Museum of Chinese Art and Ethnography Xaverian Missionaries - V.le S. Martino, 8 - Parma, Italy 0521-257.337

Han Dynasty

206 BC-220 AD


Dropper in the shape of a tortoise Han Dynasty (200 AD)
Dropper in the shape of a tortoise  
Han Dynasty (200 AD)  

Founded by Liu Bang, known as the Sovereign Emperor of Han, the Han dynasty ruled for four centuries, from 206 BC to 220 AD, spreading its influence to Vietnam, Korea and Central Asia. Considered the first of the most important dynasties in Chinese history, it was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty (Wang Mang Period, 9-23 AD). The Han dynasty is often divided in Western Han (206 BC - 9 AD) with its capital Chang'an, and the Eastern Han (25 AD - 220 AD) with its capital Luoyang.

This was a period of economic prosperity, military conquest, centralization of the political system, and great advances intellectual, cultural, artistic and scientific areas, which made it one of the greatest dynasties of China. The emperors tried to maintain peace and prosperity, and promoted the development of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Paper was discovered and perfected and used as a support in Scripture, instead of silk. The Han have greatly improved the techniques of silk weaving, which, through alliances with foreign powers, gave ample commercial space, known as the Silk Road, which reached the Roman Empire. The goods traded were silk and precious stones from China, while glass, ivory, silver and incense came back from the Roman Empire.

The Han Dynasty is also noted for its production of ceramics, for both domestic use and for trade, used by the common people, with seals bearing the names of government offices or places of furnaces, thus suggesting a nationwide industry. We are witnessing an improvement in the production of hard pottery with etched decorations, and the first appearance of pottery covered with green or yellow glaze.

Towards the end of the dynasty, celadon is produced in good quality, with an iron content less than 2%. Even technical innovations of copper and lead are present, vessels used exclusively as mortuary and funeral pottery, and not for daily use.

The Han dynasty fell in 220 AD, and thus began the first period of disunity, with the Three Kingdoms, and independent states struggling for supremacy.



Han Dynasty
206 BC - 220 AD


Dynasty Art