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Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220)

Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220)

The Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 9), whose capital is Chang'an, modern Xian, in Shaanxi, bequeathed to China an ideal that survived intact for several generations. By retaining Qin's reforms, they established a powerful centralised empire. Han expansion was first directed toward Central Asia : owing to diplomatic arrangements, they obtained the fabled Ferghala horses and finally defeated the Xiongnu confederacy on their northern frontiers. It was the occasion to discover the barbarian artistic culture.

Scholars devote energy to the copy, the reconstitution and the commentaries of the texts of the former dynasties whose teachings as great classics still persist today.

In spite of the refinement of this civilisation, the Han institution would never quite recover from the outbreak of Wang Mang's reign ; a ministry of the former Han who founded the Xin or "New" Dynasty (A.D. 9-24). Weak emperors as well as religious rebellion preaching eschatological doctrines distinguish the Late Han period.

Artistically speaking, lively motifs of curves, counter curves and protruding cloud designs appear widely on different artefacts. The increase of the agricultural income of an elegant and civilized town elite living on their land holdings encouraged the development of arts and crafts. As for the government, it promoted lacquer ware factories especially in Sichuan.

By the end of the 2nd century B.C., iconography shows immortal beings from the blessed Isle of Penglai fashioned as hybrid creatures, man and beast, with claws and wings. Their popularity increased with the belief in places for the dead such as Mount Kunlun, the guarded home of Xi Wang Mu, the Queen Mother of the West.

  • Belt buckle
    Belt buckle Approximately 2nd century B.C. Xiongnu Empire (late 3rd century B.C. – 155 A.D.) - Gilded bronze
  • Bust of one of eight nude men
    Bust of one of eight nude men Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Terra cotta with traces of polychromy
  • Funerary lamp
    Funerary lamp Han Era (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.) - Terra cotta
  • Six tomb figures
    Six tomb figures Eastern Han Era (25 – 220) - Terra cotta
  • Oxen, ram and ewes
    Oxen, ram and ewes Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Terra cotta
  • Owl
    Owl 1st century B.C. Late Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Painted terra cotta
  • Bird - phoenix
    Bird - phoenix Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Wood (epicea asperata)
  • Sitting goose
    Sitting goose Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Painted terra cotta
  • Lian with acrobats
    Lian with acrobats Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Terra cotta with red and black highlights
  • Maid
    Maid Approximately 2nd century, Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Terra cotta
  • Horse
    Horse Eastern Han Era (25 – 220) - Terra cotta
  • Pair of handles decorated with felines
    Pair of handles decorated with felines Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Gilded bronze
  • Belt buckle
    Belt buckle Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Cameos inlaid in gold
  • Vessel in the shape of silkworm cocoons
    Vessel in the shape of silkworm cocoons Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Painted terra cotta
  • Phalera decorated with a bear
    Phalera decorated with a bear 3rd - 2nd century B.C., Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Gilded bronze
  • Horse
    Horse Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Wood
  • Upper surface of a low table
    Upper surface of a low table Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) - Lacquered wood
  • Bear
    Bear 206 B.C. - A.D.220 - Bronze
  • Exorcist tomb guard
    Exorcist tomb guard Eastern Han (25-220) - Terracotta