Ancient China history has played a pivot role in shaping its resilient economic growth and international ascendancy witnessed in the last few decades. Napoleon Bonaparte once famously said, “Let China sleep, for when she awakes, she will shake the world.”
The maxim based on a thorough understanding of China’s glorious past seems to become true after two centuries. China has emerged as a dominant player on the global stage riding on robust economic strength, political stability, massive military buildup, and technological prowess.
China’s ascendancy is increasingly viewed globally with both appreciation and cynicism. A glance into the Chinese history reveals how historical focus on Han nationalism, ancient political thoughts, sustenance of cultural values, expansive attitude, and technological innovation has contributed to its present economic growth, military buildup, political system, and centralized state power apparatus.
An analysis of the past of modern China facilitates in delineating economic and political progress of China, its triumphant rise, and foreign policy.
Hi, and welcome to this site.
My name is Joel. I have always been interested in Chinese history and with the growing importance of China in the world, I have decided to build this website. I am convinced that whether you're “just” a history fan or someone who visits China for leisure or business, you will find here the information you need to get a better understanding of this fascinating country.
When Mao’s communist juggernaut rolled over China, the country was vastly agrarian and much of its economic strength was shattered by years of civil war and foreign occupation. However, the remarkable recovery within a decade of introduction of market reforms attested the reliance of economy nurtured since ancient days. Ancient China history reveals historical national focus on industry, trade and commerce, and agriculture, as key economic activities.
Introduction of advanced farming methods, such as cast iron tools and irrigation technologies, in 700 BC and their progressive patronization by successive dynasties reveals Chinese focus on economic security. Hydraulic-powered trip hammers for grain polishing, weaving technology, square-pallet chain pumps, and improved farming machinery were employed by Chinese farmers by 1st century AD.
The famous Silk Route, on which once celebrated western explorer Marco Polo traveled to China, stands testimony to impetuous provided to trade and commerce in ancient China history. The 4,000-mile trade route spanning across Asia came into existence around 200 BC opened the gates for Chinese export of silk, clothing, metallurgy, foodstuff, military technology, and finished engineering goods that dominated the European and Asian markets for centuries.
The manufacturing industry of today’s China has its lineage in large-scale productions centers located in ancient cities of Xi’an, Chengdu, Suzhou, Nanjing, Yangzhou, and Luoyang. The buoyant and sophisticated economic life led to use of paper money as early as first century AD.
Ancient China history is full of tales of entrepreneurship and invention. Right from the period of Warring States to the Song dynasty, a timeline of 1,600 years, saw China’s large-scale contribution to the world in applied technology, agriculture, engineering, metallurgy, mechanics, hydraulics, crafts, marine science, and military technology.
Ancient China achieved numerous technology firsts, such as paper, gunpowder, marine compass, printing, gas pipelines system, and automation techniques. They were first to use blast furnaces to extract metal from ores as early as 200 BC.
Academicians and scholars require a deep understanding of ancient Chinese history to denote its foreign policy and nation building and foreign policy. The imperial Han dynasty that dominated the Chinese landscape between 200 BC and 200 AD gave birth to Han cultural identity marked by strong fervor for dominance, focus on self strengthening, and nationalistic attitude. It measures individuality a subset of national identity and put the ruling system at a high pedestal.
The majority of leaders dominating the Chinese state apparatus are drawn from this ethnicity and they continue to espouse Han nationalism. It does not believe in democratic ideals and espouse the cause of charismatic and able leadership. All administrative policies, right from defense and foreign policies to welfare measures, are defined with focus on Han cultural identity and aggressive nationalism.
Expansive Han attitude favors migration to dominate new areas and this is a key factor in elimination of diversity in China. The confrontational attitude is also visible in an aggressive foreign policy where China is locked in disputes with all of its neighbors.
China’s political system and its present military buildup trace their edifice to ancient Chinese history. The political system was uniquely opaque with dictatorial kings assuming all powers and military forming the very base of legitimacy. When Qin Shi Huang became the emperor in 221 BC, he introduced state centralized and bureaucratic institutions to exert control and keep China unified. Even many of these institutions, notably the bureaucracy and political divisions, continue to flourish until these days. The centralized model was followed thereafter and became the basis of the Chinese ruling clique.
People of ancient China always supported large-scale and powerful military buildup. Military has been the main source of legitimacy and state power in the national history. Imperial rulers maintained huge armies armed to their teeth. Army had a major say in foreign and domestic policies. Development of new military technologies were encouraged and progressively adopted. These trends seem to be continued by the People’s Liberation Army.
Culture and philosophy were two essential parts of ancient China history. They shaped the nation building process, human development, political attitude, and economic growth. Two prominent philosophical schools, Confucianism and Taoism, shaped the national character. Important Confucian principles, such as Legalism, meritocracy, primacy of family, authoritarian thoughts, social values, ethics in personal life, rationality, and metaphysical thinking, originated in fifth century BC continue to dominate Chinese life in every sphere, including business dealings.
Spiritual aspects of Confucianism and Taoism are adopted and institutionalized in many religious and social systems outside China and they hold solutions for many questions raised in human life. The cultural milestones developed in ancient Chinese history attract popular imagination. The unique development of language, literature, martial arts, art forms, cuisine, fashion, and architecture in China continue to hold sway all over the world.
There's a lot more to know about ancient China history. I invite you to browse this website and follow my updates!
Learn More? Sign Up and Receive the Latest Chinese History News!