The Han Dynasty
( ; 206 BCE–220 CE) was the second
imperial dynasty of
, preceded by the Qin Dynasty
(221–206 BCE) and succeeded by the Three
(220–265 CE). It was founded by the peasant
rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously
as Emperor Gaozu of Han
. It was briefly
interrupted by the Xin Dynasty
of the former regent Wang Mang
interregnum separates the Han into two periods: the Western Han
(206 BCE–9 CE) and Eastern Han (25–220 CE). Spanning over four
centuries, the period of the Han Dynasty is considered a golden age
in Chinese history. To this day,
China's majority ethnic group
itself as the "Han people".
The Han Empire was divided into areas directly controlled by the
central government, known as commanderies
, and a number of semi-autonomous kingdoms
kingdoms gradually lost all vestiges of their independence,
particularly following the Rebellion of the Seven States
, a nomadic confederation of
Central Asian tribes which dominated the eastern Eurasian Steppe
, defeated the Han in battle
in 200 BCE. Following the defeat a political
was negotiated in which the Han became the
inferior partner. When, despite the treaty, the
Xiongnu continued to raid Han borders, Emperor Wu of Han
(r. 141–87 BCE)
launched several military campaigns
against them, which eventually forced the Xiongnu to accept vassal
status as Han
. These campaigns expanded Han sovereignty into the
of Central Asia
, and helped establish the vast
trade network known as the Silk Road
which reached as far as the Mediterranean world
managed to divide the Xiongnu into two competing nations, the
Southern and Northern Xiongnu, and forced the Northern Xiongnu
across the Ili
Despite this victory, the territories north
of Han's borders were quickly overrun by the nomadic Xianbei
After 92 CE, the palace eunuch
themselves in court politics, engaging in violent power struggles
between the various consort clans
the empresses and empress dowagers
causing the Han's ultimate downfall. Imperial authority was also
seriously challenged by massive Daoist
religious societies which instigated the Yellow Turban Rebellion
Five Pecks of Rice
. Following the death of Emperor Ling
(r. 168–189 CE), the
palace eunuchs suffered wholesale massacre by military officers
to divide the empire. When Cao Pi
, King of Wei, usurped the throne from Emperor Xian
, the Han Dynasty ceased to
The Han Dynasty was an age of
, and saw a significant growth of the
established during the Zhou Dynasty
(c. 1050–256 BCE). The
issued by the central government mint
in 119 BCE remained the standard coinage of
China until the Tang Dynasty
CE). To pay for its military campaigns and the settlement of newly
conquered frontier territories, the government nationalized
the private salt and iron
industries in 117 BCE. These government monopolies were repealed
during the Eastern Han period, and the lost revenue was recouped
through heavily taxing private
. The emperor
at the pinnacle of Han society
presided over the Han
, but shared power with both the nobility
and appointed ministers who
came largely from the scholarly gentry
. From the reign of Emperor Wu onward, the Chinese court
officially sponsored Confucianism
education and court politics, synthesized with the cosmology
of later scholars such as Dong Zhongshu
. This policy endured until the fall of the
Dynasty in 1911 CE. Science and technology
during the Han period
saw significant advances, including
, the nautical steering
, the use of negative numbers
, the raised-relief map
, the hydraulic
-powered armillary sphere
, and a seismometer
employing an inverted pendulum
imperial dynasty was
the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BCE).
The Qin had unified the Chinese Warring States
by conquest, but their
empire became unstable after the death of the first emperor
Qin Shi Huangdi
. Within four years
the dynasty's authority had collapsed in the face of rebellion.
rebel leaders, Xiang Yu (d. 202 BCE)
of Chu and Liu
Bang (d. 195 BCE) of Han, engaged
in a war to decide who would
become hegemon of China, which
had fissured into 18 Kingdoms, each
claiming allegiance to either Xiang Yu or Liu Bang.
Xiang Yu proved to be a capable commander, Liu Bang defeated him at
the Battle of Gaixia, in modern-day
Liu Bang assumed the title 'emperor'
) at the urging
of his followers and is known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu
(r. 202–195 BCE).
Chang'an was chosen
as the new capital of the reunified empire under Han.
At the beginning of the Western Han Dynasty, thirteen centrally
capital region—existed in the western third of the empire, while
the eastern two-thirds was divided into ten semi-autonomous kingdoms
placate his prominent commanders from the war with Chu, Emperor
some of them as kings.
By 157 BCE, the Han court had replaced all of these kings with
family members, since the loyalty of
non-relatives to the throne was questioned. After several
insurrections by Han kings—the largest being the Rebellion of the Seven States
in 154 BCE—the imperial court enacted a series of reforms beginning
in 145 BCE, limiting the size and power of these kingdoms and
dividing them into smaller ones or new commanderies. Kings were no
longer able to appoint their own staff; this duty was assumed by
the imperial court. Kings became nominal heads of their fiefs
, and collected a portion of tax revenues as their
personal incomes. The kingdoms were never entirely abolished and
existed throughout the remainder of Western and Eastern Han.
To the north of China proper
chieftain Modu Chanyu
(r. 209–174 BCE) conquered
various tribes inhabiting the eastern portion of the Eurasian Steppe
. By the end of his
reign, he controlled Manchuria, Mongolia, and the
Tarim Basin, subjugating over twenty
states east of Samarkand.
Emperor Gaozu was troubled about the
abundant Han-manufactured iron weapons traded to the Xiongnu along
the northern borders, and he established a trade embargo
against the group. In retaliation, the
Xiongnu invaded what is now Shanxi province,
where they defeated the Han forces at
Baideng in 200 BCE.
After negotiations, the heqin
agreement in 198 BCE nominally held the
leaders of the Xiongnu and the Han as equal partners in a royal
marriage alliance, but the Han were forced to send large amounts of
tribute items like silk
clothes, food, and wine
to the Xiongnu.
Despite the tribute and a negotiation between Laoshang Chanyu
(r. 174–160 BCE) and
(r. 180–157 BCE)
to reopen border markets, many of the chanyu
's Xiongnu subordinates chose not to obey the
treaty and periodically raided Han territories south of the
for additional goods.
In a court conference assembled by Emperor Wu
(r. 141–87 BCE) in 135
BCE, the majority-consensus
ministers was to retain the heqin agreement. Emperor Wu accepted
this despite continuing Xiongnu raids. However, a court conference
the following year convinced the majority that a limited engagement at Mayi
assassination of the Chanyu
would throw the
Xiongnu realm into chaos and benefit the Han. When this plot failed
in 133 BCE, Emperor Wu launched a series of massive military invasions
territory. The assault culminated in 119 BCE at the Battle of Mobei
, where the Han commanders
(d. 117 BCE) and Wei Qing
(d. 106 BCE) forced the Xiongnu court
to flee north of the Gobi Desert
After Wu's reign, Han forces continued to prevail against the
Xiongnu. The Xiongnu leader Huhanye Chanyu (呼韓邪) (r. 58–31
BCE) finally submitted to Han as a tributary vassal in 51 BCE.
claimant to the throne, Zhizhi Chanyu
(r. 56–36 BCE), was killed by Chen
Tang and Gan Yanshou (甘延壽/甘延寿) at the Battle of Zhizhi, in modern Taraz, Kazakhstan.
BCE, Han forces expelled the Xiongnu from a vast territory spanning
the Hexi Corridor to Lop Nur.
They repelled a joint Xiongnu-Qiang
invasion of this northwestern territory
in 111 BCE. In that year, the Han court established four
new frontier commanderies in this region: Jiuquan, Zhangyi, Dunhuang, and Wuwei.
majority of people on the frontier were soldiers. On occasion, the
court forcibly moved peasant farmers to new frontier settlements,
along with government-owned slaves and convicts who performed hard
labor. The court also encouraged commoners
such as farmers, merchants, landowners, and hired laborers to
voluntarily migrate to the frontier.
Even before Han's expansion into Central Asia, diplomat Zhang Qian
's travels from 139–125 BCE had
established Chinese contacts with many surrounding civilizations.
encountered Dayuan (Fergana), Kangju (Sogdiana), and Daxia (Bactria, formerly the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom); he also
gathered information on Shendu (Indus River valley of North India)
and Anxi (the Arsacid
All of these countries eventually received Han
embassies. These connections marked the beginning of the Silk Road
trade network that extended to the
, bringing Han items like silk
to Rome and Roman goods such as glasswares
to China. From
roughly 115–60 BCE, Han forces fought the Xiongnu over control of
the oasis city-states
in the Tarim Basin.
Han was eventually victorious and established the Protectorate of the Western
in 60 BCE, which dealt with the region's defense and
foreign affairs. The naval conquest of Nanyue in 111 BCE expanded the Han realm into what
are now modern Guangdong, Guangxi, and northern Vietnam.
Yunnan was brought
into the Han realm with the conquest of the Dian Kingdom in 109 BCE and into the northern
part of the Korean Peninsula with
the colonial establishments of Xuantu
Commandery and Lelang
Commandery in 108 BCE.
