Gongjin's Campaign Memorials
Gongjin's Campaign Memorials

The Han (Hàn 漢), or Han dynasty (Hàn cháo 漢朝), was the second imperial dynasty of China. It succeeded the Qin dynasty 秦 in 207 BC and was succeeded by the Three Kingdoms in 220 AD when Cao Pi forced the Emperor Xian to abdicate and make way for Wei.

Emperor Gauzu of Former Han

Emperor Guangwu of Later Han

Emperor Zhaolie of Shu-Han

Brief history[]

The Han dynasty is considered the "Golden Age" or "Golden Dynasty" of China, because it lasted for over four centuries, longer than any other dynasty. It was, however, briefly interrupted by the Xin dynasty 新, founded by Wang Mang 王莽, from 9-23 AD. This interregnum seperates the Han into two periods:

  • Western Han (xī Hàn 西漢), also known as Former Han (qián Hàn 前漢).
  • Eastern Han (dōng Hàn 東漢), also know as Later Han (hòu Hàn 後漢).

Former Han was founded by the peasant rebel leader Liu Bang 劉邦, posthumously known as Emperor Gaozu of Han (Hàn Gāozǔhuángdì 漢高祖皇帝), in 206 BC.

Later Han was founded by Liu Xiu 劉秀, who became the Emperor Guangwu of Han (Hàn Guāngwǔdì 漢光武帝), in 25 AD.

Wang Mang was killed in 23 AD, and it was actually Liu Xuan 劉玄, alias Emperor Gengshi of Han (Hàn Gēngshǐdì 漢更始帝), who restored the original Han dynasty. Liu Xuan was deposed by Red Eyebrow rebels in 25 AD, and when Liu Xiu came to power he founded a new Han dynasty, now referred to as Later Han.

The Later Han came to an end in 220 AD, when its Emperor Xian was forced to abdicate by Cao Pi, who founded Wei. In 221 AD Liu Bei, who controlled Yi province at that time, founded a kingdom of his own and called it Han, but was called Shu-Han or just Shu by contemporaries who did not acknowledge him the new emperor. In 263 AD Liu Bei's son Liu Shan surrendered Han to Wei.

The name Han[]

How the character was drawn at the time of the Three Kingdoms.

During the Qin dynasty 秦朝 Liu Bang was given the title King of Han. In 206 BC, when the last Qin ruler Ying Ziying 贏子嬰 surrendered to Liu Bang the Qin dynasty ended. In 202 BC Liu Bang became Emperor of China. With his title being King of Han, and his state based on the upper Han River, the name of his dynasty was inevitably going to be Han.

On the character han[]

Definitions and other usages:

  1. A name for a river (the Han River)
  2. A name for a dynasty (Han Dynasty)
  3. A Chinese surname
  4. definition: Chinese people
  5. definition: Chinese language
  6. definition: a man
  • Traditional: 漢
  • Simplified: 汉
  • Pinyin with tonemarks: Hàn
  • Pronunciation: to add link

The reign colour of Han[]

Main article: Five Powers

The reign colours of Chinese dynasties were usually in accordance with the theories and phases of the Five Powers (Wǔxíng 五行). If one ruled through Fire, it's conqueror would rule through Water. The "Water-state" would be conquered by one who would rule through Earth. The Han dynasty was a little different. Before Han, there was the Qin dynasty 秦朝, which reigned Black through the Power of Water (because it had conquered the Zhou dynasty 周朝, which reigned Red through Fire). When Qin was defeated in 206 BC and Han was founded one would expect it to reign Yellow through the Power of Earth, but instead it kept ruling through Water.[1] Shortly after the accession of Emperor Wen of Han in 180 BC it was proposed that Han should rule through the Power of Earth (Yellow) instead of Water, because it had conquered Qin as well as various other minor enemies, and the proposal was repeated in 166 BC. Each time the idea was rejected, but eventually it was adopted in 104 BC.[1]

The link between Han and Earth remained unquestionable until the end of the Former Han dynasty. It was now becoming accepted that the Five Powers succeeded each other not by means of conquest, but by way of natural production or creation.[1] Wang Mang 王莽 also accepted this theory and when he seized the throne of Former Han and founded the Xin dynasty 新朝 in 9 AD he picked the Power of Earth, the natural successor of Fire. Some documents which accompanied Wang Mang's accession insisted that the Han dynasty had not enjoyed protection from Earth, as stated above, but from Fire; Red. It's logical successor would thus be Earth and Yellow.[1] From the records that exist today, such as the History of Han (Hàn shū 漢書), no evidence can be found that Former Han ever ruled through the Power of Fire.[2]

When Emperor Guangwu founded Later Han he reaffirmed Red and Fire for his dynasty, as a way to cancel out Wang Mang's usurpation.[1] Until the end of Later Han in 220 AD the dynasty remained Red through the Power of Fire.

