The Western Han

Authored by: Liang Cai

Routledge Handbook of Imperial Chinese History

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138847286
eBook ISBN: 9781315726878
Adobe ISBN:


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Among the several rebel leaders who vied for primacy at the end of the Qin dynasty, Liu Bang 劉邦 distinguished himself on the battlefield. Defeating his major rival, Xiang Yu 項羽, he established the first of the two consecutive Han dynasties, the Western Han. The narrative presented by Han scholars has until recently portrayed the Qin as a cruel empire that betrayed the social values and political legacy of the Zhou dynasty. By contrast, the Han dynasty was regarded as the orthodox heir of traditional Zhou culture. New studies show, however, that the founding of the Han dynasty saw the loss of influence of the old nobilities but created a new upper ruling elite (Map 2.1).

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