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China Becomes an Imperial Power

By Michael Johnathan McDonald

Han Dynasty

The People of China

206 B.C.E. – 220 A.D.

China becomes a great Imperial Power



1.      207-202 B.C.E. Qin (Ch’in) Intermission/Integration of rebellion and reconstruction of society.

2.      202- Former Han

3.      8 B.C.E. – 25 A.D. Intermission of mini-dark age. Xin ( Wang Mang)

4.      25 A.D. Later Han

After Shi Huangdi's death, peasants, who were mostly subjected to feeding the army and taxed heavily, thus agriculture slaves, revolted and formed a strong army to defeat the emperor thus ending the Qin Dynasty. This forced the suicide of his son which ushered in the Han dynasty which brought Confucianism into the society (The laws of etiquette). Government institutions established during the Qin period, which of centralized bureaucracy remained into the Han dynasty, and was improved upon.


The first emperor and his advisor LiSi (Li Ssu) had divided China into 36 commanderies (Jun, Chün), which were in turn subdivided in counties (xian, hsien). Administration was entrusted to officials whose assignments, promotions, and demotions depended on performances. As long as a society can keep its lobbyists from paying-off politicians a societies people can live with good decisions. The beginnings of dynasties are seen as a right-wing restriction of political corruption. The guard against left-wing feudalism ( special interests and serfdom) are guarded carefully as in this case of the Han.


To accomplish this many of the prominent, forcible, Qin families were moved into the Qin capital to be regulated. The new China was fostered by road building. The focus was not on who could be the most glamorous figure at court and what of worshipping the beast of self-attention was in the past late periods of dynasty. This was the beginning and a new page that the new Chinese person could have pride in. the focus on bettering the entire Chinese lives’. Roads were not only symbolic of reaching out to the far reaches of the world, but an economic binding tool to strengthen unity between the commanderies.


This new dynasty saw the organization of the Qin society structure and built upon its model, injecting their own ideas and also expanding on previous ones.


After the old problems were solved, the Han, now taken control,  worked on all types of progress in all types of fields.  The Chinese ethnically refer to themselves as Han. This is the proper Chinese ethnicity. Much has to do with the beginning pride of this dynasty who placed its founder in the basement and moved forward to a realization that prosperity for all was possibly a realization.


The government continued to standardize the script and it now controlled what was written and read. Some into day’s world see this as a threat to free speech, yet some things should not be allowed to express at certain times of the day. For China, now, this could only be controlled on the entire bases of all-day. This meant much of Qin Huang-di memories were suppressed so not to give a young enterprising, aggressive, mentally unstable to reach for past tyrannical ways.


The founders of the unified empire were highly conscious of their break with the past and set out to establish a regime they hoped would last ‘ten-thousand generations.’



The First king allowed what could be described as capitalism. Then during the fourth king, and increasingly the fifth king, tribes to the north threatened the Han capital. In order to unify under a hierarchy, Confucianism was adopted --a hierarchal command. In schools at Hong Kong, this tradition led to the down fall of Chinese great prestige and modernization (be it technological as well) till the modern age. It always looked to the past and not to the future (no prophecies for central Chinese persons). In western culture the three great religions had progressive stories such as God creates the earth and then humans – then they get separated but he speaks to specific individuals to do his will but does not allow them to return to paradise, and then prophecies say that a savoir will be his son (him) and he will then allow humans a chance to return to him, then the last book of the New Testament reveals that God returns and a new place will be there for all to live with him. It is a broad and grand theme and gives hope, inspiration to keep fighting. China adopted Buddhism and then after the Mongols in the thirteenth century conquered Christian and Muslim lands and proselytizing of the east to adopt western religion began. Not all persons had adopted Christianity, more intending to Islam which then in the early fourteenth century conquered South Asian continent ( Bengal – trading region). Still today Chinese fear themselves because they knew they had many firsts in history ---such as mixing alloys 1,500 before the west, created gun powder and produced paper which was transferred to Islam by war then to eastern Europe and south western Europe – before coming widespread around the world.


