China was ruled by a succession of dynasties, broken by periods of fragmentation and civil war. The emperor’s authority was divinely assigned through a mandate of heaven and was thus unlimited. Leaders of succeeding dynasties claimed that the previous leadership had displeased the gods and had therefore had its heavenly mandate withdrawn.
|Western Zhou Dynasty
|Eastern Zhou dynasty
|The shang dynasty marked the emergence of Bronze Age. China and palace culture. A semi-divine kind acted as a shaman and communicated with the gods
||The Zhou founded their capital at Chang’an(Xi’an). They continued some Shang traditions,but reorganized the political system,diving the nobility into grades. The fedual system of the Western Zhou broke down after the capital was sacked and the kind slain.||Spring and Autumn
The Zhou dynasty ruled at its eastern capital of luoyang along side numerous rival states . This long period of almost constant warfare was brought to and end when the Qin emerged victorious.
|Period of Disunity
|Five dynaysties and Ten Kingdoms
|China was divided into the warring Wei,Wu and Shu Kindoms. The Wei briefly re-united China under the Wester Jin(280-316),the first of the six southern Dynasties(280-289),with the capital at Jiankang(Nanjing).
The north was ruled by a succession of ruling houses –the 16 Kingdoms(304-439).
The nomadic Toba Wei set up the northern Wei dynasty,the first of five Northern dynasty(386-581) with a capital first at Datong,then at Luoyang
|China was once more united by the short and decisive rule of the Sui
|Based north of the Yangzi,five successive dynasties swiftly usurped one another,with no dynasty lasting for more than three regions. The Ten Kingdoms to the south went through a similarly turbulent period
Throughout this period and most of the Song dynasty,the northern frontiers were dominated by the semi-nomadic Liao dynasty(907-1125) in the east ,and by the Western xia(990-1227) in the west. In 1115, the Liao were overthrown by the Jin(1115-1234), who forced the Song southwards in 1127
Bing Di 1279
|Genghis Khan(1162-1227)united numerous Mongol-speaking truibes and captured Beijing in 1215. His son,Kublai,completed the conquest of China by finally defeating the southern Song in 1279
Kblai Khan 1279-1294
Pu Yi 1909-1911
From around 8 000BC,settlements of populations based on a primitive agricultural economy began to emerge in the eastern coastal regions and along the rich river deltas of the Yellow River, the Yangzi,and the Wei. These civilizations focused on hunting,gathering,and fishing,and the ultivation of millet in the norht and rice in the south. Each civilization is notable for its own distinct style of potter,such as the bold earthenware of the Yangshao(5000-3000BC) and the black ceramics of the Longshan(3000-1700BC)
Bronze age China And the First kindoms
The first dynasty in China was found by the Shang around 1600 BC, The Shang lived in large ,complex societies and were the first to mass-produce cast bronze. Power centered on the ruling elite who acted as shamans of a sort, communicating with their ancestors and gods through diviners.
Elaborate bronze food and wine vessels were used both for banqueting and for making ancestral offerings. Inscriptions on oracle bones provide the first evidence of writing dating from around 1300 BC.
In 1066BC,the Zhou seized power,establishing their western capital at present-day Xi’an. The western Zhou initially sustained many of the traditions of the Shang,but later reorgainzed the political system,and replaced the use of oracle bones with inscriptions on bronze and ,later writing on silk and strips of bamboo.
The eastern Zhou (771-221BC) is divided into the Spring and Autumn period(771-475BC) and the Wrarring States period(475-221 BC). The Eastern Zhou period was dominated by political conflict and social unrest, as rival factions jockeyed for power. It also saw economic expansion and development as the use of iron revolutionized agriculture. It was in this climate of unrest that the philosophical ideologies of Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism Emerged.
Foudation of imperial China
The Warring States Period was finally brought to an end as the Qin Shi huang pronounced himeself the first emperor of China and ruled over a short yet decisive period of history. The Qin state was based on the political theories of Legalism which established the role of the ruler as paramount and espoused a system of collective responsibility. Following unification, Qin shihuang conscripted thousands of workers to join together the defensive walls to the north,creating the Great Wal. He standardized the system of money,and weights and measures,and laid the foundations for a legal system. A ruthless ruler, Qin Shihuang died in the belief that his famous terracotta army would protect him in the afterlife from his numerous enemies.
