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Han Dynasty History: Emperors, Achievements, and Economy


In 207 B.C, the Qin Dynasty ended under the attack of Xiang Yu, Liu Bang and other forces. After the four-year long Chu-Han War, Liu Bang finally defeated Xiang Yu in 202 B.C and set up the Han Dynasty in Chang’an (today’s Xi’an). In Chinese history, Han consisted of two dynasties: the Western Han (206 BC - 24 AD) and the Eastern Han (25 - 220). During this period, there were 27 emperors on the throne. Many were excellent contributing to the prosperity of the country like Emperors Gaozu, Wen, Jing and Wu. Therefore, Han Dynasty was a world power at that time. The literature, arts, culture and technology in the era achieved unparalleled successes. With the increasing of the power, the people of the Central Plains began to call themselves proudly as “Han people” instead of “Qin people”. Some of the achievements at that time still have an impact on Chinese people today.

Han Dynasty Map

Han Dynasty Emperors in Order

Order

Name

Reign Period

Brief Introduction

Mausoleum

Emperors of Western Han Dynasty

1

Han Gaozu

Liu Bang

202 B.C - 195 B.C

Liu Bang (256 - 195 B.C) came from a peasant family. He joined the uprisings against the tyrannic rule of Qin Dynasty and competed with the Western King Chu. After the 4-year long hard-won victory, Liu Bang successfully established Han Dynasty in 202 and bestowed a lot of vassals.

Chang Mausoleum in Xianyang (28km from Xian)

2

Han Huidi

Liu Ying

195 B.C - 188 B.C

Liu Ying (211 - 188 B.C), the eldest son of Gaozu Emperor, was weak and controlled by his mother Lv Zhi during his reign.

An Mausoleum in Xianyang (32km from Xian)

3

Former Shaodi

Liu Gong

188 B.C - 184 B.C

Liu Gong was chosen by Lv Zhi as a puppet emperor.

Hasnt found.

4

Latter Shaodi

Liu Hong

184 B.C - 180 B.C

Liu Hong was also a puppet emperor chosen by Lv Zhi.

Hasnt found.

5

Han Wendi

Liu Heng

180 B.C - 157 B.C

Liu Heng (202 - 157 B.C), the fourth son of Liu Bang, weakened the power of vassal states, lowered the taxation of peasants and promoted the restoration and development of the social economy.

Ba Mausoleum in Xian

6

Han Jingdi

Liu Qi

157 B.C - 141 B.C

Liu Qi (188 - 141 B.C), son of Wendi, suppressed the revolt of seven vassals, strengthened the centralized governance and continued to implement the previous policies, progressing the Reigns of Wen and Jing.

Yang Mausoleum in Xian

7

Han Wudi

Liu Che

141 B.C - 87 B.C

Liu Che (157 - 87 B.C), son of Jingdi, continued to enhance the centralized ruling, forced the northern nomads to the deep north, and opened up the land Silk Road. Han Dynasty reached the most prosperous time during his ruling.

Mao Mausoleum in Xianyang (50km from Xian)

8

Han Zhaodi

Liu Fuling

87 B.C - 74 B.C

Liu Fuling (95 - 74 B.C), son of Wudi, continued his fathers course and ruled peacefully.

Ping Mausoleum in Xianyang (40km from Xian)

9

Han Xuandi

Liu Xun

74 B.C - 49 B.C

Liu Xun (91 - 49 B.C), great grandson of Wudi, further prospered the society.

Du Mausoleum in Xian

10

Han Yuandi

Liu Shi

49 B.C - 33 B.C

Liu Shi (75 - 33 B.C), son of Xuandi, appointed his wifes kinsmen to the important positions, which laid danger for the future, and made alliance with northern nomads by marring Wang Zhaojun.

Wei Mausoleum in Xianyang (40km from Xian)

11

Han Chengdi

Liu Ao

33 B.C - 7 B.C

Liu Ao (52 - 7 B.C), son of Yuandi, connived at the relatives of his mothers to grasp the power and indulged himself in entertainment everyday. As a result, Western Han Dynasty became declining.