Constituted Han

Turkish and Mongols are accredited of beginning the Chinese civilization. These people were the just a branch or the main branch of the Huns/Hans before they separated and became enemies. The Hans lived in the south while the Huns chose to stay in the north. Although their relations were compatible during the warring states period and the Qin dynasty. The Hans continued to attack during these periods and finally during the instability period, they were able to take over the capital of the Qin and began the Han dynasty. The Huns didn’t want to settle down and thus differences emerged in outlooks of life and the Hans remained as a tribal raids group. There was a passion for living like nomads. Periodically an so of the emperor will retreat up north and choose this way of life. Although grueling at times, there was fun, according to them, in raids and robbery.


The Hans were a natural break from the Huns and thus their similar names reflect their similar pasts. Just like many cavitations who have north and south rivalries; Athens Vs. Sparta, North vs. South American civil war, these were similar in they both were basically the same people. Whatever the particular differences between the same clan, one wanted to incorporate with the striving Chinese systems of organization and the other wanted a nomadic, freer, scavenger civilization. The Huns and Hans will war for a long time with the Hans getting the upper hand because of the silk rout and they will set up military posts along the rout which will drive the Huns further westward.


The silk rout will be a major lane to the rest of the known world (west) and to keep up these  military posts organization was needed..


The northern silk road first opened to western civilization about 400 B.C.E. although through the southern area of India it had happened but in smaller shipments at an expensive price to the Arabians and some exclusive Egyptians ( Usually for the wealthy in Arabia ( Sumer and Egypt [rare]). The Huns began to drift westward and about this time due to the Hans who wanted to get trade fluidly going along the rout all the way to  Greece. The Greeks before got silk form southern Persians routs who, in turn received  it from Indian middlemen, but now the Chinese wanted to cut out India and made the only middleman Persia. Keeping the prices lower for the commoner to buy them, which would increase demand and thus more revenue (Sometimes bartered [ or local coins] in these days). One reason that Chinese didn't want to go directly to Greece and trade was that they didn’t like the thought of mingling their peoples with the outside. We will see this same sentiment down thought the 20th Century. It was the ruler’s decision, although the outlying people most of the times traded with the outside world directly and reported it as tribute back to the emperor. 


The Huns having to live off of raids for the money they could not make deals with the empire. After the empire became tiered after too much was plundering, the Hans made it their main concern to shut them down. In c. 100 B.C.E. they Hans mounted a major campaign that finally pushed the Hans upward north.  The Hans decided to go up to lower Mongolia and do what ever it took to give them the message to back -off. This was done to establish safety along the Silk Road.  Once the road was secured, garrisons were placed all along the rout. The road went through the Tarim Basin and along the lower parts of Mongolia. This way they didn’t have to pay high crossing tariffs to the Indians and the lower region Arabs.


Another factor was what was called the blood-sweating horses. These horses were tough as nails and early historians do not know where the term comes from. Yet in the regions Upper Tarin plains where these horses were breeding a blood sucking flies were the causes of the horses bleeding. When the horses sweat and the flies dig their holes for sucking the blood the moisture causes a foaming of the sweat and blood mix to appear that the horses are sweating blood.


Quite often the horses were tortured to perform better.  Also, the Huns/Hans had a practice of tenderizing their meat underneath their saddles, as they road bouncing up and down on the saddle all day long. The Chinese invented the saddle and later during the Mongolian western civilization campaign (c. 13th Century A.D.) the invented the stirrups for easier mobility in warfare. So the rider would simply, when they became hungry, pick off a slab of meat and put it in its mouths. They ate the meat uncooked when they were too busy to camp.


So one of the keys to the Han dynasty is that they gave security to the people of China over the barbarians (Hans). This created a somewhat peaceful atmosphere to create and invent, thus furthering progress.


Hans expand China to the Caspian Sea and places around the region. They find out that the mountains around the Tarin basin are loaded with minerals ( Today this is where they mine for coal) A footnote in history is that during the industrial revolution the Chinese were collecting more coal daily than the English, as well as per output,  during the height of the coal industries in England.


Finally the Huns realized that they couldn't beat the Hans/Tang so in

375 A.D. the Huns deciding the west was better then extinction, went their own way. They will migrate to the Danube River and onto the boarders of Rome and finally hook up with the Goths to take Rome more than a thousand years later.


Form the sky will come the great Emperor.