The founding of the Han Dynasty(206BC-AD220) heralded a “golden age” in Chinese history. Emperor Gaodi(206-195BC) established the capital of the Western han(206BC-AD9) at Chang’an (Xi’an),and retained much of the centralized administratin established by the Qin. Subsequent emperors developed the civil service examination to select able men for state office. Han society was founded on the principles propounded by Confucius, and the Confucian classics formed the basis of the c ivil service examination. Daoism and yin-yang theory coexisted with ancestor worship and would form the basis of Indigenous Chinese belief
The Han empire expanded with regions of Central Aisa. Vietnam and Korea being brought under Chinese control. In 138BC, General Zhang Qian was sent to establish diplomatic links with Central Asia and returned with tales of rich pastures and “ heavenly horses”. The fine thoroughbreds of Ferghana were traded in exchange for Chinese silk,starting the flow of goods along the fabled Silk Road
Han rule was briefly interrupted as Wang Mang seized power in AD9,only to be restored by Guang Wudi(AD25-57),who established the Eastern Han capital in Luoyang. Once more, the Han expanded Chinese territory. Paper was by now in use for much official documentation and the first Chinese dictionary was produced. Buddhism began its spread to China with the first Budddhist communities being established in Jiangsu Province
Period of Division
From the rule of Hedi(AD 88-105 ),the Eastern Han declined. Civil war finall split the country in 220. the next 350 years were characterized by almost constant warfare as China was ruled by over 14 short-lived dynasties and 16 kingdoms.
China was divided into the Northern and Southern Dynasties(265-581), each region taking on its own distinct character. Foreign peoples took control of the north, such as the Toba branch of the xianbei who founded the Northern Wei in 386. These rulers were receptive to foreign ideas and religions,creating some of the finest Buddhish cave complexes first at Yungang,near their caital in Datong,and from 494,at Longmen ,when they moved their capital to Luoyang
As foreign invaders took control of the North,the Han Chinse retreated south to establish their new capital at Jiankang(Nanjing). In the climate of relative stability, the south became the economic and cultural center as the population shifted to the Yangzi delta. Philosophy and the arts flourished alongside a renewed interest in Daoism and a growing interest in Buddism
Unification and Stability
Following military successes against the Liang and the Chen,the Northern Zhou general Yang Jian(541-604) pronounced himself emperor of all China and founded the Sui Dynasty in 589. this brief but significant dynastic rule established political and social stability. He undertook an extensive program of works including extending the Great Wall and the beginnings of the Grand Canal. The second emperor Yangdi(569-618)restored diplomatic relations with Japan and Taiwan and extended trade to Central Asia
The Tang Dynasty is widely regarded as one of China’s golden ages,characterized by economic prosperity,territorial expanson,and political stability. During this period China reached its largest size to date: from Korea to Vietnam and across Central Asia to Southern Siberia. Trade flourished by land and sea, stimulating the flow of luxury goods between East and West. Foreign religions were tolerated and Buddhism gained popular and imperial patronage. The arts and literature of the Tang are stil considered to be among China’s finest,notably the famous poets li Bai and Du Fu.
Glory of the Tang
The Tang Dynasty(AD 618-907) marks a high point in Chinese histor. During this golden age, China enjoyed an extended period of peace and prosperity. The arts flourished and were enriched by foreign styles,motifs and techniques such as silverworking. Foreign religion,such as Nestorian Christianity,wer tolerated and co-existed alongside native Daoism and confucianism. Woodblock printing was invented by the Chinese some time during the 7th century and hastened the spread of Buddhism.
