Chinese Dynasties

Chinese Dynasties
DynastyCharacteristics and History
Hsia c.1994–c.1523 B.C.Semilegendary Emperor Yu built irrigation channels, reclaimed land. Bronze weapons, chariots, domestic animals used. Wheat, millet cultivated. First use of written symbols.
Shang or Yin c.1523–c.1027 B.C.First historic dynasty. Complex agricultural society with a bureaucracy and defined social classes. Well-developed writing, first Chinese calendar. Great age of bronze casting.
Chou c.1027–256 B.C.Classical age (Confucius, Lao Tzu, Mencius) despite political disorder. Written laws, money economy. Iron implements and ox-drawn plow in use. Followed by Warring States period, 403–221 B.C.
Ch'in 221–206 B.C.Unification of China under harsh rule of Shih Huang-ti. Feudalism replaced by pyramidal bureaucratic government. Written language standardized. Roads, canals, much of the Great Wall built.
Han 202 B.C.A.D. 220Unification furthered, but harshness lessened and Confucianism made basis for bureaucratic state. Buddhism introduced. Encyclopedic history, dictionary compiled porcelain produced.
Three Kingdoms A.D. 220–265Division into three states: Wei, Shu, Wu. Wei gradually dominant. Confucianism eclipsed increased importance of Taoism and Buddhism. Many scientific advances adopted from India.
Tsin or Chin 265–420Founded by a Wei general gradual expansion to the southeast. Series of barbarian dynasties ruled N China. Continued growth of Buddhism.
Sui 581–618Reunification centralized government reestablished. Buddhism, Taoism favored. Great Wall refortified canal system established.
T'ang 618–907Territorial expansion. Buddhism temporarily suppressed. Civil service examinations based on Confucianism. Age of great achievements in poetry (Li Po, Po Chü-i, Tu Fu), sculpture, painting.
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms 907–960Period of warfare, official corruption, general hardship. Widespread development of printing (see type) paper money first printed.
Sung 960–1279Period of great social and intellectual change. Neo-Confucianism attains supremacy over Taoism and Buddhism central bureaucracy reestablished. Widespread cultivation of tea and cotton gunpowder first used militarily.
Yüan 1271–1368Mongol dynasty founded by Kublai Khan. Growing contact with West. Confucian ideals discouraged. Great age of Chinese playwriting. Revolts in Mongolia and S China end dynasty.
Ming 1368–1644Mongols expelled. Confucianism, civil service examinations, reinstated. Contact with European traders, missionaries. Porcelain, architecture (see Chinese architecture), the novel and drama flourish.
Ch'ing or Manchu 1644–1912Established by the Manchus. Territorial expansion but gradual weakening of Chinese power decline of central authority. Increasing European trade foreign powers divide China into spheres of influence. Opium War Hong Kong ceded Boxer Uprising. Last Chinese monarchy.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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