China was ruled by many great Kings and has seen many changes and advancements during its lifetime. Today, we are going to show you all the major dynasties of China.
Xia Dynasty (c. 2070-1600 BC)
The Xia dynasty was founded by Yu the Great. He was known for developing a flood control technique that stopped the Great Flood that ravaged farmer’s crops for generations.
There are no contemporary sources available and very little is known about the Xia period. That’s why some scholars believe it to be mythical or quasi-legendary.
Shang Dynasty (c. 1600-1050 BC)
The Shang dynasty is the earliest Chinese dynasty supported by archaeological evidence. 31 kings ruled much of the area along the Yellow River.
There were many advancements in maths, astronomy, art, and military technology. They used a highly developed calendar system.
Zhou Dynasty (c. 1046-256 BC)
The Zhou dynasty was the longest in the history of China, ruling the region for almost 8 centuries.
Under the Zhous, the culture grew and civilization spread. The writing was arranged, coinage was developed and chopsticks came into use.
Chinese philosophy blossomed with the birth of the philosophical schools of Confucianism, Taoism, and Mohism.
The dynasty saw some of the greatest Chinese philosophers and poets: Lao-Tzu, Tao Chien, Confucius, Mencius, Mo Ti, and the military strategist Sun-Tzu.
The Zhous also received the Mandate of Heaven – a concept that was used to justify the rule of kings, who had been blessed by the gods.
The dynasty ended with the Warring States period (476–221 BC), in which various city-states battled each other, proving themselves as independent feudal entities. They were finally joined by Qin Shi Huangdi, a brutal ruler who became the first emperor of a unified China.
Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC)
The Qin dynasty marked the beginning of the Chinese Empire. During Qin Shi Huangdi’s reign, China was vastly expanded to cover the Ye lands of Hunan and Guangdong.
Although short-lived, the period saw grand public works projects including the combination of state walls into a single Great Wall. It saw the development of a regulated form of currency, a uniform system of writing, and a legal code.
The Qin emperor was recognized for his hard megalomania and defeat of speech – in 213 BC he ordered the burning of hundreds of thousands of books and the live burial of 460 Confucian scholars.
He built a city-sized mausoleum for himself, guarded by the life-sized Terracotta Army of more than 8,000 life-sized soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses.
Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 AD)
The Han dynasty was known as a golden age in Chinese history, with a lengthy period of stability and prosperity. A central imperial civil service was set to create a strong and organized government.
China’s territory was spread to most of China proper. The Silk Road was opened up to connect to the west, bringing in trade, foreign cultures, and the introduction of Buddhism.
Under the Han dynasty, Confucianism, poetry, and literature flowered. Paper and porcelain were invented. China’s earliest written record on medicine, the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Medicine, was codified.
The name ‘Han’ was taken as the name of the Chinese people. Today, the Han Chinese make up the dominant ethnic group in China and the largest in the world.
Six Dynasties Period
Three Kingdoms (220-265), Jin Dynasty (265-420), Period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-589).
Six Dynasties is the collective term for the six successive Han-ruled dynasties during this turbulent period. All had their capitals at Jianye, present-day Nanjing.
The Three Kingdoms period has been romanticized frequently in Chinese culture – most notably in the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
Sui Dynasty (581-618)
The Sui dynasty saw great changes in Chinese history. Its capital was held at Daxing, present-day Xi’an.
Under Emperor Wen and his son, Yang, the army was expanded to the largest in the world at the time. Coinage was ordered across the realm, the Great Wall was extended and the Grand Canal was completed.
Tang Dynasty (618-906)
The Tang dynasty, also known as the Golden Age of Ancient China, was considered the high point in Chinese civilization. Its second emperor, Taizong, was regarded as one of the greatest Chinese emperors.
The period saw one of the most peaceful and prosperous periods of Chinese history.
By the time of the rule of Emperor Xuanzong (712-756), China was the largest and most populous country in the world.
Major achievements were seen in technology, science, culture, art, and literature, especially poetry. Some of the most beautiful pieces of Chinese sculpture and silverwork originate from the Tang dynasty.
The dynasty also saw the only female monarch in the history of China – Empress Wu Zetian (624-705). Wu organized a secret police force and spies across the country, making her one of the most effective – yet popular – monarchs in Chinese history.
Five Dynasties Period, Ten Kingdoms (907-960)
The 50 years between the fall of the Tang dynasty and the founding of the Song dynasty were managed by internal strife and chaos.
In north China, 5 would-be dynasties followed one another in succession. During the same period, 10 regimes ruled separate regions of south China.
Despite the political confusion, some key improvements took place during this time. The printing of books, begun in the Tang dynasty, became popular.
Song Dynasty (960-1279)
The Song dynasty saw the reunification of China under Emperor Taizu. Major inventions included gunpowder, printing, paper money, and the compass.
Troubled with political factions, the Song court finally fell to the challenge of the Mongol invasion and was replaced by the Yuan dynasty.
Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)
The Yuan dynasty was founded by the Mongols and ruled by Kublai Khan (1260-1279), grandson of Genghis Khan. Khan was the first non-Chinese ruler to take over the entire country.
Yuan China was believed the most important part of the vast Mongol Empire, which extended from the Caspian Sea to the Korean peninsula.
Khan created the new capital city of Xanadu (or Shangdu in Inner Mongolia). The main center of the Mongol Empire was later moved to Daidu (present-day Beijing).
The Mongols’ reign in China came to an end after a series of famines, plagues, floods, and peasant uprisings.
Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
The Ming dynasty saw a huge growth in China’s population and general economic prosperity. However, the Ming emperors were dogged with the same problems of previous administrations and collapsed with the invasion of the Manchus.
During the dynasty, the Great Wall of China was built. It also saw the construction of the Forbidden City, the imperial residence in Beijing. The period is also known for its blue-and-white Ming porcelains.
Qing Dynasty (1644-1912)
The Qing dynasty was the last imperial dynasty in China. The Qing was made up of ethnic Manchus from the northern Chinese region of Manchuria.
It was the 5th largest empire in world history. By the early 20th century its rulers were weakened by rural unrest, aggressive foreign powers, and military weakness.
During the 1800s, Qing China suffered attacks from Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and Japan. The Opium Wars ended with Hong Kong ceding to Britain and the humiliating defeat of the Chinese army.
On 12 February 1912, 6-year-old Puyi – the last emperor of China – abandoned.