HOME

TheInfoList



OR:

The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the
Shang dynasty
Shang dynasty
(c. 1600–1046 BC), during the reign of king Wu Ding. Ancient historical texts such as the '' Book of Documents'' (early chapters, 11th century BC), the '' Bamboo Annals'' (c. 296 BC) and the ''
Records of the Grand Historian ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese language, Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental Chinese historiography, history of China that is the first of China's Twenty-Four Histories, 24 dynastic histories. The ''Records'' ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'' (c. 91 BC) describe a
Xia dynasty
Xia dynasty
before the Shang, but no writing is known from the period, and Shang writings do not indicate the existence of the Xia. The Shang ruled in the Yellow River valley, which is commonly held to be the cradle of Chinese civilization. However, Neolithic civilizations originated at various cultural centers along both the Yellow River and Yangtze River. These Yellow River and Yangtze civilizations arose millennia before the Shang. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is among the world's oldest
civilization
civilization
s and is regarded as one of the cradles of civilization. The Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC) supplanted the Shang, and introduced the concept of the Mandate of Heaven to justify their rule. The central Zhou government began to weaken due to external and internal pressures in the 8th century BC, and the country eventually splintered into smaller states during the Spring and Autumn period. These states became independent and fought with one another in the following Warring States period. Much of traditional Chinese culture,
literature Literature is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expanded to ...
and
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. Some ...
first developed during those troubled times. It was during this period that rival kingdoms developed
bureaucratic
bureaucratic
systems that enabled them to control vast territories directly, laying the foundation for the imperial system of government. In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang conquered the various warring states and created for himself the title of ''Huangdi'' or " emperor" of the
Qin
Qin
, marking the beginning of imperial China. However, the oppressive government fell soon after his death, and was supplanted by the longer-lived
Han dynasty The Han dynasty (, ; ) was an imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 9 AD, 25–220 AD), established by Emperor Gaozu of Han, Liu Bang (Emperor Gao) and ruled by the House of Liu. The dynasty was preceded by the short-lived Qin dynasty (22 ...

Han dynasty
(206 BC – 220 AD). In the 21 centuries from 206 BC until AD 1912, routine administrative tasks were handled by a special elite of '' scholar-officials''. Young men, well-versed in calligraphy, history, literature, and philosophy, were carefully selected through difficult government examinations. China's last dynasty was the Qing (1636–1912), which was replaced by the Republic of China in 1912, and then in the
mainland
mainland
by the
People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
in 1949. The Republic of China retreated to the island of Taiwan in 1949. Both the
PRC
PRC
and the
ROC
ROC
currently claim to be the sole legitimate government of China, resulting in an ongoing dispute even after the
United Nations
United Nations
recognized the PRC as the government to represent China at all UN conferences in 1971. Hong Kong and Macau transferred sovereignty to China in 1997 and 1999 from the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...

United Kingdom
and
Portugal Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic ( pt, República Portuguesa, links=yes ), is a Sovereign state, country whose mainland is located on the Iberian Peninsula of Southern Europe, Southwestern Europe, and whose territory also includes ...

Portugal
respectively, becoming special administrative regions (SARs) of the PRC. Chinese history has alternated between periods of political unity and peace, and periods of war and failed statehood. The region was occasionally dominated by steppe peoples, especially the
Mongols
Mongols
and Manchus, many of whom were often assimilated into the Han Chinese culture and population. Between eras of multiple kingdoms and warlordism, Chinese dynasties have ruled parts or all of China; in some eras control stretched as far as
Xinjiang
Xinjiang
,
Tibet
Tibet
and
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is an Autonomous regions of China, autonomous region of the China, People's Republic of China. Its border includes most of the length of China's China–Mongolia border, border wit ...

Inner Mongolia
, as at present. Traditional culture, and influences from other parts of Asia and the
Western world
Western world
—carried by waves of immigration, cultural assimilation, expansion, and foreign contact)—form the basis of the modern culture of China.


Prehistory


Paleolithic (1.7 – 12 )

The archaic human species of ''
Homo erectus
Homo erectus
'' arrived in
Eurasia
Eurasia
sometimes between 1.3 and 1.8 million years ago (Ma) and numerous remains of its subspecies have been found in what is now China. The oldest of these is the southwestern Yuanmou Man (; in
Yunnan
Yunnan
), dated to Ma, which lived in a mixed
bushland
bushland
-
forest
forest
environment alongside chalicotheres,
deer
deer
, the elephant '' Stegodon'',
rhino
rhino
s,
cattle
cattle
,
pig
pig
s, and the giant short-faced hyaena. The better known Peking Man (; near
Beijing } Beijing ( ; ; ), alternatively romanized as Peking ( ), is the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is the center of power and development of the country. Beijing is the world's most populous national capital city, with over 21 ...

Beijing
) of 700,000–400,000 BP, was discovered in the Zhoukoudian cave alongside scrapers, choppers, and, dated slightly later, points, burins, and awls. Other ''Homo erectus'' fossils have been found widely throughout the region, including the northwestern Lantian Man (; in
Shaanxi Shaanxi (alternatively Shensi, see #Name, § Name) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of China. Officially part of Northwest China, it borders the province-level divisions of Shanxi (NE, E), Henan (E), Hubei (SE), Chongqing (S), Sichu ...
) as well minor specimens in northeastern
Liaoning Liaoning () is a coastal provinces of China, province in Northeast China that is the smallest, southernmost, and most populous province in the region. With its capital at Shenyang, it is located on the northern shore of the Yellow Sea, and i ...
and southern
Guangdong Guangdong (, ), alternatively romanized as Canton or Kwangtung, is a coastal province in South China on the north shore of the South China Sea. The capital of the province is Guangzhou. With a population of 126.01 million (as of 202 ...
. The dates of most Paleolithic sites were long debated, but have been more reliably established based on modern
magnetostratigraphy Magnetostratigraphy is a geophysical correlation technique used to date sedimentary and volcanic sequences. The method works by collecting oriented samples at measured intervals throughout the section. The samples are analyzed to determine their ...
: Majuangou at 1.66–1.55 Ma, Lanpo at 1.6 Ma, Xiaochangliang at 1.36 Ma, Xiantai at 1.36 Ma, Banshan at 1.32 Ma, Feiliang at 1.2 Ma and Donggutuo at 1.1 Ma. Evidence of fire use by ''Homo erectus'' occurred between 1–1.8 million years BP at the archaeological site of Xihoudu, Shanxi Province. The
evolution Evolution is change in the heredity, heritable Phenotypic trait, characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the Gene expression, expressions of genes, which are passed on from parent to ...
of ''Homo erectus'' to contemporary ''
Homo sapiens Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species of primate, characterized by bipedality, bipedalism and exceptional cognitive skills due to a large and complex Human brain, brain. This has enabled the development of ad ...
'' is debated; the three main theories include the dominant "Out of Africa" theory (OOA), the
regional continuity model The multiregional hypothesis, multiregional evolution (MRE), or polycentric hypothesis is a scientific modelling, scientific model that provides an alternative explanation to the more widely accepted recent African origin of modern humans, "Out of A ...
and the admixture variant of the OOA hypothesis. Regardless, the earliest humans have been dated to China at 120,000–80,000 BP, based on fossilized teeth discovered in Fuyan Cave of
Dao County Dao County () is a county in Hunan Province Hunan (, ; ) is a landlocked province of the People's Republic of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of count ...
,
Hunan Hunan (, ; ) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the People's Republic of China, part of the South Central China region. Located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze watershed, it borders the Administrative divisions of China, prov ...
. The larger animals which lived alongside these humans include the extinct '' Ailuropoda baconi'' panda, the '' Crocuta ultima'' hyena, the ''Stegodon'', and the giant tapir. Evidence of
Middle Palaeolithic The Middle Paleolithic (or Middle Palaeolithic) is the second subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. The term Middle Stone Age is used as an equivalent or a synonym for the Middle Paleoli ...
Levallois technology has been found in the lithic assemblage of Guanyindong Cave site in southwest China, dated to approximately 170,000–80,000 years ago.


Neolithic

The Neolithic age in China is considered to have begun about 10,000 years ago. Since the Neolithic is conventionally defined by the presence of agriculture, it follows that the Neolithic began at different times in the various regions of what is now China. Agriculture in China developed gradually, with initial domestication of a few grains and animals gradually being expanded by the addition of many others over subsequent millennia. The earliest evidence of cultivated rice, found by the Yangtze River, was carbon-dated to 8,000 years ago. Early evidence for
millet Millets () are a highly varied group of small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food. Most species generally referred to as millets belong to the tribe Paniceae, but some millets also ...
agriculture in the Yellow River valley was radiocarbon-dated to about 7000 BC. The
Jiahu Jiahu () was the site of a Neolithic settlement based in the central plain of ancient China, near the Yellow River. It is located between the floodplains of the Ni River (China), Ni River to the north, and the Sha River to the south, north of ...
site is one of the best preserved early agricultural villages (7000 to 5800 BC). At Damaidi in Ningxia, 3,172 cliff carvings dating to 6000–5000 BC have been discovered, "featuring 8,453 individual characters such as the sun, moon, stars, gods and scenes of hunting or grazing", according to researcher Li Xiangshi. Written symbols, sometimes called
proto-writing Proto-writing consists of visible marks Communication, communicating limited information. Such systems emerged from earlier traditions of symbol systems in the early Neolithic, as early as the 7th millennium BC in Eastern Europe and Ancient Chin ...
, were found at the site of Jiahu, which is dated around 7000 BC, Damaidi around 6000 BC, Dadiwan from 5800 BC to 5400 BC, and
Banpo Banpo is an archaeological site An archaeological site is a place (or group of physical sites) in which evidence of past activity is preserved (either prehistoric or recorded history, historic or contemporary), and which has been, or ma ...
dating from the 5th millennium BC. With agriculture came increased population, the ability to store and redistribute crops, and the potential to support specialist craftsmen and administrators, which may have existed at late Neolithic sites like Taosi and the
Liangzhu culture The Liangzhu culture (; 3300–2300 BC) was the last Neolithic Chinese jade, jade culture in the Yangtze River Delta of China. The culture was highly stratified, as jade, silk, ivory and lacquer artifacts were found exclusively in elite burials, ...
in the Yangtze delta. The cultures of the middle and late Neolithic in the central Yellow River valley are known respectively as the
Yangshao culture The Yangshao culture (仰韶文化, pinyin: Yǎngsháo wénhuà) was a Neolithic culture that existed extensively along the middle reaches of the Yellow River in China from around 5000 BC to 3000 BC. The culture is named after the Yangsh ...
(5000 BC to 3000 BC) and the
Longshan culture The Longshan (or Lung-shan) culture, also sometimes referred to as the Black Pottery Culture, was a late Neolithic culture in the middle and lower Yellow River valley areas of northern China from about 3000 to 1900 BC. The first archaeology, arch ...
(3000 BC to 2000 BC). Pigs and dogs were the earliest domesticated animals in the region, and after about 3000 BC domesticated cattle and sheep arrived from Western Asia. Wheat also arrived at this time, but remained a minor crop. Fruit such as peaches,
cherries A cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus ''Prunus'', and is a fleshy drupe (stone fruit). Commercial cherries are obtained from cultivars of several species, such as the sweet ''Prunus avium'' and the sour ''Prunus cerasus''. The nam ...
and
oranges An orange is a fruit In botany, a fruit is the seed-bearing structure in flowering plants that is formed from the ovary after flowering. Fruits are the means by which flowering plants (also known as angiosperms) disseminate their see ...
, as well as
chickens The chicken (''Gallus gallus domesticus'') is a domestication, domesticated junglefowl species, with attributes of wild species such as the grey junglefowl, grey and the Ceylon junglefowl that are originally from Southeastern Asia. Rooster ...
and various vegetables, were also domesticated in Neolithic China.


Bronze Age

Bronze artifacts have been found at the Majiayao culture site (between 3100 and 2700 BC). The Bronze Age is also represented at the Lower Xiajiadian culture (2200–1600 BC) site in northeast China.
Sanxingdui Sanxingdui () is an archaeological site and a major Bronze Age culture in modern Guanghan, Sichuan, China. Largely discovered in 1986, following a preliminary finding in 1927, archaeologists excavated Artifact (archaeology), artifacts that radioca ...
located in what is now
Sichuan Sichuan (; zh, c=, labels=no, ; zh, p=Sìchuān; Postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan; formerly also referred to as "West China" or "Western China" by Protestantism in Sichuan, Protestant missions) is a Prov ...
province is believed to be the site of a major ancient city, of a previously unknown Bronze Age culture (between 2000 and 1200 BC). The site was first discovered in 1929 and then re-discovered in 1986. Chinese archaeologists have identified the Sanxingdui culture to be part of the ancient kingdom of Shu, linking the artifacts found at the site to its early legendary kings.
Ferrous metallurgy Ferrous metallurgy is the metallurgy of iron and its alloys. The earliest surviving prehistory, prehistoric iron artifacts, from the 4th millennium BC in Egypt, were made from meteorite, meteoritic Iron–nickel alloy, iron-nickel. It is not know ...
begins to appear in the late 6th century in the Yangzi Valley.Higham, Charles. 1996. ''The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia'' A
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals (including aluminium, manganese, nickel, or zinc) and sometimes non-metals, such as phosphorus, or metalloids such ...
tomahawk A tomahawk is a type of single-handed axe used by the many Native Americans in the United States, Indigenous peoples and nations of North America. It traditionally resembles a hatchet with a straight shaft. In pre-colonial times the head was mad ...
with a blade of
meteoric iron Meteoric iron, sometimes meteoritic iron, is a native metal and Primitive rock, early-universe protoplanetary-disk remnant found in meteorites and made from the elements iron and nickel, mainly in the form of the mineral phases kamacite and taenit ...
excavated near the city of Gaocheng in
Shijiazhuang Shijiazhuang (; ; Mandarin: ), formerly known as Shimen and Chinese postal romanization, romanized as Shihkiachwang, is the capital and most populous city of China’s North China's Hebei Province. Administratively a prefecture-level city, it ...
(now
Hebei Hebei or , (; Postal romanization, alternately Hopeh) is a North China, northern Provinces of China, province of China. Hebei is China's List of Chinese administrative divisions by population, sixth most populous province, with over 75 mi ...
province) has been dated to the 14th century BC. An Iron Age culture of the
Tibetan Plateau The Tibetan Plateau (, also known as the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau or the Qing–Zang Plateau () or as the Himalayan Plateau in India, is a vast elevated plateau located at the intersection of Central, South and East Asia East Asia is t ...
has tentatively been associated with the Zhang Zhung culture described in early Tibetan writings.


Ancient China

Chinese historians in later periods were accustomed to the notion of one dynasty succeeding another, but the political situation in early China was much more complicated. Hence, as some scholars of China suggest, the Xia and the Shang can refer to political entities that existed concurrently, just as the early Zhou existed at the same time as the Shang.


Xia dynasty (2070–1600 BC)

The Xia dynasty of China (from c. 2070 to c. 1600 BC) is the earliest of the Three Dynasties described in ancient historical records such as
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty The Han dynasty (, ; ) was an imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 9 AD, 25–220 AD), established by Emperor Gaozu of Han, Liu Bang (Emperor Gao) and ruled by the H ...
's ''
Records of the Grand Historian ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese language, Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental Chinese historiography, history of China that is the first of China's Twenty-Four Histories, 24 dynastic histories. The ''Records'' ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'' and '' Bamboo Annals''. The dynasty is generally considered
mythical Myth is a folklore genre consisting of Narrative, narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or Origin myth, origin myths. Since "myth" is widely used to imply that a story is not Objectivity (philosophy), ...
by Western scholars, but in China it is usually associated with the early
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of ...
site at Erlitou that was excavated in Henan in 1959. Since no writing was excavated at Erlitou or any other contemporaneous site, there is no way to prove whether the Xia dynasty ever existed. In any case, the site of Erlitou had a level of political organization that would not be incompatible with the legends of Xia recorded in later texts. More importantly, the Erlitou site has the earliest evidence for an elite who conducted rituals using cast bronze vessels, which would later be adopted by the Shang and Zhou.


Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC)

Archaeological evidence, such as oracle bones and bronzes, as well as transmitted texts attest to the historical existence of the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC). Findings from the earlier Shang period comes from excavations at Erligang, in present-day
Zhengzhou Zhengzhou (; ), also spelt Zheng Zhou and Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Chengchow, is the Capital (political), capital and largest city of Henan, Henan Province in the Central China, central part of the China, People's ...
. Findings from the later Shang or Yin (殷) period, were found in profusion at
Anyang Anyang (; ) is a prefecture-level city in Henan province of China, province, China. The northernmost city in Henan, Anyang borders Puyang to the east, Hebi and Xinxiang to the south, and the provinces of Shanxi and Hebei to its west and north resp ...
, in modern-day
Henan Henan (; or ; ; Chinese postal romanization, alternatively Honan) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of China, in the Central China, central part of the country. Henan is often referred to as Zhongyuan or Zhongzhou (), which literall ...
, the last of the Shang's capitals. The findings at Anyang include the earliest written record of the Chinese so far discovered: inscriptions of divination records in ancient Chinese writing on the bones or shells of animals—the "
oracle bone Oracle bones () are pieces of ox scapula and turtle plastron, which were used for pyromancy – a form of divination – in ancient China, mainly during the late Shang dynasty. ''Scapulimancy'' is the correct term if ox scapulae were used for the ...
s", dating from around 1250 to 1046 BC. A series of at least twenty-nine kings reigned over the Shang dynasty. Throughout their reigns, according to the ''
Shiji ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600– ...
'', the capital city was moved six times. The final and most important move was to Yin during the reign of Pan Geng, around 1300 BC. The term Yin dynasty has been synonymous with the Shang dynasty in history, although it has lately been used to refer specifically to the latter half of the Shang dynasty. Although written records found at Anyang confirm the existence of the Shang dynasty, Western scholars are often hesitant to associate settlements that are contemporaneous with the Anyang settlement with the Shang dynasty. For example, archaeological findings at
Sanxingdui Sanxingdui () is an archaeological site and a major Bronze Age culture in modern Guanghan, Sichuan, China. Largely discovered in 1986, following a preliminary finding in 1927, archaeologists excavated Artifact (archaeology), artifacts that radioca ...
suggest a technologically advanced civilization culturally unlike Anyang. The evidence is inconclusive in proving how far the Shang realm extended from Anyang. The leading hypothesis is that Anyang, ruled by the same Shang in the official history, coexisted and traded with numerous other culturally diverse settlements in the area that is now referred to as
China proper China proper, Inner China, or the Eighteen Provinces is a term used by some Western writers in reference to the "core" regions of the Manchu people, Manchu-led Qing dynasty of China. This term is used to express a distinction between the "cor ...
.


Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC)

The Zhou dynasty (1046 BC to approximately 256 BC) is the longest-lasting dynasty in Chinese history, though its power declined steadily over the almost eight centuries of its existence. In the late 2nd millennium BC, the Zhou dynasty arose in the Wei River valley of modern western Shaanxi Province, where they were appointed Western Protectors by the
Shang The Shang dynasty (), also known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese royal dynasty founded by Tang of Shang Cheng Tang (), personal name Zi Lü (), recorded on oracle bones as Da Yi (大乙), was the first King of China, king of the Sha ...
. A coalition led by the ruler of the Zhou, King Wu, defeated the Shang at the
Battle of Muye The Battle of Muye () or Battle of the Mu was a battle fought in ancient China between the rebel Predynastic Zhou, Zhou state and the reigning Shang dynasty. The Zhou army, led by Wu of Zhou, defeated the defending army of King Zhou of Shang, K ...
. They took over most of the central and lower Yellow River valley and enfeoffed their relatives and allies in semi-independent states across the region. Several of these states eventually became more powerful than the Zhou kings. The kings of Zhou invoked the concept of the Mandate of Heaven to legitimize their rule, a concept that was influential for almost every succeeding dynasty. Like Shangdi, Heaven (''tian'') ruled over all the other gods, and it decided who would rule China. It was believed that a ruler lost the Mandate of Heaven when natural disasters occurred in great number, and when, more realistically, the sovereign had apparently lost his concern for the people. In response, the royal house would be overthrown, and a new house would rule, having been granted the Mandate of Heaven. The Zhou established two capitals Zongzhou (near modern
Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), frequently spelled as Xian and also known by #Name, other names, is the list of capitals in China, capital of Shaanxi, Shaanxi Province. A Sub-provincial division#Sub-provincial municipalities, sub-provincial city o ...
) and Chengzhou (
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River (Henan), Luo River and Yellow River in the west of Henan province. Governed as a prefecture-level city, it borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the ...
), with the king's court moving between them regularly. The Zhou alliance gradually expanded eastward into Shandong, southeastward into the Huai River valley, and southward into the
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ; ) is the longest list of rivers of Asia, river in Asia, the list of rivers by length, third-longest in the world, and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in th ...
valley.


Spring and Autumn period (722–476 BC)

In 771 BC, King You and his forces were defeated in the Battle of Mount Li by rebel states and
Quanrong The Quanrong () or Dog Xirong, Rong were an ethnic group, classified by the ancient Chinese as "Qiang (historical people), Qiang", active in the northwestern part of China during and after the Zhou dynasty (1046–221 BCE). Their language or languag ...
barbarians. The rebel aristocrats established a new ruler, King Ping, in
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River (Henan), Luo River and Yellow River in the west of Henan province. Governed as a prefecture-level city, it borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the ...
, beginning the second major phase of the Zhou dynasty: the Eastern Zhou period, which is divided into the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods. The former period is named after the famous ''
Spring and Autumn Annals The ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' () is an ancient Chinese chronicle that has been one of the core Chinese classics since ancient times. The ''Annals'' is the official chronicle of the State of Lu, and covers a 241-year period from 722 to 481 ...
''. The decline of central power left a vacuum. The Zhou empire now consisted of hundreds of tiny states, some of them only as large as a walled town and surrounding land. These states began to fight against one another and vie for
hegemony Hegemony (, , ) is the political, economic, and military predominance of one state over other states. In Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a northeastern Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean civilization, existing ...
. The more powerful states tended to conquer and incorporate the weaker ones, so the number of states declined over time. By the 6th century BC most small states had disappeared by being annexed and just a few large and powerful principalities remained. Some southern states, such as Chu and Wu, claimed independence from the Zhou, who undertook wars against some of them (Wu and Yue). Many new cities were established in this period and society gradually became more urbanized and commercialized. Many famous individuals such as
Laozi Laozi (), also known by #Names, numerous other names, was a Chinese legend, semilegendary ancient China, ancient Chinese Taoism, Taoist Chinese philosophy, philosopher. Laozi ( zh, ) is a Chinese honorific, generally translated as "the Old Ma ...
,
Confucius Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; – ) was a Chinese philosopher and politician of the Spring and Autumn period who is traditionally considered the paragon of Chinese sages. Co ...
and
Sun Tzu Sun Tzu ( ; zh, t=孫子, s=孙子, first= t, p=Sūnzǐ) was a Chinese military general, strategist, philosopher, and writer who lived during the Eastern Zhou period of 771 to 256 BCE. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of '' Th ...
lived during this chaotic period. Conflict in this period occurred both between and within states. Warfare between states forced the surviving states to develop better administrations to mobilize more soldiers and resources. Within states there was constant jockeying between elite families. For example, the three most powerful families in the Jin state—Zhao, Wei and Han—eventually overthrew the ruling family and partitioned the state between them. The
Hundred Schools of Thought The Hundred Schools of Thought () were philosophies and schools that flourished from the 6th century BC to 221 BC during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period of ancient China. An era of substantial discrimination in China, ...
of
classical Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in History of China, Chinese history from approximately 770 to 476 BC (or according to some authorities until 403 BC) wh ...
began blossoming during this period and the subsequent Warring States period. Such influential intellectual movements as
Confucianism Confucianism, also known as Ruism or Ru classicism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy, a Religious Confucianism, religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, ...
,
Taoism Taoism (, ) or Daoism () refers to either a school of Philosophy, philosophical thought (道家; ''daojia'') or to a religion (道教; ''daojiao''), both of which share ideas and concepts of China, Chinese origin and emphasize living in harmo ...
, Legalism and
Mohism Mohism or Moism (, ) was an ancient Chinese philosophy of ethics Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of morality, right and wrong action (philosophy), behav ...
were founded, partly in response to the changing political world. The first two philosophical thoughts would have an enormous influence on Chinese culture.


Warring States period (476–221 BC)

After further political consolidation, seven prominent states remained by the end of the 5th century BC, and the years in which these few states battled each other are known as the Warring States period. Though there remained a nominal Zhou king until 256 BC, he was largely a figurehead and held little real power. Numerous developments were made during this period in culture and mathematics. Examples include an important literary achievement, the Zuo zhuan on the ''Spring and Autumn Annals'', which summarizes the preceding Spring and Autumn period, and the bundle of 21 bamboo slips from the Tsinghua collection, which was invented during this period dated to 305BC, are the world's earliest example of a two digit decimal multiplication table, indicating that sophisticated commercial arithmetic was already established during this period. As neighboring territories of these warring states, including areas of modern
Sichuan Sichuan (; zh, c=, labels=no, ; zh, p=Sìchuān; Postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan; formerly also referred to as "West China" or "Western China" by Protestantism in Sichuan, Protestant missions) is a Prov ...
and
Liaoning Liaoning () is a coastal provinces of China, province in Northeast China that is the smallest, southernmost, and most populous province in the region. With its capital at Shenyang, it is located on the northern shore of the Yellow Sea, and i ...
, were annexed, they were governed under the new local administrative system of commandery and
prefecture A prefecture (from the Latin ''Praefectura'') is an administrative jurisdiction traditionally governed by an appointed prefect. This can be a regional or local government subdivision in various countries, or a subdivision in certain international ...
. This system had been in use since the Spring and Autumn period, and parts can still be seen in the modern system of Sheng and Xian (province and county). The state of Qin became dominant in the last century of this period. Qin conquered the state of Shu in the Chengdu Plain, and eventually drove Chu from its home in the Han River valley. Qin copied the administrative reforms of the other states to become a powerhouse. The final expansion in this period began during the reign of Ying Zheng, the king of Qin. His unification of the other six powers enabled him to proclaim himself the
First Emperor Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BC) was the founder of the Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty ( ; zh, c=秦朝, p=Qín cháo, w=), or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles romanization ( zh, c=, p=, w=Ch'in ch'ao), was the first dynasty of Imperi ...
(Qin Shi Huang).


Imperial China


Early imperial China


Qin dynasty (221–206 BC)

Though the unified reign of Qin Shi Huang, the first Qin emperor, lasted only 12 years, he managed to subdue great parts of what constitutes the core of the Han Chinese homeland and to unite them under a tightly centralized Legalist government seated at
Xianyang Xianyang () is a prefecture-level city in central Shaanxi province, situated on the Wei River a few kilometers upstream (west) from the provincial capital of Xi'an. Once the capital of the Qin dynasty, it is now integrated into the Xi'an metrop ...
(close to modern
Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), frequently spelled as Xian and also known by #Name, other names, is the list of capitals in China, capital of Shaanxi, Shaanxi Province. A Sub-provincial division#Sub-provincial municipalities, sub-provincial city o ...
). The doctrine of Legalism that guided the Qin emphasized strict adherence to a legal code and the absolute power of the emperor. This philosophy, while effective for expanding the empire in a military fashion, proved unworkable for governing it in peacetime. The Qin Emperor presided over the brutal silencing of political opposition, including the event known as the burning of books and burying of scholars. This would be the impetus behind the later Han synthesis incorporating the more moderate schools of political governance. Major contributions of the Qin include the concept of a centralized government, and the unification and development of the legal code, the written language, measurement, and currency of China after the divergences of the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods. Even something as basic as the length of axles for carts—which need to match ruts in the roads—had to be made uniform to ensure a viable trading system throughout the empire. Also as part of its centralization, the Qin connected the northern border walls of the states it defeated, making the first, though rough, version of the
Great Wall of China The Great Wall of China (, literally "ten thousand ''li'' wall") is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against various nomadic gro ...
. The Qin Empire's economy was based on the grain taxes paid by its subjects as well as the
corvée Corvée () is a form of unpaid, forced labour Forced labour, or unfree labour, is any work relation, especially in modern history, modern or Early Modern period, early modern history, in which people are employed against their will with ...
labor they served during the agricultural off-season. This is now well understood because large numbers of Qin administrative texts have been excavated. Qin's conquest and colonization of the Yangzi Valley played an important role in bringing this area under the control of Chinese empires. The tribes of the north, collectively called the Wu Hu by the Qin, were free from Chinese rule during the majority of the dynasty. Prohibited from trading with Qin dynasty peasants, the
Xiongnu The Xiongnu (, ) were a tribal confederation of nomads, nomadic peoples who, according to ancient Chinese historiography, Chinese sources, inhabited the eastern Eurasian Steppe from the 3rd century BC to the late 1st century AD. Modu Chanyu, ...
tribe living in the Ordos region in northwest China often raided them instead, prompting the Qin to retaliate. After a military campaign led by General Meng Tian, the region was conquered in 215 BC and agriculture was established; the peasants, however, were discontented and later revolted. The succeeding Han dynasty also expanded into the Ordos due to overpopulation, but depleted their resources in the process. Indeed, this was true of the dynasty's borders in multiple directions; modern
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is an Autonomous regions of China, autonomous region of the China, People's Republic of China. Its border includes most of the length of China's China–Mongolia border, border wit ...

Inner Mongolia
, , ,
Manchuria Manchuria is an exonym and endonym, exonym (derived from the endodemonym "Manchu") for a historical and geographic region in Northeast Asia encompassing the entirety of present-day Northeast China (Inner Manchuria) and parts of the Russian Fa ...
, and regions to the southeast were foreign to the Qin, and even areas over which they had military control were culturally distinct. After Qin Shi Huang's death the Qin government drastically deteriorated and eventually capitulated in 207 BC after the Qin capital was captured and sacked by rebels, which would ultimately lead to the establishment of the Han Empire. Despite the short duration of the Qin dynasty, it was immensely influential on China and the structure of future Chinese dynasties.


Han dynasty (206 BC – AD 220)


=Western Han

= The
Han dynasty The Han dynasty (, ; ) was an imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 9 AD, 25–220 AD), established by Emperor Gaozu of Han, Liu Bang (Emperor Gao) and ruled by the House of Liu. The dynasty was preceded by the short-lived Qin dynasty (22 ...

