38 Facts About Western Han


Western Han dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China, established by Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu.

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Western Han presided over the Han government but shared power with both the nobility and appointed ministers who came largely from the scholarly gentry class.

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The Western Han Empire was divided into areas directly controlled by the central government called commanderies, as well as a number of semi-autonomous kingdoms.

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Science and technology during the Western Han period saw significant advances, including the process of papermaking, the nautical steering ship rudder, the use of negative numbers in mathematics, the raised-relief map, the hydraulic-powered armillary sphere for astronomy, and a seismometer employing an inverted pendulum that could be used to discern the cardinal direction of distant earthquakes.

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Western Han dynasty is known for the many conflicts it had with the Xiongnu, a nomadic steppe confederation to the dynasty's north.

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The Western Han ultimately defeated the Xiongnu in these campaigns, and the Xiongnu were forced to accept vassal status as Western Han tributaries.

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The territories north of Western Han's borders were later overrun by the nomadic Xianbei confederation.

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Western Han expanded Han territory into the northern Korean Peninsula as well, where Han forces conquered Gojoseon and established the Xuantu and Lelang Commanderies in 108 BC.

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At the beginning of the Western Han, known as the Former Han dynasty, thirteen centrally controlled commanderies—including the capital region—existed in the western third of the empire, while the eastern two-thirds were divided into ten semi-autonomous kingdoms.

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Emperor Gaozu was troubled about the abundant Western Han-manufactured iron weapons traded to the Xiongnu along the northern borders, and he established a trade embargo against the group.

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In 121 BC, Western Han forces expelled the Xiongnu from a vast territory spanning the Hexi Corridor to Lop Nur.

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In that same year, the Western Han court established four new frontier commanderies in this region to consolidate their control: Jiuquan, Zhangyi, Dunhuang, and Wuwei.

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From roughly 115 to 60 BC, Western Han forces fought the Xiongnu over control of the oasis city-states in the Tarim Basin.

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Western Han created central government monopolies administered largely by former merchants.

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The Yellow River split into two new branches: one emptying to the north and the other to the south of the Shandong Peninsula, though Western Han engineers managed to dam the southern branch by 70 AD.

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Foreign travelers to Eastern-Western Han China include Buddhist monks who translated works into Chinese, such as An Shigao from Parthia, and Lokaksema from Kushan-era Gandhara, India.

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Western Han escorted them safely back to the capital and was made Minister of Works, taking control of Luoyang and forcing Yuan Shao to flee.

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The Western Han dynasty made adjustments to slavery in China and saw an increase in agricultural slaves.

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Western Han abolished all academic chairs or erudites not dealing with the Confucian Five Classics in 136 BCE and encouraged nominees for office to receive a Confucian-based education at the Imperial University that he established in 124 BCE.

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In each Western Han county was several districts, each overseen by a chief of police.

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Families throughout Western Han China made ritual sacrifices of animals and food to deities, spirits, and ancestors at temples and shrines.

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Western Han could appoint officials below the salary-rank of 600 bushels.

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Western Han shared similar duties with the Chancellor, such as receiving annual provincial reports.

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Western Han empire, excluding kingdoms and marquessates, was divided, in descending order of size, into political units of provinces, commanderies, and counties.

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Western Han was the top civil and military leader of the commandery and handled defense, lawsuits, seasonal instructions to farmers and recommendations of nominees for office sent annually to the capital in a quota system first established by Emperor Wu.

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The Western Han emperors moved to secure a treaty with the Chanyu to demarcate authority between them, recognizing each other as the "two masters", the sole representatives of their respective peoples, cemented with a marriage alliance, before eliminating the rebellious vassal kings in 154 BC.

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Western Han dynasty inherited the ban liang coin type from the Qin.

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The Western Han government enacted reforms in order to keep small landowner-cultivators out of debt and on their own farms.

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Western Han dynasty was a unique period in the development of premodern Chinese science and technology, comparable to the level of scientific and technological growth during the Song dynasty .

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The heavy moldboard iron plow, invented during the Western Han dynasty, required only one man to control it, two oxen to pull it.

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Western Han farmers used the pit field system for growing crops, which involved heavily fertilized pits that did not require plows or oxen and could be placed on sloping terrain.

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Monumental stone pillar-gates, twenty-nine of which survive from the Western Han period, formed entrances of walled enclosures at shrine and tomb sites.

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Pair of Western Han period stone-carved que located at Babaoshan, Beijing.

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An Eastern-Western Han vaulted tomb chamber at Luoyang made of small bricks.

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The odometer cart, invented during Western Han, measured journey lengths, using mechanical figures banging drums and gongs to indicate each distance traveled.

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Account of this device in the Book of the Later Western Han describes how, on one occasion, one of the metal balls was triggered without any of the observers feeling a disturbance.

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Some earliest Western Han maps discovered were ink-penned silk maps found amongst the Mawangdui Silk Texts in a 2nd-century-BC tomb.

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Besides dieting, Western Han physicians prescribed moxibustion, acupuncture, and calisthenics as methods of maintaining one's health.

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