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Eastern Han

Established by Liu Xiu, Eastern Han had a history of 195 years altogether, with 13 emperors.


 Emperors of Eastern Han and time of their Reigns:

Emperor Guangwu Liu Xiu (25 – 57)
Emperor Ming Liu Zhuang (58 – 75)
Emperor Zhang Liu Da (76 – 88)
Emperor He Liu Zhao (89 –104)
Emperor Shang Liu Long(105 – 106)
Emperor An Liu Hu (107 – 125)
Emperor Shun Liu Bao (125 – 144)
Emperor Chong Liu Bing (145)
Emperor Zhi Liu Zuan (146)
Emperor Heng Liu Zhi (147 – 167)
Emperor Ling Liu Hong (168 – 188)
Emperor Shao Liu Bian (189)
Emperor Xian Liu Xie (189 – 220)


 Politics of Eastern Han
In 25 AD, Liu Xiu of the Western Han royal family defeated Wang Mang, the usurper at the end of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD), and re-established the Han Dynasty, the historical Eastern Han Dynasty, with Luoyang (Henan Province today) as the capital.


Compared with the Western Han, the political power of the Eastern Han was more authoritarian. Emperor Guangwu reformed Wang Mang's policies entirely by shaking up the bureaucracy and setting up six ministers at the helm of state affairs to weaken the powers of 'Sangong' (Taiwei, Situ and Sikong). In order to alleviate the lot of the people, he released the serfs and made a thorough inventory of the land. Emperors Guangwu, Ming and Zhang were all diligent in state affairs and kind to the people, so that Eastern Han had gradually redeveloped the prosperity of Western Han by the middle of the first century and the period of their rule was thus called 'Guangwu Zhongxing (a prosperous period of Eastern Han).


Political power was centralized in the Imperial Secretariat, so the emperor's will could be put into practice, but the ministers of the Imperial Secretariat would usurp power if the emperor was foolish or young and incapable. Competition for power by eunuchs and relatives on the side of the emperor's mothers and wives was at times serious, and the eunuchs' power was at its peak during the reigns of Emperor Heng and Ling. Emperor Shao was a typical example. He succeeded to the throne at the age of 14, and his mother, Empress Dowager He, attended to affairs of state. Her brother, General He Jin, wielded the scepter, and 7 months later, Emperor Shao was dethroned. In 189 AD, General He Jin butchered over 2,000 eunuchs, and Eastern Han regimes run by eunuchs came to an end.


Emperor Xian, the last emperor of Eastern Han, inherited the throne from Emperor Shao. During his rule, state affairs were in the hands of Dong Zhuo, Cao Cao (later the king of Wei) and other generals one after the other. Cao Cao made himself Prime Minister and later forced Emperor Xian to make him King of Wei and to take his daughter as the empress. In 220 AD, after Cao Cao's death, his son dethroned Emperor Xian and took on himself the title of emperor, which marked the end of Eastern Han.


 Foreign Relations
Following the end of the Western Han, Eastern Han made great progress in foreign relations. With Ban Chao (a diplomat of Eastern Han), who lived for a long time in the Western Regions (the areas west of Yangguan Pass and Yumen Pass in the Han Dynasty) and made over 50 states of Western Regions subject to Eastern Han, as the representative, Eastern Han established peace and friendly relations with the Southern Huns, Qiang ethnic groups as well as Korea and Japan. Taking Japan as an example, in 57 AD, it sent envoys to China, and Emperor Guangwu presented a golden seal engraved with 'King of Wonu (the former name of Japan) of Han', which bears historical witness to the friendly relations between Japan and China.


 Agriculture and Water Conservancy
The tyrannical landowners occupied a great deal of farmland in Eastern Han, and they adopted 'Tianzhuang' as a way of operation (an organization of production which is a self-sufficient natural economy). Under the Tianzhuang System, people carried on Farming (production of wheat, millet, and soybean), Forestry (all kinds of forest and fruit trees), Animal Husbandry (horses, cattle and pigs), Fishery as well as handicrafts (silk and flax, clothes and shoes), business (grain and farm products business) and some landowners even loaned money to their tenants in order to develop the production. In a word, all kinds of basic living materials could be provided under this system. However, landowners and government officials rode roughshod over the people at that time, collecting taxes arbitrarily on various pretexts, forbidding farmers to go into business and decreeing that farmers with farmland were not allowed to fish.


Lots of irrigation projects and channels were built in the Eastern Han Dynasty. Additionally, the Yellow River was channelled to allow the water flow more readily to the sea so that the flooding was controlled in some degree, and for the next 800 years, the watercourse of the Yellow River hasn't changed and the floods were reduced.


 Literature and Art
Literary works of the Eastern Han mainly includes Ci-Fu, a literary form combining poem and prose, and five-character verse, a popular literary style of the Han Dynasty, of which Ban Gu's (a noted historian and litterateur of Eastern Han) Liangdu Fu and Zhang Heng's (a noted astronomer of Eastern Han) Erjing Fu were the most famous.


Painting and sculpture were the popular creative art forms of Eastern Han, on the walls of the nobles and landowners' palaces, houses, temples and mausoleums as well as on the common lacquers and chinawares, which were covered with various murals or designs. Stone carvings in Wuliang Temple of Jiaxiang County and Tombstone Temple of the Guo Family in the Xiaotang Mountain in Shandong Province are representatives of the stone paintings in the Eastern Han Dynasty.


 Science of Eastern Han
The noted astronomer Zhang Heng (78 AD - 139 AD) invented rotating celestial globe and seismograph, the first apparatus in the world to forecast earthquakes.


In 105 AD, Cai Lun (63 AD -121 AD) (a eunuch of Eastern Han) created papermaking, one of the four great inventions in ancient China.


In the late Eastern Han, the famous doctor Hua Tuo (145 AD – 208 AD) was the first surgeon to use anesthetic to carry out surgical operations in Chinese history. In addition, he created 'Wuqin Xi' (Medical Exercise Imitating Movements of Five Animals) which is the first set of fitness activities of gymnastics in China.

I want to say
  • Replyrichard
    2017/12/23 7:21:00

    I don't see a reference to the flooding of the Eastern Han. Did it happen or not, thanks.

  • Replyfghnfvg
    2010/2/11 8:14:00

    Good site. Very helpfull.

  • Replytammy,   United States
    2008/12/18 18:32:00

    I am helping my son with a project about the Han Dynasty...it is called an A-B-C book. Each letter of the alphabet has to speak to somethng related to the Han Dynasty. I am really stuck on the letters N-O-U...if anyone can help please feel free. It is not limited to people, it can be anything related to the times...geographical, architectual, ect...THANKS

  • ReplyShayne,   Philippines
    2008/11/11 3:41:00

    Wow!!! I really like this site. It has too many information that helps in my research!!! I love this.. Besides, I'm going to report about Han Dynasty. Good job!! Good work..