The Emperor is from the sky/heaven he brings light, warmth, rain and he brings everything that makes life in general. Although, this is not more symbolic than say the Egyptians, who in the Old Kingdom,  regarded the king ( later named Pharaoh) as the literal life giver to blame for both prosperity and depravity, and his/her connection to the Nile and Osiris. The Chinese emperors were not to blame for natural disasters and nature in general. In Egypt daily rituals were performed by the Pharaoh and in him at sunrise and sunset he blessed and recited daily rituals, praying to himself that the gods would be benevolent to his reign. The Egyptian ruler clearly sweated when the yearly inundation came. When it was either late or in excess and caused hardship they took the blame.


On the other hand the Chinese regarded their ruler ' who 'will come from heaven,' as meaning he is the only boss. People regarded the emperor as being born from the sky. This was there mandate. The people needed to respect this so that the whole society could function. This came about in the ideas of order out of chaos as with the polytheism in the west. Hierarchy was family oriented for the early civilizations of China. China has no ideas of what gods are, as the Egyptians, or as a one god of the Hebrews, practiced in the west. Therefore the 'King was from the sky' and that is all it meant. His mandate was he ruled by his own decree, either in secrets kept from you or outright orders.  He does not take blame for natural disasters (Or blaming it on a particular deity who is mad at him i.e. Egyptian religion) or invading barbarians who caused great harm; he basically is just the number one man who calls the shots.


As government develops, during the Han dynasty, China will recognize that they need what is called ministries, where some individuals make decisions on their own without the Emperors command. This is practiced for a while , yet will come into play more during the Chinese leader Taizong ( T’ai Tsung 626-49 A.D.) They will be the first in history to do so. The Han furthered progress in many other areas as well.


Many agricultural labor-saving tools revolutionized China's ever growing population and outdated the west by at least 1000 years. Since China had developed the iron casting they began to think and design ways in which agricultural production which could minimize the labor-effort. Many new items still used today come from the Han. Rakes for moving hey and brush with wide iron teeth, including the three pronged pitchfork were developed. Chaff separating instruments called the flail. This was a blowing machine which was developed and not connected to the Egyptian flail of power symbolism. These devices were practical weapons in separating chaff from the wheat that the west was still far behind. The west for example, had to wait for the wind to blow so that they could separate their chaff from the wheat. the Chinese built ( iron casting) a wind making marching that used a crank to stimulate a fan device that made wind. One would drop the raw bulk into the top of the box and the chaff, lighter, would be blown out of the side while the grain (wheat) would fall to a pile on the floor. This meant the Chinese didn't have to wait for wind to get the job done.


In the fields, the walkways were usually a one person length and to get a animal with a cart-pulley through the small lane was impossible. So, to simplify things down a bit, the inventors of the Han created the one-wheeled-barrel. This allowed for easy access to the fields and a small pathway uninhibiting for practical applications.


The neck-brace and stick across the back-shoulders was another device to carry things that used balanced weight-shift. Metal rods were attached to the wooden pool that fitted sometimes with an animal hide neck-brace. Caldrons were attached to the metal rods and carrying heavy things were made more efficient and easier.


Earthquake detections and recording devices were set up for scientific observation. China has many earthquakes, so keeping a track of where many are coming from they build a crude device that seemed to locate the epicenter and thus they recorded the frequencies of quakes for their records.


In side a metal casing was a metal rod on a swivel. The casing was circular and had many holes in which metal balls were attached to  dragons that keep the balls in place. On the ground were frogs with open mouths. The dragons were placed all over the circular cylinder. When an earthquake shook the land the metal swivel would began to work and knock out the balls from the dragons and thus the balls would drop into the frogs mouths. This showed them direction.


Philosophy During this period


Daoism grows into popularity and is a life-extension business. Some believe to eat mushrooms makes one more whole. Now magic enters, yet again, to the society and is introduced into poetry and plays. Also, the magic directs investigation into plants and mineral mixtures worth noting in that this was the Chinese early form of chemistry. Varying chemical compounds produced desired affects. For example, pigs dung mixed with water then letting the dung stand to air-out, then pouring off the excess water and dry created salt-pepper that when mixed with charcoal was the result of gunpowder, proved a process that has haunted humanity for a long time since ( Although someone was bound to discover this). This meant that the Chinese were on their toes and thinking in regards to mixing chemicals. It was the Taoist ( Daoism)  who came up with the process and used the new material not for weaponry but for celebration - it made loud noises and they believed thhis scared the bad daemons away.


