Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ancient CHINA Timeline

4000-2205 BC Neolithic China

• The early Chinese live by farming around the Yellow River Valley. They grow such crops as millet, rice and wheat. They use stone tools for agriculture as well as weapons. They also raise livestock like cows and chickens. People live in pit dwellings.

• The early Chinese bury their dead according to family groupings. Pig skulls are used to offer libations during the funeral. They also bury essential items, like stone or jade tools, with the dead to use in the afterlife.

2205-256 BC Bronze Age

• The Chinese discover the usefulness of bronze metal and begin to make tools and weapons with it.

• City-states are the basis of social and political organization. As the population increases, battles over territory begin. Some villages grow into cities, and a social hierarchy or class structure begins to develop. The inhabitants still rely on agriculture. Their art consists of basic clay pottery.

2205-1766 Hsia (or Xia) Dynasty

• This dynasty was previously believed to be legendary. Recent information has proven its existence.

• Legend says that this dynasty began when a man named Yu drained the waters of the flood (a parallel story to the experiences of Noah). He became the first king of the Hsia Dynasty.

1766-1050 BC Shang Dynasty

• The Shang Dyansty overthrows the Hsia Dynasty because the last Hsia king had become very corrupt.

• The Shang leaves the earliest evidence of a writing system as well as the first historical records. The Shang society also begins to divide into upper and lower classes. Its military makes use of horse and chariot. These technologies prove a formidable force against the barbarian tribes and other small city-states around it.

• The Shang worship their ancestors, who intercede with the gods on behalf of the living. There is a supreme god called "Deity Above" or "Lord on High." Underneath him are smaller gods of things found in nature like sun, moon and wind. These gods serve as courtiers to the "Deity Above."

• When kings are buried, their officials are sometimes killed and buried with them to aid royalty in the afterlife. The kings also serve in the court of the "Deity Above."

• The Shang begins to crumble under the stress of barbarian attacks not only from the south, but also the east. The Chou unites all of the Shang's enemies under them and defeats the Shang. The Shang are completely defeated when the last Shang king, named Chou, attempts to quell some barbarians in the north. Seeing that the army is weaker because of its fight in the north, the Chou leader, Wu-wang attacks and destroys the Shang capital city, Anyang.

1050-256 BC Chou (or Zhou) Dynasty

• The Chou Dynasty conquers the Shang Dynasty. The Chou's origins are unknown. The earliest record of their existence is in the Wei Valley.

• Some philosophies gain influence during this time including Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.

• The Chou dynasty is divided into two sections: Western or Early Chou, and Eastern or Later Chou.

• Western Chou lasts from 1050-771 BC. The Chou Dynasty inherits the culture of the Shang Dynasty because the Chou is less advanced. They create the concept of that the previous dynasty had made many mistakes and therefore lost the support of "Deity Above," otherwise known as the Mandate of Heaven. This legitimizes the Chou rule. For centuries to come all kings claim that the supreme god supported their rule.

• As the population grows, the Chou people begin following a social structure much like that found in Feudal Europe in the Middle Ages. There is an upper class, made up of rulers. Following close behind are the people who hold important positions in the army, hold government positions, or are educated scholars. The lowest class is made up of the peasants who farm or do other manual labor. The lower classes are made vassals of the upper classes. This means that the upper classes provide protection for the lower classes, while the lower classes work for the upper classes.

• The Western Chou are attacked by nomads from the Northwest who are searching for food. The remaining people from the ruling class who survive the attack establish a new capital. This capital is located east of their old lands in a town called Loyang (or Luoyang).

Eastern Chou is further divided into two sections:

1) The "Spring and Autumn" (named after an important book about the philosophies that were developing during that time) lasts from 771-481 BC. During this time, conflict between the city-states break out. Also, iron is discovered and used to help in agriculture. The improvements in agriculture led to surplus food, which in turn led to population growth. At the end of Spring and Summer and the beginning of the Warring States Period, many scholars are pursuing knowledge through philosophy. This era is also known as The One Hundred Schools of Thought.

