Timeline Description: The Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE) was one of China's longest-lasting dynasties, surviving for over four centuries with only minor interruptions. It is considered to be a golden age in Chinese history, with its achievements in arts, politics, and technology. Later Chinese dynasties looked to the Han period as a model of government and imperial power.
|206 BC||Liu Bang conquers the Qin Dynasty.(206 BCE)
Liu Bang, a man of humble birth, leads a rebellion against the repressive policies of the Qin Dynasty. After winning a number of battles, he seizes Xianyang, the capital city of Qin, and ends Qin rule. He establishes the Han Dynasty (further divided into the Western Hanby historians) and renames himself Emperor Gaozu.
|202 BC||Emperor Gaozu establishes the capital of the Han Dynasty.(202 BCE)
After defeating the final rebellion against him, Gaozu establishes Chang'an as the capital of the Han Dynasty. The capital is strategically located at the convergence of all major roads.
|195 BC||Emperor Gaozu dies, sending the empire into internal conflict.(195 BCE)
After Gaozu's death, his empress takes ruthless measures to confiscate the empire for her own family. The conflict lasts for 15 years.
|180 BC||Emperor Wen reestablishes control over the empire.(180 BCE)
After years of conflict. Emperor Wen, one of Liu Bang's surviving sons, takes the throne and reestablishes the broken lineage. He and his family punish the Lü Zhi clan for their rebellion, killing every family member they can find. As a ruler, Emperor Wen lightens taxes and promotes the development of the empire.
|138 BC||Zhang Qian begins to open the Silk Road to the west.(138 BCE)
Sent as an envoy of Emperor Wudi, explorer Zhang Qian begins several expeditions to central Asia. He and his associates establish contact with Hellenistic peoples to the west, ultimately leading to the opening of the Silk Road.
|101 BC||Emperor Wudi extends the Chinese empire in all directions.(101 BCE)
After a series of military campaigns in all directions, Emperor Wudi adds a huge amount of territory to the Chinese empire, including southern China, central Vietnam, and north and central Korea. He consolidates control over his empire in 101 BCE.
|91 BC||Sima Qian finishes writing the Shiji.(c. 91 BCE)
Sima Qian, Grand Astrologer for Emperor Wudi, finishes writing his ambitious account of China's history. He calls it the Shiji, or "Records of the Grand Historian." It recounts all of human history as China knows it, from prehistory to the present Han Dynasty.
|2||The Han take a large-scale census of their population.(2 CE)
In the oldest surviving large-scale census, the Han record the number of people living in their empire. The census shows over 250,000 living in the capital of Chang'an.
|8||Wang Mang establishes the unsuccessful Xin Dynasty.(8 CE)
When Wang Mang becomes the emperor of the Western Han, he changes the country's name to "Xin." After unsuccessful attempts to reform the aristocratic land ownership system, he is overthrown by a peasant revolt.
|23||Liu Xiu overthrows Wang Mang and reestablishes the Han Dynasty.(23 CE)
Liu Xiu, a descendant of Liu Bang, joins the rebellion against the Xin. After defeating the army of Wang Mang, he reestablishes the Han Dynasty, making Luoyang its capital city. This launches the Eastern Han period.
|105||Cai Lun invents paper.(105 CE)
The eunuch Cai Lun develops a method of making paper by dipping a screen into a pulp of rice, straw, and tree bark, and pressing and drying the pulpy residue. During Han times, paper is used mainly to wrap fish, not for written documents.
|148||Missionary An Shigao attracts followers to Buddhism.(148 CE)
Buddhist missionary An Shigao settles in the capital of Luoyang, where he produces a number of translations of Indian Buddhist texts. He attract a number of followers to Buddhism.
|184||The Yellow Turban Rebellion threatens the capital.(184 CE)
After years of weak central rule and growing corruption within the government, a large peasant rebellion breaks out. Known as the Yellow Turban Rebellion, it threatens the imperial capital at Luoyang, but the Han ultimately quash the revolt.
|190||Dong Zhou seizes control of Luoyang.(190 CE)
Warlord Dong Zhou seizes control of Luoyang and places a child, Liu Xie, as the new ruler. Liu Xie was also a member of the Han family, but real power is in the hands of Dong Zhou, who destroys the imperial capital.
|220||Liu Xie abdicates and ends the Han Dynasty.(220 CE)
A series of battles weakens the empire further, and Liu Xie finally abdicates in 220 CE, thus ending the Han Dynasty. Warlords and states vie for power for the next 350 years, leaving the country splintered.