Interpreting the Past

East Asia Unit: Daily Life in the Han Dynasty

Assignments to hand in: Daily Life in the Han Dynasty Note-Taking Graphic Organizer [PDF Version] | Historical Han Obituary Organizer [PDF Version] | Historical Han Obituary Respone Form [PDF Version]

Essential Questions, shared learning target & introduction:

Essential Question 2: Why do people live the way they do?

What will I be able to do?: You will be able to describe the characteristics of daily life among various social groups/classes in ancient Han China.
What idea, topic, or subject is important for you to learn and understand so that I can do this?: You will learn about how people of various social groups/classes lived in ancient Han China.
What I will do to show that you know this?: You will show what you know by completing Daily Life in the Han Dynasty Note-Taking Graphic Organizer and writing imaginary obituaries on five different social groups/classes of your choosing.

Warm Up: Han Dynasty - Confucian Government
The Han dynasty ran their government based on Confucianism. Go back and read the Three Ways of Thought lesson on Confucianism. and watch the short video below on Confucianism during the Han dynasty. Then, using evidence from the text, explain how the Han dynasty might have set up their government given they followed Confucius’s beliefs.

Video Clip - Tung Chung-shu: Confucianism in the Han Dynasty (YouTube Link)

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Handout: Warm Up Response Form [PDF Version]


Map of Han Dynasty

Video Clip from Engineering an Empire on the Han dynasty (Brief overview with emphasis on Great Wall):

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The Han dynasty, which lasted from approximately 206 B.C.E. to 220 C.E., was founded by Liu Bang (pronounced LEO-BONG), a man born to a peasant family. Liu, the king of the state of Han, rose to power after the Qin dynasty collapsed in 206 B.C.E. After defeating the various groups that were vying for power after Qin Shi Huang Di's death, Liu became emperor and made his capital at Chang'An (pronounced CHAHNG-AHN, known today as Xi'an), in north central China. One of only two commoners ever to found a Chinese dynasty, Liu proved to be a talented and skillful ruler. Posthumously, he became known as Han Gaozu (pronounced HAHN-GOW-TZOO), which means the "Great Ancestral Father of Han." The achievements of the Han dynasty so influenced Chinese culture that the Chinese word for "Chinese person" is "a person of Han."

During the Han dynasty, China experienced a period of peace, stability, and prosperity. Han emperors established a strong military, which allowed them to conquer new territories, expanding the reach of the empire as far as modern-day Korea and North Vietnam. In addition, they extended their power through diplomatic alliances with neighboring peoples. These alliances were often forged through strategic marriages or the exchange of lavish presents. Under the Han, the Chinese also engaged in international trade. Trading such goods as silk, spices, and jade, the Chinese acquired new products and ideas - including Buddhism - from ancient cultures such as India, Central Asia, and Rome. Much of the trade occurred locally in small trade centers throughout Asia that became known collectively as the Silk Road.

During the Han dynasty, great achievements were made in the areas of education, culture, and science. Shifting away from the Legalist philosophy of the Qin dynasty, Han rulers instituted a Confucian system of government under which government officials were selected based on merit, rather than by birth. Scholars who proved their knowledge of Confucian classics and literary talent were appointed officials, who enforced Han laws and collected taxes. This encouraged the development of Confucian education, which became more widespread among the general populace. In addition, the Han government promoted the development of the arts: paper was invented, painting and calligraphy flourished, and fine porcelain was created. The Han period also saw some remarkable advances in science and technology, such as the invention of water clocks, star maps, and compasses. Perhaps most importantly, Han rulers increased trade and communication by building new roads and waterways. While Han rulers struggled at times to maintain control over their large empire, Han society remained basically intact for over 400 years.

Video Clip: An introduction to the Han dynasty with emphasis on daily life and trade:

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Source: Discovery Education

Step 1: Researching Social Roles/Groups in the Han Dynasty - Click on each social group in Han dialy life, look at the image(s) and read the corresponding text to complete the Daily Life in the Han Dynasty Graphic Organizer (PDF Version). Make sure you direct your note-taking on how and why they lived the way they did during the Han Dynasty.


Imperial Family







Step 2: Writing Historical Obituaries Celebrating the Life of Han People - Choose TWO of the social classes/groups and write an obituary celebrating their life. Read the handout: How to Write an Obituary, Sentence by Sentence (includes Chinese example). You will need to fill in imaginary details, like their name, age at the time of death, town they lived in, etc. in order to complete this task. Use the handouts below to complete this task.

Historical Obituary Graphic Organizer [PDF Version]
Historical Obituary Response Form [PDF Version]

Historical Obituary Rubric