ban Zhao worked on it
Ban Zhao also wrote the guide called Lessons for Women
Women in Society
Most women lived quiet lives at home
Confucian teachings said they were to devote themselves to their families
Some upper class women were able to gain an education
Able to then lead lives apart from their families
Ran small shops or practiced medicine
Family land was divided equally among all of the father's male heirs
Therefore, each generation inherited smaller plots
Hard to raise food for his family or enough to make a profit
Often went into debt
Had to borrow money from large landowners at high interest rates
The wealthy did not pay taxes on their land
With the wealthy able to buy more and more land from broke farmers, there was less land left for the gov't to tax
Therefore the poor were taxed more heavily
The gap between the rich and the poor greatly increased
Chaos Begins
During this economic issue, political instability grew
From 32 BC-9 AD, one inexperience emperor after another took control
Chaos reigned
Peasant revolts
Wang Mang
Wang Mang, a Confucian scholar and member of the court, decided a strong ruler was needed
Took the imperial title for himself and overthrew the Han
Ended the former Han (first half of the Han dynasty)
Wang Mang minted new money to relieve the treasury's shortage
Set up public granaries to help feed the poor
Tried to re-distribute the large land-plots
Angered the wealthy land-owners
The increase in money disrupted the economy
Allowed people to increase their spending and encouraged merchants to raise their prices
Chaos Continues
There was a great flood in AD 11
Left thousands starving and homeless
Huge revolts
Rich joined in because they did not like the plan to redistribute their land
The rebels assassinated Wang Mang in AD 23
Within two years, members of the old imperial family took the throne and began the second period of Han rule- called the Later Han.
later Han
The first decades were quite prosperous
Gov't sent soldiers and merchants westward to regain control of posts along the Silk Roads
However, still could not solve the social, political, and economic issues of the Han dynasty
By 220, the Han disintegrated into three rival kingdoms

Flickr Creative Commons Images

Some images used in this set are licensed under the Creative Commons through Flickr.com.
Click to see the original works with their full license.