The background of China is usually presented follow to the dynasty to which the period’s old rulers belonged. Native its inauguration in c. 2070 BC come the abdication of its last emperor in 1912, China was ruled by a series of 13 succeeding dynasties.

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1. Xia empire (c. 2070-1600 BC)

The Xia empire was the very first Chinese dynasty. That was started by the legendary Yu the an excellent (c. 2123-2025 BC), known for developing a flood control an approach that stopped the great Flood that ruined farmer’s plants for generations.

There is a severe lack of recorded evidence about this dynasty and also therefore very little is known about the Xia period. Many scholars believe that stories about it to be spoken, fairly than written. That is not until the Zhou Dynasty, 554 year later, that we check out written recordings that this very first Chinese dynasty. Because that this reason, part scholars believe it to be mythical or quasi-legendary.

2. Shang empire (c. 1600-1050 BC)

The Shang dynasty is the earliest videotaped Chinese empire supported by archaeological evidence. 31 kings ruled much of the area along the Yellow River.

Under the Shang dynasty, over there were developments in maths, astronomy, art and also military technology. They provided a highly occurred calendar system and also an early form of contemporary Chinese language.

3. Zhou dynasty (c. 1046-256 BC)

The Zhou empire was the longest dynasty in the history of China, judgment the an ar for virtually 8 centuries.

Under the Zhous, society flourished and also civilisation spread. Creating was codified, coinage to be developed and chopsticks came right into use.

Chinese ideology blossomed with the birth of the philosophical schools of Confucianism, Taoism and Mohism. The empire saw some of the biggest Chinese philosophers and poets: Lao-Tzu, Tao Chien, Confucius, Mencius, Mo Ti and also the army strategist Sun-Tzu.


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Confucius (c. 551-479 BC), c. 1770

Image Credit: The Granger Collection


The Zhous likewise developed the Mandate of heaven – a concept that was supplied to justification the preeminence of kings, who had been blessed by the gods.

The dynasty ended v the Warring States period (476–221 BC), in which various city-states fought each other, developing themselves as independent feudal entities. Castle were ultimately consolidated by Qin Shi Huangdi, a brutal leader who ended up being the very first emperor the a combined China.

4. Qin dynasty (221-206 BC)

The Qin dynasty significant the beginning of the Chinese Empire. Throughout Qin Shi Huangdi’s reign, China was greatly expanded to cover the Ye soil of Hunan and also Guangdong.

Although short-lived, the duration saw ambitious public works projects consisting of the marriage of state walls right into a single great Wall. It witnessed the advance of a standardised type of currency, a uniform device of writing and also a legit code.

The Qin emperor was remembered because that his cruel megalomania and suppression of speech – in 213 BC the ordered the burning of thousands of thousands the books and the live burial of 460 Confucian scholars.


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Terracotta Warriors, China

Image Credit: DnDavis / Shutterstock


He was likewise responsible for structure a city-sized mausoleum for himself, guarded by the life-sized Terracotta army of an ext than 8,000 life-sized soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and also 150 mounties horses.

5. Han empire (206 BCE-220 AD)

The Han dynasty was known as a golden e in Chinese history, with a an extensive period the stability and also prosperity. A main imperial civil business was established to produce a solid and organised government.

China’s region was extended to many of the China proper. The Silk roadway was opened up up to attach to the west, happen in trade, foreign cultures and the introduction of Buddhism.

Under the Han dynasty, Confucianism, poetry and literature flowered. Document and porcelain to be invented. China’s faster written document on medicine, the Yellow Emperor’s Canon that Medicine, to be codified.

The name ‘Han’ was taken as the surname of the Chinese people. Today, the Han Chinese make up the dominant ethnic team in China and also the biggest in the world.

6. Six dynasties Period

Three Kingdoms (220-265), Jin dynasty (265-420), period of the Northern and Southern empires (386-589).

Six empires is the cumulative term because that the 6 successive Han-ruled dynasties throughout this turbulent period. All had their capitals at Jianye, present-day Nanjing.

The 3 Kingdoms period has to be romanticised continuously in Chinese society – most notably in the novel Romance of the 3 Kingdoms. 


