While reading up on Chinese history in Wikipedia, I came across the whole list of past Chinese dynasties. I’m kinda ashamed that I didn’t read up more on Chinese history prior to this. Chinese history is just the coolest man!
Here’s a description of Chinese history in a nutshell for dudes like me who knows next to nothing about it. It’s pretty cool
1. Xia Dynasty => 2000 - 1600 BC
The earliest civilisation. Not confirmed as there’s not enough archeological proof.
2. Shang Dynasty => 1600 - 1046 BC
Nothing spectacular happened. The Chinese people were still gradually getting out of ther neolithic state and society.
3. Zhou Dynasty => 1046 - 214 BC
Semi-feudal system appeared. Small nyamuk warlords began conquering other neighbouring states. The Hundred Schools of Thought of Chinese philosophy appeared: Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism, Mohism. First emperor appeared: Emperor Ying Zheng, the King of the state of Qin, who later called himself Emperor Shi Huangdi (the First Emperor) after he unified China’s many warring states.
4. Qin Dynasty => 214 - 207 BC
Emperor Shi Huangdi
The aforementioned Emperor Shi Huangdi managed to subdue and unite the main Han (almost all Chinese today are decendents of the Hans) ethnic group of China. Established the capital in Xianyang (modern Xi’an). Started the Great Wall of China.
Incidentally, the word ‘China’ comes from ‘Qin’, as in the Qin Emperor’s (Shi Huangdi) people, used by foreign merchants.
5. Han Dynasty => 207 BC - AD 220
China’s first Golden Age. Everything was boom-booming there. Confucianism the prominent philosophy. Emperor was Emperor Wu (Han Wudi), and later, Emperor Guangwu . Silk Road opened.
Emperor Guangwu’s power gradually declined. Chaos and war broke out during the Period of the Three Kingdoms between the kingdoms of Wei, Han and Wu (romanticised in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel).
6. Jin Dynasty => 280 - 589
The Three Kingdoms reunited temporarily to form the Jin Dynasty, but not for long. Soon was fragmented into two states, one in the north and one in the south. Hence was also known as the Northern and Southern Dynasties. Minority non-Han ethnic groups controlled the North, cumulating in the formation of 16 kingdoms there. Was temporarily united under Fu Jian who then tried invading the South, but failed. The North was later reunited again under Emperor Taiwu.
Meanwhile, the Han-Chinese migrated south, and reinstated the Jin Dynasty, under Emperor Yuan. Capital in Nanjing.
7. Sui Dynasty => 589 - 618
China’s North and South reunited again, after 300 years of fragmentation. Made the Grand Canal of China.
8. Tang Dynasy => 618 - 960
China’s Second Golden Age. Emperor Gaozu on the throne. Buddhism becomes the dominant religion. Chang’an (modern Xi’an) the capital and the world’s biggest and most happenin’ city (how cool is that? Ancient NYC ). Extensive trading with outside world.
From 860, Tang Dynasty began to decline, due to internal rebellions. Another period of political chaos ensured: The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period.
9. Song Dynasty => 960 - 1279
Song Dynasty gained power and restored stability and peace. Capital in Kaifeng. Continuation of the Second Golden Age. Great technological advances made. Finally fell to the smelly and barbaric Mongols in 1279.
10. Yuan Dynasty => 1279 - 1368
Mongols successfully conquered China, slaughtering half of its population in the process (bastards!!!). Also was the first foreigners to conquer China. Was the time when Marco Polo visited China. Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan, and still smelly) mensiasuikan his own people by wanting to adopt the Han-Chinese’s customs. Rules from Beijing.
11. Ming Dynasty => 1368 - 1644
The Chinese people disliked being ruled by foreigners. A peasant called Zhu Yuanzhang lead peasant revolts. Managed to kick the Mongols back to Mongolia. Chinese culture re-emphasised.
Zhu Yuanzhang made himself Emperor. Third Golden Age. Emphasised agricultural production and de-emphasis on commerce (following the Confucianism thought). Strong and complex central government formed.
Naval exploration was conducted. Period where Admiral Cheng Ho discovered much of the world, including South-East Asia, Africa and America. Could have easily conquered/colonised much of the known world. But didn’t as China thought it not worthwhile. Brought back giraffes to the Emperor. Emperor amused, but declared that China needed nothing from the ‘uncivilised’ outside world. Declared a close-door foreign policy. *First major error?*
Construction of the Great Wall was completed. Forbidden Palace completed.
12. Qing Dynasty => 1644 - 1911
The period which is most familiar to Westerners and bananas such as myself. Popularised by numerous Chinese TV period drama serials and movies (think Wong Fei Hung, My Fair Princess (Huan Zhu Ge Ge), etc). Most recognisable trait during this dynasty was the ‘pigtail’ hairstyle that all men had to adopt, or risk execution.
