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The Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 220)

China: An Illustrated History
Yong Ho, Hippocrene Books
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Bronze horse from a Han emperor's tomb

Click for a larger picture.

….. the Han dynasty turned out to
be a glorious and prosperous period in Chinese history. For this reason, the dynasty was often referred to as the Great Han, and this term eventually came to be used to refer to both the ethnic Chinese (Hanren "Han people") and the Chinese language (Hanyu "Han language"). Contemporary with the Roman Empire in its height, the golden age of the Han witnessed the flourishing of art, literature, philosophy, music, and statecraft, which shaped a unified mainstream Chinese culture.

Liu Che (namely, “Wudi”, note by Editor of this website) did everything within his power to liberate the minds of people. Under his direction, a rudimentary national university was cre­ated to train civil servants, and students entered the university through recommendation by local officials. Confucianism. out of favor during Shi Huang's era, became the dominant creed of the Han dynasty. ft was declared a state religion in 124 H.C. Liu Che made the Confucian Five Classics requisite readings for his ministers and other subordinates. It was very difficult for anyone at that time to be considered for an important public office if he was not versed in Confucian classics. Confucianism grew to he the cornerstone of Chinese thought and China was converted into a truly Confucian state. For this very reason, Confucian ethics/morality became the single most important criterion in selecting public officials. Consideration of one's moral fitness overrode other credentials.

Liu Che's contribution to the Han was not limited to rejuve­
nating scholarly studies. For one, he greatly expanded the Han territory. In 127 B.C., 121 B.C., and 119 B.C., Liu Che launched major expeditions against the nomadic tribe of the Huns on the Mongolian steppe; the Huns were resoundingly routed and posed no further threat to the empire. During this time, the Han also extended Chinese control to present-day Xinjiang and much of Central Asia in the west, Korea in the east, and Vietnam in the south. The confrontation with the Huns was a protracted one, lasting for generations. In the search for a solution, the Han tried both to contain them and appease them. One of the appeasement or bribery efforts in the early days of the Western Han was to offer princesses and noblewomen to the Huns in marriage, in exchange for peace; but this had little success. When military solutions became inevitable, the Han sent envoys abroad to form a common front with a number of allies in Central Asia by offering them gifts in the form of Chinese products, particularly the most coveted: silk. Such diplomatic missions not only won allies, but also spread the influence of the empire and opened up new trade routes to Central Asia. The trade relations at the time extended as far as the Persian Gulf. Some Chinese products, particularly silk products, even found their way to the Roman Empire via Persian merchants.