The history of China is mostly presented according to the dynasty to which the period’s ancient rulers belonged. From its inauguration in c. 2070 BC to the abdication of its last emperor in 1912, China was ruled by a series of 13 successive empires.

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

The Xia dynasty was the first Chinese dynasty. It was established by the legendary Yu the Great (c. 2123-2025 BC), recognized for arising a flood control method that quit the Great Flood that devastated farmer’s plants for generations.

Tright here is a major lack of recorded proof around this dynasty and therefore very little is known about the Xia duration. Many scholars think that stories around it were spoken, rather than composed. It is not until the Zhou Empire, 554 years later, that we check out composed recordings of this initially Chinese dynasty. For this factor, some scholars believe it to be mythical or quasi-legendary.

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

The Shang dynasty is the earliest videotaped Chinese dynasty sustained by historical evidence. 31 queens ruled much of the location along the Yellow River.

Under the Shang dynasty, tbelow were breakthroughs in maths, astronomy, art and military technology. They used a highly arisen calendar device and a very early form of modern-day Chinese language.

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

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

Under the Zhous, society flouriburned and also civilisation spread. Writing was codified, coinage was occurred and also chopsticks came into usage.

Chinese viewpoint blossomed through the birth of the philosophical institutions of Confucianism, Taoism and also Mohism. The dynasty saw some of the biggest Chinese philosophers and poets: Lao-Tzu, Tao Chien, Confucius, Mencius, Mo Ti and also the armed forces strategist Sun-Tzu.


Confucius (c. 551-479 BC), c. 1770 (Credit: The Granger Collection).

The Zhous additionally emerged the Manday of Heaven – a idea that was offered to justify the preeminence of monarchs, who had actually been blessed by the gods.

The dynasty ended with the Warring States duration (476–221 BC), in which assorted city-states dealt with each other, developing themselves as independent feudal entities. They were finally consolidated by Qin Shi Huangdi, a brutal leader that ended up being the initially emperor of a combined China.

4. Qin Empire (221-206 BC)

The Qin dynasty noted the beginning of the Chinese Realm. During Qin Shi Huangdi’s reign, China was considerably increased to cover the Ye lands of Hunan and also Guangdong.

Although short-lived, the period saw ambitious public works projects consisting of the marriage of state walls right into a single Great Wall surface. It experienced the breakthrough of a standardised form of money, a unidevelop system of writing and a legal code.

The Qin emperor was remembered for his ruthmuch less megalomania and also suppression of speech – in 213 BC he ordered the burning of thousands of countless publications and the live funeral of 460 Confucian scholars.


Terracotta Warriors, China

Image Credit: DnDavis / Shutterstock

He was additionally responsible for structure a city-sized mausoleum for himself, guarded by the life-sized Terracotta Army of even more than 8,000 life-sized soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and also 150 mounties equines.

5. Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 AD)

The Han dynasty was well-known as a golden age in Chinese history, through a prolonged duration of stcapability and also prosperity. A main royal civil company was establiburned to develop a solid and also organised federal government.

China’s area was extfinished to the majority of of the China proper. The Silk Road was opened approximately connect to the west, bringing in profession, foreign societies and also the advent of Buddhism.

Under the Han dynasty, Confucianism, poetry and literary works flowered. Paper and porcelain were created. China’s earliest composed document on medication, the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Medicine, was codified.

The name ‘Han’ was taken as the name of the Chinese human being. Today, the Han Chinese make up the dominant ethnic group in China and the largest in the civilization.

6. Six Dynasties Period

Three Kingdoms (220-265), Jin Empire (265-420), Period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-589).

Six Dynasties is the cumulative term for the six succeeding Han-ruled empires during this turbulent period. All had their resources at Jianye, present-day Nanjing.

The Three Kingdoms duration has been romanticised repeatedly in Chinese culture – many notably in the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. 

Dan meets up through Total War: Three Kingdoms game developers Pete Stewart and also Dominique Starr to talk about truth and also fiction within gaming narratives and the historic research undertaken to provide a realistic representation.
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7. Sui Empire (581-618)

The Sui dynasty, although brief, observed excellent alters in Chinese history. Its funding was held at Daxing, contemporary Xi’an.

