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Han Dynasty of China
A Chinese Golden Age, 206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.
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                   I.           Historical setting of the Han

a.       Followed the Qin dynasty

                                                                           i.      221-206 BCE

                                                                         ii.      Qin ended in rebellion and civil war due to weak ruler and unrest (206-202 BCE)

b.      Han dynasty was China’s second imperial dynasty

                                                                           i.      206 (or 202) BCE-220 CE

1.       Over 400 years

c.       Followed by the Three Kingdoms

                                                                           i.      220-265 CE

 

                 II.           Liu Bang – Emperor Gaozu of Han

a.       Civil war

                                                                           i.      Two strong leaders

1.       Xiang Yu (aristocratic general)

2.       Liu Bang (peasant-class general under Xiang Yu)

b.      202 BCE

                                                                           i.      Liu Bang beat Xiang Yu for good

1.       Liu Bang declared start of Han dynasty

 

              III.           Two periods of the Han dynasty

a.       Former Han

                                                                           i.      Also called the Western Han

                                                                         ii.      206 BCE-9 CE

b.      Interrupted by the Xin dynasty

                                                                           i.      Under Wang Mang

                                                                         ii.      9-23 CE

c.       Later Han

                                                                           i.      Also called the Eastern Han

                                                                         ii.      25-220 CE

 

              IV.           Government under the Han

a.       Centralized government

                                                                           i.      Capital cities

1.       Chang’an

a.       206 BCE-9 CE (all of the Former, or Western, Han) and 190-195 CE (Later, or Eastern, Han)

2.       Luoyang

a.       25-190 CE and 196 CE (most of the Later, or Eastern, Hn)

3.       Xuchang

a.       196-220 CE (very end of the Later, or Eastern, Han)

b.      Lowered taxes

c.       Less harsh punishments

 

                 V.           Empress Lu

a.       One of Liu Bang’s widows

b.      Retained power by naming various children as emperor in turn

c.       Example of power gained through the manipulation of court politics

                                                                           i.      Families vied for power

                                                                         ii.      Alliances among powerful and influential people

 

              VI.           Wudi – the martial emperor

a.       Wudi lived 147-87 BCE

b.      Used warfare to expand the Chinese empire

                                                                           i.      Northern steppes

1.       Xiongnu – steppe nomads from the north and west

2.       Commonly raided Chinese villages

3.       Traditionally kept at bay through bribery

4.       Wudi made allies of the Xiongnu’s enemies and sent in 100,000 soldiers

5.       Pushed the Xiongnu back

6.       Settled soldiers on former Xiongnu lands

7.       But the nomads of the steppes provided ongoing conflict

                                                                         ii.      Modern-day Korea, Manchuria, Vietnam, etc.

1.       Conquered and colonized

c.       Borders under Wudi nearly what they are today

 

            VII.           Social classes under the Han – top to bottom

a.       Emperor

                                                                           i.      Governors and kings

1.       Nobles, scholars, and state officials

a.       Peasants (farmers)

                                                                                                                                                   i.      Artisans and merchants

1.       Soldiers

a.       Slaves

 

         VIII.           Bureaucracy under the Han

a.       Taxes supported the government and military

b.      Merchants

                                                                           i.      Paid taxes

c.       Peasants

                                                                           i.      Gave the government a portion of their annual crops

                                                                         ii.      Each year gave a month of labor (for public works projects) or of military service

 

               IX.           Civil service under the Han

a.       Over 130,000 employees

b.      18 ranks of employees

c.       Civil service exams

                                                                           i.      Confucian principles described the qualities that emperors wanted in civil servants

                                                                         ii.      Wudi set up a Confucian-themed school

                                                                        iii.      Formal examinations in Confucianism, history, law, and literature for civil service positions

                                                                       iv.      Theoretically a merit-based system

1.       But poor could not afford to educate their children

                                                                         v.      In effect until the downfall of China’s last dynasty in 1912

 

                 X.           Technology under the Han

a.       Paper

                                                                           i.      Invented in 105 CE

                                                                         ii.      Books became inexpensive to produce; expanded education

                                                                        iii.      Bureaucracy grew and became more efficient

b.      Collar harness

                                                                           i.      Horses could carry heavier loads

                                                                         ii.      Best harness available at the time worldwide

c.       Plow

                                                                           i.      The Chinese made one with two blades

                                                                         ii.      Much more efficient

d.      Wheelbarrow

                                                                           i.      Invented independently (Greeks had invented as well)

                                                                         ii.      Central wheel and axle let Chinese wheelbarrows carry very heavy weights

e.      Waterwheel

                                                                           i.      Used to power things such as the bellows for smelting iron

 

               XI.           Review questions

a.       What dynasty preceded the Han?

b.      Who founded the Han dynasty?

c.       What are the two periods of the Han dynasty?

d.      Imagine that you are a Chinese soldier relocated to former Xiongnu lands.  What might your life be like?

e.      Explain how the civil service system both was and was not a merit-based system.

f.        Describe Chinese technological advances under the Han.

