Eastern Han Dynasty

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The Eastern Han Dynasty is the second period of the Han Dynasty in Chinese history , which was a re-establishment of the dynasty after the usurpation of Wang Mang . The Eastern Han Dynasty gets its name from the location of the capital Luoyang , which is further east in relation to the capital of the Western Han Dynasty , Chang'an . The Eastern Han Dynasty began with the year 25, when Liu Xiu proclaimed himself Emperor of the Han and ended with the deposition of the last Han Emperor in 220. Compared to the first period of the Han Dynasty, the second period is politically weaker .


When the peasants rose up against Wang Mang's government in the " Red Eyebrow Uprising " , three relatives of the Han imperial family also took part. Liu Xiu was only a distant relative of the last Western Han Emperor. As a result of the centralization of power, his family had lost almost all privileges. During the rebellion against Wang Mang, however, Liu Xiu was able to get support from both the landowners who were offended by Wang Mang's reforms and the peasants who were doubly burdened by natural disasters and poorly implemented reforms. Finally, Liu Xiu proclaimed himself emperor and set Luo Yang as the capital of the new dynasty. However, it took another 15 years before Liu Xiu was able to take control of the entire country and put down all the uprisings.

Alchemy came into fashion in China since the end of the Western Han Dynasty . The rulers in particular sought a means of immortality in alchemy. Ironically, almost all "elixirs" of that time contain mercury , phosphorus and sulfur . So it came about that almost all Eastern Han emperors died early and, if at all, left behind underage children or even infants as successors. Except for the first three emperors, all Eastern Han emperors were minors. The government business had to be taken over by their mothers. These also still young, politically inexperienced imperial widows had to seek advice in their government business from their confidants, and these were either their relatives (fathers, brothers) or eunuchs. So it came about that during the Eastern Han Dynasty certain families and the eunuchs wielded immense power and even could depose emperors.

The decline of the powerful Han Empire was initiated by various developments. At the imperial court, brutal power struggles between various groups that vied for influence often broke out, with the last Han emperors increasingly becoming puppets of the court, who above all lost control of the central administration and the army. This was promoted by another development: the steadily growing influence of very rich and powerful large landowning families, who gained more and more power locally, which was also at the expense of the imperial central government. In the provinces, their patronage was often more important for military leaders than a connection to the distant imperial court. Most recently, there were also unrest in the country that could no longer be controlled.

The social problems that had already fated the western Han dynasty and Wang Mang remained unsolved. The unequal distribution of land and the horrific taxes (in some years even over 50%) continued to weigh heavily on the farmers. The local large landowners built a clientele system. They were no longer only the owners of the land that the peasants worked, but also their protectors. In this capacity they armed the peasants. With the central government weak and constantly involved in internal struggles, the local powers in the country had a lot of freedom to build their own power base.

The dynasty's fatal blow was the “ Yellow Turban Rebellion ”, so called because the rebels in the field wore a yellow turban as a sign of identification. The organizer of the uprising, Zhang Jiao, was the founder of a Daoist sect. He stated that he had an elixir that could cure disease and that he would pass on to the farmers for free. The sect was particularly popular among farmers and craftsmen. After a very short time he already had over 300,000 followers, which he organized militarily. In 184 he issued the slogan for an uprising, and within a very short time there were well-organized insurgents all over China. To fight the uprising, the imperial court called on the local landowners and their paramilitary organizations.

The uprising could be put down quickly, but the country was now littered with numerous warlords who had answered the call of the imperial court and were now striving for power in turn. After more than 10 years of struggle, three powers gradually emerged, with Cao Cao occupying the entire middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River and bringing the emperor into his power. In the name of the emperor, Cao carried out his military enterprise and was the strongest force in China. But before he had unified all of China, the cautious Cao did not dare to oust the emperor from the throne. It was not until his son Cao Pi deposed the Han emperor and founded the Wei dynasty .


Green glazed ceramic dog

Buddhism spread rapidly in China during the Eastern Han Period . Buddhist monks came to China again and again via the Silk Road and brought Buddhist texts with them that were eagerly translated into Chinese.

During the Eastern Han Dynasty, poems reached a high point with five characters per line. A well-known example is the poem in Seven Steps by Cao Zhi : "The beanstalk is burning under the pot, the beans are crying in the pot: we are of the same roots, why are you harassing me like that?" The poem was written by the brother of the aforementioned Emperor Cao Pi written. After his coronation, he feared that his brother, whom he had always envied for his intelligence, could be dangerous to him. So he called Cao Zhi over and asked him to recite a poem with five characters per line within seven steps to avoid being beheaded.

Wall paintings have been discovered in many uncovered graves of the Eastern Han period. This art form gained particular popularity in this era. According to contemporary texts, almost all houses, palaces and temples were covered with wall paintings.

Technology and science

The most important scientist of the time was Zhang Heng . Zhang Heng had achieved great things above all in astronomy, although he still assumed the earth as the center of the universe. Based on this model, he built a device that represented a water-powered celestial globe. He was the first Chinese who correctly described the cause of solar and lunar eclipses in his work . Allegedly, he also developed an instrument with which one could see tremors in the earth from a great distance.

In medicine, the doctor Hua Tuo , who lived at the end of the era, achieved great fame. He is said to have invented a (probably alcoholic) potion with which surgical interventions could be carried out painlessly. He is said to have even performed head operations in this way. He also invented a kind of shadow boxing as gymnastics .

See also


Web links

Commons : Eastern Han Dynasty  - album containing pictures, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 35 °  N , 112 °  E