During the Han Dynasty, China officially became a Confucian state and prospered domestically through agriculture, handicrafts and commerce. The population reached 50 million and the empire extended its political and cultural influence over Vietnam, Central Asia, Mongolia, and Korea before it finally collapsed under a mixture of domestic and external pressures. The first of the two periods of the dynasty, namely the Former Han Dynasty or the Western Han Dynasty 206 BC - AD 9 seated at Chang'an and the Later Han Dynasty or the Eastern Han Dynasty 25 - 220 seated at Luoyang. The western-eastern Han convention is used nowadays to avoid confusion with the Later Han Dynasty of the Period of the Five Dynasties and the Ten Kingdoms although the former-later nomenclature was used in history texts including Sima Guang's Zizhi Tongjian. The dynasty was founded by the Liu family.
Intellectual, literary, and artistic activities revived and flourished during the Han Dynasty.
The Han period produced China's most famous historian, Sima Qian, whose Records of the Grand Historian provides a detailed chronicle from the time of legendary Xia emperor to that of the Emperor Wu. Technological advances also marked this period. Two of the great Chinese inventions, paper and porcelain, date from Han times.
It is fair enough to state that modern empires of the Han Dynasty and the Roman Empire were the two superpowers of the known world. However, Hou Hanshu recounted that only one Roman convoy set out by emperor Antoninus Pius reached the Chinese capital Luoyang in 166 and was greeted by Emperor Huan.
The Han dynasty, after which the members of the ethnic majority in China, the "people of Han," are named, was notable also for its military prowess. The empire expanded westward as far as the rim of the Tarim Basin, making possible...