Nisha Rathode (Editor)

Han (state)

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Role  State
Capital  Xinzheng

Name  Han Han
Government  Monarchy
Date dissolved  230 BC
Han (state)

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Han (Chinese: , Old Chinese: *[g]ˤar) was an ancient Chinese state during the Warring States period of ancient China, located in modern-day Shanxi and Henan.


Its territory directly blocked the passage of the state of Qin into the North China Plain and thus it was a frequent target of Qin's military operations. Although Han had attempted several self-strengthening reforms (notably under the noted legalist Shen Buhai), it never overcame Qin and was instead the first of the warring states to be conquered by it.

The Qin invasion of Han's Shangdang Commandery ushered in the bloodiest battle of the whole period (at Changping) in 260 BC.


According to the Records of the Grand Historian, the royal family of Han was a cadet branch of the state of Jin. The founder of Han clan was the uncle of Duke Wu of Jin Wuzi of Han.

Members of the family became ministers in the powerful state of Jin and were granted Hanyuan (modern Hancheng in Shaanxi).

Spring and Autumn period

During the Spring and Autumn period, the Han family gradually gained influence and importance within Jin. They were made (, "viscounts"). In 403 BC, Jing of Han, along with Wen of Wei and Lie of Zhao partitioned Jin among themselves. In Chinese history, this Partition of Jin is the event which marks the end of the Spring and Autumn period and the beginning of the Warring States. Subsequently, Han was an independent polity. King Lie eventually recognized the new states and elevated the rulers to (hou, "marquess").

Warring States Period

Han's highest point occurred under the rule of Marquess Xi. Xi appointed Shen Buhai as his chancellor and implemented his Legalist policies. These strengthened the state and the realm became a xiaokang society. Under Xuanhui (332–312 BC), Han declared itself an independent kingdom.

However, Han was disadvantaged in the competition of the Warring States because Jin's partition had left it surrounded on all sides by other strong states – Chu to the south, Qi to the east, Qin to the west, and Wei to the north. It was the smallest of the seven states and, without any easy way to expand its own territory and resources, it was bullied militarily by its more powerful neighbors.


During its steady decline, Han eventually lost the power to defend its territory and had to request military assistance from other states. The contest between Wei and Qi over control of Han resulted in the Battle of Maling, which established Qi as the preëminent state in the east. In 260 BC, Qin's invasion of Han led to Zhao intervention and the Battle of Changping.

During the late years of the era, in an attempt to drain Qin's resources in an expensive public works project, the state of Han sent the civil engineer Zheng Guo to Qin to persuade them to build a canal. The scheme, while expensive, backfired spectacularly when it was eventually completed: the irrigation abilities of the new Zhengguo Canal far outweighed its cost and gave Qin the agricultural and economic means to dominate the other six states. Han was the first to fall, in 230 BC.

In 226 BC, ex-Han nobility launched a failed rebellion in former capital Xinzheng, and An, the last king of Han, was put to death the same year.

Culture and society

Before Qin unified China, each state had its own customs and culture. According to the Yu Gong or Tribute of Yu, composed in the 4th or 5th century BC and included in the Book of Documents, there were nine distinct cultural regions of China, which are described in detail in this book. The work focuses on the travels of the titular sage, Yu the Great, throughout each of the regions. Other texts, predominantly military, also discussed these cultural variations.

One of these texts was The Book of Master Wu, written in response to a query by Marquis Wu of Wei on how to cope with the other states. Wu Qi, the author of the work, declared that the government and nature of the people were reflective of the terrain they live in. Of Han, he said:

The two states of Han and Zhao train their troops rigorously but have difficulty in applying their skills to the battlefield.

Han and Zhao are states of the Central Plain. Theirs are a gentle people, weary from war and experienced in arms, but have little regard for their generals. The soldiers' salaries are meager and their officers have no strong commitment to their countries. Although their troops are experienced, they cannot be expected to fight to the death. To defeat them, we must concentrate large numbers of troops in our attacks to present them with certain peril. When they counterattack, we must be prepared to defend our positions vigorously and make them pay dearly. When they retreat, we must pursue and give them no rest. This will grind them down.

Famous people

  • Han Fei, a Legalist philosopher
  • Zhang Liang, a major figure in the early Han dynasty
  • Zheng Guo, the hydraulic engineer who designed the Zhengguo Canal for Qin
  • Han in astronomy

    Han is represented by the star 35 Capricorni in the "Twelve States" asterism, part of the "Girl" lunar mansion in the "Black Turtle" symbol. Han is also represented by the star Zeta Ophiuchi in the "Right Wall" asterism, part of the "Heavenly Market" enclosure.


    Han (state) Wikipedia