2) The Warring States period lasts from 481-256 BC. The growing settlements clash against one another in long battles or "total war." The smallest city-states ally together to avoid being swallowed up by the more powerful city-states. However, the large city-states defeat the alliances and gain hegemony in China. One of those city-states in the east, called the Ch'in, gains enough dominance through conquering barbarians and other strong Chinese city-states to win over China.


China is ruled by an emperor, who claims to have control over all of China. This period experiences one of the most prosperous and culturally advanced dynasties, the Han Dyansty. However, the period ends in dissolution and disunity.

256-206 BC Ch'in (or Qin) Dynasty

The Ch'in, a group of people coming from the western part of China in the Wei River Valley, overthrow the Chou Dynasty. By 211 BC, the first emperor named Ch'in Shihuangdi, reunifies the city-states that had broken apart and fought against one another.

• After the lands are reclaimed, the king works to standardize as many things as possible, from weights and measurements to the size of chariot axles. He even establishes one centralized army and standardizes the money system.

• The emperor, who died in 210 BC, has 8 thousand terra cotta statues made to create an army that would serve him after death. This is reminiscent of the human sacrifice that occurred in earlier dynasties at the death of rulers. He also has chariots and armor buried with him.

• The first Great Wall of China that went from the Pacific Ocean into the middle of Asia. The project connects the existing dirt defense walls to keep out the barbarians on the frontier. (The stone wall standing today was rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty many years later.) This and other large constructions like roads and canals make the burden of taxes heavy.

• Although is a strong emperor, there are flaws in his rule. Taxes are too high and the lands conquered are to vast to maintain. When Shihuangdi dies, a number of men scramble for the position of emperor and the dynasty falls.

206 BC- 220 AD Han Dynasty

A centralized government is established. Feudal lords no longer have the power to challenge the emperor's reign. The peace and prosperity this dynasty enjoys allows the new religion of Buddhism to be introduced. Such innovations as the creation of paper advanced Chinese culture past that of other civilizations. It is also evidence of the level of literacy and education as well as the organization of government.

The Han Dynasty is divided into two sections:

1) 206 BC-9 AD Early or Western Han

• The general Kao Tzu wins over the other conflicting military commanders who want control. He unifies and consolidates China once again.

• The following Western Han emperors revamp the failing economy and culture that failed during the chaos at the end of the Ch'in Dynasty. The new capital is established in Ch'ang-on on the Wei River.

• Emperor Wu-ti (140-87 BC) takes more control over China through various means. For example, he uses government monopolies of such items as salt and iron to gain control over the economy. He also fights against the weakening nomads on the outskirts of China and gains some of their territory. He conquers the Huns in Vietnam and Manchuria.

• Emperor Wang Mang usurps the throne and rules from 9-23 AD. He dislikes the growing powers of the large families. In his attempts to take some of this power away, Mang gains the families' anger. Mang also upset the poor because he did not institute welfare reform fast enough. Mang is murdered and China has no emperor. Regional leaders name themselves emperor and fight amongst one another.

2) 25-220 AD. Late or Eastern Han

• Kuang Wo Ti (25-57 AD) gains control over China through the help of other leaders over years of battle. Kuang Wo Ti moves the capital from the destroyed city of Ch'ang-on to Loyang.

• The following emperors win more territory on the frontier from the barbarian Huns. He and the emperors that followed expand Chinese territory through winning over the Huns.

• Buddhism monks come from India and begin to spread the religion of Buddhism through China. Buddhism takes root as the Han Dynasty crumbles.

• The power of eunuchs and other courtiers in the royal house lead to intrigues. The emperors loose power and the courtiers fight for power amongst themselves, causing the dynasty and its centralization to topple. The Taoist rebels, the Yellow Turbans, also conduct rebellions in the face of corrupt officials. These elements also undermine the power of the Han Dynasty.


