Humanities › History & Culture What Was the Han Dynasty? Share Flipboard Email Print A jade burial suit made of rectangular pieces of jade sewn together with gold thread, Western Han Dynasty in China. Martha Avery / Contributor Getty Images History & Culture Asian History East Asia Basics Figures & Events Southeast Asia South Asia Middle East Central Asia Asian Wars and Battles American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Kallie Szczepanski History Expert Ph.D., History, Boston University J.D., University of Washington School of Law B.A., History, Western Washington University Dr. Kallie Szczepanski is a history teacher specializing in Asian history and culture. She has taught at the high school and university levels in the U.S. and South Korea. our editorial process Kallie Szczepanski Updated July 19, 2017 The Han Dynasty was the ruling family of China from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D who served as the second dynasty in China's long history. A rebel leader named Liu Bang, or Emporer Gaozu of Han, founded the new dynasty and reunited China after the Qin Dynasty fell apart in 207 B.C. The Han ruled from their capital at Chang'an, now called Xian, in west-central China. Han times saw such a flowering of Chinese culture that the majority ethnic group in China still refer to themselves as "Han Chinese." Advances and Cultural Impact Advances during the Han period included such inventions as paper and the seismoscope. The Han rulers were so wealthy that they were buried in suits made of square jade pieces stitched together with gold or silver thread, like the one pictured here. Also, the waterwheel first appeared in the Han dynasty, with it many other forms of structural engineering — which have mostly been destroyed due to the fragile nature of their main component: wood. Still, mathematics and literature, as well as Confucian interpretations of law and governance, outlived the Han dynasty, influencing the works of later Chinese scholars and scientists. Even such important inventions as the crank wheel were first discovered in archeological digs pointing to the Han Dynasty. The odometer chart, which measured journey lengths, was also first invented during this period — technology that is still used today to influence car odometers and miles per gallon gauges. The economy prospered under Han rule as well, resulting in a long-term treasury that — despite its eventual decline — would lead future rulers to still use the same coinage up to the Tang Dynasty of 618. Nationalization of the salt and iron industries in the early 110s B.C. also persisted throughout Chinese history, expanding to include more government control of the nation's resources to pay for military conquests and domestic labor. Conflict and Eventual Collapse Militarily, the Han faced threats from different border regions. The Trung Sisters of Vietnam led a rebellion against the Han in 40 CE. Most troublesome of all, though, were the nomadic peoples from the Central Asian steppe to China's west, particularly the Xiongnu. The Han fought the Xiongnu for more than a century. Still, the Chinese managed to hold off and eventually disperse the troublesome nomads in 89 A.D., though political turmoil forced many of the reigning emperors of the Han Dynasty to resign early — often resigning their lives as well. The effort to destroy the nomadic invaders and keep civic unrest at bay eventually emptied China's treasury and led to the slow-motion collapse of Han China in 220. China disintegrated into the Three Kingdoms period over the next 60 years, resulting in a three-pronged civil war that ravaged the Chinese population and dispersed the Han people.