History of China
China, one of the world’s most ancient civilizations, has a recorded history of 5,000 years.
Random photo: Impressions of China
A fossil anthropoid unearthed in Yuanmou, Yunnan Province, Yuanmou Man, who lived approximately 1.7 million years ago, is China’s earliest primitive man known so far. Peking Man lived in Zhoukoudian near Beijing 600,000 years ago. Neolithic Age started in China about 10,000 years ago, and relics from all over the country. Artificially grown rice and millet as well as farming tools have been found in remain of Hemudu in Yuyao, Zhejiang Province, and Banpo, near Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province, respectively. These relics date back some 6,000 – 7,000 years.
Peking Man – The Peking Man was not discovered until the beginning of the twentieth century. Between 1929 and 1937, in Zhoukongdian, the site of Peking Man, about 50 kilometers southwest of Beijing, fossils of the Chinese ape-man and their caves were found. The scientific excavation uncovered parts of 45 skeletons, 11 lower jaws, many teeth and 14 partial craniums, and also with large numbers of stone tools, plant fibers, seeds and evidence of a hearth, thus enabling the scientists to gather evidence and to explore the implications of all these, and to discover clues as to how the Peking Man lived, and have finally drawn the conclusion that the Peking Man lived about 300,000 to 500,000 years ago. The Peking Man was about 5 feet tall, and with strong muscles and broad shoulders, able to walk upright and make simple tools, and had mastered the method of making fire. It has also been proven that the Upper Cave Man that lived in this area is about 18,000 years old. His brain volume is approximately 1,059 ml. Scientific work at the site, which lies 42 kilometers south west of Beijing, is still under way. The site is not only an exceptional reminder of the pre-historical human societies of the Asian continent, but also illustrates the process of evolution.
Yangshao Culture – Yangshao Culture, Known as “Painted Pottery” Culture for its painted pottery with a variety of finely designed geometrical patterns, is centered in the middle reaches of the Yellow River, say, Henan Province and Shaanxi Province, extending to south China’s Hubei Province and north China’s Inner Mongolia.
Since the 1920s, the archaeologists have been making excavations at Yangshao, Henan Province, and also elsewhere, and have unearthed a tomb containing human and animal remains at the ruins of the Yangshao Culture, which dates back 5,000 to 7,000 years, in northwestern Shananxi Province, and they said that the discovery is of great academic value in studying the historical changes of the ecology on the Loess Plateau. Inside the tomb, archaeologists found four layers of skeletal remains of animals and human beings. The majority of the bones were human.
Among thousands of ancient articles unearthed during the excavations, archaeologists founds not only stoneware for farming, like hatchets, shovels, chisels and adzes, but also hunting artifacts such as stone bullets and arrows.
Longshan Culture, known as “Black Pottery” Culture, was discovery at Longshan, Shandong Province in 1928. This culture was believed to be a culture between 5000 and 4000 BC, more advanced than Yangshao Culture. It was probably the people of Longshan Culture that domesticated animals such as pigs, cattle, and poultry. The tools that they made seem to be more advanced, such as the knives, axes for practical use and also the necklaces and so on for aesthetic purpose. Since Longshan Culture is around the lower reaches of the Yellow River, it might be connected with Yangshao Culture in the middle reaches of the Yellow River, the continuation of the Yangshao Culture.
The Xia Dynasty
The Xia Dynasty, regarded as the first prehistoric dynasty, was approximately from the 21st to the 17th century BC. The center of its activities was the western section of present-day Shanxi Province, and its sphere of influence reached the northern and southern areas of the Yellow River. With the Xia Dynasty, China entered slave society. And Yu’s son, Qi set up the first slave-owning state, the Xia Dynasy. The following Shang and Western Zhou Dynasties saw further development of slave society.
Shang Dynasty – Shang Dynasty was approximately from the 17th century BC. Shang Tang defeated Emperor Jie before he overthrew the Xia Dynasty. Shang’s civilization was based on agriculture, with the earliest recorded Chinese writing, as revealed in archaic Chinese inscription found on the remain of tortoise shells and flat cattle bones (known as oracle bones or jiaguwen), and also with the most advanced bronze-working civilization in the world. The iron tools came into use during the Shang Dynasty. The Book of History, a collection of political documents from the Shang, and the book of Odes are written and recorded on bamboo slips and silk.