Han dynasty
was founded by
Liu Bang Emperor Gaozu of Han (256 – 1 June 195 BC), born Liu Bang () with courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in ...
, who emerged victorious in the
Chu–Han Contention The Chu–Han Contention ( zh, , lk=on) or Chu–Han War () was an interregnum period in ancient China between the fallen Qin dynasty and the subsequent Han dynasty. After the third and last Qin ruler, Ziying of Qin, Ziying, unconditional sur ...
that followed the fall of the
Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty ( ; zh, c=秦朝, p=Qín cháo, w=), or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles romanization ( zh, c=, p=, w=Ch'in ch'ao), was the first dynasty of Imperial China. Named for its heartland in Qin state (modern Gansu Gansu (, ; ...
. A
golden age The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology, particularly the ''Works and Days'' of Hesiod, and is part of the description of temporal decline of the state of peoples through five Ages of Man, Ages, Gold being the first and the one during ...
in Chinese history, the Han dynasty's long period of stability and prosperity consolidated the foundation of China as a unified state under a central imperial bureaucracy, which was to last intermittently for most of the next two millennia. During the Han dynasty, territory of China was extended to most of the
China proper China proper, Inner China, or the Eighteen Provinces is a term used by some Western writers in reference to the "core" regions of the Manchu people, Manchu-led Qing dynasty of China. This term is used to express a distinction between the "cor ...
and to areas far west.
Confucianism Confucianism, also known as Ruism or Ru classicism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy, a Religious Confucianism, religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, ...
was officially elevated to orthodox status and was to shape the subsequent Chinese civilization. Art, culture and science all advanced to unprecedented heights. With the profound and lasting impacts of this period of Chinese history, the dynasty name "Han" had been taken as the name of the Chinese people, now the dominant ethnic group in modern China, and had been commonly used to refer to Chinese language and written characters. After the initial laissez-faire policies of Emperors Wen and Jing, the ambitious Emperor Wu brought the empire to its zenith. To consolidate his power, he extended patronage to Confucianism, which emphasizes stability and order in a well-structured society. Imperial Universities were established to support its study. At the urging of his Legalist advisors, however, he also strengthened the fiscal structure of the dynasty with government monopolies. Major military campaigns were launched to weaken the nomadic
Xiongnu Empire The Xiongnu (, ) were a tribal confederation of nomads, nomadic peoples who, according to ancient Chinese historiography, Chinese sources, inhabited the eastern Eurasian Steppe from the 3rd century BC to the late 1st century AD. Modu Chanyu, ...
, limiting their influence north of the Great Wall. Along with the diplomatic efforts led by
Zhang Qian Zhang Qian (; died c. 114) was a Chinese official and diplomat who served as an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the late 2nd century BC during the Han dynasty. He was one of the first official diplomats to bring back valuable inf ...
, the sphere of influence of the Han Empire extended to the states in the Tarim Basin, opened up the
Silk Road The Silk Road () was a network of Eurasia Eurasia (, ) is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, it spans from the British Isles a ...
that connected China to the west, stimulating bilateral trade and cultural exchange. To the south, various small kingdoms far beyond the Yangtze River Valley were formally incorporated into the empire. Emperor Wu also dispatched a series of military campaigns against the
Baiyue The Baiyue (, ), Hundred Yue, or simply Yue (; ), were various ethnic groups who inhabited the regions of East China, South China and Northern Vietnam during the 1st millennium BC and 1st millennium AD. They were known for their short hair, bod ...
tribes. The Han annexed Minyue in 135 BC and 111 BC, Nanyue in 111 BC, and Dian in 109 BC. Migration and military expeditions led to the cultural assimilation of the south. It also brought the Han into contact with kingdoms in Southeast Asia, introducing diplomacy and trade. After Emperor Wu, the empire slipped into gradual stagnation and decline. Economically, the state treasury was strained by excessive campaigns and projects, while land acquisitions by elite families gradually drained the tax base. Various consort clans exerted increasing control over strings of incompetent emperors and eventually the dynasty was briefly interrupted by the usurpation of
Wang Mang Wang Mang () (c. 45 – 6 October 23 CE), courtesy name Jujun (), was the founder and the only emperor of the short-lived Chinese Xin dynasty. He was originally an official and consort kin of the Han dynasty The Han dynast ...
.


=Xin dynasty

= In AD 9, the usurper Wang Mang claimed that the Mandate of Heaven called for the end of the Han dynasty and the rise of his own, and he founded the short-lived Xin dynasty. Wang Mang started an extensive program of land and other economic reforms, including the outlawing of slavery and land nationalization and redistribution. These programs, however, were never supported by the landholding families, because they favored the
peasant A peasant is a pre-industrial farmworker, agricultural laborer or a farmer with limited land-ownership, especially one living in the Middle Ages under feudalism and tenant farmer, paying rent, tax, fees, or services to a landlord. In Europe, ...
s. The instability of power brought about chaos, uprisings, and loss of territories. This was compounded by mass flooding of the Yellow River; silt buildup caused it to split into two channels and displaced large numbers of farmers. Wang Mang was eventually killed in Weiyang Palace by an enraged peasant mob in AD 23.


=Eastern Han

= Emperor Guangwu reinstated the Han dynasty with the support of landholding and merchant families at
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River (Henan), Luo River and Yellow River in the west of Henan province. Governed as a prefecture-level city, it borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the ...
, ''east'' of the former capital Xi'an. Thus, this new era is termed the
Eastern Han dynasty The Han dynasty (, ; ) was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 9 AD, 25–220 AD), established by Emperor Gaozu of Han, Liu Bang (Emperor Gao) and ruled by the House of Liu. The dynasty was preceded by th ...
. With the capable administrations of Emperors
Ming The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China, ruling from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last ort ...
and Zhang, former glories of the dynasty was reclaimed, with brilliant military and cultural achievements. The
Xiongnu Empire The Xiongnu (, ) were a tribal confederation of nomads, nomadic peoples who, according to ancient Chinese historiography, Chinese sources, inhabited the eastern Eurasian Steppe from the 3rd century BC to the late 1st century AD. Modu Chanyu, ...
was decisively defeated. The diplomat and general
Ban Chao Ban Chao (; 32–102 CE), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere, including Chi ...
further expanded the conquests across the
Pamirs The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range between Central Asia and Pakistan. It is located at a junction with other notable mountains, namely the Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun Mountains, Kunlun, Hindu Kush and the Himalayas, Himalaya mountain rang ...
to the shores of the
Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the List of lakes by area, world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. An endorheic basin, it lies between Europe and Asia; east of the Caucasus, west of the broad s ...
, thus reopening the
Silk Road The Silk Road () was a network of Eurasia Eurasia (, ) is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, it spans from the British Isles a ...
, and bringing trade, foreign cultures, along with the arrival of Buddhism. With extensive connections with the west, the first of several Roman embassies to China were recorded in Chinese sources, coming from the sea route in AD 166, and a second one in AD 284. The Eastern Han dynasty was one of the most prolific era of science and technology in ancient China, notably the historic invention of
papermaking Papermaking is the manufacture of paper and cardboard, which are used widely for printing, writing, and packaging, among many other purposes. Today almost all paper is Pulp and paper industry, made using industrial machinery, while handmade pape ...
by
Cai Lun Cai Lun (; courtesy name: Jingzhong (); – 121 Common Era, CE), formerly romanization of Chinese, romanized as Ts'ai Lun, was a Eunuchs in China, Chinese eunuch court official of the Eastern Han dynasty. He is traditionally regarded as the ...
, and the numerous scientific and mathematical contributions by the famous
polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose knowledge spans a substantial number of subjects, known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific pro ...
Zhang Heng Zhang Heng (; AD 78–139), formerly romanized as Chang Heng, was a Chinese polymathic scientist and statesman who lived during the Han dynasty The Han dynasty (, ; ) was an imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 9 AD, 25–220 AD ...
.


Six Dynasties and Sixteen Kingdoms


Three Kingdoms (AD 220–280)

By the 2nd century, the empire declined amidst land acquisitions, invasions, and feuding between consort clans and
eunuchs A eunuch ( ) is a male who has been castration, castrated. Throughout history, castration often served a specific social function. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the Sumerian city of Lagash in the 2n ...
. The
Yellow Turban Rebellion The Yellow Turban Rebellion, alternatively translated as the Yellow Scarves Rebellion, was a peasant revolt in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countri ...
broke out in AD 184, ushering in an era of
warlord A warlord is a person who exercises military, economic, and political control over a region in a country without a strong national government; largely because of coercive control over the armed forces. Warlords have existed throughout much of h ...
s. In the ensuing turmoil, three states emerged, trying to gain predominance and reunify the land, giving this historical period its name. The classic historical novel ''
Romance of the Three Kingdoms ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms'' () is a 14th-century historical novel attributed to Luo Guanzhong. It is set in the turbulent years towards the end of the Han dynasty The end of the Han dynasty was the period of Chinese history from ...
'' dramatizes events of this period. The warlord
Cao Cao Cao Cao () (; 155 – 15 March 220), courtesy name Mengde (), was a Chinese statesman, warlord and poet. He was the penultimate Grand chancellor (China), grand chancellor of the Eastern Han dynasty, and he amassed immense power in the End of ...
reunified the north in 208, and in 220 his son accepted the abdication of
Emperor Xian of Han Emperor Xian of Han (2 April 181 – 21 April 234), personal name Liu Xie (劉協), courtesy name Bohe, was the 14th and last emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty in China. He reigned from 28 September 189 until 11 December 220. Liu Xie was a ...
, thus initiating the Wei dynasty. Soon, Wei's rivals Shu and Wu proclaimed their independence. This period was characterized by a gradual decentralization of the state that had existed during the Qin and Han dynasties, and an increase in the power of great families. In 266, the Jin dynasty overthrew the Wei and later unified the country in 280, but this union was short-lived.


Jin dynasty (AD 266–420)

The Jin dynasty was severely weakened by internecine fighting among imperial princes and lost control of northern China after non-Han Chinese settlers rebelled and captured Luoyang and
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) is the traditional name of Xi'an. The site had been settled since Neolithic times, during which the Yangshao culture was established in Banpo, in the city's suburbs. Furthermore, in the northern vicinity of modern Xi'an, Qin Shi ...
. In 317, a Jin prince in modern-day
Nanjing Nanjing (; , Mandarin pronunciation: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is a sub-provincial city, a megacity, and t ...
became emperor and continued the dynasty, now known as the Eastern Jin, which held southern China for another century. Prior to this move, historians refer to the Jin dynasty as the Western Jin. Northern China fragmented into a series of independent kingdoms, most of which were founded by
Xiongnu The Xiongnu (, ) were a tribal confederation of nomads, nomadic peoples who, according to ancient Chinese historiography, Chinese sources, inhabited the eastern Eurasian Steppe from the 3rd century BC to the late 1st century AD. Modu Chanyu, ...
,
Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were a Proto-Mongols, Proto-Mongolic ancient nomadic people that once resided in the eastern Eurasian steppes in what is today Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Northeast China, Northeastern China. They originated from the Donghu ...
, Jie, Di and Qiang rulers. These non-Han peoples were ancestors of the Turks, , and
Tibetans The Tibetan people (; ) are an East Asian people, East Asian ethnic group indigenous peoples, native to Tibet. Their current population is estimated to be around 6.7 million. In addition to the majority living in Tibet Autonomous Region of Chin ...
. Many had, to some extent, been " sinicized" long before their ascent to power. In fact, some of them, notably the Qiang and the Xiongnu, had already been allowed to live in the frontier regions within the Great Wall since late Han times. During the period of the
Sixteen Kingdoms The Sixteen Kingdoms (), less commonly the Sixteen States, was a chaotic period in History of China, Chinese history from AD 304 to 439 when northern China fragmented into a series of short-lived Dynasties in Chinese history, dynastic states ...
, warfare ravaged the north and prompted large-scale Han Chinese migration south to the Yangtze River Basin and Delta.


Northern and Southern dynasties (AD 420–589)

In the early 5th century, China entered a period known as the Northern and Southern dynasties, in which parallel regimes ruled the northern and southern halves of the country. In the south, the Eastern Jin gave way to the
Liu Song Song, known as Liu Song (), Former Song (前宋) or Song of (the) Southern Dynasty (南朝宋) in historiography, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and the first of the four Northern and Southern dynasties#Southern ...
,
Southern Qi Qi, known in historiography as the Southern Qi ( or ) or Xiao Qi (), was a Chinese imperial dynasty and the second of the four Southern dynasties during the Northern and Southern dynasties era. It followed the Liu Song dynasty and was succe ...
, Liang and finally Chen. Each of these Southern dynasties were led by Han Chinese ruling families and used
Jiankang Jiankang (), or Jianye (), as it was originally called, was capital city of the Eastern Wu Wu (Chinese language, Chinese: 吳; pinyin: ''Wú''; Middle Chinese *''ŋuo'' < Eastern Han Chinese: ''*ŋuɑ''), known in historiography as Eastern ...
(modern Nanjing) as the capital. They held off attacks from the north and preserved many aspects of Chinese civilization, while northern barbarian regimes began to sinify.


Sixteen Kingdoms (304–439)

In the north, the last of the Sixteen Kingdoms was extinguished in 439 by the
Northern Wei Wei (), known in historiography as the Northern Wei (), Tuoba Wei (), Yuan Wei () and Later Wei (), was founded by the Tuoba (Tabgach) clan of the Xianbei. The first of the Northern and Southern dynasties#Northern dynasties, Northern dynasties ...
, a kingdom founded by the
Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were a Proto-Mongols, Proto-Mongolic ancient nomadic people that once resided in the eastern Eurasian steppes in what is today Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Northeast China, Northeastern China. They originated from the Donghu ...
, a nomadic people who unified northern China. The Northern Wei eventually split into the Eastern and
Western Wei Wei (), known in historiography as the Western Wei (), was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China that followed the disintegration of the Northern Wei. One of the Northern and Southern dynasties#Northern dynasties, Northern dyn ...
, which then became the
Northern Qi Qi, known as the Northern Qi (), Later Qi (後齊) or Gao Qi (高齊) in historiography, was a Dynasties in Chinese history, Chinese imperial dynasty and one of the Northern and Southern dynasties#Northern dynasties, Northern dynasties during the ...
and
Northern Zhou Zhou (), known in historiography as the Northern Zhou (), was a Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were a Proto-Mongols, Proto-Mongolic ancient nomadic people that once resided in the eastern Eurasian steppes in what is today Mongolia, Inner Mongol ...
. These regimes were dominated by Xianbei or Han Chinese who had married into Xianbei families. During this period most Xianbei people adopted Han surnames, eventually leading to complete assimilation into the Han. Despite the division of the country, Buddhism spread throughout the land. In southern China, fierce debates about whether
Buddhism Buddhism ( , ), also known as Buddha Dharma and Dharmavinaya (), is an Indian religions, Indian religion or Indian philosophy#Buddhist philosophy, philosophical tradition based on Pre-sectarian Buddhism, teachings attributed to the Buddha. ...
should be allowed were held frequently by the royal court and nobles. By the end of the era, Buddhists and
Taoist Taoism (, ) or Daoism () refers to either a school of Philosophy, philosophical thought (道家; ''daojia'') or to a religion (道教; ''daojiao''), both of which share ideas and concepts of China, Chinese origin and emphasize living in harmo ...
s had become much more tolerant of each other.


Mid-imperial China


Sui dynasty (581–618)

The short-lived Sui dynasty was a pivotal period in Chinese history. Founded by Emperor Wen in 581 in succession of the
Northern Zhou Zhou (), known in historiography as the Northern Zhou (), was a Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were a Proto-Mongols, Proto-Mongolic ancient nomadic people that once resided in the eastern Eurasian steppes in what is today Mongolia, Inner Mongol ...
, the Sui went on to conquer the Southern Chen in 589 to reunify China, ending three centuries of political division. The Sui pioneered many new institutions, including the government system of
Three Departments and Six Ministries The Three Departments and Six Ministries () system was the primary administrative structure in History of China#Imperial China, imperial China from the Sui dynasty (581–618) to the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). It was also used by Balhae (698– ...
,
imperial examination The imperial examination (; lit. "subject recommendation") refers to a civil service examination, civil-service examination system in History of China#Imperial China, Imperial China, administered for the purpose of selecting candidates for the ...
s for selecting officials from commoners, while improved on the systems of fubing system of the army conscription and the
Equal-field system The equal-field system () or land-equalization system was a system of land ownership and distribution in China used from the Northern Wei to the mid-Tang dynasty. By the Han dynasty, the well-field system of land distribution had fallen out of u ...
of land distributions. These policies, which were adopted by later dynasties, brought enormous population growth, and amassed excessive wealth to the state. Standardized coinage were enforced throughout the unified empire. Buddhism took root as a prominent religion and was supported officially. Sui China was known for its numerous mega-construction projects. Intended for grains shipment and transporting troops, the Grand Canal was constructed, linking the capitals Daxing (Chang'an) and
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River (Henan), Luo River and Yellow River in the west of Henan province. Governed as a prefecture-level city, it borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the ...
to the wealthy southeast region, and in another route, to the northeast border. The
Great Wall The Great Wall of China (, literally "ten thousand Li (unit), ''li'' wall") is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against Eurasian noma ...
was also expanded, while series of military conquests and diplomatic maneuvers further pacified its borders. However, the massive invasions of the
Korean Peninsula Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) comprising its northern half and Sout ...
during the
Goguryeo–Sui War The Goguryeo–Sui War were a series of invasions launched by the Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived imperial dynasty of China that lasted from 581 to 618. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties, thus endin ...
failed disastrously, triggering widespread revolts that led to the fall of the dynasty.


