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Detail of Qin Shi Huang's imperial tour across his empire. Depiction in an 18th century album.

How the Search for Immortality Killed the First Emperor of China

No man had ever risen as high as Qin Shi Huang. He was the first emperor of China - the first man to conquer its seven kingdoms and rule them all. There was only one threat left for him to overcome:...
The hand missing its index finger from a monumental bronze statue of Constantine.

Giant Finger of Emperor Constantine Found At Last

Experts at the Louvre Museum in Paris have made a rather important but strange discovery. They have discovered that an apparent bronze toe, is in fact a finger, and it belongs to a famous statue of...
A ceramic female polo player, from northern China, Tang Dynasty, first half of the 8th century, made with white slip and polychrome. From the Musée Guimet (Guimet Museum), Paris. (Public Domain) Background: ‘Xuanzong's Journey to Shu’, in the manner of the mid-8th century Tang artist Li Zhaodao, an 11th-century Song dynasty remake.

The Tang Dynasty: The Arts Flourished, Family Ties Broke, and a Concubine Became Empress

While Europe was masked in the Dark Ages, China was flourishing in the Tang Dynasty. Woodblock printing gave them books, testing made government jobs available to common citizens, paper spread...
Attendant figurine (Sui Dynasty, 581 - 618) at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum - Sha Tin, Hong Kong. (CC0) Background: Votive plaque with Seated Buddha Shakyamuni, Attendant Bodhisattvas, and Monks, China, Sui dynasty, 581-618 AD, gilt bronze - Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University.

The Sui Dynasty: 37 Years, Two Emperors and One Grand Canal

The Sui Dynasty may not have existed very long, but this imperial dynasty made an impact on Chinese culture long after the memories of its rulers faded away. Peasants were both delighted with and...
Modern representation of Sima Yan, the first emperor of the Jin Dynasty. (CC BY SA) Background: Detail of a moulded-brick mural identified as the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove and Rong Qiqi.” (Gary Lee Todd/CC BY SA 4.0)

The Jin Dynasty: The Sima Clan Fights to Hold China Together

The Jin (晉) Dynasty was an imperial dynasty that ruled China between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD. It was established following the Three Kingdoms period, during which China was fragmented into three...
Chinese temple on a lake

The Chinese Emperor Who Built A Lake of Wine and a Forest of Meat

The last ruler of China’s Shang Dynasty knew how to relax. When he and his Queen wanted to unwind, they would head to his pleasure palace and take a dip in their lake of wine. That wasn’t just a cute...
Detail of ‘Spring Morning in the Han Palace’ (17th century) by Qiu Ying

Ancient Weiyang Palace: Exemplifying Han Dynasty Splendor

Today it is in ruins, but Weiyang Palace was once the largest palace complex on earth. The few remains you can see now bear silent witness to the splendor and grandeur of the Han Dynasty monument...
Liu Xiu, Emperor Guangwu of Han, Liu Heng, Emperor Wen of Han, or Cao Pi, King of Wei. (Public Domain) Background: Dahuting tomb banquet scene, mural detail, Eastern Han Dynasty. (Public Domain)

Part II: The End Comes Slowly - The Last Han Dynasty Emperors

Read Part I Here Wang Mang’s usurpation of the throne and the establishment of the Xin Dynasty brought the Han Dynasty to a temporary end. Displeasure with the Xin Dynasty, however, caused rebellions...
Was Wang Mang a visionary, or a murderous villain – or both? (Wang Mang art italkcafe.com, The Analects of Confucius; Deriv)

The Emperor is Dead, Let Confucianism and Chaos Reign! The Rise and Fall of Wang Mang and the Xin Dynasty

Some saw Wang Mang as an evil usurper – others a selfless visionary. Either way, an emperor lay dead, and a learned Confucian scholar sought to bring peace and harmony, but the dynasty would descend...
Tiberius as Jupiter – II.

Was Emperor Tiberius Simply Destined to Rule?

Tiberius was a Roman emperor who ruled the empire during the first half of the 1st century AD. As he was the successor of Augustus Caesar, his adoptive father, he was the second ruler of the Roman...
A portrait painting of Emperor Gao of Han (Liu Bang), from an 18th-century Qing Dynasty album of Chinese emperors' portraits. (Public Domain) Background: A tomb painting of a late Eastern-Han period lively banquet.

A Golden Age of China, Part I: Early Han Dynasty Emperors

The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty in Chinese history. This dynasty was a long one – it was established during the 3rd century BC and lasted all the way until the 3rd century AD. It was...
Bronze Chariot & Horses w/ Coachman ―Qin Dynasty, 221-206 BC

The Wonders and The Terrors of the Qin Dynasty

The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty in the history of China. It was also the shortest-lived dynasty, lasting only 15 years between 221 BC and 206 BC. Nonetheless, it was hugely important,...
 A portrait painting of Emperor Gao of Han (Liu Bang), from an 18th-century Qing Dynasty album of Chinese emperors' portraits. (Public Domain) Background: ‘Entry of the First Emperor of the Han Dynasty into Guanzhong’ (early 12th century) by Zhao Boju.

The Rags to Riches Story of Liu Bang: Peasant, Rebel, Chinese Emperor

Liu Bang’s life is a rags to riches story. He was born into a peasant family but rose to become the emperor of China. In fact, Liu Bang (known also as Emperor Gaozu of Han) was the generally...
Fittings in the form of tigers, Baoji, Shaanxi province, Middle Western Zhou dynasty, c. 900 BC, bronze - Freer Gallery of Art.

The Zhou Dynasty: The Longest-Lasting Dynasty in Chinese History

The Zhou Dynasty was the longest-lasting dynasty in Chinese history. It persisted all the way from the 11th to the 3rd century BC. The rulers of this epoch were no strangers to battle, but they also...
Pit of oracle bones (甲骨) at Anyang Yinxu. The oracle bones are pieces of bone or turtle plastron bearing the answers to divination during the late Shang Dynasty (1766-1050 BC).

The Shang Dynasty: Second in Traditional Historiography, First in Archaeology

There is a semi-mythological dynasty before it, but from an archaeological point of view it could be argued the Shang Dynasty was the first dynasty of China. It was Bronze Age China at its known best...
Head of Marcus Aurelius found at Aswan/Site of the newly discovered shrine at Luxor,

The Head of an Emperor, the Shrine of a God: Two Contrasting Finds at the Egyptian Sites of Luxor and Aswan

Recent discoveries at two of the major ancient sites in Egypt emphasize the diversity of culture and power that existed in the region over time. In Aswan, the head of a marble statue of the Roman...

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