China is no longer unified under one emperor and a series of dynasties or kingdoms rule over various regions in China.

220-265 AD Three Kingdoms

Three dynasties in three different regions rule over China simultaneously. These land-owning rulers gain their power by creating armies of serfs and vassals.

• 1. The Wei Kingdom is located in the North and ruled by the Ts'ao family.

• 2. The Shu Han, begun by Liu Pei, rule in the southwest.

• 3. The Wu, under by Sun Ch'uan, rule in the southeast.

These three dynasties crumbled under barbarian invasions from the North.

317-589 AD Dynasties of the North and South

After the barbarians destroy the Three Kingdoms, the barbarians set up new dynasties. The north and the south is ruled under a series of kingdoms. The most permanent of these kingdoms is the Northern Kingdom of Wei, established by the Toba tribe. They adopt the Chinese form of bureaucratic government and thus survive the longest. The Toba also encourage art and culture.


589-618 AD Sui Dynasty

• The Sui Dynasty reunites the regions of China under one emperor, Wen-ti. He does this by first consolidating the north under his power. Then he takes the south from the leader of the Hou Liang and the Ch'en Dynasty. Wen-ti establishes a new form of administration with a governing body, the censorate, to hold the bureaucracy and court system in check. A census is also taken for tax purposes.

• Expensive projects are begun in the early 600s AD for the establishment of a series of canals. The poor of China ended up paying for it and are forced to build it. They protest against the suffering caused by the building project. At the same time, the Turks begin to cause trouble in the east. The Sui emperor cannot control all of China and he withdraws to the south.

• One of the military leaders, Li Shi-min, stations his father as emperor and begins the Tang Dynasty.

618-907 AD T'ang Dynasty

• The new capital is set in Ch'ang-an. Li Shi-min's father retires from the throne and Li takes his place. Li Shi-min and renames himself T'ai Tsung, meaning Grand Ancestor.

• The T'ang government is very well organized. The T'ang Dynasty improves the exams for entrance into the civil service that were created during the Sui Dynasty. The exams question test takers on the subject of Confucian literature.

• Cities become a place for the rising middle class to enjoy and increase their wealth. Port towns are places where foreign products are traded for Chinese goods. Paper money is used for the first time in this commerce.

• The T'ang emperors are tolerant and allow foreign influences (ie. religions like Islam, Judaism and a heretical form of Christianity) to pervade the nation. These foreign influences also affect art. For example, the Indian culture influences Chinese Buddhist art. Poets who write during this dynasty compose some of the best poetry found in Chinese history.

• Despite the infiltration of new religions in the port cities, Buddhism remains the nation's most popular religion. Buddhist temples and monasteries enjoy a great deal of patronage and possessed great wealth.

• The wife of T'ai Tsung, named Wu Chao, exerts strong influence in the T'ang court, especially after her husband died. She rules first as regent and then as empress until 705 AD when she is removed from power. Wu is a strong supporter of Buddhism and lived in a monastery herself for several years.

• Husan Tsung (712-756 AD) takes control soon after Wu. He begins problems in the Tang Dynasty when he ignores his country's affairs to spend his time with his favorite concubine. Because of his neglect, a series of rebellions breaks out. When the rebellions are finally stopped, the leaders of the central government find they have lost a great deal of power and cannot maintain order.

• In 845 AD, a series of persecutions against Buddhists began among the people. Other minority religions are supressed by the same movement.

• One of the worst rebellions in China is begun by a man named Ch'ao. Ch'ao leads a mass of peasants against the government in the later 800's. They hope to overthrow the ruling dynasty. Though the rebels do a great deal of damage to the country, they are stopped by the head of the Turkish army named Li K'o-yung, who is under the employ of the T'ang emperor. These battles result in a China that is carved into five regions by five Chinese army generals.

906-960 AD Five Dynasties Period

The dynasties held by the five generals do not last.

