The Han Empire 140 BCE–220 CE


Map Code: Ax00821

Liu Bang, who became the first Han emperor in 202 BCE, seized power in a rebellion against the Qin dynasty. Determined to avoid the fate of his predecessors, he imposed a centralized system of rule. Under the Han, the emperor was supreme, with an inner council of three ‘ducal ministers’. A further nine ministers both reported to the inner council, and oversaw the network of local government. The core unit of local government was the commandery, governed by a grand administrator, who was salaried and non-hereditary. Beyond the commanderies, which were concentrated in the northeastern core of the empire, territory was divided into hereditary kingdoms. The rulers of these kingdoms were, at the outset, local magnates, but Liu Bang and his successors systematically replaced them with family members. Originally, kings had considerable autonomy but, after the Rebellion of the Seven States in 154 BCE, this was drastically curtailed. The southern kingdom of Nanyue, which incorporated parts of Vietnam, was a semi-autonomous vassal state. In 114 BCE the Han Emperor Wu sent 100,000 troops against Nanyue, incorporating it into the Han Empire

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