From 81 A.D. to 165 A.D. Daoism grows ever more influential into Chinese culture. From regarding Lao Tse as a great philosopher too now changed into worship and thus madding it  a religion.  This constituted worship.


The Late Han dynasty


Government: the progress on others making decisions besides the king (emperor) ca e into play in the late Han dynasty. “what are the qualifications to get a job in government?" before they were appointed. After much progress corruption was thought happened with special favors and people who were strategically placed in the government by the emperor. Thinking that bribes and special interest are not a problem, Confucius exams were begun. These were tests that a person wanting to go to work in the government must pass. The philosophy behind this was the smart people would be less inclined to corruption. This is true, but as history has shown over and over just a few bad apples spoil the entire apple cart.  However, things improved with this wise solution and this system was used up until 1905. Now look what has happened in modern times the same old corruption in higher places. Still we need to look at this objectively.




Nirvana is not a place but a concept. Its original meaning blowing out the flame came about is a concept of ‘jumping of the wheel of reincarnation.’ According to the Buddhist the number obstacle to man is desire. When man/women over come all desires they can flip-off this wheel of birth-death- and rebirth cycle. If one fails to conquer desire, then one will go on forever reincarnating – over and over. Nirvana became to be known as heaven in later times, yet its origins stand solid on the grounds of this concept. The Buddhist emerged in India with the coming of Siddhartha Guatama c. 517 B.C.


At first Buddhism began as a philosophy and not a religion. Early thoughts was that life was a bummer and we as humans suffer, so thus, this place called earth was the stomping ground for all sort of troubles with desires which, of course, lead to myriad of sins or societal troubles. This world was then looked at as a place that provided the stepping stone for escaping its jaws of misery. Thus the soul was not part of the physical body and it could survive after the demise of the matter.  Salvation (Nirvana) became an apparent solution. Soul does not die after death and it goes on never ending cycles, unless one can master the gate of desire. Meditation is thought to help in the contemplation of how to battle desire. Meditation, as well, has many more benefits such as revealing stress and help in breathing and concentration techniques. Buddhist mission is to overcome desire and flip-off the wheel of rebirth. They try to teach themselves to have no desires.



Mahayana a sect of Buddhists said that one who escapes into nirvana is selfish. Therefore to be a real Buddha one must help others’ achieve this plateau. So when they had mastered desire instead of Nirvaning, they would stay and help the others get to the point of flipping-off themselves. Numerous Buddhist sects will branch off from this concept from now on. Some will make up that they were savior Buddha’s who are eternal and just reappeared on earth after the Flip-off to help the ones who are ready to reach that plateau.




For a long time the Chinese had not a true city until; the Hans established Changon (modern-day Sian). This military capital began a city structure reminiscent of Alexander’s grid systems.  It is plausible that the idea came from Persia where the young soldier’s great thinkers were forming engineering of cities. This city did not grow up as a social need, but a governmental need. It was a governmental operation so no one would question it. This was the staging place to train house and coalesce the warriors for immediacies to the Silk Road outposts. The grid pattern was set up on a North-South-East-West axis and looked very much like a modern western grid system. There were four quadrants that played key roles in the city.


The crafts were sectioned as one quadrant, Merchants and them artists, and last military, but not necessarily less important. All of this was regulated by the government. Structure was being incorporated making China a true civilization.  In fact, the Han dynasty is where the true large-scale civilization of China began and is recognized as such. Soldiers were brought into the city, houses, trained and ready to fight. They had special agricultural fields closet to the city. After they were stationed there, they would be deployed to a garrison along the Silk Road.


This is where the trade with the outside world really became an industry - although this was kept quite from the rest of China. This was a matter of Confucianism vs. money.


