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Chinese Civilization During the Han Dynasty Term Paper

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Updated: Aug 21st, 2020


The Han people shaped the future of the present Chinese culture through their excellent innovativeness. With a history spanning over four hundred years, Han Dynasty left a mark in the modern history. The Han Dynasty is arguably responsible for the modernization of China. The history of the Han emperors, their conquering prowess, system of administration, scholars, innovators, entrepreneurs, and the common people represented emergence of a great Chinese culture (Duiker and Spielvogel 27).

Han Dynasty

A rebel leader Liu Band, also referred to as Prince Han, founded the Han Dynasty in 206 BC after defeating the Qin army in the valley of Wei. The capital of Han Dynasty was at Chang’an (Hung 23). The Han Dynasty reigned for more than 400 years; an important period referred to by Chinese as the golden age. Xin Dynasty led by Regent Wang Mang 9 BC – 23 AD, briefly interrupted Han Dynasty. The Western Han ruled from 206 BC to 9 AD, and then Wang Mang defeated the Han army marking the end of Western Han era. The Han people continued waging wars against Wang Mang, until 25 AD when Han defeated Wang Mang and his army marking the beginning of Eastern Han Empire. The Ham Empire had a central government under the emperor and other smaller kingdoms ruled by leaders appointed by the emperor. The emperor appointed family members to govern the semi-autonomous kingdoms and commanderies to maintain loyalty. Following the rebellion of the seven states, the kingdoms lost their autonomy (Hung 35).

Technology Development in agricultural

The modern technique of manufacturing new and improved agricultural tools borrowed most of its designs from the Han-era technology. Many types of agricultural equipment such as seed drill and plow were developed during the Han Empire (Hardy 58). These farms equipment revolutionized agricultural production. The seed drill enabled farmers to plant seeds in rows, while the heavy moldboard plow employed one man to control two oxen pulled plow. The plow could do three tasks at the same time; it could store and sow the seeds, make furrows and auger the soil. During the reign of Emperor Wu, a new system of farming that protected crops from wind and drought was developed. The alternating field system allowed crops of different seasons to grow at the same time. The success of the system prompted the government to sponsor the new system to the peasant farmers. The Han had discovered a new farming system that saved on labor and conserved the soil fertility (University of Washington 34).

Technological development in manufacturing industries

The Han period saw significant advances in Science and technology. Major technological development included papermaking, the hydraulic-powered armillary sphere for astronomy, the use of a negative number in mathematics, and the nautical steering rudder. The bronze and ironwork during Han Empire produced weapons, domestic wares, carpenters’ tools and culinary tools. The advancement in metallurgic technology which saw the use of cupola and blast furnace was achieved during the Warring States Period (403- 221 BC).The paddling and finery forge processes were developed during Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 200).

The tenth century’s discovery of gunpowder revolutionized the military warfare; it was preceded by invention of heavy artillery, large and small explosives, and different types of guns. The invention of rocket bombs with wings that could carry multi explosive devices was a great breakthrough that modernized the warfare. The Chinese were great sailors, using the compass invented in 11th century and rudder invented in the 1st century; they managed to reach Egypt and East Africa. Han-era ships were manufactured using junk design, which featured a stern and a square-ended bow, and a flat-bottomed hull. The first ship to be steered using rudder at the stern was built during the Han- era. These ships could sail on the high seas enabling the Chinese to visit and establish trade routes across in Asia, Europe and Africa. The Chinese had a water-powered clock based on escapement mechanism invented in 8th century combine with chain-drive invented in 11th century (Hardy 78).

Technology in roads

Trade and manufacturing played an important part of the commercial activities of the Han people. During the reign of Emperor Wu, trade with the people of inner Asia expanded tremendously. Emperor Wu, sent his personal envoy Zhang Qian to the Western Regions. He pioneered the vast trade network from Chang’an to Central Asia and Mediterranean Sea. This route later developed into a road famously referred to as Silk Road. Han-era was marked by a great development of farming tools owing to the vibrant iron industry that had developed. The artisans manufactured oxen drawn ploughs, which helped in improving the agricultural production. Irrigation systems to help improve rice productivity were enhanced especially in the drier North part of the Empire. Besides iron and copper industries, silk weaving and copper work were established (Duiker and Spielvogel 63).

Development of modern technology in Medicine

The Chinese had their way of treating diseases; they had a belief that, the human body had five phases governed by the universe and linked with the body organs. Diseases were viewed as a signs of malfunctioning of the channels that connected the organs and one of the five phases. The physicians treated the ailment by applying medicine that could counteract the body imbalance. Some illnesses were treated using special diet rich in certain minerals. Zhang Zhongjing who was a famous physician during the Han Empire prescribed certain food to treat certain disorders. A physician Huo Tuo performed a surgery in 208 AD where he applied anesthesia to reduce the patient’s pain and added an ointment that made the wound to heal faster (Hardy 88).

Western influence

The Chinese innovations brought a lot of improvement in agriculture resulting in high production of food, which helped to sustain China’s huge population. New trade routes developed thus enabling them to trade with other empires such as the Roman Empire. The establishment and development of Silk Road opened many areas for trade. The innovation made in military warfare enabled Han Empire to expand its territory through conquest. Han people were great manufacturer of iron weapons, which was traded to the Xiongnu, they also manufactured silk clothes and wine. The existence of large well-equipped army resulted in constant battle with rival kingdoms, each struggling to take control of trade (Hardy 48). The government took control of the private salt and iron production in 117 BC and created monopolies. The government expected to raise funds to pay for the expansion wars it was waging with its neighbors. The government monopolies were later removed and the salt and iron industries returned to private entrepreneurs. However, the empire imposed very heavy taxes to cover for the lost revenue (University of Washington 22).

The technology advancement influenced the cultural and political practices. The religious and cultural beliefs united the vast regions. The Western Han Dynasty maintained almost similar cultural and political systems in which the emperor remained at the top of the hierarchy assisted by court official and palace eunuchs. The Han people had a well-developed political system. The emperor was the head of the government; assisted by a council of ministers selected from the scholarly class. However, during the reign of Emperor Wu, the rulers strengthened the palace and ignored the civil service, and maintained a weak control of the peasants. The rise of super rich families led to the adoption of Confucian ideals. The ordinary people were subjected to rewards and punishments while the administrators were judged based on Confucian principles (University of Washington 46).


It is undeniable truth that the Han Dynasty was the greatest and the most remarkable in Chinese history as noted by University of Washington (27). During the Han Dynasty China experienced the greatest scientific and technological innovations and discoveries which are useful even in the modern day (Hardy 28). The scientific innovations and major technological development such as papermaking, the hydraulic-powered armillary sphere for astronomy is applicable in the modern day. The bronze and ironwork during Han Empire produced weapons, domestic wares, carpenters’ tools and culinary tools. The advancement in metallurgic technology, which saw the use of cupola and blast furnace and use of gunpowder, heavy artillery, large and small explosives are innovation applicable even now.

Works Cited

Duiker, William and Jackson, Spielvogel. World History: To 1500. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.

Hardy, Grant. The Establishment of The Han Empire And Imperial China Greenwood Guides to Historic Events of the Ancient World Series. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005. Print.

Hung, Hing. The Road to the Throne: How Liu Bang Founded China’s Han Dynasty. New York: Algora Publishing, 2011. Print.

University of Washington. Institute for Comparative and Foreign Area Studies. Han Dynasty China. New York: University of Washington Press, 2011. Print

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