Zhou Dynasty was from the 11th century BC to 256 BC. Zhou saw the extension of Shang culture. With the relocation of the capital eastward to Luoyang, Zhou era is divided into Western Zhou (11th century BC – 771BC) and Eastern Zhou (770 BC – 256BC), which in turn divides into Dynasty the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC – 476BC) and the Warring States Period (770 BC – 476BC), which witnessed an unprecedented era of cultural prosperity with the great historic figures like Confucius, Mo Zi, Lao Zi, Zhang Zi and Sun Zi, and also with canal digging in the Chinese history. Some, though not all, scholars believe that the Xia, the Shang, and the Zhou actually were three different cultures that emerged more or less at the same time in different areas of the Yellow River valley. The historical record supports this view – the Shang was conquered from outside by the Shang.
The Spring and Autumn Period
The Spring and Autumn Period was from 770 BC to 476 BC. It saw the disintegration of Zhou Dynasty though the Zhou King was nevertheless still regarded by feudal lords as their common sovereign. A certain measure of justice and a sense of chivalry prevailed in inter-state relations. The Spring and Autumn Period witnessed the flourishing of many small States and great changes in state and society. The ancient aristocracy, kinship of the ruling houses, was gradually replaced in their official duties by a low or non-aristocratic bureaucracy during the late Spring and Autumn Period. Already the reforms were undertaken in different sates to create a centralized and efficient government. Officers were not rewarded with fiefs, but obtained a salary. New territories were not given to aristocrats, but directly and impersonally administered as commentaries, enabling the ruler to exert his power directly and from the center, and making the ruler himself the only powerful hub of his domain and allowing a fast and trustworthy realization of royal orders and, last but not the least, an efficient warfare. The centralization within the kingdoms made it possible to raise the economical output in all spheres, agricultural, technical and artistic. The Spring and Autumn Period also saw a proliferation of new ideas and philosophies. The three most important, from a historical standpoint, were Taoism, Confucianism, and Legalism. By the Warring States Period only seven major States and a few smaller ones were left standing.
The Warring States Period
The Warring States Period was from 475 BC to 221 BC. It was characteristic of the continuous weakening of the old ruling class by the increasing social mobility. The major players during the Warring States Period were the Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin states. Smaller States were also in existence during the period. One example was the Song state with Shang culture, and others with the feudal lord of each state vying for hegemony, each believing that they were destined to “Unite All Under Heaven”. The incessant warfare gradually evolved from the ritualistic form it took during the Spring and Autumn Period to a form dominated by professional generals and mass armies, which also contributed to other social changes: the reform to the economy, making it more efficient, and thereby enhancing military power; the major irrigation projects; and other achievements. In spite of the social upheaval and great changes, or perhaps in part due to it, the Period was an age of intellectual ferment with so many contending philosophies that it was called the Period of the Hundred Schools of Though. Furthermore, the Period paved the way for the foundation of the first unified Chinese empire. Of the politically important states, Qin eventually became the most powerful. The most westerly of the states, it was fortunate to be strategically located both from a military as well as an economic point of view with the fertile land able to adequately feed its inhabitants. Therefore, a feudal system became firmly established.
The Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was from 221 BC to 206 BC. In 221 BC, the first Emperor of China, Ying Zheng, ruler of the States of Qin and a man of great talent and hold vision, conquered the rest of China after 250 years of disunity and bold vision, conquered the rest of China after 250 years of disunity and rivalry among the independent principalities during the Warring States Period, establishing the first centralized, unified, multi-ethnic feudal state in Chinese history – the Qin Dynasty. There are two major reasons why he won; the firs is that he was a devout Legalist, and did things like executing generals for showing up late for maneuvers. The other reason is because the States of Qin had a lot of iron, and consequently, at the dawn of the Iron Age, had many more iron weapons than other armies did. He called himself Qin Shi Huang or “First Emperor of Qin”. He had a great many accomplishments. He standardized the written script, weights and measures, and currencies, and established the system of prefectures and counties. The sovereigns of the next 2,000-odd years followed the feudal governmental structure established by him. He mobilized more than 300,000 people over a Period of a dozen years to build the Great Wall, which stretches for as many as 5,000 kilometers in northern China. Qin Shi Huang had work on his enormous mausoleum started early in his reign. The terracotta warriors of the “underground army” guarding the mausoleum, unearthed in 1974, amazed the world. The 8,000 vivid, life-size pottery figures, horses and chariots have been called the “eighth wonder of the world”.
The Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was from 206 BC to 220 AD. Liu Bang established the powerful Han Dynasty in 206 BC. During the Han Dynasty, agriculture, handicrafts and commerce flourished and the population reached 50 million. During his reign (140 BC – 87 BC), the most prosperous Period of the Han Dynasty, Liu Che, Emperor Wudi, expanded the territory of the empire from the Central Plain to the Western Regions (present-day Xin-jiang and Central Asia). He dispatched Zhang Qian twice as his envoy to the Western Regions, and in the process pioneered the route known as the “Silk Road” from Chang’an (today’s Xi’an, Shaanxi Province), through Xinjiang and Central Asia, and on to the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Chinese silk goods were traded to the West along the Silk Road. As contacts between the East and West increased, Buddhism spread to China in the first century. In 105, an official named Cai Lun invented a technique for making fine paper, which is considered to have been a revolution in communication and learning. The Han Dynasty plays a very important role in Chinese history. As starters, they invented Chinese history, as we know it today. Additionally, the overwhelmingly predominant ethnic group in China is called the Han; the Han people are named after the dynasty. But, most importantly, they developed (actually, it was invented by Qin Shi Huang, but perfected by the Han Dynasty) the administrative model, which every successive Dynasty would copy, lock, stock, and barrel.
Three Kingdoms was from 220 to 280. While there was a great deal of political activity occurring during this period, most of it was of various wars between different kingdoms (one of the great novels of China, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, is about this period). Perhaps its greatest accomplishment was to reinforce in Chinese thought the importance of having “one Emperor over China, like one sun in the sky”.
The Jin Dynasty – Southern and Northern Dynasties were from 420 to 589. The Western Jin Dynasty lasted only for 25 years. The Eastern in Jin Dynasty saw TaoYuanming with his poems and prose and Wang Xizhi with calligraphy of high-level development, thus establishing his fame as the “Sage Calligrapher”. After Western Jin Western Jin Period the Eastern Jin authority continued its rule in the south, but Huns and other minority regimes.
Southern and Northern Dynasty – Southern and Northern Dynasties were from 420 to 589. Liu Yu, later known as Emperor Wudi, established the Song Dynasty, and the three successive dynasties of Southern Qi, Liang and Chen as the Southern Dynasty. The Southern and Northern Dynasty saw the Buddhism of various sects flourishing. Yungang, Longmen and Dunhuang were built in this period.
The Sui Dynasty
The Sui Dynasty was from 581 to 618. The most important thing to know about this Dynasty is that it was very short (by dynastic standards) and that it did a pretty good job of re-unifying China. Because it had a northern power base, it was part barbarian, as was the Tang Dynasty. Despite the fact that the royal houses of Sui and succeeding Tang were not entirely Han people, both of these dynasties are considered to be Chinese.
The Tang Dynasty – The Tang Dynasty was from 618 to 907. The Sui Dynasty was succeeded by the Tang Dynasty, established by Li Yuan in 618. Li Shimin, or Emperor Taizong (reigned 626 – 649), son of Li Yuan, adopted a series of liberal policies, pushing the prosperity of China’s feudal society to its peak: agriculture, handicrafts and commerce flourished; technologies for textile manufacturing and dyeing, pottery and porcelain production, smelting and shipbuilding were further developed; and land and water transportation greatly improved. By the 660s, China’s influence had firmly taken root in the Tarim and Junggar basins and the Ili River valley, and even extended too many city States in Central Asia. During this period, extensive economic and cultural relations were established with many countries, including Japan, Korea, India, Persia and Asia. The Tang Dynasty is considered to be one of the great dynasties of Chinese history, and many historians rank it right behind the Han Dynasty. The boundaries of China extended through Siberia in the north, Korea in the cast, and were in what is now Vietnam in the south. They even extended a corridor of control along the Silk Road well into present-day Afghanistan. There are two interesting historical things about the Tang Dynasty. The first is the Empress Wu, the only woman ever to actually bear the title “Emperor”. The second was the An Lushan Rebellion, which marked the beginning of the end of the Tang.
The Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was from 960 to 1279, ranking up there with the Tang Dynasty and the Han Dynasty as one of the great dynasties. The Period of the Five Dynasty and Ten States, which succeeded the Tang Dynasty, was one of almost continual warfare. About 50 years after the official end of the Tang Dynasty in 960, Zhao Kuangyin, a general of the State of Later Zhou, led an imperial army, re-unified China, and established the Song Dynasty, historically known as the Northern Song Dynasty. When the Song Dynasty moved its capital to the south, historically called the Southern Song Dynasty, it brought advanced economy and culture to the south, giving a great impetus to economic development there. China in the Song Dynasty was in the front rank of the world in culture, economy, astronomy, science and technology and printing technology as evidenced, for example, by Bi Sheng’s inventing movable type printing, a great revolution in printing history.
The Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty was from 1206 to 1368. In 1271, Kublai conquered the Central Plain, founded the Yuan Dynasty, and made Dadu (which is present-day Beijing) the capital, and finished the century’s long situation in which many independent regimes existed side by side, and established a united country that brought Xinjiang, Tibet and Yunnan under its sway. During the Song-Yuan period, the “four great inventions” in science and technology of the Chinese people in ancient times – papermaking, printing, the compass and gunpowder – were further developed, and introduced to foreign countries, making great contributions to the world civilization.
The Yuan Dynasty also featured the famous Kublai Khan, who, among other things, extended the Grand Canal. While in many ways, the Yuan was a disaster, the willingness of the Mongols to hire the educated Chinese for governmental posts resulted in a remarkable cultural flowering; for example, Beijing Opera was invented during the Yuan Dynasty.
The Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty was from 1368 to 1644. In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang established the Ming Dynasty in Nanjing, beginning his reign as Emperor Taizu. When his son and successor Zhu Di ascended the throne, he built and expanded the palaces, temples, city walls and moat in Beijing on a large scale. In 1421, he officially moved the capital to Beijing. During his reign, he dispatched a eunuch named Zheng He to lead a fleet of many ships to make seven far-ranging voyages. Passing the Southeast Asian countries, the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Maldives Islands, Zheng He explored as far as Somalia and Kenya on the eastern coast of Africa. These were the largest-scale and longest voyages in the world before the age of Columbus.
The Ming rulers distinguished themselves by being crazier, and nastier than the average Imperial family. After the first Ming Emperor discovered that this prime minister was plotting against him, not only was the prime minister beheaded, but also his entire family and anyone even remotely connected with him. Eventually, about 40,000 people were executed in connection with this case alone. They were also virulent Neo-Confucians.
The Qing Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty was from 1616 to 1911. In 1616, the Manchus of northeast China took over to establish the Qing Dynasty (the then Post-Kin), under the leadership of Nurhachi. Kangxi (reigned 1661 – 1722) was the most famous Emperor of the Qing Dynasty. He returned Taiwan to China’s rule and resisted invasions by tsarist Russia. To reinforce the administration of Tibet, he also formulated the rules and regulations on the confirmation of the Tibetan local leaders by the central government. He effectively administered over 11 million square kilometers of Chinese territory.
With Qing’s rule, the arts flowered, and the culture bloomed. Moreover, the Qing attempted to copy Chinese institutions and philosophy to a much greater extent than the then Mongols of the Yuan. And the Qing Dynasty is the last feudalist Dynasty in the Chinese history.
The Modern Period of the Chinese History
The Modern Period of the Chinese History started from 1840. The Opium War of 1840 marked a turning point in Chinese history. From the early 19th century, Britain started smuggling large quantities of opium into China, causing a great outflow of Chinese silver and grave economic disruption in China. In 1839, the Qing government sent Commissioner Lin Zexu to Guangdong to put into effect the prohibition on opium trafficking. When, in an effort to protect its opium trade, Britain initiated the First Opium War in 1840, the Chinese people rose in armed struggle against the invaders under the leadership of Lin Zexu and other patriotic generals. But the corrupt and incompetent Qing government capitulated to the foreign invaders time and again, and finally signed the Treaty of Nanjing with Britain, a treaty of national betrayal and humiliation. From then on, China was reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country.
