Eastern Han Dynasty

Three-legged Bronze Lamp, Eastern Han Dynasty
Three-legged Bronze Lamp, 
Eastern Han Dynasty

Regarded as a continuation of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD), the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD - 220 AD) was established by Liu Xiu, who became the Emperor Guangwu. With Luoyang in Henan Province as its capital city, the dynasty was reined over by 12 emperors in a span of 195 years.

Political History

In the year of 25, Liu Xiu, a descendant of Western Han royalty defeated Wang Mang, who had usurped the throne of the Western Han, thus establishing the Eastern Han. In his second year on the throne, he revised all the policies that Wang Mang had set.

The most prosperous period of Eastern Han was the middle period of the first century. After the reigns of Emperors Guangwu, Ming and Zhang, the Han Dynasty regained its prosperity. Overall, its economical, scientific and cultural development surpassed that of the Western Han.

Potteries of Eastern Han Dynasty
Potteries of Eastern Han Dynasty

After the middle period of the Eastern Han, most of the emperors were juveniles and the real royal power was held by both distant relatives and eunuchs. This caused darkness and corruption in the later period when farmers all over the country launched rebellions against their rulers. In 184, the Yellow Turbans Uprising, launched by a Hebei farmer Zhang Jiao, hit the regime hard. In the late period, royal power totally fell into the hands of eunuchs which put the court into chaos. During the reign of the last emperor of Eastern Han, Emperor Xi'an, royalty was dominated by the treacherous court official Dong Zhuo. Finally, Cao Cao, a minor warlord, seized power and Emperor Xi'an was forced by Cao Pi (the second son of Cao Cao) to abdicate. Thus, the Eastern Han Dynasty came to an end.


In the early period, the central government focused much attention on irrigation works. In the reign of Emperor Ming, many fields that had been flooded by the Yellow River were changed into fertile lands.

Armillary Sphere invented by Zhang Heng, Eastern Han Dynasty
Armillary Sphere 
invented by Zhang Heng, 
Eastern Han Dynasty

At the same time, the productivity of industry was greatly improved. A special tool called 'Shui Pai' was invented by a local viceroy in Nanyang. This device permitted the power of water to be applied to the air-blasting in the process of iron smelting which promoted productivity in the metallurgical industry.

In the time of Emperor He, the extraction of copper, bronze-ware manufacturing and silk-making industry were developed. Commerce also prospered and the capital city Luoyang became the national business center.

Science and Culture

Some crucial changes in science and culture also took place in this dynasty. In 105, a court official named Cai Lun improved the previous method of making paper, which ended the use of inscribed bamboo strips.

Meanwhile, great progress was made in astronomy. The famous astronomer, Zhang Heng, created special equipment, which was considered as the earliest seismograph in the world, with superb techniques for testing earthquakes.

In addition, fruitful achievements in medicine were made by the well-known surgeon of ancient China, Hua Tuo, who originated the use of anesthetic techniques in operations.

In Eastern Han, the arts began to gain status. Calligraphy and painting were no longer purely used as letter symbols. Instead, their charm as arts started to emerge. What's more, with the development of ceramics, pottery came into wide-spread use among common people.

- Last updated on Aug. 09, 2022 -
Questions & Answers on Eastern Han
Asked by roberto from CHINA | Apr. 17, 2014 20:59Reply
what is the first ruler of eastern han
Answers (1)
Answered by Susan from USA | Apr. 18, 2014 01:50

It's Liu Xiu (Emperor Shizu)!
Asked by Alissa from AMERICA | Jan. 27, 2013 20:01Reply
The Han Dynasty in China. I need some geological features.
I have a research paper due 2/14/13 and i need to find out what geological features made the spread of ideas inside and outside of China difficult. Can i please have some help on where to find this information!?!?!?
Answers (1)
Answered by Lisa | Jan. 28, 2013 02:59

Hi, you can search detailed information you need on Wikipedia.
As far as I know, the east part of the country stretched to North Korea and the west border was on the east part of Kazakhstan. The south border was in the north part of Vietnam and the north border in the south part of Mongolia.
Asked by Hiii | Jan. 23, 2013 20:02Reply
What river did the Eastern Han use for irrigation purposes in order to make their land fertile?
Answers (1)
Answered by Tina | Jan. 24, 2013 01:53

During that period, many irrigation projects were constructed. There is not a certain river that made great contribution to irrigation. If I have to list one, Huaihe River should be mentioned. The well-known irrigation project - Que Bei, Hefei, Anhui Province was constructed along Huaihe River basin and provided great convenience for irrigation then.
Asked by Sherry from SINGAPORE | Jun. 11, 2011 09:32Reply
Is thr evidence 2 show tt the Han Dynasty had support frm gd leaders, n if it was an open society?

Han Dynasty is one of the most prosperous dynasty in ancient China. For a civilisation to experience its golden age, there must be support from leaders. Good leaders contributed to the development of the arts and sciences by giving their support e.g. Gupta Dynasty and Majapahit kingdom. Also, a civilisation with golden age must have been an open society to allow intellectual and cultural development to take place. An open society is one which enabled ideas from abroad to enter and allowed cultural and intellectual exchanges to take place. E.g. Contact w othr civilisations during the Tang Dynasty allowed new ideas to ender China and provided the Chinese with knowledge of the outside world, and cultural influences from abroad were seen, e.g. Tang Dynasty---the taste for imported goods among the wealthy and for foreign fashions in clothing. Therefore, please comment if you know of any articles/ websites/ evidence that can show that the Han Dynasty was one which received support from leaders and was an open society! Thanks! I would really appreciate it! ^-^
Answers (1)
Answered by Emma from CHINA | Jun. 11, 2011 20:45

In early Han Dynasty, the emperors know the country's fact. They carried on loose regulations, such as fewer tax for the farmers and other measure to make a social stability. The rule of Emperor Wen and Emperor Jing refers to a period of thriftiness. Empeor Wu of the Han (Liu Che) is also a great emepror in the Han Dynasty. You can search for information about these key world to expect more answers to your question.
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