Thursday, November 15, 2012

Major Dynasties of China

For thousands of years China has been ruled by a vast amout of dynasties.  While some ruled for centuries and others for decades, all have had an impact upon the histopry and culture of this ancient society.  Below are listed the major dynasties, there were others and all have detailed histories that exceed the limited nature of this posting.


ca. 1650-1027 B.C.E.
First Dynasty, known for skilled work with bronze tools and art. Chinese writing created, ancestor worship becomes the central religion.
Inventions: Silk refining
1027-256 B.C.E.
Feudal system of government introduced; seen as a golden age of peace by Confucius and later philosophers. Rulers “Mandate of Heaven” first appears.
Inventions: Crossbow (450)
Warring States Period          
481-221 B.C.E.
Huge armies controlled by warlords divide China; as a counter, Confucius creates his philosophy of respect/ancestor worship/kindness/obedience.
Inventions: Sun Tzu writes the Art of War, first military textbook
Qin (Ch’in)
221-207 B.C.E.
                                    Pronounced Chin, First Emperor, unites China, completes the
Great Wall, repression of knowledge/philosophy, creates imperial plan of rule; although
the shortest dynasty, so firm is Qin’s legacy of imperial control that China is forever named for
the 1st Emperor: Qin Shi Huang-di.
Inventions: Wheelbarrow (220), Unifies the written language, measurements & money of China
207 B.C.–220 C.E.
Creates Civil Service, state run factories control manufacture of luxury, commercial and military goods.
Inventions: Horse Collar (150 BC), Writing paper, blast furnace (100 AD),
cast iron, cast iron plow, fishing reel (200)
Period of Disunity
Jin Dynasty 265-316 fails to unify China, foreign invasions and civil strife abound, as a counter point, peaceful Buddhism becomes popular.
Inventions: Rudder (400), matches (577)
Reunites northern and southern China, digs the Great Canal between the Yangzi and Yellow Rivers, repairs the Great Wall.
Cultural renaissance, improve civil service exams to reward merit, China again becomes a regional and world power, Lao Zi creates Daoism, a religion of natural harmony.
Inventions: Gunpowder, Brandy  (650), woodblock printing (760), paper money (760)
Five Dynasties
Northern China ruled by foreigners, southern China divides into petty kingdoms, Liang, Tang, Jin, Han & Zhou.
A reunited China reaches its highest level of civilization to date, first “industrial revolution” with iron factories, Song were strong patrons of the arts and sciences with many advances seen in the latter.
Inventions: Bicycle chain (976), movable type (1041),
mechanical clock (1088), compass (1100), medical encyclopedia (1111), Windmill
Yuan (Mongols)
Foreign dynasty of “Barbarian” Mongols, Kublia Khan fails in two attempts to conquer Japan, Beijing becomes capital, entire Silk Road is under Mongol (Pax Mongolica) control increasing trade and allowing Europeans (Marco Polo) to visit China.
Inventions: Guns (1288)
Last Chinese dynasty, Admiral Zheng He explores from China to Madagascar with a fleet of a 100+ junks, unimpressed with the rest of the world, the Ming close their borders, forbid further exploration and make it a crime to leave China.
Qing (Manchu)
Foreign dynasty from Manchuria, in constant fear of Chinese revolt, the Qing cling to the past traditions, for the first time Chinese technology falls drastically behind Western/European, by the 1800’s European military might ellipses Chinese, twice conquering Beijing and looting the Forbidden City, forcing the Qing to make massive humiliating political/economic concessions to Western powers including the Westernized Asian nation of Japan. The last emperor is deposed in 1912.
Chinese Republic
  Never a true republic, China was largely controlled by local warlords, communists, puppet governments and Japanese troops.
People’s Republic of China
After decades of conflicts including civil strife, Japanese invasion, World War II, and open civil war, the Chinese Communist Party takes total control of China with its own form of “dynasty.” 

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