Han

Han

Chinese imperial dynasty that reigned from 25 to 220.
Country: China

Han Dynasty East Biography

Han Dynasty East, a Chinese imperial dynasty that ruled from 25-220 AD, was a branch of the Liu family, which also included the ruling Han Dynasty from 206 BC to 220 AD (see Western Han). In 8 AD, the all-powerful regent Wang Mang ousted the Liu family from power and established his own dynasty, the Xin Dynasty. The majority of the rural population suffered from poverty, famine, excessive taxes, and landlessness. Wang Mang attempted to address these issues by implementing radical reforms, but only worsened the situation. In 17 AD, a powerful popular uprising began against him, quickly leading to the formation of large rebel armies. The imperial forces suffered one defeat after another. When it became clear that Wang Mang would not be able to hold onto power, some members of the Liu family saw an opportunity to regain their dominant position. One of the first to join the rebels was Liu Xing, a impoverished aristocrat from Chunlin. Other rebel forces were created by Liu Xuan, Liu Yin, and Liu Xu - younger cousins of Liu Xing. Liu Xu, in particular, emerged as one of the main leaders of the rebellion, leading a successful revolt in Nanyang. The rebels initially preferred his uncle as their leader, but in 23 AD, the rebellion's army recognized Liu Xu as their leader. Other armies in the northern part of the country also pledged their allegiance to him. Liu Xu proclaimed himself emperor and took the title Gen Shi (Renewer). He bestowed the title of Great General and Conqueror upon Liu Xing. Soon, a battle took place near Kunyang in Henan Province, where Wang Mang's army was defeated. Gen Shi sent his soldiers to attack the capital. With no one to defend Chang'an, the rebels stormed the city, captured Wang Mang, and beheaded him. In 24 AD, Gen Shi triumphantly entered the capital, but his reign was short-lived. Once on the throne, he devoted little time to governing, instead indulging in pleasures. Meanwhile, the situation remained tense. The Southern Red Eyebrows Rebellion, led by Fan Chong, refused to recognize Gen Shi and proclaimed Liu Pi, a shepherd from the Liu family, as emperor. The civil war escalated after Wang Mang's death, with new factions seizing control of different regions and declaring themselves princes and emperors. It was not until 37 AD, after several difficult campaigns, that the entire country was finally united under Gen Shi's rule.
Once firmly established on the throne, Gen Shi declared an era of peace and announced that he would follow in the footsteps of his ancestor Liu Bang, the founder of the Western Han Dynasty. And indeed, he did much to stabilize the country. From 26 to 38 AD, the emperor issued nine edicts, some of which abolished slavery and others that prohibited cruelty towards slaves. However, in order to truly end the turmoil, the land issue had to be resolved. Gen Shi made efforts to distribute land to all those who desired it, in quantities sufficient for a decent living. The land tax was reduced to 1/30 of the harvest. To ensure that each farmer received their own field, almost all the land that had been confiscated from wealthy households resisting the reforms of Wang Mang, including a significant portion of "strong houses," was distributed. Another major task was to reorganize the irrigation system, which had suffered greatly during the years of crisis and rebellion. In order to reduce state expenses, Gen Shi significantly reduced the staff of provincial administration. According to Fan Ye, author of the "History of the Later Han Dynasty," "out of ten officials, only one remained." More than 400 counties were abolished. At the same time, Gen Shi implemented a series of reforms in the army, abolishing universal military service and disbanding the military fleet. He closely monitored the newly established administrative apparatus, cracking down on bribery and corruption. Fan Ye reports that "at that time, many officials from the inner and outer courts were selected directly by the emperor, and he scrutinized them strictly." Although Gen Shi had to reward his relatives and allies with large land estates, from the beginning he tried to limit their power. Each feudal principality had an imperial advisor sent to it, who controlled all the income of the feudal lords and sent half of it to the treasury. As a result of these and other measures, the situation in the empire quickly stabilized, and the country emerged from the crisis and began to develop successfully. However, not all of Gen Shi's innovations had positive consequences. For example, he handed many important government positions to eunuchs, previously held by representatives of the capital bureaucracy. This increased the political role of the harem. The most prominent figures in the late Han Dynasty were the "permanent chamberlain of the palace" (zhungangshi) and the "minor chamberlain of the yellow gates" (huanmenxiaoshi), who often acted as intermediaries between the emperor and the "outer court." The negative consequences of this became evident during the reigns of Gen Shi's immediate successors. In 57 AD, the first successor to Gen Shi was his son Liu Zhuang, who became Emperor Mingdi. Under his rule, the empire became strong enough to resume its expansionist wars. In 73 AD, an energetic offensive