|This pottery tile end is inscribed with the characters 汉并天下 "Han Bing Tian Xia." It dates to the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC - 24 AD).
The Han Dynasty united the fractured power centers that began to form following the breakdown of the Qin Dynasty and established their capital in Chang'an, northwest of present day Xi'an. The principles developed by the Qin Shi Huang Di were copied by the Han to form their government organization, but they paid more attention to the balance between government and the people. Great civic works were continued by the government, but used less slave labor. During the Han Dynasty trade and commerce were valued and supported. The influence of the Han spread rapidly and as their merchants ventured abroad, the armies followed to protect them. Thus, the Han increased the number of vassal states and the amount of territory ruled directly. Their kingdom extended west along the Silk Road into regions where their governors ruled while the sitting kings were transformed into subjects of the emperors.
This wasn't the first time trade had occurred with the West; it was just increased in both directions. During earlier times venturesome merchants and explorers had made it to the West and vice versa, but the occasions were few and far between. The effects of cultural diversity were slow to spread. During the Han, the central support of Chang'an as the center of civilization spread new ideas and products throughout the region quickly. Buddhism as well as other religions were introduced at a formal level during this era.
Last update: March 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2010