School in a Book: History of China

Ancient History (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

Early Modern Times (1500 CE through 1900 CE)

The Modern Era (The 1900s through the Present)


Huang Di: 2700 BCE. The emperor who first united northern and southern China. The first emperor of China. Brought medicine, writing, civilization. Prior to this, China was not a unified entity, but a collection of small farming villages. Interestingly, farming developed in this area around the same time that it was discovered in the West, probably coincidentally.

Xiling J.: Wife of Huang Di. Said to have discovered silk.

Xia Dynasty: Founder Yu. Irrigation, dams. 2200BCE

Shang Dynasty: Emperor Tang. Bronze, jade, horses, chariots, domestic animals, wheat, millet, rice, silk, calligraphy, ancestor worship.

Zhou Dynasty:

Warring States Period: 500 BCE.

Qin Dynasty: 221 BCE. Shi Huangdi (who later took the name Qin Zheng).

Hang Dynasty/Han Dynasty: 202.

Shi Huangdi/Qin Zheng: First united Chinese empire. Invention of paper. Book burning. Great Wall. Officially becomes a Confucian state. Silk Road is made. Start of Qin dynasty.

Great Wall of China:

Silk Road:

Terracotta soldiers:

Emperor Liu Bang:

Huns of Mongolia:

Sui and Tang Dynasties:

Yang Jian:

Sui Dynasty:

Tibetan takeover and civil war:

Song Dynasty:

Mongol Empire:

Genghis Khan:

Kublai Khan:

Yuan Dynasty:

Marco Polo:

Ming Dynasty:

Zhu Yuan Zhang:

Forbidden City:

Japanese invasion:

Qing Dynasty:


Opium Wars:

Hong Kong takeover:

Republic of China:

Communist Party:

Chiang Kai-Shek:

Chinese Civil War:

Mao Zedong:

The Long March:

Chinese-Japanese War:

People’s Republic of China:

Great Leap Forward:

Cultural Revolution:

Little Red Book:

Tiananmen Square demonstration:

Return of Hong Hong:

China in the new millennium:

In China, Huang Di unites the north and south. T’ang … Shang Dynasty…475 BC: Warring States period begins in China as the Zhou king became a mere figurehead; China is annexed by regional warlords…Shi Huangdi (Qin Zheng) begins uniting Warring States of China

In India, the Harappan civilization … Exodus of Indus Valley … aryan people enter india…The Mauryan Empire of India

In China, the Great Wall of China was built…. Qin Zheng orders book burning …China in this period officially becomes a Confucian state and opens trading connections with the West, i.e. the Silk Road – buddha, confucius … 221 B.C.: First united Chinese empire, under Shi Huangdi…

200 B.C.: Paper is invented in China

3000 B.C.: Farming, crafts. First small farming villages.

2700 B.C.: Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor–first emperor of China. Brought medicine, writing, civilization. Wife Xiling J. said to have discovered silk.

2200 B.C.: Xia Dynasty is first dynasty (founder Yu). Yu made irrigation, dams.

1766: Emperor Tang started the Shang Dynasty. Bronze, jade, horses/chariots, domestic animals, wheat millet, rice, silk, calligraphy, ancestor worship.

1122 B.C.: Zhou Dynasty replaced Shang.

1122-221 B.C.: The Zhou Dynasty. A golden age in China. Growth of towns, trade and imperialism. (Ousted the Shangs.) Not a single kingdom but a collection of large estates whose rulers were loyal to the king. Ironworking began in China at this time. This period followed by the “Period of the Warring States”–warlord infighting. This was the time of Confucius and Lao-Tzu. Idea of a centralized Chinese imperial state became popularized.
Inventions: China: ivention of gunpowder, paper, magnetic compasses, acupuncture, abacuses-early calculator useful for computing large sums. modern computers became faster only in the early 1980s. plus seismograph.

