Under this new form of
legalism and Confucianism, rewards and punishments were still used for the
common people. However, the administrators were judged according to Confucian
principles with the justification for these different sets of standards as they
were educated. As a last resort, the ruler could use punishment for both the
people and the officials. It was believed that force alone was not sufficient
enough to rule, so the emperor needed the help of the Confucians to guide him
morally. Evidence of rulers using power to punish is found in records of
When Liu Bang
conquered the Qin, he created his capital at Chang'an. He kept most of the laws
and regulations from the Qin, made many of his friends nobles and gave them
fiefs. However, the land was still divided into commanderies and prefectures.
Even the fiefs were treated like commanderies. Han power was based on direct
control of people by the state.
|A bronze drum of the Han Dynasty (90cm in diameter,
57.2cm in height and 75.4kg in weight)|
Like the Qin before them, the
main goal of the Han was to unify China. This goal led to the eventual breakup
of the fiefs and the downfall of the imperial nobility. This process was finally
completed during Emperor Wudi''s reign (141-87BC) -- a period of great military
expansion. Emperor Wudi expanded China's borders to Vietnam and Korea and pushed
the Huns to the south of the Gobi. Emperor Wudi transferred an estimated two
million people to the northwestern region to colonize those areas.
The expansion also led to
trade with the people of inner Asia. Thereafter, the Silk Road was developed.
The Silk Road actually consisted of more than one possible route through the
mountains that traders followed. Agriculture grew with the development of better
tools. Iron tools were of a better quality and oxen-drawn ploughs were commonly
used. Irrigation systems were increased to help develop the areas of North
China. Crop rotation was also incorporated from 85BC onwards. The state
attempted to monopolize the production of iron and salt, which were the two
biggest sectors of the economy, but they only succeeded to do this for less than
a century. Silk weaving and copper work were also important
Education became more
important during this period as a new class of the gentry was introduced. A
result was the compilation of many encyclopedias. The best known is the Book
of the Mountains and Seas, which contained everything known at the time
about geography, natural philosophy, the animal and plant world, and popular
myths. Sima Qian, one of China''s greatest historians, wrote his famous
Records of the Great Historian (Shiji) during this time. The history book
became the model by which all other histories followed. It was one of the first
attempts in China to record the past in a book form.
The Han Dynasty actually
consists of two separate dynasties. It is considered as one dynasty by the
Chinese because the second dynasty was founded by a member of the former Han
dynasty who declared that he had restored the Han Dynasty. The original Han
Dynasty was overthrown when wealthy families gained more power than the emperor.
The families became allies through marriage and were responsible for the
selection of officials. The widow of Emperor Y¨¹andi
succeeded in placing all of her relatives in government and ruled in place of
her son. Her nephew, Wang Mang, eventually declared himself emperor of a new
dynasty, the Xin (new). His rise as emperor is unusual because he gained much
public support and began the ceremony where a seal of the precious stone was
passed to the emperor. From then on, whoever held the seal was the official
emperor. Wang was overthrown by a secret society of peasants known as the Red
Eyebrows (they painted their eyebrows red). Descendents of the Han eventually
joined in the uprising, and it was the armies of these nobles, under the
leadership of Liu Xiu, who killed Wang in the year 22. The fighting continued
until the year 25 when Liu became emperor. As emperor Liu was called Emperor
Guang Wudi. Millions of people died during the fighting, leaving land behind for
peasants, and often freedom from debt as lenders passed away.
The second Han Dynasty had
much success with its foreign policy. Part of this success was due to luck
rather than any great accomplishments. The Huns, previously one of the most
dangerous enemies of the Chinese, were defeated by the Xiangbei and the Wuhuan.
Half of the Huns moved south and became part of the Chinese empire. The Huns
appeared to be trying to reunite and form a large empire comprising of
Turkestan. Thus, in 73, the Chinese began a campaign in Turkestan. The whole of
Turkestan -- which would have ensured a trading monopoly although Emperor Mingdi
died and Changdi became emperor -- was quickly conquered. The emperor favored an
isolationist policy so that much of what was gained in Turkestan was now lost.
Banchao, the deputy commander who led the invasion, stayed in Turkestan to try
and hold onto what was won. Eventually, in 89, a new emperor came to power with
a renewed interest in holding Turkestan. Despite this military success, economic
and political struggles arose in China. Internal struggles for power taxed the
peasants until in 184, when another peasant uprising occurred. This movement was
initiated by the Yellow Turbans and served to unite the factions that had
previously been fighting because they needed to unite to defeat the Yellow
Turbans. Although China had conquered them, the country did not return to a
united state. Rather, three kingdoms emerged and the Han Dynasty came to an end.