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han dynasty



When i say "history" what words come to mind? Apart from “boring” and “long long time ago”, one word that would probably come up is “culture”! We normally associate it people living during a specific time period. It usually includes ideas such as societal norms, rites and rituals, and social behaviour of the particular people/society. However, one category that we often overlook is food and drinks!

In this post, we will not only show the different types of food and drinks eaten by the Han Dynasty Chinese, but also how the internal/external (In-N-Out) influences affect their food consumption!

Let's Get Sciency & Techy With The Han Dynasty

Let's Get Sciency & Techy With The Han Dynasty

Han Dynasty and the Origins of the Silk Road

From cavemen walking barefooted to traders on camels crossing deserts and travelers flying across the globe in matters of hours, we can see that throughout time, human beings have an innate tendency to move from place to place, near or far. The result of this is trade, an exchange of both tangible goods and intangible goods, which eventually led to an early form of globalisation. One of the greatest ancient routes that facilitated globalisation is the Silk Roads.

The Silk Road was formally established during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). The Han Dynasty is referred as the golden age of all Chinese imperial dynasties and the Han people enjoyed economic prosperity. Internally, the Han Dynasty had numerous innovations that lead to a stable society. Externally, the trade profits from the Silk Road was able to bring wealth to the country, in terms of finance as well as beliefs and culture. Overtime, strong interwoven maritime routes along Eurasia enabled silk and other tangible goods to be heavily exchanged across the routes.

These extensive networks carried commodities and merchandise for sale and further connections with the populations brought about the transmittal of knowledge and beliefs which ingeniously impacted the Europeans’ cultures. Therefore, the advances in science and technology in the Han Dynasty, such as the inventions of agricultural tools, the treadle loom and the junk ship, were especially vital to the expansion of the Silk Road, henceforth allowing for connections and exchanges in terms of languages, ideas and cultures.

Lienü Zhuan: Nurturing the Ideal Woman in Han Dynasty

Prior to the Qing Dynasty (1644), education for women in China was scarce and even if provided, they were restricted to the teaching of moral values and family traditions (p.277). This was also the case during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE), by which the Lienü Zhuan (Categorized Biographies of Women), assembled by Han scholar Liu Xiang, was one of the few books dedicated for women’s moral education. Thus, Lienü Zhuan was influential in teaching women ethics during the Han Dynasty, as the exemplary biographies of honorable women found in this book demonstrated the expected virtues that women ought to cultivate and learn from during that period.

Wave of China

Wave of China

Ever wondered how China became such a powerful and influential civilisation? Scholars argue that China's involvement in other civilisations has contributed to its success since 500 BCE. In the past, China’s neighboring civilisations benefitted largely from its relations with China, where the spread of Chinese culture led to the progress and the organization of some Asian Civilisations. Such relations include trade, military forces and political relations.


After Death (Chinese Vs Roman)

Interested in knowing how the funeral processes took place in China and Rome? Well, you came to the right place. Both the Romans and Chinese have placed great importance to the dead. Both have taken great precautions to make the dead’s passage to the underworld as easy and safe as possible. To ensure, that the spirits of the dead ones do not wander endlessly looking for the underworld or be lost. It is interesting to compare how each of these rituals was important for them as much as it is important today. 

Click on us and see what else you can find!

Rise and Fall of Shu Dynasty

Around the early of the third century, one of the most influential dynasty of China, the Han dynasty, suffered its downfall. Treacherous eunuchs and villainous officials deceived the emperor and persecuted good ministers. The government became so corrupt that lead the country once again into chaotic warring states.

The war eventually narrowed down to three forces included Cao Wei under control of Cao Cao, Dong Wu lead by Sun Quan, and Shu Han with Liu Bei as a leader. This period is an epic, a dance of war, and most famous known as The Romance of Three Kingdoms.

For this blog post, we will focus on the Shu Han dynasty and some of its amazing historical figures. Also, we will try to show the significant contributions of these people to the culture of China.

The Battle Of Red Cliffs: Why You Should Follow The Tao Te Ching

Have you ever watched or at least heard of a movie called Red Cliff?

The movie, came in 2 parts in 2008 & 2009 consecutively, was adapted from the Battle of Red Cliffs that happened in the 3rd Century (CE). This movie is actually one of the biggest Chinese movie productions involving more than $70 million budget and one of the best Chinese actors Tony Leung, produced as well as directed by John Woo (yes, the director of Mission Impossible II!). The movie also remarkably received 13 awards and 41 nominations.

You should really check out the trailer and also the full movie(s): Red Cliff I and Red Cliff II! (All available on YouTube, yay).

redcliff_movie poster

Red Cliff Movie

In line with our ‘theme’ (Chinese civilization) in class this week, let’s dig deeper by taking a journey back to this one of the largest naval battles in history: The Battle of Red Cliffs – the great battle that could make such great blockbuster movie.

It was one of the most significant battles in Ancient China as in it was the fate of the whole emperor of China. That battle eventually led to the end of the Han Dynasty (from the freshest topic ‘Imperial China’) and also, the beginning of the famous Three Kingdoms Period.


