The Han Dynasty ruled China from 206 BC to 220 AD. Han Dynasty was divided into Western Han and Eastern Han. The Western Han was a period of consolidation and made some military extension. The Eastern Han gradually saw the abdication of the last Han emperor and the beginning of some 400 years of turmoil.
Emperor Wu (Han Wudi) consolidated and extended the Chinese empire. Han was the first dynasty to embrace the philosophy of Confucianism. Under the Han Dynasty, China made great advances in many areas of the arts and sciences. During this period, agriculture, handicrafts and commerce flourished, and the population reached 50 million.
Meanwhile, Han's prosperity enabled the first opening of trading connections between China and the West. Emperor Wudi dispatched Zhang Qian as his envoy to the Western Regions, and pioneered the route known as the Silk Road. It started from Chang'an (today's Xi'an in Shaanxi Province), went through Xinjiang Province and Central Asia, then on to the east coast of Mediterranean Sea. Silk Road not only promoted the contact and exchange between China and the rest of the world, but also spread Buddhism to China in the first century.
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