Eastern Han 东汉


Chinese Name: 东汉

English Name: Eastern Han; Dong Han

Duration: About 25 AD – 220 AD

Other name: Later Han Dynasty 后汉; Han Empire 大汉帝国;Yan Han 炎汉; Tian Han 天汉

King: Liu Xiu刘秀; Liu Zhuang刘庄; Liu Zhu刘炟; Liu Zhao刘肇; Liu long 刘隆

Eastern Han 东汉
The Eastern Han 东汉

Brief Introduction

The Eastern Han Dynasty 东汉 (25-220 years) was another unified Central Plains dynasty after the Western Han Dynasty 西汉 in Chinese history. It is said that there are 14 emperors in the eighth generation, lasting 195 years. The Eastern Han and Western Han Dynasties are collectively referred to as the Han Dynasties.

Liu Xiu 刘秀 is the ninth grandson of Liu Bang, the emperor of the Eastern Han Dynasty, and a descendant of the Han Dynasty. He continued the national title of “Han” and established the capital Luoyang 洛阳. Luoyang, the capital city of the Western Han Dynasty, is located in the east of Chang’an 长安, the capital city of the Western Han Dynasty, so it is called the Eastern Han Dynasty. The Western Han Dynasty is before the Eastern Han Dynasty, also known as the later Han Dynasty.

Eastern Han 东汉
the capital of Eastern Han 东汉都城

During this period, Buddhism was introduced into China through the White Horse Temple 白马寺. The powerful landlords in the Eastern Han Dynasty expanded and formed a gentry. The Xiongnu 匈奴, Qiang people 羌族, Di people 氐族, and other nationalities moved inward. After the northern Xiongnu moved westward, the Xianbei people 鲜卑族 occupied Mobei 漠北, which had a far-reaching impact on later generations.

Major Historical Events

Chaos reigned at the end of the Xin Dynasty 新末大乱

In the fourth year (23rd year) of emperor Wang Mang, Liu Xiu destroyed Xinmang’s 新莽 army in the battle of Kunyang 昆阳, marking that Xinmang’s military power to maintain its rule was exhausted. In the same year, the greenwood army broke through Xuchang许昌, and Wang Mang 王莽 died at the hands of the rebels.

Then, Liu Xiu was dispatched to Fuzhou County 抚州郡, a town in Hebei Province 河北省. He quickly recovered from the war. The powerful landlord in Hebei led the clan, guests, and children to join him successively, which made him stand firm in Hebei. Since then, Liu Xiu refused to listen to the order of the Geng Shi regime 更始政权.

Eastern Han 东汉
Liu Xiu 刘秀

In the autumn of the same year, another peasant uprising army was forced to land and incorporated, and Liu Xiu gradually became independent. Soon, it broke away from the Gengshi regime. On June 22, the third year of the Geng Shi period (August 5, the 25th year), Liu Xiu ascended the throne and became emperor in 鄗 (now Baixiang County, Hebei Province 河北柏乡县). The country’s name is still “Han”. It is known as Emperor Guangwu 光武帝, the ancestor of the Han Dynasty.

The Reign of Emperor Guangwu 光武中兴

In view of the historical lessons of powerful officials interfering in politics and foreign relatives usurping the country in the Western Han Dynasty, Liu Xiu first committed to rectifying the administration of officials, strengthening the centralization of power, and preventing the dictatorship of meritorious officials, vassal princes, and foreign relatives. Although meritorious officials were made Marquis and given generous titles and salaries, they were prohibited from interfering in political affairs. The power of the princes and their relatives was also limited in many ways.

Eastern Han 东汉
Emperor Guangwu 光武帝

In terms of the administrative system, on the one hand, Liu Xiu further restrained and seized the functions and powers of the three public officials, so that the government affairs of the whole country were managed by the Shangshu platform and finally dominated by the emperor.