960-1279 AD Sung Dynasty

• T'ai Tsu uses a centralized army to establish the unity of China once again. He strictly monitors the army so that the generals could not gain too much power, like they had in end the T'ang Dynasty.

• During the Sung Dynasty, Chinese culture and technological reaches its height. For example, the printing press is invented and literature and therefore literacy is easier to attain. The monetary system of paper money and credit is also developed.

• Farmers find their independence from land-owners in the improving economy. At the same time, the aristocracy continues to move into towns and cities.

• The borders of China are surrounded by powerful barbarians. To keep the peace, the Sung emperors are forced to pay some of them, like the Khitan Mongolians.

• Emperor Shen Tsung chooses Wang An-Shsih (1021-1086 AD) to be the imperial chief minister. Wang wants to institute reforms that the other imperial officials dislike. Some of these reforms including the creation of government monopolies on specific products like salt. He succeedes in pushing the reforms through, but they did not last after his death.

• Even after the emperor and his advisor are dead, the reform-minded officials continue to battle for government control of the lucrative commerce of the day, while opposers continue to try and stop the controls.

• Poet, calligrapher and painter (these occupations were seen as interlinked) Su Tung-p'o shows himself to be one of the most talented artists of this period. His and other paintings from the time show the love that the Chinese had for their subjects. In paintings, humans appear small compared to the landscapes that dwarf them.

• The barbarian tribe, the Jurchen, are hired to help fight the Khitan Monguls. However, the Jurchens turn on the Sung and attack from the northeast. Some of the Sung royal family escape to a new city on the Yangtze River. At this new city called Hangchow, the Sung reestablish themselves as rulers. The Sung have already lost much of their power and never regain it.

• The Mongols under Kublai Khan overthrow and replace the Sung Dynasty in 1279 AD.

1279-1368 AD Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty

• The Mongols are a set of tribes that lived north of China. They are united under Ghengis Khan at the end of the 1100s and beginning of the 1200's. He creates a powerful and efficient army. Their empire eventually stretches from present-day Russia (around the city of Moscow) to the western Pacific coast of China.

• Ghengis Khan's grandson, Kublai Khan finishes defeating the Sung Dynasty in 1279 AD. He sets up a capital in Peking so that he can be near Mongolia in the North. Kublai Khan was an efficient ruler. He makes the Mongols, who are severely outnumbered by the Chinese, the upper class. This gives the Mongolian minority power over the Chinese. Furthermore, Kublai Khan keeps the Mongols from assimilating through intermarriage.

• One of Kublai Khan's biggest mistakes is printing too much paper currency. He and his successors cause inflation through this practice and weaken the economy.

• Chinese social structure is turned upside-down with the coming of the Mongols. The academes, who had once been wealthy from their scholarly pursuits and government positions, must make a living through theatre. This leads to the creation of Chinese opera, that attracts many of the poorer classes. These operas have typically have happy endings. The Mongols slowly release their hold on the government and by the end of the dynasty, the Chinese are back in official positions.

• Marco Polo leaves Italy in 1260 AD with a fellow merchant and adventurer, Niccolo. These two Venetian traders had heard of the rumors of great wealth to the east, and are spurred to explore. Polo meets and serves in Kublai Khan's court for a few years. Here, he collects information on Chinese culture as well as other cultures surrounding the area, like India. The information is complied into Polo's book, "Discovery of the World." The descriptions of wealth and beauty encourage other explorers in the future to sail into unknown waters.

• The Mongols are tolerant and accepting of many religions. Most popular among them is Tibetan Buddhism, which has magic and grand ceremony. However, they also allow Christian and Islamic missionaries into China. Most Chinese hold to Chinese Buddhism.

• The Mongolian Dynasty falls apart only after about 100 years. This is caused by many problems within China. For example, flooding ruins the canals and the countryside. Farmers suffer when money is devalued. Military commanders, who have a great deal of independence, eventually become warlords who fight amongst themselves. The Chinese finally march on the Mongolian capital, Peking, and run the Mongols out of China.