Dan meets increase with complete War: three Kingdoms game developers Pete Stewart and Dominique Starr to talk about fact and fiction in ~ gaming narratives and also the historical research undertaken to offer a reality representation.
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7. Sui empire (581-618)

The Sui dynasty, return brief, saw great changes in Chinese history. Its resources was held at Daxing, contemporary Xi’an.

Confucianism degenerated as the leading religion, making method for Taoism and also Buddhism. Literature grew – the is believed that the legend the Hua Mulan was composed during this time.

Under Emperor Wen and also his son, Yang, the army was enlarged to the largest in the world at the time. Coinage to be standardised across the realm, the an excellent Wall to be expanded and the grand Canal to be completed.

8. Tang dynasty (618-906)

The flavor dynasty, sometimes recognized as the golden e of old China, was considered the high point in Chinese civilisation. That second emperor, Taizong, was regarded as one of the biggest Chinese emperors.

The period saw one of the most peaceful and also prosperous durations of Chinese history. By the moment of the rule of Emperor Xuanzong (712-756), China was the largest and also most populous country in the world.

Major success were checked out in technology, science, culture, art and literature, specifically poetry. Some of the many beautiful piece of Chinese sculpture and also silverwork originate from the flavor dynasty.

The dynasty likewise saw the just female king in the history of China – Empress Wu Zetian (624-705). Wu organised a an enig police force and also spies across the country, making her one of the most efficient – yet famous – queens in Chinese history.

9. Five dynasties Period, Ten Kingdoms (907-960)

The 50 years between the loss of the flavor dynasty and establishment of the Song empire were dominated by inner strife and also chaos.

In phibìc China, 5 would-be empires followed one another in succession. Throughout the very same period, 10 regimes dominated separate regions of southern China.

Despite the political turmoil, some an essential developments took place throughout this time. The print of books – which had started in the Tang dynasty – became popular.

10. Song empire (960-1279)

The Song dynasty saw the reunification of China under the Emperor Taizu. Significant inventions included gunpowder, printing, document money and also the compass.

Plagued v political factions, the track court ultimately fell to the an obstacle of the Mongol invasion and also was changed by the Yuan dynasty.

11. Yuan dynasty (1279-1368)

The Yuan dynasty was established by the Mongols and also ruled through Kublai khan (1260-1279), nephew of Genghis Khan. Cannes was the an initial non-Chinese leader to take over the whole country.

Yuan China was thought about the most important component of the substantial Mongol Empire, which extended from the Caspian Sea to the oriental peninsula.

Khan developed the new capital city the Xanadu (or Shangdu in within Mongolia). The key centre the the Mongol realm was later moved come Daidu, existing day Beijing.

The Mongols’ regime in China came to an end after a collection of famines, plagues, floods and also peasant uprisings.

12. Ming dynasty (1368-1644)

The Ming dynasty saw a large growth in China’s populace and general financial prosperity. Yet the Ming majesties were dogged with the same troubles of ahead regimes and also collapsed with the invasion of the Manchus.

During the dynasty, the an excellent Wall of China was completed. It additionally saw the construction of the Forbidden City, the royal residence in Beijing. The duration is likewise known because that its blue-and-white Ming porcelains.


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Jar indigenous the Ming dynasty

Image Credit: The metropolitan Museum the Art, brand-new York


13. Qing dynasty (1644-1912)

The Qing empire was the last imperial empire in China, thrived by the Republic the China in 1912. The Qing were made up of country Manchus from the north Chinese region of Manchuria.

The Qing dynasty was the fifth largest realm in civilization history. However by the at an early stage 20th century that is rulers to be weakened through rural unrest, aggressive foreign powers and military weakness.

During the 1800s, Qing China faced assaults from Britain, France, Russia, Germany and also Japan. The Opium wars (1839-42 and 1856-60) finished with Hong Kong ceding come Britain and also the humiliating defeat of the Chinese army.

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On 12 February 1912, 6-year-old Puyi – the critical emperor that China – abdicated. It brought an finish to the thousand-year imperial rule of China and significant the start of republic and socialist rule.