The Han Dynasty was the fifth major dynasty of Ancient China. It was also one of the longest-running: it lasted approximately 426 years, from 206 BC – 220 AD.
The Han Dynasty was much more powerful than previous dynasties, and in the context of the country itself, was almost like the Chinese version of the Roman Empire!
The Qin Dynasty was significant for China due to its introduction of a new system of law and order, but it didn’t last very long, and it was an extremely cruel dynasty to live in.
The first leader of the Han, Liu Bang, had been a minor official during the Qin Dynasty. He wasn’t very loyal to the Qin, though.
He was ready with an army to take the throne by the time the Qin dynasty officially collapsed.
Liu Bang faced a lot of trouble in taking the throne, and his biggest opponent was a man named Xiang Yu. But Liu Bang won in the end.
Liu Bang moved the imperial capital again when he came to power. He chose the city of Chang’an to use as his capital. Chang’an was chosen for strategic purposes.
Most major roads in China met in Chang’an, and it was also close to newly established “Silk Road” used for trade all through China and the rest of Asia.
The city blossomed in the Han Dynasty, and by 2 AD, the population was nearly 250,000.
The Han Dynasty had a great number of achievements – but the biggest one of all was probably the opening of the Silk Road.
The Silk Road was a trade route which ran through Central Asia and connected to the Mediterranean, and even some of the countries in Eastern Europe.
The Silk Road was very profitable for China, and helped contribute to cultural development as people from all parts of Asia were able to meet with one another for the first time.
The Han were also responsible for the invention of paper, which would prove of great important to the education system.
Though paper was generally used to wrap dead fish, a few sheets used for writing have survived to this day as well.
Examples include historical documents, poetry, government records, a dictionary (very important for translating other documents found from the time!) and the oldest surviving census of all time.
Though only a small number of documents survived from the time, the ones that historians found contributed greatly to our knowledge of the Han Dynasty!
The Han Dynasty’s glorious reign became to come to an end around the beginning of the 2nd century AD.
The Han bloodline had been experiencing a string of bad luck in which one emperor after another had died either too young or without a chosen heir.
This led to a power struggle in Ancient China, as cousins of the emperor, family of the empress, and everybody with even the vaguest ties to the royal family tried to stake their claim to the throne.
China experienced a lot of natural disasters at the same time, like earthquakes, floods, and plagues of insects.
The people took this as a sign that the Han Dynasty was no longer blessed by the gods, and that their divine right to rule had been taken away from them. The Han Dynasty collapsed around 20 years later.
The Han Dynasty’s influence on the Eastern World was about as significant as the Roman Empire’s influence on the West. Even today, some Chinese call themselves “Han rem,” or “Han people.”
It was viewed as a golden age for art and culture in the country – it was when the biggest historical document from Ancient China was written, “Records of the Grand Historian,” which contributed greatly to our understanding of the Han Dynasty and those that came previous.
The philosophy of Confucius (a very famous Chinese philosopher, whose work is still read and discussed today) was made the official ideology of the state, and was taught to Chinese citizens all across the country.
Although the Han Dynasty ended in 220 AD, its legacy lasted a long time after.