It should be noted also that it was during this period that the Western civilisations began to catch up with, and soon surpassed China intellectually as well as technologically, due to its enormously important Industrial Revolution during 1760 - 1850. This revolution replaced farms with factories, and from then onwards machineries began to be used extensively. China, sadly, in contrast, did not move forward in that vital direction. An illustration of this point can be seen if one compares the eras of the earlier Qin Dynasty to the later Qing Dynasty. The social and economic conditions of those two dynasties seemed remarkably similar, taking into account the vast differences in time between them. In contrast, one can easily see the vast differences between the British Victorian Age and the later Industrial Age.
The Qing Dynasty was founded by the Manchus from the north of China, who were the second group of foreigners to invade China, after the earlier Mongols. Was a period of great unrest and rebellions. The Han-Chinese hated the their foreign Manchu conquerers.
The Manchus formed a small insulated ruling elite class in China. Held all top posts. They constantly feared losing their identity to the numerically superior Han-Chinese masses, and therefore banned intermarriages between them, as well as imposing seggregatory laws on the Hans.
Qipao (Hokkien: cheongsam) (women)
Manchus also forced the Hans to wear their traditional clothings, such as the cheongsam and the tangzhuang, which are now mistakenly thought by many to be the Chinese’s traditional dresses. In actual fact, the true Han-Chinese traditional clothings were the loose-fitting hanfu.
Hanfu, the original Han-Chinese traditional wear
First Manchu emperor was Emperor Shizu, who ordered the slaughter of the Sichuan Chinese. Emperor Qianlong supressed the intellectuals, and banned political writings and societies. Emperor Kangxi ordered the compilation of the most extensive Chinese dictionary.
China was still relatively stable during the early years of the Manchu’s reign. However, during the 19th century, the Qing dynasty slowly descended into turmoil and chaos. Mass revolts by the locals due to poor economic conditions began to weaken the Emperor’s power and authority. Foreign powers started to vie for control over China. Start of one of the most humiliating periods in Chinese history.
One third of the adult population were opium addicts. Opium was banned by the Emperor. British retaliated by attacking China - resulted in the 2 Opium Wars. China lost both (soldiers all weak from opium), had to give up Hong Kong to the British. Western powers began to ‘advice’ (read: coerce and manipulate) the royal family on its domestic and foreign policies.
China being carved up by foreign powers
Manchu imperial treasury declared backrupt twice, due to opium-purchasing. China suffered 2 long famines in the 1860s and 1880’s.
Manchu’s banned the Song and Ming Dynasty’s gunpowder usage, declaring it to be a ‘Han-Chinese’ thing. Further contributed to China’s lost to the Western powers.
Lost the Sino-French war (1883-1885) and the Sino-Japanese (1894-1895).
Last Manchu-Chinese Emperor was Emperor Puyi, the 2 year old nephew chosen by the Empress Dowager Cixi before her death.
13. Republic of China => 1912 - present
Dr Sun Yat-Sen
The young ruling class, frustrated and dissapointed by the Royal Family, decided to overthrow it and form a republic in its place. Was inspired by the western-educated Dr Sun Yat San’s (Father of Modern China) revolutionary ideas. The Republic of China was formed. His protege, General Chiang Kai-Shek, managed seize power of the whole of China through his Kuomintang (KMT) nationalist party (now the opposition party in Taiwain). Defeated the opposition Communist Party. Hunted them down, but some managed to escape to the desolate territories in the Shaanxi Province on the Long March. The Communists regrouped there under a new leader, Mao Zedong, and continued its fight against the KMT. Restarted the Chinese Civil War. The second most humilliating period in Chinese history. This was also the period when many of today’s Chinese-Malaysian’s ancestors fled from China to Malaysia.
In between the civil war, the Japanese invaded during World War 2. The KMT and the Communists rallied together and defeated Japan in 1945. Resumed their civil war until 1949, where the Communists finally won. Established the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The KMT and General Chiang Kai-Shek was forced to retreat to Taiwan. Accused the Communists government as illegitimate, and declared the KMT the true Chinese government of the Republic of China (ROC).
From 1949 onwards, the repressive Chinese Communist Party must be given credit for managing to bring stability, modernisation, as well as economic prosperity to the country. Most of its coastal cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong presently almost resembles modern high-tech cities such as Kuala Lumpur or even Singapore. In my opinion, once China manages to shake off it’s repressive political nature, China would then be entitled to rightfully take its place alongside the US as a true world superpower again.
And thus the end of ancient Chinese history. What a history huh? The Chinese people have the earliest history in the world (starting around 1600 BC, compared to the Western civilisation which started around 800 BC), as well as a continuous, unbroken civilization (unlike the Greeks/Romans/Egyptians). It sure makes me proud of my heritage!