On the other hand, it also strengthened the supervision system and improved the authority and status of the assassins, such as the imperial governor Zhongcheng, the school captain of Sili, and the Ministry assassin. It also made the country merge more than 400 counties in the province, and the official posts were reduced to one-tenth of the province.

Eastern Han 东汉
The Reign of Emperor Guangwu 光武中兴

After the world was settled, Liu Xiu paid attention to the recovery and development of production and people’s lives and began to focus on developing production, improving people’s livelihood, and restoring national strength. Liu Xiu also took many measures to stabilize people’s livelihood and restore the broken social economy.

In the sixth year of Jianwu’s reign, an imperial edict was issued to restore the old system of 30 taxes and one tax. The burden of feudal rent and corvee in the early Eastern Han Dynasty was lighter than that in the late Western Han Dynasty and during the war.

Eastern Han 东汉
Guangwu pictures in the Qing Dynasty 光武中兴清朝画像

He issued nine edicts to release the slaves or improve their legal status so that a large number of slaves were exempted from being common people, and the refugees returned to the countryside to promote production. During his reign, the production and life destroyed by the war have been rapidly restored, and the population and the number of cultivated land have increased greatly.

Rule of Ming and Zhang 明章之治

During the reign of Emperor Ming and Emperor Zhang, adhering to the regulations left by Liu Xiu, the foreign relative were strictly guarded. They repeatedly issued edicts to appease refugees and relieve widows, loneliness, and the poor nine times. The construction of the Bianqu 汴渠 canal was completed, which eliminated the corruption of the river and dam since the Emperor Ping of the Western Han Dynasty 汉平帝.

Eastern Han 东汉
Emperor Ming and Emperor Zhang 明章二帝

They Operated in the western regions, then cut off the right arm of the Xiongnu, and restored the western regions’ capital guard 西域都护府 and Wuji captain 戊己校尉. According to history, “the world is peaceful and the people are rich”, which is known as “the rule of the Ming and Zhang”.

Towards Extinction 走向灭亡

During the period of emperor Zhang of the Han Dynasty, foreign relatives were appointed, which gradually led to foreign relatives taking power. The emperor united with eunuchs against his relatives. Emperor Huan of the Han Dynasty granted princes to the 13 eunuchs who conspired with him, causing the eunuch party to interfere in politics. The corruption of eunuchs was more serious than their relatives, which led to the dissatisfaction of scholar-bureaucrats. Scholar bureaucrats and relatives united against eunuchs.

Eastern Han 东汉
Towards Extinction 走向灭亡

Finally, it led to two times of Party imprisonment, and all honest scholars and bureaucrats were excluded from the court. The Eastern Han Dynasty was on the verge of extinction, which led to the “Yellow scarf uprising 黄巾起义”, Dong Zhuo’s rebellion, etc.

Important Influences

the study of Confucian classics to the peak

The Eastern Han Dynasty made outstanding achievements in culture, science, technology, military, and Buddhism. Culturally, Zheng Xuan 郑玄 pushed the study of Confucian classics to the peak and created Zheng study.

Continuous development of science and technology

In science and technology, Cai Lun 蔡伦 improved papermaking, Zhang Heng 张衡 invented the seismograph 地动仪 and the armillary sphere 浑天仪.

Eastern Han 东汉
seismograph 地动仪

An important period of the founding of Chinese traditional medicine

Hua Tuo 华佗, a famous doctor in the late Eastern Han Dynasty, was the first surgeon who used anesthesia to treat patients. In the feudal era when medicine was relatively backward, this was a great achievement. The “Wuqinxi 五禽戏” created by him is the first set of gymnastic fitness activities in China.

Eastern Han 东汉
Wuqin Xi 五禽戏

Zhang Zhongjing’s 张仲景 “treatise on Febrile and miscellaneous diseases伤寒杂病论” is an immortal work in the history of traditional Chinese medicine and has become the main founder of traditional Chinese medicine. He is known as the “ancestor of medical prescriptions”.

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