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Ancient China


History >> Ancient China

The civilization of Ancient China dates back thousands of years. Over this long period of time much of China was ruled by different dynasties.

What is a dynasty?

A dynasty is when one family rules a country or region over a long period of time. Generally, the head of the family will be the ruler of the land, like an emperor or king. When that ruler dies, another member of the family will take power, usually the oldest son. When a new family takes control, then a new dynasty begins.
First emperor of China
The first Emperor of China
Qin Shi Huangdi by Unknown

Mandate of Heaven

The Mandate of Heaven is what the Chinese people believed gave their rulers the right to be king or emperor. It meant that the gods had blessed that person with the right to rule. A ruler had to be a good and just ruler to keep the Mandate of Heaven. When a ruler or dynasty lost power, this meant that they must also have lost the Mandate of Heaven.

Major Dynasties

Here are the major dynasties in the history of Ancient China:

Xia (2205 to 1575 BC) - The first dynasty in China, very little is known about the Xia.

Shang (1570 to 1045 BC) - The Shang ruled much of the area along the Yellow River. Their last capital city was the great city of Yin.

Zhou (1045 to 256 BC) - The longest ruling dynasty in the history of China, the Zhou first used the Mandate of Heaven to justify their rule. Much of the land was ruled by feudal lords who were relatives of the Zhou family.

Qin (221 BC to 206 BC) - The beginning of the Chinese Empire, Shi Huangdi became the first Chinese Emperor. Although this was a short dynasty much was accomplished including the beginning of the Great Wall; standards were set for weights, measures, and money; many roads and canals were built; and a single type of writing was used throughout the country. All of these advancements would be used in future dynasties to make China strong.

Han (206 BC to 220 AD) - The Han dynasty established the civil service to create a strong and organized government. Paper and porcelain were also invented during this time. The Han also embraced Confucianism, poetry, and literature.

Six Dynasties (222 to 581 AD) - A period of time where China was not united under a single leader.

Sui (589 to 618 AD) - The Sui unite China again under one rule. They also expanded the Great Wall and built the Grand Canal.

Tang (618 - 907) - A period of peace and prosperity, the Tang rule is sometimes known as the Golden Age of Ancient China. Arts, literature, and technology all flourish. The capital city Chang'an becomes the world's largest city.

Five Dynasties (907 - 960) - A peasant rebellion takes down the Tang dynasty and ushers in a period of division.

Song (960 - 1279) - Reunited under the Song, China becomes a world leader in science and technology including inventions such as gunpowder and the compass.

Yuan (1279 - 1368) - After the Mongols defeated the Song in a long war, Kublai Khan, a Mongol leader, established the Yuan dynasty.

Ming (1368 - 1644) - The last of the great Chinese dynasties, the Ming finished the Great Wall and built the Forbidden City, an enormous palace for the Emperor. The Ming came into power by overthrowing the rule of the Mongols.


For more information on the civilization of Ancient China:

Timeline of Ancient China
Geography of Ancient China
Silk Road
The Great Wall
Forbidden City
Terracotta Army
The Grand Canal
Battle of Red Cliffs
Opium Wars
Inventions of Ancient China
Glossary and Terms

Major Dynasties
Xia Dynasty
Shang Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
Han Dynasty
Period of Disunion
Sui Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
Song Dyanasty
Yuan Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
Qing Dynasty

Daily Life in Ancient China
Numbers and Colors
Legend of Silk
Chinese Calendar
Civil Service
Chinese Art
Entertainment and Games

Kangxi Emperor
Genghis Khan
Kublai Khan
Marco Polo
Puyi (The Last Emperor)
Emperor Qin
Emperor Taizong
Sun Tzu
Empress Wu
Zheng He
Emperors of China

Works Cited

History >> Ancient China

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