1368-1644 AD Ming Dynasty

• The first emperor, Chu Huan-Duagn, works hard to remake the government after the Mongul rule. He divides China in 15 provinces. The provincial governors do not have much power. Chu's cruelty surfaces at the end of his reign especially. He is a cruel leader and apt to kill officials who upset him.

• The first emperors of this dynasty directly control the government themselves, but soon the later emperors care less and less for government. Government officials and court eunuchs begin to fight amongst themselves for power as the emperors take less and less of an active role in government.

• Chinese concepts of Confucianism and Buddhism are supported and flourish. One Confucian philosopher becomes famous, Wang Yang-ming.

• The novel becomes a new form of literary genre since more Chinese are literate. However, the Confucian leaders of the country discourage the composition of novels.

• Chinese trading markets do well and experience unparalleled wealth. Part of this business comes directly from Europeans. The Chinese government attempts to gain control of the trading, but private merchants resist.

• This dynasty falls for a number of different reasons. Government officials take advantage of the poor, forcing them to pay all of the taxes while the rich are exempt. This causes internal rebellions that chip away at dynastic power. Meanwhile, the Manchus, the descendents of the Juchens, manage to get past the Great Wall. They invade and topple the Ming Dynasty in 1644 AD.

Ch'ing (or Manchu) Dynasty 1644-1911 AD

• The Manchu leaders chose to adopt Chinese style of government to rule over their vast empire, which now includes Mongolia, Tibet, and Korea.

• The Manchu emperors successfully reform the economy by reducing taxes for regions that suffered in battle. Furthermore, refugees give land that was abandoned in war. The refugees use the land to farm. This and the irrigation and flood control systems maintained by the government increase agricultural output.

• In the beginning of the Dynasty, the Jesuits practiced freely and won a number of converts. However, the Pope publicly condemns Confucianism as a pagan religion. In response, the leaders of China outlawed Christian missions.

• At the same time there is conflict internally within China. The government has become very corrupt and dysfunctional.

• Chinese merchants and the Chinese government refuse to trade with the west. For a time, only at the port of Canton is open to the west. Eventually, even Canton is closed. The west pushes the Chinese to open the doors to trade. This conflict causes the Opium Wars between Western Europe and China.

• The first Opium War breaks out in 1839 AD over the import of opium. Western merchants bring this drug to China from India despite the imperial ban. The west won the Opium War in1842 AD because they have superior war technology. China and western officials spend years creating diplomatic agreement, finished in 1860, that forces China to open other ports to trade.

• Internal conflict continues with numerous revolts throughout China. The largest is the Tai-p'ing Rebellion, which lasts from 1850-1864. The rebellion is lead by a religious leader who purports a new faith that mixes Christianity with other native Chinese beliefs. The revolution almost succeeds because of the high level of organization and support. However, the west intervenes and by providing weapons to the Manchu leaders. Other rebellions include the Nien Rebellion, which leads to the pillaging of a number of towns on the frontiers. All of these revolts cause a great deal of destruction and mayhem within China.

• The Japanese begin to assert their power in the Sino-Japanese War in 1894-5. The Japanese win Korea and Taiwan. The west takes advantage of the weakness of China and wins further trade concessions.

• The Boxer Rebellion breaks out in China's capital of Peking. The "Boxers" are a group of Chinese that want to rid China of the western influence. The Boxers are eventually supported by the Manchu leaders. In 1900, the Boxers attack foreigners in the capital city, Peking.

• Western influences and modernization brought about social dissatisfaction and a push for more rights. Revolution broke out and brought an end to the dynasties of China, which ruled China for centuries.

1911 AD

The dynastic system of government finally collapsed after centuries of rule. The new government is republican.

1949 AD

The Chinese Civil War breaks out and the republican form of government is toppled. The Communist Party sets up a socialist form of government that still rules today in the People's Republic of China.

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