Story time!



As learnt in class, the Han dynasty ruled for a glorious period of 4 centuries. It was the most long-lasting dynasty. However, at that time, although the main ruler was supposedly the emperor, the emperor was actually like a figurehead. The ones who were having the real powers were the eunuchs.

Corruption was rampant, so was injustice. A warlord called Dong Zhuo then rose up and managed to kill the eunuchs, but he was no different from the eunuchs. The emperor was still a figurehead controlled by Dong Zhuo, who was reshuffling governors to his heart’s contents.

The governors were unhappy with Dong Zhuo, this then led to the formation of Guandong Coalition which involved Cao Cao, Yuan Shao, Sun Quan and Liu Bei. They attacked Dong Zhuo and took over, although they ended up being just the same. They were corrupted and destroying one another. The whole areas experienced many wars and finally, only two warlords ‘survived’: Cao Cao reigned over the northern areas and Sun Quan the south. Of course, Cao Cao then quickly made his way to defeat southern China.


If Cao Cao managed to win over Sun Quan, he would rule over the whole lands of China, i.e. become the emperor of China and his name would be recorded. Do you know that if one managed to become the emperor of China, he would be deemed as something like a demigod? People would call him "Son of Heaven", "Lord of Ten Thousand Years", and "Holy Highness”. So now you should understand why Cao Cao was so desperate about it, yeah?


In order to do this, he needed to gain control of the Yangtze River and subdue the warlords to the south. Cao Cao then formed a huge army of about 800,000 soldiers. 


Meanwhile, Liu Bei joined Sun Quan and together, they formed an army of only about 50,000 soldiers. 800,000 vs. 50,000 – who do you think would win?


Nope, #TeamCaoCao did not.



First thing, his vanguard did not manage to win over the red cliffs near the Yangtze river, which would actually have given them an edge (such as shooting flaming arrows from the cliffs, perhaps).


Here’s the list of main mistakes that caused Cao Cao to lose the battle:

  1. Cao Cao’s troop consisted of mostly infantry (and cavalry) and horses, and had very minimal experience in naval battles. Cao Cao ‘transformed’ an infantry army into a navy army in such a short time, with only a few trainings provided prior to the battle, which took place mostly (or, possibly) at the Yangtze River.
  2. Cao Cao’s troop had so little help from people of Jing Province (one of the provinces he just defeated before the battle) although they were made part of the troop. This caused Cao Cao to have insufficient support and strength.
  3. Cao Cao assumed that simply with the large number of people in his troop, he could win.
  4. Cao Cao did not take note of the seasons’ difference between the north and the south, hence no preparation was done to anticipate. Southern area was tropical, whereas northern area (from which Cao Cao’s people mostly hail from) had 4 seasons. His troop got tropical illness and became so weakened.



So, as Cao Cao’s unprepared soldiers got seasick, Cao Cao then decided to tie up his ships together, in order to stabilize the ship and reduce the soldiers’ seasickness

Seeing this tying up of ships, Huang Gai, one of Sun Quan’s people, sent a letter and pretended to give in to Cao Cao. He crashed a ship against Cao Cao’s - this ship apparently had no soldier on board, but filled with oil and was burning with flames. The fire then spread around and many of Cao Cao’s soldiers and horses died from drowning and getting burnt.



the fire caused so much chaos

At the same time, the southern soldiers attacked the confused northern force. Seeing that his army was defeated, Cao Cao ordered his forces to retreat.

The retreat proved no better for Cao Cao. As his army fled, it began to rain causing them to get stuck in mud. The southern army continued to attack and much of Cao Cao's army was destroyed. In fact, a good deal of Cao Cao territory was taken over.



Map of Battle of Red Cliffs: sums up the whole battle


This victory of the southern warlords then prevented Cao Cao from uniting and ruling over China as he initially planned – in fact it became divided into three. Cao Cao maintained some control of the north and established the Kingdom of Wei. Meanwhile, Liu Bei founded the Kingdom of Shu, and Sun Quan founded the Kingdom of Wu. These kingdoms then became known as the Three Kingdoms period of China.



So many things could be learnt from here, don’t you think?

The bigger might not be the better. Also, even a supposedly hero made a lot of mistakes – bet they all sound like ‘duh-you-don’t-say’ mistakes – all in the name of greed and impatience which lead to miscalculations and unnecessary “bad luck”. See, if only Cao Cao followed Tao Te Ching. Desires could destroy you. LOL.


Now, do you see why all this made a cool plot in a blockbuster?


[Bonus] Fun facts:

  1. What’s the main reason the emperor trusted the eunuchs so much? Eunuchs did not have any heirs, so the emperor thought they would not overthrow him.
  2. We don’t know who to believe here: Cao Cao boasted in a letter that he had 800,000 soldiers. However, according to general Zhou Yu of the south’s calculation, Cao Cao had fewer, only around 230,000.
  3. Someone created a video game based on the battle. It’s called Dragon Throne: Battle of Red Cliffs.
  4.    There are still many things we have yet to know – up till today, the real location of the battle was not confirmed as no physical evidences have been found yet.