Tang dynasty (618–907)

The Tang dynasty was a golden age of Chinese civilization, a prosperous, stable, and creative period with significant developments in culture, art, literature, particularly
poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek '' poiesis'', "making"), also called verse, is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language − such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre The metre (Brit ...
, and technology.
Buddhism Buddhism ( , ), also known as Buddha Dharma and Dharmavinaya (), is an Indian religions, Indian religion or Indian philosophy#Buddhist philosophy, philosophical tradition based on Pre-sectarian Buddhism, teachings attributed to the Buddha. ...
became the predominant religion for the common people.
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) is the traditional name of Xi'an. The site had been settled since Neolithic times, during which the Yangshao culture was established in Banpo, in the city's suburbs. Furthermore, in the northern vicinity of modern Xi'an, Qin Shi ...
(modern
Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), frequently spelled as Xian and also known by #Name, other names, is the list of capitals in China, capital of Shaanxi, Shaanxi Province. A Sub-provincial division#Sub-provincial municipalities, sub-provincial city o ...
), the national capital, was the largest city in the world during its time. The first emperor, Emperor Gaozu, came to the throne on 18 June 618, placed there by his son, Li Shimin, who became the second emperor, Taizong, one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history. Combined military conquests and diplomatic maneuvers reduced threats from Central Asian tribes, extended the border, and brought neighboring states into a tributary system. Military victories in the
Tarim Basin The Tarim Basin is an endorheic basin in Northwest China occupying an area of about and one of the largest basins in Northwest China.Chen, Yaning, et al. "Regional climate change and its effects on river runoff in the Tarim Basin, China." Hyd ...
kept the Silk Road open, connecting Chang'an to Central Asia and areas far to the west. In the south, lucrative maritime trade routes from port cities such as
Guangzhou Guangzhou (, ; ; or ; ), also known as Canton () and alternatively romanized as Kwongchow or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of Guangdong province in southern China. Located on the Pearl River about north-northwest of Hong K ...
connected with distant countries, and foreign merchants settled in China, encouraging a cosmopolitan culture. The Tang culture and social systems were observed and adapted by neighboring countries, most notably
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, while extending from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north ...
. Internally the Grand Canal linked the political heartland in Chang'an to the agricultural and economic centers in the eastern and southern parts of the empire.
Xuanzang Xuanzang (, ; 602–664), born Chen Hui / Chen Yi (), also known as Hiuen Tsang, was a 7th-century Chinese Bhikkhu, Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and translator. He is known for the epoch-making contributions to Chinese Buddhism, the trave ...
, a Chinese
Buddhist monk {{Commons category, Buddhist monasticism Monasticism, * Buddhist asceticism Buddhist communities, * ...
, scholar, traveller, and translator who travelled to India on his own, and returned with, "over six hundred Mahayana and Hinayana texts, seven statues of the Buddha and more than a hundred sarira relics." The prosperity of the early Tang dynasty was abetted by a centralized bureaucracy. The government was organized as "
Three Departments and Six Ministries The Three Departments and Six Ministries () system was the primary administrative structure in History of China#Imperial China, imperial China from the Sui dynasty (581–618) to the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). It was also used by Balhae (698– ...
" to separately draft, review, and implement policies. These departments were run by royal family members and landed aristocrats, but as the dynasty wore on, were joined or replaced by scholar officials selected by
imperial examination The imperial examination (; lit. "subject recommendation") refers to a civil service examination, civil-service examination system in History of China#Imperial China, Imperial China, administered for the purpose of selecting candidates for the ...
s, setting patterns for later dynasties. Under the Tang "
equal-field system The equal-field system () or land-equalization system was a system of land ownership and distribution in China used from the Northern Wei to the mid-Tang dynasty. By the Han dynasty, the well-field system of land distribution had fallen out of u ...
" all land was owned by the Emperor and granted to each family according to household size. Men granted land were conscripted for military service for a fixed period each year, a military policy known as the " Fubing system". These policies stimulated a rapid growth in productivity and a significant army without much burden on the state treasury. By the dynasty's midpoint, however, standing armies had replaced conscription, and land was continuously falling into the hands of private owners and religious institutions granted exemptions. The dynasty continued to flourish under the rule of Empress
Wu Zetian Wu Zetian (17 February 624 – 16 December 705), personal name Wu Zhao, was the ''de facto'' ruler of the Tang dynasty from 665 to 705, ruling first through others and then (from 690) in her own right. From 665 to 690, she was first List of ...
, the only
empress regnant A queen regnant (plural: queens regnant) is a female monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Life tenure, for life or until abdication, and therefore the head ...
in Chinese history, and reached its zenith during the long reign of Emperor Xuanzong, who oversaw an empire that stretched from the
Pacific The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's five oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean (or, depending on definition, to Antarctica) in the south, and is bounded by the continen ...
to the
Aral Sea The Aral Sea ( ; kk, Арал теңізі, Aral teñızı; uz, Орол денгизи, Orol dengizi; kaa, Арал теңизи, Aral teńizi; russian: Аральское море, Aral'skoye more) was an endorheic basin, endorheic lake lyi ...
with at least 50 million people. There were vibrant artistic and cultural creations, including works of the greatest Chinese
poets A poet is a person who studies and creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be the creator (thought, thinker, songwriter, writer, or author) who creates (composes) poems (oral t ...
,
Li Bai Li Bai (, 701–762), also pronounced as Li Bo, courtesy name Taibai (), was a Chinese poet, acclaimed from his own time to the present as a brilliant and romantic figure who took traditional poetic forms to new heights. He and his friend Du Fu ...
and
Du Fu Du Fu (; 712–770) was a Tang dynasty poet and politician. Along with his elder contemporary and friend Li Bai (Li Po), he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets.Ebrey, 103. His greatest ambition was to serve his country ...
. At the zenith of prosperity of the empire, the
An Lushan Rebellion The An Lushan Rebellion was an uprising against the Tang dynasty of China towards the mid-point of the dynasty (from 755 to 763), with an attempt to replace it with the Yan (An–Shi), Yan dynasty. The rebellion was originally led by An Lushan, a ...
from 755 to 763 was a watershed event. War, disease, and economic disruption devastated the population and drastically weakened the central imperial government. Upon suppression of the rebellion, regional military governors, known as
Jiedushi The ''jiedushi'' (), or jiedu, was a title for regional military governors in China which was established in the Tang dynasty and abolished in the Yuan dynasty. The post of ''jiedushi'' has been translated as "military commissioner", " legat ...
, gained increasingly autonomous status. With loss of revenue from land tax, the central imperial government came to rely heavily on salt monopoly. Externally, former submissive states raided the empire and the vast border territories were lost for centuries. Nevertheless, civil society recovered and thrived amidst the weakened imperial bureaucracy. In late Tang period, the empire was worn out by recurring revolts of regional warlords, while internally, as scholar-officials engaged in fierce factional strife, corrupted
eunuchs A eunuch ( ) is a male who has been castration, castrated. Throughout history, castration often served a specific social function. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the Sumerian city of Lagash in the 2n ...
amassed immense power. Catastrophically, the
Huang Chao Rebellion Huang Chao (835 – July 13, 884) was a Chinese smuggler, soldier, and rebel, and is most well known for being the leader of a major rebellion that severely weakened the Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; zh, t= ), or Tang Empire, wa ...
, from 874 to 884, devastated the entire empire for a decade. The sack of the southern port
Guangzhou Guangzhou (, ; ; or ; ), also known as Canton () and alternatively romanized as Kwongchow or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of Guangdong province in southern China. Located on the Pearl River about north-northwest of Hong K ...
in 879 was followed by the
massacre A massacre is the killing of a large number of people or animals, especially those who are not involved in any fighting or have no way of defending themselves. A massacre is generally considered to be moral judgement, morally unacceptable, esp ...
of most of its inhabitants, especially the large foreign merchant enclaves. By 881, both capitals,
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River (Henan), Luo River and Yellow River in the west of Henan province. Governed as a prefecture-level city, it borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the ...
and
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) is the traditional name of Xi'an. The site had been settled since Neolithic times, during which the Yangshao culture was established in Banpo, in the city's suburbs. Furthermore, in the northern vicinity of modern Xi'an, Qin Shi ...
, fell successively. The reliance on ethnic Han and Turkic warlords in suppressing the rebellion increased their power and influence. Consequently, the fall of the dynasty following
Zhu Wen Emperor Taizu of Later Liang (), personal name Zhu Quanzhong () (December 5, 852 – July 18, 912), né Zhu Wen (), name later changed to Zhu Huang (), nickname Zhu San (朱三, literally, "the third Zhu"), was a Chinese military general, mona ...
's usurpation led to an era of division.


Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907–960)

The period of political disunity between the Tang and the Song, known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, lasted from 907 to 960. During this half-century, China was in all respects a multi-state system. Five regimes, namely, (Later) Liang, Tang, Jin, Han and Zhou, rapidly succeeded one another in control of the traditional Imperial heartland in northern China. Among the regimes, rulers of (Later) Tang, Jin and Han were sinicized Shatuo Turks, which ruled over the ethnic majority of Han Chinese. More stable and smaller regimes of mostly ethnic Han rulers coexisted in south and western China over the period, cumulatively constituted the "Ten Kingdoms". Amidst political chaos in the north, the strategic
Sixteen Prefectures The Sixteen Prefectures () comprise a historical region in northern China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous ...
(region along today's
Great Wall The Great Wall of China (, literally "ten thousand Li (unit), ''li'' wall") is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against Eurasian noma ...
) were ceded to the emerging Khitan Liao dynasty, which drastically weakened the defense of the
China proper China proper, Inner China, or the Eighteen Provinces is a term used by some Western writers in reference to the "core" regions of the Manchu people, Manchu-led Qing dynasty of China. This term is used to express a distinction between the "cor ...
against northern nomadic empires. To the south,
Vietnam Vietnam or Viet Nam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,., group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia, at the eastern edge of mainland Southeast Asia, with an area of and population of 96 million, making it ...
gained lasting independence after being a Chinese prefecture for many centuries. With wars dominated in Northern China, there were mass southward migrations of population, which further enhanced the southward shift of cultural and economic centers in China. The era ended with the coup of
Later Zhou Zhou, known as the Later Zhou (; ) in historiography, was a short-lived Dynasties in Chinese history, Chinese imperial dynasty and the last of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period#Five Dynasties, Five Dynasties that controlled most of nor ...
general
Zhao Kuangyin Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kuangyin, courtesy name Yuanlang, was the founder and first emperor of the Song dynasty of History of China, China. He reigned from 960 until his death in 976. Form ...
, and the establishment of the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou. ...
in 960, which eventually annihilated the remains of the "Ten Kingdoms" and reunified China.


Late imperial China


Song, Liao, Jin, and Western Xia dynasties (960–1279)

