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(206 BC – AD220)

next   The fatiguing pace of life during the Ch’in prompted civil war and the downfall of the empire when those who ruled were overthrown by those they ruled. The victors named their dynasty the Han.
Shang (1523-1027 BC)  
Chou (1027-221 BC)  
Ch'in (221-206 BC)   Its first Emperor, Kao-ti, established his capital at Chang-an. There he set about replacing the old laws with the teachings of Confucianism, which were to instruct and edify society. Reaching back to the Chou, the Emperor also revived the tenant of the Mandate of Heaven, justifying his authority in the celestial sphere.
Three Kingdoms (220-581)  
Sui (581-618)  
T'ang (618-907)  
Sung (907-1279)  
Yüan (1279-1368)   In the early years of Han, government became less oppressive. Taxes were lowered and extreme punishment curtailed. Merchants, a class generally distrusted, gained new freedoms, and as the floods of the Yellow River were better controlled, more land was brought under plow. Internal disputes subsided and efforts were made to appease the barbarians of the north and west. Over time China’s borders swelled, reaching well beyond the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. By 87 BC much of what is now modern China was under Han’s direct rule. The emperor governed well over a million square miles and a population of almost fifty million, an empire comparable in almost every way to that of contemporary Rome.
Ming (1368-1644)
Ch'ing (1644-1912)
Opening the Door (1844-1911)
The Period of Revolution (1912-1949)
Mao's Dynasty (1949-1976)
Raising the Bamboo Curtain (1972-1979)  
Model of Goat Pen
c. 206 BCE - c. 220 AD
Han Period
red pottery with green-lead glaze
7 in. x 8 1/2 in. x 7 1/2
Courtesy The University of Michgan Art Museum
Into the Next Millennium (1979- )  
Such aggressive expansion came at a cost, however, and the country found its many resources strained. Measures were undertaken to give greater authority to regional officials, and a professional army replaced the army of conscripted peasants.
This new army was tested by unrest on the borders, as outlying states warred with the Empire. Also the Yellow River again flooded and, combined with other natural disturbances, caused many to question the Emperor’s Heavenly Mandate. These problems forced a migration of peasants southward; eighteen million or more made the trek in the first two centuries of the new millennium. Strained by these migrants, the people of the south and east rebelled, climaxing in AD 220 when the Emperor surrendered his throne to Ts’ao-P’i, who declared himself the first Emperor of the Wei Dynasty. Not only had 400 years of Han ended, but the empire it ruled was split in thirds, each governed by its own emperor.