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Han Dynasty — Golden Era of Legendary Civilians

Front Hall of Weiyang Palace

Front Hall of Imperial Palace of the Han Dynasty (Weiyang Palace), based on Architectural Historian Yang Hongxun's Restored Model.

Han Dynasy

What Is Han Dynasty?


Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD) was the second centralized empire in the ancient history of China; also a golden era when the economy, agriculture, science, politics, and culture all advanced. 


It was the first dynasty established by a civilian, which opened up a chapter for people to shine for their talents rather than their family origins. 


Han was divided into two periods, the Western Han (202 BC — 8 AD) and the Eastern Han (25 AD — 220 AD). 


A regent named Wang Mang snatched the throne, built Xin Dynasty (8 AD — 23 AD) in the middle of the Han, and published a series of radical, controversial policies.


The Han Dynasty lasted for 405 years and was reigned by 29 emperors. 

Jade Box of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King

Jade Box of Han — Museum of the Western Han Mausoleum of the Nanyue King (Photo by Dongmaiying)


Facts About the Han Dynasty


  • The major ethnic group in China, the Han People, is named after this dynasty. 


Chinese Character is named after this empire, too, the Han Zi. 

  • Han had many civilian or slave-born emperors, queens, generals, and ministers. They gained everything through their extraordinary ability, not their family origin.

  • The Han Dynasty's largest city was its capital, Chang An, which was three times bigger than the Contemporaneous ancient city of Rome.


  • Han was divided into two periods, the Western Han (202 BC — 8 AD) and the Eastern Han (25 AD — 220 AD); its twice ends were caused by internal disorders initiated by the powerful clans of the queens. 

Imperial Jade Seal of Queens of the Han Dynasty

Imperial Jade Seal of Queens of Han —  Shaanxi History Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)


  • Taoism Religion was formed, and Buddhism was imported to China during the Han era.

  • The 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals were officially set and widely used. 

  • Smaller cities began to specialize in the division of labor, such as handicraft centers, commercial centers, etc.

Unearthed Potteries Reproducing People's Daily Lives of Han  (Photo by Dongmaiying)

  • The first specialized public school in the history of China was built to teach talented people. 

  • The government set up a department to manage prices and supplies of products in the market, which made a profit.

  • Professional historians were set to accurately record the daily activities of the emperors, including whom they met, what they said, with whom they had slept, etc. 

Unearthed Brocade Barcer of the Han Dynasty

Unearthed Brocade Barcer of Han —  Xinjiang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

  • Women’s social status was relatively high in the Han Empire; their rights started to decrease after Tang Dynasty until down to the lowest point in the Qing Dynasty


       In the Han Era:

Women have the inheritance right to noble titles and property;


Children could use their mother’s family name;


Women could divorce and remarry as they wished, commoner or royal;


Princesses could also have toy boys. 


  • Many emperors of Han were believed to be bisexual; the most famous one was Emperor Liu Ao