Western Han Dynasty

Written by Sally Guo Updated Jun. 10, 2021

West Han Dynasty is the first stage of the Han Dynasty, lasting from 207 BC to 25 BC. In the whole Han Dynasty, West Han was more prosperous than other periods. Thanks to the Enlightened Governance during the reign of Emperor Wen Di and Jing Di and Rehabilitation Policy by Emperor Wu Di, the development of politics, economy, and culture entered a boom in this stage.

Although Western Han Dynasty replaced Qin Dynasty, most institutions and systems were inherited directly from Qin. Changes were only made to major policies. It drew a lesson from the perdition of the Qin Dynasty caused by cruel tyranny and carried out policies of rehabilitation. During the ruling years of Wen Di and Jing Di, taxes were reduced by a large percentage. It, therefore, laid a solid material foundation for future prosperity in the ruling period of Wu Di Emperor. The legal system in this stage became more civilized along with the abolishment of excruciation step by step.

Wu Di Emperor further strengthened his ruling power by adopting the proposition of Dong Zhongshu that "abolishing the various schools of thought while holding high the Confucian School". But the way of carrying it out was different from that in Qin Dynasty. They combined academic study with the selection of officials, guided people to read books of Confucius, and gradually unified the ideas of the state. Its final purpose of consolidating the imperial rule was thus achieved.

Western Han Dynasty was also famous for developed foreign trade. The Silk Road was a good representation of it. The social economy enjoyed rapid and unprecedented development: farmland was largely expanded, and metallurgy and spin technologies were quite advanced. Now the low-temperature steel furnace unearthed in Gongxian County plays an epoch-making role in the history of metallurgy technology development.

In the late Western Han Dynasty, due to serious impropriation and annexation of land as well as practices of corruption and squandering, social contradictions were very intense and even became more acute. Soon it was replaced by New Dynasty founded by Wang Mang. Unfortunately, Wang Mang was killed in the surge of Greenwood Army Revolt and Red Eyebrows peasants uprising. In 25th BC, Liu Xiu reestablished Han Dynasty and raised the curtain of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

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