was launched against the northern Xiongnu. General Dou Gu defeated the nomadic hordes at the eastern foothills of the Tian Shan mountains. At the same time, the outstanding Chinese general and diplomat Ban Chao, who a few years later would conquer the entire western border of China, was sent to conquer Ferghana. But the external successes did not last long. During the reigns of the next emperors, unscrupulous regents who cared little for the greatness of the state began to exert strong influence on politics. Under Liu Mingdi's son, Liu Zhi, the clan of Dou, relatives of his empress dowager, rose to prominence. This powerful woman jealously guarded her privileges. Unable to bear a son, she slandered and drove two "noble ladies" from the Sun and Lian families to their deaths. She married the son of the Lian family to her son and after Liu Mingdi's death in 88 AD, she proclaimed him emperor. This was Emperor He. At the beginning of his reign, He was only nine years old. All power was concentrated in the hands of the empress dowager and her brothers. Only after her death in 121 AD did Emperor He manage to regain power with the help of eunuch Li Zhun and wet nurse Wang Shen - forcing the Dan brothers to relinquish their titles and forcing them to commit suicide. Eunuch Li Zhun and wet nurse Wang Shen were then given noble titles and became the leaders of a powerful court clique. Under Emperor He, the empire entered a new crisis, one of the reasons being the invasion of the Xianbei. (These tribes were nomadic and lived in the northwestern border regions of China, recognizing the supreme authority of the Han emperors since the time of Emperor Wu). In 107 AD, they rebelled and launched a devastating raid into the deep regions of the empire. (Some of their detachments reached the boundaries of modern Shanxi and Henan provinces.) Several hundred thousand Chinese settlers were forced to flee from the western regions of the country, abandoning all their possessions. The war with the Xianbei lasted for more than ten years and required enormous resources, but never led to complete pacification of these tribes. After 107 AD and until the end of the Han Dynasty, the border residents did not know a single peaceful day. As soon as one war ceased, another began. However, the capital authorities, preoccupied with internal turmoil, had little time for them.
In 125 AD, Emperor Ai died. The Empress Dowager Yang, from the Yan clan, killed the mother of the future heir to the throne - Prince Liu Bao - and succeeded in deposing him. Along with her brother Yan Xian, she installed another young son of Emperor An as emperor. In 146 AD, Emperor An died and Yan Xian, without consulting the general council, proclaimed a new emperor - 13-year-old Liu Ji. This was Emperor Huan. Even as he grew older, Yan Xian continued to rule the country autocratically. All appointments to government positions were made only with his approval and in exchange for large bribes. In the provinces, his men compiled lists of the wealthy and imprisoned them on fabricated charges. They could only be released by paying a large ransom. Those who could not pay were executed as a warning to others. Amassing a huge fortune through these abuses, Yan Xian lived a life of extravagant luxury. He built a park with artificial hills in the outskirts of the capital, spanning 300 kilometers in circumference, and another park specifically for rabbits. Anyone who killed a rabbit in the park was put to death. To solidify his position, Yan Xian married the emperor to his younger sister in 147 AD. However, in 159 AD, the empress died. At that time, Emperor Huan was infatuated with one of his concubines, Mannu. The enemies of the Yan clan saw an opportunity to overthrow the regents. Palace guards, led by eunuch Tan Hen, arrested Yan Xian and forced him to commit suicide. Other members of the Yan clan were either executed or exiled, their possessions confiscated, and their vast land holdings given to the poor. More than 300 of their supporters were expelled from office. Concubine Mannu was declared the empress. Power in the country fell into the hands of the eunuchs. Tan Hen and his four associates - active participants and instigators of the plot against Yan Xian - were granted the titles of marquises and received vast land estates. According to Fan Ye, "they ruled supreme in the empire and built palaces side by side in relentless pursuit of their own enrichment. These were multi-story buildings, elegant and luxurious, built with great craftsmanship. They adorned their servants with jewelry made of gold, silver, felt, and feathers. They took numerous beautiful women from the common people as concubines, adorning them with precious jewels as if they were noble ladies. Their brothers and nephews became rulers of districts and provinces, where they tormented and looted the people like bandits." It was only in 165 AD that officials from the "outer court" were able to gain the upper hand over the rulers of the "inner court" and remove the two remaining surviving members of the conspiracy against Yan Xian from power. At the same time, significant changes occurred in the harem - Empress Dan was sent to the harem dyeing house, the final refuge for noble ladies who fell out of favor. A few days later, she died "of grief and illness."

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