China Guide

History of China China’s Historical Timeline

History of China

It is believed that civilisation began in China as early as 1500BC along two of China’s major rivers; the Yangtze River and Yellow River. The Yellow River has come to be recognised as the “Cradle of Chinese Civilisation” with several archaeological pieces dated back to what is believed to be the beginning of civilisation in China.

There are a few pieces of evidence that points to the Xia Dynasty being the first to rule while the Shang Dynasty’s existence lies in the records left by way of bone and shell inscriptions, often referred to as oracle bones.

The following Zhou Dynasty period was believed to have established the origins of culture, philosophy and literature in China while its control separated into smaller kingdoms. Unification of these smaller kingdoms happened when Qin Shi Huang came to power and made the first Chinese empire. These beginning dynasties could have existed side by side and were not necessarily concurrent, or after one another.

Next came what was called the Spring and Autumn Period when the previous centralised power became decentralised as the main “strongmen” of each of the many states stood up as leaders for their area. These men seemed to hold the majority of the political power even though the Zhou King still remained. These strongmen often took royal titles for their own control and left little genuine power to the King. During this time also were many intellectual movements which saw the start of Confucianism, Taoism and the likes.

With the Zhou King still evident in the Warring States period, his being became more of a figurehead than one of actual power. With the Zhou King’s dissolve of power, Ying Zheng proclaimed himself as the China’s first Emperor and reigned up until the Qin Dynasty of 221BC. Even though the reign was short lived, it formed a centralised government with an emphasis on legal code and the Emperor’s absolute power over the homeland. This military style leadership helped in expanding the empire however didn’t vie well during times of peace. The other main contribution of this time was the beginning of construction on the Great Wall of China which was to become a main landmark of China itself.

The Han Dynasty followed introducing great strides in the arts and sciences while embracing the Confucianism philosophy up until 220AD when control varied from the Wei and Jin Dynasties to the Sui and Tang Dynasties. Beyond these and other leadership eras, the Ming Dynasty took hold and saw urbanisation and industry growth under a centralised government once again. Once the Ming period ended the Qing Dynasty began to take hold of most Chinese regions until their power subdued with the onset of the Opium War and the Taiping Rebellion in the mid 1800’s in which millions of lives were taken. This era saw several wars and rebellions take place including the Boxer and Muslim Rebellions.

Fortunately the 1900’s signalled big change for China with creating a republic in favour. However it wasn’t until after the Long March and the Mao period eventuated that the People’s Republic of China took hold in 1940.