 

            XII.           Agriculture under the Han

a.       Population of 60,000,000 to be fed

b.      Farming thought to be a pivotal and honored occupation

c.       But in reality small farmers were burdened by government taxes and became heavily indebted to the rich

 

 

          XIII.           Commerce and trade under the Han

a.       Trade and commerce were not respected but were still very important

b.      Government had monopolies

                                                                           i.      Salt mining

                                                                         ii.      Iron forging

                                                                        iii.      Coin minting

                                                                       iv.      Alcohol brewing

c.       Government engaged in industry

                                                                           i.      Silk weaving

d.      Growth of trade along the Silk Roads

 

          XIV.           Silk Roads under the Han

a.       Trade routes across Asia

                                                                           i.      To Mediterranean (access to Europe) in the west

1.       Chinese silks were sold in the marketplaces of the ancient Roman empire

                                                                         ii.      To Yellow Sea and China Sea (access to Japan) in the east

b.      Traded silk and other goods

c.       Cultural diffusion

                                                                           i.      Trade goods reflected the many cultures across this trading region

 

            XV.           Unification of the Han Empire

a.       Colonization

                                                                           i.      Farmers sent to settle new areas

                                                                         ii.      Settlers encouraged to marry locals

b.      Assimilation

                                                                           i.      Established Confucian schools in colonized areas

                                                                         ii.      Chinese became the common written language

 

          XVI.           Historians during the Han Period

a.       Sima Qian (145-85 BCE)

                                                                           i.      Known as the Grand Historian

                                                                         ii.      Records of the Grand Historian

1.       Told Chinese history from the first dynasties

                                                                        iii.      Early version of the historical method

1.       Examined artifacts and official records

2.       Interviewed eyewitnesses and others

3.       Toured historical sites for perspective

b.      Ban Biao (3-54 CE)

                                                                           i.      Began writing the History of the Former Han Dynasty

                                                                         ii.      Completed by his son, Ban Gu, and daughter, Ban Zhao

 

       XVII.           Roles of women under the Han

a.       Traditional roles

                                                                           i.      Confucianism limited women to the home and to subservience to men (fathers, husbands, sons)

                                                                         ii.      Women worked hard for their families with little reward

b.      Women with power

                                                                           i.      Some women wielded political power because of court alliances (e.g., Empress Lu)

                                                                         ii.      Nuns

1.       Educated

2.       Lived apart from families

                                                                        iii.      Medicine practitioners

                                                                       iv.      Shop managers

                                                                         v.      Writers

c.       Ban Zhao – Paradox?

                                                                           i.      Helped finish her father’s History of the Former Han Dynasty

                                                                         ii.      Wrote Lessons for Women

1.       Urged women to obey the Confucian social order

2.       Also encouraged women to be industrious

3.       Went against convention by writing professionally

 

     XVIII.           Rich v. poor

a.       Inheritance law was the root cause of the problem

                                                                           i.      Land divided among male heirs (sons)

                                                                         ii.      Reduced the size of plots with each generation

                                                                        iii.      Small farmers couldn’t support themselves and had to borrow money

1.       Became indebted to rich, aristocratic landowners

2.       These aristocratic landowners did not have to pay taxes

                                                                       iv.      Decreased tax revenue for the government

1.       Government pressed peasants even harder for taxes

                                                                         v.      Rich grew richer and poor grew poorer

 

          XIX.           Rich get richer, poor get poorer

Han Dynasty of China:
A Chinese Golden Age, 206 BCE-220 CE - Free Printable Outline

 

             XX.           Wang Mang

a.       32 BCE-9 CE – unstable, chaotic period

b.      3-9 CE – Wang Mang, a Confucian scholar, served as regent for an infant Han emperor

c.       9 CE – Wang Mang overthrew the Han and became emperor

d.      Wang Mang’s ruled called the Xin dynasty

 

          XXI.           Xin dynasty under Wang Mang

a.       Changes under Wang Mang

                                                                           i.      Minted more money to solve the budget crisis

1.       Led to inflation

                                                                         ii.      Established public granaries to feed the poor

1.       Cost more money

                                                                        iii.      Land redistribution

1.       Upset wealthy, aristocratic landowners

 

        XXII.           End of the Xin dynasty

a.       11 CE – flood killed thousands and displaced millions

                                                                           i.      Not enough food

                                                                         ii.      Peasant revolts

                                                                        iii.      Wealthy aristocrats joined the revolts

1.       Upset over land redistribution

b.      23 CE – Wang Mang assassinated

c.       23-25 CE – chaos

d.      25 CE – Han family regained power

 

     XXIII.           Later (or Eastern) Han dynasty

a.       25-220 CE

b.      Imperial family eventually regained power after Wang Mang

c.       Initially brought prosperity to China

d.      Eventually fell apart for largely the same reasons that the Former (Western) Han fell apart

e.      Followed by the Three Kingdoms

 

     XXIV.           Review questions

a.       How were farmers viewed during the Han dynasty, compared to how they were treated?

b.      In what ways was the Han government engaged in industry?

c.       Imagine that you are an ancient trader along the Silk Roads.  What goods would you trade?  With what cultures would you interact?

d.      Describe Chinese colonization under the Han dynasty.

e.      What was life like for women under the Han dynasty?

f.        Explain the crisis which allowed Wang Mang to come to power.

 
 
 
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