In 960, the Song dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu, with its capital established in
Kaifeng Kaifeng () is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, China. It is one of the Historical capitals of China, Eight Ancient Capitals of China, having been the capital eight times in history, and is best known for having been the Ch ...
(also known as Bianjing). In 979, the Song dynasty reunified most of the
China proper China proper, Inner China, or the Eighteen Provinces is a term used by some Western writers in reference to the "core" regions of the Manchu people, Manchu-led Qing dynasty of China. This term is used to express a distinction between the "cor ...
, while large swaths of the outer territories were occupied by sinicized
nomadic empire Nomadic empires, sometimes also called steppe empires, Central or Inner Asian empires, were the empires erected by the bow and arrow, bow-wielding, horse-riding, Eurasian nomads, nomadic people in the Eurasian Steppe, from classical antiquity (Scy ...
s. The Khitan Liao dynasty, which lasted from 907 to 1125, ruled over
Manchuria Manchuria is an exonym and endonym, exonym (derived from the endodemonym "Manchu") for a historical and geographic region in Northeast Asia encompassing the entirety of present-day Northeast China (Inner Manchuria) and parts of the Russian Fa ...
,
Mongolia Mongolia; Mongolian script: , , ; literal translation, lit. "Mongol Nation" or "State of Mongolia" () is a landlocked country in East Asia, bordered by Russia Mongolia–Russia border, to the north and China China–Mongolia border, to the s ...
, and parts of
Northern China Northern China () and Southern China () are two approximate regions within China. The exact boundary between these two regions is not precisely defined and only serve to depict where there appears to be regional differences between the climates ...
. Meanwhile, in what are now the north-western Chinese provinces of
Gansu Gansu (, ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Kansu) is a provinces of China, province in Northwest China. Its capital and largest city is Lanzhou, in the southeast part of the province. The seventh-largest administrative dis ...
,
Shaanxi Shaanxi (alternatively Shensi, see #Name, § Name) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of China. Officially part of Northwest China, it borders the province-level divisions of Shanxi (NE, E), Henan (E), Hubei (SE), Chongqing (S), Sichu ...
, and
Ningxia Ningxia (,; , ; alternately romanized as Ninghsia), officially the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (NHAR), is an autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivis ...
, the Tangut tribes founded the
Western Xia dynasty The Western Xia or the Xi Xia (), officially the Great Xia (), also known as the Tangut Empire, and known as ''Mi-nyak''Stein (1972), pp. 70–71. to the Tanguts and Tibetans, was a Tangut people, Tangut-led Chinese Buddhism, Buddhis ...
from 1032 to 1227. Aiming to recover the strategic
Sixteen Prefectures The Sixteen Prefectures () comprise a historical region in northern China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous ...
lost in the previous dynasty, campaigns were launched against the Liao dynasty in the early Song period, which all ended in failure. Then in 1004, the Liao
cavalry Historically, cavalry (from the French word ''cavalerie'', itself derived from "cheval" meaning "horse") are soldiers or warriors who fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry were the most mobile of the combat arms, operating as light cavalr ...
swept over the exposed
North China Plain The North China Plain or Huang-Huai-Hai Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene and Neogene and then modified by the deposits of the Yellow River. It is the largest alluvial plain of China. The plain is border ...
and reached the outskirts of
Kaifeng Kaifeng () is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, China. It is one of the Historical capitals of China, Eight Ancient Capitals of China, having been the capital eight times in history, and is best known for having been the Ch ...
, forcing the Song's submission and then agreement to the
Chanyuan Treaty The Chanyuan Treaty () was signed between the Northern Song (960–1127), Northern Song dynasty and the Liao dynasty in 1005, and marked a pivotal point in Chinese history and in the relations between the two dynasties. The treaty laid the foundat ...
, which imposed heavy annual tributes from the Song treasury. The treaty was a significant reversal of Chinese dominance of the traditional tributary system. Yet the annual outflow of Song's silver to the Liao was paid back through the purchase of Chinese goods and products, which expanded the Song economy, and replenished its treasury. This dampened the incentive for the Song to further campaign against the Liao. Meanwhile, this cross-border trade and contact induced further
sinicization Sinicization, sinofication, sinification, or sinonization (from the prefix , 'Chinese, relating to China') is the process by which non-Chinese societies come under the influence of Chinese culture, particularly the language, societal norms, cul ...
within the Liao Empire, at the expense of its military might which was derived from its primitive nomadic lifestyle. Similar treaties and social-economical consequences occurred in Song's relations with the Jin dynasty. Within the Liao Empire, the Jurchen tribes revolted against their overlords to establish the Jin dynasty in 1115. In 1125, the devastating Jin
cataphract A cataphract was a form of Body armor, armored heavy cavalryman that originated in Sasanian Empire, Persia and was fielded in ancient warfare throughout Eurasia and Northern Africa. The English word derives from the Greek language, Greek ' (pl ...
annihilated the Liao dynasty, while remnants of Liao court members fled to Central Asia to found the Qara Khitai Empire (Western Liao dynasty). Jin's invasion of the Song dynasty followed swiftly. In 1127,
Kaifeng Kaifeng () is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, China. It is one of the Historical capitals of China, Eight Ancient Capitals of China, having been the capital eight times in history, and is best known for having been the Ch ...
was sacked, a massive catastrophe known as the Jingkang Incident, ending the
Northern Song dynasty Northern may refer to the following: Geography * North, a point in direction * Northern Europe, the northern part or region of Europe * Northern Highland, a region of Wisconsin, United States * Northern Province, Sri Lanka * Northern Range, a ra ...
. Later the entire north of China was conquered. The survived members of Song court regrouped in the new capital city of
Hangzhou Hangzhou ( or , ; , , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ), also Chinese postal romanization, romanized as Hangchow, is the capital and most populous city of Zhejiang, China. It is located in the northwestern part of the prov ...
, and initiated the
Southern Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou. The Song conquered the res ...
, which ruled territories south of the
Huai River The Huai River (), Postal Map Romanization, formerly romanization of Chinese, romanized as the Hwai, is a major river in China. It is located about midway between the Yellow River and Yangtze, the two longest rivers and largest drainage basins ...
. In the ensuing years, the territory and population of China were divided between the Song dynasty, the Jin dynasty and the Western Xia dynasty. The era ended with the Mongol conquest, as
Western Xia The Western Xia or the Xi Xia (), officially the Great Xia (), also known as the Tangut Empire, and known as ''Mi-nyak''Stein (1972), pp. 70–71. to the Tanguts and Tibetans, was a Tangut people, Tangut-led Chinese Buddhism, Buddhis ...
fell in 1227, the Jin dynasty in 1234, and finally the
Southern Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou. The Song conquered the res ...
in 1279. Despite its military weakness, the Song dynasty is widely considered to be the high point of classical Chinese civilization. The Song economy, facilitated by technology advancement, had reached a level of sophistication probably unseen in world history before its time. The population soared to over 100 million and the living standards of common people improved tremendously due to improvements in rice cultivation and the wide availability of coal for production. The capital cities of
Kaifeng Kaifeng () is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, China. It is one of the Historical capitals of China, Eight Ancient Capitals of China, having been the capital eight times in history, and is best known for having been the Ch ...
and subsequently
Hangzhou Hangzhou ( or , ; , , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ), also Chinese postal romanization, romanized as Hangchow, is the capital and most populous city of Zhejiang, China. It is located in the northwestern part of the prov ...
were both the most populous cities in the world for their time, and encouraged vibrant civil societies unmatched by previous Chinese dynasties. Although land trading routes to the far west were blocked by nomadic empires, there were extensive
maritime trade Maritime may refer to: Geography * Maritime Alps, a mountain range in the southwestern part of the Alps * Maritime Region, a region in Togo * Maritime Southeast Asia * The Maritimes, the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Princ ...
with neighboring states, which facilitated the use of Song coinage as the de facto currency of exchange. Giant wooden vessels equipped with
compass A compass is a device that shows the cardinal directions used for navigation and geographic orientation. It commonly consists of a magnetized needle or other element, such as a compass card or compass rose, which can pivot to align itself with ...
es traveled throughout the China Seas and northern
Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's five oceanic divisions, covering or ~19.8% of the water on Earth's surface. It is bounded by Asia to the north, Africa to the west and Australia (continent), Australia to the east. To the so ...
. The concept of
insurance Insurance is a means of protection from financial loss in which, in exchange for a fee, a party agrees to compensate another party in the event of a certain loss, damage, or injury. It is a form of risk management, primarily used to Hedge ( ...
was practised by merchants to hedge the risks of such long-haul maritime
shipment Freight transport, also referred as ''Freight Forwarding'', is the physical process of transporting Commodity, commodities and merchandise goods and cargo. The term shipping originally referred to transport by sea but in American English, it h ...
s. With prosperous economic activities, the historically first use of paper currency emerged in the western city of
Chengdu Chengdu (, ; Simplified Chinese characters, simplified Chinese: 成都; pinyin: ''Chéngdū''; Sichuanese dialects, Sichuanese pronunciation: , Standard Chinese pronunciation: ), Chinese postal romanization, alternatively Romanization of Chi ...
, as a supplement to the existing copper
coin A coin is a small, flat (usually depending on the country or value), round piece of metal A metal (from ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or ...
s. The Song dynasty was considered to be the golden age of great advancements in science and technology of China, thanks to innovative scholar-officials such as
Su Song Su Song (, 1020–1101), courtesy name Zirong (), was a Chinese polymathic scientist and statesman. Excelling in a variety of fields, he was accomplished in mathematics, Chinese astronomy, astronomy, History of cartography#China, cartography, ...
(1020–1101) and
Shen Kuo Shen Kuo (; 1031–1095) or Shen Gua, courtesy name Cunzhong (存中) and Art name#China, pseudonym Mengqi (now usually given as Mengxi) Weng (夢溪翁),Yao (2003), 544. was a Chinese polymathic scientist and statesman of the Song dynasty (960 ...
(1031–1095). Inventions such as the hydro-mechanical astronomical clock, the first continuous and endless power-transmitting chain,
woodblock printing Woodblock printing or block printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and originating in China in antiquity as a method of textile printing, printing on textiles and later paper. Each page o ...
and
paper money A banknote—also called a bill ( North American English), paper money, or simply a note—is a type of negotiable promissory note, made by a bank A bank is a financial institution that accepts deposits from the public and creates ...
were all invented during the Song dynasty. There was court intrigue between the political reformers and conservatives, led by the chancellors
Wang Anshi Wang Anshi ; ; December 8, 1021 – May 21, 1086), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultu ...
and
Sima Guang Sima Guang (17 November 1019 – 11 October 1086), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cult ...
, respectively. By the mid-to-late 13th century, the Chinese had adopted the dogma of
Neo-Confucian Neo-Confucianism (, often shortened to ''lǐxué'' 理學, literally "School of Principle") is a Morality, moral, Ethics, ethical, and metaphysics, metaphysical Chinese philosophy influenced by Confucianism, and originated with Han Yu (768–8 ...
philosophy formulated by
Zhu Xi Zhu Xi (; ; October 18, 1130 – April 23, 1200), formerly romanized Chu Hsi, was a Chinese calligrapher, historian, philosopher, poet, and politician during the Song dynasty. Zhu was influential in the development of Neo-Confucianism. He con ...
. Enormous literary works were compiled during the Song dynasty, such as the historical work, the ''
Zizhi Tongjian ''Zizhi Tongjian'' () is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Northern Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle recording Chinese history from 403 BC to 959 AD, covering 16 dyna ...
'' ("Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government"). The invention of movable-type printing further facilitated the spread of knowledge. Culture and the arts flourished, with grandiose artworks such as ''
Along the River During the Qingming Festival ''Along the River During the Qingming Festival'' (''Qingming Shanghe Tu'') is a handscroll painting Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface (called the "matrix" or "support"). The m ...
'' and ''
Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute () are a series of Chinese songs and poems about the life of Han Dynasty The Han dynasty (, ; ) was an imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 9 AD, 25–220 AD), established by Emperor Gaozu of Han, Liu Ban ...
'', along with great Buddhist painters such as the prolific
Lin Tinggui Lin Tinggui (; fl. circa 1174–1189) (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest P ...
. The Song dynasty was also a period of major innovation in the
history of warfare Military history is the study of armed conflict War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or paramilitary groups such as Mercenary, mercenaries, Insurgency, insurgents, and militia ...
.
Gunpowder Gunpowder, also commonly known as black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical explosive. It consists of a mixture of sulfur, carbon (in the form of charcoal) and potassium nitrate (saltpeter). Th ...
, while invented in the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; zh, t= ), or Tang Empire, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907 AD, with an Zhou dynasty (690–705), interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dyn ...
, was first put into use in battlefields by the Song army, inspiring a succession of new
firearm A firearm is any type of gun designed to be readily carried and used by an individual. The term is legally defined further in different countries (see #Legal_definitions, Legal definitions). The first firearms originated in 10th-century History ...
s and
siege engine A siege engine is a machine, device that is designed to break or circumvent heavy castle doors, thick city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare. Some are immobile, constructed in place to attack enemy fortifications from a distance, whi ...
s designs. During the
Southern Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou. The Song conquered the res ...
, as its survival hinged decisively on guarding the Yangtze and
Huai River The Huai River (), Postal Map Romanization, formerly romanization of Chinese, romanized as the Hwai, is a major river in China. It is located about midway between the Yellow River and Yangtze, the two longest rivers and largest drainage basins ...
against the cavalry forces from the north, the first standing navy in China was assembled in 1132, with its
admiral Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navies. In the Commonwealth nations and the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental ...
's headquarters established at Dinghai. Paddle-wheel warships equipped with
trebuchet A trebuchet (french: trébuchet) is a type of catapult that uses a long arm to throw a projectile. It was a common powerful siege engine until the advent of gunpowder. The design of a trebuchet allows it to launch projectiles of greater weight ...
s could launch
incendiary bombs Incendiary weapons, incendiary devices, incendiary munitions, or incendiary bombs are weapons designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using fire (and sometimes used as anti-personnel weaponry), that use materials such as napalm, th ...
made of gunpowder and lime, as recorded in Song's victory over the invading Jin forces at the
Battle of Tangdao The Battle of Tangdao (唐岛之战) was a naval engagement that took place in 1161 between the Jurchen Jin and the Southern Song Dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted unt ...
in the
East China Sea The East China Sea is an arm of the Western Pacific Ocean, located directly offshore from East China. It covers an area of roughly . The sea’s northern extension between mainland China and the Korean Peninsula is the Yellow Sea, separated b ...
, and the Battle of Caishi on the Yangtze River in 1161. The advances in civilization during the Song dynasty came to an abrupt end following the devastating Mongol conquest, during which the population sharply dwindled, with a marked contraction in economy. Despite viciously halting Mongol advance for more than three decades, the Southern Song capital
Hangzhou Hangzhou ( or , ; , , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ), also Chinese postal romanization, romanized as Hangchow, is the capital and most populous city of Zhejiang, China. It is located in the northwestern part of the prov ...
fell in 1276, followed by the final annihilation of the Song standing navy at the
Battle of Yamen The naval battle, naval Battle of Yamen () (also known as the Naval Battle of Mount Ya; ) took place on 19 March 1279 and is considered to be the last stand of the Song dynasty against the invading Mongols, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. Although out ...
in 1279.


Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)

The
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a Mongols, Mongol-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and a successor state to the Mongol Empire after Division of the M ...
was formally proclaimed in 1271, when the Great Khan of Mongol,
Kublai Khan Kublai ; Mongolian script: ; (23 September 1215 – 18 February 1294), also known by his temple name as the Emperor Shizu of Yuan and his regnal name Setsen Khan, was the founder of the Yuan dynasty of China and the fifth khagan-Emperor of Chi ...
, one of the grandsons of
Genghis Khan ''Chinggis Khaan'' ͡ʃʰiŋɡɪs xaːŋbr /> Mongol script: ''Chinggis Qa(gh)an/ Chinggis Khagan'' , birth_name = Temüjin , successor = Tolui (as regent) Ögedei Khan , spouse = , issue = , house = Borjigi ...
, assumed the additional title of
Emperor of China ''Huangdi'' (), translated into English as Emperor, was the superlative title held by Chinese sovereign, monarchs of China who ruled various History of China#Imperial China, imperial regimes in Chinese history. In traditional Chinese political th ...
, and considered his inherited part of the Mongol Empire as a
Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From the legendary inauguration of dynastic rule by Yu the Great circa 2070 BC to the abdication of t ...
. In the preceding decades, the Mongols had conquered the Jin dynasty in Northern China, and the
Southern Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou. The Song conquered the res ...
fell in 1279 after a protracted and bloody war. The
Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , , ; ; russian: Монголы) are an East Asian ethnic group native to Mongolia, Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is an Autonomous regions of Chin ...
Yuan dynasty became the first
conquest dynasty A conquest dynasty () in the history of China refers to a Dynasties in Chinese history, Chinese dynasty established by non-Han Chinese, Han ethnicities that ruled parts or all of China proper, the traditional heartland of the Han people, and whos ...
in Chinese history to rule the entire
China proper China proper, Inner China, or the Eighteen Provinces is a term used by some Western writers in reference to the "core" regions of the Manchu people, Manchu-led Qing dynasty of China. This term is used to express a distinction between the "cor ...
and its population as an
ethnic minority The term 'minority group' has different usages depending on the context. According to its common usage, a minority group can simply be understood in terms of demographic sizes within a population: i.e. a group in society with the least number o ...
. The dynasty also directly controlled the
Mongolia Mongolia; Mongolian script: , , ; literal translation, lit. "Mongol Nation" or "State of Mongolia" () is a landlocked country in East Asia, bordered by Russia Mongolia–Russia border, to the north and China China–Mongolia border, to the s ...
n heartland and other regions, inheriting the largest share of territory of the divided Mongol Empire, which roughly coincided with the modern area of China and nearby regions in
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia, which is defined in both Geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The modern State (polity), states of East Asia include China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. ...
. Further expansion of the empire was halted after defeats in the invasions of Japan and
Vietnam Vietnam or Viet Nam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,., group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia, at the eastern edge of mainland Southeast Asia, with an area of and population of 96 million, making it ...
. Following the previous Jin dynasty, the capital of Yuan dynasty was established at
Khanbaliq Khanbaliq or Dadu of Yuan () was the Historical capitals of China, winter capital of the Yuan dynasty of China in what is now Beijing, also the capital of the China, People's Republic of China today. It was located at the center of modern Beiji ...
(also known as Dadu, modern-day
Beijing } Beijing ( ; ; ), alternatively romanized as Peking ( ), is the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is the center of power and development of the country. Beijing is the world's most populous national capital city, with over 21 ...