Following the An Lushan Rebellion of 755, the tang became increasingly inward looking. The great Buddhist persecution of 841-846 was symptomatic of a dynasty in decline,which finally fell in 907
The Liao Dynasty(907-1125)
The Liao dynasty, which at its larget covered much of Mongolia, Manchuria and northern China, was ruled by semi-nomadic and pastoral people,the Qidan. The Liao maintained a dual administration, Qidan and Chinese,and even a prime-ministership to ensure the survival of their own customs and traditions whilst utilizing the efficiency of Tang structures of government. In 1115, the Qidan were overthrown by another semi-nomadic people, the Ruzhen. With the support of the northern Song,the Ruzhen took control of the north and founded the Jin Dynasty. The Liao were forced westwards to the region of the Tian Mountain range in present- day Xinjiang,where they established the Western Liao(1125-1211). The rest of northwest China was dominated by the Western Xia, a Tibetan-related people who recongnizedthe Liao as their overlords
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms(907-960)
While the north of China was dominated by the insurgence of simi-nomadic peopls from the steppes regions, the south was ruled by a series of short military dictatorhships. The Song Dynasty ws founded in 960 by Zhao Kuangyin,a military commander of the later Zhou(951-960), whose imperial name bacame Shizong. In the Yangzi delta and regions to the south. The Ten Kingdoms existed in relative peace and stability and were reunited by the Song in 979
The Song Dynasty(960-1279)
The Song presided over a period of cultural brilliance and unprecedented growth in urban life during which the social makeup of China fundamentally changed. Less territorially ambitious than the Tang, the Song stimulated economic development through improved communications and transport. New industries based on mass production began to emerge, notably the porcelain industry based in Jiangxi province During the Southern Song,China underwent an industrial revolution producin quantities of raw materials such as salk and iron on a scale that would not be seen in Europe until the 18th century.
In this buoyant economic climate a new middle-class emerged,stimulating demand for the new range of consumer goods. Power shifted from the aristocratic elite to government bureaucrats, who spent their spare time practicing the arts of poetry, calligraphy ,and painting. Collecting and connoisseurship led to an artistic renaissance and the frounding of the first Imperial collections. Emperor Huizong was a great patron of the arts who used ancient precedents and valuesto buttress his own position. Neo-Confucianism and a renewed interest in Daoism marked a return to indigenous beliefs and traditional structures of power
The northern Song repeatedly came under attack from the Western Xia in the northwest and the Jin in the northeast. Only 12 yeas after joining forces with the Song against the Liao,the Jin invaded the Northern Song capital at Bianliang(Kaifeng) ,capturing emperor Qinzong and forcing the court to flee southwards The capital of the Southern Song(1127-1279) was established at Lin’an(Hangzhou)south of the Yangzi
The Jin were a semi-nomadic Tungusic people originating from Manchuria. War with the Song and persistent attacks from the Mongols resulted in a weakening of the Jin state which by the early 13th century formed a buffer state between the Song in the south and the Mongols in the north. In 1227, Mongol and in 1234 the Jin emperor committed suidcide. The Jin state was integrated into the Mongol empire.
The Mongol leader Genghis Khan united the various Mongol-speaking tribes of the steppes and in 1215 conquered northern China. He divided his empire into four kingdoms,each ruled by one of his songs. His grandson Kublai Khan, ruler of the etern Great Khanate,fnally defeated the Southern Song in 1279 and proclaimed himself emperor of the Yuan Dynasty. China now became part of a vast empire which stretched from the East China Sea across Asia as far as Poland, Hungary,and Bohemia. Two capital citeis were maintained at Dadu(Beijing) and YuanShangdu(Xanadu). The Silk Routes opened once more,cnnecting China to the Middle East and Medieval Europe. Direct contact was now made for the first time between Mongol court and European diplomats. Franciscan missionaries, and merchants. According to the writings of Marco Polo, the Italian merchant spent 21 years in the service of Kublai and his court
The Mongols ruled through a military type of government, in contrast to the bureaucratic civil service established by the Chinest. Although Chinese and Mongol languages were both used for official posts. Muslims from Central and Western Aisa took their place,and the Chinese increasingly retreated from the official life.
As there were no clea rules for succession,civil war broken out in 1328 between Mongol nobles. The secret societies of the Red Turbans and the Write Lotus led peasants rebellions and in 1368 General Zhu Yuan Zhang forced the Mongols out of China,becoming the first emperor of the Ming dynasty.
The Ming dynasty was one of the longest and most stable periods in China’s history. The founder of the Ming, Zhu Yuanzhang,rose from humble beginnings to become a strong militarian,ruling as emperor Hongwu. During his reign, Hongwu introduced radical changes to both central and local government which he made binding on his successors. The emperor’s role became more autocratic as hongwu dispensed with the position of Prime Minister,taking direct responsibility for overseeing all Six Ministries himself.
