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The Chinese Dynasties: Part 2

The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, led by the Qin dynasty (221–207 BC) and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms period (220–280 AD). It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. In 207 BC, the army led by Liu Bang conquered the troops of the Qin Dynasty (221 – 207BC) at Julu (currently Hebei Province) and in 206 BC he seized Xianyang (the capital city of the Qin Dynasty), thus ending the rule of Qin. After four years of war between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu, Liu Bang defeated his rival and established the Han Dynasty (206BC – 220AD) establishing Chang’an (the present Xian) as its capital city in 202 BC.

Han consisted of two dynasties: the Western Han (206 BC – 24 AD) and the Eastern Han (25 – 220). During the period there were 24 emperors on the throne. Many were excellent contributing to the prosperity of the country with Emperors Gaozu, Wen, Jing and Wu among them. The Han Dynasty was a period of peace and prosperity; its interests were within literature, arts, culture and technology. Some of the achievements of that time still influence the lives of the Chinese people today. The hierarchal structure of the Han Dynasty; the emperor was at the apex of Han society and government. However the emperor was often a minor, ruled over by a regent such as the empress dowager or one of her male relatives. Ranked immediately below the emperor were the kings who were of the same Liu family clan. The rest of society, including nobles lower than kings and all commoners excluding slaves belonged to one of twenty ranks.


Families throughout Han China made ritual sacrifices of animals and food 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 believed that each individual held a two-part soul: the spirit-soul which journeyed to the afterlife paradise of immortals (Xian), and the body-soul which remained in its grave or grave on earth and was only reunited with the spirit-soul through a ritual ceremony. These tombs were usually decorated with uniquely decorated hollow clay tiles that run as well as a doorjamb to the grave.

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