Beijing
). The Grand Canal was reconstructed to connect the remote capital city to economic hubs in southern part of China, setting the precedence and foundation where Beijing would largely remain as the
capital Capital may refer to: Common uses * Capital city, a municipality of primary status ** List of national capitals, List of national capital cities * Capital letter, an upper-case letter Economics and social sciences * Capital (economics), the dura ...
of the successive regimes that unified China mainland. After the peace treaty in 1304 that ended a series of Mongol civil wars, the emperors of the Yuan dynasty were upheld as the nominal
Great Khan Khagan or Qaghan (Mongolian:; or ''Khagan''; otk, 𐰴𐰍𐰣 ), or , tr, Kağan or ; ug, قاغان, Qaghan, Mongolian Script: ; or ; fa, خاقان ''Khāqān'', alternatively spelled Kağan, Kagan, Khaghan, Kaghan, Khakan, Khakhan ...
(
Khagan Khagan or Qaghan (Mongolian:; or ''Khagan''; otk, 𐰴𐰍𐰣 ), or , tr, Kağan or ; ug, قاغان, Qaghan, Mongolian Script The classical or traditional Mongolian script, also known as the , was the first Mongolian alphabet, wr ...
) of the greater Mongol Empire over other Mongol Khanates, which nonetheless remained de facto autonomous. The era was known as ''
Pax Mongolica The ''Pax Mongolica'' (Latin language, Latin for "Mongols, Mongol Peace"), less often known as ''Pax Tatarica'' ("Tartary, Tatar Peace"), is a Historiography, historiographical term modelled after the original phrase ''Pax Romana'' which describe ...
'', when much of the Asian continent was ruled by the Mongols. For the first and only time in history, the
silk road The Silk Road () was a network of Eurasia Eurasia (, ) is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, it spans from the British Isles a ...
was controlled entirely by a single state, facilitating the flow of people, trade, and cultural exchange. Network of roads and a
postal system The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcards, letter (message), letters, and parcel (package), parcels. A postal service can be private or public, though many governments place restrictions on private systems. Since the mid ...
were established to connect the vast empire. Lucrative maritime trade, developed from the previous Song dynasty, continued to flourish, with
Quanzhou Quanzhou, postal map romanization, alternatively known as Chinchew, is a prefecture-level city, prefecture-level port city on the north bank of the Jin River, beside the Taiwan Strait in southern Fujian, China. It is Fujian's largest metrop ...
and
Hangzhou Hangzhou ( or , ; , , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ), also Chinese postal romanization, romanized as Hangchow, is the capital and most populous city of Zhejiang, China. It is located in the northwestern part of the prov ...
emerging as the largest ports in the world. Adventurous travelers from the far west, most notably the Venetian,
Marco Polo Marco Polo (, , ; 8 January 1324) was a Republic of Venice, Venetian merchant, explorer and writer who travelled through Asia along the Silk Road between 1271 and 1295. His travels are recorded in ''The Travels of Marco Polo'' (also known as ...
, would have settled in China for decades. Upon his return, his detail travel record inspired generations of medieval Europeans with the splendors of the far East. The Yuan dynasty was the first ancient economy, where paper currency, known at the time as Jiaochao, was used as the predominant medium of exchange. Its unrestricted issuance in the late Yuan dynasty inflicted
hyperinflation In economics, hyperinflation is a very high and typically accelerating inflation. It quickly erodes the real versus nominal value (economics), real value of the local currency, as the prices of all goods increase. This causes people to minimiz ...
, which eventually brought the downfall of the dynasty. While the Mongol rulers of the Yuan dynasty adopted substantially to Chinese culture, their
sinicization Sinicization, sinofication, sinification, or sinonization (from the prefix , 'Chinese, relating to China') is the process by which non-Chinese societies come under the influence of Chinese culture, particularly the language, societal norms, cul ...
was of lesser extent compared to earlier conquest dynasties in Chinese history. For preserving racial superiority as the conqueror and ruling class, traditional nomadic customs and heritage from the
Mongolian steppe Mongolian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Mongolia Mongolia; Mongolian script: , , ; literal translation, lit. "Mongol Nation" or "State of Mongolia" () is a landlocked country in East Asia, bordered by Russia Mongolia– ...
were held in high regard. On the other hand, the Mongol rulers also adopted flexibly to a variety of cultures from many advanced civilizations within the vast empire. Traditional social structure and culture in China underwent immense transform during the Mongol dominance. Large group of foreign migrants settled in China, who enjoyed elevated social status over the majority Han Chinese, while enriching Chinese culture with foreign elements. The class of scholar officials and intellectuals, traditional bearers of elite Chinese culture, lost substantial social status. This stimulated the development of culture of the common folks. There were prolific works in zaju variety shows and literary songs (
sanqu ''Sanqu'' () is a fixed-rhythm form of Classical Chinese poetry Classical Chinese poetry is traditional Chinese poetry written in Classical Chinese and typified by certain Classical Chinese poetry forms, traditional forms, or modes; Classical C ...
), which were written in a distinctive poetry style known as qu.
Novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. The present English word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself ...
s of vernacular style gained unprecedented status and popularity. Before the Mongol invasion, Chinese dynasties reported approximately 120 million inhabitants; after the conquest had been completed in 1279, the 1300 census reported roughly 60 million people. This major decline is not necessarily due only to Mongol killings. Scholars such as Frederick W. Mote argue that the wide drop in numbers reflects an administrative failure to record rather than an actual decrease; others such as
Timothy Brook Timothy James Brook ( Chinese name: 卜正民; born January 6, 1951) is a Canadian historian A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, met ...
argue that the Mongols created a system of enserfment among a huge portion of the Chinese populace, causing many to disappear from the census altogether; other historians including William McNeill and David Morgan consider that plague was the main factor behind the demographic decline during this period. In the 14th century China suffered additional depredations from epidemics of plague, estimated to have killed 25 million people, 30% of the population of China. Throughout the Yuan dynasty, there was some general sentiment among the populace against the Mongol dominance. Yet rather than the nationalist cause, it was mainly strings of natural disasters and incompetent governance that triggered widespread peasant uprisings since the 1340s. After the massive naval engagement at Lake Poyang,
Zhu Yuanzhang The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328 – 24 June 1398), personal name Zhu Yuanzhang (), courtesy name Guorui (), was the List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, founding emperor of the Ming dynasty of China, reigning from 1368 to 1398. As fa ...
prevailed over other rebel forces in the south. He proclaimed himself
emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife (empress consort), ...
and founded the
Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China, ruling from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last ort ...
in 1368. The same year his northern expedition army captured the capital
Khanbaliq Khanbaliq or Dadu of Yuan () was the Historical capitals of China, winter capital of the Yuan dynasty of China in what is now Beijing, also the capital of the China, People's Republic of China today. It was located at the center of modern Beiji ...
. The Yuan remnants fled back to Mongolia and sustained the regime. Other Mongol Khanates in
Central Asia Central Asia, also known as Middle Asia, is a region of Asia Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notable geographical regions, which is either considered a continent in its own right or a subcontinent of Eurasia, which shares the c ...
continued to exist after the fall of
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a Mongols, Mongol-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and a successor state to the Mongol Empire after Division of the M ...
in China.


Ming dynasty (1368–1644)

The Ming dynasty was founded by
Zhu Yuanzhang The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328 – 24 June 1398), personal name Zhu Yuanzhang (), courtesy name Guorui (), was the List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, founding emperor of the Ming dynasty of China, reigning from 1368 to 1398. As fa ...
in 1368, who proclaimed himself as the
Hongwu Emperor The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328 – 24 June 1398), personal name Zhu Yuanzhang (), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practi ...
. The capital was initially set at
Nanjing Nanjing (; , Mandarin pronunciation: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is a sub-provincial city, a megacity, and t ...
, and was later moved to Beijing from
Yongle Emperor The Yongle Emperor (; pronounced ; 2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424), personal name Zhu Di (), was the third List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1402 to 1424. Zhu Di was the fourth son of the Hongwu ...
's reign onward. Urbanization increased as the population grew and as the division of labor grew more complex. Large urban centers, such as Nanjing and Beijing, also contributed to the growth of private industry. In particular, small-scale industries grew up, often specializing in paper, silk, cotton, and porcelain goods. For the most part, however, relatively small urban centers with markets proliferated around the country. Town markets mainly traded food, with some necessary manufactures such as pins or oil. Despite the
xenophobia Xenophobia () is the fear or dislike of anything which is perceived as being foreign or strange. It is an expression of perceived conflict between an in-group and out-group and may manifest in suspicion by the one of the other's activities, a ...
and intellectual introspection characteristic of the increasingly popular new school of
neo-Confucianism Neo-Confucianism (, often shortened to ''lǐxué'' 理學, literally "School of Principle") is a moral, ethical, and metaphysical Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of reality, the first principles ...
, China under the early Ming dynasty was not isolated. Foreign trade and other contacts with the outside world, particularly Japan, increased considerably. Chinese merchants explored all of the Indian Ocean, reaching East Africa with the voyages of Zheng He. The
Hongwu Emperor The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328 – 24 June 1398), personal name Zhu Yuanzhang (), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practi ...
, being the only founder of a
Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From the legendary inauguration of dynastic rule by Yu the Great circa 2070 BC to the abdication of t ...
who was also of peasant origin, had laid the foundation of a state that relied fundamentally in agriculture. Commerce and trade, which flourished in the previous
Song A song is a musical composition intended to be performed by the human voice. This is often done at melody, distinct and fixed pitches (melodies) using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various song form, forms, such as those includ ...
and Yuan dynasties, were less emphasized. Neo-feudal landholdings of the Song and Mongol periods were expropriated by the Ming rulers. Land estates were confiscated by the government, fragmented, and rented out. Private slavery was forbidden. Consequently, after the death of the Yongle Emperor, independent peasant landholders predominated in Chinese agriculture. These laws might have paved the way to removing the worst of the poverty during the previous regimes. Towards later era of the
Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China, ruling from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last ort ...
, with declining government control, commerce, trade and private industries revived. The dynasty had a strong and complex central government that unified and controlled the empire. The emperor's role became more autocratic, although
Hongwu Emperor The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328 – 24 June 1398), personal name Zhu Yuanzhang (), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practi ...
necessarily continued to use what he called the " Grand Secretariat" to assist with the immense paperwork of the bureaucracy, including
memorials A memorial is an object or place which serves as a focus for the memory or the commemoration of something, usually an influential, deceased person or a historical, Tragedy (event), tragic event. Popular forms of memorials include landmark objec ...
(petitions and recommendations to the throne), imperial edicts in reply, reports of various kinds, and tax records. It was this same bureaucracy that later prevented the Ming government from being able to adapt to changes in society, and eventually led to its decline. The Yongle Emperor strenuously tried to extend China's influence beyond its borders by demanding other rulers send ambassadors to China to present tribute. A large navy was built, including four-masted ships displacing 1,500 tons. A standing army of 1 million troops was created. The Chinese armies conquered and occupied Vietnam for around 20 years, while the Chinese fleet sailed the China seas and the Indian Ocean, cruising as far as the east coast of Africa. The Chinese gained influence in eastern
Moghulistan Moghulistan (from fa, , ''Moghulestân'', mn, Моголистан), also called the Moghul Khanate or the Eastern Chagatai Khanate (), was a Mongol breakaway khanate of the Chagatai Khanate and a historical geographic area north of the Tian ...
. Several maritime Asian nations sent envoys with tribute for the Chinese emperor. Domestically, the Grand Canal was expanded and became a stimulus to domestic trade. Over 100,000 tons of iron per year were produced. Many books were printed using movable type. The imperial palace in Beijing's
Forbidden City The Forbidden City () is a palace complex in Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, at the center of the Imperial City of Beijing. It is surrounded by numerous opulent imperial gardens and temples including the Zhongshan Park, the sacrific ...
reached its current splendor. It was also during these centuries that the potential of south China came to be fully exploited. New crops were widely cultivated and industries such as those producing porcelain and textiles flourished. In 1449 Esen Tayisi led an Oirat Mongol invasion of northern China which culminated in the capture of the
Zhengtong Emperor Emperor Yingzong of Ming (; 29 November 1427 – 23 February 1464), personal name Zhu Qizhen (), was the sixth and eighth Emperor of the Ming dynasty. He ascended the throne as the Zhengtong Emperor () in 1435, but was forced to abdicate i ...
at Tumu. Since then, the Ming became on the defensive on the northern frontier, which led to the
Ming Great Wall The Ming Great Wall ( zh, c=明長城, p=Ming changcheng), built by the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), forms the most visible parts of the Great Wall of China today. A comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has concluded ...
being built. Most of what remains of the Great Wall of China today was either built or repaired by the Ming. The brick and granite work was enlarged, the watchtowers were redesigned, and cannons were placed along its length. At sea, the Ming became increasingly isolationist after the death of the Yongle Emperor. The treasure voyages which sailed Indian Ocean were discontinued, and the maritime prohibition laws were set in place banning the Chinese from sailing abroad. European traders who reached China in the midst of the
Age of Discovery The Age of Discovery (or the Age of Exploration), also known as the early modern period, was a period largely overlapping with the Age of Sail, approximately from the 15th century to the 17th century in European history, during which seafar ...
were repeatedly rebuked in their requests for trade, with the Portuguese being repulsed by the Ming navy at
Tuen Mun Tuen Mun or Castle Peak is an List of buildings, sites and areas in Hong Kong, area near the mouth of Tuen Mun River and Castle Peak Bay in the New Territories, Hong Kong. It was one of the earliest settlements in what is now Hong Kong and can ...
in 1521 and again in 1522. Domestic and foreign demands for overseas trade, deemed illegal by the state, led to widespread ''
wokou ''Wokou'' (; Japanese language, Japanese: ''Wakō''; Korean language, Korean: 왜구 ''Waegu''), which literally translates to "Japanese pirates" or "dwarf pirates", were pirates who raided the coastlines of China and Korea from the 13th centur ...
'' piracy attacking the southeastern coastline during the rule of the
Jiajing Emperor The Jiajing Emperor (; 16September 150723January 1567) was the 12th List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1521 to 1567. Born Zhu Houcong, he was the former Zhengde Emperor's cousin. His father, Zhu You ...
(1507–1567), which only subsided after the opening of ports in
Guangdong Guangdong (, ), alternatively romanized as Canton or Kwangtung, is a coastal province in South China on the north shore of the South China Sea. The capital of the province is Guangzhou. With a population of 126.01 million (as of 202 ...
and
Fujian Fujian (; postal romanization, alternately romanized as Fukien or Hokkien) is a provinces of China, province on the southeastern coast of China. Fujian is bordered by Zhejiang to the north, Jiangxi to the west, Guangdong to the south, and ...
and much military suppression. The Portuguese were allowed to settle in
Macau Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), is a city and special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China in the western Pearl River D ...
in 1557 for trade, which remained in Portuguese hands until 1999. The Dutch entry into the Chinese seas was also met with fierce resistance, with the Dutch being chased off the
Penghu islands The Penghu (, Hokkien Pe̍h-ōe-jī, POJ: ''Phîⁿ-ô͘''  or ''Phêⁿ-ô͘'' ) or Pescadores Islands are an archipelago of 90 islands and islets in the Taiwan Strait, located approximately west from the main island of Taiwan, cov ...
in the Sino-Dutch conflicts of 1622–1624 and were forced to settle in Taiwan instead. The Dutch in Taiwan fought with the Ming in the Battle of Liaoluo Bay in 1633 and lost, and eventually surrendered to the Ming loyalist
Koxinga Zheng Chenggong, Prince of Yanping (; 27 August 1624 – 23 June 1662), better known internationally as Koxinga (), was a Southern Ming, Ming loyalist general who resisted the Qing conquest of China in the 17th century, fighting them on China's ...
in 1662, after the fall of the Ming dynasty. In 1556, during the rule of the
Jiajing Emperor The Jiajing Emperor (; 16September 150723January 1567) was the 12th List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1521 to 1567. Born Zhu Houcong, he was the former Zhengde Emperor's cousin. His father, Zhu You ...
, the Shaanxi earthquake killed about 830,000 people, the deadliest earthquake of all time. The Ming dynasty intervened deeply in the
Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan, an island country in East Asia * Japanese language, spoken mainly in Japan * Japanese people, the ethnic group that identifies with Japan through ancestry or culture ** Japanese diaspor ...
, which ended with the withdrawal of all invading Japanese forces in
Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) comprising its northern half and Sout ...
, and the restoration of the
Joseon dynasty Joseon (; ; Middle Korean: 됴ᇢ〯션〮 Dyǒw syéon or 됴ᇢ〯션〯 Dyǒw syěon), officially the Great Joseon (; ), was the last dynastic kingdom of Korea, lasting just over 500 years. It was founded by Taejo of Joseon, Yi Seong-gye in ...
, its traditional ally and
tributary state A tributary state is a term for a pre-modern state (polity), state in a particular type of subordinate relationship to a more powerful state which involved the sending of a regular token of submission, or tribute, to the superior power (the suz ...
. The
regional hegemony In international relations, regional hegemony is the hegemony (political, economic, or military predominance, control or influence) of one independently powerful state, known as the regional hegemon over other neighboring countries. The relationsh ...
of the Ming dynasty was preserved at a toll on its resources. Coincidentally, with Ming's control in
Manchuria Manchuria is an exonym and endonym, exonym (derived from the endodemonym "Manchu") for a historical and geographic region in Northeast Asia encompassing the entirety of present-day Northeast China (Inner Manchuria) and parts of the Russian Fa ...
in decline, the
Manchu The Manchus (; ) are a Tungusic East Asian ethnic group An ethnic group or an ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other g ...
( Jurchen) tribes, under their chieftain
Nurhaci Nurhaci (14 May 1559 – 30 September 1626), also known by his temple name as the Emperor Taizu of Qing (), was a Jurchen people, Jurchen chieftain who rose to prominence in the late 16th century in Manchuria. A member of the House of Aisin-Gio ...
, broke away from Ming's rule, and emerged as a powerful, unified state, which was later proclaimed as the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty ( ), officially the Great Qing,, was a Manchu people, Manchu-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and the last orthodox dynasty in Chinese history. It emerged from the Later Jin (1616–1636), La ...
. It went on to subdue the much weakened
Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) comprising its northern half and Sout ...
as its
tributary A tributary, or affluent, is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tributaries and the main stem river drain the surrounding drainage b ...
, conquered
Mongolia Mongolia; Mongolian script: , , ; literal translation, lit. "Mongol Nation" or "State of Mongolia" () is a landlocked country in East Asia, bordered by Russia Mongolia–Russia border, to the north and China China–Mongolia border, to the s ...
, and expanded its territory to the outskirt of the
Great Wall The Great Wall of China (, literally "ten thousand Li (unit), ''li'' wall") is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against Eurasian noma ...
. The most elite army of the Ming dynasty was to station at the
Shanhai Pass Shanhai Pass or Shanhaiguan () is one of the major mountain pass, passes in the Great Wall of China, being the easternmost stronghold along the Ming Great Wall, and commands the narrowest choke point in the Liaoxi Corridor. It is located in ...
to guard the last stronghold against the
Manchus The Manchus (; ) are a Tungusic peoples, Tungusic East Asian people, East Asian ethnic group native to Manchuria in Northeast Asia. They are an officially recognized Ethnic minorities in China, ethnic minority in China and the people from who ...
, which weakened its suppression of internal peasants uprisings.


