Han China

In 206 BCE, the Qin Dynasty in China was overthrown by a new family, led by a man named Liu Bang. They were known as the Han and they established an empire in China that would last for over 400 years.  Like Rome in Europe, the Han expanded its borders to create the largest empire in China up until that time.

The extent of the Han Dynasty in China.
Public Domain

Like other societies at the time, Han China had a highly structured society. At the top was the supreme ruler, the emperor.  Since the belief in the "Mandate of Heaven" was embedded deep within Chinese culture, most people accepted his rule.  But the emperor was not alone in ruling this large empire. China had an efficient bureaucracy, and the everyday management of the country was left to lesser kings, governors and government officials.

The Han Dynasty organized itself around the teachings of the philosopher Confucius. In fact, Confucius is arguably one of the most important figures in Chinese history with an influence that can still be felt in China today.

Confucius taught that everyone had a duty and responsibility to others in society.  His philosophy stressed loyalty and tradition. One key element of Confucianism is the idea of filial piety, the respect all must show to members of their family.

Confucius was so important that in order to get a job with the government, you had to take an exam to show how much you know about the teachings of Confucius!

Out of all of the cultures during the classical age, China was the most technologically advanced. During the Han Dynasty, China began adding to a wall begun during the Qin Dynasty in order to protect its northern borders.  The wall was a project that continued on and off for the next 1000 years, with dynasties adding to it and enhancing it over the years. In all, the Great Wall of China today stretches for over 5,500 miles.

This is a section of the Great Wall today.  So many people died making the wall, the bodies were buried within the wall. It is often known as the "longest graveyard."
(By Georgio (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Han Dynasty is known for its many important technological innovations and inventions. One of the most important is the invention of paper.  In addition, the Han developed the wheelbarrow, cast iron, acupuncture and hot air balloons.

The Han Dynasty was connected through trade to other regions of the world including, for the first time, to Europe.  It was the trade of silk that connected China to the rest of the world. Silk was so precious that Chinese rulers made it a crime to give away the secrets of silk making.

Silk lead to the establishment of a trade route between Han China and Rome called the "Silk Road."

The Silk Road was actually several trade routes that carried all sorts of good over land.  The red lines represent the Silk Roads.

Like what was to happen in Rome, the Han experienced some problems near the end of the empire too. They started to be attacked by nomadic invaders from the north.  In addition, economic troubles plagued the empire.  By 220 CE, the Han Dynasty was in deep decline and would soon be replaced by another empire.

Important Points to Remember:

  • The Han Dynasty expanded China's border's through trade, diplomacy and military power
  • Chinese society was organized under the ideas of Confucius, the most famous Chinese philosopher
  • Silk was the most important item traded from China
  • Han China was known for its many inventions and innovations, most notably the development of paper