Yan Mausoleum in Xianyang (32km from Xian)

12

Han Aidi

Liu Xin

7 B.C - 1 B.C

Liu Xin (26 - 1 B.C), grandson of Yuandi, pampered Dong Xuan and Wang Mang to rule for him. During his reign, the social contradictions heated and escalated.

Yi Mausoleum in Xianyang (50km from Xian)

13

Han Pingdi

Liu Kan

1 B.C - 6 A.D

Liu Kan (9 - 5 B.C), brother of Aidi, was poisoned to death by Wang Mang.

Kang Mausoleum in Xianyang (40km from Xian)

14

Ruzi

6 - 8 A.D

Ruzi Ying (5 - 25 A.D) was also killed by Wang Mang.

Xin Dynasty (9 - 23)

15

Wang Mang

9 - 23 A.D

Wang Mang (45 B.C - 23 A.D) is the nephew of the queen of Emperor Xiaoyuan. He was modest, wise and authoritative among the court. In the late Western Han Dynasty, the social contradictions intensified unprecedentedly and Wang Mang was considered the one who can save the country. In 8 AD, Wang Mang usurped the throne and established the Xin Dynasty and performed a series of reforms, which ended up failing. He himself was considered an illegitimate ruler by later generations.

Huayin City, Shaanxi

Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220 A.D)

16

Guangwu Di

Liu Xiu

25 - 57 A.D

Liu Xiu (6 B.C - 57 A.D) was the ninth-generation grandson of Gaozu Liu Bang, he defeated the Wang Mangs army and reestablished the Han Dynasty, which is historically called Eastern Han Dynasty.

Yuan Mausoleum in Mengjin County (40km from Luoyang)

17

Ming Di

Liu Zhuang

57 - 75 A.D

Liu Zhuang (28 - 75) was the fourth son of Liu Xiu, he ruled wisely and peacefully.

Xianjie Mausoleum in Luoyang, Henan

18

Zhang Di

Liu Da

75 - 88 A.D

Liu Da (58 -88) was the fifth son of Xiaoming Emperor. He revered the Confucianism and sent Ban Chao to expedite western areas and drove Huns to much north.

Jing Mausoleum in Luoyang, Henan

19

He Di

Liu Zhao

88 - 106

Liu Zhao (79 - 105), fourth son of Xiaozhang Di, successfully expelled the power of his mother queen and ruled personally.

Shen Mausoleum in Yanshi, Henan

20

Shang Di

Liu Long

106

Liu Long (105-106), the youngest son of Xiaohe Di, was enthroned at 1 month old and died at 8 months old.

Kang Mausoleum in Yanshi, Henan

21

An Di

Liu Hu

106 - 125

Liu Hu (94 - 125) was grandson of Xiao Zhangdi. During his reign, his queen mother held the power and the social contradictions began to intensify.

Gong Mausoleum in Luoyang

22

Shun Di

Liu Bao

125 - 144

Liu Bao (114 - 144) was the son of Xiao Andi and he was enthroned by the eunuch, who later ruled on behalf of him. The politics became dark.

Xian Mausoleum in Luoyang, Henan

23

Chong Di

Liu Bing

144 - 145

Liu Bing (143 - 145) was the son of Xiaoshun Di, he died at 3 years old.

Huai Mausoleum in Luoyang, Henan

24

Zhi Di

Liu Zuan

145 - 146

Liu Zuan (138 - 146), the great grandson of Xiaozhang Di, was poisoned by general Liang Yi.

Jing Mausoleum in Yanshi, Henan

25

Huan Di

Liu Zhi

146 - 168

Liu Zhi (132 - 167), was the brother of Xiaozhi Di. During his ruling, the eunuchs were very powerful.

Xuan Mausoleum in Luoyang, Henan

26

Ling Di

Liu Hong

168 - 189

Liu Hong (156 - 189) was the great great grandson of Xiaozhang Di. During his ruling, the court was very corrupt and social contradictions escalated more. In 184, a large scale of uprisings broke out.

Wen Mausoleum in Menjin County, Luoyang, Henan

27

Xian Di

Liu Xie

189 - 220

Liu Xie (1981 - 234), son of Xiaoling Di, ascended the throne at 9 and was manipulated by Dong Zhuo first and Cao Cao later. In 220, he was made to abdicate and degraded as Duke Shanyang.