868: Earliest known printed book in china

900: Chinese develop porcelain

350s B.C.: Warlike Qin state grow to dominate area (of western China)

221-206 B.C.: King Qin Zheng. (Qin is pronounced “Chin” and “China” comes from it.) United most of China in just ten years, ending period o warring states. Changed name to Shi Huangdi (“first emperor”). Reorganized the government. Standardized weights and measures, Chinese writing, width of wagon wheels, laws, single currency. Had administrators take over in place of feudal system aristocrats. Roads and canals, irrigation, drainage, started Great Wall (214). Destroyed classic literary works, including some by Confucius, in name of modernization. Sages under attack. Invented the wheelbarrow. Shi Huangdi’s tomb housed 7,000 larger than life terracotta soldiers

202 B.C. to AD 220: Han Dynasty founded after Zheng’s death. Long-lasting dynasty. Very stable. More lenient than the Qins. Fair Confucian principles of law and administration. First emperor is Liu Bang. Popular, relaxed harsh laws. For a time, captial Chang’an was world’s largest city. At end of the Silk Road on which China traded with Persia and Rome. China as large as the Roman Empire. Mandarins are the educated officials. They had to take an exam on Confucianism. They managed to beat back the Huns of Mongolia. Got Buddhism from India. Writings destroyed by the Qin were replaced. Invented paper. But empire fell apart due to border tension with barbarians and internal rebellions by the poor.

Sui and Tang Dynasties: 589-907. After the fall of the Han, China divided. Constant warfare and nomad invasions. Population fell. People fled more into the soth. Buddhism grew.

589: Yang Jian united China again, founded Sui dynasty. Cut taxes and abolished compulsory military service. Irrigation, palaces, parks. Tang dynasty took over, organized empire beyond anywhere else in world. Stable for 300 years. Expanded to west to keep control of Silk Road. Empire extended from Korea to Afghanistan and Thailand.

700s and 800s: Tibetans defeated China in central Asia. Other rebellions, too. 907 to 960, period of civil war.

960: Song dynasty. Third united Chinese empire. Initiated long period of cultural eminence. Painting. Made peace with the now-unified states on their borders (Tibetan, Liao, Thai and Vietnamese states.) Agriculture expanded, population grew. 100 million people. Invented porcelain, far ahead of Europe. Also invented gunpowder rockets, clocks, movable type printing, paddle-wheel boats, magnetic compass. Had poetry, theater, banking, trade expansion. Government reform.

1127: Jin invaded north, took the capital.

1234: Kublai Khan’s Mongols took over.

1279: Mongols took areas further south, too.

1206-1405: Mongol Empire. Largest empire in history. Started and led by Genghis Khan, then grandson Kublai Khan, who completed conquest of China. G. K. was 13 when he took leadership of his small warlike tribe. GK means “emperor of all men.” Took Turkestand, northern China, Korea (failed to get Japan), then Afghanistan, Persia and parts of Russia. Fast horses, far-firing bows, disciplined army. Pacific Ocean to Black Sea by 1200s.

1271: K.Khan started the Yuan dynasty with himself as Chinese emperor. Traditionally lived in Yurts, large round tents made of hides or cloth. Khan encouraged trade, opened Silk Road to the west.

1275: Venetian merchant Marco Polo spent 17 years at court of KK. Wrote all about the luxury there.

1294: Kublai Kahn died. Empire began to break up. His descendants overthrown in a thirteen-year campaign led by Zhu Yuan Zhang, who became emperor in 1368. Called his dynasty “ming” for “bright”. Mongols lost power in all states by 1405. China, Russia left poor and Muslims in turmoil.

Ming dynasty: 1368-1644. Zhang moved the campital south to Nanjing. Restored order. Uncle, Emperor Yonle, took over and China became great again. Built the Forbidden City (where?) for only emperors to use. Roads, canals, palaces, temples, leraning, arts, trade, exports. Ornamental gardens.

