China is one of the world’s four ancient civilizations, and the written history of China dates back to the Shang Dynasty over 3,000 years ago.
Here, we’ve outlined China’s history in a basic introduction and hope you have a good overview of it.
The Shang Dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC)
The Shang Dynasty was the first to have historical records remaining. Many bronze objects and jade articles, which date back to 1600 BC, have been found to support these early archaeological records.
The earliest form of Chinese writing – oracle bones – was found. The inscriptions on animal bones had pictographic characters. The Shang Dynasty’s capital was Yin (Anyang) and its territory stretched between the lower reaches of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers.
The Zhou Dynasty (1045-221 BC)
The first part of the Zhou era was called the Western Zhou (1045–771 BC). It was a fairly peaceful time but, after 770 BC, the Zhou king lost his authority and seven prominent states emerged.
This era was divided into three periods: the Western Zhou Dynasty (1045–771 BC); the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BC), and the Warring States Period (475–221 BC). It marked the transition from tribal society to feudal society.
Major philosophies and religions emerged that were the basis of Chinese beliefs in later eras, such as Confucianism and Daoism.
The Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC)
The First Emperor — Qin Shi Huang was first to use the title of emperor in China. He and his Qin state united China by conquering the other warring states, and he ruled with an iron fist.
Qin Shi Huang centralized the power of the empire after he took the throne and set up a system of laws. He standardized units of weight and measurements, as well as the writing system.
The Qin Dynasty was the first and shortest imperial dynasty in China. It was famous for great building projects, such as the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army, which guarded the First Emperor’s burial objects and was to protect him in his afterlife.
During the later period of the Qin Dynasty, Liu Bang, a peasant leader, overthrew the unpopular Qin regime and established the Han Dynasty.
The Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD)
The longest imperial dynasty, the Han Dynasty, was known for starting the Silk Road trade and connecting China with Central Asia and Europe.
In the Han Dynasty, a bureaucratic system in which promotion was based on merit was established and Confucianism was adopted by the state for national governance. What’s more, agriculture, handicrafts, and commerce developed rapidly.
During the reign of Emperor Wudi (r. 140–87 BC), the Han regime prospered most. The multiethnic country became more united during the Han regime.
The Han Dynasty was one of the most powerful and important dynasties in China’s history. It had far-reaching impacts for every dynasty that followed it.
China’s Dark Ages (220–581)
When the Han Dynasty fell into decline, it fractured into the Three Kingdoms Period (220–265). After the Three Kingdoms Period came the Jin Dynasty, which then conquered most of China (265–420).
Its hold on power was tenuous, however, and China again fractured, this time into the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420–589).
During this messy time, many religions emerged and Buddhism was popular among the barbarian kingdoms in North China.
After almost 400 years of chaos ended, the Sui Dynasty eventually unified China again in 581 AD.
The Sui Dynasty (581–618)
In 581, Yang Jian usurped the throne in the north and, as Emperor Wen, united the rest of China under the Sui Dynasty.
It was a short, intense dynasty, with great conquests and achievements, such as the Grand Canal and the rebuilding of the Great Wall.
The Tang Dynasty (618-907)
After the short-lived Sui Dynasty, the powerful and prosperous Tang Dynasty unified China once again.
It ruled for three centuries, and it was also the golden age for poetry, painting, tricolored glazed pottery, and woodblock printing.
In the middle of the Tang Dynasty, an immense rebellion appeared, and some regions refused to follow the state’s authority. This situation continued to the end of the Tang Dynasty.
After the Tang Dynasty came half a century of division in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (907–960). This ended when one of the northern kingdoms defeated its neighbors and established the Song Dynasty.
The Song Dynasty (960–1297)
The Song era was a period of technological advances and prosperity. During the Song Dynasty, the handicraft industry as well as domestic and foreign trade boomed. Many merchants and travelers came from abroad.
The “four great inventions” of the Chinese people in ancient times (paper, printing, the compass, and gunpowder) were further developed in the Song Dynasty.
The Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368)
In 1206, Genghis Khan unified all the tribes in Mongolia, founded the Mongol khanate, and conquered an unprecedented swathe of Asia.
At the end of the 12th century, Mongolian rule grew steadily. With Genghis Khan and his descendants expanding their territory, the Mongol Empire extended all the way to Eastern Europe.
The part of the Mongolian khanate that ruled China was known as the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368).
From 1271 to 1279, his grandson, Kublai Khan, finally conquered the Song Dynasty and founded the Yuan Dynasty. He made Dadu (modern-day Beijing) the capital of the first foreign-led dynasty in China.
The Ming Dynasty (1368–1644)
After a series of natural disasters and rebellion movements led by the Han people, a new native dynasty was established in 1368.
The founder, Zhu Yuanzhang, replaced the waning Mongol Empire in China with the Ming Dynasty. It was the last ethnic Chinese dynasty.
When his son and successor, Zhu Di, ascended the throne, he started to build the Forbidden City in Beijing. In 1421, he officially made Beijing his capital. He was very supportive of international trade and sponsored several voyages to the West.
The Qing Dynasty (1644–1912)
In the late Ming Dynasty, the Manchus in Northeast China grew in strength. The Manchus attacked China for three generations in succession, and finally founded the Qing Dynasty. It was the last imperial dynasty in China’s history.
However, the last Chinese dynasty is shamefully remembered for the forced trade of the late Qing era. China was reduced to be a semi-colonial, semi-imperial country after the First Opium War, which began in 1839.
Modern China’s territory was established during this era.
The Republic of China Era (1912–1949)
The Republican Revolution of 1911, led by Sun Yat-sen, ended the rule of the Qing Dynasty. However, the Republic of China could not be firmly established across China, with civil war ensuing for decades.
Modern China (1949–Now)
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has entered a Communist era of stability, with the Reform and Opening Up policy of 1978 bringing in China’s phenomenal economic growth.
Post time: Feb-26-2020