Shan Mausoleum in Xiuwu County, Jiaozuo, Henan


Western Han History (206 B.C - 24 A.D)

How did Han Dynasty Rise to Power and Who Was the First Emperor? Han Gaozu Liu Bang

In late Qin Dynasty, multiple revolts broke out through out the country. Two leading forces were led by Xiang Yu and Liu Bang and between them, Xiang Yu's power was stronger. Xiang Yu claimed himself the King of Western Chu and bestowed Liu Bang the King of Hanzhong. They made a pact that the one who broke into Xianyang (capital of Qin Dynasty) first will rule eventually. Liu Bang successfully made to Xianyang first and had a determining vistory over Xiang Yu and his army in Gaixia (today’s Lingbi, Anhui province). In 202, Liu Bang ascended the throne and built the Han Dynasty, which is historically called Western Han Dynasty.


Who was the Greatest Emperor of the Han Dynasty?

Emperor Wu of Han Liu Che (141-87BC) was considered the greatest emperor of the Han Dynasty. He ascended the throne at the age of 13. To strengthen the Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty Liu Che centralization, he performed a series of policies. In terms of politics, he instituted a system whereby the descendants of the kings granted by   Han Gaozu can only inherit parts of the kingdoms. In terms of economy, he imposed a lot of restrictions on merchants and invigorated the agricultural development. In terms of culture, Wudi appointed the Confucian scholar Dong Zhongshu and made the Confucian theory state ideology. In terms of military, the emperor set forth a central standing army, enforced the frontier fortress, strengthened the defense against Huns and expanded the territory of Han Dynasty to hinderland of Asia. In addition, Emperor Wu also sent ambassadors to western world, pioneered the Silk Road and promoted the communication between the orient and the west.


What Important Events Happened During the Western Han Dynasty?

Timeline of Han Dynasty

202 B.C: establishment of Han Dynasty;

202 - 196 B.C: elimination of vassal kings;

196 - 180 B.C: dictatorship of Lv Zhi;

154 B.C: rebellion of eight princes;

180 - 141 B.C: Great Reigns of Emperor Wen and Emperor Jing;

141 - 87 B.C: Flourishing Period of Emperor Wu’s Reign and the decisive victory against Huns.

140 B.C: Zhang Jian was sent on a diplomatic mission to the west.

127 B.C: Han Great Wall began to be built.

87 - 48 B.C: Reign of Emperor Zhao and Emperor Xuan.

9 A.D: Wang Mang abolished the emperor and established the Xin Dynasty.


How did the Western Han Dynasty collapse?

The collapse of the Western Han Dynasty seemingly resulted from the strong power of the relatives of queens. The fact is that the Western Han Dynasty declined due to the collapse of its economic system. The first and the biggest problem was the private ownership of land. In late Western Han Dynasty, the land annexation was very severe. Secondly, the abnormal development of the industry and commerce made the politics more corrupt. Lastly, the state-run salt, mining and smelting business exploited a lot of peasants, leaving less people to engage in farming.


Eastern Han (25 AD - 220 AD)

How was Eastern Han Dynasty Built?

In the year of 25, Liu Xiu, a descendant of Western Han royalty, seized the power of uprisings, defeated Wang Mang and established the Eastern Han Dynasty, setting the capital in Luoyang. Upon establishment, Liu Xiu awarded ministers and relatives greatly, which later caused the expansion of the local warlords.


What Problems Did the Han Dynasty Face?

After the middle period of the Eastern Han, most of the emperors were juveniles and the real royal power was held by both distant relatives and eunuchs. This caused darkness and corruption of politics in the later period. In addition, when the peasant uprisings broke out in late Eastern Han Dynasty, the central government didn’t sent armies to suppress. Instead, the local landlords and bureaucrats began to set up their own forces to control the uprisings so as to maintain their own interests. They even privatized the original national armies for their own sake. Therefore, the central court was weakened.


What Comes After the Eastern Han Dynasty?