Confucianism broke down as the dominant religious beliefs, making way for Taoism and Buddhism. Literature flourished – it is believed that the legfinish of Hua Mulan was created throughout this time.

Under Emperor Wen and his child, Yang, the army was enlarged to the largest in the world at the moment. Coinage was standardised throughout the realm, the Great Wall surface was increased and the Grand Canal was completed.

8. Flavor Dynasty (618-906)

The Flavor dynasty, periodically well-known as the Golden Age of Ancient China, was taken into consideration the high allude in Chinese civilisation. Its second emperor, Taizong, was regarded as among the biggest Chinese queens.

The duration witnessed one of the many tranquil and also prosperous durations of Chinese history. By the moment of the dominion of Emperor Xuanzong (712-756), China was the biggest and the majority of populated country in the people.

Major achievements were seen in modern technology, scientific research, society, art and literary works, especially poetry. Several of the the majority of beautiful pieces of Chinese sculpture and also silveroccupational originate from the Flavor dynasty.

The dynasty also observed the only female monarch in the background of China – Empush Wu Zetian (624-705). Wu organised an enigma police pressure and also spies throughout the country, making her among the a lot of reliable – yet famous – majesties in Chinese background.

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

The 50 years in between the fevery one of the Flavor dynasty and also facility of the Track dynasty were conquered by interior strife and also chaos.

In north China, 5 would-be empires adhered to one another in succession. During the exact same period, 10 regimes conquered sepaprice areas of south China.

In spite of the political chaos, some essential developments took place during this time. The printing of books – which had started in the Tang dynasty – came to be well-known.

10. Tune Dynasty (960-1279)

The Tune dynasty experienced the reunification of China under the Emperor Taizu. Major developments consisted of gunpowder, printing, paper money and also the compass.

Mongol occupation of China, Sayf al-Vâhid (Credit: Bibliothèque nationale de France).

Plagued through political factions, the Track court eventually dropped to the obstacle of the Mongol invasion and was replaced by the Yuan dynasty.

11. Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)

The Yuan dynasty was establimelted by the Mongols and ruled by Kublai Khan (1260-1279), grandchild of Genghis Khan. Khan was the first non-Chinese leader to take over the whole country.

Yuan China was considered the a lot of vital component of the huge Mongol Empire, which extended from the Caspian Sea to the Oriental peninsula.

Khan developed the brand-new resources city of Xanadu (or Shangdu in Inner Mongolia). The primary centre of the Mongol Empire was later relocated to Daidu, present day Beijing.

The Mongols’ power in China concerned an end after a series of famines, plagues, floods and peasant uprisings.

12. Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

The Ming dynasty experienced a substantial growth in China’s populace and also basic economic prosperity. However before the Ming monarchs were dogged with the very same problems of previous regimes and also fell down with the invasion of the Manchus.

Throughout the dynasty, the Great Wall of China was completed. It also experienced the building of the Forbidden City, the imperial residence in Beijing. The duration is additionally recognized for its blue-and-white Ming porcelains.

13. Qing Dynasty (1644-1912)

The Qing dynasty was the last royal dynasty in China, thrived by the Republic of China in 1912. The Qing were consisted of of ethnic Manchus from the north Chinese region of Manchuria.


China’s last emperor, Pu Yi, aged three via his father and younger brother (Credit: New York Tribune).

The Qing dynasty was the fifth largest empire in world background. However by the early on 20th century its rulers were weakened by rural unremainder, aggressive foreign powers and also army weakness.

During the 1800s, Qing China challenged attacks from Britain, France, Russia, Germany and also Japan. The Opium Wars (1839-42 and also 1856-60) finished via 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 – abdicated. It brought an end to the thousand-year imperial dominance of China and marked the start of republic and socialist dominance.

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Michael Wood joined me on the podactors to talk about his brand-new history of China. He takes a fresh look at Chinese background in the light of the existing enormous transforms inside the country, and exactly how its human being and also leaders check out their area in the people, and its location on the civilization phase.