1517: Portugese and other Europeans arrived on coast. Traded in Guangzhou.

1592: Japan invaded Korea, threatening China. Japanese pirates near coast! Civil unrest due to famine, rising taxes, government corruption, which was due to fights and Mongols and Japan.

1517-1644: Borders weakened in several places. Mings fell. Manchus of north, called into Beijing to put down rebels. Did so, then established the Qing Dynasty.

1644-1911: Qing Dynasty. Size and population grew. Monguls finally defeated. Manchus, from Manchuria, lived separately from Chinese in closed-off areas. Chinese men had to wear long hair in pigtails to show inferiority to Manchus. But both Manchus and Chinese were civil servants (mandarins). Eventually Manchus assimilated and were accepted. Brought efficiency without disturbing customs too much. Therefore stayed in power a long time. Trade increaseed – tea, porcelain, cotton, silk. Started treating foreigners poorly to show their superiority. Took vassal states (Tibet, Vietnam, Burma, Mongolia, Turkestan)–Chinese emire now largest in world. 300 million people by 1800. (Tibet was ruled by a Buddhist leader called the Dalai Lama.)

1700: Chinese emperors only took silver for their highly-prized goods; not allowed to buy foreign stuff. Believed China was the “Middle Kingdom,” surrounded by barbarians. Diplomats tried and failed to sway the Qing emperors so illegal trade began. Opium trade. Traders began importing opium from places like Burma in huge quantities.

1830: Opium addiction widespread. Also, food shortages due to population growth. Taxes high. Some rebellions, too.

1830-1860: Opium wars. (?) Chinese officials burned stores of British opium in Guangzhous and Britain sent warships. Britain trade then banned. Fired on the ships. Britain won, took Hong Kong. China forced to open to trade. Trade agreements made with many countries.

1842: Hong Kong Island became a British colony and grew into a center of trade.

1898: Granted a 99-year lease on it. And the Kowloon Peninsula, too.

1911: Manchus (Qing Dynasty) overthrown in a cibil war.

1912: Republic of China founded. Had a president. No more imperial government; military leaders instead. One center led by rebel warlords in Beijing and nationalist government used Canton (Nanjing/Nanking) as their capital. Long civil war.

1921: Communitst Party founded.

1926: Communists joined with the nationalists in Canton and Chiang Kai-Shek took leadership and together they defeated the rebels in the North.

1927: The communists and nationalists began fighting each other. No longer allied. This fighting became known as the Chinese Civil War, though war had been going on since 1911. Kai-Shek’s capital in Nanjing. Drove communists out of Shanghai, but country still not stabilized.

1931: Japanese occupied Manchuria and threatened China. Meanshile communists set up a rival government (the JianXi Soviets) in Southern China. Mao Zedong took leadership, withstood nationalist attempts to oust them. Finally, after a huge attack, the long march.

1934: The Long March. 100,000 communists marched 6300 miles. 1/5th reached destination north in Shaanxi Province.

1936: to fight Japan, nationalists and commies allied for a while.

1945: War with Japan, which had gone on this whole time, finally ended. Communist and nationalist alliance ended and civil war resumed. (The U.S. and Britain supported the nationalists against Japan.) Communists had large army and support of the people.

1949: Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China. Pushed the nationalists to Taiwan.

1958: Great Leap Forward: redistributed land to giant peasant communes. Failed, starvation, food shortages still.

1966: Started Cultural Revolution. Produced more iron and steel. Brought doctors to countryside, taught kids to read and write. Required everyone to read “The Thoughts of Chairman Mao,” also known as the Little Red Book. When people started criticising communism, he killed scholars, political opponents, more. Put others in concentration camps.

1976: China became more open. Traded more. More industry. Foreign investments welcomed.

1989: Tiananmen Square student demonstrations and massacre. 3,000 killed, 10,000 injured. Maybe many more.

1997: Hong Kong was returned to China.


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