The Chinese have had many dynasties. Most of them did not live very long, but there were quite a few that did live
an extremely long time. To name few of them: the Han Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty, and the Ming Dynasty. The
remembered dynasties usually lasted anywhere from 200 years to 400 years.
The Han dynasty was in power for about 400 years, from 206 BC to 220 AD the Han dynasty was established after
the fall of the Qin dynasty. The time period in which the Han dynasty was in power is believed to be the height of
the Chinese culture. The Han dynasty is divided into two time periods. These two sections are divided by an
emperor named Wang Mang interregnum (the next rule did not come immediately after); the first period is referred
to as the former or western, and the second is referred to as the latter or eastern. The capital of the former Han
dynasty was located in Chang’an, and the latter Han dynasty was centered in Luoyang.
After numerous rebel groups joined to gather to over through the oppressive Qin dynasty. Following the collapse of
the Qin dynasty was decades of civil war. During this war the rebel group fought for the imperial title. Finally two
equally strong groups emerged one lead by Xiang Yu, the decanted of a formally aristocratic family from Chu; and
the other Liu Bang, who had a peasant background and had been a minor village official, however the struggle was
not between different social classes, because both men had supporters from diverse backgrounds. Liu Bang finally
defeated Xiang Yu in 202 BC. Directly after which Xiang Yu committed suicide. Liu Bang, who had taken the title
of King of Han, proclaimed himself as the first Emperor of the Han dynasty.
The early years of the Han dynasty were characterized as power struggles among the emperor’s old comrades.
Several of his meritorious generals had been given large domains to rule or govern as vassal states of the Han court
but they could not ignore the temptation of the imperial throne. After the first generation the internal disputes were
mainly geared around who among the children would be the next successor of the imperial house. It was not until
Emperor Jin, who ruled from 157 BCE 141 BCE, that the Han Court was firmly secure. Externally the Han faced
serious opposition from a rising nomadic empire, the Xiongun. The Xiongun had headed a group of various ethnic
groups along the Eurasian boundary even before the Qin dynasty was founded. By the end of the third century BCE,
the Xiongun’s group had become a strong empire that stretched from Central Asia to Siberia. Han China, which had
just emerged from the fall of the oppressive Qin dynasty and their decades of civil war, l!
acked the resources necessary to defend China from an attack made by the Xiongun, whose cavalry surpassed the
Chinese infantry. Still in the first century of the Han rule, Han China was vulnerable both internally and externally.
The Tang dynasty was in power for 289 years from 618 AD to 907 AD. Within only a few generations the Tang
dynasty exceeded even the Han dynasty in material splendor and international power.
The founder of the Tang dynasty, Li Yuan, who ruled from 618 to 626 AD lived to be 69 (he died in 635 AD). Li
Yuan was known by his imperial name Gaozu. Gaozu came from about the same northwestern aristocracy as his Sui
predecessors; his mother, nee’ Dugu was the sister of the first Sui empress and his ancestors had served in
successive northern regimes.
Taking advantage of his relationship to the imperial favorite, Gaozu served first in the Sin provincial bureaucracy
and then as a military officer in the modern provinces of Gansu and Shanxi; battling the widespread banditry that
helped bring down Sui. Ganzu in 617 realizing that all the authority had effectively been destroyed, rose in rebellion,
marching from Tauyuan in to central Shanxi southwestward through the TongPass to take the Sui capital which fell
eleven months later and on the fifth month of 618 Gaozu ascended to the throne. The Sui capital remained the
capital and was renamed Chang’an, meaning