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The Rise and Fall of the Han Dynasty
Transcript of The Rise and Fall of the Han Dynasty
Last week into this week we worked with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and compared it to the modern U.S. We are now going to look at the other major empire of the time, one in a different continent, the Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty, which lasted from around 200 BC to 200 AD, was one of the longest of China’s major dynasties. In terms of power and prestige, the Han Dynasty in the East rivaled its almost contemporary Roman Empire in the West. With only minor interruptions it lasted a span of over four centuries and was considered a golden age in Chinese history especially in arts, politics and technology. All subsequent Chinese dynasties looked back to the Han period as an inspiring model of a united empire and self government.
In 202 BC, Emperor Gaozu, whose given name was Liu Bang, became the first Han emperor after defeating the last rebellion against him. He had already been king of the Han since 206 BC, the year most often associated with the beginning of the empire. During the previous dynasty, the Qin, Liu Bang had been a minor official. The Qin dynasty was very short (only around about 15 years) and cruel; by the time it collapsed, Liu Bang had raised an army and claimed the vacant throne.
How does the actions of the previous empire compare to one of reasons that the Roman Empire grew?
Liu Bang established the imperial capital in the city of Chang’an, which was chosen due to its strategic importance: it not only had a central position with all major roads connecting to it, but it would also become the eastern end of the Silk Road. The city turned into the political, economic, military, and cultural center of China and by 2 AD its population was nearly 250,000.
How did the strategic location of the Han compare to the strategic location of the Roman Empire?
The opening of the Silk Road was probably the major economic achievement of the Han Dynasty. This led to the exploration of trade routes that linked the Han Dynasty to the Mediterranean Sea and opened up new roads for merchants. This increased the trade and economic prosperity of the empire and also led to a constant cultural exchange between several cultures.
How does the Mediterranean Sea relate to Ancient Rome?
The Han Dynasty rose to prominence due to the following:
1. Strategic Location opening the area up for trade
2. They gained support from others in the region because of the cruelty of the previous empire
3. A strong military that maintained control of the empire
All of these are reasons the Roman Empire grew as well
Internally, the Han Dynasty started to fall apart when it was ruled by emperors who ruled for their own amusement.
An Emperor named Wudi was especially corrupt. In response to a bad dream, he accused many people of witchcraft and had them killed. He tried to find magicians who would give him something to prolong his life. Also, he started installing despotic rulers who executed people for no reason.
In order to stop any rebellion, he executed people who criticized him. He started to overspend on palaces and tours and luxuries. To obtain money, the court decreed imperial monopolies on salt and iron. Salt was considered a necessary nutrient, so they could sell it at high prices. Iron was necessary for tools and weapons.
How does this compare to Rome?
Wudi also started too many campaigns for conquest against the Koreans and the kingdoms in the south. Starting about 100 BC, due to the heavy taxation and military campaigns, there were many peasant revolts throughout the empire.
In order to suppress the rebellions, he decreed that officials presiding over areas in which there were rebellions would be killed. The officials responded by trying to hide the news of the revolts from him.
The bureaucracy became corrupt and the power of the central government weakened.
How does this compare to Rome?
The economy took a downward spiral when tax revenue hit a low point. The scholars had ruled themselves exempt from taxation, and peasants evaded tax collectors by running into the countryside. The lack of tax money led to a depleted military fund.
Comparison to Rome?
With a weakened military budget, the army was not well equipped to defend itself against outside threats. Raids by nomadic peoples, such as the Mongols, were commonplace in China during that era. During prosperous times, the settled agricultural people of China would simply pay bribes to troublesome nomads, or hire them to provide protection from the other tribes. The Han government, however, did not have the resources to buy off all of the nomads,eventually leading to its overthrow
One reason that the peasants fled at the rumor of tax collectors is that they were trying to survive on smaller and smaller plots of farm land. The population was growing quickly, and each son was supposed to inherit a piece of land when the father died. Thus, farms were quickly being carved into ever-tinier bits, and peasant families had trouble supporting themselves, even if they managed to avoid paying taxes.
To make matters worse, the trade with Europe brought something else to the Han Dynasty/China...smallpox and measles. The disease wiping out the military weakened the Empire as well. The massive loss of life also had religious implications as the poor times led many in the dynasty to leave traditional belies behind and turn to what is now Buddhism, the rise of Christianity in Rome was similar
A number of different natural calamities such as tremors, floods, and grasshopper plagues took place during these days and were seen as manifestations of the anger of heaven
The Han Dynasty falls due to:
1. Inept Rulers who made questionable decisions
2. Radical and Uneven Taxation to pay for these questionable decisions
3. Spreading the Empire too thin with ill fated military campaigns
4. Economic Downturn which caused the Government/Military to weaken
5. Constant invasion combined with Geographic Factors such as disease and natural disaster
6. Kylo Ren