With Eastern Han Dynasty ended, China officially entered the Three Kingdoms Period. Cao Cao established Wei Kingdom regime in the north, Liu Bei established Shu Kingdom in the southwest and Sun Quan set up the Wu Kingdom in the southeast. In 220, Cao Pi (son of Cao Cao) claimed himself emperor in Luoyang and one year later, Liu Bei claimed himself emperor in Chengdu, and in 229, Sun Quan also proclaimed himself the emperor. In 263, Wei Kingdom annihilated the Shu Kingdom. Two years later, Sima Zhao (a powerful minister of Wei Kingdom) usurped the throne and became the emperor, establishing the Jin Dynasty (Western Jin Dynasty). In 280, Jin Dynasty destroyed the Wu Kingdom and unified the whole China.

Map of Three Kingdoms Period

What was the Han Dynasty Economy Like?

The tyranny and turmoil at the end of the Qin Dynasty had left a poor economic situation for the early Han Dynasty, The rulers of the early Han Dynasty learned the lessons from the extermination of Qin and applied the rehabilitation policy. During the period of Emperor Wendi and Emperor Jingdi, the economy recovered and society stabilized, and the first peaceful period in Chinese ancient history began. Based on this, Emperor Wudi displayed his grand talents for further exploitation and development and brought the Western Han to the culmination.

Rehabilitation was practiced with policies of reducing the taxation and corvee, and awarding production. Emperor Gaozu, promulgated a range of favored measures including releasing soldiers to farming, offering amnesty and enlisting refugees, freeing servants and maids to suitable places, reducing and exempting corvee and setting the land to 1/15, resulting in a mass movement of population back to agricultural production. Emperor Wendi applied agricultural and textile development to evaluate local officials and reduced the land rent to 1/30. These measures pushed the rapid recovery and development of agriculture. Emperor Wudi further promoted the official monopoly of salt and iron, collected industrial and commercial taxes, established buffer institutions to control prices, unified the currency, prohibited private coin casting and implemented other financial reforms. Thus, the country firmly grasped the economy and increased financial income, laying a solid economic foundation for a grand unified empire.


What was Invented in Han Dynasty?

1.Paper-making. Han Dynasty Paper

2.Porcelain making.

3.Development of textile technology and the wide use of silk.

4.Smelting technology.

5.Chinese medicine. Famous physicians like Hua Tuo and Zhang Zhongjing appeared.

6.Architectural standard and regulation appeared.


Did the Han Dynasty Built the Great Wall?

Han Dynasty did continue to build the Great Wall. Han Dynasty Great Wall was mainly built during the reign of Emperor Wudi. There are two kinds of Great Walls at that time. The first kind was to reinforce the Qin Dynasty Great Wall and Yan Great Wall. The Qin Great Wall was mainly restored to prevent the invasion of Huns, protect the development of western regions, and improve the communication between Han Dynasty and the west. While the Yan Great Wall was mainly in Liaoning province. Han Wudi also ordered the outer Great Wall to be built, which was outside the Wuyuan Jun (current Jiuyuan District of Baotou city in Inner Mongolia). There are two existing sections. The northern line of the Great Wall started from Wuchuan County (north of Hohhot, Inner Mongolia), passed Guyang County, Darhan Muminggan Liahheqi, and stretched northwest to South Gobi province (a province of today’s Mongolia) until the Mount Hurhura, totaling 527km. While the southern line of the Great Wall started from the Wuchuan County (north of Hohhot), passed Urat and stretched into today's Mongolia, then went southwards to Ejin Banner, and connected the Juyan Frontier.


How did Confucianism Affect the Han Dynasty?

In 134 B.C, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty adopted Dong Zhongshu's advice and established the dominating position of Confucianism. The fact is that this ideology is coincident with the ruling class and conducive for enhancing the centralized governing. In the early ruling of the Han Dynasty, the country had undergone a lot of damages. People needed time to recover. While in Wudi’s reign, the society and economy already rejuvenated. Plus, the Emperor Wu himself had a great crave for greatness and success. Therefore, he adopted the Confucianism to rule the country and strengthen the centralized governance and unify the ideology of the public. In addition, this thinking also helped to form a mainstream thinking of grand unification and had a great impact on the neighboring minorities, publicizing the legitimacy of the ruling of Han emperor.


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