List of sovereigns of Han[]

Later Han[]

Posthumous name Temple name Name Reign Reign title(s)
Emperor Guangwu of Han
Hàn Guāngwǔdì 漢光武帝
Shizu 世祖
"Epochal Founder"
Liu Xiu 劉秀 25-57
  • Jianwu 建武
  • Jianwu zhongyuan 建武中元
Emperor Ming of Han
Hàn Míngdì 漢明帝
(full: Xiào Míng huángdì 孝明皇帝)
Xianzong 顯宗
"Illustrious Exemplar"
Liu Yang 劉陽
Liu Zhuang 劉莊
  • Yongping 永平
Emperor Zhang of Han
Hàn Zhāngdì 漢章帝
(full: Xiào Zhāng huángdì 孝章皇帝)
Suzong 肅宗
"Respectful Exemplar"
Liu Da 劉炟 75-88
  • Jianchu 建初
  • Yuanhe 元和
  • Zhanghe 章和
Emperor He of Han Muzong 穆宗
"Solemn Exemplar"
Liu Zhao 劉肇 88-105
  • Yongyuan 永元
  • Yuanxing 元興
Emperor Shang of Han
Hàn Shāngdì 漢殤帝
(full: Xiào Shāng huángdì 孝殤皇帝)
n/a Liu Long 劉隆 105-106
  • Yanping 延平
Emperor An of Han
Hàn Āndì 漢安帝
(full: Xiào Ān huángdì 孝安皇帝)
Gongzong 恭宗 "Respectful Exemplar" Liu Hu 劉祜 106-125
  • Yongchu 永初
  • Yuanchu 元初
  • Yongning 永寧
  • Jianguang 建光
  • Yanguang 延光
Emperor Shao of Han
Hàn Shǎodì 漢少帝
n/a Liu Yi 劉懿 125
Emperor Shun of Han
Hàn Shùndì 漢順帝
(full: Xiào Shùn huángdì 孝順皇帝)
Jingzong 敬宗
"Reverant Exemplar"
Liu Bao 劉保 125-144
  • Yongjian 永建
  • Yangjia 陽嘉
  • Yonghe 永和
  • Han'an 漢安
  • Jiankang 建康
Emperor Chong of Han
Hàn Chōngdì 漢沖帝
(full: Xiào Chōng huángdì 孝衝皇帝)
n/a Liu Bing 劉炳 144-145
  • Yongxi 永熹
Emperor Zhi of Han
Hàn Zhìdì 漢質帝
(full: Xiào Zhì huángdì 孝質皇帝)
n/a Liu Zuan 劉纘 145-146
  • Benchu 本初
Emperor Huan of Han
Hàn Huándì 漢桓帝
(full: Xiào Huán huángdì 孝桓皇帝)
Weizong 威宗
"Masjestic Exemplar"
Liu Zhi 劉志 146-167
  • Jianhe 建和
  • Heping 和平
  • Yuanjia 元嘉
  • Yongxing 永興
  • Yongshou 永壽
  • Yanxi 延熹
  • Yongkang 永康
Emperor Ling of Han
Hàn Língdì 漢靈帝
(full: Xiào Líng huángdì 孝靈皇帝)
n/a Liu Hong 劉宏 167-189
  • Jianning 建寧
  • Xiping 熹平
  • Guanghe 光和[Eng 1]
  • Zhongping 中平[Eng 2]
Emperor Shao of Han
Hàn Shǎodì 漢少帝
n/a Liu Bian 劉辯 189
  • Guangxi 光熹
  • Zhaoning 昭寧
Emperor Xian of Han
Hàn Xiàndì 漢獻帝
(full: Xiào Xiàn huángdì 孝獻皇帝)
n/a Liu Xie 劉協 189-220
  • Yonghan 永漢
  • Zhongping 中平
  • Chuping 初平
  • Xingping 興平
  • Jian'an 建安
  • Yankang 延康

See also[]


  1. "Brilliant Harmony"
  2. "Pacification Achieved"


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Loewe, Divination, mythology and monarchy in Han China, page 94.
  2. de Crespigny, e-mail contact (read on our forums).