Qing dynasty (1636–1912)

The Qing dynasty (1644–1912) was the last imperial dynasty in China. Founded by the
Manchus The Manchus (; ) are a Tungusic peoples, Tungusic East Asian people, East Asian ethnic group native to Manchuria in Northeast Asia. They are an officially recognized Ethnic minorities in China, ethnic minority in China and the people from who ...
, it was the second
conquest dynasty A conquest dynasty () in the history of China refers to a Dynasties in Chinese history, Chinese dynasty established by non-Han Chinese, Han ethnicities that ruled parts or all of China proper, the traditional heartland of the Han people, and whos ...
to rule the entirety of
China proper China proper, Inner China, or the Eighteen Provinces is a term used by some Western writers in reference to the "core" regions of the Manchu people, Manchu-led Qing dynasty of China. This term is used to express a distinction between the "cor ...
, and roughly doubled the territory controlled by the Ming. The Manchus were formerly known as
Jurchens Jurchen (Manchu language, Manchu: ''Jušen'', ; zh, 女真, ''Nǚzhēn'', ) is a term used to collectively describe a number of East Asian people, East Asian Tungusic languages, Tungusic-speaking peoples, descended from the Donghu people. They ...
, residing in the northeastern part of the Ming territory outside the Great Wall. They emerged as the major threat to the late Ming dynasty after
Nurhaci Nurhaci (14 May 1559 – 30 September 1626), also known by his temple name as the Emperor Taizu of Qing (), was a Jurchen people, Jurchen chieftain who rose to prominence in the late 16th century in Manchuria. A member of the House of Aisin-Gio ...
united all Jurchen tribes and his son,
Hong Taiji Hong Taiji (28 November 1592 – 21 September 1643), also rendered as Huang Taiji and sometimes referred to as Abahai in Western literature, also known by his temple name as the Emperor Taizong of Qing, was the second khan of the Later Jin ( ...
, declared the founding of the Qing dynasty in 1636. The Qing dynasty set up the
Eight Banners The Eight Banners (in Manchu language, Manchu: ''jakūn gūsa'', ) were administrative and military divisions under the Later Jin (1616–1636), Later Jin and Qing dynasty, Qing dynasties of China into which all Manchu people, Manchu households ...
system that provided the basic framework for the Qing military conquest.
Li Zicheng Li Zicheng (22 September 1606 – 1645), born Li Hongji, also known by the nickname, Dashing King, was a Chinese peasant rebel leader who overthrew the Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was an Dynasties in ...
's peasant rebellion captured Beijing in 1644 and the
Chongzhen Emperor The Chongzhen Emperor (; 6 February 1611 – 25 April 1644), personal name Zhu Youjian (), courtesy name Deyue (),Wang Yuan (王源),''Ju ye tang wen ji'' (《居業堂文集》), vol. 19. "聞之張景蔚親見烈皇帝神主題御諱字德 ...
, the last Ming emperor, committed suicide. The Manchus allied with the Ming general
Wu Sangui Wu Sangui (; 8 June 1612 – 2 October 1678), courtesy name Changbai () or Changbo (), was a notorious Ming Dynasty military officer who played a key role in the fall of the Ming dynasty and the founding of the Qing dynasty in China. In Chinese ...
to seize Beijing, which was made the capital of the Qing dynasty, and then proceeded to subdue the Ming remnants in the south. The decades of Manchu conquest caused enormous loss of lives and the economic scale of China shrank drastically. In total, the
Qing conquest of the Ming The transition from Ming to Qing, alternatively known as Ming–Qing transition or the Manchu conquest of China, from 1618 to 1683, saw the transition between two major Dynasties in Chinese history, dynasties in Chinese history. It was a decade ...
(1618–1683) cost as many as 25 million lives. The early Manchu emperors combined traditions of Central Asian rule with Confucian norms of traditional Chinese government and were considered a Chinese dynasty. The Manchus enforced a 'queue order', forcing Han Chinese men to adopt the Manchu queue hairstyle. Officials were required to wear Manchu-style clothing '' Changshan'' ( bannermen dress and ''
Tangzhuang Tangzhuang (), sometimes called Tang suit, is a kind of Chinese jacket with Manchu origins and Han influences, characterized with a mandarin collar closing at the front with Frog (fastening), frog buttons. It is an updated form of the Qing Empire, ...
''), but ordinary Han civilians were allowed to wear traditional Han clothing. Bannermen could not undertake trade or manual labor; they had to petition to be removed from banner status. They were considered a form of nobility and were given annual pensions, land, and allotments of cloth. The
Kangxi Emperor The Kangxi Emperor (4 May 1654– 20 December 1722), also known by his temple name Emperor Shengzu of Qing, born Xuanye, was the third emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the second Qing emperor to rule over China proper China proper, I ...
ordered the creation of the ''
Kangxi Dictionary The ''Kangxi Dictionary'' ( (Compendium of standard characters from the Kangxi period), published in 1716, was the most authoritative dictionary of Chinese characters Chinese characters () are logograms developed for the writing of ...
'', the most complete dictionary of
Chinese characters Chinese characters () are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. In addition, they have been adapted to write other East Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing system where they are known as ''kanji ...
that had been compiled. Over the next half-century, all areas previously under the Ming dynasty were consolidated under the Qing. Conquests in Central Asia in the eighteenth century extended territorial control. Between 1673 and 1681, the Kangxi Emperor suppressed the
Revolt of the Three Feudatories The Revolt of the Three Feudatories, () also known as the Rebellion of Wu Sangui, was a rebellion in China lasting from 1673 to 1681, during the early reign of the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1661–1722) of the Qing dynasty (1644–1912). The revolt was ...
, an uprising of three generals in Southern China who had been denied hereditary rule of large fiefdoms granted by the previous emperor. In 1683, the Qing staged an amphibious assault on southern
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a Country, country in East Asia, at the junction of the East China Sea, East and South China Seas in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, with the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) to the n ...
, bringing down the rebel
Kingdom of Tungning The Kingdom of Tungning (), also known as Tywan by the British at the time, was a dynastic Thalassocracy, maritime state that ruled part of southwestern Taiwan and the Penghu islands between 1661 and 1683. It is the first predominantly Han Chine ...
, which was founded by the Ming loyalist
Koxinga Zheng Chenggong, Prince of Yanping (; 27 August 1624 – 23 June 1662), better known internationally as Koxinga (), was a Southern Ming, Ming loyalist general who resisted the Qing conquest of China in the 17th century, fighting them on China's ...
(Zheng Chenggong) in 1662 after the fall of the Southern Ming, and had served as a base for continued Ming resistance in Southern China. The Qing defeated the Russians at Albazin, resulting in the
Treaty of Nerchinsk The Treaty of Nerchinsk () of 1689 was the first treaty between the Tsardom of Russia and the Qing dynasty of China. The Russians gave up the area north of the Amur River as far as the Stanovoy Range and kept the area between the Argun River ( ...
. By the end of
Qianlong Emperor The Qianlong Emperor (25 September 17117 February 1799), also known by his Temple name, temple name Emperor Gaozong of Qing, born Hongli, was the fifth List of emperors of the Qing dynasty, Emperor of the Qing dynasty and the fourth Qing empe ...
's long reign in 1796, the Qing Empire was at its zenith. The Qing ruled more than one-third of the world's population, and had the largest economy in the world. By area it was one of the largest empires ever. In the 19th century the empire was internally restive and externally threatened by western powers. The defeat by the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. I ...
in the
First Opium War The First Opium War (), also known as the Opium War or the Anglo-Sino War was a series of military engagements fought between Britain and the Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty ( ), officially the Great Qing,, was a Manchu people, M ...
(1840) led to the
Treaty of Nanking The Treaty of Nanjing was the peace treaty which ended the First Opium War (1839–1842) between United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China on 29 August 1842. It was the first of what the Chinese ...
(1842), under which
Hong Kong Hong Kong ( (US) or (UK); , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (abbr. Hong Kong SAR or HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special ...
was ceded to Britain and importation of
opium Opium (or poppy tears, scientific name: ''Lachryma papaveris'') is dried latex obtained from the seed Capsule (fruit), capsules of the opium poppy ''Papaver somniferum''. Approximately 12 percent of opium is made up of the analgesic alkaloid m ...
(produced by British Empire territories) was allowed. Opium usage continued to grow in China, adversely affecting societal stability. Subsequent military defeats and
unequal treaties Unequal treaty is the name given by the Chinese to a series of treaties signed during the 19th and early 20th centuries, between China (mostly referring to the Qing dynasty) and various Western powers (specifically the British Empire, French Thir ...
with other western powers continued even after the fall of the Qing dynasty. Internally the
Taiping Rebellion The Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution, was a massive rebellion and civil war that was waged in China between the Manchu people, Manchu-led Qing dynasty and the Han Chinese, Han, Hakka people, Hakka- ...
(1851–1864), a Christian religious movement led by the "Heavenly King"
Hong Xiuquan Hong Xiuquan (1 January 1814 – 1 June 1864), born Hong Huoxiu and with the courtesy name Renkun, was a Chinese revolutionary who was the leader of the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing dynasty. He established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdo ...
swept from the south to establish the
Taiping Heavenly Kingdom The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, later shortened to the Heavenly Kingdom or Heavenly Dynasty, was an unrecognised rebel kingdom in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world' ...
and controlled roughly a third of China proper for over a decade. The court in desperation empowered Han Chinese officials such as
Zeng Guofan Zeng Guofan, Marquis Yiyong (; 26 November 1811 – 12 March 1872), birth name Zeng Zicheng, courtesy name Bohan, was a Chinese statesman and military general of the late Qing dynasty. He is best known for raising and organizing the Xiang A ...
to raise local armies. After initial defeats, Zeng crushed the rebels in the Third Battle of Nanking in 1864. This was one of the largest wars in the 19th century in terms of troop involvement; there was massive loss of life, with a death toll of about 20 million. A string of civil disturbances followed, including the Punti–Hakka Clan Wars, Nian Rebellion, Dungan Revolt, and Panthay Rebellion. All rebellions were ultimately put down, but at enormous cost and with millions dead, seriously weakening the central imperial authority. China never rebuilt a strong central army, and many local officials used their military power to effectively rule independently in their provinces. Yet the dynasty appeared to recover in the
Tongzhi Restoration The Tongzhi Restoration (; c. 1860–1874) was an attempt to arrest the dynastic decline of the Qing dynasty by restoring the traditional order. The harsh realities of the Opium War, the unequal treaties, and the mid-century mass uprisings of the T ...
(1860–1872), led by Manchu royal family reformers and Han Chinese officials such as Zeng Guofan and his proteges
Li Hongzhang Li Hongzhang, Marquess Suyi ( zh, t=李鴻章; also Li Hung-chang; 15 February 1823 – 7 November 1901) was a Chinese politician, general and diplomat of the late Qing dynasty. He quelled several major rebellions and served in important ...
and
Zuo Zongtang Zuo Zongtang, Marquis Kejing (Wade-Giles, also spelled Tso Tsung-t'ang; ; November 10, 1812 – September 5, 1885), sometimes referred to as General Tso, was a Chinese statesman and military leader of the late Qing dynasty. Born in Xiang ...
. Their
Self-Strengthening Movement The Self-Strengthening Movement, also known as the Westernization or Western Affairs Movement (–1895), was a period of radical institutional reforms initiated in China during the late Qing dynasty following the military disasters of the Opium ...
made effective institutional reforms, imported Western factories and communications technology, with prime emphasis on strengthening the military. However, the reform was undermined by official rivalries, cynicism, and quarrels within the imperial family. The defeat of
Yuan Shikai Yuan Shikai (; 16 September 1859 – 6 June 1916) was a Chinese military and government official who rose to power during the late Qing dynasty and eventually ended the Qing dynasty rule of China in 1912, later becoming the Emperor of China, E ...
's modernized "
Beiyang Fleet The Beiyang Fleet (Pei-yang Fleet; , alternatively Northern Seas Fleet) was one of the Imperial Chinese Navy#Fleets, four modernized Chinese navies in the late Qing dynasty. Among the four, the Beiyang Fleet was particularly sponsored by Li Hon ...
" in the
First Sino-Japanese War The First Sino-Japanese War (25 July 1894 – 17 April 1895) was a conflict between Qing dynasty, China and Empire of Japan, Japan primarily over influence in Joseon, Korea. After more than six months of unbroken successes by Japanese land ...
(1894–1895) led to the formation of the
New Army The New Armies (Traditional Chinese: 新軍, Simplified Chinese: 新军; Pinyin: Xīnjūn, Manchu language, Manchu: ''Ice cooha''), more fully called the Newly Created Army ( ''Xinjian Lujun''Also translated as "Newly Established Army" ()), was ...
. The
Guangxu Emperor The Guangxu Emperor (14 August 1871 – 14 November 1908), personal name Zaitian, was the tenth Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the ninth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. His reign lasted from 1875 to 1908, but in practice he ruled, ...
, advised by
Kang Youwei Kang Youwei (; Cantonese: ''Hōng Yáuh-wàih''; 19March 185831March 1927) was a prominent political thinker and Reform movement, reformer in China of the late Qing dynasty. His increasing closeness to and influence over the young Guan ...
, then launched a comprehensive reform effort, the
Hundred Days' Reform The Hundred Days' Reform or Wuxu Reform () was a failed 103-day national, cultural, political, and educational reform movement that occurred from 11 June to 22 September 1898 during the late Qing dynasty. It was undertaken by the young Guangxu E ...
(1898).
Empress Dowager Cixi Empress Dowager Cixi ( ; mnc, Tsysi taiheo; formerly Romanization of Chinese, romanised as Empress Dowager T'zu-hsi; 29 November 1835 – 15 November 1908), of the Manchu people, Manchu Nara (clan)#Yehe Nara, Yehe Nara clan, was a Chinese nob ...
, however, feared that precipitous change would lead to bureaucratic opposition and foreign intervention and quickly suppressed it. In the summer of 1900, the Boxer Uprising opposed foreign influence and murdered Chinese Christians and foreign missionaries. When Boxers entered Beijing, the Qing government ordered all foreigners to leave, but they and many Chinese Christians were besieged in the foreign legations quarter. An
Eight-Nation Alliance The Eight-Nation Alliance was a multinational military coalition that invaded northern China in 1900 with the stated aim of relieving the foreign legations in Beijing, then besieged by the popular Boxer Rebellion, Boxer militia, who were determi ...
sent the Seymour Expedition of Japanese, Russian, British, Italian, German, French, American, and Austrian troops to relieve the siege, but they were forced to retreat by Boxer and Qing troops at the Battle of Langfang. After the Alliance's attack on the Dagu Forts, the court declared war on the Alliance and authorized the Boxers to join with imperial armies. After fierce fighting at Tientsin, the Alliance formed the second, much larger Gaselee Expedition and finally reached Beijing; the Empress Dowager evacuated to
Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), frequently spelled as Xian and also known by #Name, other names, is the list of capitals in China, capital of Shaanxi, Shaanxi Province. A Sub-provincial division#Sub-provincial municipalities, sub-provincial city o ...
. The
Boxer Protocol The Boxer Protocol was signed on September 7, 1901, between the Qing dynasty, Qing Empire of China and the Eight-Nation Alliance that had provided military forces (including Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Russia ...
ended the war, exacting a tremendous
indemnity In contract law, an indemnity is a contractual obligation of one Party (law), party (the ''indemnitor'') to Financial compensation, compensate the loss incurred by another party (the ''indemnitee'') due to the relevant acts of the indemnitor or ...
. The Qing court then instituted "
New Policies Late Qing reforms (), commonly known as New Policies of the late Qing dynasty (), or New Deal of the late Qing dynasty, simply referred to as New Policies, were a series of cultural, economic, educational, military, and political reforms implemen ...
" of administrative and legal reform, including abolition of the examination system. But young officials, military officers, and students debated reform, perhaps a constitutional monarchy, or the overthrow of the dynasty and the creation of a republic. They were inspired by an emerging public opinion formed by intellectuals such as
Liang Qichao Liang Qichao (Chinese: 梁啓超 ; Wade–Giles, Wade-Giles: ''Liang2 Chʻi3-chʻao1''; Yale romanization of Cantonese, Yale: ''Lèuhng Kái-chīu'') (February 23, 1873 – January 19, 1929) was a Chinese politician, social and political act ...
and the revolutionary ideas of
Sun Yat-sen Sun Yat-sen (; also known by Names of Sun Yat-sen, several other names; 12 November 1866 – 12 March 1925)Singtao daily. Saturday edition. 23 October 2010. section A18. Sun Yat-sen Xinhai revolution 100th anniversary edition . was a Chinese ...
. A localised military uprising, the
Wuchang Uprising The Wuchang Uprising was an armed rebellion against the ruling Qing dynasty that took place in Wuchang (now Wuchang District of Wuhan), Hubei, China on 10 October 1911, beginning the Xinhai Revolution that successfully overthrew China's last i ...
, began on 10 October 1911, in Wuchang (Today part of
Wuhan Wuhan (, ; ; ) is the capital of Hubei, Hubei Province in the China, People's Republic of China. It is the largest city in Hubei and the most populous city in Central China, with a population of over eleven million, the List of cities in China ...
), and soon spread. The Republic of China was proclaimed on 1 January 1912, ending 2,000 years of dynastic rule.