Hongwu appointed his grandson to be his successor. Upon his death,his son of the Prince of Yan,who controlled the region around Beijing,lead an army againest his nephew,taking Nanjing and proclaiming himself emperor Yongle. Yongle moved the capital to his power base in Beijing where he created a new city based on traditional principles of Chinese city planning. At its core lay the Forbidden City.the imperial palace and offices of government,surrounded by a grid system of streets,with four imperial altarsat the cardinal points. The entire city was walled to provide both protection and enclosure. In 1421, Beijing became the official capital and would remain so until the present day. The Great Wall was reinforced ,extended ,and faced with brick during the Ming
By the 15th century, China had become a significant maritime power,its ships dwarfing those of contemporary Europe. Blue and white porcelain,silk and other luxury items were in high demand in the foreign markets of Janpan,Southeast Asia,and the Middle East. Yongle sent six maritime expeditions under the Muslim eunuch admiral Zheng He which reached as far as the east coast of Africa. In 1514 Portuguese traders first landed in China, purchasing tea which had become a fashionable drink in European society. Porcelain provided ballast for the ships,and other luxury items were brought back along with the cargo. Tade was dominated by the Dutch in the 17th century,only to be surpassed by the British a hundred years later. Jesuit missionaries who arrived in the 15th century claimed few converts but gained access to the emperor and the inner court.
The arts thrived under emperor Xuande(1426-1435), an artist and poet ,who patronized the arts,notably the porcelain industry at Jingdezhen. In literature,the late Ming is noted for its great dramas and classical novels,such as Journey to the West philosophy of the time reinforced the neo-Confucianism of the song
The late Ming was dominated by the peasant uprisings,incursions by the Janpanese pirates and Mongolian tribes,and excessive eunuch power. Rebellions within China eventually joined with external forces to end Ming rule
The Qing Dynasty(1644-1911)
The Manchu leader Nurhachi established the Later jin in 1616, orgainizing the scattered tribes of the north into eight banner units. In 1636, the Manchu ruler Abahai changed te name to Qing.literally” Pure”,and prepared the way for the capture of Beijing in 1644.The Manchus were keen to adopt the Chinese method of rule,encouraging Chinese sholars into the service of the new empire. Dual administration at national and provincial leves meant Manchu and Chinese bureaucrats worked side by side using first Manchu and Later Chinese as official languages of government. Despite close interaction of Manchu and Chinese,the ruling Manchus were keen to maintain a distinct separation,protecting Manchu privileges and cultural traditions
The first emperors of the Qing were enlighteded rulers who presided over one of largest and most populours countries in the world. The territorial aspirations of emperor Kangxi brought the regions of Central Aisa and southern Siberia once more under Chiense control. Kangxi was succeeded by emperor Yongzheng, it was his fourth son,emperor Qianlong, lasting eminence, who heralded another golden age. An ambitious ruler,Qianlong was determined to extend China’s borders beyong those of the Tang,personally leading campains to Burma,Bietnam and Central Asia
During the 18th century,contact with the west increased through Jesuit missionaries and trade. By the mid-18th century,the Chinese sought to controal trade by refusing all official contact with westerners and opening only Canton to forign merchants. Pressure from European embassies increased as the British send Lord Macartney in 1792-1794 to establish diplomatic relations and open China to trade. China refused to grant a single concession to the British.
