|Major Dynasties of Ancient China: The Han Dynasty
China’s 4th dynasty, the Han Dynasty, lasted for almost 400 years (202 BC - 220 AD) – it was founded by Liu Bang, who led a successful revolt against the Qin Dynasty. Like the Qin, the Han Dynasty ruled a centralized and expanding empire but it was less harsh and succeeded longer. The Han Dynasty extended Chinese territory north into Korea, south towards SE Asia and west into central Asia. The capital city under the Han Dynasty was the city of Xian (the same city Shi Huangdi was buried near).
Emperor Wu Di (14 BC - 87 AD) was the best leader in the Han Dynasty – he fought many battles with the nomadic Huns of Eurasia who threatened the frontiers of the Han. He later established the Pax Sinica (Peace of China) through much of Asia – during this period of peace, fighting stopped and trade and travel increased dramatically
The Han Dynasty opened the famous Silk Road from China across central Asia to the Mediterranean. Silk, ivory, gold, glass, food, animals, and most importantly, ideas, traveled along the Silk Road. From India, the ideas of Buddhism came to China through the Silk Road. The teachings of Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Naturalism and Legalism all blended together at this time and were mixed into Chinese culture and society.
During the Han Dynasty, China established the Chinese civil service system, an idea originally proposed by Confucius several hundred years earlier. The civil service system administered the day-to-day business of running the government. Members in the civil service received job appointments based on the results of competitive exams that tested knowledge of Chinese literature and law. As a result, the best scholars in the country became govt. officials.
Two items were invented in Han China that are still widely used today – porcelain and paper. Porcelain (highly glazed ceramic ware) became so popular that today we actually call it “china.” Paper was first produced in 105 AD in China from the hemp plant and was bright yellow in color.
Unfortunately, none of Wu Di’s successors matched his leadership – still, the Han Dynasty managed to rule China until 220 AD, when a revolt overthrew the last Han emperor.