Modern China


Republic of China (since 1912)

The provisional government of the Republic of China was formed in
Nanking Nanjing (; , Mandarin pronunciation: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is a sub-provincial city, a megacity, and t ...
on 12 March 1912. Sun Yat-sen became
President of the Republic of China The president of the Republic of China, now often referred to as the president of Taiwan, is the head of state of the Republic of China (ROC), as well as the commander-in-chief of the Republic of China Armed Forces. The position once had auth ...
, but he turned power over to
Yuan Shikai Yuan Shikai (; 16 September 1859 – 6 June 1916) was a Chinese military and government official who rose to power during the late Qing dynasty and eventually ended the Qing dynasty rule of China in 1912, later becoming the Emperor of China, E ...
, who commanded the
New Army The New Armies (Traditional Chinese: 新軍, Simplified Chinese: 新军; Pinyin: Xīnjūn, Manchu language, Manchu: ''Ice cooha''), more fully called the Newly Created Army ( ''Xinjian Lujun''Also translated as "Newly Established Army" ()), was ...
. Over the next few years, Yuan proceeded to abolish the national and provincial assemblies and declared himself as the emperor of Empire of China in late 1915. Yuan's imperial ambitions were fiercely opposed by his subordinates; faced with the prospect of rebellion, he abdicated in March 1916 and died of natural causes in June. Yuan's death in 1916 left a power vacuum; the republican government was all but shattered. This opened the way for the Warlord Era, during which much of China was ruled by shifting coalitions of competing provincial military leaders and the
Beiyang government The Beiyang government (), officially the Republic of China (), sometimes Chinese postal romanization, spelled Peiyang Government, refers to the government of the Republic of China (1912–1949), Republic of China which sat in its capital Pek ...
. Intellectuals, disappointed in the failure of the Republic, launched the
New Culture Movement The New Culture Movement () was a movement in Beiyang government, China in the 1910s and 1920s that criticized classical Chinese ideas and promoted a new Chinese culture based upon progressive, modern and western ideals like democracy and scie ...
. In 1919, the
May Fourth Movement The May Fourth Movement was a Chinese Anti-imperialism, anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement which grew out of student protests in Beijing on May 4, 1919. Students gathered in front of Tiananmen (The Gate of Heavenly Peace) to p ...
began as a response to the pro-Japanese terms imposed on China by the
Treaty of Versailles The Treaty of Versailles (french: Traité de Versailles; german: Versailler Vertrag, ) was the most important of the Peace treaty, peace treaties of World War I. It ended the declaration of war, state of war between Germany and the Allies of ...
following World War I. It quickly became a nationwide protest movement. The protests were a moral success as the cabinet fell and China refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles, which had awarded German holdings of
Shandong Shandong ( , ; ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the East China region. Shandong has played a major role in His ...
to Japan. Memory of the mistreatment at Versailles fuels resentment into the 21st century. Political and intellectual ferment waxed strong throughout the 1920s and 1930s. According to Patricia Ebrey: :"Nationalism, patriotism, progress, science, democracy, and freedom were the goals; imperialism, feudalism, warlordism, autocracy, patriarchy, and blind adherence to tradition were the enemies. Intellectuals struggled with how to be strong and modern and yet Chinese, how to preserve China as a political entity in the world of competing nations." In the 1920s, Sun Yat-sen established a revolutionary base in Guangzhou and set out to unite the fragmented nation. He welcomed assistance from the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
(itself fresh from Lenin's Communist takeover) and he entered into an alliance with the fledgling
Chinese Communist Party The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), officially the Communist Party of China (CPC), is the founding and One-party state, sole ruling party of the China, People's Republic of China (PRC). Under the leadership of Mao Zedong, the CCP emerged victoriou ...
(CCP). After Sun's death from cancer in 1925, one of his protégés,
Chiang Kai-shek Chiang Kai-shek (31 October 1887 – 5 April 1975), also known as Chiang Chung-cheng and Jiang Jieshi, was a Chinese Nationalist politician, revolutionary, and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China (ROC) from 192 ...
, seized control of the Nationalist Party (KMT) and succeeded in bringing most of south and central China under its rule in the
Northern Expedition The Northern Expedition was a military campaign launched by the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) of the Kuomintang (KMT), also known as the "Chinese Nationalist Party", against the Beiyang government and other regional warlords in 1926. The ...
(1926–1927). Having defeated the warlords in the south and central China by National Revolutionary Army, military force, Chiang was able to secure the nominal allegiance of the warlords in the North and establish the Nationalist government in Nanking. In 1927, Chiang turned on the CCP and relentlessly purged the Communists elements in his National Revolutionary Army, NRA. In 1934, driven from their mountain bases such as the Chinese Soviet Republic, the CCP forces embarked on the Long March across China's most desolate terrain to the northwest, where they established a guerrilla base at Yan'an in
Shaanxi Shaanxi (alternatively Shensi, see #Name, § Name) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of China. Officially part of Northwest China, it borders the province-level divisions of Shanxi (NE, E), Henan (E), Hubei (SE), Chongqing (S), Sichu ...
Province. During the Long March, the communists reorganized under a new leader, Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung). The bitter Chinese Civil War between the Nationalists and the Communists continued, openly or clandestinely, through the 14-year-long Japanese occupation of various parts of the country (1931–1945). The two Chinese parties nominally formed a United Front to oppose the Japanese in 1937, during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), which became a part of World War II. Japanese forces committed numerous Japanese war crimes, war atrocities against the civilian population, including biological warfare (see Unit 731) and the Three Alls Policy (''Sankō Sakusen''), the three alls being: "Kill All, Burn All and Loot All". Following the defeat of Japan in 1945, the war between the Nationalist government forces and the CCP resumed, after failed attempts at reconciliation and a negotiated settlement. By 1949, the CCP had established control over most of the country. Odd Arne Westad says the Communists won the Civil War because they made fewer military mistakes than Chiang, and because in his search for a powerful centralized government, Chiang antagonized too many interest groups in China. Furthermore, his party was weakened in the war against the Japanese. Meanwhile, the Communists told different groups, such as peasants, exactly what they wanted to hear, and cloaked themselves in the cover of Chinese Nationalism. During the civil war both the Nationalists and Communists carried out mass atrocities, with millions of non-combatants killed by both sides. These included deaths from forced conscription and massacres. When the Nationalist government forces were defeated by CCP forces in mainland China in 1949, the Nationalist government retreated to Taiwan with its forces, along with Chiang and a large number of their supporters; the Nationalist government had taken effective control of Taiwan at the end of WWII as part of the overall Japanese surrender, when Japanese troops in Taiwan surrendered to the Republic of China troops. Until the early 1970s, the ROC was recognized as the China and the United Nations, sole legitimate government of China by the , the United States and most Western nations, refusing to recognize the PRC on account of the Cold War. This changed in 1971 when the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, PRC was seated in the United Nations, replacing the ROC. The KMT ruled Taiwan under martial law until 1987, with the stated goal of being vigilant against Communist infiltration and preparing to retake mainland China. Therefore, political dissent was not tolerated during that period. In the 1990s, the ROC underwent a major democratic reform, beginning with the 1991 resignation of the members of the Legislative Yuan and National Assembly elected in 1947. These groups were originally created to represent mainland China constituencies. Also lifted were the restrictions on the use of Taiwanese languages in the broadcast media and in schools. This culminated with the first direct 1996 Republic of China presidential election, presidential election in 1996 against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate and former dissident, Peng Min-ming. In 2000, the KMT status as the ruling party ended when the DPP took power, only to regain its status in the 2008 Taiwan presidential election, 2008 election by Ma Ying-jeou. Due to the controversial nature of Political status of Taiwan, Taiwan's political status, the ROC is currently recognized by Foreign relations of Taiwan, 14 UN member states and Holy See as of as the legitimate government of "China".


People's Republic of China (since 1949)

Major combat in the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with Kuomintang (KMT) pulling out of the mainland, with the government relocating to Taipei and maintaining control only over a few islands. The CCP was left in control of mainland China. On 1 October 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China.The Chinese people have stood up
UCLA Center for East Asian Studies. Retrieved 16 April 2006.
"Communist China" and "Red China" were two common names for the PRC. The PRC was shaped by a List of campaigns of the Communist Party of China, series of campaigns and Five-year plans of the People's Republic of China, five-year plans. The economic and social plan known as the Great Leap Forward caused an estimated 45 million deaths. Mao's government carried out mass executions of landowners, instituted collectivisation and implemented the Laogai camp system. Execution, deaths from forced labor and other atrocities resulted in millions of deaths under Mao. In 1966 Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, which continued until Mao's death a decade later. The Cultural Revolution, motivated by power struggles within the Party and a fear of the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
, led to a major upheaval in Chinese society. In 1972, at the peak of the Sino-Soviet split, Mao and Zhou Enlai met US president Richard Nixon in Beijing to establish relations with the United States. In the same year, the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, PRC was admitted to the United Nations in place of the Republic of China, with permanent membership of the Security Council. A power struggle followed Mao's death in 1976. The Gang of Four were arrested and blamed for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, marking the end of a turbulent political era in China. Deng Xiaoping outmaneuvered Mao's anointed successor chairman Hua Guofeng, and gradually emerged as the ''de facto'' leader over the next few years. Deng Xiaoping was the Paramount Leader of China from 1978 to 1992, although he never became the head of the party or state, and his influence within the Party led the country to Chinese economic reform, significant economic reforms. The CCP subsequently loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives and the People's commune, communes were disbanded with many peasants receiving multiple land leases, which greatly increased incentives and agricultural production. In addition, there were many free market areas opened. The most successful free market areas was Shenzhen. It is located in Guangdong and the property tax free area still exists today. This turn of events marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment, a system termed by some as "market socialism", and officially by the CCP as "Socialism with Chinese characteristics". The PRC adopted its current constitution of the People's Republic of China, constitution on 4 December 1982. In 1989 the death of former general secretary Hu Yaobang helped to spark the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, Tiananmen Square protests of that year, during which students and others campaigned for several months, speaking out against corruption and in favour of greater political reform, including democratic rights and freedom of speech. However, they were eventually put down on 4 June when People's Liberation Army, Army troops and vehicles entered and forcibly cleared the square, with 1989 Tiananmen Square protests#Death toll, considerable numbers of fatalities. This event was widely reported, and brought worldwide condemnation and sanctions against the government... A filmed incident involving the "Tank Man" was seen worldwide. CCP general secretary and PRC President Jiang Zemin and PRC Premier Zhu Rongji, both former mayors of Shanghai, led post-Tiananmen PRC in the 1990s. Under Jiang and Zhu's ten years of administration, the PRC's economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty and sustained an average annual gross domestic product growth rate of 11.2%. The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. By 1997 and 1999, former European colonies of British Hong Kong and Portuguese Macau became the Hong Kong and
Macau Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), is a city and special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China in the western Pearl River D ...
special administrative regions of China, special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China respectively. Although the PRC needed economic growth to spur its development, the government began to worry that rapid economic growth was degrading the country's resources and environment. Another concern is that certain sectors of society are not sufficiently benefiting from the PRC's economic development; one example of this is the wide gap between urban and rural areas. As a result, under former CCP general secretary and President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, the PRC initiated policies to address issues of equitable distribution of resources, but the outcome was not known . More than 40 million farmers were displaced from their land, usually for economic development, contributing to 87,000 demonstrations and riots across China in 2005. For much of the PRC's population, living standards improved very substantially and freedom increased, but political controls remained tight and rural areas poor. According to the United States Department of Defense as many as 3 million Uyghurs and members of other Islam in China, Muslim minority groups are being held in China's Xinjiang internment camps, internment camps which are located in the region and which American news reports often label as ''concentration camps''. The camps were established in late 2010s under Xi Jinping's Xi Jinping Administration, administration. Human Rights Watch says that they have been used to indoctrinate Uyghurs and other Muslims since 2017 as part of a "people's war on terror", a policy announced in 2014. The camps have been criticized by the governments of many countries and human rights organizations for alleged human rights abuses, including mistreatment, rape, and torture, with some of them alleging Uyghur genocide, genocide. The COVID-19 pandemic, outbreak of the novel coronavirus Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, SARS coronavirus 2, which causes COVID-19 disease, originally detected in
Wuhan Wuhan (, ; ; ) is the capital of Hubei, Hubei Province in the China, People's Republic of China. It is the largest city in Hubei and the most populous city in Central China, with a population of over eleven million, the List of cities in China ...
became the global COVID-19 pandemic. The virus' origin in China has led to COVID-19 misinformation, misinformation, including Conspiracy theory, conspiracy theories that suggest the virus originated in a Chinese laboratory and was genetically engineered. The World Health Organization concluded that artificial origin of the coronavirus was "extremely unlikely". File:PLA Enters Peking.jpg, The People's Liberation Army enters Beijing in the Pingjin Campaign File:China 10th Anniversary Parade in Beijing 01.jpg, People's Republic of China 10th Anniversary Parade in Beijing File:Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg, alt=Blue Sky White Sun Wholly Red Earth, The flag of the People's Republic of China since 1949.


See also

* Family tree of Chinese monarchs (ancient), Chinese emperors family tree ** Family tree of Chinese monarchs (ancient), Ancient – Family tree of Chinese monarchs (early), Early – Family tree of Chinese monarchs (middle), Middle – Family tree of Chinese monarchs (late), Late * Chinese exploration * Chinese historiography * Economic history of China * Ethnic groups in Chinese history * Foreign relations of imperial China * Golden ages of China * History of canals in China * History of Islam in China * History of science and technology in China * History of Taiwan * History of the Great Wall of China * List of Chinese monarchs * List of rebellions in China * List of recipients of tribute from China * List of tributary states of China * Military history of China before 1911 * Naval history of China * Population history of China * Timeline of Chinese history * Women in ancient and imperial China


References


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * ** ** ** **


Further reading

* * Elleman, Bruce A. ''Modern Chinese Warfare, 1795-1989'' (2001) 363 pp. * John K. Fairbank, Fairbank, John King and Goldman, Merle. ''China: A New History.'' 2nd ed. (Harvard UP, 2006). 640 pp. * Fenby, Jonathan. ''The Penguin History of Modern China: The Fall and Rise of a Great Power 1850 to the Present'' (3rd ed. 2019) popular history. * Gernet, Jacques. ''A History of Chinese Civilization'' (1996). One-volume survey. * Mote, Frederick W. ''Imperial China, 900–1800'' (Harvard UP, 1999), 1,136 pp. Authoritative treatment of the Song, Yuan, Ming, and early Qing dynasties. * Perkins, Dorothy. ''Encyclopedia of China: The Essential Reference to China, Its History and Culture.'' (Facts on File, 1999). 662 pp
online
* Roberts, J. A. G. ''A Concise History of China.'' (Harvard U. Press, 1999). 341 pp. * Stanford, Edward. ''Atlas of the Chinese Empire, containing separate maps of the eighteen provinces of China'' (2nd ed 1917) Legible color map
Online free
* Wright, David Curtis. ''History of China'' (2001) 257 pp.


External links

*

', a Chinaknowledge, comprehensive online encyclopedia of China from Ulrich Theobald * The
Berkshire Encyclopedia of China
' on Oxford Reference
China Rediscovers its Own History
a length lecture on Chinese history given by Yu Ying-shih {{DEFAULTSORT:History of China History of China,