The only ones in the city who had to be placed in their own quarter were the merchants. Everyone look at them with a jauntiest eye. Not unlike the merchants of Italy who were looked at in the same way in the late middle ages in Europe. They were despised. This was do to Confucius teaching’s  which made an example of doing good for everyone and not profiting for oneself. It was evident that trade, unspoken, was making them the richest in the country behind the vast agriculture land owners. Even the rural farmers, today, disliked the merchants who set prices - they often went to war over haggling. It was the beliefs of the general populace over the ' profit motives' that proved regulations were due in order. The merchants were decreed not to dress up, but ion fact dress down least one became suspicious that they were profit gouging. They had to live in modest houses, or even lesser houses then the average citizen. They could not flaunt wealth inside the city. Internal trade practices separated from the external ones were kept separate and mostly out of sight. Still these claimed people were selfish individuals and were regarded as a need to be controlled by the government.  They had to get permits and could only trade one commodity, inside the cities and local outlying regions. Periodically in the left-wing periods special interest groups pop up and  pay off governmental people which will be disastrous, as it happened in Athens, Rome and America and other notable great civilizations ( People call this big business doing business with the paid- off politicians today).  For this, the merchants are repressed. The edge of China trade is going on in secret away from the cities and governments knowledge those who did become aware are kept it a deep dark secret or passed it off in public as tribute from the outside world. We know this today because the Muslims wrote about this secret that the Chinese government didn't want the people to know how the wealth goods were achieved. This attitude will blow up in China's faces as the 20th century proves a fatal blow to this unrecognizing of a global player.


Plato also thought the merchants were the worst of the crop of professions. Many merchants in the world were condemned in history, even when it was forced upon them to be one. For example, many Jews who were wandering most of their lives could only get into guilds or , called, unions in history and thus were stuck with these types of professions as the only way of survival. In Czarist Russia this was the only profession that the large amount of the working Jewish population could have. Also, Tuscany in Italy, they money lenders were Jewish because all the trade guilds excluded them from membership. In Germany in the first half of the twentieth century this was the same, succumbing to the animosity of the German people because some bad Jews took advantage of a bad situation. Still one cannot fault centuries of exclusions from the main working societies.


So the capital called Changon, was a regulated city, proving structure and limitations that proved vital in the steps of equal opportunity and equality of living. Yet, it was still under a government dictatorship with some people making decisions outside the royal offices that this great dynasty progressed too. Power struggles (Special interests) and taxation will lead to its downfall.


One of the recurring themes in China is that dynasty go through certain cyclic predictability. That is that during the late stages of a dynasty the corruption advances toward intolerance and the religious sects begin the rebellion that incites the needed making of the populace who at this time of the dynastic period are mere tax slaves - working for the rich - thus they rise up and new a dynasty comes into rule. These religious sects are usually militant because it is the only way they can hope to overcome the government. The Yellow turban sects who were shamanistic happen to incite the revolution to bring down the corrupted officials that now ruled the once glorious Han. For instance, today the Falung Gong are heavily persecuted. They are shamanistic (Spiritual) and the Chinese government knows their historical circumstances when these sects can influence the population to the corruption in government. So one can see the many who are jailed tortures and murdered so that the once communist, but now fascist, Chinese leaders can hold sway.




Like all things, good things come to an end. And for the Chinese they should have no regrets fro their first true dynasty called the Han. First is that they came from the north, established that they were from heaven/sky/north and that expanded China and established a working governmental system to control and please most of their people. Art, poetry, science, and humanities all flourished and shaped their destiny because of the Han.


Like all famous Chinese historians over many generations sum up a conjuring theme. That big government and progressive tax wipes out the dynasty, the civilization, the life. Revolution follows and a time in which backwardness must rebirth. Although seen in the Buddhist religion of birth-death-rebirth this is not a peaceful or progressive time. It is a time of fallback and pain. Many things are accompanied with these falls:  increased spending by the people in power who merely just raise the taxes without facing the problems of corruption before them. This is because special interest groups give them money and thus they turn their back when they are repaid. This squandering of money is reported by individuals (media) and the general populous become suspicious of their government which furthers disintegrates the symbiotic relationship thus breaking the bonds of unity.  Money in the hands of a human makes him/them mad. They end up spending it on their own self aggrandizement, even if that means keeping himself or his party (family) in power. A owner of a  candy store paid by someone else where you the temporary employee hand out free candy to your friends while the owner is away ( Without a stipulation for getting in trouble) is a good analogy.


Between, the 185-220 A.D, many new rulers of the late Hans ran into the candy store analogy. The last emperor was only a child and the corruption had dug too deep of a pit and the dynasty fell into it buried alive. Yet the grieving and the memories live on

Copyright © 2004 Michael Johnathan McDonald. All rights reserved.

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