China Dynasty History:
Shaping of A Nation

China dynasty history dates back to 2100 BC when a new concept of state hood legitimized by the Mandate of Heaven philosophy brought all tribes settled along the Yellow River (the Cradle of Chinese Civilization) to form a unified national entity. Do see the list of Chinese dynasties in order.

China Dynasty

The dynastic rulers took over the warring states and one dynasty succeeded by the other to keep the national tempo ongoing.

Notwithstanding messy power transitions, foreign invasions, and frequent wars, these dynasties facilitated the national building process based on Confucian thought and attainment of cultural, social, and economic milestones by Chinese people in various walks of life.

Xia Dynasty (2070 BC to 1600 BC)
Xia dynasty was the first dynasty to rule China, according to recorded political information. The Xia tribe emerged dominant over other tribes primarily due to its use of bronze technologies. The kingdom covered roughly the Henan province with its capital at Yanshi. Yu, the great ruler and founder of the first China dynasty, brought together other Neolithic tribes, developed flood control measures, irrigation methods, and patronized scholars.

Shang Dynasty (1700 BC to 1046 BC)
The Shangs usurped the throne from the last Xia ruler and started their own rule. Empowered by huge armies, rulers of this dynasty wage wars against other tribes and dominated the Yellow River Valley. They moved the capital to modern day Anyang. The Chinese style of pictorial writing flourished in their time, as suggested by discovery of numerous inscriptions.

Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC to 256 BC)
The longest of all Chinese dynasties, the Zhou dynasty ruled from two headquarters, Xi'an and Luoyang. Their period was marked by development of feudal structure, a distinct class system, and a bureaucratic order. Confucius preached and institutionalization of his teachings by the state order led to development of a distinct Chinese philosophical system. Zhou kings initiated massive agriculture modernization, introduced hydraulic engineering, canal irrigation, and patronized artists.

Qin Dynasty (221 BC to 206 BC)
The first imperial China dynasty, it lasted for only 15 years. Qin Shihuang, the first Chinese emperor, united the Han homeland and introduced a rigid centralized system. Absolute monarchy backed by bureaucracy and strong military introduced legal codes and silenced political opposition. The construction of the Great Wall began at this time. The Terracotta Army (see pic below) in tomb discovered at Xi’an belongs to this period. The emperor patronized development of currency system, weigh and measure, and the written language.

Terracotta warriors

Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD)
Based in modern Xi’an, Xuchang, Luoyang, Changzhou cities, the Han rulers officially embraced Confucianism in state craft and opened China for trade with the West. They conquered Mongolian and Pamir steppes and opened the Silk Road. A Roman delegation visited China for the first time in 166 AD. Many state enterprises were started to encourage economic activities. A Han cultural identity emerged following promotion of social hierarchy. Education, philosophy, and literature reached new heights colored by a nationalistic fervor. Science, technology, and architecture received a boost due to state patronage.

Sui Dynasty (589 AD to 618 AD)
The Sui Dynasty reunited the country and put an end to long chaos and dynastic war following collapse of the Han kingdom. This China dynasty is credited with setting up institutions similar to ministries, and department system prevalent in modern China. The Sui rulers accepted Buddhism as state religion. Educational, coinage, and defense reforms were among key achievements of Sui rulers.

Tang Dynasty (618 AD to 907 AD)
Often considered the golden age of China, it saw all around development in literature, art, architecture, and technology. Xi’an, the capital and a major center of art, trade, and commercial activities, emerged as the biggest city in Asia. Military expeditions led to annexation of Central Asian territories. The Tang empire extended from the Aral Sea to the Pacific. Attention to maritime trade led to development of port cities while new commercial cities in the east and south were set up. New revenue and military systems were introduced.

Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD to 1368 AD)
Established by Kublai Khan, the China dynasty was dominated by Mongol elements. Kublai, the grandson of Genghis Khan, made Beijing his imperial capital and adopted Chinese customs. It ruled all over China, Tibet, and Mongolia and attained excellence in many areas. Italian traveler Marco Polo visited China and stayed at the court of the great Khan. The period saw large-scale cultural and economic exchange between the West and China.

Ming Dynasty (1368 AD to 1644 AD)
The Ming dynasty came to power following a peasant revolt against the Yuan rulers. The period was marked by large-scale urbanization. Nanjing, Beijing, and Zhaoqing emerged as key commercial centers with paper, silk, and cotton industries. The Chinese maritime trade reached new heights with trade relations with Japan, India, and other Asian and Africa countries on the surge. Vietnam was conquered and made a tributary. The construction of the Great Wall was completed in its present form.

Qing Dynasty (1644 AD to 1911 AD)
With their capital in Shenyang and Beijing, the Qing rulers were the last imperial China dynasty to rule. Their reign saw fusion of Manchu and Han cultural traits that shaped many modern social and cultural institutions in China. The Qing rulers unified all of China, Mongolia, Tibet, Taiwan, and Manchurian into the largest ever empire.

China became the largest economy in the world under their rule. Colonial powers, such as Germany, Japan, France, and the English, entered China and occupied various Chinese areas in the 19th century. Christianity entered China with colonial occupation and the Qing army was repeatedly defeated by foreign powers. In 1991, the last emperor abdicated and Sun Yat-sen declared China a republic.

Read more:

The Silk Road: Meeting Point of Cultures

The Silk Road is historically glorified as the link between the eastern and western civilizations.

Zhou Dynasty: The Long March Toward Chinese Nationhood

Spanning over a millennium, the Zhou Dynasty was the longest among all lineage of political clans that held sway over China.

Zheng He: The Explorer, Admiral, and Diplomat

The Chinese history epitomizes Zheng He for his fearless achievements by sheer dint of merit and the rag to reach story.

Qin Dynasty: The First of Imperial Rulers

With the ascendancy of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC to 206 BC), Chinese history entered its imperial phase.

Han Dynasty: The Glory That Lasts Forever

The rule of Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) is considered the golden age of ancient China.

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