In China's first known nationwide
taken in 2 CE, the population was
registered as having 57,671,400 individuals in 12,366,470
To pay for his military campaigns and colonial expansion, Emperor
industries, creating new central government monopolies
administered largely by former merchants
. These monopolies included
well as bronze-coin
. The liquor monopoly lasted only from 98–81 BCE, and
the salt and iron monopolies were eventually abolished in early
Eastern Han. The issuing of coinage remained a central government
monopoly throughout the rest of the Han Dynasty. The government
monopolies were eventually repealed when a political faction known
as the Reformists gained greater influence in the court. The
Reformists opposed the Modernist faction that had dominated court
politics in Emperor Wu's reign and during the subsequent regency
of Huo Guang
(d. 68 BCE). The Modernists argued for an aggressive and
expansionary foreign policy supported by revenues from heavy
government intervention in the private economy. The Reformists,
however, overturned these policies, favoring a cautious,
non-expansionary approach to foreign policy, frugal budget
reform, and lower tax rates imposed
on private entrepreneurs.
Wang Mang's reign and civil war
(71 BCE–13 CE)
was first empress, then empress
, and finally grand
during the reigns of the Emperors Yuan
(r. 49–33 BCE), Cheng
(r. 33–7 BCE), and Ai
(r. 7–1 BCE), respectively. During
this time, a succession of her male relatives held the title of
regent. Following the death of Ai, Wang Zhengjun's nephew Wang Mang
(45–23 CE) was appointed regent for
(r. 1 BCE – 6 CE).
When Ping died in 6 CE, the Empress Dowager appointed Wang Mang to
act as emperor for the child Liu Ying
25 CE). Wang promised to relinquish his control to Liu Ying once he
came of age. Despite this promise, and against protest and revolts
from the nobility, Wang Mang claimed that the divine Mandate of Heaven
called for the end of
the Han Dynasty and the beginning of his own: the Xin Dynasty
Wang Mang initiated a series of major reforms that were ultimately
unsuccessful. These reforms included outlawing slavery
land to equally distribute
between households, and
introducing new currencies
change which debased the value of coinage. Although these reforms
provoked considerable opposition, Wang's regime met its ultimate
downfall with the massive floods of c. 3 CE and 11 CE. Gradual silt buildup
in the Yellow
River had raised its water level and overwhelmed the
flood control works.
Yellow River split into two new branches: one emptying to the north
and the other to the south of the Shandong Peninsula, though Han engineers managed to dam the southern
branch by 70 CE.
The flood dislodged thousands of peasant
farmers, many of whom joined roving bandit and rebel groups such as
the Red Eyebrows
to survive. Wang Mang's
armies were incapable of quelling these enlarged rebel groups.
Eventually, an insurgent mob forced their way into the Weiyang Palace
and killed Wang Mang.
Emperor Gengshi of Han
(r. 23–25 CE), a descendant of Emperor Jing
(r. 157–141 BCE),
attempted to restore the Han Dynasty and occupied Chang'an as his
capital. However, he was overwhelmed by the "Red Eyebrow" rebels
who deposed, assassinated, and replaced him with the puppet monarch
. Emperor Gengshi's brother Liu
Xiu, known posthumously as Emperor Guangwu
(r. 25–57 CE),
after distinguishing himself at the Battle of Kunyang
in 23 CE, was urged to
succeed Gengshi as emperor. Under Guangwu's rule the Han Empire was
restored. Guangwu made Luoyang his capital in 25 CE, and by 27 CE his officers
Deng Yu and Feng Yi
had forced the Red Eyebrows to surrender and executed their leaders
From 26 until 36 CE,
Emperor Guangwu had to wage war against other regional warlords who
claimed the title of emperor; when these warlords were defeated,
China reunified under the Han.
The period between the foundation of the Han Dynasty and Wang
Mang's reign is known as the Western Han Dynasty ( ) or Former Han
Dynasty ( ) (202 BCE–9 CE). During this period the capital was at
Chang'an (modern Xi'an).
From the reign of Guangwu the capital was moved eastward to
Luoyang. The era from his reign until the fall of Han
is known as the
Eastern Han Dynasty ( ) or the Later Han Dynasty ( ) (25–220
the widespread rebellion against Wang Mang, the Korean state of
Goguryeo was free to raid Han's Korean
commanderies; Han did not reaffirm its control over the region
until 30 CE. The Trưng
Sisters of Vietnam rebelled against Han in 40 CE.
rebellion was crushed by Han general Ma Yuan
(d. 49 CE) in a campaign
from 42–43 CE. Wang Mang renewed hostilities against the Xiongnu,
who were estranged from Han until their leader Bi (比), a rival
claimant to the throne against his cousin Punu (蒲奴), submitted to
Han as a tributary vassal in 50 CE. This created two rival Xiongnu
states: the Southern Xiongnu led by Bi, an ally of Han, and the
Northern Xiongnu led by Punu, an enemy of Han.
the turbulent reign of Wang Mang, Han lost control over the Tarim
Basin, which was conquered by the Northern Xiongnu in 63 CE and
used as a base to invade Han's Hexi Corridor in Gansu.
Dou Gu (d. 88 CE) defeated the Northern Xiongnu
at the Battle of Yiwulu in 73 CE,
evicting them from Turpan and chasing
them as far as Lake
Barkol before establishing a garrison at
Hami. After the new Protector General of the
Western Regions Chen Mu (d. 75 CE) was
killed by allies of the Xiongnu in Karasahr
and Kucha, the
garrison at Hami was withdrawn. At the Battle of Ikh Bayan in 89 CE, Dou Xian (d. 92 CE) defeated the Northern Xiongnu chanyu who
then retreated into the Altai Mountains. After the Northern Xiongnu fled into the
River valley in 91 CE, the nomadic Xianbei occupied the area from the borders of the
Buyeo Kingdom in Manchuria to the Ili
River of the Wusun people.
reached their apogee under Tanshihuai (檀石槐) (d. 180 CE), who
consistently defeated Chinese armies. However, Tanshihuai's
confederation disintegrated after his death.
Ban Chao (d. 102 CE) enlisted the aid of the
Kushan Empire, occupying the area of
modern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, to subdue Kashgar and its ally Sogdiana.
When a request by
Kushan ruler Vima Kadphises
(r. c. 90–c. 100 CE) for a marriage alliance with
the Han was rejected in 90 CE, he sent his forces to Wakhan
(Afghanistan) to attack Ban Chao. The conflict
ended with the Kushans withdrawing because of lack of supplies. In
91 CE, the office of Protector General of the Western Regions was
reinstated when it was bestowed on Ban Chao.
addition to tributary relations with the Kushans, the Han Empire
received gifts from the Arsacids,
from a king in modern Burma, from a
ruler in Japan, and initiated an
unsuccessful mission to Daqin (Rome) in 97 CE
with Gan Ying as emissary.
(r. 161–180 CE)
is believed to have reached the court of Emperor Huan of Han
(r. 146–168 CE)
in 166 CE, yet Rafe de Crespigny
asserts that this was most likely a group of Roman merchants
. Other travelers to
Eastern-Han China included Buddhist monks
who translated works
, such as An Shigao
, and Lokaksema
from Kushan-era Gandhara
Eunuchs in state affairs
CE) reign came to be viewed by later Eastern Han scholars as the
high point of the dynastic house. Subsequent reigns were
increasingly marked by eunuch
court politics and their involvement in the violent power struggles
of the imperial consort clans
. With the
aid of the eunuch Zheng Zhong
CE), Emperor He
CE) had Empress Dowager Dou
(d. 97 CE) put under house arrest
and her clan stripped of power. This was in revenge for Dou's
purging of the clan of his natural mother—Consort Liang
—and then concealing her identity
from him. After Emperor He's death, his wife Empress Deng Sui
(d. 121 CE), managed
state affairs as the regent empress dowager during a turbulent
financial crisis and the widespread Qiang rebellion that lasted
from 107 to 118 CE.
When Empress Dowager Deng died, Emperor An
(r. 106–125 CE) was
convinced by the accusations of the eunuchs Li Run (李閏) and Jiang
Jing (江京) that Deng and her family had planned to depose him. An
dismissed Deng's clan members from office, exiled them and forced
many to commit suicide. After An's death, his wife, Empress Dowager Yan
(d. 126 CE) placed
the child Marquess of Beixiang
on the throne in an attempt to retain power within her family.
However, palace eunuch Sun Cheng
(d. 132 CE) masterminded a successful overthrow of her regime
to enthrone Emperor Shun of Han
(r. 125–144 CE). Yan was placed under house arrest, her
relatives were either killed or exiled, and her eunuch allies were
slaughtered. The regent Liang Ji
(d. 159 CE), brother of Empress
(d. 150 CE), had the brother-in-law of Consort Deng Mengnü
(d. 165 CE) killed after she resisted his attempts to control
her. Afterward, Emperor Huan employed eunuchs to depose Liang Ji,
who was then forced to commit suicide.
