What Was the Han Dynasty?

This Western Han Dynasty jade burial suit is from sometime between 206 BCE and about 60 CE.
A jade burial suit made of rectangular pieces of jade sewn together with gold thread, Western Han Dynasty in China. China Photos / Getty Images


The Han Dynasty was the ruling family of China from 206 BCE to 220 CE. A rebel leader named Liu Bang founded the new dynasty; his posthumous throne name is Emperor Gaozu of Han. He reunited China after the Qin Dynasty fell apart in 207 BCE.

The Han reigned 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 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.

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.

The Chinese managed to hold off and eventually disperse the troublesome nomads in 89 CE. However, the effort emptied China's treasury and led to the slow-motion collapse of Han China in 220 CE. China disintegrated into the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 CE).

Pronunciation: "hahn DY-nus-tee"

Also Known As: Han Chao


"The famous Silk Road was established as an export route for Chinese Silk during the Han Dynasty."

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