History of China


China is a country with a long history and ancient civilization. As early as 4,000 BC, there were settlements in the range of Yellow River Valley. Centuries of migration, amalgamation, and development brought about a distinctive system of writing, philosophy, art, and political organization that came to be recognizable as Chinese civilization. What makes the civilization unique in world history is its continuity through over 4,000 years to the present century. Chinese history, until the twentieth century, was written mostly by members of the ruling scholar-official class and was meant to provide the ruler with precedents to guide or justify his policies. These accounts focused on dynastic politics and colorful court histories and included developments among the commoners only as backdrops. The historians described a Chinese political pattern of dynasties, one following another in a cycle of ascent, achievement, decay, and rebirth under a new family.

Map of Qin Dynasty (221 - 206 BC) For centuries virtually all the foreigners that Chinese rulers saw came from the less developed societies along their land borders. This circumstance conditioned the Chinese view of the outside world. The Chinese saw their domain as the self-sufficient center of the universe and derived from this image the traditional (and still used) Chinese name for their country - Zhongguo, literally, Middle Kingdom or Central Nation. China saw itself surrounded on all sides by so-called barbarian peoples whose cultures were demonstrably inferior by Chinese standards. This China-centered ("sinocentric") view of the world was still undisturbed in the 19th century, at the time of the first serious confrontation with the West.

China had taken it for granted that its relations with Europeans would be conducted according to the tributary system that had evolved over the centuries between the emperor and representatives of the lesser states on China's borders as well as between the emperor and some earlier European visitors. But by the mid-19th century, humiliated militarily by superior Western weaponry and technology and faced with imminent territorial dismemberment, China began to reassess its position with respect to Western civilization. By 1911 the two-millennia-old dynastic system of imperial government was brought down by its inability to make this adjustment successfully.

Chinese historical books always tell their history from the Xia Dynasty, which began in the 21st century BC, and after Zhou Dynasty, China was spitted into several states, called as Spring & Autumn Warring State period. During this period of time, many important philosophers, such as Confusicous and Mencius and a lot of litterateurs. This was one of most important period in Chinese history.

When Qin Shihuang unified whole China proper, he paid a lot of his attention to standardizing legal codes and bureaucratic procedures, the forms of writing and coinage, and the pattern of thought and scholarship. To fend off barbarian intrusion, the fortification walls built by the various warring states were connected to make a 5,000-kilometer-long great wall. What is commonly referred to as the Great Wall is actually four great walls rebuilt or extended during the Western Han, Sui, Jin, and Ming periods, rather than a single, continuous wall. Revolts broke out as soon as the first Qin emperor died in 210 B.C. His dynasty was extinguished less than twenty years after its triumph. The imperial system initiated during the Qin dynasty, however, set a pattern that was developed over the next two millennia.  Map of Han Dynasty

After a short civil war, a new dynasty, called Han (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), emerged with its capital at Chang'an. The new empire retained much of the Qin administrative structure but retreated a bit from centralized rule by establishing vassal principalities in some areas for the sake of political convenience. The Han rulers modified some of the harsher aspects of the previous dynasty; Confucian ideals of government, out of favor during the Qin period, were adopted as the creed of the Han empire, and Confucian scholars gained prominent status as the core of the civil service. A civil service examination system also was initiated. Intellectual, literary, and artistic endeavors revived and flourished. The Han dynasty, after which the members of the ethnic majority in China, the "people of Han," are named, was notable also for its military prowess.

The empire expanded westward as far as the rim of the Tarim Basin (in modern Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region), making possible relatively secure caravan traffic across Central Asia to Antioch, Baghdad, and Alexandria. The paths of caravan traffic are often called the "Silk Road" because the route was used to export Chinese silk to the Roman Empire. Chinese armies  also invaded and annexed parts of northern Vietnam and northern Korea toward the end of the second century B.C. Han control of peripheral regions was generally insecure, however. To ensure peace with non-Chinese local powers, the Han court developed a mutually beneficial "tributary system". Non-Chinese states were allowed to remain autonomous in exchange for symbolic acceptance of Han overlordship. Tributary ties were confirmed and strengthened through intermarriages at the ruling level and periodic exchanges of gifts and goods.

After Han many dynasties were followed by until 1911 when Sun Yat-sen led the democratic war to take over power from the Qing Dynasty and was proclaimed the president of the Republic of China. In 1921, the Communist Party of China was founded. After this, the communist cooperated with Sun Yat-sen's Nationalists, but broke with the Nationalist after Sun died and Chiang Kai-shek began to kill communists. Then the Communist Party began to establish its army, called as Red Army with several mountain areas as their bases. Shortly  before  the Anti-Japanese War (1936-1945) and after the well-know 7,500-km Long March, the Red Army Map of Qing Dynasty(1644 - 1911) formally established through protracted and arduous struggle under the leadership of the party and her chairman, Mao Zedong. There were some 30,000 soldiers when the Red Army finished its Long March, but the Communists adopted correct policies in military and politics, and soon expanded itself to some 200,000 with a lot of guerrillas. The correct policies won the heart of Chinese people, and when the Anti-Japanese War ended in 1945, the communist has a total of 1.2 million army and a much bigger guerrilla team. Four years later, these soldiers armed with poor weapons, defeated the 8 million American-armed nationalist army,  and the Chinese people founded the People's Republic of China in 1949. 

After 1949, The People's Republic  of China (also called as New China locally) experienced the Korea Wall with Americans, and about 10 years rapid growing period, and then suffered a 3-year long hard time because of natural disasters and withdraw of Soviet Union's aid. From 1966-1976 China had its "Cultural Revolution", a nation-wide movement against feudalism  (also including religion) and capitalism. As a result, China's economy was stopped. After 1978, when Mr. Deng Xiaoping came into the top leader, China began a reform and opening program, and has enjoyed a 20 years of rapid development till now.

Brief Chinese Chronology
Xia Dynasty 21st century BC-16th century BC
Shang Dynasty 16th century BC-1066 BC
Zhou Dynasty: Western Zhou 1066 BC-771 BC

Eastern Zhou

770 BC-476 BC

Spring and Autumn

770 BC-221 BC
Qin Dynasty 221 BC-206 BC
Han Dynasty: Western Han Dynasty 206 BC-23 AD

Eastern Han Dynasty

The Three Kingdoms: Wei 220-265

Shu Han



Western Jin 265-316
Eastern Jin 317-420
Southern and Northern Dynasty:  

Southern Dynasty


Northern Dynasty

Sui Dynasty 581-618
Tang Dynasty 618-907
The Five Dynasties 907-960
Sung Dynasty: Northern Sung 960-1127

Southern Sung

Liao Dynasty 907-1125
Western Xia Dynasty 1032-1227
Jin Dynasty 1115-1234
Yuan Dynasty 1271-1368
Ming Dynasty 1368-1644
Qing Dynasty 1644-1911
Republic of China (Guo Ming Dang) 1912-1949
The People's Republic of China 1949-the present

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