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Eastern Han Dynasty

Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow
The Eastern Han Dynasty lasted from 25 to 220. During the reign of Wang Mang, the emperor of the Xin Dynasty, Liu Xiu and his elder brother joined the Green Woodsmen Army. Liu later took the leadership and united other peasant armed forces.

In 25, Liu proclaimed himself emperor of the Han in Hao (today's Baixiang County, Hebei Province), making Luoyang City the capital. He restored the Han Dynasty, henceforth known as the Eastern Han Dynasty, to distinguish it from the Western Han.

The early years of Liu's reign were devoted to unification. After cracking down on the remnant peasant forces and eliminating rival regimes in various localities, Liu unified the country in 40.

Jade wine goblet of the Eastern Han Dynasty decorated with patterns of legendary animals
The dynasty established by Liu was even more autocratic than the Western Han. To prevent high officials, relatives of the empress and imperial clansmen from seizing power, which was a prevalent phenomenon in the later period of the Western Han, Liu carried out a series of measures to strengthen his regime. In 48, he reinforced the laws adopted by the Western Han, strictly prohibiting the lords of the fiefdoms from forming cliques. Furthermore, Liu took direct control of the department handling imperial documents, making it an office for the emperor to issue orders to the whole country. Thus, Liu firmly took all powers into his hands.

Brick relief of the Eastern Han Dynasty unearthed in Sichuan Province
The Eastern Han period witnessed steady economic and cultural developments and frequent foreign exchanges. During Liu's reign, the Han court received a Japanese goodwill envoy (then called Wo), to whom the emperor gave a seal inscribed with a title of honor. The Eastern Han also had a good relationship with India and the Roman Empire. An ambassador of King Antoninus of the Roman Empire once came to China bearing gifts of ivory for the reigning Han emperor.

During the late Eastern Han, relatives of the empress and eunuchs assumed all the power, which led to intensified social conflicts and sustained insurgent activities that culminated in the Yellow Turban Uprising in 184. In 196, Cao Cao, one of the most powerful warlords, took Emperor Xiandi under his control and used the name of the puppet emperor to endorse his actions. The Eastern Han Dynasty endured only nominally, and soon gave way to the Three Kingdoms. In 220, Cao Pi, Cao Cao's son, deposed Emperor Xiandi and proclaimed himself Emperor of the Wei.