After the Opium War, Britain, the United Stats, France, Russia and Japan forced the Qing government to sign various unequal treaties, seized “concessions” and divided China into “spheres of influence”. To oppose the twin evils of feudal oppression and foreign aggression, the Chinese people waged heroic struggles, with many national heroes coming to the fore. The Revolution of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in 1851, led by Hong Xiuquan, was the largest peasant uprising in modern Chinese history.
The Republic of China –The Republic of China was from 1921 to 1949. The Revolution of 1911, a bourgeois-democratic revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, was one of the greatest events in modern Chinese history, as it overthrew the 200-odd-year-old Qing Dynasty, ended over 2,000 years of feudal monarchy, and established the Republic of China. With the success of the Wuchang Uprising, Uprising, Sun Yat-sen took the oath of office and proclaimed the establishment of the Republic of China. The monarchical system that had been in place in China for more than 2,000 years was discarded with the founding of the provisional government of the Republic of China. The Revolution of victory was soon compromised by concessions on the part of the Chinese bourgeoisie, and the country entered a Period of domination by the Northern Warlords headed by Yuan Shikai. The May.4 Movement of 1919 is regarded as the ideological origin of many important events in modern Chinese history. Its direct cause was the unequal treaties imposed on China after the First World War. Out of strong patriotism, students initiated the movement, and it further developed into a national protest movement of people from all walks of life. This movement ended the old democratic revolution by the proletariat. It also marked the introduction into China of various new ideologies, among which the spread of Marxism-Leninism was worthy of special mention. Under the influence of Russia’s October Revolution of 1917, 12 founding fathers, including Mao Zedong, representing communist groups in different places throughout the nation, held the First National Congress in Shanghai in 1921 and founded the Communist Party of China (CPC).
After Sun Yat-sen’s death in 1925, Chiang Kaishek took over the power of the government. With the Japanese invasion, an anti-Japanese alliance was formed between the Communist Party of China and Kuomintang government, the Japanese aggressors were defeated. Shortly after the anti-Japanese war, the remaining Kuomintang launched a civil war again. After the three-year War of Liberation led by the CPC, the remaining Kuomintang and its troops finally fled from the mainland to Taiwan Island in 1949, the ending year of the Republic of China.
China is one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations, with written records dating back at least 3,500 years, and with 5,000 years being commonly used by Chinese as the age of their civilization. Successive dynasties developed systems of bureaucratic control, which gave the agrarian-based Chinese an advantage over neighboring nomadic and mountain dwelling cultures. The development of a state ideology based on Confucianism (100 BC) and the forced imposition of a common system of writing by the Qin emperor (200 BC) strengthened the Chinese civilization. Politically, China alternated between periods of political union and disunion, and was occasionally conquered by external ethnicities, of which many were eventually assimilated into the Chinese identity. These cultural and political influences from many parts of Asia as well as successive waves of immigration and emigration merged to create the familiar image of Chinese culture and people today.
More about Chinas history
- The Age of the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty Liu Bang established the powerful Han Dynasty in 206 B.C.
- Modern Period
Modern Period The Modern Period was between 1840 - 1919.
- Slave Society
Slave Society Remote Antiquity to Slave Society (1.7 million years ago - 476 B.C.)
- New-Democratic Revolution
New-Democratic Revolution The May 4th Movement of 1919 is regarded as the ideological origin of many important events in modern Chinese history.
- The Age of the Song, Yuan, Ming und Qing Dynasties
Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties From the Song Dynasty to the last Emperor of China (960 - 1911).
- The Age of the Tang Dynasty
The Age of the Tang Dynasty The emperors of the Tang Dynasty reigned between 618 - 907.
- Qin Shi Huang and his Empire
Qin Shi Huang and His Empire The Emperor who reigned between 259 - 210 B.C. is the founder of the famous terracotta army.
- Peoples Republic of China
People's Republic of China On October 1, 1949 Mao Zedong, chairman of the Central Peoples Government, proclaimed the founding of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC).