1902 Encyclopedia > China > Chinese History (cont.) - Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD)

(Part 28)


Imperial Era (221 BC - 1911 AD)

Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD)

On ascending the throne Kaou-te established his capital at lo-yang in Ho-nan, and afterwards removed it to Chang-gan in Shen-se. having founded his right to rebel on the oppressive nature of the laws promulgated by Che Hwang-te, he abolished the ordinances of Thsin, with the ex caption of that referring to the destruction of the books—for, like this great predecessor, he dreaded the influence exercised by the Literati—and he exchanged the worship of the gods of the soil of Thsin for that of those of Han, his native state. His successor, however, gave every encouragement to literature, and appointed a commission to restore as far as possible the texts which had been destroyed by Che Hwang-te. In this the commission was very successful. It was discovered that in many cases the law had been evaded, and numerous books which had ceased to have any corporeal being were found to exist on the tablets of the memories of scholars. This new period of literary activity added to the general prosperity of the empire. There was peace within its borders, and its frontiers remained unchallenged, except occasionally by the Heung-noo, who suffered many and severe defeats at the hands of the Chinese generals. Thwarted, therefore, in their attacks on China, these incorrigible marauders turned their attention to the kingdom of Yue-che, which had grown up in the western extremity of Shen-se, and after much fighting drove their victims along the Teen-shan nan-loo to modern Western Tartary, that is to say, the territory between Turkestan and the Caspian Sea. This position of affairs suggested to the emperor the idea of forming an offensive and defensive alliance with the Yu_-che against the Heung-noo. With this object an ambassador was sent to Western Tartary, who, after having been twice imprisoned by the Heung-noo, returned with no more beneficial result than that his embassy was the means of introducing silk into Europe. However, in 121 B.C., the reigning emperor, Woo-te, sent an expedition against the Heung-noo, and completely defeated them. The conquered people tendered their submission to the victors, and the Chinese established colonies, built towns, and appointed governors in the vanquished provinces. From this time the power of the Heung-noo began to wane. Dissension broke out among their different chieftains, and in 93 A.D., they were completely driven out of Eastern Asia, and the 3rd century witnessed their flight into the district north-east of the Caspian Sea, now occupied by the Kirghese, a broken, and impotent remnant. Few Chinese dynasties have lasted much more than two centuries, and the first Han dynasty was no exception to the rule. About the beginning of the Christian era a notable rebel, one Wang Mang, rose in revolt against the infant successor of Ping-te (1 A.D.), and in 9 A.D. proclaimed himself emperor. He, however, at best only gained the suffrages of a portion of the nation, and before long his oppressive acts estranged even these supporters from him. In 23 A.D. Lew Sew headed a formidable rising against him and completely defeated him. He was destined, however, to die by the hands o his followers. In a revolt of his remaining troops his head was struck from his shoulders, and his body was torn in pieces by his own soldiery.

His opponent, Lew Sew, was now proclaimed emperor under the title of Kwang-woo-te, and in consequence of his fixing on Lo-yand in Ho-nan as his capital, the line of which he was the first emperor became known as the Eastern Han dynasty. Within this period are embraced some of the most remarkable events in the history of China. During the reign of his successor Ming-te, 65 A.D., Buddhism was introduced from India into China, and about the same time the celebrated General Pan Caou was sent on an embassy to the king of Shen-shen, a small state of Turkestan, near the modern Pidian. So successful was he in his mission, that before long, he added the states of Shen-shen, Khoten, Kuché, and Kashgar as apanages to the Chinese crown. But in accordance with precedent, after a time the glory of the dynasty became dimmed. Disturbances occurred in the provinces, and, in 173, a virulent pestilence broke out which held possession of the country for eleven years. A magical cure for this plague was said to have been discovered by a Taouist priest named Chang Keo, who made so good a use of his discovery that in single month he had gained a sufficiently large following to enable him to gain possession of the northern provinces of the empire.

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