Students from the Imperial University
organized a widespread student
against the eunuchs of Emperor Huan's court. Huan
further alienated the bureaucracy when he initiated grandiose
construction projects and hosted thousands of concubines
in his harem
time of economic crisis. Palace eunuchs imprisoned the official Li
Ying (李膺) and his associates from the Imperial University on a
dubious charge of treason. In 167 CE, the Grand Commandant Dou Wu
(d. 168 CE) convinced his son-in-law,
Emperor Huan, to release them. However the emperor permanently
barred Li Ying and his associates from serving in office, marking
the beginning of the Partisan
Following Huan's death, Dou Wu and the Grand Tutor Chen Fan (陳蕃)
(d. 168 CE) attempted a coup
against the eunuchs Hou Lan
(d. 172 CE), Cao Jie
(d. 181 CE), and Wang Fu (王甫). When the plot was uncovered,
the eunuchs arrested Empress Dowager
(d. 172 CE) and Chen Fan. General Zhang Huan (張奐)
favored the eunuchs. He and his troops confronted Dou Wu and his
retainers at the palace gate where each side shouted accusations of
treason against the other. When the retainers gradually deserted
Dou Wu, he was forced to commit suicide.
Under Emperor Ling
(r. 168–189 CE) the eunuchs had the partisan prohibitions
renewed and expanded, while themselves auctioning off top
government offices. Many affairs of state were entrusted to the
eunuchs Zhao Zhong
(d. 189 CE) and
(d. 189 CE) while Emperor
Ling spent much of his time roleplaying
with concubines and
participating in military parades.
End of the Han
The partisan prohibitions were repealed during the Yellow Turban Rebellion
and Five Pecks of Rice Rebellion
in 184 CE, largely because the court did not want to continue to
alienate a significant portion of the gentry class
who might otherwise join the
rebellions. The Yellow Turbans and Five-Pecks-of-Rice adherents
belonged to two different hierarchical Daoist
religious societies led by faith
healers Zhang Jiao
(d. 184 CE)
and Zhang Lu
(d. 216 CE),
respectively. Zhang Lu's rebellion, in modern northern
Sichuan and southern Shanxi, was not
quelled until 215 CE.
Zhang Jiao's massive rebellion across
was annihilated by Han forces within a year, however the following
decades saw much smaller recurrent uprisings. Although the Yellow
Turbans were defeated, many generals appointed during the crisis
never disbanded their assembled militia
forces and used these troops to amass power outside of the
collapsing imperial authority.
General-in-Chief He Jin
(d. 189 CE),
half-brother to Empress He
CE), plotted with Yuan Shao
CE) to overthrow the eunuchs by having several generals march to
the outskirts of the capital. There, in a written petition to
Empress He, they demanded the eunuchs' execution. After a period of
hesitation, Empress He consented. When the eunuchs discovered this,
however, they had her brother He Miao (何苗) rescind the order. The
eunuchs assassinated He Jin on September 22, 189 CE. Yuan Shao then
besieged Luoyang's Northern Palace while his brother Yuan Shu
(d. 199 CE) besieged the Southern
Palace. On September 25 both palaces were breached and
approximately two thousand eunuchs were killed. Zhang Rang had
previously fled with Emperor Shao
(r. 189 CE) and his brother Liu Xie—the future Emperor Xian of Han
(r. 189–220 CE).
While being pursued by the Yuan brothers, Zhang committed suicide
by jumping into the Yellow River.
General Dong Zhuo
(d. 192 CE) found
the young emperor and his brother wandering in the countryside. He
escorted them safely back to the capital and was made Minister of
, taking control of Luoyang and forcing Yuan Shao to flee.
After Dong Zhuo demoted Emperor Shao and promoted his brother Liu
Xie as Emperor Xian, Yuan Shao led a coalition of former officials
and officers against Dong, who burned Luoyang to the ground and
resettled the court at Chang'an in May 191 CE. Dong Zhuo later
poisoned Emperor Shao. Dong was killed by his adopted son Lü Bu
(d. 198 CE) in a plot hatched by
(d. 192 CE). Emperor Xian fled
from Chang'an in 195 CE to the ruins of Luoyang. Xian was persuaded by
Cao Cao (155–220 CE), then Governor of Yan
Province in modern western Shandong and eastern Henan, to move
the capital to Xuchang in 196 CE.
Yuan Shao challenged Cao Cao for control over the emperor.
power was greatly diminished after Cao defeated him at the Battle of
Guandu in 200 CE.
After Yuan died, Cao killed Yuan
Shao's son Yuan Tan
(173–205 CE), who had
fought with his brothers over the family inheritance. His brothers
were killed in 207 CE by Gongsun
(d. 221 CE), who sent their heads to Cao Cao.
Cao's defeat at the naval Battle of Red Cliffs in 208 CE, China was divided into three spheres of
influence, with Cao Cao dominating the north, Sun Quan (182–252 CE) dominating the south, and
Liu Bei (161–223 CE) dominating the
Cao Cao died in March 220 CE. By December his son
(187–226 CE) had Emperor Xian
relinquish the throne to him and is known posthumously as Emperor Wen of Wei
. This formally ended the Han
Dynasty and initiated an age of conflict between three states
: Cao Wei
, and Shu
Society and culture
In the hierarchical social order, the emperor
was at the apex of Han society and
government. However the emperor was often a minor, ruled over by a
such as the empress dowager
or one of her male
relatives. Ranked immediately below the emperor were the kings
who were of the same
family clan. The rest of society, including
lower than kings and all
commoners excluding slaves
belonged to one of
twenty ranks (ershi gongcheng
Each successive rank gave its holder greater pensions and legal
privileges. The highest rank, of full marquess
, came with a state pension and a
. Holders of the rank
immediately below, that of ordinary marquess, received a pension,
but had no territorial rule. Officials
who served in government
belonged to the wider commoner social class and were ranked just
below nobles in social prestige. The highest government officials
could be enfeoffed
as marquesses. By the
Eastern Han period, local elites of unattached scholars, teachers,
students, and government officials began to identify themselves as
members of a larger, nationwide gentry
with shared similar values and a commitment to mainstream
scholarship. When the government became noticeably corrupt in
mid-to-late Eastern Han, many gentrymen even considered the
cultivation of morally grounded personal relationships more
important than serving in public office.
, or specifically the small
landowner-cultivator, was ranked just below scholars and officials
in the social hierarchy. Other agricultural cultivators were of a
lower status, such as tenants
, and in rare cases slaves.
and craftsmen had a legal and
that of owner-cultivator farmers and common merchants
. State-registered merchants, who were
forced by law to wear white-colored clothes and pay high commercial
taxes, were considered by the gentry as social parasites with a
contemptible status. These were often petty shopkeepers of urban
marketplaces; merchants such as industrialists and itinerant
traders working between a network of cities could avoid registering
as merchants and were often wealthier and more powerful than the
vast majority of government officials. Wealthy landowners, such as
nobles and officials, often provided lodging for retainers who
provided valuable work or duties, sometimes including fighting
bandits or riding into battle. Unlike slaves, retainers could come
and go from their master's home as they pleased. Medical physicians
breeders, and butchers had a fairly high social status, while
, runners, and
messengers had low status.
Marriage, gender, and kinship
The Han-era family was patrilineal
and typically had four to five nuclear
members living in one household. Multiple generations of
members did not
occupy the same house, unlike families of later dynasties.
According to Confucian family norms
various family members were treated with different levels of
respect and intimacy. For example, there were different accepted
time frames for mourning the death of a father versus a paternal
uncle. Arranged marriages
norm, with the father's input on his offspring's spouse being
considered more important than the mother's. Monogamous marriages
were also the norm, although
nobles and high officials were wealthy enough to afford and support
as additional lovers. Under
certain conditions dictated by custom, not law, both men and women
were able to divorce
their spouses and
Apart from the passing of noble titles or ranks, inheritance
practices did not involve primogeniture
; each son received an equal
share of the family property. Since the father usually sent his
adult married sons away with a portion of the family fortune,
unlike later dynasties, sons did not always receive their
inheritance after the death of their father. Daughters were not
formally included in a father's will, although they did receive a
portion of the family fortune through their marriage dowries
Women were expected to obey the will of their father, then their
husband, and then their adult son in old age. However, it is known
from contemporary sources that there were many deviations to this
rule, especially in regard to mothers over their sons, and
empresses who ordered around and openly humiliated their fathers
and brothers. Women were exempt from the annual corvée
labor duties, but often engaged in a
range of income-earning occupations aside from their domestic
chores of cooking and cleaning.
The most common occupation for women was weaving clothes for the
family, sale at market or for large textile enterprises that
employed hundreds of women. Other women helped on their brothers'
farms or became singers, dancers, sorceresses
, respected medical physicians, and
successful merchants who could afford their own silk clothes. Some
women formed spinning collectives, aggregating the resources of
several different families.
Education, literature, and philosophy
The early Western Han court simultaneously accepted the
philosophical teachings of Legalism
, Huang-Lao Daoism
, and Confucianism
in making state decisions and
shaping government policy. However, the Han court under Emperor Wu
gave Confucianism exclusive
patronage. He abolished all academic chairs or erudites
博士) not dealing with the Confucian Five Classics
in 136 BCE and encouraged
nominees for office to receive a Confucian-based education at the
that he established in
124 BCE. Unlike the original ideology espoused by Confucius
, or Kongzi (551–479 BCE), Han
Confucianism in Emperor Wu's reign was the creation of Dong Zhongshu
(179–104 BCE). Dong Zhongshu was
a scholar and minor official who aggregated the ethical Confucian
ideas of ritual
, filial piety
, and harmonious relationships
with five phases
cosmologies. Much to the interest of the ruler, Dong's synthesis
justified the imperial system of government within the natural
order of the universe. The Imperial University grew in importance
as the student body grew to over 30,000 by the 2nd century CE. A
Confucian-based education was also made available at
commandery-level schools and private
opened in small towns, where teachers earned
respectable incomes from tuition
Some important texts were created and studied by scholars.