The 19th Century is one of the most turbulent peirods of Chinese hisotry, and internal uprisings,natural disasters,and the relentless encroachment of the West culminated in the end of the empire. A succession of weak rulers were manipulated and controoled by the Dowager Empress Cixi, who ruled for much of the late Qing From the behind the curtain. The Taiping Rebellion of 1850-1864 devastated south and central China
Westen powers,frustrated by the reluctance of the Chiense to open to foreign trade,brought the Chinee under increasing pressure. Keen to protect the trade of opium from their colonies in Indi, the British engaged in the first Opium War 1840-1842,which culminated in the Treaty of Nanjing, resulting in the opening of four new ports to trade,the payment of huge indemnities,and the ceding of hongkong to Britain. Following the Scond Opium War,with Britain and France the European forces diveded China into “spheres of influence” – the British strongest along the yangzi and Shanghai, the Germans controlling Shangdong province,and the French controlling the borders with Vietnam. \
In 1900 the Boxers allied with imperial troops and attacked the foreign legations in Beijing. And eight nation army defeated the onslaught,and Cixi fled to Xi’an,blaming everything on the emperor. The Chinese government paid once more for the loss of life and Xici returned to beijing untill her death in 1908. the child emperor Puyi lived in the forbidden City as the last emperor until his abdication. On 1 January 1912 the Republican leader Sun Ya t Sen inauguratede the Chinese Republic
From Emprire to Republic
In the final years of rhe empire,many Chinese intellectuals recognized the need to modernize. Supporters of the Reform Movement of 1898 propounded the adoption of western technology and education, and ,following the Boxer Rebellion,a nuber of reformes were adopted . Elected regional assembilies were set up,further underming the power of the Qing. In 1911 the empire collapsed completely. Sun Yat Sen was elected provisional President of China,but was soon forced to resign in favor of general Yuan Shikai,who sought to become emperor. Yuan was forced to back down when governors revolted and he died soon after 1916. China then came under the control of a series of regional warlords until it was united once more with the founding of the People’s Republc of China in 1949
Communists and Nationalists
After the fall of the empire,the political landscape chaned dramatically and became dominated by two forces, the Nationalist Party or Kuomitang, and the communist Party, found in 1921. the nationalists were led first by Sun Yat Sen from his power based in Guangzhou,then by General Chiang Kai Shek who seized power in 1926. in 1923 the two parties formed a united front” againest the warlords but in 1926 the Communists were expelled from KMT. Chiang Kai Shek lead his army to Nanjing where he tried to establish a Nationalist capital,and betrayed the Communist –led workders of Shanghai who were massacred by underworld gangsters. The communists were driven underground and Mao ze dong retreated to the countryside
High in the mountains of Jiangxi province, Mao and Zhu De founded the Jiang Xi soviet in 1930. from this inaccessible base, the communists began to redistribute land to the peasants and institute new marriage laws. In 1934, Chiang Kai Shek drove the communists from the area,forcing Mao embark on the legendary Long March. Yan’an where the march ended,became the new Communist Party hadquarters.
Domestic turmoil laid China open to attact,and in 1931 the Japanese occupied Manchuria,fouding the puppet state of Manchukuo and placing the last Qing emperor,Pu yi at its head, By 19377 the Japanese had occupied much of northern China, Shanghai, and The Yangzi valley ruthlessly taking cities,wreaking death and devastation. The Japanese were finally driven from Chiense soin in 1945,and China was plunged into civil War
The East is Red
By 1947, the Communist policy of land reform was reaping rewards,gainning them the support of people in the countryside. In 1948-1949,the Communists made decisive victories,capturing arms and land from the KMT. On 1 october 1949 Chairman Mao pronounced the founding of the People’s Repubic of China in Beijing. Chiang Kai Shek fled to Taiwan,establishing a Nationalist government and taking with him many Imperial treasures.
In the early years of the People’s Republic,the Chinese worked hard to rebuild agriculture and industry in a country devasteated by 100 years of turmoil. New laws sought to redress inequities of the past, redistributing land and outlawing arranged marriages. In 1957 the paty launched the Hundred Fowers Movement which initially encouraged freedom of expression.. unprepared for the storm of criticism, the Party promptly branded intellectuals as “rightists” and sent them to countryside for re-education.Frustrated with the slow rae of change,Mao launched the Great Leap Forward in 1958. Large communes providing food and childcare replaced he family,releasing manual labor and improving productivity. But unrealistic productivity targets and the falsification of statistics concealsed the disastrous effect of Mao’s experiment. Agricultural failure coupled with natural disasters resulted in the starvation of millions
Having reformed the agriculture and industy,Mao sought to transform culture and launched the Cultural Revoluton in 1965. the excesses of the period were over by 1971, but the country was tightly controlled and directed until Mao’s death in 1976.
Deng Xiao ping emerged as learder,implementing economic reforms which returened land to the peasants and encourage greater economic freedom
The economic liberalization of the 1980s stimulated the economy but was unmached by political freedom .
The unprecedented rate of economic growth in the 1990s was matched by the transformation of the landscape as traditional buildings made way for morder highrises. The former colonies of hongkong and Macau were returned to China and foreign investment flooded in, Entrepreneurs prospered,and the Communist Party has been keen to attract this new class into its ranks. Disbanding the state economy has also spawned inequity ,and the gap between rich and poor grows increasingly wider.China today enjoys many of the benefits of modern society and suffers from its familiar afflictions.