Philosophical works written by Yang
(53 BCE–18 CE), Huan Tan
BCE–28 CE), Wang Chong
(27–100 CE), and
(78–163 CE) questioned
whether human nature was innately good or evil and posed challenges
to Dong's universal order. The Records of the
by Sima Tan
110 BCE) and his son Sima Qian
BCE) established the standard
for all of imperial China's Standard Histories
, such as the
Book of Han
written by Ban Biao
(3–54 CE), his son Ban
(32–92 CE), and his daughter Ban
(45–116 CE). There were dictionaries
such as the Shuowen Jiezi
(c. 58–c. 147 CE) and the Fangyan
by Yang Xiong. Biographies
on important figures were written by
various gentrymen. Poems
were popular forms of literature
amongst the gentry.
Law and order
Han scholars such as Jia Yi
portrayed the previous Qin Dynasty
brutal regime. However, archaeological evidence from Zhangjiashan
reveal that many of the
in the Han law code
compiled by Chancellor Xiao He
(d. 193 BCE) were derived from Qin
Various cases for rape
, physical abuse and
were prosecuted in court. Women,
although usually having less rights by custom, were allowed to
level civil and criminal charges against men. While suspects were
jailed, convicted criminals were never imprisoned. Instead,
punishments were commonly monetary fines, periods of forced hard
labor for convicts, and the penalty of death by beheading. Early
Han punishments of torturous mutilation
were borrowed from Qin law. A series
of reforms abolished mutilation punishments with progressively
less-severe beatings by the bastinado
Acting as a judge in lawsuits was one of many duties of the
of counties and
Administrators of commanderies. Complex, high profile or unresolved
cases were often deferred to the Minister of Justice in the capital
or even the emperor. In each Han county was several districts, each
overseen by a chief of police
in the cities was maintained by government officers in the
marketplaces and constables
The most common staple crops consumed during Han were wheat,
barley, rice, foxtail millet
. Commonly eaten fruits and vegetables included
chestnuts, pears, plums, peaches, melons, apricots, strawberries,
, bamboo shoots
. Domesticated animals that
were also eaten included chickens, Mandarin ducks
, geese, cows, sheep, pigs,
camels and dogs. Turtles and fish were taken from streams and
lakes. Commonly hunted game, such as owl, pheasant, magpie,
, and Chinese Bamboo Partridge
consumed. Seasonings included sugar, honey, salt and soy sauce
. Beer and wine
The types of clothing worn and the materials used during the Han
period depended upon social class. Wealthy folk could afford
robes, skirts, socks, and mittens, coats
made of badger or fox fur
, duck plumes,
with inlaid leather, pearls
, and silk lining. Peasants commonly wore
clothes made of hemp
Religion, cosmology, and metaphysics
Families throughout Han China made ritual sacrifices of animals and
foodstuffs to deities, spirits, and ancestors
at temples and shrines
, in the belief that
these items could be utilized by those in the spiritual realm. It
was thought that each person had a two-part soul: the spirit-soul
魂) which journeyed to the afterlife paradise of
), and the
魄) which remained in its grave or tomb on
earth and was only reunited with the spirit-soul through a ritual
ceremony. In addition to his many other roles, the emperor acted as
the highest priest in the land who made sacrifices to Heaven
, the main deities known as the Five Powers
, and the
神) of mountains and rivers. It was believed
that the three realms of Heaven, Earth, and Mankind were linked by
natural cycles of yin and yang
. If the emperor did not behave
according to proper ritual, ethics, and morals, he could disrupt
the fine balance of these cosmological cycles and cause calamities
such as earthquakes, floods, droughts, epidemics, and swarms of
It was believed that immortality
be achieved if one reached the lands of the Queen Mother of the West
. Han-era Daoists
assembled into small groups of hermits who
attempted to achieve immortality through breathing exercises,
sexual techniques and use of medical
. By the 2nd century CE, Daoists formed large
hierarchical religious societies such as the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice
Its followers believed that the sage-philosopher Laozi
(fl. 6th century BCE) was a holy prophet
who would offer salvation
and good health if his devout followers
would confess their sins
, ban the worship
gods who accepted meat sacrifices
and chant sections of the Daodejing
first entered China during the
Eastern Han and was first mentioned in 65 CE. Liu Ying
(d. 71 CE), a half-brother to
Emperor Ming of Han
(r. 57–75 CE), was one of its earliest Chinese adherents,
although Chinese Buddhism
point was heavily associated with Huang-Lao
. China's first known Buddhist temple, the White Horse Temple
, was erected during
Ming's reign. Important Buddhist canons were translated into
Chinese during the 2nd century CE, including the Sutra of Forty-two
, and Pratyutpanna
In Han government, the emperor was the supreme judge and lawgiver,
the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and sole designator of
official nominees appointed to the top posts in central and local
administrations; those who earned a 600-dan
salary-rank or higher
. Theoretically, there were no limits to
his power. However, state organs with competing interests and
institutions such as the court conference (tingyi
廷議)—where ministers were convened to reach majority consensus
issue—pressured the emperor to accept the advice of his ministers
on policy decisions. If the emperor rejected a court conference
decision, he risked alienating his high ministers. Nevertheless,
emperors sometimes did reject the majority opinion reached at court
Below the emperor were his cabinet
members known as the Three Excellencies
. These were the
/Minister over the Masses
Counselor/Excellency of Works, and Grand Commandant/Grand
The Chancellor, whose title was changed to Minister over the Masses
in 8 BCE, was chiefly responsible for drafting the government budget
. The Chancellor's other
duties included managing provincial registers for land and
population, leading court conferences, acting as judge in lawsuits
and recommending nominees for high office. He could appoint
officials below the salary-rank of 600-shi
The Imperial Counselor's chief duty was to conduct disciplinary
procedures for officials. He shared similar duties with the
Chancellor, such as receiving annual provincial reports. However,
when his title was changed to Excellency of Works in 8 BCE, his
chief duty became oversight of public works projects.
The Grand Commandant, whose title was changed to Grand Marshal in
119 BCE before reverting back to Grand Commandant in 51 CE, was the
irregularly posted commander of the military and then regent
during Western Han. In Eastern Han he was
chiefly a civil official who shared many of the same censorial
powers as the other two Excellencies.
Ranked below the Three Excellencies were the Nine Ministers
, who each headed a specialized
ministry. The Minister of Ceremonies was the chief official in
charge of religious rites, rituals, prayers and the maintenance of
ancestral temples and altars. The Minister of the Household was in
charge of the emperor's security within the palace grounds,
external imperial parks and wherever the emperor made an outing by
chariot. The Minister of the Guards was responsible for securing
and patrolling the walls, towers, and gates of the imperial
palaces. The Minister Coachman was responsible for the maintenance
of imperial stables, horses, carriages and coach-houses for the
emperor and his palace attendants, as well as the supply of horses
for the armed forces. The Minister of Justice was the chief
official in charge of upholding, administering, and interpreting
the law. The Minister Herald was the chief official in charge of
receiving honored guests at the imperial court, such as nobles and
. The Minister of the Imperial Clan oversaw the
imperial court's interactions with the empire's nobility and
extended imperial family, such as granting fiefs and titles. The
Minister of Finance was the treasurer
the official bureaucracy and the armed forces who handled tax
revenues and set standards for units of measurement
. The Minister
Steward served the emperor exclusively, providing him with
entertainment and amusements, proper food and clothing, medicine
and physical care, valuables and equipment.
In descending order of size, the Han Empire, excluding kingdoms and
marquessates, was divided into political units of provinces
), and counties
). A county was
divided into several districts
latter composed of a group of hamlets
, each containing about a hundred
The heads of provinces, whose official title was changed from
Inspector to Governor and vice versa several times during Han, were
responsible for inspecting several commandery-level and
kingdom-level administrations. On the basis of their reports, the
officials in these local administrations would be promoted,
demoted, dismissed or prosecuted by the imperial court.
A governor could take various actions without permission from the
imperial court. The lower-ranked inspector had executive powers
only during times of crisis, such as raising militias across the
commanderies under his jurisdiction to suppress a rebellion.
A commandery consisted of a group of counties, and was headed by an
Administrator. He was the top civil and military leader of the
commandery and handled defense, lawsuits, seasonal instructions to
farmers and recommendations of nominees for office sent annually to
the capital in a quota system first established by Emperor Wu. The
head of a large county of about 10,000 households was called a
Prefect, while the heads of smaller counties were called Chiefs,
and both could be referred to as Magistrates
. A Magistrate maintained law and
order in his county, registered the populace for taxation,
mobilized commoners for annual corvée
duties, repaired schools and supervised public works.
Kingdoms and marquessates
Kingdoms—roughly the size of commanderies—were ruled exclusively by
the emperor's male relatives as semi-autonomous fiefs. Before 157
BCE some kingdoms were ruled by non-relatives, granted to them in
return for their services to Emperor Gaozu. The administration of
each kingdom was very similar to that of the central government.
Although the emperor appointed the Chancellor of each kingdom,
kings appointed all the remaining civil officials in their
However, in 145 BCE, after several insurrections by the kings,
Emperor Jing removed the kings' rights to appoint officials with
. The Imperial Counselors and Nine
Ministers (excluding the Minister Coachman) of every kingdom were
abolished, although the Chancellor was still appointed by the
With these reforms, kings were reduced to being nominal heads of
their fiefs, gaining a personal income from only a portion of the
taxes collected in their kingdom. Similarly, the officials in the
administrative staff of a full marquess's fief were appointed by
the central government. A marquess's Chancellor was ranked as the
equivalent of a county Prefect. Like a king, the marquess collected
a portion of the tax revenues in his fief as personal income.
An Eastern-Han pottery soldier, with a
now-faded coating of paint, is missing a weapon.
At the beginning of the Han Dynasty, every male commoner aged
twenty-three was liable for conscription
into the military. The minimum age
for the military draft was reduced to twenty after Emperor Zhao's
(r. 87–74 BCE)
reign. Conscripts underwent one year of training and one year of
service as non-professional soldiers. The year of training was
served in one of three branches of the armed forces: infantry
. The year of active service was served
either on their frontier, in a king's court or under the Minister
of the Guards in the capital.
During the Eastern Han, conscription could be avoided if one paid a
commutable tax. The Eastern Han court favored the recruitment of a
. The latter comprised
the Southern Army (Nanjun
南軍), while the smaller
professional standing army
in the capital, was the Northern Army (Beijun
北軍). Led by
校尉), the Northern Army consisted of five
regiments, each with approximately 750 soldiers and 150 junior
officers. When central authority collapsed after 189 CE, wealthy
landowners and regional warlords relied upon their retainers to act
as their own personal troops (buqu
During times of war, a much larger militia
was raised across the country to supplement the Northern Army. In
these circumstances, a General (Jiangjun
將軍) led a
, which was divided into
led by Colonels and sometimes
司馬). Regiments were divided into companies
and led by Captains.
were the smallest units of
Variations in currency
In the beginning of the Han, Emperor Gaozu closed the government mint
in favor of private minting of
coins. This decision was reversed in 186 BCE by his widow Grand Empress Dowager Lü Zhi
BCE), who abolished private minting. In 182 BCE, Lü Zhi issued a
bronze coin that was much lighter in weight than previous coins.
This caused widespread inflation
not reduced until 175 BCE when Emperor Wen allowed private minters
to manufacture coins that were precisely 2.6 g (0.09 oz)
In 144 BCE Emperor Jing abolished private minting in favor of
central-government and commandery-level minting; he also introduced
a new coin. Emperor Wu introduced another in 120 BCE but replaced
this a year later with the wushu
(五銖) coin weighing
3.2 g (0.11 oz). The wushu
standard coin until the Tang Dynasty
(618–907 CE). Its use was interrupted briefly by a range of new
currencies introduced during Wang Mang's regime until it was
reinstated in 40 CE.
Since commandery-issued coins were often of inferior quality and
lighter weight, the central government closed commandery mints and
monopolized the issue of coinage in 113 BCE. This central
government issuance of coinage was overseen by the
Superintendent of Waterways and Parks
, this duty being
transferred to the Minister of Finance during Eastern Han.
Taxation and property
Aside from the landowner's land
paid in a portion of their crop
, the poll tax
and property taxes
were paid in coin cash. The
annual poll tax rate for adult men and women was 120 coins and 20
coins for minors. Merchants were required to pay a higher rate of
240 coins. The poll tax stimulated a money economy that
necessitated the minting of over 28,000,000,000 coins from 118 BCE
to 5 CE, an average of 220,000,000 coins a year.
The widespread circulation of coin cash allowed successful
merchants to invest money in land, empowering the very social class
the government attempted to suppress through heavy commercial and
property taxes. Emperor Wu even enacted laws which banned
registered merchants from owning land, yet powerful merchants were
able to avoid registration and own large tracts of land.
The small landowner-cultivators formed the majority of the Han tax
base; this revenue was threatened during the latter half of Eastern
Han when many peasants fell into debt and were forced to work as
farming tenants for wealthy landlords
Han government enacted reforms in order to keep small
landowner-cultivators out of debt and on their own farms. These
reforms included reducing taxes, temporary remissions of taxes,
granting loans and providing landless peasants temporary lodging
and work in agricultural colonies
could recover from their debts.
In 168 BCE, the land tax rate was reduced from one-fifteenth of a
farming household's crop yield to one-thirtieth, and later to a
one-hundredth of a crop yield for the last decades of the dynasty.
The consequent loss of government revenue was compensated for by
increasing property taxes.
The labor tax took the form of conscripted
for one month per year, which was imposed upon male
commoners aged fifteen to fifty-six. This could be avoided in
Eastern Han with a commutable tax, since hired labor became more
Private manufacture and government monopolies
In the early Western Han, a wealthy salt or iron industrialist,
whether a semi-autonomous king or wealthy merchant, could boast
funds that rivaled the imperial treasury
and amass a peasant workforce of over a thousand. This kept many
peasants away from their farms and denied the government a
significant portion of its land tax revenue. To eliminate the
influence of such private entrepreneurs, Emperor Wu nationalized
the salt and iron industries in 117 BCE and allowed many of the
former industrialists to become officials administering the
monopolies. By Eastern Han times, the central government monopolies
were repealed in favor of production by commandery and county
administrations, as well as private businessmen.
was another profitable private
industry nationalized by the central government in 98 BCE. However,
this was repealed in 81 BCE and a property tax rate of two coins
for every 0.2 L (0.05 gallons) was levied for those who traded
it privately. By 110 BCE Emperor Wu also interfered with the
profitable trade in grain when he eliminated speculation
by selling government-stored grain
at a lower price than demanded by merchants. Apart from Emperor
Ming's creation of a short-lived Office for Price Adjustment and
Stabilization, which was abolished in 68 CE, central government
price control regulations were largely absent during the Eastern
Science, technology, and engineering
The Han Dynasty was a unique period in the development of premodern
Chinese science and technology, comparable to the level of scientific and technological
during the Song Dynasty
Typical ancient Chinese writing materials were bronzewares
and animal bones
. By the beginning of the Han
Dynasty, the chief writing materials were clay tablets, silk cloth,
and rolled scrolls made from bamboo
sewn together with hempen string; these were passed through drilled
holes and secured with clay stamps.
The oldest known Chinese piece of hard, hempen wrapping paper
dates to the 2nd century BCE.
The standard papermaking
invented by Cai Lun
(50–121 CE) in 105 CE.
The oldest known surviving piece of paper
writing on it was found in the ruins of a Han watchtower
that had been abandoned in 110 CE, in
Metallurgy and agriculture
Evidence suggests that blast furnaces
that convert raw iron ore
into pig iron
, which can be remelted in a cupola furnace
to produce cast iron
by means of a cold
and hot blast
, were operational
in China by the late Spring and
(722–481 BCE). The bloomery
was nonexistent in ancient China; however,
the Han-era Chinese produced wrought
by injecting excess oxygen
furnace and causing decarburization
Cast iron and pig iron could be converted into wrought iron and
using the finery
The Han-era Chinese used bronze and iron to make a range of
weapons, culinary tools, carpenters' tools and domestic wares. A
significant product of these improved iron-smelting techniques was
the manufacture of new agricultural tools. The three-legged iron
, invented by the 2nd century
BCE, enabled farmers to carefully plant crops in rows instead of
casting seeds out by hand
. The heavy
moldboard iron plow
, also invented during the
Han Dynasty, required only one man to control it, two oxen to pull
it. It had three plowshares
, a seed box
for the drills, a tool which turned down the soil and could sow
roughly 45,730 m2
(11.3 acres) of land in a single
To protect crops from wind and drought, the Grain Intendant Zhao
Guo (趙過) created the alternating fields system (daitianfa
代田法) during Emperor Wu's reign. This system switched the positions
of furrows and ridges
growing seasons. Once experiments with this system yielded
successful results, the government officially sponsored it and
encouraged peasants to use it. Han farmers also used the pit field
凹田) for growing crops, which involved
heavily fertilized pits that did not require plows or oxen and
could be placed on sloping terrain. In southern and small parts of
central Han-era China, paddy fields
chiefly used to grow rice, while farmers along the Huai River
methods of rice
was the chief building material during
the Han Dynasty; it was used to build palace halls, multiple-story
residential towers and halls and single-story houses. Because wood
decays rapidly, the only remaining evidence of Han wooden
architecture is a collection of scattered ceramic roof tiles. The
oldest surviving wooden halls in China date to the Tang Dynasty
Though Han wooden structures decayed, some Han-dynasty ruins made
of brick, stone, and rammed earth
remain intact. This includes stone pillar-gates, brick tomb
chambers, rammed-earth city walls,
rammed-earth and brick beacon towers,
rammed-earth sections of the Great
Wall, rammed-earth platforms where elevated halls once stood,
and two rammed-earth castles in Gansu with
The ruins of
rammed-earth walls that once surrounded the capitals Chang'an and
Luoyang still stand, along with their drainage systems
arches, ditches, and ceramic water pipes
Monumental stone pillar-gates, twenty-nine of which survive from
the Han period, formed entrances of walled enclosures at shrine and
tomb sites. These pillars feature artistic imitations of wooden and
ceramic building components such as roof tiles, eaves, and balustrades
. Architectural historian Robert L.
Thorp points out the scarcity of Han-era archaeological remains,
and claims that often unreliable Han-era literary and artistic
sources are used by historians for clues about lost Han
The courtyard house
is the most
common type of home portrayed in Han artwork. Ceramic architectural
models of buildings
, like houses
and towers, were found in Han tombs, perhaps to provide lodging for
the dead in the afterlife. These provide valuable clues about lost
wooden architecture. The artistic designs found on ceramic roof
tiles of tower models are in some cases exact matches to Han roof
tiles found at archaeological sites.
Over ten thousand Han-era underground tombs have been found, many
of them featuring archways
chambers, and domed
roofs. Underground vaults and domes did not
require buttress supports since they were held in place by earthen
pits. The use of brick vaults and domes in aboveground Han
structures is unknown.
From Han literary sources, it is known that wooden-trestle beam bridges
, simple suspension
, and floating pontoon
existed in Han China. However, there are only two known
references to arch bridges in Han literature, and only a single Han
relief sculpture in Sichuan depicts an arch bridge.
Underground mine shafts
, some reaching
depths of over 100 meters, or 300 feet, were created for the
extraction of metal ores. Borehole
were used to lift brine
to iron pans where it was distilled into salt.
The distillation furnaces were heated by natural gas
funneled to the surface through
amounts of additional gas were siphoned off via carburetor
chambers and exhaust pipes
Mechanical and hydraulic engineering
Evidence of Han-era mechanical engineering comes largely from the
choice observational writings of sometimes disinterested Confucian
scholars. Professional artisan-engineers (jiang
匠) did not
leave behind detailed records of their work. Han scholars, who
often had little or no expertise in mechanical engineering,
sometimes provided insufficient information on the various
technologies they described. Nevertheless, some Han literary
sources provide crucial information. For example, in 15 BCE the
philosopher Yang Xiong described the invention of the belt drive
for a quilling
machine, which was of great importance to
early textile manufacturing. The inventions of the artisan-engineer
Ding Huan (丁緩) are mentioned in the Miscellaneous Notes on the
. Around 180 CE, Ding created a manually
operated rotary fan used for air
within palace buildings. Ding also used gimbals
as pivotal supports for one of his incense
burners and invented the world's first known zoetrope
Modern archaeology has led to the discovery of Han artwork
portraying inventions which were otherwise absent in Han literary
sources. As observed in Han miniature tomb models, but not in
literary sources, the crank handle
was used to operate the fan
machines that separated grain
. The odometer
cart, invented during Han, measured
journey lengths, using mechanical figures banging drums and gongs
to indicate each distance traveled. This invention is depicted in
Han artwork by the 2nd century CE, yet detailed written
descriptions were not offered until the 3rd century CE. Modern
archaeologists have also unearthed specimens of devices used during
the Han Dynasty, for example a pair of sliding metal calipers
used by craftsmen for making minute
measurements. These calipers contain inscriptions of the exact day
and year they were manufactured. These tools are not mentioned in
any Han literary sources.
appeared in Chinese
records during the Han. As mentioned by Huan
in about 20 CE, they were used to turn gears that lifted
iron trip hammers
, and were used in
and polishing grain.
However, there is no sufficient evidence for the watermill
in China until about the 5th century.
The Nanyang Commandery Administrator Du Shi
(d. 38 CE) created a waterwheel-powered reciprocator
that worked the bellows
for the smelting of iron. Waterwheels were
also used to power chain pumps
lifted water to raised irrigation
ditches. The chain pump was first mentioned in China by the
philosopher Wang Chong in his 1st-century-CE Balanced Discourse
The armillary sphere
three-dimensional representation of the movements in the celestial sphere
, was invented in Han China
by the 1st century BCE. Using a water
, waterwheel and a series of gears, the Court Astronomer
(78–139 CE) was able to
mechanically rotate his metal-ringed armillary sphere. To address
the problem of slowed timekeeping
of the inflow water
clock, Zhang was the first in China to install an additional tank
between the reservoir and inflow vessel. Zhang also invented a
(Houfeng didong yi
候风地动仪) in 132 CE to detect the exact cardinal
or ordinal direction of earthquakes
from hundreds of kilometers away.
This employed an inverted pendulum
that, when disturbed by ground tremors, would trigger a set of
gears that dropped a metal ball from one of eight dragon mouths
(representing all eight directions) into a metal toad's
Three Han mathematical treatises still exist. These are the
Book on Numbers and
, the Arithmetical Classic of the Gnomon and the
Circular Paths of Heaven
and the Nine Chapters on the
. Han-era mathematical achievements
include solving problems with right-angle triangles
, square roots
, and matrix methods
finding more accurate approximations for pi
providing mathematical proof
the Pythagorean theorem
, use of
the decimal fraction
continued fractions to find the roots
One of the Han's greatest mathematical advancements was the world's
first use of negative
. Negative numbers first appeared in the Nine
Chapters on the Mathematical Art
as black counting rods
, where positive numbers were
represented by red counting rods. Negative numbers are used in the
India, but its exact date of compilation is unknown. Negative numbers were
also used by the Greek
mathematician Diophantus in about 275 CE,
but were not widely accepted in Europe until the 16th century
The Han applied mathematics to various diverse disciplines. In
, Jing Fang
(78–37 BCE) realized that 53 perfect fifths
was approximate to 31 octaves
while creating a musical scale
of 60 tones, calculating the
difference at 177147
(the same value
of 53 equal temperament
discovered by the German mathematician Nicholas Mercator
Mathematics were essential in drafting the astronomical calendar
, a lunisolar calendar
that used the Sun and
Moon as time-markers throughout the year. Use of the ancient Sifen
calendar (古四分历), which measured the tropical year
days, was replaced in 104 BCE with the Taichu calendar (太初历) that
measured the tropical year at 365385
days and the lunar month
days. However, Emperor Zhang later
reinstated the Sifen calendar.
Han Chinese astronomers made star
and detailed records of comets that appeared in the
night sky, including recording the 12 BCE appearance of the comet
now known as Halley's comet
Han-era astronomers adopted a geocentric model
of the universe,
theorizing that it was shaped like a
surrounding the earth in the center. They assumed that
the Sun, Moon, and planets were spherical and not disc-shaped. They
also thought that the illumination of the Moon and planets was
caused by sunlight
, that lunar eclipses
occurred when the Earth
obstructed sunlight falling onto the Moon, and that a solar eclipse
occurred when the Moon
obstructed sunlight from reaching the Earth. Although others
disagreed with his model, Wang Chong accurately described the
of the evaporation
of water into clouds.
Cartography, ships, and vehicles
Evidence found in Chinese literature, and archaeological evidence,
show that cartography
existed in China
before the Han. Some of the earliest Han maps discovered were
ink-penned silk maps found amongst the Mawangdui Silk Texts
2nd-century-BCE tomb. The general Ma Yuan created the world's first
known raised-relief map
in the 1st century CE. This date could be revised if the tomb of
Qin Shi Huang
is excavated and the
account in the Records of the Grand Historian
model map of the empire is proven to be true.
Although the use of the graduated scale
and grid reference
for maps was not
thoroughly described until the published work of Pei Xiu
(224–271 CE), there is evidence that in the
early 2nd century CE, cartographer Zhang Heng was the first to use
scales and grids for maps.
The Han-era Chinese sailed in a variety of ships differing from
those of previous eras, such as the tower
. The junk design
developed and realized during Han. Junks featured a square-ended
hull with no keel
solid transverse bulkheads
the place of structural ribs
Western vessels. Moreover, Han ships were the first in the world to
be steered using a rudder
at the stern, in
contrast to the simpler steering oar
used for riverine transport, allowing them to sail on the high
Although ox-carts and chariots were previously used in China, the
was first used in Han China
in the 1st century BCE. Han artwork of horse-drawn chariots shows
that the Warring-States-Era heavy wooden yoke placed around a
horse's chest was replaced by the softer breast strap
Later, during the Northern Wei
CE), the fully developed horse collar
Han-era medical physicians believed that the human body was subject
to the same forces of nature that governed the greater universe,
namely the cosmological
cycles of yin
and yang and the five phases
. Each organ of the body
was associated with a particular
phase. Illness was viewed as a sign that qi
or "vital energy" channels leading to a certain
organ had been disrupted. Thus, Han-era physicians prescribed
medicine that was believed to counteract this imbalance. For
example, since the wood phase was believed to promote the fire
phase, medicinal ingredients associated with the wood phase could
be used to heal an organ associated with the fire phase. To this
end, the physician Zhang Zhongjing
(c. 150–c. 219 CE) prescribed regulated diets rich in
certain foods that were thought to curb specific illnesses. These
are now known to be nutrition
caused by the lack of certain vitamins
consumed in one's diet. Besides dieting,
Han physicians also prescribed moxibustion
, and calisthenics
as methods of maintaining one's
health. When surgery
was performed by the
physician Hua Tuo
(d. 208 CE), he used
to numb his patients' pain and
prescribed a rubbing ointment that allegedly sped the process of
healing surgical wounds.
- Zhou (2003), 34.
- Schaefer (2008), 279.
- Bailey (1985), pp. 25–26
- Ebrey (1999), 60–61.
- Loewe (1986), 116–122.
- Davis (2001), 44–46.
- Loewe (1986), 122.
- Hansen (2000), 117–119.
- Loewe (1986), 122–125.
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- Bielenstein (1980), 106; Ch'ü (1972), 76.
- Bielenstein (1980), 105.
- Di Cosmo (2001), 175–189, 196–198; Torday (1997), 80–81; Yü
- Torday (1997), 75–77.
- Torday (1997), 75 77; Di Cosmo (2001), 190–192.
- Yü (1967), 9–10; Morton and Lewis (2005), 52; Di Cosmo (2001),
- Yü (1986), 388–389; Torday (1997), 77, 82–83; Di Cosmo (2002),
- Torday (1997), 83–84; Yü (1986), 389–390.
- Yü (1986), 389–390; Di Cosmo (2001), 211–214.
- Torday (1997), 91–92
- Yü (1986), 390; Di Cosmo (2001), 237–240.
- Loewe (1986), 196–197, 211–213; Yü (1986), 395–398.
- Ebrey (1999), 66; Wang (1982), 100.
- Chang (2007), 5–8; Di Cosmo (2002), 241–242; Yü (1986),
- Chang (2007), 34–35.
- Chang (2007), 6, 15–16, 44–45.
- Chang (2007), 15–16, 33–35, 42–43.
- Di Cosmo (2002), 247–249; Morton and Lewis (2005), 54–55; Yü
(1986), 407; Ebrey (1999), 69; Torday (1997), 104–117.
- An (2002), 83; Ebrey (1999), 70.
- Di Cosmo (2002), 250–251; Yü (1986), 390–391, 409–411; Chang
(2007), 174; Loewe (1986), 198.
- Ebrey (1999), 83; Yü (1986), 448–453.
- Nishijima (1986), 595–596.
- Wagner (2001), 1–17; Loewe (1986), 160–161; Nishijima (1986),
581–588; Ebrey (1999), 75; Morton and Lewis (2005), 57; see also
Hinsch (2002), 21–22.
- Loewe (1986), 162, 185–206; Paludan (1998), 41; Wagner (2001),
- Bielenstein (1986), 225–226; Huang (1988), 46–48.
- Bielenstein (1986), 227–230.
- Hinsch (2002), 23–24; Bielenstein (1986), 230–231; Ebrey
- Hansen (2000), 134; Bielenstein (1986), 232–234; Morton and
Lewis (2005), 58; Lewis (2007), 23.
- Hansen (2000), 135; de Crespigny (2007), 196; Bielenstein
- de Crespigny (2007), 568; Bielenstein (1986), 248.
- de Crespigny (2007), 197, 560; Bielenstein (1986),
- de Crespigny (2007), 558–560; Bielenstein (1986) 251–254.
- Bielenstein (1986), 251–254; de Crespigny (2007), 196–198,
- de Crespigny (2007), 54–55, 269–270, 600–601; Bielenstein
- Hinsch (2002), 24–25.
- Yü (1986), 450.
- de Crespigny (2007), 562, 660; Yü (1986), 454.
- Bielenstein (1986), 237–238; Yü (1986), 399–400.
- Yü (1986), 413–414.
- Yü (1986), 414–415.
- Yü (1986), 414–415; de Crespigny (2007), 73.
- Yü (1986), 414–415; de Crespigny (2007), 171.
- Yü (1986), 405, 443–444.
- Yü (1986), 444–446.
- Torday (1997), 393; de Crespigny (2007), 5–6.
- Yü (1986), 415–416.
- de Crespigny (2007), 239–240, 497, 590; Yü (1986), 450–451,
- de Crespigny (2007), 600; Yü (1986), 460–461.
- Akira (1998), 248, 251; Zhang (2002), 75.
- de Crespigny (2007), 497, 500, 592.
- Hinsch (2002), 25; Hansen (2000), 136.
- Bielenstein (1986), 280–283; de Crespigny (2007), 499,
- Bielenstein (1986), 283–284; de Crespigny (2007), 123–127.
- Bielenstein (1986), 284; de Crespigny (2007), 128, 580.
- Bielenstein (1986), 284–285; de Crespigny (2007), 473–474,
- Bielenstein (1986), 285–286; de Crespigny (1986), 597–598.
- Bower (2005), "Standing man and woman," 242–244.
- Hansen (2000), 141.
- de Crespigny (2007), 597, 599, 601–602; Hansen (2000),
- de Crespigny (2007), 602.
- Beck (1986), 319–322.
- de Crespigny (2007), 511; Beck (1986), 323.
- de Crespigny (2007), 513–514.
- de Crespigny (2007), 511.
- Ebrey (1986), 628–629.
- Beck (1986), 339–340.
- Ebrey (1999), 84.
- Loewe (1994), 38–52.
- Beck (1986), 339–344.
- Beck (1986), 344; Zizhi Tongjian, vol.
- Beck (1986), 344–345; Morton and Lewis (2005), 62.
- Beck (1986), 345.
- Beck (1986), 345–346.
- Beck (1986), 346–349.
- de Crespigny (2007), 158.
- Beck (1986), 349–351; de Crespigny (2007), 36.
- Beck (1986), 351–352; de Crespigny (2007), 36–37.
- Beck (1986), 352; de Crespigny (2007), 37.
- Beck (1986), 353–357; Hinsch (2002), 206.
- Ch'ü (1972), 66–72.
- Ch'ü (1972), 76; Bielenstein (1980), 105–107.
- Nishijima (1986), 552–553; Ch'ü (1972), 16.
- Ch'ü (1972), 84.
- Ebrey (1986), 631, 643–644; Ebrey (1999), 80.
- Hansen (2000), 141–142; de Crespigny (2007), 601–602.
- Ch'ü (1972), 104–111; Nishijima (1986), 556–557; Ebrey (1986),
621–622; Ebrey (1974), 173–174.
- Ch'ü (1972), 112.
- Ch'ü (1972), 104–105, 119–120; Nishijima (1986), 576–577.
- Nishijima (1986) 576 577; Ch'ü (1972), 114–117.
- Ch'ü (1972), 127–128.
- Csikszentmihalyi (2006), 172–173, 179–180; Ch'ü (1972), 106,
- Hinsch (2002), 46–47; Ch'ü (1972), 3–9.
- Ch'ü (1972), 9–10.
- Hinsch (2002), 35; Ch'ü (1972), 34.
- Ch'ü (1972), 44–47; Hinsch (2002), 38–39.
- Hinsch (2002), 40–45; Ch'ü (1972), 37–43.
- Ch'ü (1972), 17.
- Ch'ü (1972), 6–9.
- Ch'ü (1972), 17–18.
- Ch'ü (1972), 49–59.
- Hinsch (2002), 74–75.
- Ch'ü (1972), 54–56; Hinsch (2002), 29, 51, 54, 59–60, 65–68,
- Hinsch (2002), 29.
- de Crespigny (2007), 513; Barbieri-Low (2007), 207; Huang
- Csikszentmihalyi (2006), 24–25; Loewe (1994), 128–130.
- Kramers (1986), 754–756; Csikszentmihalyi (2006), 7–8; Loewe
(1994), 121–125; Ch'en (1986), 769.
- Kramers (1986), 753–755; Loewe (1994), 134–140.
- Kramers (1986), 754.
- Ebrey (1999), 77–78; Kramers (1986), 757.
- Ch'ü (1972), 103.
- Ch'en (1986), 773–794.
- Hardy (1999), 14–15; Hansen (2000), 137–138.
- Norman (1988), 185; Xue (2003), 161.
- Ebrey (1986), 645.
- Hansen (2000), 137 138; de Crespigny (2007), 1049; Neinhauser
et al. (1986), 212; Lewis (2007), 222; Cutter (1989), 25–26.
- Hulsewé (1986), 525–526; Csikszentmihalyi (2006), 23–24; Hansen
- Hulsewé (1986), 523–530; Hinsch (2002), 82.
- Hulsewé (1986), 532–535.
- Hulsewé (1986), 531–533.
- Hulsewé (1986), 528–529.
- Nishijima (1986), 552–553, 576; Loewe (1968), 146–147.
- Wang (1982), 52.
- Wang (1982), 53, 206.
- Wang (1982), 57–58.
- Hansen (2000), 119–121.
- Wang (1982), 206; Hansen (2000), 119.
- Wang (1982), 53, 59–63, 206; Loewe (1968), 139; Ch'ü (1972),
- Ch'ü (1972), 30–31.
- Hansen (2000), 119; Csikszentmihalyi (2006), 140–141.
- Ch'ü (1972), 71.
- Loewe (1994), 55; Csikszentmihalyi (2006), 167; Sun and
Kistemaker (1997), 2–3; Ebrey (1999), 78 79.
- Ebrey (1999), 78–79; Loewe (1986), 201; de Crespigny (2007),
- Loewe (2005), "Funerary Practice in Han Times," 101–102;
Csikszentmihalyi (2006), 116–117.
- Hansen (2000), 144.
- Hansen (2000), 144–146.
- Needham (1972), 112; "Demieville (1986), 821–822.
- Demiéville (1986), 821–822.
- Demiéville (1986), 823.
- Akira (1998), 247–251; see also Needham (1972), 112.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1216; Wang (1949), 141–143.
- Bielenstein (1980), 144; Wang (1949), 173–177.
- Ch'ü (1972), 70–71.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1221; Bielenstein (1980), 7–17.
- Wang (1949), 143–144, 145–146, 177; Bielenstein (1980), 7–8,
- Wang (1949), 147–148; Bielenstein (1980), 8–9, 15–16.
- Wang (1949), 150; Bielenstein (1980), 10–13.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1222; Wang (1949), 151; Bielenstein
- de Crespigny (2007), 1222; Bielenstein (1980), 23–24.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1223; Bielenstein (1980), 31.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1223; Bielenstein (1980), 34–35.
- Bielenstein (1980), 38; Wang (1949), 154.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1223–1224; Bielenstein (1980), 39–40.
- Wang (1949), 155; Bielenstein (1980), 41.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1224; Bielenstein (1980), 43.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1224; Bielenstein (1980), 47.
- Wang (1982), 57, 203.
- Bielenstein (1980), 83.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1228.
- Bielenstein (1980), 103.
- Nishijima (1986), 551–552.
- Bielenstein (1980), 90–92; Wang (1949), 158–160.
- Bielenstein (1980), 91.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1230–1231; Bielenstein (1980), 96; Hsu
- de Crespigny (2007), 1230; Bielenstein (1980), 100.
- Bielenstein (1980), 100.
- Hsu (1965), 360; Bielenstein (1980), 105–106; Loewe (1986),
- Hsu (1965), 360; Bielenstein (1980), 105–106.
- Bielenstein (1980), 105–106.
- Chü (1972), 76.
- Crespigny (2007), 1230; Bielenstein (1980), 108.
- Chang (2007), 70–71
- Nishijima (1986), 599; Bielenstein (1980), 114.
- de Crespigny (2007), 564–565, 1234.
- Bielenstein (1980), 114–115.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1234; Bielenstein (1980), 117–118.
- Ch'ü (1972), 132–133.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1234; Bielenstein (1980), 116,
- Nishijima (1986), 586.
- Nishijima (1986), 586–587.
- Nishijima (1986), 587.
- Ebrey (1986), 609; Bielenstein (1986), 232–233; Nishijima
- Nishijima (1986), 587–588; Bielenstein (1980), 47, 83.
- Nishijima (1986), 600–601.
- Nishijima (1986), 598.
- Nishijima (1986), 588.
- Nishijima (1986), 601.
- Nishijima (1986), 577; Ch'ü (1972), 113–114.
- Nishijima (1986), 558–601; Ebrey (1974), 173 174; Ebrey (1999),
- Ebrey (1999), 75; Ebrey (1986), 619–621.
- Loewe (1986), 149–150; Nishijima (1986), 596–598.
- Nishijima (1986), 596–598.
- Nishijima (1986), 599; de Crespigny (2007), 564–565.
- Needham (1986c), 22; Nishijima (1986), 583–584.
- Nishijima (1986), 584; Wagner (2001), 1–2; Hinsch (2002),
- Nishijima (1986), 584; Wagner (2001), 15–17.
- Nishijima (1986), 600; Wagner (2001), 13–14.
- Ebrey (1999), 75.
- de Crespigny (2007), 605.
- Jin, Fan, and Liu (1996), 178–179; Needham (1972), 111.
- Loewe (1968), 89, 94–95; Tom (1989), 99; Cotterell (2004),
- Buisseret (1998), 12; Needham and Tsien (1986), 1–2, 40–41,
122–123, 228; Day and McNeil (1996), 122.
- Cotterell (2004), 11.
- Wagner (2001), 7, 36–37, 64–68, 75–76; Pigott (1999),
- Pigott (1999), 177, 191.
- Wang (1982), 125; Pigott (1999), 186.
- Wagner (1993), 336; Wang (1982), 103–105, 122–124.
- Greenberger (2006), 12; Cotterell (2004), 24; Wang (1982),
- Nishijima (1986), 563–564; Ebrey (1986), 616–617.
- Nishijima (1986), 561–563.
- Hinsch (2002), 67–68; Nishijima (1986), 564–566.
- Nishijima (1986), 568–572.
- Liu (2002), 55.
- Ebrey (1999) 76; Wang (1982), 1–40.
- Steinhardt (2004), 228–238.
- Wang (1982), 1, 30, 39–40, 148–;149; Chang (2007), 91–92;
Morton and Lewis (2005), 56; see also Ebrey (1999), 76; see Needham
(1972), Plate V, Fig. 15, for a photo of a Han-era fortress in
Dunhuang, Gansu province that has rammed earth ramparts with
defensive crenallations at the top.
- Wang (1982), 1–39.
- Steinhardt (2005), "Pleasure Tower Model," 279; Liu (2002),
- Steinhardt (2005), "Pleasure Tower Model," 279–280; Liu (2002),
- Thorp (1986), 360–378.
- Ebrey (1999), 76.
- Steinhardt (2005), "Tower Model" 283–284.
- Wang (1982), 175–178.
- Watson (2000), 108.
- Needham (1986d), 161–188.
- Needham (1986c), 171–172.
- Liu (2002), 56.
- Loewe (1968), 191–194; Wang (1982), 105.
- Loewe (1968), 191–194; Tom (1989), 103; Ronan (1994), 91.
- Temple (1986), 78–79.
- Needham (1986c), 2, 9; see also Barbieri-Low (2007), 36.
- Needham (1986c), 2.
- Temple (1986), 54–55.
- Barbieri-Low (2007), 197.
- Needham (1986c), 99, 134, 151, 233.
- Temple (1986), 87; Needham (1986b), 123, 233–234.
- Temple (1986), 46; Needham (1986c), 116–119, PLATE CLVI.
- Needham (1986c), 281–285.
- Needham (1986c), 283–285.
- Temple (1986), 86–87; Loewe (1968), 195–196.
- Needham (1986c), 183–184, 390–392.
- Needham (1986c), 396–400.
- de Crespigny (2007), 184; Needham (1986c), 370.
- Needham (1986c), 89, 110, 342–344.
- Needham (1986a), 343.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1050; Needham (1986c), 30, 479 footnote e;
Morton and Lewis (2005), 70; Bowman (2000), 595; Temple (1986),
- de Crespigny (2007), 1050; Needham (1986c), 479 footnote
- de Crespigny (2007), 1050; Morton and Lewis (2005), 70.
- Needham (1986a), 626–631.
- Dauben (2007), 212; Liu, Feng, Jiang, and Zheng (2003),
- Needham (1986a), 99–100; Berggren, Borwein and Borwein (2004),
- Dauben (2007), 219–222; Needham (1986a), 22.
- Temple (1986), 139, 142–143
- Shen, Crossley, and Lun (1999), 388; Straffin (1998), 166;
Needham (1986a), 24–25, 121.
- Temple (1986), 142.
- Temple (1986), 141; Liu, Feng, Jiang, and Zheng (2003),
- Teresi (2002), 65–66.
- Temple (1986), 141.
- McClain and Ming (1979), 212; Needham (1986b), 218–219.
- Cullen (2006), 7; Lloyd (1996), 168.
- Deng (2005), 67.
- de Crespigny (2007), 498.
- Loewe (1994), 61, 69; Csikszentmihalyi (2006), 173–175; Sun and
Kristemaker (1997), 5, 21–23; Balchin (2003), 27.
- Dauben (2007), 214; Sun and Kistemaker (1997), 62; Huang
- Needham (1986a), 227, 414.
- Needham (1986a), 468.
- Hsu (1993), 90–93; Needham (1986a), 534–535.
- Hsu (1993), 90–93; Hansen (2000), 125.
- Temple (1986), 179.
- de Crespigny (2007), 1050; Hsu (1993), 90–93; Needham (1986a),
538–540; Nelson (1974), 359; Temple (1986), 30.
- Turnbull (2002), 14; Needham (1986d), 390–391.
- Needham (1986d), 627–628; Chung (2005), 152; Tom (1989),
103–104; Adshead (2000), 156; Fairbank and Goldman (1998), 93;
Block (2003), 93, 123.
- Needham (1986c), 263–267; Greenberger (2006), 13.
- Needham (1986c), 308–312, 319–323.
- Csikszentmihalyi (2006), 181–182; Sun & Kistemaker (1997),
3–4; Hsu (2001), 75.
- Csikszentmihalyi (2006), 181–182.
- Temple (1986), 131.
- de Crespigny (2007) 332; Omura (2003), 15, 19–22; Loewe (1994),
65; Lo (2001), 23.
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